Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Saturday 10th November - Geneva

An early rise for us in the comfort of our hotel room. I should mention the Hotel Tiffany may not sit alongside the large grand hotels overlooking the lake but it was fantastic value for money. The streets around it were typical centre of town streets with some shop fronts looking better than others.

The hotel as the name suggests was overtly "tiffany" at every opportunity. The lamps, light fittings, furniture, decorative cornicing etc all had a tiffany flavour to them. They called it i think a boutique hotel. It's not in the luxurious league but the rooms were very clean and bathrooms newly kitted out. Fluffy towels and clean linen every day and fluffy bathrobes and slippers there for us too. The usual selection of toiletries as well. Some nice personal touches too with the maid appearing around 8pm at night with a small card indicating the weather forecast for the following day and some night time chocolates for us to enjoy. On the evenings we were not back at the hotel for 8pm the weather note and chocolates were left on our pillows and the beds turned down ready for our return and night's sleep. Nice touches we thought.

Breakfast around 9am in the hotel. The restaurant was sort of double fronted with the front entrance opening onto the street. Hotel guests were joined by non residents for morning coffee and croissants. Breakfast for us was a buffet consisting of croissant, selection of breads, scrambled eggs, sausages, cheese, fruit, yoghurt, and boiled eggs in sand. Yes, in sand. Well they were still in their shells obviously but tossed into a silver bucket of sand to keep warm I presume. Just looked weird. The cheese selection was stinky to say the least. A selection of cheeses were housed in a clear glass dome thing with a sliding door and as you opened the door......... the stench just floated out. I'm sure the cheese was lovely but not for the faint hearted first thing in the morning.

Now when you go on holiday it is always important to remember and get your roles and responsibilities sorted. In particular who is to be the chief navigator. Andrew adopted the position [clearly NOT voted in by myself or Amber] and without question we followed his suggested route only to end up taking a wrong turn and virtually circumnavigating half the town centre and ending up some 50 yards from the front door of the hotel!! Nice one Andy!! The incorrect route took us through the Saturday flea market which was nice to see apart from Amber taking pity on some scruffy looking stuffed rabbit and becoming all tearful at the prospect of not being able to rescue it!!! So we had 15 minutes of a grumpy face on Amber. And before you all shout at me for being the bad bad mum for not buying the rabbit........ it was MINGIN!!!!!

Managed to turn her grumpiness round with a game of giant chess in Parc Neuve. Andrew played to the regular chess rules whereas Amber made it up as she went along. To her advantage of course as she won the game!! Not bad for a beginner. I am sure Andrew just let her win rather than having to endure further grumpiness!!!

Our game of chess was interrupted by two american girls/tourists who approached me and asked me in pidgin French if I would take a picture of the two of them. Reassuringly I responded in English thinking they'd get the hint I was not French but sadly it didn't dawn on them and they continued to converse in the most appauling pidgin French imaginable. It's true what they say....... the Americans never leave their own country and still don't believe other nationalities exist outside! Ssshhhh ........ I won't tell them if you don't. I gave up on the tourists as I handed them back their cameras with a smile and a "merci, au revoir!" Andrew was in stitches. C'mon...... my French isn't that bad!!!

We headed out of the park towards the older part of town and St Pierre's Cathedral. A very up market area judging by the array of little designer shops, chocolate shops and cafes that lined the cobbled streets.

Furniture and design shops were filled with tasteful items for the home. Could have spent a fortune but chose NOT to venture beyond window shopping! Pricey....... very pricey. We did however venture into a small chocolate boutique and bought some treats to keep us going on our walk through Geneva.

We marched up [slowly......... there was a lot of them] the steps to St Pierre's Cathedral and opened the creeky door to see the inside. Not as grand as some of the cathedrals we have been in. There seemed to be nothing overly ornate, just simple pews and windows. Still it was warm and we stayed for a few minutes to thaw ourselves out.

