Saturday, 5 April 2008

in love with Geneva.

And thank the Good Lord because Lyon was really getting me down. (I think I've figured it out - it's not that the city is any less nice, per se, it's just that the people don't seem to care about it. It's not clean, there's no greenery ANYwhere and as such it just doesn't feel welcoming to an outsider.)

I left very very early (it was still dark walking to the train station which was a bit hairy) and I slept for most of the 2 hour train ride. Coming into Switzerland is the biggest cliche though, because suddenly the train is cutting a path between mountain, and there are cows, and the houses start to look like cuckoo clocks. I had to go through a checkpoint, but the immigration policeman barely glanced at my passport - I doubt he could've even told you my nationality.

I headed for the tourism office (after paying CHF2 to use the [admittedly sparkling clean] 'McToilette' [no relation, not kidding])and picked up a map, and then made my way across the Pont du Mont-Blanc and a little way around the lake. I saw the Jardin Anglais, and the Flower Clock (nice, but a little underwhelming considering how hyped they are in all the guides). Around the lake is very pretty, but I thought that too was a bit underwhelming, because after all a lake is just a lake. And then I noticed the Alps... it's a nice spot alright!

I wandered around the Old Town for a while, and enjoyed the tiny cobbled streets (the streets in other parts of the city are wide and clear) and the beautiful old buildings with pilgrim hats. I'm not sure what I expected of Geneva, but I think I had Frankenstein in mind. Although I can see that in the architecture, it was such a beautiful sunny day that the tall sandstone buildings looked nothing but welcoming to me.

After the Old Town I headed for the Parc des Bastions which is just next door. It's quite a large park, with big 3 foot chess pieces, and lots of statues of the founders of Geneva. It's also the home to the languages departments of the University, and what a lovely location - right in the middle of a park, which itself is near the big cultural buildings - the theatre, the conservatoire, etc.

I went to 'Le The' for lunch, which was a Chinese teahouse that the internet recommended. It was certainly funky and quaint, but it was also not necessarily the best value (although not unreasonable) and the service was rather brusque. Also, the people at the table next to me smoked all through my meal, which put me off bothering with dessert. I guess the Swiss must be a bit behind the times on that one...

On the way back from lunch, I chanced upon a huge fleamarket which happens every Saturday apparently. It was fun to wander though, and seemed a bit at odds with Geneva's otherwise posh visage.

Next I went to the Patek Philippe museum, which is 3 storeys of watches. It was pretty amazing. To start with, the intricacy of timepieces that were made years ago, and the declicacy of the decoration that I doubt could be rivalled these days, because the craftsmen (and their patrons) just don't exist anymore. There were watches and clocks in every imaginable form and I suspect the cheapest one in the place would be worth more than my yearly salary, and there were hundreds. It took me a good hour and a half to get through the place, and that was without reading anything (because it was all in French, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective). I would've liked a little information somewhere on how watches actually work, because that seemed to be assumed knowledge, but otherwise it was excellent.

I stopped at a little cafe in the Old Town and sat outside in the sun with a beer. It was so warm I momentarily wondered if I might get sunburnt which I think shows that my whole temperature 'clock' has been adjusted after Chicago and 10 weeks of Europe, because it can't've been more than 15 degrees. The beer was 'Einseidler' and very nice and fruity without being too sweet - I should've known the Swiss would do beer well, becuase of their links to Germany.

I continued to wander and I saw a few other things, including Rousseau's birthplace and the Hotel de Ville among a lot of other pretty buildings and quite a few shop windows. I didn't make it to the UN tour which I would've liked, but it was a bit far by foot, so hopefully I'll get to go back and do that another time.

I couldn't find a (cheap) hotel for the night, so I decided to come home in the evening at the appointed time. I grabbed a kebab/yiros near the train station which was not bad, and the 'spicy sauce' was actually spicy. Woohoo! I realised too late that I forgot to sample the Swiss chocolate. Not woohoo. Not even sure how it was possible.

Overall I really really liked Geneva. Even though there's not a lot of stuff to do there per se, it's so nice and clean and beautiful and welcoming and I enjoyed just walking around for my 8 hours there. I was obviously a tourist but instead of feeling like a nuissance, people were really nice to, me and smiled at me in the street, and generally seemed pleased to share their city. So many of the buildings are old and sandstone, and the city really looks like it's being looked after, with lots of green spaces and flowers everywhere. It's obviously a safe city too, because most people weren't even bothering to chain their bikes up, but just lining them up in the streets. Perhaps it's such a safe city (I walked around like a total tourist all day, map in hand, and never once felt threatened) because it's a very rich city, but I think it would still be very livable. Sure, you could spend a lot of money there quickly if you wanted, but a lot of things seemed comparable to home (and with the exchange rate being about equal it's at least easier to know exactly how much you're paying for eveything) and I think you could search out a high standard of living for a reasonable amount of money if you were willing to look a little harder for it.

Who knows what the future will bring, but I think I could be very happy there.

1 comment:

Molly said...

I'm so glad to hear you're liking Geneva, Miss Em! Excellent news! I know what you mean about nice green spaces - it really makes a city feel much more loved and livable :o)