01 février 2006

Le Week-end a Geneve

I went to Switzerland for the first time last weekend! It was interesting, frustrating, fun, confusing, and delicious, all at once.

Thursday night, I took the train in to Geneva, where my roommate, who had already gone back to Geneva a few days earlier, and her mom picked me up to stay at their house. They live in a French border town which is desolate and downright not very pretty. Story is that many people live near Geneva during the week to make mucho dinero in Switzerland, then go back home in France on the weekends, so there is nothing in the bordertowns except houses.

Caro's mom is American and is from Chesapeake, so it was nice to have someone to talk to about SE Virginia! Her step-dad is French, although you might not believe it when I say he doesn't drink wine. Well, believe it. Caro's family also has a few extremely friendly pets that use any excuse to crawl all over you and lick your face. Urge to get a puppy....growing by the hour. It was like Cute Overload but furrier.

Saturday morning, Caro and I decide to go to Monts Jura to go skiing. Caro is snowboarder extraordinaire, whereas I am headed straight for the ski lesson cabin. I am soon matched up with Tomas, who tries his best to give me a ski lesson en anglais. Unfortunately neither his English nor my skiing skills are anywhere close to perfect (Him: "You go right, then translate! We go to deeper hill, yes?" Me: "Why is there fog hiding that giant cliff below me?!"). I think he must have spent about 15 minutes explaining how to take the ski lift for some strange reason. (Hey, it's not like I fell off of that too.) A few hours and numerous failed attempts later, I swear off skiing for life, terrified of the menacingly steep "bunny" slope, prefering to spend all money saved for future ski lessons (hint: $0) for trips to places that don't require navigating the terrain with metal planks strapped to my feet. Like this was not frustrating enough, I left my wallet at the ski resort in the cafeteria. Luckily, Caro called them and they had found it, undisturbed of its precious 20 euro and credit card. At least Geneva made me feel safe :)C'est la vie. At least the view of the Alps was pretty! I wish I had a picture of that, but this will have to do...

Monts Jura - I took this from in front of Caro's house! You can also see the ski slope from there, although it's not in the picture.

That night, I got to meet some of Caro's friends and we all went into Geneva to meet up with some other people. There was quite a mix of me, caro's french and swiss friends, and even a couple of bolivians. I always love talking to people about where they've been and how they've learned the languages that they know, so this was fun! What I like about Geneva is that it is so accepting of other cultures. You can walk down the street and hear 4 different languages. You can go into the restaurants and speak French with your foreign accent and no one will automatically start speaking English to you. This is vastly different from Lyon or even France in general in which it is pretty obvious if you are not from around there and people definitely make you feel it. It seems like every time I open my mouth, someone either asks me if I'm foreign or starts speaking English! Geneva on the other hand, is a great place to learn about other cultures and practice other languages while not feeling like a total stranger!

Not to mention that the food was great! I had the best salad EVER (ok, seriously, no exaggeration here. It was truly that delicious, with chicken and pineapple and some dressing that was all kinds of amazing!). This was at the cafe that my friends and I went to, that ended up being a fondue restaurant, after we decided we didn't want fondue. Teehee. I think I'll have to give that place a gold star. It was small, cozy, and everything a French restaurant should be! (In Switzerland! haha.)

getting to Geneva is a different story...
The plan was originally to meet up with my American friends who were staying in a hotel in Geneva. I was really looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and to hear about how their trip was going so far. No big deal right? Caro told me that they were only 5 min away and I figured it would not be too difficult to meet and do all the touristy stuff together. Wrong, oh so wrong. Saturday afternoon, the bus did not leave until 2:30, which was when I thought I would be able to meet my friends! Then on top of that, the bus made a very windy path and had to stop at the border as well for everyone's IDs to be checked, so it ended up taking me a whole hour to get somewhere that would only take 10 minutes by car! I finally arrived, and my friends were already in the 3rd museum of the day. I tried to meet them, but the cashier wouldn't take my 20 euro bill that I had to borrow from Caro, saying she didnt have enough change (go figure). I walked around a bit, and randomly saw my friends eating somewhere, so luckily it worked out. But trying to meet up with them was a lot more frustrating than planned. So note to self, Geneva bus system, minus 10 points. Text message delay, minus 20 points. Crepes with ham and cheese, super double bonus points.

In the meantime I decide to go up to the top of St-Pierre, the Prostestant church where Calvin himself preached. No kidding, the church was austere as could be on the inside. The gothic arches and the stained glass windows were about as fancy as they dared.

From the tower, there was a panoramic view of the city! That was super.

Lake Geneva during the late afternoon

Top of the tower! I love how it looks like something from a castle.

I took pictures so long the sun started to set!

Sunset in the Alps!

The city was light up at night - with all the banks and airline neon signs, one really gets the sense that they are in an international city.

The next day, after a similar struggle with Genevan public transportation, I finally made my way over to the Natural History museum. It was a taxodermist's dream. From the stuffed parrots, to the corner with every species of tiger known to man (only 8, and at least 2 are extinct), to the dodo replica, to the gems and exhibit on Switzerland's geography, this museum definitely makes you feel in the minority for having warm blood in your veins.

Chamois! This is of note because I actually saw them up on the mountain when I went "skiing"!

Cause where else I am going to see a 3-toed sloth except in Switzerland? Seriously.
La Marche de L'Empereur! These penguins were much taller than I expected! At least 3 feet I would guess.

And,finally, no blog entry about Geneva would be complete with a picture of a park. Geneva reportedly has the most parks of any city in Europe! Ahh, fresh air!

EDIT: Headed back to Lyon on the train. Wooo transportation! (and superb views of the mountains)