Our hotel at the French speaking Montreux, Villa Toscane, was a restored villa with no staff except in the mornings. We drew the curtains open and looked out onto a most amazing view. A tranquil lake. The lake of Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the water’. A stately mountain. And a huge balcony and a terrace by our side. We were living the Princess Diaries.
We had to go the adjoining hotel lobby for breakfast which for me turned out to be a warm croissant, a pat of butter and more than a pat of Nutella chocolate spread. The salty burst of butter rushing to meet the noble, hazelnut chocolate spread, cocooned in a maternal bread is the stuff which makes heaven what it is. Add a good strong coffee, with a point of view, and you have just what was needed to start the day. Did I mention that every coffee that we had at Switzerland, be it at Starbucks, or at supermarket dispensers, or at elegant cafes or at hotel breakfast buffets, was a work of art matching up to the best treasures sleeping in Swiss bank vaults?
Yes we’ve all attended conferences at fancy hotels. But this one was special. It was at the Music Convention Centre, home to the International Jazz Festival, when we market researchers weren’t discussing statistics.
A bus ride of twenty minutes and you reached the Chillon Castle which looked like it was straight out of an illustrated Hans Anderson book. A castle which inspired Lord Byron to pen a poem and vandalise the dungeon walls by etching his name.
Montreux was also where we had the first Swiss national dish of Roesti, assorted meats served with fried, soft potato straws (roesti). This had my Parsi wife jumping in joy as she found it to be a cousin of her Sali per eendus and Sali per kheemas.
Montreux is where I realised that pizza needn’t be a melted goop of cheese and tomato puree on bread. We sat by the lake, close to aapro Freddy Mercury’s statue, and had a very elegant pizza with shards of Emmenthal, blobs of Mozarella, fresh rocquette leaves, cherry tomatoes and pepperoni … individual tastes which came together as one happy family on the crisp naan-like pizza crust.
There was a Lebanese, Mediterranean joint too which was an Asian god send for Indian tastes. Is this a good time to say that Montreux is where we tried a horse steak? In case you are wondering, it was a fairly tough cut of meat.
The last supper
Our last stop was Zurich. We arrived on a Sunday. All malls were shut. This was a big blow as we’d kept all our shopping for the end.