Lausanne, Switzerland

Lausanne, Gem of Lake Geneva

After an afternoon of sampling Swiss chocolate at Maison Cailler, we drove to the town of Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva.  In this French-speaking part of Switzerland, the lake is more commonly referred to as Lac Léman.   With a population of around 150,000, it’s the 4th largest city in Switzerland.  It’s also absolutely stunning, nestled among the steeply terraced Lavaux vineyards with their low hand-hewn gray stone walls crisscrossing the hills.  The entire city clings to fertile slopes above the lake.  On the far shores, the jagged peaks of the Chablais Alps cut a sharp outline against the sky.

Port d'Ouchy waterfront on Lake Geneva
Port d’Ouchy curves around the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

Yet again I found myself wondering why it had taken us so long to make it to Lausanne for a little exploring.  We’d passed through any number of times on our way somewhere else but had never just come to spend any time in the city itself.

Failing to find the Sauvebelin Tower which supposedly offers some of the best views of the surroundings, we ended up right downtown along the waterfront.  Following a long, curving boulevard lined with flowers and alive with tourists, joggers, and families enjoying the sun, we decided to explore on foot.  Miraculously nabbing a parking space, we left the car for the warm spring air and wandered along the lake shore, periodically stopping to watch the swans, admire the numerous nude statues, and just generally enjoy the throb of happiness in the crowd.  Not only is Fribourg much smaller than Lausanne, but our specific village has only a few hundred inhabitants, so we reveled in the energy of the “big city.”

Nude statue on the Quai de Belgique in Lausanne, Switzerland
A nude statue overlooks the Quai de Belgique in Lausanne.

A large part of the area we explored was Port d’Ouchy, a touristy waterfront area lined with cafés, museums, shops, and immaculately maintained green spaces.

Place de la Navigation in Lausanne, Switzerland
This water feature at Place de la Navigation in Lausanne is part of a large public park on the lake shore that has cafes, a playground, a marina, and local vendors selling arts and crafts.

Happening upon a large group of older gentleman playing chess with giant game pieces, we sat for a spell to watch.  Two gentleman wielded their heavy knee-high wooden knights and pawns with confidence.  Despite the harsh tone of their banter and the scattering of comments from spectators in a mixture of languages, everyone appeared to be in good spirits.

Chess players at Place de la Navigation in Lausanne
We watch a heated but friendly chess match in Lausanne’s Place de la Navigation.

We met up with some friends of the two friends who were with us, Larisa and Romi, and the six of us found a quiet waterfront eatery to enjoy a drink.  Trav tried his first Vietnamese beer, which he rather liked, before we took a stroll along the marina.

Sailboats at the marina at Port d'Ouchy in Lausanne, Switzerland
Sailboats line the walkway of the marina at Port d’Ouchy on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

I hadn’t realized how much I missed being near water until then. Living in the Willamette Valley in Oregon for the last 7 years, we were only an hour from some of the best and least visited beaches in the US.  We were just minutes from either the comfortably warm Willamette River or the unspoilt but icy cold McKenzie River.  To top it off, we were liberally surrounded by an endless supply of lakes and reservoirs in every direction, often without a single other visitor. Just the smell of the lake was rejuvenating, and I felt a pang of regret that we didn’t have our kayaks to paddle over to France to say hello.

Returning to the Place de la Navigation, Travis and I passed a couple with their two kids and just about the cutest puppy that has ever existed. Stopping to ask about her, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, we ended up talking to them for well over an hour.

We had never heard of these spaniels until we saw one years ago at a dog show; this particular canine contestant was sprawled on his personal throne with two regular sized tennis balls firmly clamped in his fuzzy chompers.  Known for being sweet, playful, and very gentle, a King Charles would have been a good fit for us when we were “dog shopping” but for their tendency to chase (meaning they often can’t be trusted off leash) and their need for constant companionship.

Despite that, if one had been available for adoption at any of the shelters we visited, we likely would have ended up with a spaniel.

Port d'Ouchy waterfront in Lausanne, Switzerland
A passenger ferry docks at Port d’Ouchy in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Since we had Touille with us, we talked “dogs,” she ran through her tricks for them, and we threw her mini tennis ball for their puppy who chased it as all puppies do, pouncing with gangly uncoordinated legs and disproportionately over-sized puppy paws.    After chatting about jobs, life in Switzerland, and random things, we parted ways, leaving with warm memories of Lausanne, a lively city with friendly locals and scenery so perfect as to be rendered almost from a dream.

Know Before You Go:

  • Parking in Lausanne can be difficult to find and expensive, especially at Port d’Ouchy or along the Quai de Belgique.  Come early for a parking spot and be prepared to pay for parking or take public transportation.

What’s up next on our agenda?

Hiking Oeschinensee, one of Switzerland’s most stunning high mountain lakes shimmering with crystal blue water…

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