Active Travels: Biking Lake Geneva’s La Côte Region
By Steve Jermanok
Traveling to the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland this past September with Lisa, every day was a dream that could easily make this list. Seeing Dubuffet’s collection of art from the insane at Lausanne, strolling through the sculpted vineyards of the Lavaux, and taking a cruise over to the magical 12th-century castle on the rock, Chateau de Chillon, were all worthy of being chosen as my favorite days of the year. But the day that sticks out most in my memory was the most authentic experience, electric biking through the La Côte vineyards just outside the town of Nyon.
If you want to bike through vineyards with only locals on charming hillside towns reminiscent of Burgundy, follow in my footsteps. When we arrived at the Nyon train station to meet our guide, there were no more bikes to rent, only electric bikes. So off we went, zipping on a paved trail through the neighboring community of Prangins, staring in awe at 15,781-foot Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, which rises from the French side of Lake Geneva. In the town of Gland, we filled up our water bottles in one of the many public fountains, where water comes from the same reservoir that supplies the nearby homes.
Then we headed for the hills and were instantly enchanted by the town of Luins. We met Laurent Vigneron, the winemaker and owner of the picturesque Chateau de Luins, ready to start his fall harvest in less than a week. He took us into rooms holding immense oak barrels, some dating from as far back as 1922. We sampled his wines, a smooth pinot noir and a dry white created from the region’s favored grape, Chasselas, realizing instantly why the Swiss keep most of their wine for themselves. From Luins, we biked on a trail through the vineyards into the storybook town of Bursins, where a Medieval Cluny church still stands with requisite watchtower in the town center. A historic whitewashed chateau, now an upscale lodging called Chateau Le Rosey, peered down from the hillside. Across the street was a house straight out of a French countryside movie set with a wooden tile roof covered in moss.
We had lunch at Café de L’Union, known for its deep-fried gruyere cheese puff they call the Malakoff. Another specialty was the blue trout caught at a nearby river, which did arrive on our plate the color blue. It was served with cornichons and French fries. Perfect. After lunch, we headed downhill through cornfields waiting to be reaped and apple trees bending over with the latest crop. We past a horseback rider and soon took Route 1 along the lake to the town of Rolle. Quickly changing into swimwear, we had a paddleboard lesson at the Paddle Center. Soon we were gliding out on the placid blue waters of Lake Geneva, again mesmerized by the mountain panorama. An image I won’t quickly forget.