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Some 8km inland from Estavayer is the small market town of PAYERNE, highlight of which is the breathtaking Église Abbatiale (Mon–Fri 10.30am–noon & 2–5pm, Sat & Sun 10.30am–noon; Fr.3 or more, depending on exhibition; SMP), one of the most impressive examples of Romanesque architecture in the country. There’s a wealth of detail in the five-naved church, which dates from the eleventh and twelfth centuries and which stands amidst the buildings of an abbey; its square, turreted tower, with a slender twisted spire, dominates the town. The lofty barrel-vaulted interior is impressive, with natural light reflecting off the variegated sandstone pillars of the nave to set the whole space glowing. Carved capitals in the transept and detailed frescoes from around 1200 on the vaultings of the porch and in the narthex are gorgeous. However, the church has not been used as a house of worship since 1562, and it’s unfortunate that you may well find modern art exhibitions filling the nave and aisles with distractions and the hum of conversation.
ESTAVAYER-LE-LAC is a picturesque little yachties’ town on the lakeside 19km northeast of Yverdon, with plenty of medieval architecture scattered throughout a centre which has remained largely unchanged since 1599. Today it occupies a little enclave of Canton Fribourg, surrounded on three sides by Vaud. It trades on two features: the town museum, which has a collection of stuffed frogs, and the climbing roses which cover its ancient stones throughout the summer, giving the place its nickname of the City of the Rose.
It’s a ten-minute walk from the station northwest along Route de la Gare to Place du Midi on the edge of the Old Town. Heading east from here takes you past the Hôtel de Ville to the Gothic Église St-Laurent. Left (north) from here brings you to the open Place de Moudon, the medieval marketplace which formerly looked over the lakeshore. Over to the east is the solid Château de Chenaux, built and added to over 450 years, with towers and turrets sprouting all over. It’s the seat of the local government, but you can wander around and through its courtyards. South of the church, Grand-Rue heads out of town via the mighty Porte des Religieuses. Partway down, Rue du Musée branches off to the medieval Maison de la Dîme, housing a diverting museum (July & Aug daily 9–11am & 2–5pm; March–June & Sept–Oct Tues–Sun same times; Nov–Feb Sat & Sun 2–5pm; Fr.3; SMP). A random collection of bits and bobs – ivory Chinese chesspieces from the eighteenth century, some old playing cards, assorted railway memorabilia – is filled out with 108 small frogs, stuffed in the 1860s by François Perrier, a retired captain of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, and arranged in glass cases in various poses to mimic the social life of the period. It’s all utterly pointless, and more than a bit macabre: the frogs don’t look impressed in the least.
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