If I could create my perfect place in my imagination and project it into reality, it would probably look something like Geneva, Switzerland. What a spellbinding part of the world. With its green parks, snowy mountain tops and picturesque historical buildings surrounding the majestic Lake Geneva, it is a city that has truly won my heart.
This Easter’s trip was a last minute holiday to Switzerland with one of my closest university friends after finding bargain return flights for £60. Despite the city itself not being very compatible with my non-existent pay cheque, it proved to be the perfect fit for my personality.
For someone who isn’t the biggest fan of flying, even I couldn’t resist looking out of the aeroplane window on our ascent into Geneva. The views of the white skyline and the emerald River Rhone were truly breath-taking.
Once we’d landed, without having to read any signs or pass through border control it was undisputable that we were in Switzerland. It was almost a given considering the amount of watch and chocolate adverts we’d passed between the plane and baggage reclaim.
During our trip we managed to use every mode of travel available to us including the train, bus, tram, boat and foot. Living up to expectation, public transport was efficient and punctual, but surprisingly affordable for a city where even the oxygen comes at a premium.
But it was a different story when it came to buying food, drink or any other commodity which didn’t sport an engine of some kind. In context, a small cappuccino cost double the price of a train, tram and bus ride which took us from one end of the city to the other. Like I said, not a city for paupers. Hence, the 72 hour trip.
We then arrived at the apartment we’d booked on Airbnb. This was the first time I’d chosen to stay in a room within a house instead of renting an entire flat, so we were really entering into the unknown. But I’d definitely choose to do it again. The room was reasonably priced and we had the added bonus of getting to view Geneva from a local’s eye view.
Our hosts were a young married couple who work in banking (naturally) and couldn’t have been more accommodating, friendly or helpful. They gave us travel tips and even left us coffee, oranges and cornflakes for breakfast, which was a sweet touch.
After freshening up following a full day of travelling, we headed for the Jet d’Eau, which was conveniently only a five minute walk from where we were staying. The views from the promenade of the water being propelled 140 meters into the air were mesmerising.
We sat on the rocks by the lake, with the sunshine beaming down on our faces and it felt like the official beginning of spring. Watching couples strolling by hand in hand, friends taking selfies and businessmen spending quality time with their daughters made me feel completely content. It was almost impossible to believe that only a few weeks before, the famous fountain was turned off for fear of it attacking tourists with shards of ice!
The only things in the city which cracked this contentment were the Swiss Army Knives sold on every street corner and having to cross the busy roads. Each time I stepped off the pavement I had this fear that my holiday would end One Day style – be it by bus, tram, car, scooter, bike or by a man skateboarding across the road on a giant surfboard – I kid you not.
The next morning we set off and followed the River Rhone which meanders its way through the city. We passed numerous quaint bakeries, boutiques, vast parks, banks, chocolatiers and rows of expensive shops dotted along the Quai de Mont Blanc. Just by looking through the windows I could feel my bank balance depleting. As my grandfather rightly said, “You’ve got to be rich to stand in Geneva.”
The weather was glorious throughout the entirety of our trip, so we made the most of the sunshine and saw Geneva as it should be seen – from the great outdoors. We followed the curves of Lake Geneva and found another picturesque promenade near a small marina, where ducks paddled by, locals sunbathed on their lunch breaks and a street artist performed a Bolero-esque dance routine on rollerblades.
Walking close to 20,000 steps each day, we decided to give our feet and my Kurt Geigers a rest and chose to explore our surroundings by boat. Sitting on the sun-kissed deck we glided around the water whilst taking in the most stunning views of the cityscape which boasted the snow-sprinkled Swiss Alps as its backdrop.
We passed kayakers, fishing boats, mansions toeing the water’s edge and mermaid statues as we approached the French border. Despite leaving the vessel with a scalp as red hot as the Swiss’ ability to make clockwork, it was a fantastic and unique way to view Geneva.
Next came a stroll through the Botanical Gardens and the consumption of all of the Swiss pastry and macaroons at luxury bakery, Laduree. It was here that I found out I’d been offered my dream job in London! Spending £10 on two macaroons never seemed like such a solid investment.
One of my favourite parts of the trip was visiting the UN – where its key humanitarian decisions are made. Despite the minor mishap where we tried entering the building via the diplomat’s entrance which did not impress the building’s armed guards, the tour of the offices was an incredible experience which I could not recommend enough.
Our tour guide was so passionate, knowledgeable and enthusiastic and joked that Geneva was chosen as a base for the UN due to Switzerland’s neutrality, its location in the centre of Europe, but primarily for its chocolate and fondue.
That night we walked around the historic old town which was worth the climb up a mountainside. What we saw at the top was a quintessentially French scene. Windows were adorned with Parisian shutters, conversations were conducted over bicycles and masses of people enjoyed Al Fresco dining on the square.
The next morning it was sadly time to leave the most incredible city. Forgetting the pretty major miscalculation which left us on a bus aiming for the Alps instead of the airport, the trip was outstanding and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. How can you tire of a fairy-tale landscape, efficient transport, mesmerising accents and an endless supply of chocolate and macaroons? It was such a welcomed break after a difficult few months, a wonderful way to spend a few days with one of my best friends and a great city in which to wave goodbye to unemployment. Next stop, London!