Today is my husband’s birthday!
It is also our last full day in Europe, and we are packing as much into it as possible. A late breakfast having charged our batteries, we set out for Nyon via rail, optimistic that we could return in time to check our baggage through to our flight and get to the Montreux ticket line.
Perhaps we were overly optimistic.
Nyon was a really cute little town, with ancient buildings and a sleepy quay. We took many pictures, and enjoyed coffee and sweets at a waterfront restaurant where we listened to a group of young Australian women discuss their love lives. A short 20 minute trip from Lausanne by train, the walk through the commercial center through to the waterfront was slightly time-consuming, and we didn’t return to our hotel until after 2 pm. We still needed to check in to our homebound flight online, and get the baggage checked through at the train station.
Unfortunately, we encountered some snags. The online check-in was not available on our Zurich to Frankfurt flight, and the flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco not available for check-in for another 3 hours. My mother graciously offered to check us in online, which was a godsend as we were determined to upgrade to Economy Plus (the Economy class flight over was far too cramped). We struggled slightly, but not too badly, with our rolling luggage plus a backpack crammed with things my mother was sending home. Over the seemingly endless pedestrian
bridge, we made it onto the bus, and rolled into the overheated train station. We waited patiently behind a young and slightly-suspicious man sending a package via DHL but failing to clearly state his return address, and at last we were greeted by a friendly and helpful agent who cheerfully disappointed our hopes of checking through to our United Airlines flight (‘Not possible,’ he said in charmingly broken English, and showed up a recently updated list of baggage check-in policies for airlines: United no longer allows the service from rail stations), then promptly offered a station-to-station service through to Zurich Flughafen – the best backup plan. He assured us several times that the bags would arrive well before 11 am tomorrow.
Significantly lightened both in spirit and baggage, we continued on to Montreux. It was quite a humid day, so the walk from the train station to the event center felt interminable though only a couple of blocks. Tickets were to be had, though the price was steep and we settled upon standing room. We snacked on fair food, sitting on some rocks by the shore and walking sea-birds tussle. My husband had beer and as usual I had a glass of red wine. We were watching some cute little duck-like birds as we ate, and goofing around a bit, then pretty soon after a slight tickle I spilled red wine all over my dress. It was pretty funny, especially because my parents were to meet us later at a fancy restaurant in honor of my husband’s birthday, and there was no time to return to the hotel for fresh clothes – and, most of my clothes were already packed and sent ahead to the Zurich Airport rail station. I simply used a long scarf I carried to cover the stain, looking a bit like a hippie – meaning, I fit in well with a hefty proportion of the crowd.
When we purchased tickets, we learned that although the show began at 8 pm, David Sanborn was not scheduled to appear until around 10:30 pm, so we were anticipating a leisurely dinner at the Petite Palais in Montreux with my parents. My parents ran late, as the online check-in was more time consuming than hoped for, so my husband and I started early with wine for me (this time, no incidents) and a cocktail called the Palais for my husband – which, he reported, was excellent.
Dinner was very good, and we had an interesting experience: a sudden thunder and lightning storm let loose, propelling all of the wait staff and a couple of the cooks to rush about and move tables from the outdoor terrace into a main ballroom. I found the speed with which this was accomplished very amusing.
After dinner we wandered up the street, back to the main event center. When we were safely indoors and had closed the umbrellas, the rain promptly stopped.
My mom shopped again – this time, to buy my husband a Montreux fest t-shirt for his birthday. I picked up a lanyard for my work ID/key card. If I have to wear the thing, I might as well wear it on something cool, n’est-ce pas?
My parents returned to Lausanne, leaving my husband and me to meander around the outside of the venue while waiting for Sanborn. We finally decided to walk into the hall and check out one of the early acts on the ticket: Roberta Flack. Neither of us was particularly excited to see her on the show, but we were tired of the damp outdoors. I was very surprised to find that her show was really fun! She had an excellent band, was in terrific voice, and engaged the audience gamely. While my husband was not nearly as impressed, he enjoyed it as well. With our standing room only tickets we were a bit cramped and it was rather hot; we found ourselves vainly wishing we had sprung for seats.
We had a few minutes between acts to find a more comfortable position under an air conditioning unit, and settled in for Sanborn. He gave a great performance, really marvelous! The horn section from Tower of Power joined his band and of course they were phenomenal. It was a good show, one we will never forget. And most important of all, my husband had a good birthday.
Hearts pumping and glowing through and through from the show, my husband and I walked back to the station to return to Lausanne. We misjudged the time however and realized we had a 45 minute wait. This was a little tortuous as we were both tired. But better still that we were not on the other side of the tracks, where a group of local teenagers was acting out. A fistfight even broke out, and boys were angry and ripping off their t-shirts to show off their puny physiques, all puffed up with testosterone. My husband spotted some rail service employees and approached them; they said, Yes, the rail system has security. And they said, No, we don’t do security, we are here only to provide information. Neither offered to call for security, and there were no signs posted with the number to call for security.
Our train finally arrived and we enjoyed the uneventful ride back to Lausanne station, arriving there after 1 am. There, too, crowds of rowdy teenagers had congregated. The buses had stopped running for the night, and only taxis were available; a queue had formed in a part of the drive for the taxi service and was being served with typical Swiss efficiency. But soon, just before we reached the front of the line, some of the teenagers began to run around the queue. As our taxi arrived and I stepped forward, a pair of boys ran for it, bumping me hard in the face. The taxi driver was not pleased; he backed up in a manner to allow my husband and I to jump in quickly, shouted Not for you! to the brats, and whisked us away. I felt a little foolish and shaken up.
There is a dark side in every country.