’48 Hours in Geneva!’ - Switzerland (Part One) - BY SAMANTHA OWEN-STODDART

After returning from Geneva last week I want to fill you all in on my latest adventure… about a month ago I was scouring the EasyJet website, as I regularly do, I saw a return flight to Geneva for 29.99 per person on offer! I immediately wanted to book it, so after checking on accommodation availability in Switzerland, I paid for two flights as my husband was accompanying me on this short break. Booking.com was my first port of call for a hotel, I pre booked the Ibis Hotel in Petit Lancy for two nights bed and breakfast basis with payment on departure, which is a great idea. The cost was £90 pp for the stay, so all in all the city break to Geneva was £119.99 each BARGAIN! With a little pre destination reading I was excited to see what Geneva had in store for me.

Geneva is a city in Switzerland, it is located at the southern tip of Lake Geneva, also known as ‘Lac Leman’. It is incased by the Alps and the Jura Mountains, with amazing views of Mont Blanc from the city. Geneva is known as the city of peace! Known for it’s diplomacy and banking.

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With an early morning flight out of Newcastle, we arrived in Geneva at 10 am local time. After a short wait at passport control we headed for the luggage collection hall, as I had read to seek it out to get the free travel pass into Geneva, it lasts 80 minutes from arrival which is way enough time to get to your accommodation. Next we walked to the bus station and went outside to wait for the number 23, as our hotel had kindly told us what to do on arrival and which stop to get off at. As the number 23 pulled up we jumped on and after a ten to fifteen minute journey we got off at Les Esserts, believe it or not our hotel was directly opposite, perfect!

As we checked in we were given our free travel pass for our whole stay, if you check into a hotel in Geneva you will receive this pass to use on all transport, such as tram, train and bus, including boats on the lake too, along with lots of friendly and helpful advice from the reception, our bags were taken to the room and with a quick freshen up we were off to explore. The tram stop was a mere two minute walk over the road and six stops later we were in the centre at the Bel-Air stop! We were in Geneva not LA. After a quick stroll to get our bearings we ended up by Lake Geneva and the famous Jet d’Eau. The Jet d’Eau is a large fountain found in the middle of Lake Geneva, it is one of the tallest fountains in the world, an iconic landmark and the first thing you see as you enter the city. It was installed in 1951, into a submerged pumping station so it would pump lake water and not city water. The Jet d’Eau has become “a symbol of strength and vitality of Geneva and Switzerland” and it is certainly a show stopper and you can get some great pictures up close on the boats with which you feel a spray off the Jet d’Eau!!

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I wanted to take a boat out to the Jet d’Eau, so we queued at one of the stops and didn’t realise till we were onboard the boat you can use them to explore the lake for free, there is about 4 boats that follow on from each other around the large lake, so as you get off one you can board another. It is great, quick and easy with amazing views of Geneva and the mountains. We hopped off one near the famous Bains des Paquis, where people were swimming as it was a lovely bright sunny day.

Bains des Paquis is an outdoor public baths on a pier in Lake Geneva, with saunas and massages also available to the public. Along with a great eating and drinking deck, with indoor and outdoor seating, that serves amazing food at a good price! I had read about this place and I was thrilled to visit. We had lunch here outside and a few glasses of rose. Lunch was a fish dish with black rice, and vegetables including roasted fennel that I would expect to see in an upmarket restaurant, it was the daily special that you receive along with some fresh bread, costing 14 Swiss Francs and the rose was 3 SF a glass very nice indeed. Cannot recommend here enough!!

With our lunch digested and feeling rested we headed to find a tram to take us to the United Nations Building to see if we could manage to get on one of their guided tours. These tours are ran through the working week and as it was Friday this was our only opportunity! You can’t pre book and it is only available on a ‘first come first serve’ basis. We boarded a tram at the Mont Blanc stop which is along the river by Laduree and it took about twenty minutes to arrive at Jardin Botanique, then we walked up the road to the UN, along the way we took in the statue of the Broken Chair. This was made by Daniel Berset, a carpenter from Geneva, made of wood it stands 12 metres tall and the statue was installed in 1997. It represents ‘the fight against armed violence’, where innocent civilians are hurt or killed in war torn countries. The Broken Chair can be seen directly opposite the Place des Nations. After taking many pictures we continued onto the UN Building, you have to walk past two other entry points until you come to the entrance. You pass the Russian Embassy and the Headquarters of International Red Cross which are over the road.

The United Nations Office in Geneva is the Headquarters for Europe and the UN’s second largest site, New York being the largest. It is based in the Palais des Nations building, which was actually constructed for the ‘League of Nations’ between 1929 to 1938 and later expended in the 50 and 60’s. On entry to the United Nations you go through a security check and then you queue for a ticket, you can go up to the desk together and you will need identification to enter, I had my passport. After one of the party has a picture taken you are given a badge to wear and told where to meet the tour, which was quite simple and a short walk to the next building. The cost was 12 SF per person and it lasts an hour, we were lucky to get an tour as it was late afternoon and a Friday. Our guide actually said, after today there were no tours for 2 weeks. There was a group of 20 plus people in our tour from all over the world, we were all given strict instructions not to leave the group or go places alone bar the toilet due to security and our guide was super informative, taking us into all the famous rooms I had seen on television and answering everyone’s questions. You could take photos but no audio was allowed. If you are to do any of the tours in Geneva, make sure you go here! You learn more than you knew or ever thought and you get great access to the UN.

We took a tram back to Mont Blanc stop and treat ourselves to macaroons and tea at Laduree, over the road. Laduree is a favourite of mine as I love Macaroons. There are two stores in Geneva and this store is located by the lake. It was large with great green design, we were seated and I was in awe. I ordered the Macaroon selection (12 Swiss Francs) and a Marie Antoinette tea (10 SF), my husband had the Macaroons too with a coffee. He wasn’t as excitable as I, although he went along with it. After enjoying our sweet treats, we decided not to head back to the hotel to change but to stay out and wander for awhile before dinner. As it was Black Friday Geneva was very busy indeed, we wandered into the old town to see where a few spots were for tomorrow and enjoyed a little shopping with the locals!

I had reserved a table for dinner beforehand as I had read about the best places for fondue in Geneva and Edelweiss Restaurant was one of them. After a little help from google maps… thank goodness I could use my phone as normal in Switzerland, we arrived. The restaurant was part of a hotel, we were kindly greeted and as we were a little early it wasn’t an issue. Musicians were playing and it certainly offered a great Swiss welcome. Of course we opted for fondue, a mixture of cheeses with help from our server. The fondue pan was massive and enough for a family of 6… along with fresh breads we tackled the cheese! We were defeated. Along with some drinks we paid 82 Swiss Francs for dinner which wasn’t cheap but I was expecting it due to being in Geneva. We sat and enjoyed the entertainment, which included one of the musicians playing a sword! Due to a very long and enjoyable day travelling and then exploring, we had a drink by the lake and took a tram back to our hotel for a good night’s rest.

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If you want to see more great pictures, or read further blogs by Sam, visit her website www.sostravel.co.uk

Samantha Owen-Stoddart: The girl who loves to travel, sharing her experiences and inspiring others along the way