Friday, November 30, 2012

Geneva, Switzerland

from Meghann:

It took a little while to blog about our Veterans Day weekend trip to Geneva - maybe because we are procrastinators, maybe because it wasn't our favorite city ever. There I said it. And it's okay. We're not sad that we went, neither of us had ever been to Switzerland and now we have (and we have heard that other places in the country are fantastic.) We would never know which places are our favorites unless we traveled and experienced as many as possible. Just because it wasn't a Paris or a DC or a Marrakech, doesn't mean that we didn't have a good time.

Geneva is a city known for international business, luxury brands, and wealth. Yes, it is expensive. But it did have some Swiss charm - sidewalk cafes, buildings covered in shutters and flower boxes, fountains, old stone architecture.

We visited St. Pierre Cathedral. The interior had been stripped of much of it's ornate decoration during the Reformation, although one gorgeous, jewel box chapel remains.

More interesting than the cathedral itself, was the museum underneath it (if you're into history/archeology/anthropology). It is common for European churches to be built on ancient sites that were once used for other types of worship. What is uncommon is to have them so well-maintained or accessible to the public (a stunning exception in Spain is the Mezquita in Cordoba, a Moorish mosque that is preserved within a Catholic church). 

We took a city tram (Travel Tip: the only thing that isn't expensive in Geneva is public transportation, which is free! Your hotel can give you a card for the dates of your visit that let's you use trams, buses, etc.) out to CERN one day because we're nerds who doesn't want to see the site of the world's largest particle collider?!

Thumbs up for nerds! (p.s. I have the most awkward thumb.)

Deep questions and a trippy interactive exhibit. But seriously, there is something incredible about contemplating the start of the universe 13.7 billion years ago. Not to mention the sheer numbers involved in the work that is done at CERN to actually research the start of the universe. Consider our minds officially blown.

Geneva is a bustling little city, with many people traveling to it from all over the world for business, shopping, etc. But just a short bus ride away is Carouge, which is a neighborhood full of character . We went on Sunday so unfortunately most of the little stores and restaurants were closed, but it was still a nice place to walk around.

A little stand selling chestnuts.

Geneva is nestled into France, with Italy not far away. There is a blend of culture and language - French, Italian, and English are used interchangeably. We were able to switch back and forth between French and English (throwing in a little Italian, too). 

I always find that interesting, especially being American, where English is overwhelmingly dominant and now living in this corner of EspaƱa, where Castilian is the primary language. I can only hope and strive for a good understanding of another language, but can't imagine not distinguishing between reading a novel in my native language or reading it in French (or Italian). We saw many people in Geneva doing this.

This mix is also (deliciously) reflected in the food. Our first night we opted for traditional Swiss, which meant a meal full of cheese. No complaints here.

Our first taste of raclette - warm melted cheese served on a plate, along with tiny potatoes and a dish of pickles and pickled onions - for smothering with the cheese! I can't believe I have just discovered this. It is like someone designed a dish just for me. 

Then we moved on to our main course of traditional fondue with hunks of fresh bread. And for dessert, meringues covered in Gruyere cream. The whole meal was a cheese-filled dream.

The next night we seriously considered going back and eating more raclette and fondue but chose an Italian place with good reviews. Many places are closed on Sundays, so it was packed. We drank some delicious Sangiovese at the bar while we waited for a table.

The food was worth the wait - fresh ricotta as a starter, wood-oven pizza for Graham, mushroom risotto for me.

We had crepes one afternoon - banana and Nutella, the absolute best kind. 

Globus is attached to a shopping center and is like a fancy version of an American mall food court. It was a good place to grab a quick meal (though not cheap) before we went to the airport. It has many different counters, offering everything from panini to sushi, which you order from before taking your plate to a communal table. 

And we couldn't forget Swiss chocolate, of course.

Since Geneva is relatively small, it made for a good 3 day weekend (although Sunday was a little hindered by so many places being closed). We saw what we wanted to, didn't feel rushed, and had plenty of time to indulge in rich foods in cozy, crowded restaurants. Even though we feel like we've effectively crossed the city off our list and won't be rushing back, we would love to see more of Switzerland. And eat more cheese, obviously.

Oh, and you might be wondering about those famous Swiss Alps. It was pretty dreary and overcast most of the weekend, so we only got a couple glimpses of the mountains in between the heavy cloud cover. But flying out we did see this:

Ever been somewhere that just didn't make the cut on your favorites list? 

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