Geneva on the Third Day of Spring

23 Mar

I’ve never stayed on my own in Geneva. In 1976 I was travelling with my friend Marion and my sister Lynde when we stopped over in Geneva. We could barely afford bread and cheese baguettes. Later we went back to visit Lynde while she was an au pair there. Over the years I’ve passed through Geneva airport many times en route to skiing, motorcycling or other adventures with Stuart and we stayed overnight a couple of years ago but this weekend I had a whole day to wander Geneva solo at will. What to do?

I don’t eat Swiss chocolate or cheese (vegan remember?) and I don’t wear watches (haven’t since I left the university job). I already own a McGyver-style Swiss army knife (thanks Henny) and I’m not in the market for any more clothes, boots or cow bells. That cuts out an awful lot of what’s on offer in Geneva.

As I am my Father’s daughter I headed straight for the water. Geneva lakeside has hundreds of boats crammed into moorings or up on stands. Old beauties like this 1904 Neptune sailing barge, cruise boats and scores of tax write offs. Even with the cold wind and occasional rain it was great to stretch my legs walking instead of skiing and to boat and people watch. The water birds were pretty cute too.

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When I ran out of boats I wandered the streets and window shopped. When you’re alone with no deadlines you have time to notice and ponder.

Who buys a 425 Swiss Franc white cotton ladies shirt? Truly I would love to meet those people. And almost 1,000 Swiss Francs for a plain shirt and a pair of jeans? I can’t even tell you the brand, I couldn’t make it out. Are they paying for obscurity?
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For the first time I saw that some Geneva pavements have crushed mirrors embedded in them. They glitter like thousands of tiny pieces of silver. The bling pavements I saw are near Notre Dame Basilica.

I’m an atheist who appreciates churches and cathedrals for their serenity and beauty so I’ll always walk through an open church door unless they’re in the middle of a service. Notre Dame is a warm, welcoming church (if you ignore the sign that says beware of pickpockets) with some of the finest stained glass windows I’ve seen, both the 1857 ones and the two recent additions.
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By now I was ravenous so I checked out the lakeside hotels and restaurants each side of Mont Blanc Avenue. Kempinski was the classiest hotel by far. I mean where else would the concierge rent you a shiny black electric bicycle?
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Two days into spring and the gardens and pots are blooming despite temps close to zero. This is the Brunswick monument opposite the Beau Rivage Hotel.
Charles II, Duke of Brunswick, (in Lower Saxony, Germany) was an unpopular man in his lifetime and died in 1873 in exile at the age of 68 while a guest of the hotel. He willed his fortune to Geneva on the proviso that they build this mausoleum for him. It’s a copy of the Gothic Scaliger Tombs in Verona.
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I finally settled on the lunch menu at the Chinese restaurant. Tofu soup, fresh sauteed vegetables and rice with jasmine tea at a table with a view of the lake. A real treat after six weeks of western food!

An afternoon at the Rialto movie house watching ‘American Hustle’ and my day in Geneva was done. Tomorrow I start the long journey to Goa, three flights in twenty four hours of travel. I’m looking forward to an unplugged week of beachside yoga, meditation, reflection, good books and no alcohol. See you on the other side!
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Industrial Design and Art Academy where the pavements outside glitter.
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