And here's Chris again, talking about his experiences on the Chocolate and Cheese Tour.
The Chocolate and Cheese tour was quite a relaxing way to see Switzerland. The Youmans, Robert, and I got on a chartered coach with a troop from Portugal and a troop from England, neither of which we knew. We had about an hour or so drive to the chocolate factory, past some of the most beautiful scenery in Switzerland. Unfortunately, it had been so warm the night before that we hadn't gotten much sleep, so most of us had a hard time staying awake to look at the mountains.
The chocolate factory produces Nestlé chocolate, which we were surprised to learn is Swiss. It also produces signature Caville chocolate, which contains condensed milk, all from local cows. The first thing we saw, after of course the inevitable chocolate gift shop, was a movie theater, where they showed us old black and white French commercials for the Caville chocolate (the factory is in the French-speaking area of Switzerland). A factory employee told us about the entire chocolate-making process, which is fairly simple and takes about 4 days from bean to bar. They even let us try a raw cacao bean, which was very strong, but not bad tasting. They would make for a decent snack.
We walked past glimpses of the factory floor on the way to the room where we got to taste the final product. This was a room where we could spend as long a time as possible in. They laid out tray after tray of chocolate squares in all of the flavours and designs that the factory made, which was an amazing variety. The line moved slowly past the trays, which made you feel really guilty when you had to stop to try to sample them all. Robert and I had trouble with this, but Bryan figured out an ingenious coping method - he made a stash of chocolate he carried with him through the room! In the end, he tried two of each type. The chocolate was heavenly tasting, of course, in a way that cannot be described in this blog without making you all feel very bad that you missed out.
The next part of the tour was a glance through the old chocolate making machines, one of which was hilariously named "The Clipper". The tour shot us back out into the gift shop, where we all bought armfuls of chocolate for our friends and family - more than making up for what we ate in the factory's eyes.
We had two hours for lunch, which we had in the Swiss town of Gruyére near the chocolate factory. We ate our sandwiches in the rain (naturally it was raining; it is Switzerland) and then decided to check out the H.R. Giger museum. Well, I say decided, but I really mean that I talked everyone else into seeing the museum with me so that I could save money on the ticket. If you are not familiar with Giger, he was the chief designer for the movie Alien. His artwork can be described as shiver-inducing blends of the human body and technology that mess with your internal concepts of body integrity. They also had a guest exhibit from Anne Bertram, who portrayed traditional fairy tales in new, almost horrific visions. All in all, it was quite shocking to see those skulls and gas masks in the middle of a charming Swiss village. The scouts seemed to be deeply disturbed by the museum, but I cheerily purchased postcards for my family. We strolled through a nearby castle briefly, but did not pay for admission as it was time for the cheese factory, which was just down the road.
The cheese factory had us holding a small speaker to our ears, listening to the narrator cow, Cherry, tell us about the luxurious life of milk cows. Sleep and eat, sleep and eat is all they do. Cherry led us through the entire cheese making process, from milking the cows to when they leave the cheese in a barn for five months. We got to see the actual vats where they mix the cheese, as well as the auto-salt bath machine they use to age the cheese properly. After the tour was over, we purchased a small plate of cheese for an exorbitant price from the in-house cheese restaurant. We received about three slices of three different kinds of cheese, which we shared four ways. The cheese was enjoyed in this order, from most to least: Mr. Youmans, Chris, Robert, Bryan.
Apparently we took too long trying the cheese, because a member of the English troop appeared and told us we were holding up the bus. We grabbed the remaining cheese and high-tailed it back to the coach, thus completing our chocolate and cheese tour. All in all, I'd say that it was rewarding, if scarce on the cheese. Four out of Five stars for a most enjoyable day.