A bitter-sweet ‘symptom’ of being a South African of my generation is that many of us have family scattered all over the world. So, lucky me, I have a sister living and working in Geneva – a GREAT excuse to create a Micky Bahr European Tour, a wonderful opportunity to do what we travel agents are so blessed to do: mix work and play. Unlike my sister, I’m an explorer, a hard-core visitor, who relishes discovery of history, culture, new scenery and experiences.
New on the cards for me, was travelling with a child. My 11-year-old daughter was joining me: a first for the both of us on a long-haul flight. This came with new ‘panic stations’ for me. Will she be comfortable? What do I take to entertain her? What if she doesn’t like the food? The list goes on. Step in Emirates! OK, hang on; let me give myself a little credit. Number 1, I made sure our pre-seating was booked so that we had our favourite seats and were confirmed sitting together, and, secondly, I (hesitantly) booked her a kid’s meal. What a bonus that was; not only do the special meals arrive first (have you ever experienced an over-excited, hungry 11-year-old?) but wow, the meal was substantial! So we were all set, tummies full, armed with Emirates toys. Happy little travellers.
After a 4-hour layover in Dubai, we landed in Geneva at about 1pm.
- BIG TIP: Make sure that your return flight is through the night and that you layover in Dubai after a good sleep on the plane. On our return we made the mistake of arriving in Dubai at midnight; our weary bodies did not appreciate the cheery ‘good mornings’ that greeted us on the next leg.
- BIG TIP number 2 – Take your phone charger on the flight with you; you can charge your phone from your seat.
- BIG TIP number 3 – definitely buy extra Wi-Fi on the plane. For $1, a quick process on your TV screen with your credit card details and voila! 1 gig of instant data – there we were Whatsapping, Instgramming and sharing our journey with all and sundry.
Day one of our Geneva exploration was spent dragging Sis and Daughter around to have a look at some of the hotels. I have clients who frequent Geneva so I was extremely curious to check out the hotels that I regularly book.
The Tiffany Hotel particularly stood out for me from a friendly service aspect. Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva and Hotel D’Angleterre are THE hotels in Geneva, both 5-star and certainly stunning. We had high tea at the bountiful (dame) D’Angleterre, a very opulent experience, overlooking Lake Geneva – butler service, champagne, just stunning! We also popped in at La Cour Des Augustins, which is off the main road, an extremely modern-designed hotel. Personally, I prefer the view of the lake.
Not being a major tourist attraction, Geneva is not a city you can easily tour.
There are no “hop on hop off buses” or sightseeing tours handy. The city is more a commercial business hub, housing many global head offices. However, as I had done my homework, there were definitely some sights to see. We visited the United Nations Office, which is famous for the symbolic Broken Chair, a monumental sculpture in wood by the Swiss artist Daniel Berset, constructed by the carpenter Louis Genève. It is constructed of 5.5 tons of wood and is 12 metres (39 feet) high. This giant chair with a broken leg stands across the street from the Palace of Nations, in Geneva.
It symbolises opposition to land mines and cluster bombs, and acts as a reminder to politicians and others visiting Geneva.
We also popped in to the Jet d’Eau, one of the city’s most famous landmarks. The fountain is situated at the point where Lake Geneva empties into the Rhone. Surprisingly, the fountain is not always on! If there are high winds or if the water is low, they switch it off. One would think that the famous fountain runs 24/7 but this is not the case. So, BIG TIP number 4 – before you go, please check that the fountain is on.
Another surprise for me was that Geneva is not very Swiss at all, so if you are expecting Heidis and Peters to be serving you or skipping down the road, you are going to be disappointed. The city is a slick, cosmopolitan centre. The people are chic and extremely business-like; one could easily be guilty of thinking one is in Paris. Most of the inhabitants speak French, so rattling off in German or Swiss isn’t going to get you very far. Things like ordering food or asking for directions can be a challenge; a ‘parlez vous anglais?’ is a good ice-breaker.
Top things to do in Geneva:
- Take a drive around Lake Geneva
- Stroll along the Lake for an ice cream
- Visit the Old Town – cobbled streets, shutters a vintage dream!
- Visit Hotel Edelweiss – a little commercial but a true oompah Swiss experience – book in advance.
- Fondue – a little heavy but compulsory!
- Raclette – just trust me on this one.