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Munching on Gruyère in Gruyères

This year is a great year of European travel for me. I am visiting Switzerland, Germany, France, and England, so you can be sure I will be writing and tasting plenty! I update my Facebook and Twitter (@msscheesemonger) daily, and you can see more of my writings on my blog,Miss Cheesemonger/.

The day I arrived in Switzerland, the weather seemed to break from its wintry chains to fling itself into spring. I had to take advantage of the beau temps! My cousin—a fan of court history—and myself—a fan of history and Gruyère cheese—made a pilgrimage to the town of Gruyères, where its medieval château is perched on a hill 830 meters high. The sky was almost completely clear. The snow-capped mountains rose up all around us as we entered the cobblestoned town. Note: The town is spelled with an “s” at the end—Gruyères. The cheese has no “s.”

There, I had my first taste of the local cream. It was thick, pale yellow in color, and sweet in flavor. I think I have a new addiction.

The château, oh-so-regal on its hill, played to all the courtly fantasies on can imagine. Nearly all the rooms had unobstructed, panoramic views of the mountains. Lush valleys below, dotted with small villages, were idyllic. As I made my way from sumptuous room to sumptuous room, I came upon one large meeting room covered with murals. Each mural depicted a story from the castle history. All of them were interesting, but the one that struck me most was one story of how at some point in the castle history, the women, left alone by the warrior men, defended the castle from attack by attaching flaming torches to their goats’ horns, and causing them to run down the hill. The enemy fled, and the women and goats saved the day. No word on the fate of the goats.

Lunchtime eventually rolled around, so we quickly found a restaurant with great views, and soaked in the experience like croutons in soup. My cousin ordered a rösti, a local dish consisting of a pan-roasted potato galette garnished with onions, bacon, cheese, and an egg. I feasted on an all-you-can-eat soup with cream, leeks, potatoes, pasta, and then garnished with Gruyère and croutons. Joy! Alas, my camera was set to “landscape,” so all my meal photos turned out fuzzy.

As we drove away, we stopped briefly in front of the Gruyère and Vacherin creameries. We could see the red crane symbol from the road, emblem of the town (“Grue” is the French word for “crane,” hence the root for “Gruyères.”).

Until next time!

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