We had hunted through the tourist literature before we left for Geneva and noted down the key places of interest to see. On all the postcards and on the internet, pictures of this giant flower clock lead us to believe that it was one of those joys not to be missed. So off we wandered down to hunt out the clock. We crossed the busy road and strolled up to it and even Amber turned and said to us......."is that it?" So funny since that was exactly what Andrew and I were thinking. It was a big metal clock with basic metal hands painted orange and surrounded by seasonal flowers grown in the shape of the numbers on the clock face. Perhaps it was the wrong season but the flora just didn't seem to quite make the mark if you get my meaning. But dutifully we stopped and took pictures and quickly ticked that one off our list!!! It definitely looks better on the postcards!!

Next was the search for the Jardin d'Anglais. Well us Brits like to check out anything that has our name to it in foreign countries. Eh.......... I wouldn't say it epitomised a typical English country garden unless of course you were wandering down an industrial site at the bottom end of some Kentish town!! We laughed as we stepped gingerly around the site just in case some floral gem lay out of sight. But no, it was a fenced off area of dumping ground ....... but with a lovely informative sign indicating it was indeed the Jardin d'Anglais. Maybe the Swiss too need to travel further and see for themselves what exactly an English Country garden looks like!!

But our enthusiasm wasn't to be dampened as we headed the short walk to see the Niton rocks. The literature told us that these were large rocky outcrops off the harbour front and were symbolic of Neptune and some other gothic bloke whose name escapes me. Oh yes Neiton........that was his name. Well they certainly were 2 rocks sticking out the water. Hmmmmm........ still, a chance to get the old camera out and snap those babies!

Breathtaking........simply.........breath taking. Well they took our breath away as we stood laughing our socks off!! But more seriously, the largest of the rocks was chosen by General Henri Dufour to represent the basis for the land survey of Switzerland and the establishment in 1864 of his famous 1:100,000 map. Could he not find anything more memorable to use as his basis??

But surely there was something amazing Geneva had to offer so once again we lifted our laughed out spirits and ventured further down the harbour front, this time in search of the Jet d'eau. And there is was, a giant jet of water rising tall out of the water like a major burst water main!

OK ok........ it was at it happens one of the better tourist attractions. We walked out the causeway that leads to it and stood for some more choice photographs. Praying of course the wind wasn't going to suddenly change and we'd end up getting soaked.

Then it was back up towards the old town for a spot of lunch. Keen to try some true Swiss food we headed into Amber's choice of restaurants............ the Spaghetti Factory. She was obviously in the wrong part of Europe!!! Still Amber and Andrew munched happily through their bowls of spaghetti and I opted for the Ceasar salad, a lighter choice I thought. And it would have been had it not been for the half pigs worth of fried bacon bits they chucked on top of it. I had to fight through it for the lettuce leaves!! Quite a challenge for me as they sat spinning their spaghetti round their forks.

Tummies full and off exploring again. You can tell we were most keen to fit in as much as possible into our few days in Switzerland. We had got tickets from the hotel to allow us free travel on all the buses, trams and trains. Not that it mattered much to Andrew anyway who was growing accustomed to not paying his fare!! We all hopped onto Tram 16 and headed towards La Gare........ listen to me eh, fast becoming quite fluent in my French. Off we got at the Station in search of our next tourist treat. First we had to find an area of town called Les Grottes........... I mean whatever possessed me into wanting to go to a place called Les Grottes!!! Andrew was beginning to think it was a joke as I told him that once we got there we were looking for some architectural treats of buildings called Les Schtrumpfs. Yes .........as in the Smurfs from Schtrumpfland. They were described as being somewhat Gaudi.....esque.......that's Gaudi as in the architect rather than gawdy as in....... well less than pleasant looking. Then again when you saw them it was really quite hard to decide which end of the spectrum they fell into.

