Le Train du Chocolat – Discovering Gruyère and Broc

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…and it huffed and puffed along the Alps effusing a sweet smell that brought about the fauna of the region to take in deep breaths of the sweetly goodness. I looked out the candy coloured windows to notice that the train ran on a track as dark as a 90% coco chocolate bar.

Small toffees hung from bright green trees and Lac Léman in the distance had a milky white reflection in which I could see small dots of choco-chips jump in and float around in merriment. Up ahead, the track curled around a mountain and I slowly felt the train turn just so I could see the carriages at the back which resembled all my favourite chocolates.

And then we twirled, and twirled, and twirled some more…

As I sat in the train twirling around a lovely smelling cup of hot chocolate, I woke up from my little day dream by the sound of my wife asking my son – for the umpteenth time – to sit down. I’m prone to day dreams mind you – just like my son is prone to ignoring my wife –  thanks to a wild imagination and especially on this day as we – my wife and kids – had woken up early to catch a special train from Montruex, which would turn out to be a wonderful introduction for us to the Swiss way of life; Le Train du Chocolat.

The Chocolate Train is a full day excursion by GoldenPass Railways that includes a visit to Maison Cailler in the tiny village of Broc and to La Maison du Gruyère where one of the finest and well known cheeses of the world is produced.

breakfast

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Seated inside a vintage “Belle Époque” – from the time period between 1870 and 1914 – carriage, the ride began with a breakfast that justifies the very essence of this train and our eventual destination; Warm chocolate filled croissants along with hot chocolate – and then they wondered why the kids were so active – was perfect to warm us up as the train – this time in reality – chugged up the mountains on this rainy Swiss morning while my daughter made the most of the fogged up windows by practicing art on them.

Time seems to fly when there’s so much beauty to admire and it wasn’t long before we had arrived at Gruyère train station. It was then only a short walk across a street to the dairy where “twice a day, the farmers come to deliver milk… and the master cheese-maker each day produces up to 48 wheels of Gruyère AOP”.

gruyeres-cheese-blocks

It doesn’t take long at the La Maison du Gruyère – which is promoted as a “demonstration cheese dairy” – as once the audio tour is over, a few minutes are spent watching – from a glassed high window – the cheese-makers work almost mechanically going about producing delicious wheels of goodness and then the only thing left is to stroll through the souvenir shop, or if you’ve got time have a bite in their restaurant.

Still early in the day and our vacation to start buying souvenirs, I do recommend another local specialty; the meringue with its white creamy looking exterior and crunchy, biscuit like texture, is the classic local dessert when had with Gruyere cream, both of which can be easily bought in the shop.

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Leaving The Chocolate Train behind, a bus then took us to the quaint village of Gruyère which is the quintessential Swiss village. Cobbled stoned street with a central fountain, beautiful houses with green creepers covering the face, flowers in blooms all around, cafes and beautiful views of the rolling hills, Gruyère’s petiteness is enchanting.

That and it manages to pack in a few surprises as well, like the HR Giger museum which celebrates the fantastical art and sculptures of the Oscar winning – for Alien – special effects artist. Since we were with kids and the art is somewhat “out there” we didn’t explore it in its entirety, but if you ever find yourself in the region, it’s worth visiting Gruyère for this museum alone.

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The surprises don’t just end there, because Gruyère also comes with its very own castle which is pretty, at a vantage point that gives all visitors amazing views of the surrounding areas, filled with wonderful art, and is deeply rooted in the 400 year old history of the region demonstrated via a little audio-visual presentation.

Sadly it had been a day that wasn’t meant to be spent outside due to intermittent drizzles and rain showers, but Gruyère still left an alluring impression to make me someday return on a bright sunny day and admire it properly.

The bus though it seems waits for no one and it was time now to head further up to the village of Broc which is equally important historically for an altogether different reason for it is here that Maison du Cailler stands, responsible for some of the best chocolates in the world.

cailler

broc-village

The Swiss love their chocolates and their passion and love for Cailler is evident by its presence – with large displays – in every food store that you go to.  Although now owned by Nestle, the brand has a strong identity of its own and did I mention they are responsible for some of the best chocolates in the world?

Maison du Cailler is a step by step journey – and audio tour – into the history of the Swiss chocolate manufacturer using props, installations, lights and visuals which ultimately culminates with a – you guessed it – chocolate tasting; Enough chocolates to give your trainer nightmares for months.

chocolate-class

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If you do plan to visit Maison du Cailler on your own and not as part of The Chocolate Train, you can pre-book a chocolate making class which seemed a lot more interesting and fun and something the kids would have enjoyed a whole lot more.

