Following our visit to the tulip gardens we took an afternoon stroll through an open air museum near Zaandam. Zaans Schans is a working village that was established to preserve Dutch culture. They transplanted several windmills from the countryside and brought them here. Visitors can also stop by the wooden shoe store (the cobbler was inside demonstrating how the shoes are made), the cheese shop (smoked Gouda-mmm) and the clock shop. Most little stores are open to tourists and are free but some charge a nominal fee–the windmills cost 3 euro/adult if you wanted to climb inside and see how it worked. We enjoyed walking the paths and taking pictures of the quaint homes and waterways.
After a stormy night in Bogis-Bossey, we woke to sun and great fluffly white clouds dotting the alps. We planned an outing to Gruyeres, a region of Switzerland best known for its cheese and chocolate. Our first stop was the Cailler chocolate factory and I’m not kidding when I say the first thing we smelled when we drove in front of the building was sweet chocolate. It was absolutely mouth-watering. A wonderful tour which reminded the kids of Disneyland concluded with the ever-popular chocolate tasting room…as much chocolate as you can eat but no water or cold milk in sight. Lilly probably had 10 pieces of chocolate and soon was running circles around the rest of the group.
Next, we drove on to the fromagerie, the cheese factory of Gruyeres. Here we had a picnic lunch near the playground and then took an entertaining tour hosted by “Cherry” the friendly brown cow. All of us had fun learning about the special diet these happy cows enjoy on the Swiss mountainside which makes their milk particularly tasty for Gruyeres cheese. (remember Napoleon Dynamite when he could tell onion in the fields of the cows who made the milk sample he tasted? we can do that now!) The entry ticket for the cheese tour was three samples of cheese at various ages (3 mo, 6 mo and 10 mo)
Our final stop on the excursion was the castle of Gruyere, a phenomenal monument to knights, dukes and all things medieval. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to explore the entire place without security guards blocking doorways. The adults appreciated the calm atmosphere and gorgeous views of the valley from the tower windows.Stephanie and I commendted that it must have been boring to live in a castle…everything stone and wood with no comfy couches to recline on. The mist and rain added to the austere surroundings.