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May 12, 2008

Say "Cheese"!

Last minute planning and on Saturday morning we hit the road. Destination - Gruyères (pronounced as groo-yehr), the town famous for its Cheese. We reached the town in the afternoon. As the town center is car free, we parked the car on the foot hills and walked the 10 minutes trek stopping and staring at the cows grazing. When we reached the town, it was as if we traveled back in time and reached a medieval town. I have never seen such a picturesque town anywhere in my life. The pocket size town is so pretty overlooking the castle on one side and snow covered mountains on the other. Cute little souvenir shops, hotels and restaurants line this French speaking town. Our hotel was right in the middle of the main street and after a short rest and lunch, we walked to the 13th century Castle, Chateau de Gruyeres, one of the most prestigious in Switzerland. Ashu was in full form and enjoyed the tour but was a little upset that there were no Kings or Queens! The view from the Castle walls is breath-taking and theres a pretty little garden too. We took our time soaking in the views and walked back to the town center. We sat in a Restaurant Terrace and ate ice cream, the perfect thing to do on such a sunny day. I tried the town speciality, Ice cream with Meringue and Cream. Bliss! Theres a beautiful church behind the Castle and a small play area for kids. While Hd and Ashu were in the play area, I walked to the church clicking away photos. It was so peaceful inside the church and since it was almost 8 pm, there was no one inside. It was a surreal experience. There is a cemetery behind the church and a beautiful view of the castle and a narrow road leading to the woods. To stand there alone was so spooky. In a good way, of course. Father and daughter joined me a bit later and we walked back to our Hotel and called it a night.

Ever since I told her that we would visit a Cheese factory in Gruyeres, Ashu was super excited and was asking every hour if we were going to the Cheese Factory. So as soon as we finished breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and headed for the Cheese factory. (Oh, I almost forgot. Since Sunday was Mothers day, Ashu wished me Happy Mothers Day as soon as I got up and gave me a Mothers day special goodie bag from The Body Shop. Hd remembered after all! ;) We reached La Maison du Gruyère which is in Pringy, a 10 minute drive from Gruyeres. We took an audio tour where the cow(!), Cherry, explained us everything about Cheese making and what makes the Gruyeres cheese so special. We saw huge amounts of milk being churned and also the cellar where the cheese is stored. We got free samples too. Did you know it takes about 400 litres of milk to make 34 Kg of Cheese? That the Gruyeres cheese is so special because the cows there eat lot of herbs which grow on the hills? It was really cute to listen to Cherry talking! ;) It was lunch time by the end of the tour and we decided to try the restaurant adjoining the factory. We sat outside and ordered, what else, but Fondue of course! We dipped bread and potatoes in the melting cheese and gobbled them up thus justifying our trip to Gruyeres. The strawberry Frappe I had for dessert and the Vanilla ice cream Ashu had were also heavenly. Cherry has every reason to be proud of being a cow in the Gruyeres region! ;)

As if this is nt enough, we visited a Chocolate factory next. The Caillers Chocolate factory in Broc. Unlike the Lindt Factory in Zurich, you can actually see part of the chocolate making process and the tour is really good. Theres a 20 minute movie made in the 60s reliving the factory history, then a tour where you see the raw materials, the machines, the moulds, ... and at last, the sampling of course. Ashu had one piece in her mouth and one in her hand and was quite surprised when I asked her to take one more! I had three in my hands, you see! ;) When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was go to a chocolate factory and eat as much chocolate as possible. And here I was and could nt even eat two pieces! And Ashu of course, like kids of these generation, does nt know what a treat it is to eat two candies back to back or finish a whole bar of chocolate on ones own. Sad! I missed the child me.

