Geneva Back To Zürich

I spent my last part of a day in Geneva buying the last of the souvenirs and finishing up the postcards for the people back home. The main post office in Geneva is pretty amazing, not Barcelona post office amazing, but amazing. It also has a tourism office there which is very convenient.

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If you got a postcard from me, it went in there. Die Post! Die!
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Like all of Europe, the old look was right on time.

I grabbed a few souvenirs along the shops lining the street and was VERY tempted to get a Geneva only Geneva themed Swatch at the Swatch store. Very tempted. I already have two watches, so I passed. I to this day feel regret. I’m going to have to go back and make it right.

I hopped on the train for the approximately two-hour trip back to Zürich from where I was flying back and took in the amazing scenery that I missed on the trip there due to darkness. The lakes and mountains along with the odd castle along the way make for a beautiful journey. I could really go to Switzerland and do nothing but ride the trains the whole time and still be pretty happy with the trip.

We rolled pass vineyards that I was sure were responsible for the wines I had on this trip to Geneva and the last one. Vineyard-to-table-to-my liver. We don’t many Swiss wines here in the United States and get none out in the hinterlands where I am based so I drank my fill while I was there. They were quite good.

About an hour from Zürich something happened on this trip that hadn’t happened to me yet on any Swiss (or French, or Austrian for that matter) train: a delay. I kind of smelled something burning and figured I was maybe having a stroke. I was fine with that if it was, Switzerland is probably a great place to have one if you must. Soon a few conductors walked through hurriedly with radios speaking into them in German. It was at that moment I realized it was not a stroke, but that was also the moment I had wished I had learned the phrase “abandon train” in German. I don’t normally follow crowds, but when I’m somewhere that I do not speak the language, I figure that it is safer to than not. Everybody else was cool and stayed put, so I did to.

They did make an announcement in English apologizing for the delay. They never said what the issue was, but we were delayed for a little over and hour. If we had been delayed in the countryside, it would have been better since I could have soaked in the views. We were delayed on a siding just outside a train station and the scenery was much more industrial and railroady.

We got to Zürich eventually and I hopped another train and a shuttle bus to my hotel. I spent the evening repacking for the trip home and drinking the last of my recently purchased Swiss wine and cheese. I miss them both so much.

 

Geneva! Again!

Two months before this trip to Europe I was on another trip to Europe and my traveling partners and I spent some time in Geneva. I saw enough on that trip to know that I wanted to go back at some point. Since I was going to me in the country anyway, I figured I could spend a day there and see a few things that I wasn’t able to on that trip. On that trip we spent a full day in Geneva on a Sunday and almost everything was closed. This time, I made sure to travel to the city on a Sunday and have my full day there be a Monday.

I left my hotel after breakfast and decided to head to the old city and visit St. Pierre Cathedral. I’m a sucker for old churches, or old things in general, and figured on this chilly winter day, that being inside as much as possible would be a good idea. How chilly was it? It was so chilly that someone on the second floor of a building was storing their produce on the window sill.

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Nature is the original refrigeration
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St Pierre Cathedral

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The inside of the cathedral was large and impressive and built in a mix of styles. It was historic due to John Calvin being here and during the Reformation in the 16th Century. I know very little about the Reformation and didn’t do any homework in advance so perhaps much was lost on me as I walked around it. There is a museum of the Reformation nearby, but I was more interested in what was below this building: Site Archéologique de la Cathédrale.

You go down some stairs and discovered beneath the cathedral during renovations were two earlier Christian cathedrals, parts of the old Roman city, and even burials from before the Romans showed up. It was really cool. They had an English audio guide and cool displays that helped you visualize what it was you were seeing and walking through. I love museums like this, they are a great reminder that you are the end result of thousands of years of civilization.

After touring the ruins under the cathedral, I decided to wander through the old city a bit to work my way down to a street I saw on a map my first trip. There was nothing really remarkable to me about the street except its name:

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Since December 31st is my birthday, I figured that there were only so many chances I’ll get in my life to photo this street sign. I should have brought some tools and “liberated” it. Then again, while everything in Switzerland is top-notch, I didn’t want to gamble on their prisons following that trend. Maybe one will show up on eBay one day.

This awesomely named street came to an end (or maybe started, depending on which way you are going. Life is about 90% perspective, am I right?) right on the lake. What I have always thought of as Lake Geneva, is actually Lac Léman. Maybe it has two names, but since I’m in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (I also learned that Geneva was once in France), I feel like I can call it Lac Léman and not be too pretentious. Besides the very nice park along the lake, Lac Léman is famous for the Jet d’Eau.

