Why Lake Léman?
You may believe that the largest lake in Switzerland has always been called Lake Geneva but that is not exactly true.
Lacus Lemannus, dating back to Roman times, is the first recorded name for the lake and whilst it became Lake Geneva with the rise of the city of the same name, it is still referred to as Lac Léman by French-speaking locals.
But, what significance did this lake have for Lord Byron?
“ CLEAR, placid Leman! thy contrasted lake,
With the wild world I dwelt in, is a thing
Which warns me, with its stillness, to forsake
Earth’s troubled waters for a purer spring”.
(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)
It is easy to see why Lausanne, and the region of Ouchy in particular, was such a pull for Lord Bryon. With clear, calm waters surrounded by snow-capped mountain ranges and beautiful vineyards it would be difficult not to gain inspiration from such a striking landscape.
Sitting at a window of his bedroom at the Hôtel de l’Ancre, now known as the Hôtel Angleterre, Lord Byron was able to write his famous poem, The Prisoner of Chillon, in just one sitting, and it’s easy to see why, after all not only is the Lake itself a source of inspiration so too are the local surroundings.
Why you should stay in Ouchy?
Ouchy, has long been popular with the rich and famous, because of the beautiful surroundings. Head to the Hôtel Beau-Rivage Palace where fashion icon Coco Chanel spent a great deal of time or perhaps the Hôtel Anglerre with its many literary connections would be more suited to your style.
Alternatively, if staying in a castle is something you have always dreamed about we can highly recommend spending time at the Château d’Ouchy, a 4 star hotel that dates back to the 12th century and is situated directly on the lake, so why not splash out and book into one of their lakeside rooms.
So why have so many writers visited Lausanne?
Lord Byron is not the only well-known author to spend time in this attractive city. Other writers known to have visited include: Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Georges Simenon, Jean Cocteau, Jules Romains, André Gide, Alexandre Dumes, Percy Shelley, Stendhal, Chateaubriand, Goethe, Rousseau and Voltaire.
Surely, there has to be something special about Lausanne for all of these great writers to visit.
Known as the city of three hills, Lausanne itself is often overshadowed by its big sister, Geneva, however if, like many great people before us, you are after stunning views, elegant architecture, wonderful food and smaller crowds this is the place for you.
Whilst I can only imagine that things have changed slightly since the time of Lord Bryon, Lausanne and its surrounding area is still an exciting place for any budding writer to visit.
With its many vineyards, quirky cafes and historical buildings it would be a shame to overlook this city.
Where you should visit whilst in Lausanne
Whilst small, this perfectly formed city has hundreds of fantastic places to visit. If however, you only have a weekend and want to know the best places in town to go we have created a guide which we hope will entice you further.
Things To Do in Lausanne
There is a museum to suit everyone’s taste in Lausanne but some are far more modern than you would potentially find in other cities. For example, the Mudac is a contemporary design museum supporting many different artists including fashion designers.
If you fancy stepping out of your comfort zone for the afternoon take a trip to the Museum De l’Art Brut. As their website states this is a museum for ‘people on the fringes of society who harbour a spirit of rebellion and tend to be impervious to collective standards and values’. Some of the work here is fascinating and we especially loved the work of Diego who had a thing for symmetry whilst other artists are far more abstract.
One place that everyone should visit regardless though, is the large, interactive Olympic Museum. Sitting on the shores of Lake Léman, this museum is an impressive sight. Outside, the fountains, which are brightly lit up at night, signify how grand and sweeping the gardens themselves will be. Wander up the steps and you will see the huge columns listing all of the game locations, statues of famous athletes and to one side a 100m track where you can try and beat the world record currently held by Usain Bolt. Inside the fun continues, with interactive computer screens and games that all the family can enjoy.
A Guided City Tour
The people of Lausanne are proud of their city and are more than happy to discuss their heritage with visitors. If you have a short amount of time to explore, head to one of the Lausanne Tourism offices (or look on their website before travelling) and arrange a guided tour with one of their knowledgeable team.
In just a couple of short hours you will learn more about the history of Lausanne whilst exploring the old streets before heading over to the very modern, contrasting side, full of unusual buildings including a see-through toilet, which is still trying to gain favour with some locals.
For Wine Lovers
No trip to this region of Switzerland would be complete without a trip to the UNESCO vineyards of Lavaux. Consisting of 830 hectares of terraced vines this region can be traced back to the 11th century and the Benedictine monasteries that once controlled the area.
