Tag Archives: geneva

Last weekend in Geneva, then off to Dublin we go.

Friday morning was spent in bed, Thursday’s events had left us all pretty tired (especially the ride to Lausanne – headwind all the way) so some extra sleep was called for. Once up though there were some home improvement tasks to accomplish and this meant a trip to Migros a shopping centre that is in fact a small town, well not quite but you get the drift. The result is that the shower curtain no longer attempts to suffocate you and there is now enough light in the bathroom too! In the evening we wandered around the city finding out where the Genevans hang out on a Friday night. Of all the spots available we finally settled on the edge of the lake with some drinks and did a bit of people watching :) Dinner was a Lebanese assortment from La Caravan Passé in Paquis, an establishment sporting authentic decor and incredible food.

Lebanese in Geneve is not out of the ordinary, not much is!

If one is looking for a decent night out in Geneva, and this person should have access to many Swiss bank accounts, Rue de Paquis is the place to be on a friday night. This road is party central and, if you are inclined, it also houses Geneva’s Red Light District.

The plans for Saturday were set in stone, CERN, Patek Philippe and Grazia!!

Dom’s understanding of what goes on at CERN:

– CERN is a magical place where they have invented massively important things such as magnets and the Internet!

Magnetic pull too much for Dom

At one stage this was the only WWW server, pretty unbelievable!

– There is a 27km long tunnel underneath Geneva and the surrounds which is used to accelerate particles and measure their reactions when they collide… Using experiments at different places around the tunnel they can discover the different nano-particles that exist in the universe. Complicated but that’s the just of it.

– Everyone who works there is SUPER brainy! :)

Cosmic Rays

If you are in any way interested in Particle Physics (there are other people like me, there must be) then CERN is the centre of your universe. It is too much to fully explain but in brief, the facility houses the world’s leading minds in nuclear and particle physics studying the very building blocks of what makes up the world around us. Our guide for the morning was Aidan, one of the thousands of researchers employed by CERN. He gave us an enthusiastic tour of the exhibitions as well as a sneak peek the of control room for
one of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) experiments known as ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS). Click the links for explanations!

The Patek Philippe museum is the largest collection of time you can imagine. They have an extremely large collection of watches from the most early methods of telling time, right up to the present day and everything in between and I mean EVERYTHING! Cameras and cellphones were banned so no pictures unfortunately… There were sundial watches, royal watches, wooden watches, enamel painted pieces, every precious metal known to man and these were encrusted with stones and diamonds of every colour. Possibly the most interesting was a watch known as the Calibre 89 (made in 1989 for PF’s 150th birthday) that weighed in at just over a kilo. It also is currently the worlds most complicated watch with over 1700 components and the following functions (all run by clockwork… no batteries involved):

  • Day of the month
  • 12-hour recorder
  • Day of the week
  • Hour of second time-zone
  • Moon phase display
  • Winding crown position indicator
  • Century decade and year displays
  • Leap Year Indicator
  • Power reserve
  • Month
  • Thermometer
  • Date of Easter
  • Time of sunrise
  • Equation of time
  • Star chart
  • Sun hand
  • Time of sunset
  • Split second hand

Check it out is pretty impressive! They say that Bill GAtes bought one of the four watches made for the measly sum of $6 000 000! Small change…

The evening was spent in Rolle with a friend of Trevor’s, Grazia, at her home on the hill. An incredible meal of veg soup, beef fillet and roasted spuds combined with red wine, great music and thoughtful conversation was had. Had we not gone for the two hour walk through the area before hand we would have all croaked, not a bad way to go though as Grazia is a maestro in the kitchen! The walk was quite a thing in itself, taking us straight up the most incredible hill only to surprise us with a view for miles over the lake and on to Les Alpes in the distance all covered in snow.

An idea of the landscape not 30 mins from Geneva!

Most of the area is covered in grain fields, wheat and barley, but there are some small pockets of natural forest dotted over the countryside… similar in size but not in colour to the villages that all the meadows belong to. At one point we came across a field of cows all clanging their bells while they grazed on dandelions and grass. The perfect picturesque view to be put on a chocolate wrapper :)

Simonsberg??? Not quite!

