Written by fizzytom on 02 Jun, 2010
Geneva has a public transport system that matches its status as a major European city and, what’s more, it’s completely free to visitors staying in any of the city’s hotels, hostels or campsites. That’s right, when you check in at your accommodation you’ll be…Read More
Geneva has a public transport system that matches its status as a major European city and, what’s more, it’s completely free to visitors staying in any of the city’s hotels, hostels or campsites. That’s right, when you check in at your accommodation you’ll be issued with a travel pass that can be used on all public transport within the Geneva region and which is valid for the duration of your stay, including the day of departure. If you arrive at Geneva’s Cointrin airport you can take a ticket from the machine in the baggage collections hall which will get you into the city centre free of charge. Cointrin Airport is just one stop from Cornavin train station in the heart of Geneva. All trains departing the airport will stop at Cornavin, regardless of their final destination. The journey lasts just a couple of minutes, so don’t get too comfortable. Departures to and from the airport are frequent and the station is right inside the airport terminal building so you don’t have to trek far with your luggage. While visitors may find that they can navigate the city on foot, it may be the case that using public transport will help make the most of the time available, especially during weekend trips. The city is well covered by a network of efficient and regular trams and buses that are a pleasure to use. Wheelchairs users and parents with pushchairs can use some of these vehicles and, when space allows, pedal cycles can also be carried. If you don’t have a free travel permit (perhaps you are just passing through for a day), you can buy your tickets from news-shops and kiosk, from the vending machines at bus and tram stops, or, in some cases, directly from the driver (on services offered by Unireso, this is not permitted). If you are paying cash, when purchasing from the machines, you have the option of paying in Swiss Francs (CHF) or with Euros. Daily cards are available and naturally represent better value than single tickets which are valid for one hour (and with which you can make changes during that hour).There are four tramlines and numerous bus routes. Tickets are valid for buses, trams or the boats (known as ‘mouettes’) that ferry passengers between little docks at the eastern end of Lake Leman. These tickets are not valid for the larger boats that sail from Geneva to the other cities that lie further round the lake. To visit Mont Saleve, which is in France but gives terrific views over Geneva and Lake Leman, you can take a bus which terminates close to the border. A five minute walk brings you to the cable car which lifts you to the summit of Mont Saleve. If you are using cash, don’t forget to take some Euro with you. Close
Written by phileasfogg on 06 Jul, 2009
Heaven is never quite on our side when we’re going sightseeing. The cathedrals with the most imposing spires (like Bern’s Münster, or Strasbourg’s Eglise St Thomas) are shrouded in unsightly scaffolding. In Bern, we discovered that the famous bear pits no longer housed any bears.…Read More
Heaven is never quite on our side when we’re going sightseeing. The cathedrals with the most imposing spires (like Bern’s Münster, or Strasbourg’s Eglise St Thomas) are shrouded in unsightly scaffolding. In Bern, we discovered that the famous bear pits no longer housed any bears. And this in a city named after the bear.
In Geneva, therefore, we were no terribly surprised to find that its most famous attraction—the Jet d’Eau (which throws 500 litres of water every second into the air, to a height of 140 metres at the rate of 200kmph)—wasn’t working. The weather wasn’t right for it, we were told. Huh? There wasn’t a cloud in sight. We were later told, by my cousin, that it’s wind that’s the culprit: in a stiff breeze (which was blowing like a gale off Lac Leman the day we were in Geneva), the Jet d’Eau’s water will go all over the place, so they turn it off. Ho hum.
But never say die, says I, so we grinned weakly at each other, and decided to see the other sights of Geneva—which, unless you’re terribly keen on seeing buildings associated with the United Nations, CERN, the Red Cross/Red Crescent and similar organisations—are few and far between. But Lac Leman, also known as Lac de Genève (Lake Geneva) is pretty enough to merit a leisurely stroll along its shore. From the railway station, we’d walked over to the nearby tourist information centre (on Rue de Mont Blanc) and picked up a map of Geneva, from which we figured out that the best way to proceed was straight on: down Rue du Mont Blanc and over Pont du Mont Blanc, the bridge which would take us over to the Old Town. This is at the southern tip of Lac Leman—a few bridges to the south, and the body of water you’re crossing is no longer the lake, but the River Rhône.
