Sunday, 18 September 2016

36 Hours in #Geneva #WeekendCityBreaks Rock!



Last year we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with an Elvis renewal ceremony in Las Vegas among our family and friends; so, how could we top such an outlandish and garishly glamorous event?  By doing just the opposite with a weekend break in the city of peace.     Geneva was just the ticket.  One criteria was finding late evening flights; so, we flew direct with Easy Jet, opting to splurge a bit extra for seat allocation with extra leg room.  What the heck, we went all out and for a fee of £4.00 per person bought access to the Fast Track at Manchester Airport-this saved some time because Friday nights can get pretty crowded.  Once air side, we had more than enough time to visit the lounge using our Priority Passes which we get as part of American Express Platinum Card.  We travel a great deal, and this card is fabulous for travel insurance, car rental insurance and other travelers perks.  Well worth the annual fee (I know it is extortionate, but we have definitely found it invaluable on many occasions!). I intermittently fasted on Friday to keep the weekend damage to a minimum, so a few after a few delightful glasses of wine and cheese with crackers, we were off.   With carry on luggage only, our exit after arrival was seamless.  The weather was set to be glorious at 28 degrees so I just packed jeans, a short and a long sleeved shirt, two dresses (one long and one short), comfortable Gizah Birkenstocks and a pair of flat gold sandals.  My plane outfit of trousers, light knit top, short boots and a blazer kept me warm during the flights there and back. 



Geneva is geared up to make things easy for visitors.  We grabbed free bus tickets just before we left the baggage area-be sure to get them prior to exiting through customs.  Bus number 5 was easy to find with signs leading you to all bus stops.   It was 9.30 pm when we arrived and were at the front desk of our hotel before 10.00 pm.  The bus stopped right outside of the Intercontinental Hotel. Upon check in, all hotels in Geneva issue their guests with a 'Geneva Transport Card' for the duration of your stay and it is brilliant.    Another top tip if you travel a great deal is to join your favourite hotel brand's reward scheme. We had booked the two nights using points because hotels in Geneva are expensive-no two ways around that.  We also are Ambassadors and another definite purchase if you are loyal to IHG hotels.  With a purchase of rooms you are guaranteed an upgrade, with points it is at the hotels discretion.  Remarkably, we were upgraded to a fantastic room with a view of the lake.   OK fantastic is a bit overkill, it was small-especially the bathroom, but the bed was big and comfortable.    We stayed in the hotel after we settled in wanting an early night to be ready for a full day of adventure. To be honest, because we had such a wonderful view of the Jet d'eau, we sat with home made cocktails (purchased at the airport after security) gazing happily at the twinkling lights of the city. 
After a great nights sleep on that bed, we rose early, enjoyed a cup of hotel coffee-committed to that intermittent fasting until fondue and beer in the afternoon!  Despite having free transport,  Geneva is pretty compact as a city and so we opted to walk from our hotel on the hill.  There are a plethora websites about what to do in Geneva, and some offer a selection of City Guide Aps.  We just headed towards the lake via several landmarks and breweries!   Our first stop not far from the hotel was the United Nations  and the 'Broken Chair'.   It was quite emotional and it felt right to begin here as the sense of peace stayed with us as we walked throughout the day.  We headed down towards the lake with the Jet d'eau as our point of reference. We ended up near the main station which was surrounded by pedestrian only streets lined with cafes full of people enjoying the warm weather.   I enjoyed the many sculptures pretty much everywhere we walked-the female sphinx made me happy-she had a partner with a broken nose.   Well, we found Les Brasseurs a bit earlier than the afternoon and I caved.  Ah well, what is a city break without enjoying the cultural eats on offer?!  
We ordered beer brewed on site.  I had a wheat beer with lime, my husband a darker ale.  And, yes, they were expensive; but, once we calculated the exchange rate-not that far off of London prices.  The fondue was presented warm and soon bubbled with the heat of the flame.  It was sinfully delicious.  We tried to follow the etiquette of scrapping the bread with cheese off onto a plate and not eating it from the dipping fork-that lasted a few seconds.  It was interesting to be served and then promptly forgotten.  Tips are not required because they automatically include about 8% as a gratuity.    But, in most of the places we went to, we found it the same.  I waited tables in the states for ten years, and I did wonder why there wasn't an 'up sale' to increase the amount of service-but, it just wasn't important.  But, when we were ready to go, getting the bill was promptly handled by any server. Once full of fuel, we headed down to the lake and took a water taxi with our free transport card across to the Vieille Ville-Old Town.  What an experience-firstly it was free and secondly, the views were awesome.  The captain of the taxi was handsomely suited with a kind smile and eyes.  Once across the lake we walked along the promenade towards the Flower Clock and wandered through the gardens and park area before making our way to the concrete jetty that leads to the Jet d'eau fountain pump.  I can't really express how peaceful and nice it was.  I just felt like I was miles away from any cares or concerns.  It was so relaxing just walking and taking in the beauty of the landscape and the people.  When we walked down the jetty to the fountain I felt like a kid and I tried to capture a picture of the water shooting upwards, but I failed terribly-the picture above does not really express the feeling, but maybe you can get the feel of it?  Part of me was hoping the wind would dramatically change and we would get drenched-and, I was secretly bummed when it didn't!  After this we headed up the hill to the old town.  We made our way through a maze of cobbled streets and were surprised to figure out we went right through it!  It is a small area with beautiful buildings and a few cafes; sadly we couldn't stop to have a drink because we didn't have any cash.   We did try to find a bank, and funnily enough-in Switzerland, couldn't find one!  We continued to walk through the main shopping area, the vibrant and fashionable parallel streets of Rue du Rhone and Rue du Marche.  Off of Rue to Rhone we stopped at Place du Molard and went into Brasserie du Molard.   The sound of languages from all over the world struck me as did the peaceful and yet lively atmosphere of people enjoying time off with friends and family. Unfortunately we were really ignored in the Brasserie which was a shame as the beer was good and we wanted to try several of their in house brew.  Ah well, nothing would break the over all feeling of calm.  We found a bus station not far from the shopping area, grabbed number 5 and headed back up the hill to our hotel for a short nap before dinner.  As you know if you read my blog posts I have lupus and fibromyalgia, so resting a little in between activities is a must!  For dinner we walked five minutes to Cafe du Soleil and what a spectacular meal it was-you can read my Trip Advisor Review.  It was perfect, the walk, the setting, the garden, the food and drinks, the staff...completely recommend if you are in Geneva.  We were lucky to find a table, reservations are a better bet.   Like another reviewer states, 'Must have fondue and steak with fries.'  We did and they were totally accurate!We had a late checkout for 4 pm- another benefit of Ambassador status!  I tell you it is worth it!  We spent the morning and early afternoon by the pool reading and drinking cappuccinos.  It was warm, sunny and felt totally decadent. The staff were warm, polite and did everything to ensure we were comfortable.  Feeling totally recharged we made our way to our room and prepared to make our journey home to rainy Manchester.  Within minutes of getting to the bus stop we were on our way to the airport.  We were only away for 36 hours and yet it felt like a lot longer.  I love being able to fly from Manchester to European destinations within hours.  Geneva was welcoming, peaceful, beautiful and a perfect place to celebrate 21 years of marriage.  I highly recommend this compact city of culture.  I know we didn't see all that Geneva has to offer-but we had to save some things for the next time!
Volup Vavoom,
Leila

PS.  I used my French while in Geneva.  Many will speak in English, but it is best to try and speak in French first-even just a few words will make a difference!










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