Montreux Jazz festival is just over the (big) hill

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When we drive to Chamonix we seem to do a mini tour of Europe before hitting the valley.  Initially skirting the north of France, straight into Belgium, then Luxembourg, back into France, a tour through Switzerland and finally over the Col de Forclaz down into Chamonix.  Phew!  This globe trotting route is driven by the avoidance of peage and cheapness of diesel of course, but it does take you through some lovely places.

Once such place, on the edge of Lake Geneva as you come over the hill at Saint-Leiger La Chiesaz from Bern, just off the E27, is Montreux.  Admittedly, you can’t see much of the town from the road, but the whole vista is lovely and you can imagine how gorgeous it must be at the waters edge.

It wasn’t until the last year it dawned on me why the name on the sign kept jumping out.  After all there are many lovely areas on the banks of the lake, so why did that name keep rising to the top? Then, as if by magic, it was a trip to Majorca that caused the realisation for me.  The inflight magazine had an article about the legendary jazz festival held there…

Of course, the Montreux jazz festival and custodian a Freddy Mercury statue looking out over the lake.

Originally a pure jazz festival, it opened up in the 1970s but today presents artists of nearly every imaginable music style.  Today’s festival lasts about two weeks (having grown from its initial 3 days) and attracts an audience of more than 200,000 people.  The festival was originally held at the original Montreux Casino, which burned down in December 1971 during Frank Zappa’s performance which inspired Deep Purple’s penning of the infamous “Smoke on the Water”.

So it’s a place that has a latent place in your pop knowledge whether you know it or not.

Having checked out this year’s lineup, it’s also somewhere worth a day trip or two, given that its only about a 2 hour drive from Chamonix. Confirmed artists include The Chemical Brothers, Emeli Sandé, John Legend, Sinéad O’Connor, Lady Gaga, George Ezra, Paolo Nutini, Hudson Mohawke, Portishead, Lionel Ritchie, Dub Inc, Lenny Kravitz, George Benson, Baxter Dury, The Kooks, Lilly and The Pricks, Hot Chip and many others.  Some concerts are free (as are the 8pm jam sessions), even though most venues charge.

The most is also made of the beautiful location’s assets with jazz boats sailing at designated times round the lake with jazz, blues and swing bands performing on board.

Unfortunately with it falling just before the school holidays (3rd to 18th July) its doesn’t work for us yet.  There will be other years though I’m sure.

The 2015 programme and booking details can be found here.

Other ideas for day trips from Chamonix are on this link, should you, like us not be there at the right time.


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