Beautifully situated on Switzerland's Lac Léman, Morges, is only 49 kilometers from Geneva and the center of the La Côte wine-making region.

For years Morges has been, to us at least, just another Autobahn off-ramp on the way from the Geneva Airport to wherever. Just another lakeshore town.

But this year instead of again whizzing past, we took that off-ramp and discovered a town and a region well worth a visit of two or three days. While Morges is not one of those quaint medieval villages that attracts flocks of tour buses, it does have a pleasant pedestrian-only shopping area, an attractive waterfront, a very fine lakefront 13th century castle which houses an impressively maintained collection of Swiss armaments dating as far back as 1798, a spring tulip festival and a handful of decent hotels, that by Swiss standards, aren't too expensive. Several of the town's restaurants take good advantage of their lakeside location and walkers and runners will enjoy the flat promenade that goes all the way into Lausanne (11 km/6.875 miles) without leaving the lakeside, save for a brief detour in St. Sulpice.

The best thing about Morges, however, is its location in the center of the Vaud wine-making region between Lausanne and Geneva, called La Côte.

The countryside here has a different, more bucolic, charm than the wine-making area east of Lausanne. Here there are more farms and rolling green hills and most of the vineyards are much less steep.

Our best day in the region was one spent touring the wine villages. The countryside is beautiful, there is little traffic and its way off the tourist track. It's fun to pull into a little town, park the car and walk the town, winding up perhaps in a little pinte (simple wine restaurant).

Also of interest are the lakeside towns of Nyon and Rolle. Interesting in the former are the 16th century castle and a Roman museum. Rolle has an older castle and the Restaurant du Marche, which insiders tell us serves the best deep-fried perch on the lake.

Further along toward Geneva, and worth a visit, is the Château Coppet in the town of the same name.

Morges Hotels

Hotel Fleur du Lac

Four-star hotel whose undeniable charm and elegance is getting just a bit frayed around the edges. Fine location just outside of town on the lake with access to 20 km of paved lakeside walking/running path. Beautiful lakeside garden used by hotel for outdoor barbecues in summer. No two rooms are alike. Recommend Number 63. Number 44 good for disabled. Noted for its "table" and wine cellar. Menu changes monthly. Piano every evening except Sunday. Some nice touches like the never-empty basket of fresh apples in the lobby. Huge buffet breakfast. M. Schelbert speaks excellent English, is very friendly and slightly eccentric.

Address: Hotel Fleur du Lac, Quai du Mont-Blanc, CH-1110, Morges
Phone: 021/802 4311
Fax: 021/802 3474
Location: Morges outskirts, on the lake
Guestrooms: 30 rooms, no two the same, all with hair dryer, safe, trouser press and cable TV with CNN. Each room supplied with toiletries but they are not free.
Proprietor: Elsbeth & Rodolphe Schelbert
Prices: Singles 126 to 198 Sfr. ($112-$175), doubles 162 to 308 Sfr. ($143-$273)
Facilities: Beach, boat dock, terrace overlooking lake, garden
Credit Cards: All
Disabled: Yes
Closed: Never
Parking: Free
Rating: Above average 15/20

Hotel du Mont-Blanc

Good modern hotel on the lake with average restaurant. Very pleasant, raised outdoor terrace optimizes lakeside location and view. A three-star hotel with some four-star amenities. Some air-conditioned rooms. We especially like Numbers 502 and 412. Best Western (800-538-1234) quoted 185 Sfr. ($164) for a "standard" twin-bedded room in July. Their quote for a lakefront twin was 200 Sfr. ($176). A call direct to the hotel yielded July prices ranging from 163 Sfr. ($144) to 210 Sfr. ($186).

