On a recent mini-break to Geneva, we decided to add a rural getaway to the city stay and wound up in Cully (pronounced Coo-yee), a small village on the banks of Lake Geneva (between Lausanne and Montreaux), because it was home to Auberge du Raisin.
We're partial to Relais and Chateaux inns, which commonly are as well known, if not more so, for their restaurants than for their lodging, and Auberge du Raisin is a member. Alas, we traveled there in what would seem like the height of tourist season (third week in July). Ironically and ultimately somewhat humorously, we visited Cully when it seemed like most of the town itself had gone off on vacation.
True, the folks at the Auberge du Raisin told us that when we made our reservation (and indeed though the inn itself was open the restaurant was not). So we were prepared and had a fantastic, peaceful time. I would like to go back, however, and sample Cully at its full potential.
We got a nice break on the price of the room as a result (paid 180 Swiss francs for a deluxe double).
While we've found Relais and Chateaux properties in the U.S. to be relatively pretentious and pompous (and definitely overpriced), Auberge du Raisin, like others we've visited in Europe, was delightful, low key, comfortable,somewhat plush and…slightly rumpled. It felt like we were staying at my grandparents, somehow (that's a compliment).
Our room, a corner on the first floor, featured the usual European "double" bed -- two twins pushed together. The sheets and duvets were excellent in quality. There was a loveseat and table area and a desk. I don't believe there was wiFi but we were (blissfully) on vacation so didn't take laptops. The television had only a handful of channels; one of these was in English (CNN). There was an empty mini-fridge; empty, that is, until the innkeeper stocked it with complimentary Evian, sparkling water, and a split of the local white wine.
The bathroom had a tub (nice) with mediocre shower, a toilet in a closet, and a sink stocked with a rather stingy selection of over-perfumed shampoos and such by Pierre Cardin. Ours had a window looking out over the front of the inn; we saw the room next door, also nice and with a canopied bed, but the bathroom had no window.
All in all quite comfortable.
The inn had a nice terrace off the first floor where we were but it was locked during our stay (plus, it was rather rainy so we really didn't venture out there). Because breakfast, which is usually served, was not available, it didn't really matter (there was a great little patisserie a few blocks away). But it would make a lovely spot for a morning coffee or evening glass of wine in better circumstances.
Otherwise, this really is a lodging that serves the restaurant; public rooms on the ground floor were devoted to that rather than to places for guests to hang out.
If you're interested in wine -- which we are -- Cully was simply delightful. This area, known as the Lavaux Valley, is somewhat mountainous with the slopes rising right off the lake, and dominated by terraced vineyards. Since this part of Switzerland was having a rainy summer (which we, er, were able to sample, quite frequently) they were almost eerily, nuclear green!
I adored the wines -- the area grows (and makes) nice, simple and crisp whites and reds (mostly pinot noir, in the red arena). And there's a lovely and unique paved-over trail that runs right through the middle of the vineyards from town to town to town (we walked three miles or so, from Cully to Rivaz -- and then took the train back to Cully, a 7 minute ride!). The path took us through these incredible medieval villages -- like Grandvaux and Epesses (there's a lovely place for lunch there; called Auberge something or other -- but it's the only restaurant with a terrace in town so you'll find it). These are perched midway up the mountain and there are amazing views…. You can also take a tourist train through the valley but we never saw it.
The wines are primarily made for Swiss consumption (few are imported, according to a very nice local guy, a wine distributor, who we met one morning in the inn; he knew far more about new world wines!). You'll see a lot of wineries (small ones); on our way to the local Coop supermarket (actually kind of nasty, smelled like rancid fruit) for sodas, we walked past one winery that was in the process of bottling.
Low key, definitely the antithesis to Burgundy or Napa! Charming!
A lot of places, shops, cafes, wineries, etc., FYI, are closed on Monday, so be forewarned.
Because so much of Cully was closed (we went on a Sunday - Tuesday) we wound up eating dinner both nights at Au Major Davel; that hotel, right on the lake and with the most gorgeous views, is reviewed here (and not terribly positively). We were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the meals but the service was weird! Earnest and yet pathetically bad! One night, after a conversation with the young waitress (who spoke very good English) about how the veal was prepared, she brought roast chicken instead. She set it down, told me it was the wrong dish and looked helpfully at me, as if to communicate that I should just eat this instead. Kind of funny -- and no, I did ask for the veal….
The local wine guy recommended the Gare du Restaurant (at the train station); Monday night I stopped by for a kir and it was interesting, with great smells coming out of the kitchen. Next trip.
The second night it poured, literally sheets of rain, and the atmosphere was absolutely misty and gorgeous! That night, dining again at Duvel, we couldn't actually see the view of the mountains on the French side of Lake Geneva but gosh, it was like a silvery, shimmery curtain had been pulled down…and it was romantic, must admit.
Last note: via train the trip between Geneva and Cully is an easy commute but we opted to take the Suisse, a steam boat, instead. It was an absolutely relaxing and picturesque ride, there's a dining room that serves quite excellent lunches, and the four hours flew by (heading back the train trip was less than an hour). The Suisse leaves you off right at the Davel…and the Auberge du Raisin was a five minute walk, at most. It departs from Geneva at about 10 a.m., if I recall….
- Also Known As:
- Auberge Du Raisin Hotel Cully
- Auberge Du Raisin Hotel
- Auberge Du Raisin Cully
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