Sometimes, you visit a city and are happy to soak in the surface charm knowing you'll never return, other cities invite further investigation. Then there are places you go that make you think I could live here. Not in that way that is just a traveller's dream with no basis in reality -- I always dream of living in small coastal towns when I visit but I know it's just a daydream. I grew up in a place like that and the reality is harsh.
Geneva is a city where I could definitely see myself living. It's a incredibly beautiful city, situated on Lake Geneva and surrounded by mountains. It has some much charm and character but is a sophisticated city. I became totally in awe of the multi-lingual skills of seemingly every person in the city - shop assistants easily changing language to suit the customers. I wanted to wave my hand and say "hey, I can speak Japanese. I'm not totally stupid..."
Of course, my opinion might be coloured because I stayed with my friend. That always makes a place more accessible. You get the local knowledge on the best places to eat (and, in Geneva, the cheapest, because it's an expensive place to eat) and it becomes so much easier to go on random, wacky adventures. Plus there's the built in group of friends of friends which beats the hell of the standard traveller conversation.
There are some less favourable aspects to Geneva that I discovered though - it's really fucking expensive. I don't think I could've afford my stay if I'd not been visiting my friend. The combination of free accommodation, being able to eat at home and his Nespresso machine made it doable. Speaking of coffee, it is expensive and not great. Maybe, if you take your coffee black, you can survive but I found, not just in Switzerland but everywhere apart from Italy, the coffee is incredibly milky and not delicious.
After all the difficulties with my flights and having my feet swell up to the size of watermelons, you can imagine how awesome it was to have someone else taking control of my holiday arrangements (and loan me a pair of runners). We did pack a fair bit in even though I had a helluva time walking.
After about the third or fourth day, we hit the local pharmacy because my feet weren't getting any better -- it'd actually become concerning. I got some kind of drops to take which included cannabis extract. Not sure how cannabis helps reduce swelling but they worked a treat. The day I could fit into the shoes I'd packed was one of the happiest of my life!
Highlights of my Geneva trip:
- There's a machine at the bag claim section of the airport where you can get a free train ticket into the city centre. Why don't all cities do this? It's extremely welcoming.
- Swimming in Lake Geneva - I rarely go swimming but I grabbed some bathers on sale at H&M and hit the water. There's a roped off section for swimming (paid, of course) that includes a great place to eat - my friend says it's the cheapest place to eat in Geneva, and the food was fantastic.
- Montreux Jazz Festival - apparently it's the most famous jazz festival in the world. We didn't see a single jazz band (the top bands are ticketed performances while we stuck to the free stuff) but the town and the ride on the train were amazingly beautiful and we did get to catch a huge range of music including a fab hip hop band. We also got to drink a lot and visit the little bars that are built out over the lake. My favourite had a cut out section at the bottom where you could sit with your feet in the water.
- Taxidermied frogs from the 19th century. Hell yeah! My favourite, that you can see above, was the frog riding a squirrel but the collection also included a frog school and frogs playing poker. The whole town (Estavayer-le-Lac), had frogs swinging between the incredibly charming buildings.
- Post-frogs, we headed to Gruyères, stopping for a cheesy lunch where I learned cow bells because incredibly uncharming after about 2 minutes!
- The castle at Gruyères.
- Mont Blanc - we went to Chamonix to look at Mont Blanc but the weather was shit and all the cable cars and other attractions were shut (except the Mont Blanc museum which is incredibly lame) so we headed to Italy to see it from the other side. I don't advise doing this because it was only when it was too late - ie. we were at the toll gates with cars banked up behind us -- that we discovered the toll was 50 euro!
I did, however, much like Percy Shelley, get to write a poem about Mont Blanc:
Mont Blanc, we couldn't see you
because of low visibility
So we went to Italy
to have decent coffee
And the best part was that I got to eat cheese in three different countries on the one day. That was one of the highlights of my trip, if not my life. I'm so Australian that I get crazy excited about being able to go to another country so easily. I only took photos of two of the three cheese meals though :(
- Geneva cathedral - I'm not sure if this is actually called Geneva cathedral but anyway it's the cathedral in Geneva. As well being able to go inside the cathedral, you can climb to the top but the stairs up are very old and narrow and it can be a bit freaky when you have to squeeze past fat Frenchmen. Totally worth it for the view though.
You can also head underneath and see all the excavations of the original church and it's history. That was incredibly freaky because you wander around a maze-like pathway with not another tourist in sight.
I also did some other touristy shit like this little train thing that goes around the city but that was boring. I went to the Red Cross museum, which was well put together and thought provoking but didn't go on the United Nations tour because I'd been told it wasn't great.
You can see all of my Geneva photos on google . To be honest, I only used google because I hadn't set up any way of backing up my photos before I left home and, got to my friend's place and couldn't get my camera to register on either of his laptops. Google ended up being the only site I could access via the camera interface. It's incredibly slow though and even worse because my camera only lets you upload 12 photos at a time.