Saturday, November 15, 2008

Finally... Switzerland

This morning I got up and took the TGV to Geneva. Someone asked me if I was going because I was bored with Paris. I can assure you, that is not the case! There are two main reasons I decided to take this side-trip:

1) Switzerland was one of the only countries in Western Europe I had yet to visit and frankly, was tired of explaining why it had always somehow alluded me on previous trips;

2) I wanted to see the headquarters of the United Nations.

The train ride from Paris to Geneva was 3 hours 15 minutes. About 45 minutes outside of Geneva there were some impressive mountains, but other than that the scenery was pretty unremarkable. I tried to take some photos, but the glare on the window – and probably the fact that we were going 320 km/h (200 mph) per hour – sort of hampered my ability to do so!

I’m staying at the Warwick Geneva, located right across the street from the train station where I arrived – very convenient. The hotel gives you a pass for public transit during your stay (trams, buses, etc.) which is good because I did not have any Swiss Francs (or Euros for that matter!). As soon as I checked in, I headed out to the ‘old town’ area of the city. To get there I jumped on a tram – kind of like a cable car. It was only about a 5 minute ride.

After a few hours of walking around I realized I was starving so I found an ATM, got some Swiss Francs and went to… McDonalds. Okay, listen…. this was the FIRST time since I’ve been in Europe that I had McDonalds (or ANY fast food actually).

It’s a little coder in Switzerland than in Paris. I was glad that I had brought with me some pocket hand warmers (little pouches that heat up when exposed to air and stay hot for up to 12 hours). They kept my hands nice and toasty as the temp dipped once the sun went down.

When I got back to the hotel, I took a nice HOT bath – I only have a small ‘shower of death’ in my apartment, so this was a wonderful luxury! And then I watched some television in English – horray! I don’t think I mentioned this before but I only had CNN International and BBC World for the first few days I was in Paris. After that, the channels cut off and the girls at the apartment rental agency can’t seem to find the pass code that will allow me to subscribe to them for the rest of my stay. Grrrrr. So the only “English” television I’ve had for weeks is CNBC, Sky News (London) and Al Jazeera (seriously). All three are “okay” but they are all news! The only respite I have is that I found that on CNBC from 11pm-midnight they show the Tonight Show w/Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien (abbreviated versions with no commercials) – a day late of course, but it’s all I’ve got, so I’m not complaining! Someone mentioned going to and watching my shows online (Greys Anatomy, Boston Legal, etc). I thought that was a brilliant idea. But when I tried, it detected that I was accessing the site from a foreign country and brought up a message saying that only viewers in the US could watch episodes on the Web. Grrrrrrr again.

Anyhow, I digress. The hotel in Geneva had 6 whole channels in English and I actually got to watch the Daily Show w/Jon Stewart, the British version of “Dancing With the Stars” (which is oddly called “Strictly Come Dancing”) but has two of the same judges (Len & Bruno) and the British version of The Office. Mindless TV – yeah!!!!

You can probably tell that my first day in Geneva wasn’t that spectacular given that I’ve spent more time talking about McDonalds, television and the hot bath I got to take than anything I saw. To be honest, I just wasn’t that impressed. “Old Town” didn’t seem that old and frankly lacked the charm of Paris. To me, the city is very commercialized. Overall it just lacked that certain “je ne sais quoi”. I guess I'm turning into a Paris snob - ha!

Click here to view all of today's photos (11/15/08)

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