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On our last day in Europe, Leslie and I were on our own again. Natasha and the kids had a previous commitment, but they recommended we visit Montreux and the iconic Chateau Chillon, a castle built right on Lake Geneva itself.
And so it was that Leslie and I boarded the train from Coppet to Montreux, embarking on our last European adventure of the trip.
Leslie: The train ride was through such beautiful countryside with Lake Geneva on one side and grape arbors on the other for much of the ride.
Montreux is a fancy lake-side city reminiscent of the French Riviera. There is a hotel there called the Palace (and fancy enough to be one), shops selling designer items, and a general air of opulence. There are also a lot of really *interesting* pieces of modern art all along the boardwalk, which made for an entertaining morning stroll.
We also got some sweets from a fancy shop selling chocolates and pastries, where the proprietor was very kind and the “guard dog” was so quiet and still that I thought it was stuffed until it blinked at me.
From the docks at Montreux, we took a boat across Lake Geneva to the Chateau. The views from the boat were pretty exciting, and I enjoyed trying to get a clear shot despite the rocking of the boat. A storm was a-brewing, so the wind made that a little more difficult than normal.
Leslie: The boat ride to Chateau de Chillon, while chilly, wasn’t very long, and I loved the view of Chillon you get as you come up to it from the water. The water-facing side isn’t fortified the way the land-facing side is, so it has a different and lovely look to it when viewed from the water.
Chateau de Chillon
The Chateau de Chillon was originally built to control movement between northern and southern Europe by way of Great Saint Bernard Pass through the Alps. The earliest written record of the castle was in 1150, when the castle was controlled by the Counts of Savoy. The chateau then passed hands to the Bernese in 1536 and the Vauds in 1798. And then in 1989, Prince Eric met a mute mermaid-turned-human girl there and lived happily ever after. (The Chateau de Chillon inspired Prince Eric’s castle in The Little Mermaid.) Today, it is the most visited monument in all of Switzerland.
Leslie: I didn’t initially realize it is on an island (or islet? because it’s so tiny); once on land, you can see that you will have to cross a bridge to get to the castle, and I thought it was cool to see parts of the medieval drawbridge still there.
My favorite part of the castle was the courtyard, which looked so homey with its pretty windows and flowers that it was hard to believe this place was also used as a prison during the 16th century.
Lord Byron immortalized the castle in his 1816 poem The Prisoner of Chillon, which chronicles the prison life of François de Bonivard, a Genevois politician and Protestant Reformer who was held there for six years. Byron visited the dungeon himself and carved his name on one of the stone columns.
Leslie: The tie to Lord Byron and the fact that Chillon inspired other Romantic authors and poets was a fun little detail.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The ramparts provided more great views of Lake Geneva, and the upper rooms looked fit to host all sorts of feasts and soirees. We had a lot of fun exploring the castle and learning all about its history.
Leslie: This was one castle that I actually didn’t mind when I saw that it didn’t have much in the way of furnishings because so many parts of the castle itself, like walls, window seats, mantels, ceilings, columns, courtyards, etc., were decorative and fantastic. Not to mention it was so full of crazy walkways and interesting rooms (all the toilets, haha), that exploring was fun in and of itself, without knowing all the history. Both sides of the castle offered gorgeous views of Lake Geneva, the shore, and the towns nearby.
- Chateau de Chillon
- Official Site
Adults CHF 12,50
Students CHF 10,50
- (4 / 5)Our Rating
It wouldn’t be a fitting end to our European adventure if the day didn’t include a minor mishap. When we boarded the train back to Coppet, we didn’t realize that we had gotten on the wrong train until it didn’t stop at our station. If our ticket guy hadn’t been so nice, we would have been in for a hefty fine! I think it’s kind of funny that we made it through six weeks of train travel and made a rookie mistake on our very last day… Haha!
Leslie: This was a fun day trip that I’m glad we chose to do (even with the confusion of getting on the wrong train on our way back, haha).
And that was it. The next day, Natasha drove us to the Geneva airport and we bid a fond farewell to our wonderful hosts. From there, we had a flight to Oslo, a five hour layover there, and then a ten hour flight to LAX. We flew with Norwegian Air, who had THE BEST flight deals back to the US. It cost us less than $400 to fly from Geneva to LAX, and I was really impressed by their planes and service. For being a budget airline, they don’t skimp on the frills. Food was expensive (I tried to make it the whole way without buying anything, but after my stomach ate my liver and my kidney and started on my lungs, I had to give in…), but the seats were comfortable and the in-flight entertainment options were plentiful.
And while that may be the end of the European leg of our adventure, the trip wasn’t quite over yet. Stay tuned for fun times in the California sun, and read more about our six-week tour of Europe here.
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 Source: Castle guide obtained during our visit
 Source: Chillon Castle, Wikipedia
 Sources disagree on this. Another source claims the earliest record is from 1005.
 Source: Chateau de Chillon Official Site