So after picking cherries, talking, walking, eating (and drinking) far too much and talking some more. We jumped back on the train to Geneva and straight to bed!

Our journey takes us West to Dublin before really getting traveling on the way to India and beyond! Guinness here we come!


Filed under Europe, Switzerland

Geneva…this elegant city

Its so rad being in a place for more than a couple of days, so much so that we have been spending as much time out as possible… resulting in a definite relaxation of the need to blog… but for you guys, anything!!

Geneva has been super relaxed, after our incroyable (in a French accent please) adventure to the wine country on Saturday we spent a couple of hours exploring the North side of the lake. Walking down the promenade to the gardens bordering the United Nations HQ, we watched the Geneve locals make the most of the beautiful weather. There were barbeques (it’s not a braai when its not in SA) on the go in the park, people tanning on the pier, and even a roller skate party with music and beer, oh yes, the pink panther and superman had even made an appearance! We finished Saturday off with drinks and snacks on the Bain de Paquis pier at sunset.  Sunday was much the same, we took a walk down to visit the Jet d’eau, a jet of water in the middle of the lake reaching up to 115m into the sky, and on the way back we joined a great party on the pier where everyone was having a grand old time.

Party on the Pier

The Jet d'eau in Lake Geneva

Since then we have been sleeping in, spending the afternoons sightseeing and the evenings hopping from restaurant to bar and getting to bed after midnight. Geneva is an interesting city, there is definitely a work culture, but only during the week…on the weekends, Genevians spend their time on the promenade, tanning in the park, and eating out in cafes all over the city. At least when it’s sunny, when it’s raining and cold like now, they disappear into cafes and restaurants and close the doors :)

Geneva’s history stretches back many centuries when Geneva was a centre of early Protestant reformation (a self-expulsion from the doctrines of Catholicism), Jean Calvin who lived in Geneva was a major motivator of this movement. In order to protect themselves from attack by the Catholic church who wanted to re-reform Geneva to Catholicism, they built monstrous walls and trenches around the city and barricaded themselves in (an unbelievably detailed model was built showing what the city looked like in the 1880’s and it stands on the 3rd floor of the Maison Tavel in the Old Town). The city was originally built around one end of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and served as the most strategic and defensible location from Medieval times (Thanks to T for explaining all of this to me!). Obviously, when times changed and the city began to grow, a brave town planner suggested that it was time to demolish the walls and build out into the countryside. Eventually, this is what they did, and there lies the distinction between what Genevians call the Old Town and…what they don’t! :) You can still see some places where the wall once stood. In fact, some years back when developers tried to dig underground to build an underground parking garage, they came across the ruins of a small part of the wall. So they stopped building and excavated as much as they could, and there it still stands today, modern parking garage on one side and centuries old wall on the other.

A piece of the original city wall in Geneva

Whilst exploring in the old town we found, thanks to T’s dad Trevor, that there are so many hidden parts to Geneva that you would never find on your own. There are secret pathways, gated up for your own safety, that were used by the monks and also some used by soldiers to escape the enemy. Once a year, on the closest Sunday to the 11th of December (the original day of “L’escalade”) I am told, they open up the gates and let the people explore the city and see Geneva from a different side. Also in the old town is the Cathedral St. Pierre which is beautifully old and full of character, going up to the top towers we found the most spectacular views not only of Geneva but also of the mountains in France! However, beneath the church lies an even more spectacular find, an archeological site displaying 10 centuries worth of ruins that have been built upon over and over again. The museum, worth the entrance of about CHF8, gives a description of the site showing the ruins from each century in a different colour making it incredibly interesting to see the history that lies in front of you.

More treasures we found in the old town include the botanical gardens with activities like giant chess and a sand pit for the kids; the Reformation Wall describing the history of the constitution and religion in Geneva; the longest park bench-stretching almost 100m; an antique shop full of

The World's Longest Bench

scientific and meteorological apparatus such as barometers, telescopes and microscopes; Clementine, the statue of a women who has become the listener to the protesting people of Geneva; beautiful cobbled streets; water fountains (with drinkable water) sprouting flowers of all different colours; and quaint squares like “Bourg-de-Four” where locals enjoy long drinks in the sun after work and on the weekends.

