Perhaps there’s something special about this place
for so many special human beings have called it home.
Located a mere 5km from our hotel, I decide to take shuttle bus #201 from La Tour De Peilz to visit Montreux, a coastal town by the shoreline of Lake Geneva.
I am a little curious as to why so many famous people have decided to call this place home in the past … Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Igor Stravinsky, Dame Joan Sutherland, Charlie Chaplin, David Bowie and last but not least, Freddy Mercury.
It a cold February morning and there a solitary white swan on Lake Geneva.
Perhaps it is this scene that inspired Tchaikovsky to pen down the most iconic ballet the world has ever seen in Swan Lake.
I walk east along Quai des Fleurs towards the Casino de Montreaux with views of Lake Geneva.
Though I am neither a gambler nor a fan of Queen, I am curious to check out the Freddy Mercury museum located at the casino.
I arrive at the casino and it looks pretty quiet today.
It is a Monday morning after all and the black jack and roulette tables are all closed.
There are only a few old timers passing their day on the jackpot machines.
The Mercury Phoenix Trust, Casino de Montreux
“Lets face it darlings, we are the most preposterous band that ever lived” – Freddie Mercury.
Queen The Studio Experience showcases some of the costumes and figurines of the band during its heydays.
Some vandals have smeared green paint on Freddy Mercury’s statue and local authority staff are cleaning the statue.
Born Farrokh Bulsara on the East African island of Zanzibar, Freddie Mercury (1946 – 1991) became one of the world’s greatest rock music performers. His career as lead singer of the band Queen spanned twenty years and together they sold over 150 million albums worldwide.
Innovator, showman, musician extraordinaire, he left a compelling legacy and had an enormous influence on the next generation of rock performers.
Queen acquired the lakeside Mountain Recording Studios in 1978 and Freddie’s strong links with the town continued until his death. He appreciated the kindness and discretion of the townspeople and Montreux became a haven for him, his second home and the setting for his final work.
The Grand Hotel Suisse is majestic and the Montreux Jazz Cafe is a luxurious restaurant within.
Opposite the hotel on Grand Rue 66, there are bust statues of some of the most celebrated musicians and artists who have taken part in the Montreux Jazz Festival since its inaugural year in 1967.
The Montreux Jazz Festival which occurs every year in early July is the second largest jazz festival after the Montreal Jazz Festival in Canada.
Ella Fitzgerald (25 April 1917 – 15 June 1996) was an American jazz singer often referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz and Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation.
This bronze bust was donated by Barbara J. Riley to Claude Nobs, Founder of Montreux Jazz Festival (Artist: Daniele Lauffer 11 July 2007).
Quincy Jones has one of the most remarkable careers in the history of music. He has an incredible collection of Grammy Awards, including the production of the single “We are the World” among many other achievements.
He acts as a bridge between American communities, bringing together all of society’s elements around music. (Artist: Nabil Souaki, donated by Barbara J. Riley to Claude Nobs, Founder of Montreux Jazz Festivfal July 2008).
Born Ray Charles Robinson (23 September 1930 – 10 June 2004) in Albany, Georgia, Ray Charles has been responsible for pioneering and developing the style to include jazz and rhythm ‘n blues.
At the Montreux Jazz Festival, he played with the legendary Dizzy Gillespie in 1978 and with Quincy Jones in 1991.
Barbara Riley Levin is not only a dedicated fan of the Festival but also a philanthropist who commissioned this bronze bust by Marco Zeno, a sculptor born in Milan and whose artwork, in both bronze and marble, has been exhibited all over the world.
Aretha Franklin is an America singer, songwriter and pianist and has been referred to as The Queen of Soul. She performed in Montreux during her first European tour in 1968.
In 1987, Aretha became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She has won 18 Grammys and two Honorary Grammys.
On 9 November 2005, she was honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush. Aretha Franklin was the only featured singer at the 2009 US presidential inauguration for Barack Obama.
This bronze bust was commissioned by Barbara J. Riley for Claude Nobs, the founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival (Sculptor: Marco Zeno).
Carlos Santana is a Mexican and American musician who first became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band, Santana, which pioneered a fusion of rock and Latin American music.
This bronze bust was commissioned by Barbara J. Riley for Claude Nobs, the founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival (Sculptor: Marco Zeno 10 July 2012).
As I walk back to the hotel, I contemplate the tranquility of this place and its friendly locals.
“Bonjour!” a lady smiles and greets me as I walk past the sailboats, rocking peacefully in the winter afternoon sun.
“This must be that special something about this place” I thought to myself.