A recounting of our simple dinner in the hotel's pleasant Restaurant Le Pavois is a good indication what the dollar buys these days in Switzerland. After our bacchanal at L'Ermitage we were looking for something decidedly more downscale. The Brasserie-style Le Pavois was chosen after a brief look at the other restaurants in the town center. It seemed the most active (an empty or near-empty restaurant is a bad sign) and inviting, with a view of the harbor; high, wide windows; tile floor; recessed lighting; paneled walls; a candle on each table and cloth napkins. Entrées of émincé de Veau Zürichoise (chopped veal in brown sauce) with Rösti, and Medallions du Porc with tagliatelli and vegetables, were satisfying enough but far from great renditions of these familiar dishes. In both, the meat was too dry. We suspect microwave or a reheat job. The mixed salad, however, with sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, corn, quartered eggs and tomatoes, topped by the "national" dressing (a creamy vinaigrette), was very good as were the tagliatelli and the carrots, turnips and zucchini served with the pork. The Rösti disappointed. Two mighty chocolate sundae, strawberry sundae-style desserts made for a strong finish. The total for two, including the desserts at 9.50 Sfr. ($8.40) apiece, but not including beverages, came to 93.5 Sfr. ($83), too much for an very ordinary meal. Three-tenths of a liter of Dle was 9 Sfr. ($8).

Address: Hotel du Mont-Blanc, Quai du Mont-Blanc, CH-1110, Morges
Phone: 021/802 3072
Fax: 021/802 5122
Location: Central, on the lake
Guestrooms: 46 total, all 5th floor rooms and some on 4th floor are air-conditioned. Hair dryers, complimentary toiletries and satellite TV with CNN
Proprietor: Family Heppel
Prices: Singles 100 to 145 Sfr. ($88-$128), doubles 145 to 210 Sfr. ($128-$186)
Facilities: Restaurant, café
Credit Cards: All
Disabled: Not suitable
Closed: Never
Parking: Limited, 8 Sfr. ($7) per day
Comments: Best Western hotel, USA booking number 800-538-1234
Hotel Rating: Above Average 14/20
Restaurant Rating: Average 9/20

Hotel de la Courrone

(Editor's Choice)

Best value among hotels reviewed this issue. Clean, comfortable, nicely decorated guestrooms. We liked Number 403 with couch in separate sitting area for 138 Sfr. ($122) in low season. Part of MinOtel chain. Book in the U.S. (800-336-4668) and pay $106 per night for a double, plus a 15 Sfr. ($13) per room, per night supplement. Dollar price in dollars guaranteed all summer, but MinOtel booking may not be a good deal if dollar rises vs. Swiss franc.

Address: Hotel de la Courrone, Grand-Rue 88, CH-1110, Morges
Phone: 021/803 2016
Fax: 021/803 12 97
Location: Central, on pedestrian-only street
Guestrooms: 34 total, all doubles or triples, with hair dryers, safes and cable TV.
Proprietor: Philippe Thuner
Prices: Singles 88 to 118 Sfr. ($78-$104), doubles 128 to 168 Sfr. ($113-$149)
Facilities: Restaurant, outdoor café
Credit Cards: All
Disabled: Not suitable
Closed: Never
Parking: Free on street 6 p.m to 10 a.m.
Rating: Above average 13/15 $

Hotel de Savoie

Simple hotel under new management. Guestrooms are clean, bathrooms small (no toiletries, soap only). For a larger room ask for Number 15. Number four is a good-sized single. Note fish tank in café. New owner says he is ready to deal on room rates. Better than average value.

Address: Hotel de Savoie, Grand-Rue 7, CH-1110, Morges
Phone: 021/801 2155
Fax: 021/801 0329
Location: Central
Guestrooms: 14 rooms with TV (no cable), radio and direct dial phone.
Proprietor: M. Thierry, Mme. von Knel
Prices: Singles 70 Sfr. ($62), doubles 100 Sfr. ($89), triples 120 Sfr. ($106)
Facilities: Restaurant, outdoor café
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard
Disabled: Not suitable
Closed: Never (restaurant closed Sundays)
Parking: Free on street 6 p.m to 10 a.m.
Rating: Average 9/20

Auberge de la Couronne

In the quiet, picturesque wine village of Apples, about seven kilometers from Morges. Very good for quiet, relaxing first night stop out of Geneva airport. Best known as Michelin one-star restaurant but has recently added five spacious guestrooms offering good quality and value. Number four is "duplex" on two levels; bedroom upstairs, large sitting room with sofa and two easy chairs downstairs. Small drawback: toilet and shower are downstairs. Number one is an even better deal; large double on one level for 115 Sfr. ($102). Try the café for less expensive meals.