We, however, were quite definitely crossing Lac Leman, its banks dotted with lovely old white paddle steamers that chug their way along the shores of the lake. There were lots of private boats too, nearly all covered with tarps: this was a weekday, so everybody was probably hard at work. Also hard at work—preening, poking about for worms and posing for tourists—were pristine swans and ducks. Lac Leman has a lot of these pretty birds swimming along the shores, from Geneva to Chillon and beyond, and they’re perfect models!
Past the flapping flags that line the Pont du Mont Blanc, we arrived at the Jardin Anglais (literally, the English Garden), a long and picturesque stretch of lawns, trees, flowerbeds, fountains and statues. The Jardin Anglais has its own two landmarks: the first we arrived at was the Monument Nationale. With a name like that—I associate monuments with being nothing smaller than the Taj Mahal—I’d expected something grander, but this is really just two statues of armed women, both slightly larger than life, draped in flowing robes and wearing crowns. These were erected in 1914 to mark the centenary of Geneva’s joining the Swiss Confederation (as a result of the Congress of Vienna in 1814). Interesting enough, but not as much of a draw as the garden’s other big attraction, the Horloge Fleurie (the Flower Clock)a symbol of the Swiss watchmaking industry.
We’d seen flower clocks elsewhere—one in Lausanne (Ouchy), but Geneva’s Flower Clock is in a different league. This one was set up in 1955 and consists of 6,500 flowering plants, of which the species (I assume) are changed every now and then. When we visited, the flowers were mainly cream and white, with a smattering of deep mauve; photos in our guidebook and on the Net reveal a dazzling range of colours, with vivid yellows, reds, deep purples and blues. Rather stylishly, the numbers on the clock face are scattered across the area—the 12, 1 and 5 were on the dial, but the other numbers were picked out in silvery-green foliage on circles of flowering plants a couple of feet away from the dial. Cool!
We’d wasted a little time at the Horloge Fleurie; it’s very popular, so there was almost a queue of people who wanted friends and family to photograph them against the backdrop of the clock. Having finally gotten to it and taken our photograph, we wandered on a bit more through the Jardin Anglais, admiring the view of Lac Leman, before we turned right and headed off towards the Old Town.
Geneva’s Old Town sits on a hill. The fringes, with broad roads, Starbucks, offices and boutiques, resembles other modern Western European cities; the small and compact core, with its narrow cobbled streets, old buildings and pretty cafés, is a more medieval area. The streets get gradually narrower and steeper, so that by the time we began the climb up to the Cathédrale St Pierre, we were happy to stop at the first fountain labelled `eau potable’ and have a drink to cool off.
Having seen the cathedral (admittedly impressive, though it doesn’t look like a church), we stopped off for lunch at Geneva’s oldest restaurant, Taverne de la Madeleine. Just round the corner from the cathedral—we didn’t see this till after lunch—is another restaurant, Les Armures, probably best known because Bill Clinton dined there.
In the same area, within a few metres of the cathedral, stand two other historical monuments. One is what used to originally be the granary and later became the Arsenal. This is today a sort of open hall which appeared to be in use as a parking lot for a couple of bicycles. Don’t be deterred, though: one of the walls is decorated with striking mosaics depicting warriors, dragons, women with plunging necklines and other interesting details—I wish there’d been some explanation of the art. The arsenal is also, appropriately, home to two cannons. These, luckily for us, had an explanatory plaque on the wall: these were part of the artillery requisitioned by the Austrians and carted off to Vienna in 1814. The Lieutenant of Geneva, Joseph Pinon, began a crusade to retrieve the cannons and they were returned to Geneva the following year, in 1815.
Just a few steps down the lane, in fact almost diagonally opposite the arsenal, is the Hotel de Ville. Just about every Swiss city we visited had a Hotel de Ville, but Geneva’s is especially important. Here, in the Alabama Room, was where the first Geneva Convention was signed. The Hotel de Ville now consists of government offices and you can’t wander about at will within the precincts, but you can look in through the gate. Step into the courtyard, and the wooden door in the opposite wall leads to the Alabama Room.
Also near the Hotel de Ville, the Arsenal, et al, is the Maison Tavel, Geneva’s oldest house. The earliest records pertaining to the Maison Tavel go back to 1303, but following a fire in 1334, much of the house was rebuilt. Much restoration and renovation appears to have been done ever since, and on the outside at least there’s little to reveal its antiquity. The Maison Tavel has now been converted into a museum, the Musée des Vieux Genève, which showcases life in Geneva between the 14th and 19th centuries.
