From Rolle to Lausanne
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A shaggy dog story

The château of St-Saphorin-sur-Morges (not to be confused with St-Saphorin near Vevey) was built in the eighteenth century. Elisabeth Upton-Eichenberger, in her excellent book on Vaud (see “Books”, p.531), tells the story of a twentieth-century occupant, one Georges de Mestral, who had studied engineering in Lausanne and returned to live in the château. Mestral was on a shooting trip one day in the Jura foothills when, as usual, he found himself spending ages extracting burrs that had got caught in his dog’s soft furry ears. The legend goes that it was here, on his knees in the forest, that de Mestral had the idea to copy nature and invent a fabric using sharp little burr-like hooks to stick to soft furry material. Thus, he thought, could rackety unreliable zips be consigned to history. He patented his idea and started production in nearby Aubonne. Although his Velcro has survived, and is now manufactured under licence around the world with all sorts of earnestly practical uses (in the clothing of US astronauts, for instance), it has indisputably lost the zip wars. With an indefinable grace that leave Velcro’s horrible ripping noise way behind, zips are still the thing and, adding insult to injury, St-Saphorin-sur-Morges has largely forgotten its most famous son.

The lakeside road winds on to Lausanne through MORGES, another peaceful little harbour town famed for its kilometre-long Quais du Dahlia and the Fête de la Tulipe held during April and May in the lakefront Parc de l’Indépendance. Its huge château holds a military museum, but the main reason to come is to take the bus from the train station a kilometre or two west to TOLOCHENAZ, where the commune and local volunteers have set up the Pavillon Audrey Hepburn (Tues–Sun 1.30–5.30pm; Fr.10; bus-stop La Plantaz), honouring the actress who lived in the village from 1963 until her death in 1993 and who was, according to Billy Wilder, “what the Latin calls sui generis – the original, and there are no more examples, and there never will be”. The exhibition offers a chronological tour through Hepburn’s career, including her first contract, dated 1948 (paying £9 a week as a chorus girl), both her Oscars, a fan letter from Samuel Goldwyn and dozens of photos and film posters. Buffs will be thrilled, not least because proceeds go to the Audrey Hepburn Foundation for Children, supporting an orphanage in Romania, UNICEF schools in Somalia and Ethiopia and other worthy causes.

Just 3km west of Lausanne is the ancient village of ST-SULPICE, featuring, metres from the lakefront, a well-preserved Romanesque church. This impressive triple-apsed building was built by Cluniac monks in the eleventh century amidst grounds which include a priory, formerly housing some forty monks but converted after the Reformation into a private residence. The church is now famous for its series of year-round classical music concerts.

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