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At the little town of Vevey, in Switzerland, there is a particularly comfortable hotel … The entertainment of tourists is the business of the place, which, as many travellers will remember, is seated upon the edge of a remarkably blue lake – a lake that it behoves every tourist to visit.

Henry James, from Daisy Miller (1878)

Whereas brassy Montreux, a few kilometres down the road, has over the decades embraced with abandon all that glisters – gold, paper or otherwise – its old-fashioned neighbour VEVEY is more discriminating. Vevey quietly cleans its streets, tends its flowerbeds, makes sure it has enough, but not too many, hotels and then waits for visitors of a certain style to find the town for themselves, become enchanted, and stay. It’s a hard place to quantify, neither prim, nor stuffy, nor sophisticated, nor especially graceful … yet it somehow manages to incorporate strands of all of them in an ambience of tasteful, restrained gentility which seeps out of its modest facades. It is enchanting, a world apart (or a remnant of a world now past), and you may well find yourself lulled into staying.

Henry James set his Daisy Miller – the story of a headstrong young woman on the Grand Tour who broke the rules of propriety by visiting the Château de Chillon unchaperoned, and so got her comeuppance – in Vevey, specifically at the Hôtel des Trois Couronnes, which is much the same now as it seems it must have been in James’s day. And, in a similar vein, Anita Brookner set her Booker Prize-winning novel Hotel du Lac in a reserved, taciturn but anonymous lakeside town opposite the Dent d’Oche (the huge 2222m mountain on the French shore facing Vevey). Vevey breathes the decorous Brookner style: generations of tourists return to stroll the flowered promenades, muse on the Dent d’Oche, venture across the water on the Belle Epoque ships of the Lake Geneva fleet, and take high tea in grand hotels. Yet there’s plenty more to do than this suggests. Vevey’s shops, museums and local life are far more engaging than Montreux’s, and if big cities such as Lausanne or Geneva don’t appeal, you could easily use smalltown Vevey as a comfortable base for a couple of days or weeks from which to explore the whole lake and surrounding region.

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