But, since we had just a couple of hours more to spend in Geneva before we caught our train back to Lausanne, we decided to skip the Musée des Vieux Genève and make our way instead to Musée d’art et d’histoire. This museum, with its excellent collection of fine art, is outside of the Old Town, in a quiet stretch of leafy parks and sedate old houses. Also in close proximity is the unusual Eglise Russe, the Russian Orthodox Church with its gleaming gilded onion domes.
A quick tour of the church, a longer (but not long enough to be satisfying!) tour of the museum, and it was time to head back to the railway station. We hadn’t managed to see the Jet d’Eau, but we didn’t mind: even a few hours in Geneva had been interesting enough. This isn’t one of Switzerland’s must-see cities (unless you’re devoted to clocks or the UN), but if you have the time to spare, it can be rewarding enough.
Written by hajecj on 21 Oct, 2004
No trip to Geneva should miss the basics: the Vieille Ville is a lovely spot and when the weather is nice, there is no better stopping point than La Clemence in Place de Bourg de Four for a coffee and croissant, or something a…Read More
No trip to Geneva should miss the basics: the Vieille Ville is a lovely spot and when the weather is nice, there is no better stopping point than La Clemence in Place de Bourg de Four for a coffee and croissant, or something a little stronger. If you are feeling lazy and prefer not to walk the hill up to the old town, take the train. There is a tourist tram that embarks at the bridge at the Ile de Rousseau, just across the Rhone from the Hotel Des Bergues if you are coming from the train station. It winds its way up into the old town, conveniently stops in front of St. Peters Cathedral, and, voila, you are in the old town. For 8 francs I will walk thanks, but it’s a nice choice for the weary traveler.
The old St. Peters cathedral is a bit austere, no surprise given Geneva’s reputation as the seat of Calvinism, but take a step into the cathedrals chapel just off the Narthex and marvel at the beautiful stained glass and the ornately decorated walls. If you are an intrepid aficionado of archeology, its worth it to visit the unearthed foundations of the church dating back to early Roman times, and getting a sense of the depth (no pun intended) of the local history. The entrance is down a flight of stairs just to the right of the main entrance outside the church.
The best advice from there is to explore - simply wander in any direction and enjoy the shop windows and restaurants. The Maison Tavel is an interesting brief stop, if only for its collection of medieval and renaissance pieces. Les Armures, in front of the Maison Tavel has a reputation for its fondue, but have no fear, fondue is pretty common in Geneva, and an awful lot of restaurants do it well, so don’t feel obligated just yet. Generally speaking, the locals do not eat fondue in the summer, but don’t let the funny looks you may get deter you: a nice moitie-moitie (vacherin and gruyere) fondue with a bottle of Geneva red wine (I recommend the Gamaret served chilled) can hit the spot, even on a warm summer afternoon. But of course it’s meant to be a cold-weather, heart-warming dish.
The streets are very colorful with cantonal flags and government offices intermingled with the shops, restaurants, and cafes. Dining outdoors in the evening at Café Papon is very agreeable, situated as it is at a gateway in the old city walls and a picturesque courtyard dining area, as is Soupcon down the street from La Clemence (run by some Lausanne hotel school grads with an eye for great service and food). Chez ma Cousine On y mange du poulet (roughly meaning the house of my cousin where we eat chicken) is a great joint for a value meal in the old town – 15 francs for half a roasted chicken, a heaping pile of frites, and a salad. Right next door to Soupcon, and no reservations accepted…
Reservations are a requirement generally speaking. That is if you aren’t a risk taker, and they are particularly needed for lunch, but for dinner as well. Unless you show up at a restaurant very early for lunch, it can be difficult to get a seat. Geneva is a small town, but during the workday, its ranks swell with the bankers and business people who commute in from other cantons or from France. And lunch is an event - I haven’t met a banker yet here who is not deeply attached to a leisurely 2-hour lunch break. Even that little pizzeria you saw as you wandered up to the old town with its eclectic menu of Pizza au Thon and salads du jour will be jammed up by 1:15pm. So take note, and plan accordingly.
The prime shopping quarter of Geneva is between Rue de Rhone and Rue de Rive. The tram line runs down the center of Rue de Rive (the no. 12 and 16 lines) and cars are not allowed on it. It is Geneva’s 5th Avenue, and while the really expensive stores are on Rue de Rhone, the main department stores (Globus, Bon Genie) are on Rive as are FNAC (electronics and books) and Payot (books). You want to drop some cash on a fancy Swiss watch and are looking for the best deals? My advice is to go to New York City. I have not bought a Swiss watch here, but I am reliably informed by numerous sources that, unless you are well connected, you are going to find better prices elsewhere. But for selection, you will not find better and if you are dead set on spending $2,000 to $50,000 on a timepiece, this is the place. You will have no trouble at all finding a store to give your money too.
