Everyone says Lausanne is beautiful and everyone is right. It's also fun. Here's a short list of fun things we found to do in between shows at Montreux.
Eat a horse. I've been afraid of the Pferd but no more. I had a lovely (but oddly named) Roast Beef de Cheval at Le Grütli in old town Lausanne. The meat was tender and a little gamy (like a more tender buffalo) and weirdly the tartar sauce was the right condiment for the dish. Our dining companion and long-time mushroom fanatic chose the fricassee of wild mushrooms, which he declared excellent. To wash it down—the local white of course.
The Swiss do indeed eat horse. The French do too but much less these days. There's a butcher just down the street from us in Zürich (Pferdemetzgerei Seefeld), which specializes in horse meat. I've been leery of going there, but I think I will check it out now.
Taste the Wine. Lausanne is on one end of the Lavaux, and pride in the local wine is evident. It's on every wine list and prominently displayed in the stores. This is quite the contrast to Zürich, where the only Swiss wine most people will admit to liking is Ticino Merlot. There are good Swiss wines, and some of the best grow in the Lavaux.
The Grand Crus of Dézaley, Clos des Moines and Clos des Abbayes are made from the Chasselas grape, which has its finest expression here and which has been cultivated on these slopes since the Middle Ages. Minerality and structure, flowered top note on the nose. Wow. It's definitely worth the relatively high price to try a bottle. (Save money instead by staying at a good value hotel like Hotel du Port.) For more on Swiss wine, I recommend The Surprising Wines of Switzerland, published by Bergli Books. The title sort of says it all, doesn't it?
Climb a hill. That's actually pretty hard to avoid in Lausanne. The city covers three steep hills, with Old Town at the top. We had fun just climbing about Old Town (especially around the Place de la Palud). However, since we were staying lakeside in Ouchy, I was very glad the new Metro was online, making it a quick five-minute trip from the lake to the top of the town.
The other hill(s) to climb are of course the vineyards. We took the Wine Train from Vevey up to Chexbres with the very good intention of doing a photo-safari climb back down. It was lunchtime, however, so we went to The Deck, which looks out over the vineyards of Rivaz and the wine village of St. Saphorin. After some excellent pan-fried lake fish and a bottle of Dézeley (from a producer around the corner in the village of Chexbres), we set out for our hike. But it started to rain, not a light misty rain but a real drencher. We trained back to Cully and took the boat from there to Ouchy instead.
Go to Market. This was a little bit of serendipity, as we had no idea there was a Sunday market in Ouchy. Oriented to the tourist trade, it was open all afternoon. We gathered up great charcuterie (smoked wild boar!), cheeses, bread, and some fruit, and found a shady place to sit in the lake front park. A picnic like this is actually a great choice on Sunday, since most of the cafés are closed and the only ones that are open are pretty ghastly. There are also farmers' markets during the week on Grancy.
Drink Cocktails in a Chateau. Having recently moved from the West Coast where cocktails are all the rage, we decided to see what was on offer in Ouchy. There are of course the several bars of the Beau Rivage. Dressed a bit too casually for the grand setting, we went for the Chateau d'Ouchy instead. With its turrets and stone walls, the chateau looks a bit like a fairy-tale castle. Although the medieval keep and tower were built in the 12th century by the Bishops of Lausanne, the chateau was (re)built in the neo-gothic style as a luxury hotel in the late 19th century.
In recent years, the Chateau had declined to a middling level hotel, but in 2008 it reopened following renovation. The style in the bar is high modern, but with the stone walls retained and the red plush Louis XIII drapes in reception visible in the corner. A weird effect indeed. The cocktail menu was impressively adventurous, and true to the requirements of the new mixology, fresh herbs and fruits were used in the drinks.
We ordered and the fun began. The bartenders moved at a languid—even reluctant—pace, frequently consulting written instructions and with each other while making drinks. When the drinks finally arrived, they were not quite what we ordered but nothing was too awful. It appears that we had run smack dab into a zone of cultural dissonance. Outside of the palace hotels, cocktails are just not part of the local culture. A Kir, yes. A Sidecar, no. On the other hand, being inside of an anachronism engaged in an imitation was pretty touristically neat.
Go, enjoy, but stick to the wine.