Hey, they aren’t getting fancy with the name it just sounds fancy to Americans because it is in French; “Jet d’Eau” means “water jet”. It is as described, a giant fountain of water shooting up out of the lake. You can walk out towards it and I’m sure during the summer the mists from it are quite refreshing. Since I was here in January, I passed on the mists and admired it from afar.

It was while admiring the jet, that I noticed a great many water birds swimming around the docks. I saw quite a few birds I haven’t seen before but one stood out more than the others.

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ElvisBowie Duck

This little guy or girl with the blue/gray beak and great feathers. He was the only of his type among many more ducks, swans, and other larger swimming birds. Despite it being smaller than all the others, it didn’t seem to get pushed around like some of the others were by a few of the larger birds.

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ElvisBowie Duck next to a regular sized duck for comparison

Imagine his size next to one of the swans there. It was really small.

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Yummy slime at the bottom of the lake!

The internet failed me once again and I was not able to identify what kind it was, so I came to the conclusion that it was a new species. Since I saw it on Jan. 8th which is both Elvis and David Bowie’s birthday, I named it the ElvisBowie duck. It is now my favorite bird, besides fried chicken. If you make it to Lac Léman, keep an eye out for it or any others like it. As far as I know, it is the only one.

I grabbed a water taxi to cross the lake to do some souvenir shopping, and hit a great food store where I grabbed some amazing cheese, cured meats, and Swiss wine for dinner. I must have eaten about five pounds of cheese in the days I spent in Switzerland and will not feel bad at all when I have my first heart attack. It was worth it.

 

Central Europe New Year’s 2017-18

I am spending 10 days in Europe over New Year’s, I know…. I just got back from Europe, but I got a super deal and it’s over the New Year holiday, which also happens to include my birthday.

Here’s some info on this trip:

  • CHA to ATL to CLT to JFK to ZRH on Delta. Flew from home to CLT instead of driving. I’m happy with that decision even though it added a night at a hotel.
  • Books: None. I’m reading a bunch of magazines that came in the mail during my last trip.
  • Music: To The Outside of Everything-A Story of UK Post-Punk 1977-81 (Just got that one in before Xmas), Slade B-Sides, and James Brown In The Jungle Groove.
  • TV: None, I’m going to read.
  • Guide Book: Lonely Switzerland, Lonely Planet Fast Talk German, Lonely Planet Pocket Vienna.
  • My Mother’s Biggest Fear: nothing this time.
  • My Biggest Fear: That my new larger suitcase will encourage me to buy too much stuff. Excess baggage fees.
  • Plans: Zürich for a few days over New Year’s, Lichtenstein for a day and a half, Vienna, maybe a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, back to Geneva. Probably too much rail travel, but it should be very scenic.

My one day in Geneva last month got my interest up in exploring more of Switzerland. I had a flight to Zürich booked in July and decided to use that to see a little of Central Europe by rail. I’m looking forward to eating Swiss food, sampling wines from the Prince of Lichtenstein’s vineyards, seeing Vienna, adding to my Euro coin collection, and just doing my usual nerdy museum visits. I found out they have an Esperanto museum in Vienna. I wish I spoke Esperanto, but that’s probably just me hoping it would be a cure for my lack of a second language. I do speak English, and that is probably as close to a world language as we have right now. I really lucked into being born in the time and place that I was.

Geneva

Why did we go to Geneva? Well, I have never been to Switzerland so I was up for it, but the main reason we went is that it is near a town called Tolochenaz which so happens to be the burial place of Audrey Hepburn. One of our traveling party this trip is a HUGE fan. She pointed out it was only a few hours by train from Paris, so her husband and I figured this was a worthy side trip seeing as how we got to do lots of stuff we wanted to do on this trip.

We arrived late on a Saturday night with plans to get up the next day and head to the site of the pilgrimage. Our hotel was close to the train station and had everything we needed for a short stay. After checking in we went in search of food since we had skipped dinner while on the train. Not much open late in that part of Geneva so we ended up in an Irish bar not too far from the hotel.

I’d been snacking so I wasn’t hungry but decided to get a beer. The bar was filled with Americans and Irish but we found a spot and I headed to the bar, I ordered an Irish beer and the bartender, who was a Canadian, told me it was 9.70 Swiss francs. Now the Swiss franc is worth a little more than a US dollar. I’m not sure what beer costs where you live, but almost $10 is stadium pricing in the US. We will pay it, but grumble about it the whole time. I paid it and then tipped the bartender after having a small discussion on if that was the culture there or not. This was my first lesson on the cost of things in Switzerland.

