Here in the “Living in” series on this site is an article on living in Le Vaud, written by Christine Carey.
Christine is from Canada and five years ago she moved up to Le Vaud from the village of Prangins. Read on to find out about what is it like to live in the village, what the social and family life is like, read about Le Vaud’s very own zoo and how to get “connected” at the local déchetterie!
Living in lovely little Le Vaud
After living on ‘the plain’ for five years my family and I moved up to live in a typical Swiss chalet in the small village of Le Vaud in the foothills of the Jura Mountains. Our ‘Heidi house’ as my brother likes to call it, is situated at 800 metres. To our friends and family, we laugh and say how we have come up in the world compared to where we lived in Cambridge, England which was at sea level (6 metres to be precise).
Lovely little Le Vaud is possibly most well known for its Zoo La Garenne . It is worth a visit especially with young children. I am not sure what everyone expects when they think ‘zoo’ but La Garenne is a quirky kind of place that started out more than 40 years ago as an animal rescue centre. It is now evolving to specialise in European species but continues to care for injured wildlife as well as raising a number of threatened species for reintroduction. The European lynx is its ‘poster child’ but it also has wolves, owls, and rare bearded vultures. In the coming years if sufficient funding can be secured, it will be expanded and relocated nearby to the edge of a forested ravine.
On hot summers’ evenings we can hear the owls calling
We live a stone’s throw away from the zoo and on hot summer evenings we can hear the owls calling, creating a magical atmosphere as we put our son to bed and go to sit out on the deck and wait for the other night life to begin. In the dusk you can see bats feeding, foxes, pine martens or ‘fouines’ (*the kind that eat your car brake cables- see end of article), hedgehogs, and enjoy the almost conspicuous absence of mosquitoes (rather significant to this Canadian).
The shops sells wonderful bread
The village has a shop that sells wonderful bread with a picture of the baker hanging on the wall near the door. I very much like the fact that I know who bakes my bread. I recommend a bread called ‘tradilin’ and a local cheese ‘tomme de cognac’ . The shop is charming and is run by a mother and daughter team. It doesn’t always open on time but I don’t really mind because I find this so ‘unSwiss’. We do however have a very Swiss and most efficient new post office and a couple of very friendly ‘posties’ who have over the years delivered us numerous Christmas cards and parcels, (as well as an inordinate number of bills of course)!
Le Vaud sits on the edge of the Parc Naturel Regional Jura Vaudois which in 2009, joined up several previously existing conservation areas across the top of the Jura creating a hiker’s haven as well as an important wildlife corridor. There are several lovely walks from the village and all well signposted.
Our village (I believe this is typical across the region) has its own forestland so villagers really can ‘buy local’ firewood. Since our house is 50% heated by wood firewood is important to us. As the commune’s wood is not certified (yet), we order our wood from the adjacent Commune of Bassins (10 minutes to the West) which has certified its forest management according to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards.
My son’s classroom look onto a stunning view of the Alps
There are several focal points in the village. The school inevitably (offering kindergarten to Grade 4) is one, and if you are a parent this is good way to jettison you into the centre of Swiss life. My son’s classroom looks out to a stunning view of the Alps. There could be a lot worse places to send him, not to mention the fresh air and exercise walking uphill to school. There is a farm beside the school where the children just take for granted the ferrier’s regular visits, the cows’ comings and goings, the horses in their stalls, and the farm’s dog’s regular appearance on the football pitch. On the last day of school, the children are thrown a party with pony rides, loads of games, and a BBQ all organised by a local volunteer group called ‘Le Liens’ with several parents helping out.
Photo above – The countryside of Le Vaud – an ideal place to bring up children
The Dechetterie – An important networking centre of contacts and village information
This might sound strange to the uninitiated but a second focal point of the village is the dechetterie ( local rubbish/ recycling centre). For those who have been living in Switzerland for a while, they will immediately understand. The woman who runs it is at the hub of an important network of contacts and village information. Forget LinkedIn, invest some time at the dechetterie late on a Saturday afternoon. Need to know where to buy fresh honey, eggs, find a handyman, or looking to buy a chalet before it goes on the market? Need I say more? My husband and I have over the years acquired some great ‘finds’ at the dechetterie including several beautiful tables, all for free.
An amazing number of social and sports clubs
Le Vaud has an amazing number of social and sport clubs and activities for such a small village. It also has a network of ‘Mamans de jour’ (child minders), music teachers (piano, flute, saxophone), art classes for children and adults, dog obedience classes, a uni-hockey club, a campground, its own tennis club, and a wonderful and thriving library (with a growing English book section).
Photo above – A house in Vaud
Our Swiss neighbours spoiled us with kindness
I work a lot from home and adore the privacy and tranquillity in equal measure to enjoying the company of friends and neighbours in the village. To say the Swiss are reserved is again to find exceptions. When we first moved in and had not enough time to prepare our vegetable garden, our Swiss neighbours spoiled us with kindness. We could not get near our front door without a big smile from our neighbours while waving a courgette over the hedge or finding bowls of fresh raspberries each morning on our front porch!
Le Vaud is probably now like most Swiss villages in the area, in that more and more expats are moving in. Some use it as a base to commute into Geneva and find little time to participate in village life while others integrate into community life and even volunteer with the Fire Department. So life in these outlying villages is changing but in some ways Le Vaud changes even a little slower than the rest. The centre of the village needs a face lift and traffic calming measures, with plans under development.
Five years living below on ‘the plain’ and five years living up in Le Vaud means I am now eligible to vote in Communal elections. So I thought I would check that my name was on the list. But when I called up the Commune office they carefully explained one does not put one’s name on the list; this being Switzerland, it is all organised well in advance. So the store may open late the odd time in the afternoon while I stand there with my nine year old son’s pocket money burning a hole in his pocket, but the Swiss are unsurprisingly ‘en forme’ when it comes to voting. My ballot was delivered well in advance by my friendly ‘postie’ and I voted for the first time hoping, probably against the odds for some change but at a leisurely lovely little Le Vaud pace.
* Fouine – Ed: These small animals ( a stone marten) can inded eat into your car brake cables, if this happens to your car, check your insurance policy as to whether you are covered for repairs. See Wikipedia entry explanation on Fouines.
Christine Carey works in conservation and corporate responsibility. She specialises in voluntary environmental and social standards systems that support sustainable resource management and improvements in social and working conditions. She has worked as Advisor with WWF International, IUCN, Forest Stewardship Council, ISEAL Alliance, and the UN Agency International Trade Centre (ITC). She also teaches on two graduate courses at the University of Geneva. Christine is the Director of CAREY Research & Consulting. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.