Globus is a worthwhile stopping point, especially if you are hungry. There are two food courts, one above the Rue de Rhone entrance and another facing on Place Molard. There is a wonderful gourmet food and wine shop in the basement of the department store as well. Check it out, as it’s a great place to stock up the hotel room with any snacks or drinks you might want to eat on Sunday (more on Sundays in Geneva later). There are a number of cafes lining Place Molard, which has recently been reconstructed and is another great outdoor hangout in center Geneva.
No place on the beaten path in Geneva is quite as physically beautiful as the lakeside parks, and they really deserve some time to stroll along. When you have finished your visit to the old town and concluded your bargaining at the watch store, take a wander in the direction of the Jet d’Eau. Can’t miss it. The 250-foot high jet of water is a throwback to an old engineering device that the Swiss used to release pressure on the locks across the Rhone. Visitors to town were so enthralled with the amazing gusher that the Swiss cleverly built a motorized version with appropriately handsome lighting and placed it along the lake as an attraction.
If by chance you have purchased a day pass for the tram, make use of it by taking a boat across the lake from the Jardin Anglais (the park near the Jet d’Eau and home of the strangely famous flower clock) to Rive Gauche - hey, why walk if you can ride. You can also buy a 30-minute ticket for 2.20 francs and go across. The promenade along this side of the lake is, in my opinion, a lovelier walk than the center city side. If you are fortunate and have a clear day, you can see the Alps in the distance and the peak of Mt. Blanc sparkling in the sunshine with the city of Geneva in the foreground (don’t worry, you won’t be the first to snap this pic).
In all seasons the Bain de Paquis is an unusual spot on the Geneva social scene. Bain de Paquis is the beach of Geneva, built on the pier jutting into the Rhone from the left bank (directly across from the right bank pier from which spouts the Jet d’Eau). In summer, the entrance fee is 1CHF, and out of season is free. In summer you will find, as they say, tout le monde hanging out here. If you are a topless sunbather at heart, here is your chance to work on that tan. The Bain has a couple of swimming holes in the lake, several diving boards and high dives, and a really acceptable café in addition to its pebbly lakeside beach. When the weather cools, the Bain stokes up the hammams and steam rooms that can be rented if you feel like a nice Turkish bath. On summer evenings, the Bain de Paquis is the meeting place for the 20-ish crowd preparing for a big night out. My first experience with the Bain de Paquis came on my first trip to Geneva when I left my hotel one Sunday morning in search of a cup of coffee. Geneva is indisputably closed on Sundays, but the café at Bain de Paquis serves coffee and croissants by 8:30am. Truly a lifesaver.
If you manage to tear yourself away from the people-watching at Bain de Paquis, there is a lovely walk up the lakeside. The wide promenade is dotted with small ice cream stands and outdoor cafes at the end of which is a lovely lakeside park. A nice walk, and also a great jogging itinerary if you are so inclined. This is in the general direction of the United Nations compound, and if you are interested in visiting that organization, take your passport (it’s a little blot of internationalism in the midst of Geneva and has its own border police) and hop the 13 tram in the direction of "Nations".
Written by jaybroek on 08 Mar, 2005
You can see the Mont Blanc from the Father of the Blonde’s front terrace. Some fifty miles or so to the east, the massif forms an awe-inspiring wall on the horizon. On my first visit a few Septembers ago, I didn’t acquit myself well in…Read More
You can see the Mont Blanc from the Father of the Blonde’s front terrace. Some fifty miles or so to the east, the massif forms an awe-inspiring wall on the horizon. On my first visit a few Septembers ago, I didn’t acquit myself well in the conversation stakes until the clouds descended and the view was lost. My future father-in-law must have wondered what his daughter saw in this unworldly mute. Now I understood why the Blonde finds the rolling pasture of the East Midlands somewhat understated.
Clearly, I needed to work through this whole Big White Mountain fixation. Ascent was fixed for the following day, and we headed for the Chamonix valley, nestled at the base of the Mont Blanc range on its French side. A major ski resort, Chamonix is still pretty busy in the summer, with alpine walkers, mountaineers, and a few high-altitude skiers cluttering up the place in their trendy fleece and gortex wear. The pure, clean air virtually crackles with healthiness and infects all with a desire for exertion. We made straight for the cable car in a desperate attempt to avoid being overcome. Trying to understand the
fare structure was quite taxing enough for us.
