Montreux, Lake Geneva, Anita Brookner and some French Books

I didn’t pick the best of days for my trip to Montreux, located on lake Geneva in Switzerland. Still, I’m sure you can see why it’s worth a trip even when the Jazz Festival isn’t on.

Montreux’s promenade along the lake is very famous. It is lush and green, with palm trees, Bougainvillea, Oleander and Rhododendron. At the same time you see snow-covered mountains in the background.

Many of the big houses bordering the promenade are fin de siècle buildings and house hotels and spa’s. All these hotels have what I call a “sanatorium style”, like the hotel in Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain.

Most people do not know that the old part of the city is high up on the hill. Quite a steep walk but definitely worth it.

Yes, I liked this sign on the house quite a bit.

You can see many picturesque buildings, small alleys, and a breathtaking view into the gorge and of the lake in the distance.

The steep gorge is in the middle of the old town, cutting right into it.  An icy cold mountain brook rushes down to the lake.

This statue of Freddy Mercury is located close to the Montreux market hall. It’s very lifelike. He used to live in Montreux and performed with the Queen several times at the festival. On his memorial day there is quite a lot going on every year.

Too bad that it was so cold and windy. When it’s sunny it’s nice to sit outside and have a drink.

While this isn’t a town I would like to live in, it’s too picturesque, too perfect – if you know what I mean – I still love to visit.

I felt like visiting Montreux after having watched Hotel du Lac which is set on lake Geneva. The movie is based on Anita Brookner’s eponymous novel. I have never read an Anita Brookner novel so far and would love to start with Hotel du Lac.

Do you have any Anita Brookner suggestions?

And since I was in the French-speaking part of Switzerland I bought a few books. Not all that many though. I’m very interested in Le sel by Jean-Baptiste Del Almo as he is compared to Virginia Woolf. Jean Molla’s Sobibor and Besson’s En l’absence des hommes – In the Absence of Men are the only ones which have been translated. Emma just reviewed Besson’s novel here. Sobibor is a novel in which an anorexic girl tries to find out what horrors lie hidden behind the word “Sobibor” which her Polish grandmother uttered just before her death.

55 thoughts on “Montreux, Lake Geneva, Anita Brookner and some French Books

  1. Thank you for your beautiful pictures which brought back happy memories of our visits to Switzerland. Another great trip from Geneva is to drive up the Rhone Valley to the origins of the river at the Rhone Glacier.

  2. What gorgeous pictures! I’d love to visit Geneva one day. As for Anita Brookner, she used to be a favourite of mine, but I much prefer her older books to her newer ones. I think A Start in LIfe is my top pick. How nice to get some French novels, too. Besson is someone I really must try.

    • Thanks, yes, you should visit one day. Of the bigger cities I prefer basel and Zürich but Geneva has French flair. I have more Anita Brookner novels that I was aware of but of course not the one you like. Bah.
      Yes, it’s nice to able to buy French books in a bigger book shop. To see what’s new. I usually have to order them. We only have a small section in the book shop.

  3. Great photos! It reminds me of the wonderful few days I had in Geneva – although I did get exhausted pushing my eldest son in a pushchair up those hills!

    I didn’t enjoy Hotel du Lac (no plot, too slow and satirical for me) but I know a lot of other people love her writing so I look forward to seeing your thoughts.

    • Thanks, Jackie. The hills are quite steep.
      The movie of Hotel du Lac is quite nice, maybe the book is very different. I’ll let you know what i think.

  4. Lovely pictures and a lovely place. There are wonderful places to discover all around the lake shore. I remember some very happy (and sunny) days at Evian and Rolle.

  5. Oh I’m so jealous of you right now. I hope you are having a lovely time, even if the weather is all that great. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting to see a statue of Freddy Mercury. That’s pretty cool. Great photos…I felt like I was there and I really wish I was.

    • Thanks, TBM. Yes, it was nice despite the weather. I’ve never seen the lake likes this. The waves were pretty high.
      I never noticed the statue before, no idea why. I think you would love the festival with all the bands.
      I couldn’t take a picture of the statue from the front because of the waves. I would have been soaked but it’s amazingly well done.

  6. Lovely photos, Caroline. I spent some time in Geneva, but never made it to Montreux or the Château de Chillon, unfortunately.
    Hotel du Lac is a quiet little novel, but I liked it. Didn’t realize there was a movie.

