Geneva

Clock - Switzerland

The best part about travelling are the experiences and the people you meet along the way. We are now travelling to Geneva, somewhere we haven’t been before, so plenty of new experiences await, and we’ll be staying with a couple we met in Morocco, Sara and Randall .

We land in a very chilly Amsterdam and make our connecting flight easily, it may help that the flight itself has been delayed.  A further delay when upon landing in Geneva Dot recalls she has left her passport on the plane…!  They find it easily though it takes awhile and then we are finally on our way.

Geneva welcomes us with a lovely spring day, a cool breeze, sunshine and calm.  It is human nature I suppose to always compare the new to what is already familiar and in many ways Geneva reminds me of Paris with it’s Boucherie’s and Pateseries, with it’s very ornate pruning of its’ trees and of Berlin with its’ wide streets and cosmopolitan impression.  Yet each place has a unique personality: NY busy, loud, fast,  versus sultry New Orleans where fast is an anathema.  My first impression, the vibe I get if you will, is of a populace who are friendly, restrained and polite.   I also note, that while none can outdo the Dutch for their passion for bicycles the Swiss could definitely vye for 2nd place.  There are bike lanes, parking and cyclists everywhere.

Carouge Geneva
View from apartment Place du Rondeau, Carouge

Sara and Randall stay in place du Rondeau, Carouge.  Their apartment is on the 4th floor and is airy, light and spacious with beautiful views.  Below are shops, a hairdressers, a couple of restaurants and a wine bar where Randall later entertains us while Sara prepares the most delicious (mostly) vegan meal.  In fact we are very spoilt by our generous hosts.

The days start later here around 9 or 10 am so we have a lazy start and decide to walk the city a bit. Despite seeming large it is in fact very walkable and easy enough to navigate.  Where Paris has areas divided into arrondissements are arranged in an outward clockwise spiral starting from the 1st arrondissement, the centre of Paris, Geneva has districts or quartiers.  The River Rhone and Lake Geneva form natural boundaries which means that rather than circular the 8 districts are divided into something resembling octants.

Parc des Bastions
Parc des Bastions

The place is pristine, as we walk I notice on every block someone is cleaning windows, wiping down walls, polishing brass. We take a stroll through a lovely little park in the midst of the busy roads,  Parc des Bastions.  Located just below the Old Town, it is the site of Geneva’s first botanical garden.  Here are beautiful blooms, an avenue of trees, the famous Reformation Wall, the University and Library of Geneva as well as the Palais Eynard (which houses the executive authorities of the city).  I love places that provide a space for community’s to mix and relax and here with it’s bandstand restaurant, playground and, at the entrance giant free chess sets (as well as smaller boards printed onto wooden tables) feels like just such a place.

Giant Chessboard Parc des Bastions
Giant Chessboard Parc des Bastions

On we strolled until we came to the banks of the river – here we found some funky graffiti art and ..a little further along the pointe dela Jonction.  A rather calm and peaceful place the Pointe  is where the rivers Rhône and Arve meet and meld.  It is fascinating to watch because the waters are different colours and for awhile you can clearly see the two tones running side by side…

The Jonction
Jonction is a place where rivers Rhône and Arve meet

The Rhone is a clear, cerulean blue and runs through France and the Swiss Alps, depositing much of it’s silt in the Geneva lake so that when you see it running it is absolutely clear.  The Arve, also flowing through France and Switzerland but it’s water comes from the glaciers of the Chamonix Valley and it  carries more silt that makes its water muddy-looking.  We spent awhile mesmerised by the water and enjoying people watching before returning along the Rhone river to have lunch at the Cottage Cafe from where we had a lovely view of the Jet d-eau.

Jet d-Eau
Jet d-Eau

Jet d’ Eau literally means ‘Jet of water’ the first Jet d’Eau was installed in 1886 a little further downstream from its present location. It was used to safely release water for the hydraulic power network.  In 1891 it was recognised as being not only useful but also having a beauty and power in and of itself, the water reaching a maximum of about 259 feet.  The present Jet d’Eau was installed in 1951 in a partially submerged pumping station to pump lake water instead of city water

We decide to walk off our lovely lunch with a stroll along Lake Geneva.  The lawn alongside invited us to stop and lay down for awhile just to soak up the sun and the sound of people around us as they enjoy the lovely spring day.

As we got closer to the United Nations buildings one becomes aware of how Geneva seems to be at the heart of international humanitarian organisations – here you’ll find the offices of UNICEF; Amnesty International; The Centre for Reproductive rights and of course the United Nations.  Across the way from the United Nations is a piece of art, a large red chair with one broken leg.  Constructed by the sculptor Daniel Berset in 1997 for Handicap International, it stands 12 foot high and was originally an appeal to the world to remember the harm caused by landmines and to continue the fight to ban antipersonnel mines.   Today it speaks to the plight of war torn civilians across the globe and our humanitarian responsibility to protect and aid these victims of war. The plaque beneath is describes it as “a symbol of fragility & strength, precariousness & stability, brutality and dignity.”

UN Broken Chair
Broken Chair outside UN

We took a tram back to the apartment and Pierre and Randall went for a run before we all headed out to a lovely Italian Restaurant close-by where a festive evening of wine and good food ensued…in fact that was to be the theme of the rest of our holidays – Good food, good wine, good conversations and laughs.

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