We boarded the next cabin, giants of the genre designed to carry upwards of 70 people. With space to move around we had ample opportunity to enjoy the increasingly astounding view. The first section of the ascent up to the Plan de l’Aiguille lifted us over a kilometer vertically in around 10 minutes. The chalets of Chamonix shrank below, and we started to peek over the first of the Aiguilles Rouges that line the north and west sides of the valley.
As we approached the changeover station, a cluster of parasols was spotted below, and this being France, and the Blonde and her father being fully ‘Frenchified’, thoughts quickly turned to lunch. The Refuge du Plan is an easy few hundred yards back down the mountain: a small terrace and hut that churns out a wide but simple array of hot and cold food. The presence of a donkey tied up round the back suggests they don’t rely on the cable car for supplies. We dawdled over vin rouge, charcuterie et frites while the Father of the Blonde grilled me about my ‘prospects’. Apprehension about the onward journey began to creep over me; I’ve seen ‘Where Eagles Dare’ too many times.
The final ascent to the Aiguille du Midi took us above the summer snowline to an altitude of 3,777 metres in one single, sweeping span. For an alarming period just below the station, we appeared to be heading straight into the side of the mountain. This is where the wobbly legs began. A mixture of vague acrophobia had been joined by the impact of altitude, and we could barely walk a few steps without desiring a good long sit down. The complex at the Aiguille du Midi seems purpose built to exaggerate any fear you may have; iron grille stairways that give you a view 2,000 metres straight down, workmen hanging over the edge of the platform and fiddling with what appear to be crucial bolts. So what do you do next? Take the elevator up another 150 metres of course. The difference in view between 3,777m and 3,842m is negligible but, well you have to don’t you?
Before descending, we stopped for a fortifying hot chocolate in the personality-free, self-service restaurant. The walls were covered with images of tweed-clad, bewhiskered gentlemen scaling the mountain. These sepia murals celebrate Chamonix’s claim to be the birthplace of mountaineering, harking back to a golden time when all you needed to climb something of this scale were a pair of stout shoes, a hip flask, a ladder (?), and a healthy dose of derring-do.
We descended into what remained of a warm, late summer afternoon. I had bonded with my future father-in-law while gazing over sun-dazzled peaks, and the Blonde’s wobbly knees were getting a little sturdier. The temperature rose 15 degrees as the ants got bigger, donned fleeces and started walking on their back legs around Chamonix. Altitude sure plays with your head.
Compagnie du Mont Blanc website
Saturday is market day in Ferney-Voltaire, a town in the next commune where the father of the Blonde enjoys his French living. Market day in Ferney is something of an event, as it is across all of France, and is an excellent opportunity to sample…Read More
Saturday is market day in Ferney-Voltaire, a town in the next commune where the father of the Blonde enjoys his French living. Market day in Ferney is something of an event, as it is across all of France, and is an excellent opportunity to sample something of the local flavour. The streets in the centre of town are closed to traffic, and with the grand mairie festooned in tricolores serving as the backdrop, I made myself useful as a vegetable carrier while Savta did the purchasing for a planned dinner party. As we strolled between stalls and sampled interesting tidbits, my father-in-law answered my questions about the town and the influence of its patriarch; the so-called squire of Ferney.
Until the middle of the 18th century, Ferney had been a largely insignificant border village of 150. Isolated from much of France, it attracted little attention until, in 1758, its seigniory was bought by Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire. In his 60s by this time, Voltaire had made a life’s work of getting up the nose of the establishment and had spent the larger part of his adult life relocating. Expressing his philosophies on matters of social injustice and equality through anonymous pamphlets and theatre had made Voltaire persona non grata in his native Paris, leading him to spend extended periods in exile in England, at the court of Frederick the Great in Berlin, and most recently in nearby Geneva. Here he had broken laws that forbade the performance of plays, and Voltaire sought a place where he could enjoy the social freedom of France while not giving up the political freedom of Geneva. A rich man by this time, he did the obvious thing and bought himself a village.
The car parks around Ferney are filled with Swiss cars on market day. Strict limitations on agriculture in Switzerland mean that goods across the border are noticeably cheaper. They dominate the multinational mix that line up to taste the Jura’s cheeses, boar saucisson, and, of course, wine. The towns and villages of the Pays de Gex act as dormitories for the many employees of the large international organizations based in Geneva, and Ferney is one of the largest.
