September 2009 – “Lakeside Promenade Fleuri”
I am sitting here on a bench overlooking Lake Geneva in the lakeside town of Montreux. Whenever I hear that name it makes me smile and remember a band from my youth, Deep Purple, and their song “Smoke on the Water”.
We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time…
The lead singer Ian Gillan was one of only two posters on my bedroom wall when I was a teenager. The other was Robert Plant. It was a very small bedroom.
It is mid-afternoon and the sun is shining on me, though the other side of the lake is shrouded in mist and I can only see vague outlines of the stunning mountains that I know are there. I am on my own at the moment as my husband is still at a conference in Geneva where we have been for the past week. I had decided that after the conference in Geneva we should extend our stay in Switzerland to celebrate my birthday and wedding anniversary in Montreux in a romantic old hotel on the lakeside.
The Hotel Eden Palace au Lac – an old lady right on the lakeside. Cheaper than some of the more modern hotels and a little faded gem. There are no buildings in front of us so our room overlooks the lake. The views will be impressive if the fog lifts. I hope it does before we leave on Tuesday. It is a tiny bedroom with a disproportionately large chandelier, but it does have a petite balcony with a table and two chairs so we can sit outside and the bathroom has definitely seen better days and is quite a squeeze, but the room is clean which is my main concern. (Our room is behind the letter L in Palace)
After checking in this afternoon I came down to the promenade that runs for 10km along the shore of Lake Geneva, from Vevey to the Château de Chillon. This path is lined with palm trees and exotic flowers, while the magnificent views extend across the lake to the Alps and into Savoy. Have I mentioned the fog? I can’t really see much of the mountains, but I can sense their presence all around me.
I wandered along the promenade for a short distance taking photos of the flowers and then I returned to the hotel and found this bench on which to sit and do a bit of people watching. Waves gently lap against the rock wall. The lake is very smooth. Sparrows twitter in the bushes nearby. I am writing in my travel journal to note down the vast assortment of Mediterranean and unusual plants along these raised beds. There are some I can name like fennel, parsley and artichokes as well as begonias, fuchsias, New Guinea Impatiens, Solanum, Amaranthus (foxtails, love-lies-bleeding) something that looks like dark purple kale, a pale apricot hibiscus, several Abutilon and very pretty grasses and some shrubs. Many I haven’t seen before. All these are within about ½ kilometre of the hotel! I haven’t yet seen a boat on the lake, but a skein of geese has just flown overhead, barely skimming the water, honking as they always do.
While I am writing a young father with his small daughter, who was walking along the wall, holding his hand as young children do, stopped suddenly in front of me insistent they turn back to the “Foxtails” so she could stroke them. I smiled. Young mothers are a constant stream along here as it is nice and flat and they all have expensive looking three-wheeler strollers: the women look as though they have stepped out of a fashion magazine. How do European women always look so chic? One in particular catches my eye with her long straight blonde hair neatly held off her face with a black velvet hair band, wearing a below the knee gold and black coat over black bootleg trousers and black shoes with 4” heels. She looks immaculate and I sigh. I never looked like that when I was a young mother.
The teens are still wearing the uniform of narrow jeans, trainers or baseball boots, tight T-shirts or hooded sweatshirts that I recall from when I lived in Geneva several decades ago. Their feet always look so big in those baseball boots. All are skinny. No fat people here. What is their secret? No fast food chains? The fact that most of the adults smoke?
Also so many wheelchairs. Apart from all the strollers, wheelchairs are the most popular form of transport along this promenade. There must be a nursing home or two nearby. Some of the chairs are being pushed by women in tunics. What a lovely place to be brought out to each day – to enjoy the flowers and look at the lake and its views – and breathe in the fresh air. Of course there are the usual scooters and bikes, scooters being the favourite with the younger children. A couple of twenty-somethings just went by on roller blades. It has been a long time since I saw those.
Now as the afternoon moves into the evening, young couples appear. Arm in arm with sweaters casually draped over their shoulders as only Europeans can carry off successfully. One such couple are wearing blue denim jeans and tight black sweaters, walking with arms entwined. On the grass a small group of young men linger, all wearing blue jeans and white T-shirts with various slogans; a group of giggly girls with designer handbags and painted nails, eat their Mövenpick ice-creams bought from the kiosk around the corner slyly throwing glances towards the men.
Occasionally the quiet is disturbed by tourists arriving and dragging their wheeled cases along the path towards their hotel. Several pass by carrying heavy-looking backpacks and wearing hiking boots. Meanwhile the ferry boats ‘poop’ their way between Montreux and Chillon. Mostly diesel boats, but an occasional Belle Epoque steamer. Little fishing boats move out into the now golden water, a pair of rowers glide over the surface in perfect time with each other. A water skier shows off his moves and the speed boat creates a large wash, its heavy metal music disturbing the peace.
Time now to put away my notebook and pen. It is getting late and the sun will be setting soon. I have to go and meet my husband at the station and show him the way to the hotel. I won’t take him the route I used as there were too many steps. I am looking forward to a meal at Le Palais Oriental which is just below our hotel. I love Indian food and I am getting very hungry.
Ciao, ciao – I’ll write again soon xx