  7. Those are amazing photos! Even on a cloudy and cold day it’s gorgeous there! Thanks for sharing them. I just reread Hotel du Lac this year and very much enjoyed it (though never got around to writing about it). I read quite a few of Brookner’s novels at one point, but it’s been so long I don’t think I could even pick a favorite at this point. I’d definitely like to pick her work up again. I didn’t realize there was a movie of Hotel du Lac, so will have to check it out!

    • Thanks, Danielle. To some degree it was lucky the weather wasn’t too good as ususally the promenade is quite crowded. They have some really nice hotels although upper prize range.
      The Hotel du Lac movie was made for TV. It made me want to read the book.
      It’s intersting, from the reactions she seems an author who divides.

  8. Montreux looks lovely. I especially like the pictures of the mountains by the lake. On Anita Brookner, I read a few of her books quite a long time ago but the one that I most remember is A Start in Life. Thanks for sharing the photos!

    • You’re welcome. It’s lovely and I also think the mountains in the background, and the plam trees in the front have a very unique appeal.
      Too bad I don’t have A Stat in Life as you and Litlove both likedit so much.

  9. Beautiful photos! The weather doesn’t look so bad, although I can see it was windy from the waves on the lake. My wife and I are planning a big trip around Europe in a campervan next year, and Montreux is on our list of places to visit, so it was great to get a virtual tour! The place looks deserted – were there not many people on the streets, or are you just very diligent about waiting for everyone to clear out before you shoot?

    • Thanks, Andrew. The wind was bad, really bad, a “Bise”. No idea how it is called in English but it’s a wind from the Arctic regions and no fun. That’s why there were no people and the waves splashed on the promenade. I had a hard time staying dry and taking pictures.
      Yes, it is definitely one of the places in Switzerland to visit although, I love the Italian part even more. And there are many more places.

  10. Caroline: I thought you’d been quiet for the last few days…I haven’t been getting your posts for some reason.
    Wonderful photos.

    I’m not a Brookner fan, but on the other hand, Freddie ROCKS

    • Thanks, Guy. Freddie is neat, isn’t he? I think the memorial days must be quite something.
      Yes, I’ve been off-line a rare thing but I had posts scheduled.

  11. Beautiful photos, you make me want to take the car and go there too.
    Thanks for the link on Besson. He’s worth discovering.
    I read a Brookner a long time ago but I don’t remember the title. Julia et moi? I remember I didn’t like it.

    • Thanks, Emma. You should go one day, it’s not that far from you. Relatively speaking. You could visist the Château de Chillon, it’s just ten minutes away, children love it.
      I have you heard of Del Amo?
      Your and Guy’s Brookner experience doesn’t sound promising. Maybe it was a newer one. Litlove thinks they are not as good anymore… We will see.

  12. Wow! What an incredible looking place. Perhaps someday I will get to visit it. As much as I LOVE reading, I am not sure if I would get too much of it done if I did ever visit Montreux!

    • Yes, it’s quite lovely. I hope you can visit one day. I’ve nevre managed to go to the Jazz Festival, I need to do that. The program is usually astonishing, not only Jazz and the musicians love the place.
      I did do zero reading, I only bought books.

  13. Lovely photos and some interesting books too – not all that many though? I think the lady doth protest too much… 😉

    • Thanks, Tony. “Not all that many” was taken out of context. French books are extremely cheap. Way cheaper than books anywhere else and it’s tempting to buy ten for the prize of 3 German or English books. But I didn’t want to go into prize discussions. 🙂

  14. Such a beautiful place and your photos are gorgeous. The landscape and architecture are so completely different from where I live. I must admit to feeling a bit envious of people who live in Europe and can visit all the places I can only read about. Australia is a bit too far for a weekend trip. 🙂 I love Hotel du Lac, but that is the only Bookner novel I have read.

    • Thanks, Violet. I know how you feel, I think like that when I see pictures of Australia but I have to agree, Europe is very diverse. Switzerland isn’t a bad location as it’s right in the middle and has a bit of everything. Only no sea.
      I’m glad to hear you liked Hotel du Lac. I couldn’t think of a lot of books set in Switzerland and was surprised when I watched the movie.

