Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Autumn Weekend on Lake Geneva

When people ask what's the best part of living in London, my reply is one of two things 1) London is an exhilarating city and/or 2) travel -- it's quick, easy, and affordable. One of our goals while living in London is to travel as much as our wallets can stretch. With some advanced planning, you can easily book RT airfare for approximately 45GBP to 75GBP depending on the destination and flight times. We try to get out of the U.K. at least once a month, so this weekend Keenan and I found ourselves in Switzerland -- the land of fondue, fine chocolates, and exquisite watches.

When I booked our trip to Switzerland a few months back, Keenan reminded me of a scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm, one of his favorite HBO shows, and it goes as follows from Season 2, Episode 7:

Larry David: "This is called a Swiss Army Knife. Do you know what Switzerland is?"
Tara Michaelson (the producer's young daughter): "No, what's that?"
Larry David: "Switzerland is a place where they don't like to fight, so they get people to do their fighting for them while they ski and eat chocolate."

Ha! I couldn't stop laughing -- I am sure there is more to Switzerland than skiing and chocolates!

We based ourselves in Geneva, the home of 250+ top NGOs including the European headquarters of the United Nation, International Red Cross, and the WHO, and explored area around Lac Léman -- or to us Americans, Lake Geneva.

The French-speaking city of Geneva straddles between Rhône Valley and the southwestern tip of Lake Geneva, which also happens to be one largest fresh water lake in western Europe. With so many international visitors and diplomats coming through each year, it is easy to find a wide range of cuisine. We opt for a light lunch of Middle Eastern kebabs before starting our walking tour of the lake and Old Town Geneva. Oh, I forgot to mention that Switzerland is insanely expensive. Although the CH Franc and the USD is nearly 1 to 1, prices are high in Switzerland. Take for example, a regular cup of coffee is 3.50 CHF -- that's 3.50USD for a cup of joe! Coming on the British pound, prices is more or less equivalent to London.

Armed with our brollies (British abbreviation for umbrella), we walked along Lake Geneva towards Jet d'Eau, the iconic water jet to the Flower Clock in the Jardin Angalis, and then meandered around the narrow cobble-stone streets of Old Town. With its close proximity to the French border, much of its architecture such as the grey-tone building and iron wrought windows reminded me of France.

Dinner was at Les Armures on Rue du Puits-St-Pierre in Old Town, somewhat of a Genevois institution. Bill and Hillary Clinton ate here in 1994 and they proudly display President Clinton's letter thanking the restaurant for hosting them during a visit to Geneva. We stuffed ourselves silly with delicious fondue and local Swiss wine.

Wine? Who would have guessed Switzerland produced wine, but they do, just outside of Geneva too. Apparently, Switzerland does not export any of their wines; probably the reason why we never heard of Swiss wine back in California. Their main production is Chasselas, a white wine produced in Alsace and parts of Germany.

The next day we took an excursion to Lausanne, home of the International Olympic Committee, and the start of wine country. Lausanne is a delightful little Swiss city built around three hills. It flourished during the Age of Enlightenment where both Rosseau and Voltaire spent some time here. Keenan and I hiked up hill to see Cathedrale de Lausanne which overlooks the city and Lake Geneva.

We took a lovely 5K walk on the edge of Lake Geneva from Lausanne-Ouchy to the town of Lutry in Lavaux wine country. This is such a picturesque region with gentle rolling hills of vineyard against the backdrop of the gorgeous lake. We wanted to drop in a few tastings but virtually everything shuts down in continental Europe on Sundays, especially small towns such as Lutry. We stopped by a little cafe for crepes and bottle of locally produced white wine. Not bad for a Sunday afternoon.

Overall, it was a nice getaway in the land of Swiss cheese! These weekend trips gets exhausting so we're taking a hiatus until Christmas while our passports are being held up at the Russian embassy. More on that later.

Au Revoir, Lily

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