Montreux Marché de NöelSunday, December 11, 2016
"Pas de retour à Genève," said our train conducter with a straight face as he looked at our return tickets from Geneva to Montreux. He was only joking, course, when he told us that we could not come back from Montreux—but after a few hours in this beautiful lake side town, we thought maybe there was something more to that funny train conductor's joke. After all, even Queen's legendary frontman Freddie Mercury was so smitten with Montreux after recording some of his last songs here that he decided to stay. The feeling was mutual; the city of Montreux claimed Freddie as their own and a statue of him still stands triumphantly on the shores of the Montreux Riviera.
We came to Montreux in search of good old Christmas cheer, as did everyone on this side of Lac Léman, it seemed. It was the first weekend of the Marché de Nöel and a Sunday (when stores and restaurants are typically closed in Switzerland) so people were drawn to it like chestnuts to an open fire.
We came in search of whimsical Christmas ornaments to bring extra cheer to our home. Most of the little booths sold artisanal handicrafts, from glass-blown decorations to hand-carved and painted soaps, which were not exactly what we were looking for. But eventually we found a few choice Christmas tree ornaments to take home: a little vintage-looking John Deere airplane and a whimsical little mercury glass owl. I still regret not buying one of the naughty gnomes, I must admit.
We were pleasantly surprised by the array of delicious things to be devoured at the Christmas market. We expected the hot mulled wine, raclette and fondue but were thrilled to discover sandwiches piled with seared foie gras and duck meat, then drizzled with either fig or truffle sauce. We stayed long enough to also grab dinner from one of the stands hawking staggering amounts of rösti, gratin des pommes, pork hocks, sausages and sauerkraut. And of course to have some good old, spiced vin chaud.
Despite the crowds, Montreux was a delight. We took some time to also walk around the lake and take in a glorious sun setting behind the Alps. That was where we came to the conclusion that what makes Montreux so special is that it gives you the feeling that something cool can always happen while also giving you the assurance of peace. As Freddie Mercury said, "If you want peace of soul, come to Montreux." We certainly found some of that there and true to the train conductor's word, we found ourselves reluctant to leave and eager to return.