Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: April 2012

Evian-les-Bains or Evian lies directly across from Lausanne on the french side of Lac Leman. There is a ferry that runs between Ouchy, Lausanne and Evian every two hours. So off we went as it was a sunny spring day and the lake was very calm.

The trip took about 35 minutes. On weekdays, the commuters use this ferry but on weekends, tourists predominate. Judging from the ferry, Evian looks much smaller than Lausanne.

No passport control – although I brought mine.

Evian is of course most famous worldwide for its bottled mineral water.  It all started here at the Source Cachat. I had a good drink and filled my little empty bottle. There were a few tourists but some locals came with racks of bottles.  After a while, every one left, all you could hear was the sound of water splashing.

This is a short history of the discovery of Evian’s mineral water (Wikipedia).

In 1789, during a walk, the Marquis of Lessert drank water from the Sainte Catherine spring on the land of a Mr. Cachat. The marquis, who was allegedly suffering from kidney problems, drank regularly of the water while he walked, and claimed that his health improved. Encouraged by Lessert’s advocacy of the ‘miraculous’ water, local doctors began to prescribe it as a health remedy. In response to the growing success of the water, Mr Cachat fenced off his spring and began selling the water. The first baths appeared in 1824. The name of the spring was changed from Sainte Catherine to the Cachat Source.

In 1859 the business became a public company as the “Société anonyme des eaux minérales de Cachat” and a year later it became French when Savoy was incorporated into France under the Treaty of Turin. The French Ministry of Health reauthorized the bottling of Cachat water on the recommendation of the Medicine academy in 1878. In 1908 Evian water began to be sold in glass bottles manufactured by the glass factory Souchon-Neuvesel which today is a part of Owens-Illinois and first PVC bottle was launched in 1969. The next year the BSN Group, which eventually became the Danone Group, took 100% control of Evian brand. 1978 marked an entrance into the U.S. market.

This is the billboard that is placed diagonally opposite the Source Cachat on the wall of the former pump room – “Welcome into our factory”. The actual bottling plant is located 5 km from the town centre in Amphion.

This art nouveau building is the former pump room of the water source and has been used as an information center for the mineral water.  When we visited, it was closed and will reopen in the summer.

The story of the mineral water as told by Evian can be found on its web site. The current owner Danone has been commissioning fashion designers to create annually new bottles for the water – see our earlier post – Designer bottled water.

One Autumn day last year, we and J and J went for a short hike on the Sentier du patrimoine de Romainmôtier. On our way back to our car, near Croy, we walked along a beautiful idyllic garden path. It runs behind a row of houses along a stream, separating the back of each house from a patch of land on which the owners planted flowers and vegetables.

It is on this path where we encountered this country cat.

Clearly, this cat wanted to let us know that it owns the green carpeted passage as it slowly paced toward us, stone-faced.

It walked right in the middle of the path and steadily marched up to us, seemingly not amused.

But, we were distracted by something else, and ignored it completely (except my camera). The cat looked deflated when we started to walk away.Since human attention was not available, it started grooming.

Bye, country cat.

This place is about 45 minutes drive away from where we live, 15 minutes from the French border,  and the green arrow points to the path.

In case you missed it, we had a very popular post about the French existential cat, Henri.

The Salone Internazionale del Mobile (Milan International Furniture Exhibition) was open to the public this weekend. We planned a whirlwind one-day visit with our friend Z – who bought us rail tickets and even arranged to meet people for lunch in Milan.

When we were at the train station this morning, we discovered that the Italian railway workers decided to call a 24-hour strike. Strike (Grève in French), our luck! Although the Swiss rail (SBB) was running normally, we were warned of delays.  In fact, we think there is a risk that we will be stranded there with no hotel (all were booked because of the Exhibition).  So we did the hard thing, we canceled – disappointed but managed to get our money back. Sigh. We will try again next year.

Every year the Exhibition organizer  – Cosmit designs a poster (manifesto) for the event. Here are some of my favorites.

The Exhibition first started on September 24, 1961 and ran for a whole week.

Judging by the name on the poster in 1966, in the early years the exhibition is not yet international.

Psychedelic 60’s.

In the 70’s.


Celebrating 20 years of success and becoming international.

In the 80’s. By the way, what is it that is shown in the poster?

In the 90’s.


In the new millenium, and moving to the then new location at the fairgrounds at Rho.

Also started using the new logo (sometime in the 2000’s).

This year’s poster is rather unimaginative.

Many more manifestos are downloadable from Cosmit’s press area.

My friend Karen from NY reposted this youtube video on Facebook – Henri – le chat noir – the french existential cat. It is hilarious.

This video is getting viral now – at least according to Forbes’ “mon-dieux-save-us-from-the-existential-cat-video“.

Notice the graphic at the beginning of the video.  It is inspired by this 1896 poster from Paris for a cabaret started by Rodolphe Salis. This poster also appears during the video.

The creator of the Tournée du Chat Noir poster  – Theophile Steinlen – happened to be born in my neighborhood in Lausanne, Switzerland.

