Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Monday 12th November - Geneva

Same routine today and up for breakfast in the hotel for around 9am. And off we headed on the days travels.

First stop was the post office to post our postcards. Again, not too far to walk from our hotel. And typical of most post offices there were at least 10 booths able to serve customers but only 2 were open! As we headed out of the post office we were aware of a beggar sitting on the steps outside and had not got some 10 yards past the post office when we heard this almighty cursing session. Turned round and there was a chap who we'd spotted inside the post office giving this beggar a mouthful and persuading her to MOVE ON!!! Not sure if he was successful or not. For obvious reasons we chose not to take a picture of the pair of them bickering.

It was also a chance for us to head further up the street and do a reccy on a restaurant called Bobba we'd past the previous day. I'd spotted it and thought it would be nice for lunch. Looked at the menu in the window and it did look lovely but just felt there wasn't a lot for Amber to enjoy from the menu. So we crossed that one off our list of suitable eateries.

With some time to spare it was back to Park Neuve and round 2 of the chess game between Amber and Andrew. Clearly still nursing his wounds from his loss on round 1 he was showing no mercy this time and won the game, dodging his way round some of Amber's made up rules and moves.

Quick hop onto an tram and we headed south towards Palettes. There was no reason to go down here other than to see how the houses changed the further you got away from the typical apartment living in the town itself. A few brand new houses which looked very nice.

With an hour to spare it was time for Amber to complere her shopping expedition and we went into the big toy shop on Confederation Street. It was funny watching Amber's face light up at the sheer array of toys. Finally she settled on some plastic soldiers to play with her Viking chariot and soldiers. Think we were quite lucky with her choice since the toy store had some enormous stuffed rudolphs and sheep............ phew......they would never fit into our suitcases!!

We were now ready for the educational part of our trip, our tour of the United Nations building. So back on the tram and northwards we headed. The afternoon tour started at 2pm and we arrived in good time to take in the surrounding area.

In light of the important work done at the UN it came as no surprise to find the large concrete area in front of it was dedicated to landmine victims, in particular children. The giant display was in two parts. First there was this enormous.......... and I mean enormous wooden chair with part of one of it's legs broken off. The second part was a series of metal placards cut out in the shape of a young child with a stark reminder of the number of children killed by landmines. The scale and content of the display left you in no doubt about the effect landmines have and the need to continue to put pressure on governments to stop using them.

Ten minutes to 2pm so we approached the security guards at the UN entrance and we were told to go to the tour entrance some 500 metres up the road. This we duly did. Queued up and were ushered in by a female security guard, placing our bags and camera cases on the scanner to be checked. Collected them at the other side only to have the next male security guard turn and tell us there is another 5 minutes before 2pm so we need to wait outside!! Communication is key at the UN so let's hope that despite the lack of communication between security guards the delegates inside have higher standards! But not wishing to cause a stir I opted to keep my mouth shut and wait for the elusive 5 minutes outside before repeating the whole process again and going through security checks and inside to buy our tour tickets. We also got an official security badge for our tour.

Tour began and we were under strict orders to stay as a group and not wander off or we'd be thrown out at the nearest exit by security. That was us told!! By this stage I was beginning to feel like a criminal. Still the first room we saw was a large conference area. Seating for all the international delegates is in strict alphabetical order so they don't argue. We were then given a history lesson on how the UN in Geneva came into action. The building was gifted to the UN by a wealthy family for the purpose of being used as a centre for the UN. The building has old and new wings to it with the older wings being reminiscent of the 1920's. The corridors and interior were stunning, very ornate in places and just had a sense of grandeur.

After the tour started, 2 late comers were ushered in, two foreign gentlemen who proceeded throughout the whole tour to take photos of........not the lovely paintings or works of art or architectural features............... basically photos of the ceilings, doorways, exits and external grounds!! hmmmm....... make of that what you want!!

One hour later and the tour was over. It was extremely informative and the hour just whizzed past. Really glad we did it and we shall have great memories of the inside of the UN in Geneva.

Back outside, you can see the International Headquarters of the Red Cross opposite the Palais du Nations:

And further down on the 500m walk back to the tram stop were some more interesting buildings:

Back outside and walking through the landmines exhibition site we were startled by the arrival of 2 guys on mopeds who proceeded to kneel over the metal plaques and start cutting and scraping. Wondered what on earth they were doing especially with the arrival of a police car. Were they defacing it? No. Turns out they were engravers updating some details on the plaque. That's ok then! But did they really have to arrive on the scene in such a dramatic way?

Hungry by now we headed back to what was becoming our favourite cafe near the hotel. Seemed fairly empty so no problems getting a table we thought. Ahhh........ that's why....... they have stopped serving food..... just coffee!!! It was rather weird. This cafe seemed to change what they served and when and on what days. I am sure if we were staying longer we would have got used to their schedule but it was certainly confusing right now. But with food firmly on our mind we decided to take the short walk up to the older part of town again and find an eaterie there. We had passed quite a few good looking places on our previous jaunt. And we found just the place at Chez Ma Cousine near St Pierre. Great chicken and potato dish. Thoroughly enjoyed it and very reasonably priced for Geneva.

Outside Chez Ma Cousine, looking up, you could see St. Pierre Cathedral by night.

Our last chance to explore with it being our last evening in Geneva. So hopping back on to our trusty tram we headed out to the beach! Andrew had spotted the signs and was keen to see what Geneva had to offer in terms of a beach. It was getting dark however and we got a little concerned as we headed out of town and the street lights started to fade and the streetscape was getting sparser and darker. Hmmmm. Even Andrew was getting a bit concerned. But some welcomed bright street lights greeted us at the beach stop. In front of us we followed a couple who looked like they were heading towards the beach area. They walked down some steps and then.............. DISAPPEARED!!! Rather stunned we looked to see where the stairway led to and then discovered it was an undergound carpark! Well that's made things clearer. And there was us thinking "beam me up Scottie." But still uncomfortable with the darkness descending on the area we opted to hunt out our trusty tram and go back to the hotel.

Our last night at the hotel. The maid had already been in to turn down our beds and we laughed when we saw she had also arranged Ambers soft bunny toy into a relaxing position. Another nice small touch.

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