EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Geneva Part Three
By Joe Okonkwo | AN OUTTRAVELER.COM EXCLUSIVE
DAY 3: EXPLORE LAKE GENEVA
Half of what makes Geneva great is its stunning surrounding lake region and towns that make an easy day trip out of the city. The northern slopes of Lake Geneva produce fine white wines made from the distinct chasselas grapes, the perfect companion to the Swiss dishes raclette and fondue. Call ahead to the tiny gay-owned winery Cave La Muscadelle (+41-22-825-1962) Mont-Sur-Rolle (less than an hour's drive from the city). It's perfectly perched on one of the sloping vineyard mountains, and you can sample some of the fine whites in a round room inside an enormous wine barrel while drinking in the lake views.
Carry on along the northern and sunniest shore of the lake (you'll be surprised to see the odd palm tree, proving the region's temperate climate). Less than an hour from Mont-Sur-Rolle is the classic town of Lausanne, where a small yet vibrant handful of gay businesses thrive. The shopping is great here: For the finest watches in Switzerland, stop by the elegant, gay-owned Junod (Place St. Francois 8; +41-21-3120-8366) watch shop, run by the same family since 1867, selling unique examples of Swiss brands like Blancpain, Chopard, TAG Heuer, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and of course Rolex. Head upstairs to view their stunning watch museum, and don't miss the rare $20,000 Keith Haring Swatch (the gay artist was a longtime resident of Lausanne).
Have dinner at the celebrated restaurant of Philip Rochat at the Hotel de Ville (1 rue d'Yverdon; + 41-21-634-0505; 40-70 CHF), housed in Lausanne's original 1929 city hall, with dishes like ragout of fresh quail with young vegetables, crawfish in caviar butter, duckling from the wetlands around Nantes cooked pink and prepared with Brouilly wine, and glazed sweetbreads with wild mushrooms. The cheese trolley that's wheeled around after the main course is absolutely spectacular.
Time your trip to coincide with one of the city's gay Jungle Parties (+41-21-340-6969; happening five times a year, check date on the web site) thrown at the four-story Mad nightclub (each room with a different elaborate theme, from Buddhas to Greek statues) and attracting top DJs and thousands of queers from all over Europe and beyond. Lesbians should check out the Kill Your Idols parties (+41-21-311-1719; five times a year, check dates on the web site www.lesfillesaffranchies.com) held in an old movie theater in the heart of the town.
Spending the night in Lausanne isn't a bad idea, especially if you're out partying. Gay-specific properties are a rarity in Switzerland, making the modern, stylish apartments of the Rainbow Inn (ave. Tivoli 9; +41-21-311-6969; 85-165 CHF), with its sweeping views, huge living rooms, and outdoor terraces, even more unique. Free entrance into their sophisticated, upscale gay sauna across the street, Pink Beach, is included.
If you want to carry on to the other end of the lake, Montreux, with its celebrated jazz festival (founded by gays no less), its triumphant statue of Freddie Mercury overlooking the shores, and the 13th-century castle Ch?teau de Chillon, made famous by gay poet Lord Byron, makes for another great day of exploration.