We had plans to go to Moleson village from here but when we reached the place, it started raining. Ashu was also sleeping so we decided to head back to Zurich. One minute it was bright and sunny and the next, there was a hail storm! We were cruising around 100 kmph in the highway and it felt as if a truck load of pebbles were hitting the car. The noise, the storm, the speed, the zero visibility, cars stopping or slowing down,... it was scary to say the least. Luckily we were able to stop just under a bridge on the shoulder and most of the cars stopped in the shoulder too. I have never witnessed such a hailstorm before and it was hard to believe my own eyes. Some of the hails were as big as an ice cube! With Ashu sleeping through it all, Hd and I holding hands and talking and listening to music, it was surely an experience I ll never forget in my life. The storm lasted for 45 minutes and even then, the rain did nt stop. We headed for the nearest rest area for a break and reached Zurich safely late evening. A perfect weekend trip with just the three of us after a very long time.

Its so refreshing to see places with a kid, I have to admit. If it were just Hd and me, Im sure we would have just rushed through the sights, taken customary photos and would be in a hurry to go to the next place in our check list. But with Ashu, it was wonderful. She pretended she was a mouse and ran through the maze like garden at the Castle. She stopped to watch the cows grazing and worried about them when she saw the flies sitting on them. She actually stopped to smell the flowers. She looked at the old cannon at the castle and asked if it was a telescope! She asked who the bad boys were who had tied Jesus' hands when we went to the Church and wondered if his wounds healed fast! She asked if the cows eat the cheese! She exclaimed loudly, "Amma when I woke up today, we were in a hotel room and not in our Zurich house" in an absolutely cute way. She kept the cocoa bean as a souvenir when the chocolate factory guide gave her one and cherished it more than the free chocolate. ("Amma keep this cocoa bean. Don't eat it OK?", she warned me. Ah, how well my daughter knows her mother!) And she was so happy to be back home too. We were away hardly for 36 hours but I could see how much she missed home. Its good to know shes not ready to fly the nest. Yet.


Anonymous said...

Thatz a big ice cream!!! Ashu looking cute as ever!

Mona said...

aww, boo. ashu's pictures are great!

Sunita said...

Totally agree, I love travelling with the peapod because even simple silly things suddenly start seeming very interesting. I enjoy living through her experience & excitement of it all.

Anonymous said...

wow! i want that icecream Ashu's having.
Remind me to tell you about our trip to Edam and Volendam, in search of the elusive cheese, clog factories and the authentic Dutch family!

Mad said...

Mommy! I want Ice-cream!

Dee said...

oooh..all that cheese and chocolate talk is making me hungry !..I want to go to Switzerlaaand...waaah ;)

By Deepa and Supriya said...

:)...looks like it was a "happy " mother's day indeed!
nice read, this!

Savani said...

god that post made me want to catch the next flight to your part of the world. I LOVE gruyere. next only to blue. gawd. I want to go to switzerland :(

Mama - Mia said...


wow!! it sounds just absolutely perfect and blissful! (touchwood!)

and all that cheese and chocolate!! and chocolate factory!!! i can watch charlie and the chocolate factory thousand times and just imagine myself drinking out of the chocolate lake!! hehe!! hopefully it would be dark chocolate though! :p

and ashu looks adorable in all the pics!!! :)

lovely post!


Maggie said...

Oh what fun! And smashing pics as usual, Boo!

Our scheduled weekend away trip got cancelled because of the heavy rains here, and now the hubs is too busy, and soon it will be too late :-(

BangaloreMom said...

Loovved the pics...and its true abt how travelling with a kid gives u a whole new perspective :D. I experience it very often with Kuttan

Anonymous said...

Ashu is smashing as always. Is my rain check to visit Switzerland still valid?
BTW, you and your sister should start a travelogue for the benefit of people like us who visit all these places only-in-dreams.

Poppins said...

I so wanted to go here when I was in Switzerland, for the cheese if not for anything else. I'm drooling at all the food descriptions

And. Hd didn't forget Mother's day? Lucky you:) The hailstorm sounds scary but trust you and Hd to make it all romantic :) Wassup, you leave Ashu at the party and romance in the mall, now this ? ;)

Loved what you said about traveling with the kids, they bring a whole different perspective no? Just like in life.

Anonymous said...

yummmmmm am drooling after all that cheese descriptions..this sounds like a whole lot of fun!

dipali said...

What a yummy post! And kids- there brand new perspective on life is just so wonderful:)
Hugs to you(and kutti baby)and Ashu.

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