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This trip connected us with people who were passionate about what they do. For me, that made the trip. - K. K. - California
On arrival in Geneva you’ll be transferred to Montreux in a scenic ride along the shores of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) After checking into your hotel, a tranquil walk along the shores of Lake Geneva takes us to the stunning and well-preserved 12th-century Chillon Castle. This impressive citadel with its exceptional natural setting on the lake was immortalized by Lord Byron. In inclement weather, or for anyone not able to make the 45-minute walk, alternative transportation is available.
Orientation and welcome dinner at a select restaurant in Montreux.
Each morning, relax and enjoy breakfast with breathtaking views across Lac Geneva (Lac Leman) to the peaks of the French and Swiss Alps. The hotel serves a full international buffet breakfast to energize you for the adventures ahead. Savor fresh fruits, yogurts, breads and pastries, as well as cooked items. If long, leisurely breakfasts aren’t your thing, grab a quick bite and take a morning walk along the lakeshore promenade.
We ascend from Lake Geneva into the Pays d’en Haut, the highlands above the Montreux Riviera where treasured agricultural traditions endure. At Maison Cailler, home to Switzerland’s oldest brand of chocolate, we tour the factory, immerse ourselves in the world of chocolate, learn the processes of manufacturing the finest chocolate confections, then participate in a chocolate class, working in Cailler’s chocolate studio, under the direction of a master chocolatier.
In the afternoon, we’ll begin our first cooking class where you’ll discover the secrets of traditional baking in a 200-year-old wood-fired oven. We’ll learn successful techniques for kneading, rising, and shaping the dough. Then once in the oven we discover how to create a crackling crust. Later, you’ll explore the history and tradition of cheese fondue—made with the finest Gruyère cheese, of course—then carefully prepare this classic Swiss comfort food to savor for your evening dinner, along with the bread you’ve just baked.
After breakfast, we set off for a mountain dairy where we’re on hand for the morning cheese making. Using time-honored tools and methods, the cheesemaker combines the morning milk with the evening milk before cutting the curds. Holding the hem of the cheesecloth in his teeth, he snatches the curds from the whey, and then presses the steaming hot curds into the round forms to produce hand-crafted wheels of Gruyère, Switzerland’s most popular cheese and its most widely exported cheese.
We visit the walled medieval village of Gruyères, with its picture-perfect setting on a hill overlooking rolling pre-alpine farmlands. The cows that graze the lush grass and fragrant flora of alpine meadows in the peaceful valley of the River Sarine produce the milk for Gruyère cheese and Switzerland’s finest milk chocolate. Once you’ve arrived and settled in, you will set off for a guided walk of the historic village and its 13th-century castle, home to the Counts of Gruyère. We enjoy dinner in a traditional chalet within the village walls.
Terraced vineyards, a Roman amphitheater, and other ruins attest to the influence ancient Rome wielded in the Rhône Valley. Flanked by the Bernese Alps to the north and showstoppers like the Matterhorn and Weisshorn to the south, the sunny Upper Rhône Valley is Switzerland’s leading wine region and an agricultural paradise where orchard fruits, nuts, and herbs flourish. At a nearby goat cheese dairy we taste the versatile and varied types of goat cheese from tangy chèvre to ash-ripened bleus. On a walk through mountainside herb fields with a Ricola herb grower we discover both the culinary and medicinal uses of available plants and conclude with a meal in the farmer's home. Raclette cheese originates in this region and at dinner we’ll sample different renditions of this favored cheese from top local fromageries and come to appreciate its nuanced characteristics from a knowledgeable racleur.
After breakfast a funicular descent to Montreux and a short boat ride on Lake Geneva take you to the neighboring town of Vevey—a foodie Mecca. It is the birthplace of the chocolate bar in 1819, milk chocolate in 1875, and white chocolate in 1930. Imagine a town of just 18,000 people with four Michelin-starred restaurants and the world headquarters of Nestlé. In Vevey you will be exclusive guests at the Läderach chocolate studios and shop. Läderach chocolate represents the highest levels in chocolate design, quality and taste, and you will learn the art and techniques for making chocolate ganache and truffles from a master chocolatier.
This afternoon you head off to explore the sun-kissed terraced vineyards of the Lavaux World Heritage Site. If you want to experience the scenery with all your senses you should also taste it! Your guided walk from Cully to Lutry includes cellar visits, wine tastings and vineyard demonstrations. You’ll walk through the vineyards comprised of 14 wine villages nestled among the vines and reflecting the region’s 1000-year winemaking heritage. The vineyard walk is very interactive; you will participate in the care and cultivation of the grapes, and in the process, understand the cultural traditions of the region and the complexity and terroir of the wine. The route leads through the medieval villages of St. Saphorin Cully, Villette and Grandvaux with their narrow alleys and characteristic vintner’s houses from the 16th to 19th centuries. The vineyards are daringly constructed on steep hills, so a glass of Chasselas makes the trail to Lutry twice as much fun. You will conclude the day perfectly with dinner in a restaurant within the vineyard region.
Montreux's vibrant weekly market is the perfect place to sample local fresh products--artisan oil, cheese, honey, liqueur, or local wine. The Friday market is a treasure, not only for local producers but also for specialty foods from a wide region, including France and Italy. There's no better place to find interesting cheeses and other unusual culinary delights.
At the market, and at nearby fromageries with the able assistance of a maître fromager, we’ll select an array of cheeses you will use to create an impeccable cheese plate. Gain practical and professional guidance in how to select the cheeses used in your cheese course, along with serving, pairing, accompaniment, and presentation tips that will separate you from the novices and elevate you to the ranks of a true fromager. You’ll conclude a perfect day and a perfect week with a multi-course lakeside farewell dinner where you’ll all relax and gaze out over the Alps.
After breakfast, pack your bags and your memories, say goodbye to new friends, and bid farewell to your own little slice of Switzerland, with a solemn promise to return. You will be transported to the Geneva Airport in plenty of time to check-in for your departure flight or connect with your onward travel plans.
This Alpenwild trip is designed for people who are energetic, active, and filled with a spirit of adventure. We rate the physical demands of this trip as easy. You should be in good physical condition and capable of walking 1 to 2 hours per day on well maintained and graded walking paths with a vertical elevation gain of up to 200 feet per day, at an elevation up to 5,000 feet above sea level.