Echandens, a little village in the Swiss Riviera, is better known for its bakery than its 16th century chateau or pretty white church on the hill. I have called Echandens ‘home’ for the past 5 years and like other residents, I relish having a hot croissant in the bakery’s poky tea room on a Saturday morning.
The queue into the bakery is often long, though the produce at the end of the line makes it worth the wait. Those lucky to find a place in the tea room are never in a hurry to finish reading their newspaper. After all it’s a perfect place to observe the locals and listen in on the village gossip. If you express your irritation in any way, you upset the ladies at the counter and find yourself on the receiving end of an icy “Bonjour”.
This is village life at its best. Take it slow and never rush. In the summers, dining al fresco is the norm and the start of good weather is signaled by the sound of people cheerfully clinking wine glasses on their patios in the evenings. If you don’t like the lifestyle you can go live somewhere else.
On the other side of the village is the sixty something hairdresser, with a penchant for alternative medicines and a love of the sun. But aside from a two week holiday in Majorca every year she has never left the village for any extended period of time. Like her sister, who runs her own business a few hundred metres away, they see no need to live anywhere else. The local wine maker, bank clerk and our retired neighbours feel the same way.
The families in Echandens have seen their children and grandchildren grow up together. They pride themselves on being a close knit community and worry that neighbouring Lausanne city will continue to expand into their highly valued postal code.
Unsurprisingly, new residents are seen as interlopers. So you tread gently, offering as much information about yourself before any is offered to you. And when it is, you know that you’ve broken an invisible barrier and are considered a worthy member of the fold. This means that when you’ve lost your beloved cat, your neighbours will help you look for her and then celebrate with you when she is found.
Having the patience to break into the community is a small price to pay for what the village has to offer.
My husband and I own a view of a chateau and on a clear day we can see the Alps from our balcony.
Echanden’s chateau may not be as regal as the one in Versailles, but it was once the residence of Georges Simenon, the French language’s equivalent of Arthur Conan Doyle. And if that’s not enough it’s rumoured to be haunted.
Ironically it was here that I attended a wedding party, 10 years ago. The couple had married in the little white church on the hill just before and had led their guests in procession to the chateau for the first part of the wedding celebrations.
As I walked through the garden with a glass of champagne in hand, I wondered what it would be like to live in this place.
Now I know.