Thursday, March 27, 2014

I Swiss I Could Have Stayed Longer

I Swiss I Could Have Stayed Longer 

Geneva: Home to Watches, Banks, and Familiar Faces

I ventured out on my own for the first time on March 6 with an afternoon flight to Geneva, Switzerland to go visit some friendly faces from home. I landed in Geneva and took a train into the city, which I was told was free, but began to worry when I saw people with tickets in their hands. I don’t know if you can notice, but there seems to be an on-going theme of my love-hate relationship with public transportation. Luckily, I was getting off at the first stop, and it did end up being free for people going straight into the city. I got off the train and after a few unsuccessful tries I found Paul. Paul Psarras is one of my brother-in-laws life long friends and fellow band members of Fotia! Him and his newly wed wife, Angela, have moved to Geneva for what was suppose to be a year long work residency for Angela, but is looking more like a year and a half now. I first met Paul when Anthony started dating Coco, my sister. I would always hang out with Anthony, Paul, and George (Paul’s twin brother) at the Greek festivals and I soon became the tambourine aficionado of the band thanks to them. I always had such a great time with them and I was so excited to see Paul and Angela.

After I found Paul, well actually Paul finding me, we headed over to a quintessential example of Geneva’s luxury and wealthy offerings, the Four Seasons Hotel. Angela was waiting for us at the Four Seasons, and after being in awe and catching a glimpse of how the other half lives we headed down the street, littered with millionaire’s cars, to a wine bar for an aperitif. After a glass of wine, and almost accidently purchasing an $80 bottle of wine, we headed back to their flat. Just a short 10-minute bus ride and we had arrived into a beautiful residential area where Paul and Angela live. Their flat, or pad as I like to call it, is an awesome apartment that is very modern, stylish, but more than anything inviting. Half way through my house tour I was so surprised to find my own guest bedroom and bathroom…I was on Cloud 9. After settling in a bit, Paul and Angela started making dinner, and after multiple failed attempts of offering my help with dinner, my hosts served me my first home cooked family style meal in forever. It was delicious! We ate, talked, and headed to bed for a goodnights sleep before a full day of sightseeing in Geneva.

Angela unfortunately had to head to work the next morning, but Paul and I slept in, made some breakfast and decided the best way to see all that Geneva has to offer is via a bike ride. We headed out and I must have seen all of Geneva within a couple of hours. I was astonished by how many luxurious hotels and shops lined the waterfront. And it’s not a joke; it’s a 100% real…there are banks and watch shops everywhere. We ventured out to a boardwalk sort of attraction that was lined with boats, shacks selling food, pools and beaches that were all connected to Lake Geneva. The view was unreal, especially because we lucked out with beautiful weather and a clear day, which is very rare for Geneva in early March. From here we could also see Jet d’Eau, which is a large fountain in the middle of Lake Geneva and one of its most famous landmarks. 

Paul next took me to their Old Town, which was a rough replica of Prague. It was a very inviting and provincial area that was decked out with outdoor restaurants, shops, and cathedrals. We stopped within Old Town at Saint Peter’s Cathedral, which was also very similar to St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, except smaller. I enjoyed the intimacy of the cathedral and the awesome organ and stained glass windows. 

We rode over to Angela’s work after our visit to Old Town to pick her up and take her out to lunch, a lunch I had been craving for; sushi! I’ve been too afraid to try sushi in Prague because it is a land locked country, and well some of the fish I’ve seen looks questionable. But Geneva had great fresh sushi and I was in sushi heaven. After lunch we headed back to the flat for Paul’s teaching sessions. Paul is an unbelievable guitar player, and an even more impressive teacher. As he taught, I enjoyed some relaxation time out on their balcony and caught up on some work and emails. After a siesta in the world’s comfiest bed, I awoke to Angela arriving home from work and it was my favorite time of day again; dinnertime. Yet again Paul and Angela won best host award with another thoroughly thought out home cooked meal that was delightful. We retired to the living room after dinner with drinks and more catching up, including a look at their wedding album they just received, and headed to bed.

On Saturday we had big plans to head to France, as a casual Genevan would do, and go to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. It was the site of the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and is home to the highest mountain in the Alps and EU.  After a short hour and a half drive through the beautiful countryside of Geneva and France we arrived at the base of Mont Blanc.

 The first lift took us up about a third of the way up and dropped us off to transfer to the second lift…yes we were already elevated 3,400 feet and we were only a third of the way up. Once we reached the top we were officially 12,600 feet up in the sky. The initial view left me speechless…no really speechless. It took us a while to acclimate to the elevation and for a while we had to focus on just breathing. After climbing some flights of stairs and stopping to catch our breaths yet again we kept exploring more of what this viewpoint had to offer! I felt as if I was in a fantastic dream and the scenery was nothing more than an illusion, but my chilly hands acted as a pinch and reminded me I wasn’t dreaming. There were a series of platforms to view from, and even an elevator that took you to the absolute top of the mountain, which of course we couldn’t pass up. They even had a glass box viewing point that juts out over the side of the mountain. Unfortunately we got up there too late, but it was just as entertaining to watch others practically poop their pants as they stepped into the glass box! 

And it was much too good of an opportunity to pass up, so we also filmed some clips…of Paul and I…lip syncing songs from Frozen. I felt so stupid, but I just had to! I was laughing so hard I had to stop and remember I needed to conserve my breath! Paul needs some encouragement to let me post his video asking the perplexing question, “Do you want to build a snowman?” but for your enjoyment, I “Let It Go!” 

After spending a good two or three hours in the snowy mountain caps we headed back down and visited the fantastical town of Chamonix. This little town looks like it was built with blue prints from a fairytale book. It was charming and constantly had me thinking I was in Fantasyland in Disneyland. We grabbed a drink and enjoyed the amazing sunset as it disappeared behind the mountains. We then moved onto a dinner in full French-Swiss style. We indulged in salad, cheese fondue, beef cooked on our tableside hot plate, and of course the international star: French fries! It was the perfect way to end my last full day in France/Geneva. After dinner we grabbed a drink at another local bar in Chamonix, enjoyed the fun nighttime atmosphere and headed back to Geneva.

And there was no better way to end the end than a Skype session with some of my favorite people: my family…and Bernard!

The next morning we leisurely woke up, made breakfast and packed a picnic to take on a walk around Lake Geneva. The fun port side of Geneva was bustling with families enjoying the continued nice weather and wonderful ships and boats that were parked about the docks. We ended our walk in a little park in the middle of Lake Geneva, enjoyed our lunches, and it was time to head to the airport.

I am so unbelievably thankful I was able to visit Paul and Angela and to be their first houseguest. They were such gracious and welcoming hosts, and I couldn’t help but feel as if I had just spent a great weekend with my parents. They took great care of me and showed all that Geneva had to offer. They even helped me with some Greek phrases to use on my trip to Mykonos for Spring Break! I can’t wait to go back and visit them again!

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness! I think Geneva sounds like it would be on the top of my list of places to visit. It looks so lovely! And what great hosts Angela & Paul were. We are so lucky to have them as part of our expanded family. Can't wait to read your next post on your trip to London. I wonder how much of it you will remember from your trip there as a little boy.