Address: Auberge de la Couronne, CH-1143, Apples
Phone: 021/800 3167
Fax: 021/800 5328
Location: Village center
Guestrooms: Five total, some on two levels, all with cable TV, minibar and direct dial phone
Proprietor: Claude Joseph
Prices: Singles 100 Sfr. ($88), doubles 115 to 150 Sfr. ($102-$133)
Facilities: Michelin one-star restaurant, café. No lift
Credit Cards: All
Disabled: Not suitable
Closed: First week January, three weeks starting last week of July
Parking: Free
Rating: Above average 13/15 $

Other Accommodations

Hotel Tête Noire at Grand Rue 94 in Rolle (phone 021/825 2251, fax 021/825 3962) is a two-star that offers acceptable rooms but at too high a price: 80 to 90 Sfr. ($71-$80) for singles and 100 to 130 Sfr. ($88 to $115) for doubles. Auberge de la Couronne (see above) at similar prices is far better.

The Nyon Tourist Office suggests these lower priced establishments:

Motel Le Léman in Commugny (near Coppet), phone 022/776 2521, fax 022/ 776 0178, singles 65 to 75 Sfr. ($58-$66), doubles 90 to 100 Sfr. ($80).

Motel de l'Arodrome in Prangins (two km from Nyon), phone 022/361 0055, fax 022/361 0533, singles 95 Sfr. ($84), doubles 115 Sfr. ($102).

Auberge de la Runion in Coinsins (10 km north of Nyon), phone 022/364 2301, fax 022/364 6690, singles 75 to 85 ($66), doubles 110 to 130 Sfr. ($97-$115).

In addition, M. Michel Manini, in Mollens (about 14 km northwest of Morges, beyond Apples) offers room and breakfast for one person with private toilet and shower for 35 Sfr. ($31). For two persons the price is 55 Sfr. ($49).

Morges Notes

Richard Maier makes wonderful chocolate and other sinful things at Maier, a Confiserie-Pâtissere-Glacerie and Tea Room at 60 rue Louis-de-Savoie, CH-1110 Morges. As an indication of quality, though 90% of M. Maier's chocolate is sold from this modest store front, he does distribute to a small list of clients including the Hotel Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne. Visitor tours may be arranged through the Morges tourist office, across the street from Maier.

The late film actress Audrey Hepburn lived in the town of Tolochenaz, about a mile west of Morges. She is buried there. Her simple grave is in a small, roadside cemetery near her home. Here's how to find it: from the traffic roundabout on Rue de la Gare across from the railway station, follow the Geneva signs under the overpass and west toward Geneva. Shortly after the Vufflens turnoff is a sign pointing right toward Tolochenaz. Bear right and in a few hundred yards you will see a small cemetery on the right. From the grave site look west along the road toward Geneva. On the right side about 500 yards down the road is a barn. The Hepburn residence is across the road from the barn. The home is still occupied by members of her family. Be discreet.

The wine region near the lake between Lausanne and Geneva is know as La Côte. Basic information about these vineyards is contained in a booklet that has an English version titled Guide to the Vaudois Vineyards. It contains suggested walking tours of both the vineyards of La Côte and Lavaux (east of Lausanne). To obtain a copy, contact the Office des Vins Vaudois, Avenue Tivoli 58, CH-1007, Lausanne or the Lake Geneva Region Tourist Office, Avenue d'Ouchy 60, CH-1006, Lausanne, phone 021/277202, fax 021/277240.

The Morges Tourist Office, 1 Pl. du Casino, CH-1110 Morges, phone 021/801 3233, fax 021/801 3130, offers a special "Touristic Passport" which grants various privileges and discounts on hotel guests in the region. The vouchers include a free ice cream or aperitif on the terrace at one of several local hotels; a wine tasting, a bottle of local wine and a souvenir glass; a half-price train ride to local villages; free entry to the two major museums; a seven-day pass for workouts at a local gym and a 5 Sfr. ($4.50) reduction on any purchase of more than 50 Sfr. ($45) at a Morges department store.

Morges

Population: 13,900
Altitude: 1240 feet

Tourist Office

Office du Tourisme, Place du Casino 1, CH-1110 Morges.

* Phone 021/801 3233.
* Fax 021/801 3130

April 1995