A leisurely start to the day as our Easyjet flight from Leeds Bradford airport wasn’t scheduled to depart until 17.45 so it was about 9.00 pm when we arrived into Geneva. We remembered to collect a voucher from the arrivals hall entitling us to a free train transfer into the city centre, part of the city’s ‘green initiative’ to reduce car use. Trains depart from the airport so it was a quick journey into the city centre and our hotel, the Best Western Hotel Strasbourg was just a ten minute walk from the station.
It was now late and we felt hungry, but as it was a Sunday evening there didn’t seem to be anywhere open on a cold January evening for us to eat, so after a walk along the side of Lake Geneva with its floodlit bridges, we had to make do with supper in McDonalds.
Breakfast at the Hotel Strasborg set us up for the day, then wrapping up against the chill we set off to explore Geneva’s city centre. Starting with a long walk along the banks of Lake Geneva we viewed the Jet d’Eau, Geneva’s lakeshore attraction which spurts water 140 metres into the air. Along from here is Bains des Paquis, Geneva’s city centre beach, not much happening in early January but we did find a small waterfront cafe for warming mugs of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. Moving inland to the old town which was practically deserted on this bitterly cold January morning as we explored the small squares and cobbled streets.Geneva is the largest historic old town in Switzerland and is overlooked by St Paul’s Cathedral where we ventured indoors to take a look around. Soon it was time for lunch so we warmed up with steaming bowls of vegetable soup in a small cafe that had a welcoming log fire to sit round. Whilst we had been having lunch it had started snowing and the old town cobbles were now slippery to walk on. We figured it was time to head to the newer part of town and pass some time window shopping in the designer stores. In one square we found the remnants of the Christmas Market, a few little wooden huts open, their vendors trying to sell their wares in the icy cold weather.
We returned to the warmth of our hotel room to rest and freshen up then enjoyed a meal in one of the restaurants near to the hotel.
The plan this morning was to head out of the city and take a look at the snow clad Alps. We took a train to Nyon from where we transferred to the rack and pinion mountain railway up the steep ascent to La Cure on the Swiss/French border. As we climbed higher, the snow levels deepened and at La Cure we found it coming over the tops of our boots. It was beautiful here, clear blue skies and fresh mountain air, a tiny mountain border village.
Back on the train we continued to St Cerque, a mountain ski village at the end of the line. It’s a picture perfect alpine village with charming old buildings. We warmed up with steaming hot bowls of soup and chunky slices of rye bread in a small cafe then continued on our way to the ski slopes where local families were having fun on skis and sledges. At a nearby tourist office we obtained a local walking map so decided to follow a 90 minute trail to La Givrine which would take us to the next station down the line.
It was an exhilarating trek along snow clad mountain paths and two thirds of the way along we spotted a mountain restaurant in the distance so we made a short detour for mugs of tea and local pastries. It was blissful sitting out on the terrace in the winter sunshine, it would have been nice to linger longer but we needed to get going as the mountain railway only passed by once each hour and we didn’t want to miss it.
We made the connection, then on arrival in Nyon where we had to change to a regular train, we chose to break our journey and take a look around. It’s an attractive coastal town north east of Geneva with historic squares and houses with artistic painted walls. There was time for a cup of tea before returning to base in Geneva.
It had snowed overnight but nothing to compare with the huge snowdrifts we encountered yesterday in the Alps. Walking along the banks of Lake Geneva to its end then crossing the bridge to the opposite bank, we found more hidden corners in the old town to explore and after our warming mugs of hot chocolate we boarded a tram to one of Geneva’s outer suburbs.
We had come to visit the Palais de Nacions, the European headquarters of the United Nations and the centre of world diplomacy. Standing in front of the UN building is the giant ‘Broken Chair’ a sculpture in wood, standing 12 metres high and weighing 5.5 tons. It was constructed in 1997 to symbolise the campaign against lead mines, the chair standing on only three legs. On the far side of the square the headquarters of both UNICEF and the Red Cross are to be found.
As there was still plenty of time until we needed to return to the airport we took a tram to the Botanical Gardens. There wasn’t much to see outdoors in mid winter but the large glasshouses contained a good selection of palms and cacti.
We returned to the hotel to collect our luggage and then walked the short distance to the railway station to transfer back to the airport. Our Easyjet flight back to the UK was on time so we were soon on our way home.
We enjoyed our city break in Geneva, the highlight being our day in the Alps. Geneva was a pleasant, small city to stay in but, of course, would look much more attractive in the summertime with boat trips and summer terrace cafes available.