Sunday, February 10, 2008

Goodbye Zermatt, Hello Geneva~!

U2 sings a song called "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and although we had to get up early on our last Sunday overseas, it was a great day. Bidding a fond farewell to our funky smelling room after our same old breakfast (milk, orange juice, 4 kinds of cereal, 4 kinds of yogurt, rock hard butter, 2 kinds of bread, 4 kinds of jam, stale cheese, 3 kinds of mystery meat: repeat for 10 days), we loaded ourselves like mules and staggered down the steps and slopes into town. Did I really bring this much stuff??!! Unfortunately we just missed the train to Geneva so we settled down amongst our heavy belongings in the cold morning light to wait nearly an hour for the next one. A near miss of our connecting train in Visp caused some brief adrenaline highs but soon we arrived back in Geneva where we'd landed nearly two weeks previously. A bright sunny day greeted us with blue skies everywhere. Heads down in concentration (and pain?), we gritted our teeth and dragged everything to the hostel. Since we couldn't have our room for another few hours (they closed during the day for cleaning), we chucked our luggage in lockers and headed out on foot to take in the sights and sounds of a great city.

There's so much to see and do in Geneva that our 3-ish days weren't nearly enough but knowing how much I really wanted to see the two headed turtle, Sean steered our group to the Museum of Natural History. We stopped at the Museum of Art and History on the way to get directions then were pleasantly surprised at the Natural History one to discover that admission was free because it was the first Sunday of the month. Sweet! These people are smart. Sure enough, I got to see my turtle and after a few hours (plus a visit to the gift shop of course), we were ready to move on.

From floral clocks to the Jet d'Eau, museums everywhere to Old Geneva, Botanical Gardens, high end shopping, watches, chocolates, government, whew! This place needs a repeat visit, hopefully in the near future. As it were, we found ourselves in the old town with neat cobblestone narrow streets, aged buildings, an immense church and a most excellent spaghetti house. It was here that we imbibed in only our second non-hostel dinner since arriving in my favourite country and the food was great! Having discovered that, of the 4 of us, I possessed the lengthiest exposure to the French language, I would be oft enlisted to help translate both written and spoken French over the next few days. People in Geneva speak primarily French (not surprising given their extreme proximity to France) while those in Zermatt spoke mostly German although they were virtually at the Italian border. Needless to say to those who are worried, English is widely understood and spoken too. Failing that, charades usually work. Satiated and sleepy, we wandered back to our hostel and tried to get the heat working in our room. The people in there now are probably still trying....

Our first full day in Geneva was a bit of a mixed bag. First thing in the morning we faced pouring rain and nearly the same breakfast as Zermatt but we were determined to enjoy ourselves anyway. Donning our best game faces, we set out in the Vancouver weather to get our tour of the United Nations. This was something we were all excited about and it was awesome! Our window of opportunity was small as many museums and public places are closed on Mondays. We lucked out with the U.N. and lined up to get through security while dripping puddles of water on the nice floors. First things first, we killed time in the gift shop (I'm turning into my mother) then set out with our tour guide for a behind the scenes look at one of the most guarded places I've ever been. Such history, such responsibility, such importance, such a nice shade of blue, such expansive use of marble...... amazing! I learned a lot and really enjoyed myself. Even the bathrooms were great.

We'd planned to tackle the Red Cross museum across the street next but after photo ops around the U.N. and at the entrance to the Red Cross museum, we opted to explore the gift shop then go our separate ways. Maybe next time... I set off for the Botanical Gardens while the other 3 headed toward downtown for some exploring of their own. Having been to a great Botanical Gardens in Montreal last July, I had to tell myself that the expansive areas of grey and brown in front of me would be gorgeous in the summer but that as it was only February, I would have to be content exploring the greenhouses. I did see some really pretty set ups and some great flowers indoors. I'd love to go back sometime in the warmer months to see more outdoor plantings. Detouring behind the World Trade Organization building, I set off along the lake under overcast skies to meet the others at the comic book store. Here was a place that sold (among other things) Tintin memorabilia and books, something that has a special meaning in my life. I was happy to peruse the French titles and be flooded with memories by the pictures inside. Heading over to the Manor store (department store with groceries and a restaurant), we got ourselves some yummy pizza for dinner and made good use of the chocolate department. The solution tonight for our heater not working was extra blankets from the front desk.....

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