Switzerland has a reputation for being a very nice place. When you say something is Swiss, quality comes to mind. Nobody uses the term “Swiss”, to talk about the shoddiness of the construction of their watch. Over the next 24 hours, we saw that all of this quality has a price. We went to a souvenir shop at the train station and the cheapest of the cheap Chinese made souvenirs all seemed to be about 10 francs. I’m a sucker of souvenirs, I buy them for myself and for friends and family, but Switzerland made that tough. I’m sure there are cheaper places to be in the country but I didn’t find them. I will do more research for a trip I am making back there over New Years.

We woke up Sunday and headed to the train station to head to Tolochenaz and see Ms. Hepburn’s final resting place. Buying a train ticket to Morges, the nearest town with a train station, was easy at the self serve kiosk at the station. After a scenic ride of about an hour through Geneva suburbs and vineyards, we arrived at Morges and grabbed a bus to Tolochenaz.

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Pressed for time we just walked to the cemetery and paid our respects before we had to get a bus back to Morges and then a train back to Geneva. It being a Sunday, there were not as many buses and trains so we did not have time to see any other parts of Tolochenaz or Ms. Hepburn’s house.

Tolochenaz, Switzerland
Tolochenaz, Switzerland

Back in town we had some time to kill before the train and grabbed some lunch at a kebab place. It was  pretty good and they had Swiss beer in a can for 4 francs! We ate and then after hitting a Kwik-E-Mart for a few souvenirs and snacks, grabbed the train back to Geneva.

One of our party was coming down with a head cold so we dropped her back off at the hotel to rest and decided to stroll for a bit though Geneva. Almost everything that was not at the train station was closed on Sundays, so we walked down towards the lake and the river to see the sights. We found and park with monuments to people and events that I was unfamiliar with, which doesn’t happen to often since I have a degree in history, but one can’t know everything, right?

While walking along the lake an checking out the Jet d’Eau, which is as advertised in French.

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We were admiring an old boat moored by the lake and were approached by a friendly woman who began speaking to us in French. I stumbled through “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak French” in French and then she switched to perfect English and told us all about the old boat, She was French but lived most of her adult life in Geneva. We chatted for about an hour about the world, Switzerland, her love life and much, much more. We talked about travel and played a fun game where I told her where I was scheduled to go next and she told me why it was crap there!

I thanked her for her advice, but assured her that I would have to check those places out for myself. I’m hard headed like that. I took a great photo of her and my buddy.

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We also met some very friendly swans.

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The water of Lake Geneva was so clear you could even seen what they had thrown in it from the bridge, which was not much compared to what I would see back home.

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We walked back to the hotel, grabbed our travel companion and took the train back to Paris.

After a car ride to the hotel by the airport, we grabbed a short night’s sleep and then boarded our flight in the AM back to the US. The plane hadn’t even left the gate and I was planning my next trip back to Europe.

 

Getting Ready For Paris+

I am heading out next week to Paris and London and Geneva. This trip is an outlier for me as I will be traveling with a couple who are very dear to me, whereas I’m usually traveling alone. Here’s the outline for this trip:

  • Atlanta, GA  (ATL) to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) on Air France
  • Flight Time: 8h 15min
  • Days in Paris: 3-4 if you add them all up
  • Days in London: 1
  • Days in Geneva: 1
  • Book for Flights: (Good question. It should be a book on French. I haven’t taken it since high school and was terrible at it then).
  • Music for Flights:  Lots of Ann Peebles and Al Green
  • My Mother’s Biggest Fear: I’ll get caught up in a terrorist attack
  • My Biggest Fear: Not eating enough cheese
  • Plans for Paris: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Notre Dame, Catacombs, eating my first macaroon, Xmas shopping, enjoying Beaujolais Nouveau Day 2017 and NOT being hungover for the train ride to London the day after.
  • Plans for London: Old Spitalfields Market Record Fair, then whatever my travel companions want to do. Full English breakfast before a long day of return travel.
  • Plans for Geneva: Figure out how to get to Tolochenaz so one of my travel companions can see Audrey Hepburn’s grave. Finding a discount cuckoo clock?
  • Plans for whole trip: Figure out how to make sure my friends are still talking to me by the end of the trip and want to travel more with me.