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SWITZERLAND Spring 2000 (2)


Yverdon-Les-Bains is a thermal spa town on the southern tip of Lake Neuchatel. As our readers are aware, we enjoy thermal bathing and try to work it into our itineraries where possible. So here we were checking into the Grand Hotel Des Bains, Avenue Des Bain 22. The hotel sits in the middle of a green park with direct access to Yverdon's Spa Center. One enters an attractive reception area with the public rooms nicely positioned adjacent to the lobby. There is an outdoor pool and lounging area with the Cote Jardin Terrace for enjoying a beverage or a snack. The facility is showing its age, particularly in the guest rooms where a total renovation is overdue. The breakfast buffet was less than average and poorly maintained by the almost-invisible staff. The Central Spa pool was a huge disappointment in that it didn't have the water jets that massage the body from every angle, which make the thermal bathing experience relaxing and fun.

After getting settled in the hotel, we were off on a tour of the region between Yverdon and Geneva, where we would pick-up Cornelia at the airport. This part of the Jura region, with its high green mountains and deep valleys, is dotted with horse farms where riding horses are bred. The village of Vallorbe on the border with France is so pretty with great mountain scenery. As we climbed the mountains, the views back down to Lac De Joux were glorious. Every village we drove through was neat and clean. We wound back down to Le Brassus then again up to Marchairuz at 1449 meters, where we were surrounded by thick woods and lush grazing land. The air was fresh and clear and we could see the fountain of Geneva spouting water high above the lake. The drive to Geneva was one storybook village after another.

Cornelia's plane was on time and we headed north, on the route to Lausanne, to Genthod just six kilometers from Geneva and the Restaurant Le Creux-de-Genthod. From the minute we arrived, it was easy to see why this is one of Cornelia and Fabio's favorites. The spot is gorgeous, a picturesque marina with exceptional vistas of Geneva. With the same lovely views available from each of the dining areas, Le Restaurant, Le Bistrot and La Terrace, the cool temperature helped us select the intimate Bistrot as the right spot for the evening.

Le Creux is famous for lake perch so deciding what to order was easy: Les Filets de Perches du Leman Meuniere, pommes frites et salade de saison for four please! The filets were dusted with seasoned flour then pan fried and served with luscious hand cut fries. We no sooner finished when our pleasantly gregarious waiter arrived with our second portions! Mind you, that didn't deter us from ordering a pear with ice cream in chocolate orange sauce for dessert, which we ate with smiles on our faces.

The next day we headed to France and traveled along the border north to La-Chaux-De-Fonds in Switzerland before returning to Yverdon. St. Croix, Switzerland, is a treasure of a mountain village in the middle of forests and valleys below. Auberson is the last Swiss village before the border crossing. This lazy village is surrounded by grazing land and has a museum of musical instruments. There was no one home at the border crossing and we soon arrived in LeFourgs, France. What we saw from the road, in contrast to what we had left behind in Switzerland, were neglected old buildings and untended properties. But the scenery quickly improved in La Cluse Etmijoux, with the sight of two castles sitting on opposite mountaintops. Pontarlier is a good size village, with newer suburban style housing outside the historical center.

A pretty ride along the River Doubs, with a brief stop to take photos of a herd of cows crossing the river, brought us to Montbenoit and its Abbaye. This small stone church was constructed in sections from the 12th to 20th centuries. The mid-section was the original while the front and back were added during the Roman, Gothic and renaissance periods. The old stone cloister is a beauty.

The winding, twisting river with thick forests on both sides is a photographer's dream and we made several stops to capture views of old bridges, homes and churches. In Morteau we enjoyed very good quiches, crepes, breads and pastries for lunch at La Gourmandise Maison Gaume, 5 Rue Rene Payot.

We stopped at Saut Du Doubs, a famous waterfall, to find out that you could see the falls only by taking a two-hour boat excursion or by walking 4 km. each way. Unfortunately we didn't have the time for either option.
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Crossing back into Switzerland, we were in watchmaking country. Le Locle is home to a fabulous watch museum. Priceless clocks were on display on the first two floors, most of which kept accurate time. As the clocks struck 14:30, a chorus of music played all around us. Each room is preciously furnished and the array of exquisite clocks is a sight to behold. The third floor is a history of timekeeping from ancient times to the present. La Chaux-De-Fonds is home to many famous watchmakers.

After an hour or so in the thermal pool, we drove to La Lagune Restaurant Tropical in Cheyres for dinner. This is the original location of this concept, which has grown to a chain of five. Located on a lagoon, not far from Yverdon, the lake views blend nicely with the tropical Asian design of the restaurant. As we were to find out, this is a place for a leisurely, fun dining experience. The eclectic menu matches the lively pulse of the staff and patrons.

The tuna tartar, beautifully presented with a superb olive oil, balsamic, garlic, onion, basil dressing and garnished with red pepper and ripe tomato won are hearts as did the large grilled shrimps with mustard sauce. As we enjoyed the generous servings of these appetizers along with delicious local rose' and entertainment by a guitar player and singer, we were startled by the loud sounds of horns honking, drums beating and high pitched shouts of either joy or pain. The racket was created by a group of lovely ladies marching-in to celebrate the last night of freedom of one of their own who would be marching down the aisle the next day. This group was to provide entertainment for the rest of the evening. The bride-to-be circulated amongst the tables soliciting gifts and it appeared many of the patrons anticipated this event and had come prepared. The waiters spontaneously joined in the dancing and singing that ensued. It was a bit distracting, but when our main course arrived it was easy to focus on the task at hand.

It had not been easy to choose between lake fish, seafood, beef, game and Mongolian preparations. Cornelia and Fabio love their lake fish and opted for the perche meuniere. They were very pleased with this rendition with sauce Provencal. Linda experimented with antelope steak, as suggested by the waiter, and was rewarded with a tender and tasty prize. My grilled duck breast with sweet and sour fruit sauce was fantastic. The plates were garnished with potato baskets filled with a delicious combination of asparagus, noodles, red pepper and onion plus either sweet potato tarts or fries. We spent four delightful hours enjoying our time together with entertainment, a nice environment and wonderful food.

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