In just one region, you can experience a complete cultural, gastronomic, and scenic sweep of Switzerland. Vaud (pronounced Voh) has a stunning Gothic cathedral (Lausanne) and one of Europe's most evocative châteaux (Chillon), palatial hotels and weathered-wood chalets, sophisticated culture and ancient folk traditions, snowy Alpine slopes and balmy lake resorts, simple fondue and the finesse of some of the world's great chefs. Everywhere there are the roadside vineyards with luxurious rows of vines and rich, black loam.
This is the region of Lac Léman, a grand body of water graced by Lausanne and Montreux. The lake's romance—Savoy Alps looming across the horizon, steamers fanning across its surface, palm trees rustling along its shores—made it a focal point of the budding 19th-century tourist industry and an inspiration to the arts. In a Henry James novella the imprudent Daisy Miller made waves when she crossed its waters unchaperoned to visit Chillon; Byron's Bonivard languished in chains in the fortress's dungeons. In their homes outside Montreux, Stravinsky wrote The Rite of Spring and Strauss, his transcendent Four Last Songs. And perhaps going from the sublime to the ridiculous, film fans of James Bond will remember Sean Connery's car chase through the hillsides around Lac Léman in hot pursuit of Auric Goldfinger's Rolls as it swept its way to the villain's Swiss factory, neatly tucked in the mountains north of the lake.
Throughout the canton French is spoken, and the temperament the Vaudois inherited from the Romans and Burgundians sets them apart from their Swiss-German fellow citizens. It's evident in their humor, their style, and—above all—their love of their own good wine.