Voltaire took to his role of country gent with aplomb. He built a church and a school and established numerous industries, including watch-making and pottery. His reputation had spread far, and many of the great and the good journeyed to his grand chateau on the edge of town to share in intellectual banter. For those 20 years, this humble village in eastern France became the centre of the Enlightenment. Due to the security of his position and with the cussedness that old age brings, Voltaire no longer played the game of anonymous publishing and denial. During his time at Ferney, he became more involved in high-profile discourses on liberty and religious freedom and championed the oppressed. Ferney grew under his patronage, and by the time of his triumphal return to Paris in 1778 and subsequent rapid demise at the age of 84, it had grown tenfold and become a renowned centre for artisans. To insure against the magic wearing off, the name of the town was tinkered with and Ferney-Voltaire was born.
Today, the squire of Ferney watches over a sweet stall, his stooped figure rising above the striped awnings. He died over 10 years before revolution tore the country he knew apart and a republic was established based on values he treasured and espoused. What would he have thought of the results of all that Enlightenment?
Voltaire’s chateau became a national monument in 1999 and is now open to the public in the summer… sometimes. Check Ferney-Voltaire’s website for refurbishment news. His former home in Geneva, Les Delices, is also a museum dedicated to his life.
Written by Invicta73 on 19 May, 2004
Undoubtedly the one thing that sets Geneva apart from other destinations is that it is home to numerous important global organisations. Therefore, I felt that my stay in the city would not be complete without visiting a couple of the unique and potentially fascinating…Read More
Undoubtedly the one thing that sets Geneva apart from other destinations is that it is home to numerous important global organisations. Therefore, I felt that my stay in the city would not be complete without visiting a couple of the unique and potentially fascinating sights that are connected to such places.
Probably the most noteworthy of the pair is the International Red Cross & Red Crescent Museum. It is located on a hill overlooking the centre, right next to the headquarters of the famous humanitarian institution that the erstwhile pre-eminent local citizen and Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Dunant established during the 19th century. As the name suggests, the award winning attraction is dedicated to detailing the past and present work undertaken by his incredible legacy, and does so in style with well-presented and thought provoking exhibits. Although the nature of the subject matter means that viewing the displays of the terrible effects of wars and natural disasters inside the modern building is certainly a disturbing although compelling experience, it is also somewhat uplifting to learn about the good acts that some people do to alleviate the suffering of others.
Nearby are the various European offices of the United Nations, many of which are simply quite nondescript workplaces for the thousands of bureaucrats that are resident in the area, and will be of little interest to tourists. However, the Palace of Nations is a more striking and intriguing affair that was originally built to house the long defunct League of Nations in the period between the two world wars. The view of the building down an avenue that is lined with the flags of all member countries is definitely eye-catching, and those who are sufficiently motivated can additionally explore the interior and learn more about what happens there on an hour long tour, which surprisingly involves going through passport control to enter what is actually international territory rather than Switzerland. The information provided by the multilingual guides may be rather dull to some visitors, but for me the chance to spend time in a place where so many important historical events have occurred was intriguing. Meanwhile, it should be easy for anybody to appreciate the lavish décor of some of the rooms, especially the Council Chamber, which features some truly epic murals.
There are also a couple of other notable things to see in the area, including a massive sculpture of a chair that is missing a leg, which is a strangely poignant memorial to the victims of landmines that was erected to mark the banning of those horribly indiscriminate weapons. In addition, the Ariana Museum contains a wide range of valuable porcelain and glass, and even those who are not particularly inspired by such items might still enjoy visiting it, because the grand building that is home to the collection is fabulous both inside and out.
Written by callmechia on 21 Feb, 2007
Of course, I'm an avid traveller, but I am an equally avid foodie, and so is my friend, with whom I stayed for 2 winter weeks in Dec-Jan. Luckily Swiss food, even in winter, didn't disappoint. Switzerland is a great country for foodies, as their…Read More
Of course, I'm an avid traveller, but I am an equally avid foodie, and so is my friend, with whom I stayed for 2 winter weeks in Dec-Jan. Luckily Swiss food, even in winter, didn't disappoint. Switzerland is a great country for foodies, as their regulations tend to encourage freshness, absence of additives, and locally grown produce. In fact, our trip turned out to be more gastronomic than globetrotter!
