As a stopover and point of entry to the Alps, we often opt to fly into Geneva. As we make our way to the extremities of life in the snow and ice, Geneva offers a more “civilized” and comfortable acclimatization.
My very first experience of Lake Geneva is embedded in my memory forever:
I saw a beautiful woman on a bicycle riding along the main road. She turned towards the lake. Her hair was blowing in the light breeze. Not too much to make a mess, just enough to look romantic and carefree. She was neatly dressed and it looked like she was on her way home from work. Her apartment was probably down the road, with a cat and some plants on the balcony. She simultaneously slipped out of her dress and shoes, as she parked her bike. She was in the water with ease and with that, Peter Sarstedts’ lyrics washed around in my head:
“When you go on your summer vacation
You go to Juan-les-Pines
With your carefully designed topless swimsuit
You get an even suntan,
on your back and on your legs
When the snow falls you’re found in St. Moritz
With the others of the jet-set”
This picture is forever in my head and we too, tried working on an even suntan.
As gracious and confident,
An apartment in Europe is a long shot. One can dream. The YMCA did us just fine.
“And you sip your Napoleon Brandy
But you never get your lips wet, no you don’t
But where do you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head, yes I do
…So look into my face Marie-Claire
And remember just who you are
Then go and forget me forever”
Other than hanging out around the Lake (which is worth ALL the time), we spent time in the parks, weekend markets, street cafe’s and alleys. The old town is great to explore by foot.
A few questions answered:
Can I get around without being able to speak French?
Yes, you can. Although the city is officially French-speaking (and all advertisements, information, and signs are in French), you will be able to get around with English. As always, attempt to get the basics in the local language FIRST. It is not a given that you will be helped in English, but if you stick to the tourist areas, you should be okay. There is also Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, and Arabic speakers, and of course occasionally hear German and Italian. (with help from Wiki Travel)
Do I need to rent a car?
Like most European city’s, public transport options are enough (and reliable) to move around. We managed well on foot for most of the visits, but also used the tram and busses.
The best way to get around? By foot, bus and bike!
“The old-town can be easily visited on foot starting anywhere around the tour boat dock on Lake Geneva, or if you come from the Cornavin station, walk down to the Bel-Air island and continue straight on uphill to the old town. Crossing the bridge (Pont du Mont Blanc), you’ll get to the English Garden with the famous flower clock and a sculpted bronze water fountain. Then you can cross the street (Quai de General Guisan) and go up the hill (on Place du Port and Rue de la Fontaine) and up the long stairway passage and end up behind Saint Peter’s Cathedral. After visiting the cathedral, which is Geneva’s best-known landmark, you exit the courtyard and be right in front of the Geneva City Hall. From there you can easily walk down to the Bastions Park where you will find the famous Reformation Wall memorial. This park is very quiet and romantic, especially at the beginning of the fall season, when the leaves start falling. ” (wiki travel)
We have found the YMCA the best and cleanest option for our stop overs. They have good value for money – it is not a true cultural experience, but worked well for us. There are also www.airbnb.com alternatives that we will try out next time.
We have only visited in Spring/Summer and I believe Winter in Geneva has it’s own charm. But it will take a lot to beat lazy summer afternoons along the water.