Henry has wanted to visit a castle in Montreux and has talked about it for some time, even before we left Houston. Although I felt certain I would enjoy such a visit, I have focused more on being outdoors in my beloved mountains. Castle? Okay, whatever.
Then, last night, I leaned over as he looked at their website, and a word jumped out at me. Chillon. THE Chillon? The word transported me back to seventh grade in DePue, Illinois, and the poem that made me fall in love with words.
My hair is gray, though not with years, nor grew it white in a single night as men’s have grown from sudden fears. My limbs are bowed, though not with toil, for these have been a dungeon’s spoil.
That poem, Byron’s The Prisoner of Chillon, was inspired by a friar who was imprisoned in the castle for six years. I imitated his style with my own epic poems written in the privacy of my room, pages and pages long since discarded. For me, the lonely New Kid in Town at an age when everything about me felt awkward, Byron’s poetry took me to a place inside where only grace and fluid joy exists. It would take me many years to understand that I must write, if only for the sake of writing, to access this special place from which the rest of my life springs forth.
We have bumped in to Byron previously on our travels. Between he and Mark Twain, we will have decades of traveling to do to keep up with their adventures. However, this visit today, this castle visit, takes me deep into the heart of Byron. What a blessed life I have to be able to walk in his footsteps.
Getting to Chillon was an adventure in itself. Yesterday, we traveled for five hours from Grindelwald to the village of Leysin, where cow pastures are replaced by vineyards up and down the hills, and even in the middle of Aigle, another village on the way here. For two hours of the trip, we rode a panorama train, elegant with wood trim and tables on the inside. On each table sat a small lamp that illuminated the interior of the car with soft light during trips through tunnels. We ate cheese (what else? It’s Switzerland!) and drank Swiss wine on our journey, and chatted with three Swiss ladies who were planning a ladies’ day out in Montreux.
From Montreux it took two more train trips of about 40 minutes total to get up the mounain to Leysin, a sleepy French-Swiss village. We know we’re in the French part, because the restaurants open late for dinner!
Our apartment is beautiful, and where the Grindelwald chalet was quaint and cute, this one is sleek and modern, with every techie gadget one could dream of. Henry is in hog heaven! We have a 1.2 mile walk into Leysin for all our needs, so we get a good walk in just going to and fro.
To get to Chillon, we went to the village of Villeneuve and walked another 30 minutes or so to the Castle. Our Swiss Rail Pass gave us free admission, and we splurged for the audio guide. Henry took all the pics today, so I will bug him to post his on FB.
From there, we took a bus to Vevey to walk around. Vevey is a curious place, and not entirely pleasant. It’s supposed to be very upscale and lah-dee-dah, but I saw evidence of some creepy drug use around the train station. Still, we had a nice walk along Lake Geneva and found a hotel with some awesome desserts.
This evening we are staying in and cooking at the apartment. Our host left us wine and other goodies, including eggs, so we will have an elegant French omelette dinner. In fact, Leysin lends itself to relaxation. For many years tuberculosis patients came to Leysin to recuperate, and we feel a sense of moving into the “slow travel” mode. We have a fabulous view to enjoy. This is a great place to just “be.” So, while we do have some hiking and other activities planned, we are slowing our rhythm…and it feels good.