I blame my parents’ wanderlust: I’ve always had my head in the clouds and never let myself land anywhere for too long. But we’re all born somewhere, and that somewhere for me is Yverdon-les-Bains (Yvderdon and the Baths), nestled in Switzerland’s lovely Barony of Vaud. The population of 25,000 souls makes very few waves, but allow me to take you on a tour of the many facets of its lakeside charm.
The Blur cloud
Yverdon appears tranquil at first glance, but beware of still waters! The town stretches out from the Vaud Jura foothills, seemingly without a cloud or a worry in the sky.
The one true masterpiece on the horizon was “Blur”, designed in 2002 by Diller and Scofidio (who brought us New York’s High Line) for the National Exposition, Expo.02. Blur only lasted two years; we barely had the time to love it or hate it. This example of “atmospheric architecture” was bound for the ephemeral, barely becoming part of the landscape.
Thankfully, I can still show it to you on video: squint your eyes, put on your rain boots, and dive into 24,000 square metres of pumped lake water from Neuchâtel, filtered and sprayed by 31,500 mist jets. Welcome to “my” cloud!
Yverdon’s thermal baths
Thermal baths aren’t really my cup of tea, but no tour of Yverdon would be complete without mentioning the sulfuric waters, cherished by hundreds of thousands of thermal enthusiasts every year.
Classified as historical monuments and protected by the Swiss government, the Yverdon Baths have been offering ‘fountain of youth’ wellness treatments for over 2,000 years. Take a cue from the Romans and book a short stay in the Entremonts Villa at the Grand Hotel, or the Centre thermal. They may not guarantee everlasting youth, but our Baths offer the very best for your well-being!
The Maison d’ailleurs (the House of Elsewheres)
The baths might not bestow you any superpowers, but Yverdon has superheroes at its heart. The city recently opened the Maison d’ailleurs, Europe’s only museum and foundation dedicated to science fiction, utopia and otherworldly voyages. Tucked away (but accessible to those who can read the oblique references) are Pierre Versins’ collections: a treasure trove of over 70,000 works of science fiction. The exhibit in the Jules Verne Space is worth a visit too, but you’ll definitely need more than 80 days to go around this space!
La Grande Cariçaie
Wander a few steps away from Yverdon’s lakefront and its forgotten cloud and you’ll be mesmerized by Switzerland’s largest lakeshore wetland. La Grande Cariçaie is a bit like our very own Noah’s Ark. Nestled at the edge of Lake Neuchâtel, its eight natural reserves are home to over 800 plant and 10,000 animal species, representing over a third of the flora and a quarter of the country’s fauna.
Take a peaceful stroll and envelope yourself in nature, far from the hubbub, and expect a close encounter with a white-fronted goose (anser albifrons) or a terek sandpiper (xenus cinereus).
Yverdon-Sainte-Croix’s panoramic train
Our last stop is high above the clouds on the Jura Balcony.
I’ve taken the train linking Yverdon to Sainte-Croix a million times, in all seasons and in all weather; I never tire of it. Get on board the panoramic La Traverse viewing car and let your eyes wander far. Your gaze will encounter most of Switzerland. Don’t be surprised if you like what you see!
In Sainte-Croix, the music box world capital, hike up Mount Chasseron and take the Sentier des énergies (Energy trail). At the summit, you’ll find the boulder of peace, a lone rock charged with telluric forces. Stretch out on top to recharge, and then make peace as you cast a sidelong glance at Mont Blanc.
I hope that I’ve convinced you to catch the next plane to Switzerland. If I’ve succeeded, I wish you bon voyage! If you have any questions or comments, please post them below and I would love to connect with you.