Switzerland Pt II: La Chaux-de-Fonds/Le Locle

Saturday.

Today we had a full itinerary, I can barely write it all down! We started with a morning walk in this beautiful winter wonderland:

The photo on the right, of the house, is actually a house-museum we entered into. Le Corbusier built it for his parents (he is a famous 20th century architect and designer, Google him). In case you didn’t realize by now, I studied Art History at university and lucky for me so did Léonore. A match made in nerdy heaven!

Read more: The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement

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The photo above gives you a glimpse into the reason La Chaux-de-Fonds and its neighbor La Locle are a joint UNESCO Site: watchmaking. How does this photo come close to showing that? Well, since you asked…watchmaking here dates to the 17th century but there was a fire that razed the two towns to the ground and the city officials used this as an opportunity for some urban planning upgrades. Each row of houses are accompanied by a garden, these gardens force the buildings to be wider apart, therefore allowing in more light (especially in the dark winter days) which was needed for the meticulous and tiny watchmaking craft. Have you ever looked inside a mechanical watch!? They certainly needed the light in days before electricity! Similar to a previous UNESCO Site I visited, Crespi d’Adda, these were “factory-towns,” where people lived and worked in the same space and the whole urban planning reflected their main industry.

In the same day we went to a watch museum, traditional Swiss farm house-museum, and underground mills in Le Locle. The mills were one of the strangest, most innovated things I’ve ever seen.

Brief story of the mills: there was a river that flowed underground and townspeople wanted to harness its hydro electric force to power mills for grinding grain, so they built water mills underground and created a mill/workshop in these caves.  I’m doing a terrible job of explaining the awe these mills inspired but imagine you found Santa’s workshop in an underground cavern – same feeling.

The mills were used for many many years but when they were decommissioned, people started dumping tons of animal fat down the caves (disgusting I know). A group of volunteers (brave ones) decided it was a shame these historic mills were being used as a dumping ground, so they shoveled out all the fat (which there were feet and feet of) so create this interesting museum. Thank you to those brave souls!

After the tour of the mills we went on a drive up the mountain because Léonore’s dad wanted to show me a beautiful view where I could see France across the river. Well…this is what I saw:1457509_10151871425698541_933039810_n

But! It was a beautiful winter wonderland ride and we stopped in a lonely restaurant for some spiced hot wine (delicious!) and the most amazing, gaudy, kitsch, Christmas extravaganza I’ve ever seen, and I never thought I would say that outside of America. Enjoy the photos but know there is nothing like being in the middle of it!

 

Almost done! Last but certain not least I bought lots of chocolate (Merry Christmas family! I’m saving them for you!) and ate cheese fondue for dinner!

JMO

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