I got back from Geneva a few days ago having spent 4 days there with a friend. I had a great time despite the fear I had that the city would be too expensive! Now just to get the expense issue out of the way, I can say my friend and I both agreed that we didn’t find Geneva as expensive as we thought. This was not due to our frugality but the fact that we had been given hints and tips of places to eat by a friend. Food, aside accommodation, would have been our most expensive spend but we cooked most evenings and went to what my friend calls the Swiss Nandos twice – yeah it was that good.
As accommodation within Geneva is outrageously expensive we booked a hotel in France right across the Swiss border but only 15 mins away from the heart of Geneva! We stayed at Residence La Reserve hotel in Ferney-Voltaire which is to the east of France. It was still expensive compared to what a hotel room would cost for 4 nights in say, Athens, but it was the best we could find and it was a great place to stay. The hotel had a pool, steam room and gym which my friend and I used extensively. The staff were nice and those stationed at the reception all spoke English which was really handy as I do not speak French. Any French I do recollect from high school would sound nothing like French due to my woeful pronunciation any ways. A big bonus was the proximity of Carrefour, a huge supermarket chain, to the hotel. It was about a 5 mins walk away. We went there for food and just plain old sight seeing as it had everything you can ever need in life.
Everyday we took a bus from a stop 2 mins away from the hotel into Geneva. Our itinerary played out like this;
- UN Tour – On our first day we went to the UN and had a tour of the international organisation’s offices. It is a really well organised tour and for just about 12 Swiss Francs we were given a 1 hour tour of major rooms there like the Genral Assembly room and the Council Chambers, which was my favourite due to the breathtaking symbolic murals on the four walls and ceiling. The more modern Room XX, which had multi-coloured stalactites jutting from the ceiling, was also remarkable (we weren’t allowed to take pictures here as a meeting was going on). More impressive, is the world-changing meetings that have gone on in these rooms and the feeling of unity you do perceive as you walk the halls of the UN spotting people of all colours and creeds.
- Broken Chair – Right across the UN is a 39 feet high 3-legged chair with its fourth leg broken off. It was built in opposition to land mines and cluster bombs. It’s consciously placed across the UN to remind world leaders of the dangers of these weapons.
- After our time at the UN we walked into the heart of old town Geneva which really is a stark contrast to the area the UN is located. The Old Town of Geneva has more beautiful and older architecture whilst the newer areas of Geneva contain modern buildings which look like they’ve been built in the 60’s. This newer part of Geneva is underwhelming but the old town is gorgeous. En route to the old town, we walked by Geneva’s famous lake, Lake Geneva, which also flows into French territory. Lake Geneva is one of the largest lakes in Europe. Spurting from a corner of the lake, in the heart of Geneva, you cannot miss Jet d’Eau (water jet in English). This is one of Geneva’s notable landmarks and it can be seen through out the city as the water reaches an altititude of 460ft!
- A friend recommended we ate at Chez Ma Cousine, which she labelled Swiss Nando’s. Now, for those who sadly don’t know, Nando’s is a restaurant chain that serves epic Mozambican-Portuguese peri-peri chicken. It is really popular in the UK. Chez Ma Cousine did feel like a Swiss version of Nando’s as the chicken was probably the best chicken I have had in a while!! I am Nigerian, I eat all kinds of spiced-up, creatively flavoured chicken, so it’s a big deal when I say the chicken was amazing! The restaurant is also really cute and located up a hill, so once you do get to it even if you weren’t hungry before you can be sure you’d be starving.
- Mount Saleve – It’s almost sacrilegious to go to Switzerland and not go up a mountain. The closest range to Geneva is Mount Saleve which is about 25mins from Geneva’s old town on the bus. Mount Saleve is actually located in France, as said earlier, our hotel was also in France. Borders between the two countries are really flexible and allow very free movement, at a point I started getting confused as to what country I actually was in at any given moment. At the base of the mountain is a telepherique or cable car, which steeply ascends unto Saleve. The view from the top really is breathtaking, you see all of Geneva, and understand why Saleve is nicknamed Geneva’s balcony. Saleve is great for paragliding, hiking and biking and in the colder months, winter sports can be enjoyed as well. There are two restaurants at the top to satisfy hungry bellies. One can take a more adventurous route up Saleve such as hiking or walking, but we took the more comfortable route on this particular trip.
It’s the best of worlds; natural and man-made, old and new.