To Aline Hayoz-Andrey, everything in nature is connected: plants interact with animals, animals with the soil, the soil with the air.Hiking through mountain meadows, exploring pine forests, passing through Alpine landscapes and seeking new perspectives is her greatest passion.
As an environmental engineer and botanist, Aline isn’t just in close contact with nature through her work – it’s also a major part of her private life. So it comes as no surprise that in her free time she enjoys sharing her enthusiasm and knowledge with other nature lovers as a hiking guide. To her, there is no better place to do so than in the Vanil Noir Nature Reserve.
Both cooks and nature lovers enjoy embarking on voyages of discovery through the Gruyère region with Aline. Today, amateur chef Nicolas is hiking with her through the beautiful countryside. As a child, he often used to go out collecting herbs and plants with his grandmother
– and his interest in bringing nature into the kitchen has remained strong to this day. Being with Aline inspires him to give his dishes a new twist.
The two of them begin their hike in the lushly vegetated surroundings of Lac de Montsalvens in Charmey. Here they gather some plants, which is not allowed in the nature reserve itself. Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) is picked and preserved in bottles with the regional speciality Gruyère double cream.
Further along the lake they collect oregano (Origanum vulgare) and stinging nettles (Urtica dioica), adding them to their jute bags. The next stop is the Vanil Noir Nature Reserve.
The area around the Vanil Noir is a place where time stands still. An area that is simply enchanting. The nature reserve, with its pre-Alpine landscape, captivates you with its countless treasures and beauty. The 15km2 area is rich in biodiversity thanks to its uniquely warm and dry climate, lime-rich soil and varying altitudes. A hike through the Vanil Noir Nature Reserve is almost like a trip around the world:
Mediterranean flora can be seen in the valley, while the mountaintops are home to Arctic species of plant. Other rare plants include creeping betony (Stachys pradica), northern dragonhead (Dracocephalum ruyschiana) and the pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis).
Through lush mountain meadows, past the rugged rock faces and steep gullies of the karst area and with the summit of the Vanil Noir always in your sight. After two hours of hiking, you’re finally there. At 1,868m, the SAC hut Cabane des Marindes sits majestically above the nature reserve, with unique views of the mighty Gastlosen mountain chain and on a clear day stretching as far as the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. It’s not difficult to share Aline’s love for the area.
Following Aline’s instructions, Nicolas chops wild thyme, rock thyme, caraway, wild garlic and meadow hogweed, and adds these to the Gruyère double cream to create a crêpe filling.
For the bricelets (a regional waffle speciality), the two combine cream cheese with fresh herbs
– white nettle, white clover and oregano – and give the snack a touch of colour with marigolds.
This gentle hike around Lac de Montsalvens is perfect for families with children. The path is mostly in the shade. Half of the circuit follows the lakeshore, while the other half ascends to La Monse, opening up fantastic views of the lake down below. The route offers great opportunities for discovering the rich local flora as well as lovely spots for a picnic, barbecue or a bit of fishing.
At 10km in length, the hike along the shores of Lac de Montsalvens is perfect for walkers. The three-hour circuit follows the lakeshore for half the way and ascends to La Monse for the other half. Just off the trail, hikers will find a 60m long suspension bridge offering fantastic views of the lake and mountains.
Discover the beauty of nature by enjoying a good meal in one of the region's mountain cabins.
To combine relaxation and mountains, take advantage of the "Alpine well-being" package in Charmey. This package includes a visit to the Bains de la Gruyère with admission to the baths, breakfast buffet, local meal and gourmet gift.
This package allows you to enjoy a stay in Gruyère at low prices, including accommodation, activities and public transport.