As is the case in many European countries, Swiss cheeses were abundant, varied, and extremely delicious. What we in the states generically refer to as "Swiss cheese" comes in as many as 10, even 15, varieties at any local cheese counter. Fortunately, most vendors are willing to give you a sample of their wares, so long as you reciprocate the favor with a purchase. The Swiss are famous for their cheese dishes, such as raclette (cheese melted under a broiler and then scraped off--you get your own personal numbered plate that they reuse!) and fondue, which comes in all different flavors. Both are served with bread, potatoes, pickles and onions. I must say I prefer the latter, and heartily recommend the "fines herbs" kind, if offered on the menu. Don't drink anything cold with your fondue, or all the cheese will congeal in your stomach and give you indigestion. Stick to alcohol, or hot tea or coffee in order to avoid this. Also: don't be afraid to order fondue more than once! Get it in several different restaurants, in several different cities--find your favorite! Everyone has his/her own unique recipe, and they're all bound to be tasty (how can you go wrong with melted cheese?)!
There are a few epicurean delights available in Switzerland that I do encourage you to try, if not for their inherent deliciousness then just to experience typical Swiss fare at its finest (and sometimes, weirdest): Ovomaltine: kind of like Ovaltine in the States, but not as sweet, and more vitamin-y. It's an acquired taste that becomes addictive! There are also many other Ovomaltine flavored products (energy bars, cookies, etc), all of which are good but taste little like the original drink.
Marrons: chestnuts, prepared in every way imaginable, are prolific in Switzerland. You can't escape from them- they're in everything from ice cream to dinner entrées to yogurt. They're also delicious (and cheap) just plain and roasted, purchased from a street vendor. Even if you think you don't like chestnuts, try a candied one (marron glace') from a pastry shop.
Patisseries/chocolatiers: they're full of delicious baked goods and chocolate yumminess. Just go in, and point to whatever strikes your fancy. Try a petit-pate en croute, or a passion fruit-filled truffle.
Rivella: an unusual Swiss soft drink that is enriched with milk serum for protein. It comes in 3 flavors: regular, diet, and (my personal favorite) green tea. It tastes like a slightly medicinal lemonade-tea-soda, and is a great thirst-quencher if you're hungover.
Cheval: horse meat. It sounds off-putting, but it tastes just like beef. It's better for you since it has less fat, and higher protein. Try one of the many by-products, like cheval sausage.
Rabbit: something we have in the States although not as visibly. I braised mine with red wine and fresh chanterelles (wild mushrooms are also quite common and affordable there). Try a slice of lapin terrine, since almost any meat counter is bound to have several different flavors, with a crusty baguette.
Luxembourgi: these little macaroon cookies are quite possibly the tastiest thing you'll have in Switzerland, consisting of a fruit or cream filling sandwiched between two chewy cookies of the same flavor (try lemon, anise or the ubiquitous marron). They differ from region to region -try Sprungli in Zurich- but my favorite were from Laduree, in the French speaking part of the country. www.laduree.fr
Rosti is another typically Swiss dish, though overrated. It's basically glorified hash browns, and I didn't try any that were superior to hash browns or home fries you'd get stateside. If you're hell-bent on eating rosti, go ahead, but my suggestion is to skip it altogether and opt for the fondue!
Since Italy and Switzerland share a border, Italian fare is common and usually pretty good, if overpriced. If you're like me, however, you're a stickler for authenticity (read: Swiss food in Switzerland, and Italian food in Italy). If you're feeling like Italian, try specialties that are not as well-known to Americans, like tagliatelle with mascarpone and walnuts instead of linguine with red clam sauce. There are several grocery store chains, the major ones being Coop, Globus (high-end and rather too big for its britches), and Migros, a Swiss conglomerate. You should shop around, of course, but overall my pick is Coop, as it has a good selection and good prices. Swiss wine is somewhat more expensive than that in neighboring countries, but the local Fendant (a crisp white) is delicious and indispensable when paired with your fondue. In general, try to avoid foods that are not indigenous to the region, or international foods that are specialties in Europe; suffice it to say that the sushi in Geneva was pretty much the worst I've ever had (and among the most expensive). Stick with what the Swiss are good at--bread, cheese, produce, chocolate, and wine for example--and you should have a pleasant and rewarding epicurean experience in Switzerland.
