Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bienvenue a Geneve

That’s French for welcome to Geneva, where I finally arrived after a killer 26 hours of travelling two and a half days ago. I’m so glad to be here at last. But let me back track a little firstly, as it’s been awhile since my last post.

Mountains from the Quai de Mont Blanc.
You can supposedly see Europe's highest mountain
from here and I thought it was the mountain
the middle; it's actually the one hidden by
cloud to the right of the building.

That’s basically because it’s been a whirlwind of farewells, packing, cancelling accounts – and lying by the pool reading, relaxing and doing nothing. I should explain that my parents live a couple of hours’ flight away from me, and I usually see them only every six months. A couple of months before I knew I was moving, I’d booked flights to see them for about a week just after Christmas. Turns out it was a good move, as it allowed me to relax and spend some time with them shortly before leaving, but it also means the manic period before I left became even more so. Still, it was certainly worth it.

There was also loads of packing. Our house looked like a bomb had hit it for a number of days – and I imagine it still does, as Emperor D hasn’t left yet and is finalising arrangements.

The left bank and the famous Jet d'Eau.
But I got here on Thursday morning. It was a long, long, trip. I had two stopovers in Singapore and Frankfurt before finally getting to Geneva, with waits at airports in between. I’ve always said that if I could have any magic superpower, it would be teleportation – a la Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie crossing her arms and blinking her eyes and voíla, she was instantaneously somewhere else – and never more so than after spending 13 hours squashed into an economy class seat.

So I arrived, and despite feeling pretty wiped out, I managed to venture out and take a look around. Wow. How fortunate am I to have landed in such a beautiful place. It was quite cloudy as you can see in most of the photos, except for the last one, which was taken today when it was much sunnier. In fact, the weather has been ridiculously un-winter like. There’s little snow on top of the mountains (real mountains!), and it’s been cool, around 10C – 13C, not bitingly cold. Hopefully I’ll get to see some snow before the winter out at this rate!

Lake Geneva - or Lac Lemán as the locals call it -
looking north from the Jetée des Paquis. Looks
like you can go for a swim - if you don't mind your
water being a chilly 10C - 14C.

I’m surrounded by people from over 100 nations – Geneva is a true melting pot, and you can see this in the variety of restaurants the city hosts. There’s the standard Italian, Thai, and Chinese, but I’ve also seen Japanese, Peruvian, Turkish even Ethiopian restaurants. And of course, there’s the French-influenced boulangeries, charcuteries and brassieres.

As for my French, I’m not doing too bad. I had started to learn several weeks before leaving Australia, by listening to lessons on my iPod. I’m glad I had learnt some French though. Despite being a city of over 100 nations and their accompanying languages, it seems some Genevoise speak little English. Not that I’m complaining – I relish the challenge of learning a new language - but I was surprised. I’ve learnt enough to get by in restaurants and shops. I feel quite proud of my French, which I imagine to the Genevoise is appallingly pronounced and delivered in a thick accent. But I think they appreciate my efforts.

The left bank - sans the Jet d'Eau - today,
when it was much sunnier.
While I’m looking forward to getting under Geneva’s skin a little more and exploring Switzerland as much as I can, my first few days have been interesting and filled with new sights, and I already have some great ideas for blogs in the future. Watch this space!

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