Comparing the experience at Cailler with another chocolate “factory” I’ve visited, Cadbury World in Birmingham, the Swiss counterpart is a little underwhelming, more academic-ish and less exciting. However, with a play area outside and enough chocolate to give everyone sweet dreams for years, and due to its beautiful location, a visit is recommended.

The Chocolate Train, which had temporarily left us in Gruyère, arrived back almost magically in Broc for the return journey. With bags full of chocolates, cheese, and souvenirs, and finally the sun shining, we boarded our vintage carriage for the last time.

mountains

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Wait! There still remained an ounce of magic to be experienced.

The journey back to Montreux had views of beautiful lakes in the mountains, picturesque wooden chalets, tunnels and winding tracks, with the scenery reaching its climatic best as we finally approached Lac Léman and the villages with their terraced vineyards  that have for long brought character to this region.

La Train Du Chocolat was for us the perfect introduction to Switzerland as it happened to be the very first excursion during our summer vacation. It promoted and showcased two of the most important exports of Switzerland – chocolate and cheese – while glorifying the beauty that makes it one of the most visited countries in the world.

For the children, whether it was the chocolate croissants in the morning, the joy of a train ride, learning how cheese is made, or getting a sugar high thanks to all the chocolate on offer, it is a day they still remember with a smile. As for the adults, let’s just say, we became children for a day.

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45 thoughts on “Le Train du Chocolat – Discovering Gruyère and Broc

  1. Swiss chocolate is absolutely amazing. What more could I need, hot chocolate and a great scenic train journey. Oh yes. . . .cheese. A massive lover of cheese I would find the cheese factory really interesting. Thanks for sharing your experience

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  2. Can’t beat Swiss chocolate or cheese, can you? It’s a shame you couldn’t see more of those Alien statues – they look really neat. I’m glad you and your kids enjoyed the experience, although if I went, I’d definitely have to try that chocolate making class. Yum!

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  3. Can’t beat Swiss chocolate or cheese, can you? It’s a shame you couldn’t see more of those Alien statues – they look really neat. I’m glad you and your kids enjoyed the experience, although if I went, I’d definitely have to try that chocolate making class. Yum!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My kids would love this experience. It sounds – and looks – like something out of a fairytale or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! Now I feel like eating chocolate and cheese.

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  5. I love train travel and that chocolate train looks like a fun day out. The vintage carriages are lovely and the swiss scenery is outstanding, as are your pictures. I travel with my kids also and they would love a trip like this. I’ve bookmarked your post to show my kids later. Great post. thanks for sharing.

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  6. Amazing train and beautiful trip! We live in Switzerland since last year and enjoy so many nice things here. Chocolate is of course a big thing here but about this train I haven’t heard of yet, so I definitely will also try out this trip. Great inspiration!

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  7. I’d love the chocolate making class at Maison du Cailler, never mind the kids! That chocolate croissant looked like a great start to the trip. You enjoyed the chocolate but also some spectacular trips, I’m going to go eat some chocolate now.

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  8. A chocolate train!! Are you kidding me? That is a dream come true for me. I am sure my kids would love it, too, but seriously, that has my name written all over it. One of the things we have loved about Europe these past four months is how thick the hot chocolate is. You can eat it with a spoon! Sounds like an amazing experience and the scenery isn’t too bad, either!

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  9. You know, Raghav, as I’m reading your Switzerland posts today, I’m marking places on a map I have ready and routes and a tentative itinerary is shaping up. Hopefully I will make that trip to Switzerland sooner, rather than later.

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  10. La Train Du Chocolat sounds like the perfect introduction to Switzerland, I love that it combines food culture, sightseeing and the ability to access more regional parts of the country than you would otherwise see. Switzerland was one of my favorite countries, though I haven’t been back in over 10 years now. I would love to plan a return trip and take the La Train Du Chocolat 🙂

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  11. You had me with your introductory paragraph and i was wondering, how I missed this magical and chocolaty world when I was in Switzerland! I have been to the paradise called Switzerland a couple of times, but I did miss out on the Chocolate train, hope to make amends some day.

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  12. I’m jealous…I’ve never heard of this train and I would jump at the opportunity to take a ride in it. Great chocolate, amazing cheese and beautiful views….what more can you ask for?? Thanks for sharing your delicious experience!

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