In Search of Audrey Hepburn at Tolochenaz

Audrey Hepburn Gravesite, Switzerland

I am not sure what is true, and I still ponder about it many years later: Did I fall in love with the character or the actress who played that character?

Not once, not twice and not even three times. It happened with every movie I watched of Audrey Hepburn. A petite, if you may call her in physique, she had an aura which went well with the characters she essayed on screen.

My interest in Audrey Hepburn never faded after I watched her for the first time in Roman Holiday, smitten by her innocence in Sabrina, and it goes on...

My interest in knowing more about Audrey's life took me to a village in Switzerland - a village in canton of Vaud. A simple visit turned into a dram as little did I realize I would soon be questioned by the police for being a mere fan.

 

Spring of 2009

I was a student in Lausanne and during my spring holidays, I had decided to pay a visit to the village of Tolochenaz, the place where Audrey Hepburn lived and where my fair lady rests in peace. Until that time, I had no idea what or how a Swiss village felt like.

And as soon as we (yes, a friend came with me!) got there after an 11 minute train journey from the Renens gare, we reached Tolochenaz while my friend had no idea why he was stranded in an unknown village.

In my excitement and coupled with not having a smartphone, I had forgotten the piece of paper which contained the coordinates of this gravesite. Two strangers from a distant land wandered away along the unpaved roads of Tolochenaz in search of Audrey Hepburn. My French had not yet kicked in to converse with the locals, but I was sure the name Audrey Hepburn did not need any language skills.

After all, she was the most important personality to have lived in that area. After walking for close to 30 minutes, we finally arrived at the gravesite.

 

No Tourist Site

This was no tourist place - in fact it was a small graveyard adjacent to a church. The gate to the graveyard was hard to unlock and we went around to see if there was any other place by which we could get in. No living souls were in sight and by the time we came back to that main gate (a small gate), we figured it was the only way for us to get in. We finally managed to open the gate with difficulty and it felt as though the gate was not opened for a long time!

By this time, I noticed a biker watching us with great interest and all he did was look at us as though he was told to keep an eye on us. We went in, looked at Audrey Hepburn's grave memorial and took a couple of photographs. That was it, there was nothing else that evoked my interest.

As we came out, we decided to sit on the green lawn and finish our packed sandwiches. I noticed, the biker was still present with his eyes on us. Just then, a police car arrived with two policemen getting out and coming straight to us. The biker left the scene.

 

The Interrogation

Bon jour and that was the last French word I could speak for a while. My Swiss residence permit had not arrived (even after close to 2 months of application, it finally arrived at the end of five months of my stay in Switzerland) and all I had was my university ID and a copy of my passport.

Straightaway one of the cops asked for my permit, I said 'I don't have it' and quickly showed him my passport copy and my ID card. He was conversing in French with me and with slight difficulty I could figure out - that he wanted my address in Switzerland. One cop took the details while other kept an eye on us. It was some experience and the next few minutes the only thing which occupied my mind was - "Did I trespass a private property? surely church and the graveyard cannot be a private property and besides I have seen a couple of photos in the internet, few Audrey Hepburn enthusiasts visiting her grave?"

Five anxious minutes and the second cop comes with our IDs and ask us, what were we doing here in French? I pointed him to the gate and told, I am here to visit Audrey Hepburn's grave. He gave a serious look and I had to explain him, I am a big fan of hers, have watched a lot of movies of hers and started to give out some of the movie names. The second cop laughed and finally spoke to me in English.

It all seemed ok. I asked him why we were being examined. It seemed a couple of days earlier, there was a theft in a house opposite to the graveyard and the owner of the house gave them a call after looking at our unfamiliar faces. Phew!

In that five minutes, the cop had spoken to our university and to our respective concierges to verify our identities. The matter was closed and we left the place after finishing our sandwiches.

 

Looking Back

I have been living in a Swiss village for two years now. In a way I understand more about life in Switzerland. It is a closed knit community, but a friendly community. We all have a nice laugh whenever I have narrate this episode from my life and all because I wanted to visit the graveyard of one of my favorite actress, Audrey Hepburn.

For many of the Audrey Hepburn and cinema fans, this quiet village will definitely be of interest as you can visit the area where she lived, a museum where you find a lot of personal items on display, and, of course, make a quiet trip to her final resting place.

 

More Information

- Cemetery with Audrey Hepburn's gravesite: Chemin des Plantées 3, 1131 Tolochenaz
- Audrey Hepburn's former home (1963 - 1993): La Paisible, Route de Lully, Rue du Centre, Tolochenaz
- Pamphlet "In the footsteps of Audrey Hepburn" (PDF)

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Rajan

Rajan loves sports, old Hollywood classics, collecting facts, hosting quizzes, vegetarian cooking, travelling, photography and understanding cultures.
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  • Chutney Queen

    Hey there fellow fan!
    I am going to be traveling to Switzerland in April and as a long-time fan of Audrey Hepburn I wanted to visit the museum I had read about when I was a teenager. However as I was doing my research to plan the trip I read in several sites that it has been closed down since 2002. In your entry you say that you can still visit it, did you get to see it?
    Thanks!

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