Written by hajecj on 22 Oct, 2004
It’s not easy to recommend going up the Saleve since it’s a harrowing drive, or alternatively, an out-of-the-way Telepherique ride, but the views from the top are astounding and are worth it to see if you don’t mind a bit of hassle getting there.…Read More
It’s not easy to recommend going up the Saleve since it’s a harrowing drive, or alternatively, an out-of-the-way Telepherique ride, but the views from the top are astounding and are worth it to see if you don’t mind a bit of hassle getting there. The Saleve are the range of mountains directly southeast of Geneva: the striated cliff face and the distinct TV antenna tower make it a landmark you can use from anywhere in the area to regain your bearings. The Saleve are in France, and you will have to cross the border to get there. The telepherique can be found by following signs in Geneva towards Annemasse and then taking the N206 towards St. Julien. It’s about €10 roundtrip for a short ride, from 350m to around 1300m (4300 feet). If you have a good map, you can drive around the side of the range at Annemasse and drive up the tight switchback road that runs through Esserts. From the telepherique, there are wonderful views of the surrounding area, but to get your money’s worth, you need to head up to the television tower. It’s a moderate hike of about half a mile, with a rustic restaurant with amazing views out over the cliff on the way. From the foot of the TV tower (there is another small restaurant/bar here), you not only have incredible views across the Rhone Valley and Geneva out to the Jura range, but if you turn around, you can witness the full spread of the French Alps looming up in the distance, with the Mt. Blanc peak standing a shoulder above the rest.
If you happen to go to Annecy (covered separately), there is an easier way up the Saleve from the rear in that direction, which I would highly recommend both for its ease of use and its natural beauty. Spend 2 hours on your trip back to Geneva from Annecy and get some beautiful sunset pics from the Saleve. Take the N201 north from Annecy to Cruseilles, and then follow the D15 bearing right towards Vovray. You will almost immediately make a left onto the D41a; follow that along the crest of the Saleve. I recommend a stop at the Restaurant Grottes de Diable, a wonderful little stop close by the parking lot of the highest point in the range called the Grand Piton. This is a bit of adventure, and I have gone up several times several different ways, including hiking and climbing on foot, and I haven’t been disappointed yet in making the effort to explore the Saleve.
One note: these roads are very likely closed or incredibly treacherous in winter.
If you haven’t made it to Carouge, which is really indistinguishable from Geneva to the tourist, hop the no. 12 or 13 tram to Bachet and get off at Place de Marche. Its worth a trip on a market day or during a fete,…Read More
If you haven’t made it to Carouge, which is really indistinguishable from Geneva to the tourist, hop the no. 12 or 13 tram to Bachet and get off at Place de Marche. Its worth a trip on a market day or during a fete, and it’s a quaint little town with a lot of sidewalk cafes, more of which will be open on Sunday than in downtown Geneva. Markets are Wednesday and Saturday and are kind of fun just to wander through. Innumerable small galleries and artsy stores line the streets, and wandering around, you will find things of interest to just about everyone. Café des Negociants in Carouge has a nice menu and Le Bourse right at the tram stop is generally good. For something special, try Les Delices du Comptoir, but with seating for roughly 20, reserve in advance. Even if you don't get a chance to eat here, stop in at the small shop to see the incredible selection of culinary items.
If you get a chance to go to a local festival or fete, by all means do so. This year there was a Fete de la Tomate in early July (not sure if that’s an annual event), which was a hoot. Tomatoes were the order of the day and the local winemakers and farmers were out in force to celebrate the mother of ketchup. There was plenty of local color as well as local flavors, not to mention an alpine horn band.
The Fete de la Musique in June and the Fetes de Geneve in early August also involve any number of interesting events in some of the outlying suburbs like Carouge, so be sure to check the tourist office during those times.
Written by Ralph A on 31 Mar, 2004
A few tips about going to bars and ordering drinks in Switzerland:
--Tipping the bartender is quite uncommon and if one does tip, it's only 1 CHF (Swiss franc) or less. The tip is probably built into the very expensive drinks.
--The most common beers you'll…Read More
A few tips about going to bars and ordering drinks in Switzerland:
--Tipping the bartender is quite uncommon and if one does tip, it's only 1 CHF (Swiss franc) or less. The tip is probably built into the very expensive drinks.
--The most common beers you'll find are: Heineken, Corona, Fosters', Amstel Light, Desperados (mix of beer, tequila, and lime), and 1664.
--At a few places, you might even find Budweiser or Coors Original
--They don't use fluid ounces as measurement, so here's a quick guide:
.25 liter: a slim Heineken bottles
.33 liter: a regular bottle of beer
.5 liter: half a pint
1 liter: a pint