Monday, January 08, 2007

In Nescafé land

Today it rained, and cloud was low for most of the day, making a trip up into the mountains hardly worthwhile. Valdo had to go and visit a dying man in the hospital at Orbe, (yes, he is on leave, but ...) so I went with him and explored the older parts of the town, while he did his visit. The town's château was destroyed in the fifteenth century, only ramparts plus the shells of a square and a round tower remain. The area enclosed by the ramparts has been made into a park and playground, overlooking the plain below, through which the river Orbe runs.

Close by, in the narrow street of old houses leading up to the park, is the Temple possibly it was once part of the château, as it sits on its own promontory on the inside of a defensive dyke, which has been turned into a lane right around the south side of the town. The building is of the decorated Gothic period, and some of its arches contain elaborate stone carved friezes and figurative bosses. It boasts four stained glass windows, and the remains of some mediaeval wall paintings in the chancel area.

Although the reformation in Vaud was calvinist driven, it didn't lead to the same extreme puritan iconoclasm that typified much of the British reform. The chancel was left spacious and simply furnished, really making the best of the architectural features of a fine building. Best of all, it was open so we could visit, as are many churches in this part of the world, even though popping into church for private prayer is not a feature of popular devotion.

One noteworthy modern complex of buildings sits on the plain, bearing the legend
Nescafé. The huge Nestlé empire has its headquarters by Lac Léman at Vevey, half an hour away by autoroute. This is one of their factories. In fact, it's the one where coffees are blended, roasted and ground sous vide before being encapsulated for use the latest innovation in machine made fresh coffee. On a day when coffee is being roasted, if the wind is right, the tantalising aroma can be savoured over in Baulmes about five miles away - that is, if you like coffee.

From Orbe, we drove to Neuchâtel, and spent some time browsing in computer shops, then taking photos in between rain showers. Once the cloud finally lifted and the showers ceased, we headed out along the south side of the lake, and took ourselves for a walk in the forest which covers the slopes above the lakeside strip that is marshy and contains reed beds. This entire area attracts many different species of birds, indigenous and birds of passage, so it is an important nature reserve. As the sun went down, we headed back into town, to rendezvous with Ann-Lise for the journey home, pleased with ourselves for having managed some kind of exercise despite the unseasonably mild winter weather.

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