  15. Terrific photos, Caroline. I’m envious. I read Hotel du Lac four or five years ago and recall liking it very much. Not very helpful, I’m afraid, but it’s short, so you can probably dispatch it in mere hours. I’ll be curious to see your future posts on your new purchases.

    • Thanks, Scott. It’s a pretty place, isn’t it?
      I’m glad you mention you liked Hotel du Lac. I’m going to read it anyway. I’d like tosee how she captured the region.
      I hope I will get to my new books. I’m always reluctant to review those which have not been translated but that’s silly, I know.

  16. Beautiful pictures, Caroline! I liked the first picture very much – it is such a riot of colour 🙂 I can’t believe that there is a palm tree there – it always makes me think of the tropics. The cat sculpture on the wall is nice 🙂 Glad to know that you had a wonderful time in Montreux. I have never been to the French part of Switzerland. After seeing your pictures, I am tempted to make a trip. The books you have bought look wonderful. Will look forward to hearing your thoughts on them. Didn’t know that French books are lesser-priced when compared to German and English books – lucky you and other French readers 🙂 I haven’t read an Anita Brookner novel yet. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on ‘Hotel du Lac’.

    • Thanks, Vishy. I think the first is my favourite as well. There are many Palm trees in the South of Switzerland, even more in the Italian part which is by far my favourite region. It has a very Italian feel, also the cities. Hope I’ll get to go soon and share pictures. But Montreux is special.
      French books in France are by far the cheapest world wide. For the prize of one German paperback you get easily 2-3. Although they are overprized in Switzerland that’s why I order form amazon mostly.
      I wonder why this is the case.

  17. What a beautiful town. If you hadn’t mentioned where it was, I would have guessed the Caribbean. I’ve only seen that turquoise water color around tropical islands. Sounds like you had a nice trip. Is it far from where you live?

    Also, it’s such a coincidence that you mentioned Mann’s The Magic Mountain. It was just a clue on the crossword puzzle I’m working on today.

    • I’m glad I was of help. 🙂
      I saw a book in the book shop and it was about Switzerland and in the blurb it said something like “It’s the most misunderstood country in Europe”. I really agree. Even landscape wise that’s true, I think. There are many Palm trees and lakes in the South with lush vegetation.
      Montreux is 160 kilometers from where I live. I live in a very flat stretch on the German/French border, no mountains or lakes but the river Rhine which has an impressive size. It’s a medieval town, so the architecture in the old town is very different.

  18. oh wow Caroline! I didn’t know you have great talent to be a photographer. You should share more photos in the future 😉

    I love all of them, such peaceful and beautiful place.

    I am curious with this difference language thing in Swiss. Do everyone speak both German and French?? (they are using these two languages, right?) if not, how do the people in French part talk to the people in German part?

    • Thanks, Novia, I’m glad you liked them. I will share some more in the future.
      Switzerland is divided in four linguistic regions. Three of the languages German/French and Italian are official languages, used by the government and on all the official papers. If you buy a product in Switzerland the three languages will be on the packs.
      In the German speaking part we learn French at school but in the Italian and French parts they do not speak German. Therefore there is no guarantee that you will be able to communicate. Since my father is French and my mother was Italian I grew up with three languages but this is rather an exception. People in the French or Italian part are far more likely to speak English than German. In the German part however they will speak or at least understand French. The town bordering the regions are often bilingual.
      From a cultural, language and even landscape perspective the regions are very different from each other. We do also not have one prime minister but seven.

        • I don’t know, it has always been like this and it does work well. It’s bordering on countries whose language the different regions speak. The country is quite old and the borders haven’t changed since the 13th century I think. The majority 65% speak German.

  19. I love your pictures! I spend some summer-days by lake Geneva 27 years ago – I remember nothing … Have to go back!

    I am currently reading Anita Brookner’s “A Closed Eye”, I like it a lot. Brookner has a distinct and clear voice, cold in a way, realistic, bitter (?) Her books are populated by lonely women. Its a world she seems to know better than most writers.

    I wrote a bit on “Leaving home” last summer: http://omstreifer.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/anita-brookner-leaving-home/

    • Thanks, Sigrun. It’s a very pretty area, very picturesque.
      What you write about Anita Brookner’s writing explains why some don’t get along with her, I think. I’m still very curious to find out but was tied up with so many other books.
      Thanks for the link. I’ll have to read it.

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