This is the original Henri video.

There is a restaurant that is named Au Chat Noir at the location where presumably Steinlen was born or lived.

Sue bought this Chat Noir handbag hook (I think in Spain not France). She should use it at the restaurant.

Henri has a facebook page – Henri, le Chat Noir. I look forward eagerly for more of Henri’s ennui.

There was a little behind-the-scene video about Henri but it seems to have been taken down, presumably to preserve the mystique.

Electron is a four-day festival that ran from April 5 to April 8, spanning the Easter weekend of 2012. Below is this year’s poster – the city in the background is Geneva.

It is an annual electronic cultures festival that included workshops, contemporary art exhibits, concerts, conferences and parties. These events took place at various venue in the center of Geneva and continued with music acts which finished at 4am each night. One can buy a day pass or a festival pass which allows entrance for a day or 4 days.

We went on Good Friday, checked out a few DJs playing sets in the park where people were having drinks, skateboarding, etc. –  a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Cycloïd-E Black Box was an incredible piece of art  – a mobile sonic sculpture. The thing made with five stainless steel tubes, each one hinged at the end of another, each with a loudspeaker at the end blasting noises, and swinging and waving about in a darkened room like a giant metal snake – very menacing and mysterious.

We saw it in the basement of a theatre. The segments move independently of each other, sometimes folding themselves up, sometimes extending fully.

If its base can move, it will become a very scary robot, something right out of the pages of 1960’s sci-fi novels. It will fit right into Patrick Mcgoohan’s The Prisoner.

No photo can do this piece of art justice. It is the highlight of the festival for me. Experience it with my video here.  I found another video of it online, embedded it at the end of the post.

Later on, we saw Mike Ladd vs Thavius Beck at the Rez in L’Usine.. They were energetic and made the most watchable performance. Most of the time, they were bashing their keyboards facing each other, a bit of rapping in between. Follow the link to find their youtube videos.

Cristian Vogel  at the Palladium. Interesting stuff, strung it together well but somehow did not seem to work up the crowd (possibly too early, his slot was before midnight). For the curious, follow the link for youtube videos.

Opuswerk at the Palladium – not bad but not great, house music.

Light year – they sounded more mainstream, electropop, played at the Zoo in L’Usine.

One of the venue was Le Commun at the BAC (Batiment d’Art Contemporain) – where the music by Eliane Radigue – “Trilogie Adnos” was performed.  She is a legend of classical electronic music of France, heavily influenced by Tibetan meditation.  The piece was at least 75 minutes of warm, undulating electronic background noise with some notes sprinkled here and there.  It was played in a darkened room where many people lied down on the platforms (cushion provided) or the floor to meditate or fall asleep.  It was very relaxing. At the end of the performance, she appeared personally to greet the audience.

A sculpture at the bar just outside Le Commun.

Here is somebody else’s video of Cycloid-E on Youtube – a much more professional job. The sounds produced by the sculpture in this video is different from the one we heard. They used several cameras here. Enjoy the performance.

Continuing with our tour of Château de Chillon started in part 1 which focused on the inside, we now go outside.

Scaled model of Chillon – the lake is on the far side of the castle where there are no turrets. I guess they do not expect invaders to attack from the lake. My vantage point above the model is similar to that when I took the picture below.

If one looks out of the arrow loops in the wall and the turrets, the view is unparalleled.

This is a view of Villeneuve, looking east from Chillon with the Rhone valley to the right. Can you see below the A9 viaduct a white train running along the lake front ? That local train runs all the way from Lausanne along the edge of the lake, it is one of the prettiest line in Switzerland.

Looking further to the right from the view above, the French Alps can be seen on the other side of the Rhone valley across the lake.

What is this ? Through this hole, one can see the lake below.

Well, they were medieval toilet seats. No discussion about putting the seat down. And it must be cold.

One of the recurrent themes about the castle is the role it played in witch hunt trials and execution.  Apparently, there were a lot of witches in this area (Valais) in the 14th and 15th century. Many were private or political conflicts that were deliberately linked to witchcraft and resolved by religion.

The chateau has a second line of defense, an internal moat, but I am not sure if it was filled with water, however.

Soldiers can patrol the entire perimeter of the castle at the top of the wall.

From the top of the perimeter wall, looking west from Chillon, one can see Montreux, and possibly Vevey.

Looking below, two swans looked like rocks. They were indeed very large birds, fattened by all the passing tourists.


There is a little jetty by the entrance of the chateau.

After we left the chateau, we drove over to Villeneuve to get on the A9 to speed back home.  Looking back, Chillon is just visible under the beginning of the A9 viaduct on the left.

Like most of the towns along the lake, Villeneuve has a beautiful park by the lake.

Chateau de Chillon is located near Montreux on the north shore of Lac Leman – about 40 minutes drive from where we live.

It is an extremely popular castle for obvious reasons: its history (built in the middle ages), physical setting (lake side), location (historically on the north-south Alps trade route) and literature connection (Byron). Its popularity is underlined by this Chinese language flyer on the chateau’s official site.

