Val de Travers

26Cantons52Weeks: Neuchâtel

Canton: Neuchâtel

Destination: Môtiers in the Val-de-Travers (birthplace of absinthe)

Interesting thing: Although the spirit was banned in Europe for most of the 20th century, according to Wikipedia, absinthe was never banned in Australia, which possibly explains why I’ve had a fair bit of it in my time. Loved the look, style and ritual, never enjoyed the taste… until now.

Special guests: A mate who was willing to do this last-minute trip with me!

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Oh Neuchâtel, I’m sorry. I should have visited you in summer, when the absinthe trails were green as the green fairy of legend. I could have wandered through the undergrowth, stopping to sip pure-spring-water-infused spirits as we soaked up the atmosphere. Perhaps we would have swum in lake Neuchatel,  the largest that’s entirely within Switzerland. Or done a tour of the prehistoric pile dwellings led by state-of-the-art app.

Or I could have visited “the Siberia of Switzerland” back in February – and attended the Fête du Froid (festival of cold). I’ve been to the real Siberia, you know, so it would have made an excellent comparison piece. Is Môtiers the Irkutsk of Switzerland? No ormul to be eaten but still. Even the famous landmark, Neuchâtel’s Tour des Prisons, is currently closed due to fire damage…

Instead, I visited between Xmas and New Years. Most things were closed: it was quiet, it was cold. Very pretty. Rather wet. I visited the tiny town of Môtiers where my friend and I were, I think, today’s sole visitors to the absinthe museum, Maison de L’Absinthe.

On a positive note, the train trip was lovely and I learnt a lot about the spirit of Neuchatel (geddit!) in no small thanks to the high-quality film about the history of absinthe the museum was showing. And, in the end, I also had to revise my opinion of La Fée Verte – it was not as disgusting as I remembered. In fact, not disgusting at all – although I do believe the clear absinthe, which we sampled, is a rather different, less-bitter mistress than her green cousin. Or maybe it’s my age, the moment, legality, who knows.

Back to the original theme: the local absinthe distilleries were also closed. As was the sparkling winery (until 3pm) And at 14.02pm, we missed a bang-up lunch at The Six Communes by 2 minutes and had to make do with a plate of Neuchâtelese saucissons (very tasty) before jumping on the 14.49 train to rescue one locked-out husband who miraculously found his keys 10 minutes later. Ahh! That fairy playing ticks on us again. Oh well, it meant we had a good excuse for a glass of Neuchâtel white wine overlooking the lake before heading back to Zurich.

DONE AND DONE! (Of course, stand by for my Zurich post!)

Additional photos: Shauna Japp