We have not yet been able to impress Grandma with our gorgeous, warm Spring weather. It appears that some Canadian style weather may have come along with her. Typically back home when presented with 2 weeks of vacation we would look at the weather map and point our RV in the direction of the sunniest locale. The tricky part of living in a wee tiny country is that one weather system pretty much covers the whole place.
Luckily while cold and snow were in the forecast here in Winterthur, sun and warm(er) temps were forecast for Geneva. So off we went.
In that this was a fairly last minute plan we scrambled online to secure a good place to stay for the night. Keep in mind that of the 5 most expensive cities in the world, Switzerland boasts 2 of them, Zurich and Geneva. Commonplace for those working and/or visiting Geneva is to stay/live in France which is mere moments away. So, believing ourselves to be savvy locals we did what the locals do and booked ourselves an Airbnb in France. (The poorer locals that is. Those locals with scads of cash would never lower themselves to stay anywhere but Geneva. We are the former.)
As with all Airbnb experiences there’s a certain level of risk involved. We looked into a few possibilities, found one with great photos, good reviews and in a location and budget that we felt comfortable with. So we booked it.
We decided to catch a 10:30 train which would deliver us to Geneva shortly after 1:00. Helena requires gravol for longer train rides so we doped her up and set out. Not sure if it was the gravol or too much Easter chocolate but she was off that morning. Not her usual sunny, happy, care-free self.
Subsequently, the train ride felt longer than it should have as the whining level of both kids increased. Because of the early departure time, I didn’t have cocktails on hand for Mom and I so our ability to tolerate the whinyness was impaired. (Ha! Not literally.)
By the time we arrived in Geneva we were very happy to be off the train and anxious to turn the day around.
One of the first differences I noticed about Geneva was the unwillingness for the locals to attempt to assist us. In Winterthur, our efforts to speak German with the locals is almost always met with gracious patience or a switch to English to put us all out of our misery.
Geneva, not so much.
My brain has yet to figure out where and how to store all of this new language information so it’s all a bit of a jumbled mess at the moment. Everything is all lumped together and it is everyone’s surprise what will be blurted out when I’m feeling flustered. Typically it is some bizarre form of Spanish or Italian that comes out which is always totally unhelpful. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Swahili I picked up on my travels to Africa in the mid 90s surfaces at some point too. Hakuna wasiwasi. Pole pole.
I was able to recall the vital phrase of “Parlez vous Anglais?” from my school years’ French.
Turns out it is a much less helpful phrase in Geneva than in Winterthur. The most common response was “NON”. Full stop.
Thankfully Grandma had a whole wealth of French knowledge tucked in the recesses of her brain which did help a great deal. It didn’t help us avoid the humiliation of being kicked off a bus for not being able to purchase a ticket but we fairly quickly regrouped and got ourselves on the next one.
Finally on our way to discover our delightful French abode we settled in on the bus and watched the sights go by. We watched as the sights began to slowly degrade from pretty Swiss/French facades to less pretty to sketchy, broken down “projects”. Which was exactly where our bus stop was…
Mom and I did our best to stay up beat and project an “isn’t this exciting” vibe while giving each other the “oh crap, what have we gotten ourselves into” sideways glance.
As we walked to find our place with our rolly suitcases rattling behind us we were well aware of the fact that there was just as much, if not more, curiosity being focused our way. We had the distinct impression that the likes of us weren’t a familiar site in this part of town.
Finally arriving at the apartment we were met, thank heavens, by our smiley – non English speaking, host. (Between French, English and German we did manage to communicate with him quite well.)
While his presence was a welcome sight, the overall impression of the apartment was less so. Through a dark hallway, onto a squishy elevator we proceeded up to our apartment. It definitely resembled the images we saw on the Airbnb site but the in-person version was really quite underwhelming.
Having the sense that the long train ride and bus ride might have been a bit much for the kids we had originally thought we might save exploring Geneva for the next day and spend this afternoon exploring our quaint little French town. Considering that there was nothing quaint about this French town our goal pretty quickly became to get ourselves back across the border and into Geneva asap to salvage the day as best we could.
After familiarizing ourselves with the deadbolt on the door we set back out into the streets.
This time our upbeat “off we go” attitude wasn’t fooling the kids.
“This place is scary.”
“I don’t like it here.”
“Why are we staying in such a scary place?”
Back on the bus with the strategy of finding some fun to distract us from the scariness but ensuring that we get back inside our apartment well before dark!
Once back on the streets of Geneva we discovered that the sun and warmer temperatures were no match for the wicked cold wind coming off the lake. Shivering in all our layers we did our best to explore the far side of the lake. Everyone was feeling out of sorts made only worse by our collective fear of what would await us back in scary France!
We decided that some food would help us all and we began searching for a good early-bird place to eat. Many restaurants in Europe, we have found, don’t open for dinner until 6:30 so finding somewhere able to serve us at 5:00 was tricky. There were plenty of uber-fancy places to choose from but we were pretty sure that if we went somewhere fancy, they would smell it on us on the ride back to France and we’d be targets for sure!
Who are we kidding? There was no way I was taking my crotchey, mangey looking kids into a fancy restaurant. If we were sans-enfants Mom and I would have dined in style and gotten sufficiently tipsy to no longer notice the crudiness of our apartment for the night.
After a long search we found a great pizzeria willing to serve us. Warm, delicious food (and wine) does wonders to improve one’s outlook on things. Still aware that we needed to get back to the “other side of the tracks” before dark, we quickly made our way back to the tram. Sardined in with the end of day work force, we felt a bit less like fish out of water this time – strength in numbers.
At the end of the line we piled off the tram along with a whole pack of hard working folks, clearly doing whatever it takes to survive in such a ridiculous economy. Turns out we really weren’t so different after all.
After claiming which bed looked the least bad, we said goodnight hopeful the night would be quick. And it was – with the security screens tightly closed on the windows the black-out effect helped us all sleep surprisingly well!
That said, our lazy sleep-in didn’t allow us to linger. The questionable amenities in the apartment included a single, small roll of pink toilet paper. We were rationing squares of toilet paper already before we went to bed so there wasn’t much room for morning business!
- Be thankful for how much we have
- Don’t judge a book by it’s cover
and lastly but perhaps most importantly
- Spend more than 20 minutes selecting your Airbnb place
With the newfound wisdom of our life lessons we set out to have a super day in Geneva. First stop was coffee of course. Crotchey kids would seem like a basket of puppies compared to Mom and Grandma on caffeine deprivation!
Humbled and amazed by the sights of Geneva, it’s global significance and the giant brains who work together to make it all happen, we thoroughly enjoyed what the day had to offer.