The information about them describes them as being more reminiscent of a town from a comic strip. They were built in the early 80's in a Gaudi style by three unconventional architects. The 3 buildings appear to have no straight lines, just a series of "mouldings, polychrome elements, a profusion of mosaics, wrought iron, arabesques and schtrumpferies of all nature." Bet you cannot wait to see a picture of them now!! Different, very very different.

With the rain starting to tumble down we headed back towards the train station to get a bus back to the hotel. Stopping off of course for a spot of shopping in a fab kitchen shop. Lots and lots of nice dishes and items for the kitchen. I was tempted by a large majolica cabbage shaped salad bowl with matching serving spoons which on the face of it were really quite ugly but there was also something rather charming about them!! Unable to convince myself we walked away from them. Quite glad we did now!!! The things you consider buying when you are on your holidays!! Back on Tram 16 to do some shopping closer to the hotel on the main shopping street.

Globus is a large department store and Amber was keen to spend her holiday money on a toy. She eventually settled on a lego set of a Viking chariot and soldiers. Of course, what else. Walked further round the store looking for toilets and despite asking where they were just couldn't find them! Still, at least Andrew enjoyed having to endure walking through the lingerie department at least 3 times. If he said "hello ladies" to one more manequin I was going to hit him. Sadly he doesn't have any photos from his travels around the store. And yes we did find the toilets eventually, wrong floor and virtually invisible in a far corner of the shop! Handy eh if you are bursting!

Twas time for our tea by now so we headed back towards the cafe we had been to yesterday only to find it was 10 minutes from closing time. Still it gave us the incentive to head down the road to the Swiss Chalet restaurant and sample some true Swiss food....... a cheese fondue. We'd passed the place a few times but to be honest its facade never tempted us beyond its front door. Until tonight that is.

Inside was typical of a swiss chalet, everything wooden apart from the cutlery. The place had only a handful of people in so we were quite surprised when the waiter asked us if we had booked!!!! dohhh......... are you really that busy we thought? We were ushered to a table and ordered up our cheese fondue then waited with baited breath for its arrival. The waiter brought over the equipment first of all..... basically something that resembled a camping stove was placed in the centre of our table. Then he brought over a pot filled with melted cheese and a large basket of sliced bread. And that was it. So we tucked in as best we could. I thought the cheese was somewhat runny....... maybe they had watered it down. Andrew thought the same. By this point there was a sort of smell of burning eminating from the camping stove and as Andrew and I peered inside to try and investigate the waiter started to flap his hands about indicating for us the STIR STIR STIR!!!! oopsss....... darn cheese was sticking to bottom of pot. Well we did laugh and felt really quite dumb. Lo and behold when we did stir the pot the cheese was lovely and thick then!!! Overall thoughts on cheese fondues......... hmmm.......... tried it but might not again!! Felt really quite bloated and full what with filling our stomachs with bread and cheese!!!

About half way through our meal one of the regular customers came into the restaurant and the waiter seemed to indicate his "usual" table to him. It was beside ours. It was a gentleman in his late 60's early 70's. His food arrived and it consisted of an enormous bowl of pickled gherkins and a basket of boiled potatoes. A small plate was then brought over by the waiter filled with a couple of spoonfuls of melted cheese. The chap then tucked into his tasty meal for the evening........ gherkins, boiled potatoes and melted cheese. I bet your mouths are watering now.

Before heading back to the hotel we stopped off at a newsagent to pick up some milk for our coffee and for Amber. I also took the chance of picking up a magazine about homes and design. As we stood by the till the shop owner clocked up the price on the til and told us it was 16 francs in total. My brain quickly tried to convert the cost into sterling and apparently [although I disagree with Andrew's recollection of events!!!] I shrieked........ is the milk really £3!!! My voice he described as pure Scottish and militant in its tone! ooopss.

Back at the hotel and a good nights sleep ready for Sunday, naturally before our heads hit the pillow we had to sample some of the chocolate goods purchased earlier.

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