Right after the Christmas wrapping paper had settled and the boys were well into building Legos and crashing Transformers we decided to preemptively shake off holiday break boredom and go to Lausanne, Switzerland.
Lausanne is right at the northern crest of Lake Geneva, also called Lac Lemon here. It’s only about 2 hours away from Basel via train and only about an hour away from Bern. Pro Tip: There is a train called The Chocolate Train that will take you to the Callier Chocolate Factory that we visited with my folks and a cheese making factory in Gruyere that we did not visit.
It’s in the canton of Vaud (only 3 cantons left to see!) and is in the French-speaking portion of Switzerland, so my up-and-coming German will be of little to no use and the only French I know is “I would like to buy a large gift for my boyfriend, please.” (Guess who taught me that little phrase.)
I was more excited to go than anyone else, I think. I love the Olympics. I love watching all the sports, even Badminton. The personal stories of how hard the athletes have worked, how they have overcome personal adversity, never fails to inspire me and bring a tear to my eye.
So, in Lausanne we have Swiss efficiency mixed with French sensibilities and a dash of Olympic drama.
This was going to be great.
We got all packed and out the door to the tunes of the 6yo telling us we plan the most boring vacations ever. That is, until we promised him a shoggiweggli. Then things were fine.
Everyone has been here. The Romans, the Celts, the Huguenots, Napoleon – everyone! And they’ve all left a mark. The buildings all have a very notably 1880s French meets Switzerland look to them.
There is a large Asian influence, especially Japanese. There were Japanese restaurants everywhere! I was really tempted to have some sushi, but I have a little rule about never eating sushi in a landlocked country. This rule was reinforced when I saw a sign on the door of one place that advertised “All Sushi 50% after 13:00!” Um, no. Rule #2 in sushi: Never eat discount sushi.
There are cool little things all over in Lausanne. It’s like a neat scavenger hunt to find them. The boys did a great job looking and they found this gem.
Yes, that is a copper dragon drain pipe with brass wings and shields hanging off the roof of a building in the main square.
I kind of want one.
Right by that big colorful fountain that you saw above is a pretty great clock.
I noticed it as we went through the square the first time, wandering like zombies trying to get our bearings. As you can see I snapped this picture at 2:45 and then I went along my merry way and thought nothing of it except, “Huh. Cool clock.”
Then we happened to wander back through while looking for a postbox so I could mail my niece a postcard and the bell started to ding and music that sounded like an over-sized music box started to play.
Then these guys came on out.
And then there were the dancers.Followed by these wonderful people carrying the canton flags of Vaud.
It didn’t dawn on me until just now that the dancers in the second panel are wearing green and white skirts, which are the canton colors. Duh.
A little beyond the clock is a covered walkway that leads up the cathedral.
Something I didn’t mention earlier is the topography of Lausanne. Lausanne is built on the side of some foothills of the Alps. These foothills slope down right to the edge of Lake Geneva. And because these are Alpine foothills, they are steep. STEEP, people. The covered walkway and “street” up to the cathedral really show you what kind of a walk you are in for when you visit Lausanne. Forget the your old Buns of Steel video. Just go out and do some shopping in Lausanne.
After 18 months of the Another Blessed Cathedral tour of Europe I had kind of voted to not see this one. However, Mark informed me that this cathedral happens to be the largest in Switzerland. Well, I said to myself, I guess I do have to see the largest cathedral in all of Switzerland, right? I mean, how can I improve on my Swissy-ness if I don’t see the largest cathedral they have?
So we went.
The view was A-MAZING.
It made me feel kind of artsy, too, so I tried out some of the filters on my iPhone. I have only subjected you to two of those pictures, however. Your welcome. The misty bit behind the city skyline is the lake. And then, yes, those are the French Alps in the background.
The cathedral itself wasn’t bad either. The full name is Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne. Construction began in 1170 and has continued in one way or another ever since.
The inside I found kind of dark, actually; however, it made for some really incredible pictures.
Especially of the stained glass windows.
And then there is the organ.
This organ was just installed in 2003, so it is really, really new for a church built during the same year that Thomas Beckett was killed and cheddar cheese was invented. It has 7000 pipes, two consoles, five manuals, and one pedal board. I would have loved to have heard it.
During his research Mark found out that they still have the Night Watch in Lausanne. From 10pm until 2am there is a person stationed on the top of the Cathedral Belfry and on the hour calls out, “10 O-CLOCK AND AAALLLLLSSSS WEEEEELLLLL!” This tickled the boys and we were treated to impressions of Nutsy the Vulture from Disney’s Robin Hood all afternoon. Mark and H went on up to the belfry to take a look (H informs me there were no bats in their belfry). After they came down we found food and strained to hear the Night Watch as we put the kids to bed.
The next day we headed right down to the Olympic Museum!! Lausanne has a very small subway system, which seems to be for the express purpose of getting people to and from the lake. Our hotel gave us free tickets and so we jumped aboard instead of walking/rolling down the hill.
The lakeside was beautiful with broad sidewalks for walkers and runners (this is right by Olympic Museum, after all) and with lots of docking areas for boats.
Lausanne is understandably proud of being the Home of the Olympics and has made it fun and grand.
Even you can be an Olympic athlete!
These stairs leading up to the museum have the date and location of every Olympics held etched onto the face of the stair, including the name of the person who lit the torch to begin the games. They have room for a lot more games.
The museum is chock-full of memorabilia from the different games and athletes.
And back in the day, they didn’t just have medals for the winners. They also had trophies! Incredible and huge trophies.
They were sponsored by very rich people, organizations, and governments.
The one of the left is a solid silver piece that was commissioned and paid for by Czar Nicholas II of Russia. It has rough cut jewels embedded into it in different places. The one at the top on the right is for Show Jumping of all things! The one at the bottom, if I told you it was of Pheidippides and you were up on your Greek history, you might be able to guess that it was for the Marathon.
They also have a torch from every single Olympics.
It is incredible how differently each country’s torches are. There are some that look Medieval, some that look like chalices, some that are futuristic, and some that are so minimal they look like a stick.
When they start the torch relay they actually do start it in Olympia, Greece! The participants who light the torch dress up like the Vestal Virgins and perform an entire ceremony or ritual in lighting the first race torch.
They also had some video compilations that were really tear jerking and inspiring. I am not ashamed to admit that I wiped away a tear or two. There is just something about the Olympics that floods me with emotion. Not just for the US, but for every athlete that devotes their lives to being the best in their sport.
And there nothing like standing on that podium!
This was one of my Top 10 favorite things that we have done. And not just because I love the Olympics. The Museum had a wonderful sense of history and nostalgia and inspiration. There was a track where we all could feel like snails as we “raced” against Usain Bolt, E was completely delighted to see Jim Craig’s sweater, and H got to feel what it was like to do the Winter Biathlon.
We were tired and happy campers after leaving Lausanne. The boys told everyone they know about how much fun they had (another sign of a win).
I went home and immediately started watching Olympic archery on YouTube.
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