One of my favorite things about living in Lyon is how central of a location it is. Nothing is very far away. This makes traveling on weekends super easy! Two weeks ago, a couple of my friends and I took advantage of this and went to Geneva (Genève), Switzerland (Suisse) for the weekend. It was great! I really, really loved Switzerland. We took the train from Lyon to Geneva on Friday night. What a nice way to travel, the train. You don’t have to go through security. You don’t need to constantly yawn or chew gum to equalize the pressure in your ears, and you don’t need to worry about getting the middle seat because there are only two seats to a row. It’s just great all around. When we got to Geneva, we checked into our room, then went straight to bed, so that we would be ready to go first thing Saturday morning.
We began the day at a wonderful pâtisserie/coffee shop called the Coffee Lab. It was so good. All joking aside, they served the best coffee that I have ever had. To even think of adding creamer or sugar would have been sinful. Anyone going to Geneva in the near future, you need to go to the Coffee Lab and order a cup of coffee and a garlic bagel with herb cream cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. It was life changing. If you are worried about espresso and garlic breath (which you shouldn’t be because you should be thinking about the incredible breakfast that you just had), pick up some gum at the market before you go about your day. Because smoking is so popular here, the gum tastes a lot like you are eating Vick’s Vapor Rub, but hey! You’ll have fresh breath, so you don’t need to worry.
After we fueled our bodies, we took the tram and then the bus to Mont Salève, which is actually in France, but is popular with Genevan tourists because of the beautiful views of the city. To get to the top of Mont Salève, you need to take the télépherique, which is a cable car that runs from the bottom of the mountain (2,628 ft) to the top (4,524 ft). Once you get off of the télépherique, you have an amazing view of Geneva and Lac Lèman. There is also a small restaurant and gift shop as well.
The cool thing about Mont Salève is that it is not like the average mountain in that you get to the peak and that is it. It is more like a flat ridge, so you can walk along the top for quite a while. The cable car doesn’t deposit you at the highest point, so you have to do a bit of hiking, but that was fine by me. It was a beautiful day, and we had nothing but time. That is an important note – I would be sure to give yourself plenty of time at Mont Salève. The initial view is nice, but it’s better if you can give yourself time to walk around and do some exploring. There are lots of different trails and signs with approximate time frames to guide you.
About 15 minutes from the télépherique is a great spot to view Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in the Alps (15,778 ft). Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy, so we weren’t able to see it. Upwards a little further is a Tibetan Buddhist Center called Shedurb Choekhorling with prayer flags hanging all around. Apparently the Dalai Lama had visited the center four years ago when it opened. It wasn’t something that I was expecting to see, but it was interesting.
We kept on walking, and at the highest point there is an “observatory,” which turned out to be a restaurant called L’Observatoire, but the view was great too. At this point, we were all starving, so we went to the restaurant for lunch. In Europe, it seems that hamburgers are not eaten with your hands, which is hard to get used to, but if you want to fit in, you have to use a fork and knife. Apart from the good food and incredible view, the coolest part of the restaurant was this ketchup packet, which has “tomato ketchup” printed on it in eleven languages.
After lunch, we kept walking along the ridge. There are big pastures for cattle grazing, so you have to watch where you step, but it’s still a great walk. At one point, we saw some people paragliding, which would have been unbelievable. Had we planned ahead, all three of us would have been up there, but all of the spots were full for the day. The view of the city was still great from this point, but then I turned around.
On the other side of Mont Salève are the French Prealps, and man, were they gorgeous! I am not at all religious or spiritual, but the closest that I come is when I am in the mountains. They make me feel very small, and I like that because it often feels like all of the things that we worry about are life-changing. For example, if we can’t find the right type of yogurt at the store, that feels like such an inconvenience, or if we get upset because plans don’t work out, we get so flustered, but all of that really doesn’t matter in the mountains. It is nice to be reminded that we are just one minuscule piece in a big, big world. It’s very humbling. These pictures don’t even do it justice, but the view was incredible!
Luckily the rain had held off all day until we were about halfway back to the télépherique, but the rain was totally worth it because right by the tram stop, we saw a very pretty rainbow, which is exciting no matter how old you are.
When we got back to Geneva, we walked around by the lake and found a place that served fondue for dinner, which was super delicious. I wish I knew what kind of cheese we were eating, but I probably wouldn’t have remembered anyways because the flavor was absorbing the majority of my attention.
Sunday morning, I got up early so that I could go to the Coffee Lab and read my book before we went to breakfast, but I forgot the number one rule of traveling in Europe – check to see if places are open on Sundays. Like most other businesses here, the Coffee Lab was closed on Sundays. HUGE disappointment, but luckily there another restaurant that had some coffee and a table where I could read.
First, we went to the Palace of Nations, which is the home to the United Nations Offices at Geneva. It. Was. Awesome. It was so cool to see all of the flags lined up and think about all that goes on there. Unfortunately they do not host tours on the weekends, so we didn’t get to go inside. I might have to go back on a weekday…
After the Palace of Nations, we went to Vielle Ville, or Old Town, and walked around. We saw St. Pierre Cathedral, which was unfortunately being renovated, but it was still really pretty and definitely worth a visit.
The best part about Vielle Ville was running into the Geneva Street Food Fest. Although it was pretty crowded, there were so many different types of food trucks parked in this big square. One place was a red, double-decker bus with the kitchen below and a seating area above. Everything looked and smelled so good. I chose a place called Hummus & Friends, and got a pita that was super delicious.
The last thing on our agenda was a short boat tour of Lac Léman. It was incredible, but I would recommend taking a longer tour. The lake is pretty big, and this tour didn’t stray very far from Geneva, which is just at one end of the lake. Regardless, it was a nice way to see more of Geneva and the surrounding area.