Although these may seem like a lot of sites, you can actually see most of them in one day. Once you’ve seen them all, you start to make up your own interesting stories such as “…and this is the fountain under which the General buried his favourite horse”…(you never know?). So as you can see, eight days in the Geneva city itself can become a bit much, unless you’re content to hop from café to café drinking and eating all day (not a bad plan-if you’re a millionaire). For the more adventurous types, such as us, cycling trips around the lake and day trips to the surrounding towns are a good way to see Switzerland!

The weather was so lovely on Monday that we hired a couple of city bikes and we went for a ride (yes you read it right, I rode a bicycle) along the Quai du Mont-Blanc all the way to the Geneva plage (beach), past the UN headquarters and the chair with a broken leg which symbolises opposition to land mines and cluster bombs, and acts as a reminder to politicians and others visiting Geneva.

Our bike ride in the park

The Broken Chair

Unfortunately, the weather did not stay as perfect as it was and Tuesday morning was overcast, and it rained, a lot. However, off we went to Gland and to Nyon for the afternoon. In Gland, which is basically just where the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has its head offices, we visited T’s dad’s offices and then went off to find some lunch-a sandwich on the only dry bench we could find.

Roman Ruins in Nyon

In Nyon, our next stop, we enjoyed walking around the originally Roman town and finding the last pieces of history. There is an Amphitheatre there that was found, also by accident, and is currently being excavated. It is said to be from the original Roman ruins. I am sure Europe is full of those historical reminders of the past, I find it very fascinating to think that those ‘storybook’ people lived here so long before all of these modern cities were built. Eventually the rain got too much for us and we headed back to Geneva to get dry. It rained so much that day that T’s shoes were soaked right through, and we ended up heading to H&M for a quick replacement pair.

The following morning we woke up to a large layer of snow on the nearby mountains! Beautiful as it was, it caused the average temperature to drop

The snow on the mountains

by about 15 degrees Celsius, although at least not as much rain as the previous day. We headed off to meet my parents and show them around the Old Town, as they are in Geneva on holiday too! After the grand tour we ended up at the Museum of Art and History, a great collection of artifacts and paintings showing centuries of European history and culture-and the best part about it is it’s free! We also found the Russion Orthodox Church was having an Ascension day service as we were walking past, complete with incense and a beautiful choir filling the air. With its gold turrets on the outside and black and deep red décor on the inside, it was a magically moving experience. Its rare to find such a specific denomination celebrated in such a majestic way.

We caught a glimpse of the sun for the first time in three days so T and Trevor took advantage by cycling from Nyon to Lausanne. They wound their way down the Lake, passing small villages and breathtaking scenery. I took the train to Lausanne and meet my folks for lunch. It was a fantastic afternoon, being a public holiday, and all the Lausanne locals out in the parks and along the promenade. Of course, there was as usual lots of beer, chocolate and local food involved and everyone got home happy and exhausted from all those hills!!

Amazing Swiss Chocolate

I hope that this (very long) post has updated you on our week so far, as you can tell, it has been busy and full but also really relaxed. Check out our Photo Gallery page, where you can view a selection of our photos from the last couple of weeks! Also, if you read our posts regularly, why not subscribe to our emails, if you’re not already! :)


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Filed under Europe, Switzerland

Caves Ouvertes in Geneve

We started our trip to Geneva off with a bang, wine tasting in Russin and surrounding towns for FREE! Okay so there was a CHF5 charge to buy the glass, but aside from that we wined and dined on complimentary cheese and bread until our heads were spinning and our stomachs full! The Caves Ouvertes (or Open Cellars) happens only once a year around the last Saturday in May… so we could not have arrived at a better time. The views from the area were spectacular…if you don’t believe me, check this out! (not photoshopped I promise)

Apparently, we were only a few kilometres from the French border, which is so incredible coming from Cape Town where we are so far away from everything! It blows my mind that you can just hop on a train and 10 minutes later you’re in France :) Besides the really great wine, and cheese and views, the people we met were so interesting and it was great to share a day with people from all over the world and with so many different professions. I could go on and on about the sunshine and the music and the bustle of people around us…but I am sure you are all jealous enough already ;)

All in all, it really was an amazing day!

Have you ever heard of/been to the Caves Ouvertes? What did you think?


Filed under Europe, Switzerland