Montreux Jazz Festival: Day 1

Happy Fourth of July, from abroad! Once again, I celebrate our freedom and independence not in the states. Ah well.

We embarked on the third and final leg of our journey today: to Montreux Switzerland, the initial reason we decided to take this trip. But before we began our drive, we drove up to Grindelwald to take a gondola to the top of the mountain, with hopes of zip-lining back down. As we got nearer to the peak though, our chances of zip lining grew dim. The thick clouds had settled on the mountains, and the visibility was nulled. We waited for some time at the peak’s restaurant for the clouds to clear, sipping on hot chocolate (warmed Ovaltine) and croissants. But we had no luck with the zip lines, and had to throw in the towel to go back down the gondola. Our only source of entertainment that trip was watching Dad almost toss his cookies on the gondola ride.

We drove from the base of the mountain to Broch, Switzerland: the French half of the country. Also known as: Rachel’s territory. Our trip led us to this halfway point because it is home to the Mason Cailler Chocolate Factory. We took a tour of the factory, but after a 20 minute wait for an English speaking tour. The best part of the tour was getting to taste-test any of the chocolates we wanted at the end. We took our fair share of chocolates, and then bought some on our way out. Yum!

Finally we arrived at our beautiful hotel in Montreux: Eden Palace. We had time to rest, but then set out to explore the waterfront behind our hotel, and wound up at the Montreux Jazz Club within the grounds of the festival. We were bounced from one entrance to another, and finally to a booth where we were to IMG_3485exchange our tickets for entrance bracelets. The push for bracelets as everyone’s showtimes came and went was unbelievable. There was no rhyme or reason or organization, and subsequently, we were jostled every which way. I don’t think I have ever had to protect my body and belongings so closely. At one point Rachel and Molly tried to link together and break through the barriers, but two Frenchmen (averaging about 6′ 3″) looked at each other, said “NO” very curtly, and did everything in their power to throw elbows at Rachel and Molly. Holding firm though, we made our way to the front, and got our bracelets. I think the true war hero from tonight was a frail old woman I saw who had been shoved the wrong way, and broke down crying. My heart goes out to her.

We found our way back down to the first floor of the indoor complex, and sat down at our private table in the club. We were late for the opening act: Norma IMG_3490Jean Martine. A native New Yorker, it was nice to see that our acts for the night would be in English. Her songs were touching and emotional, with a cross combination of Adele and country. I think that was in part due to her acoustic set up with just one other guitar player aside from herself. I loved the sultry nature of her voice, and the cozy club-like atmosphere I’m familiar with from home. Dad even was called upon during her performance for having read the book one of her songs was inspired by (that’d be Birdsong, by the way.)

Later, we heard Lianne La Havas play. Her band consisted of one back up singer, one drummer, one keyboardist, and a bass player. Her songs were unique; they teetered on the edge of acceptable with chord progressions and harmonies thatIMG_3491 some wouldn’t even dare touch. Her song topics explored all ranges of human emotion, but capitalized on frustration, temptation, and anger. Even her love songs weren’t what I would consider soft and compassionate.

Regardless, these two performers rivaled Leonard Cohen that night for audience members, and I was pleasantly surprised by the show they gave. Really, I absolutely loved it.

Afterwards, we walked home along the water. This was another instance where I

IMG_3493 IMG_3494was grateful for a language barrier. On the walk home, Rachel and I enjoyed the breeze and neon of the festival set up. However, there were a few drunk Frenchmen a little older than us who were looking to strike up a conversation. All Rachel told me was “Keep walking, keep walking, don’t look back.” When I asked her later what they were asking us, she eluded to a certain European openness, tailored to promiscuity. So, in short, they weren’t asking to pick our brains about the Egyptian power struggle over a cappuccino. And I’ll say this now: were we in America, I would have felt more than comfortable explaining to these guys what is socially appropriate and inappropriate to say to women. Again: language barrier.

Once again, I am relieved to have the safety and comfort of a warm bed, and the view over a gorgeous lake. In that way, and many other respects, I’m very fortunate. So far, this trip has been one amazing experience and opportunity after the next.

Bon Soir!

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