One vineyard in particular that stood out for us was that of Maude and Simon Vogel. Domaine Croix Duplex has long been a family business which was started by their grandfather back in 1929.
Today, you can sample the many different wine varieties grown and processed on site whilst either sitting inside the cosy, welcoming bar still with authentic wooden beams or if warmer, head outside to the terrace where you can enjoy a glass of wine whilst looking out over the stunning mountain range.
For an evening out, try Ta Cave, a bright, new wine bar that was born completely out of crowd-funding. Each month a new region is focused upon, which means that both the wines and the food change accordingly.
Whilst talking to the manager, we found out just how exclusive the produce was, with cheeses and meats being sourced solely because they are limited to the consumers. History has been made with this bar, which whilst it may be the first of its kind, I am sure it will not be the last.
Our Wine Recommendations:
I have always preferred a red wine but it would be wrong to visit and not try the local white wine, Chasselas, a dry but fruity wine often paired with a good fondue. For the red wine lovers out there, the Swiss Pinot Noir is especially light and easy to drink; great for a lunchtime tipple.
Where to Eat
With a selection of both traditional and new cuisines available in Lausanne, knowing where to eat can be a challenge. However, if you are looking for personal recommendations we have listed our favourite below.
#1 Eat Me
If you enjoy sharing tapas-type food this is a place for you. An evening here will still you visiting the US, Europe and Asia with your palate with a selection of typical dishes from each continent for you to try.
Hugely popular, if you don’t fancy sitting down for a full meal, why not take a table in the cocktail bar and sample a few dishes from the menu there.
Our Suggestions: Make sure you try the Shrimp Lollipops and the C’est Fou Le Tofu! which is an Indonesian coconut curry.
If you are after a traditional meal than a trip to this family run café is a must. The owners are proud of their restaurant and have done extremely well over the last 30 years attracting both tourists and locals on a daily basis. Ask to try something authentic to the region and you will be supplied with wonderful cooked meats and cheeses and the best cheese fondue we have ever had.
Whilst eating, don’t be surprised when the owner himself comes over to chat to you, it seems that he has a passion for getting to know each of his diners personally. According to the gentleman sat next to us, who was visiting the city on business, he never forgets a face – we will see next time we return.
Our Suggestions: Try the air-dried beef followed by a cheese fondue with both bread and potatoes.
#3 Bleu Lézard
Whilst slightly cramped, this restaurant is always packed and has one of the largest menus I have ever seen. My advice – when they offer you an aperitif take it; you will need time to peruse the options.
If you are heading here for your evening meal, make sure you only have a light lunch or consider sharing because even some of the starters are big enough for two.
Our Suggestions: The Gambas (prawns) followed by the Sea Bass make for a great meal.
If you decide to wander further out of the city, perhaps to take a climb up the Sauvabelin Tower or a wander through the park of L’Hermitage, L’Esquisse is a wonderful place to stop for a bite to eat. Whilst open all day, this is a place known for its fabulous brunches, here you can sample the finest salmon and sip on glasses of champagne whilst chatting with friends.
In the summer months, instead of sitting inside, enjoy the surroundings of the park and the views over the city below.
Our Suggestions: Try the A.Warhol which is Eggs Benedict with either a choice of Salmon or Bacon.
For those that decide to head for the hills to spend a day amongst the vineyards, Tout Un Monde focuses on local flavours and local produce. Whether sitting on the veranda or inside the cafe the large wall of glass allows for fantastic views to be had by all.
Our Suggestions: For a main try either the Rabbit, a meat extremely rich in flavour, or sample the Lake Fish which has a similar taste to Sea Bass.
As you can see, there is so much to see, do and experience in the city perhaps just one short weekend isn’t actually enough.
A Tip for all Modern-Day Writers
“You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have to say something.”
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Great writers of the past saw something magical in Lausanne that inspired them to write fantastic novels and poetry. Whether it was the landscape, the architecture or the people, every one of them created beautiful works after visiting.
Lausanne is a timeless city, one that may continue to grow and modernise but also knows to keep its history at its core.
Whether you gain your inspiration from awesome views or from delving into the hearts and minds of the people that live there, Lausanne and Lake Léman will also have a special pull for any artist who visits.
Why wait for that inspiration to come to you when you can get out there and experience firsthand.
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
Disclaimer: During our recent trip to Lausanne we were guests of the Lausanne Tourism Board, but I would like to remind our readers that as always, all views and opinions are our own.