We followed a numbered route to walk through the chateau and one of the first stops is the dungeon. This underground space was much colder than the other parts of the chateau even during a sunny day. It is the setting of Byron’s The Prisoner of Chillon (published 1816).  The prisoner, a Genovois monk François Bonivard in 1500’s was chained to the fifth of seven pillars. Byron even engraved his name onto the pillar (see the little framed window).

There is a direct passage from the dungeon to the lake – a route that was used as an escape when the chateau was under siege.

As the area is filled with vinyards, the chateau has its own land to grow grapes and cellar. This room was very fragrant due to the fresh oak barrel.  Chassela is the grape that is used to make a popular white wine. We bought a bottle of Clos de Chillon.  As it was average in price compared to the others in the area, we do not expect any surprise.

The dining hall is spectacular. It is available for rental!

Like most castles, the door openings are tiny.

The checkered board pattern of the wall was painted, presumably to simulate bricks.

Each room has a fireplace, understandably.

This is the chapel with medieval wall and ceiling paintings.

Internal courtyard. The numbered route does take you everywhere in the castle.

Here is a short promotional video:

Exteriors and lake views in the next post.

The Wynn casino hotel in Las Vegas has one of the most visually rich interior environment. This bar – Parasol Down – is a fantastically colored space – feels fun, somewhat luxurious, and without being (too) garish.

If you look up from the bar, you will see the multicolor parasols.  In fact, most visitors will see these parasols when they are coming down a curved escalator.

Parasol Down faces a terrace (where they have an outdoor cafe), a small lake, and a large grey slab of stone on which a sheet of water slides down quietly. The contrast of the somewhat monochromatic exterior with the technicolor interior is stunning.

To us, the pièce de resistance in the casino hotel is the floral design created with mosaic tiles set in the marble floor, which are scattered around the public areas. Wynn’s fields of flowers.

The color scheme was apparently inspired by Henri Matisse’s paintings.

Each tile was cut to fit and the mosaics are constantly being maintained and the tiles replaced by a small dedicated team.

There is an article about the mosaic florals in the Wynn’s newsletter – The Glass Menagerie.

A signature style of this chain of hotels.

It was fun walking around to discover new patterns.

Amazingly bright, uncompromisingly bold, incredibly cheerful, and joyously playful.

Matching floral designs also appear in their carpets throughout the public areas. See the carpet in Parasol Down.

The red lanterns for the Lunar New Year festivities “blended” in with the rest of the brightly colored hanging decorations.

I bet they can use the same glass tiles and create a sea-creature themed design.

Colors are some things that most of us take for granted. The richness here makes me feel bad for my friends and others who are color-blind.

This is our 300th post !  Thanks for visiting and leaving comments. The adventure continues …

For regular folks like us, the time to do shopping is mostly the weekend. But when all of us are shopping at the same time at the same places, the result is crowds and stress which strip away all sense of fun.  While on vacation, we visited a suburban mall in Southern California (Los Angeles county) on a weekday and it was a real pleasure to browse and shop leisurely. No groups of people clogging up the aisles, and you have the full attention of the assistants.  And when it is lunch time, we wandered off to a restaurant in the mall (no lines !).  This mall restaurant uses man’s best friend as the theme.

Next to the entrance of Lazy Dog Cafe is the menu framed by a fire hydrant.

Lazy Dog Cafe is a mini chain of restaurants, all of them located in Southern California. Small-town hospitality is their secret sauce and the name was inspired by the sight of a lazy dog lying by a fire in a ski lodge (according to their website).

Portraits of dogs adorn the dining room

Suspended from the ceiling are giant dog paws (diffused light fixtures) that “walk” you to the bar area.

Sue really liked their chicken sandwich and is a repeat customer. I had a fish taco.

Bone-shaped bar tap. Notice the Kikkoman soy sauce and Sriracha chili sauce – not commonly found on the counter (at least not on the east coast). This place can turn into a sports bar at night.

Their dogs, like the two near the entrance, are metallic sculptures in gun metal grey. Can someone tell me what breed of dog is this one ? I find these sculpture a bit odd given the warm friendly atmosphere of the restaurant.  This one resembles a robo-canine that the Terminator would keep (look at those claws!)

Paw print on each table.

A new variant of the gender sign on the toilet door. In case of doubt, the word “boy” makes sure that it is understood.

Another whimsical dog-themed light fixture. Notice the high ceiling and stone interior.

Finally, a bone-shaped door handle.

All in all, the Lazy Dog Cafe is a very pleasant eatery (and grade A cleanliness according to California Public Health authority). I wonder if there is a cat-themed restaurant some where.

This type of restaurant, which serves mid-priced every day food in a spacious relaxing dining room, unfortunately does not exist in Switzerland.

Another restaurant – Stacked – just opened in the same mall.  On their menu is this item: “Kung Fusion” – Brioche Bun / Certified Angus Beef/ Cucumber / Wasabi Mayo / Sriracha Mayo/ Pickled Ginger Slaw. Love to try it.