’48 Hours in Geneva’ - Switzerland (Part Two) - by Samantha Owen-stoddart
Waking after a great night’s sleep, breakfast at the Ibis Petit Lancy was a buffet style, help yourself with a nice variety including make your own waffles! Perfect fuel for the busy day of sightseeing ahead of us. After another short tram ride we arrived at Bel Air and set off for Geneva Old Town, en route we stopped at the Victorinox store. Adam was eager to get a Swiss army knife, well we are in Switzerland where better!! Two new ‘personalised’ knives later, we were on our way.
Geneva Old Town isn’t that far from the city centre and up a hill, St Pierre Cathedral was our chosen destination and again after a slight mix up with google maps sending us to the wrong entrance we arrived at the front of the cathedral doors, it opened at 10 am so we had a short wait before we were allowed access (we are always the early birds..!). The Cathedral is situated in Place du Bourg-de-Four and is over 850 years old, it is known as the adopted home of John Calvin who was one of the leaders of the protestant reformation. This was an attempt in the 16th century by a religious movement to reform the Roman Catholic Church, which created protestant churches. St Pierre Cathedral belongs to the Reformed Protestant Church of Geneva and it is known as Saint Peter’s Cathedral in english. Once inside the St Pierre Cathedral a feeling over peace comes over you, walking around you see beautifully carved choir stalls from the 15th century and gaze at the wonderfully high ceilings, the cathedral is gothic style and is very well lit. You can take time to collect your thoughts just sitting on one of the pews enjoying the silence. It is free to enter or you can leave a donation, we chose to take a trip up the towers which is 5 Swiss Francs for an adult and 2 for a child, you can obtain a ticket at the gift shop till. It is not for the faint hearted though, a climb of 157 steps to the top I am ashamed to say I was huffing and puffing at the very top. Once at the top there is the North and South Towers, it is a good experience and let’s you see Geneva from above with a 360 vintage point.
After St Pierre Cathedral we took refuge from the rain and went to La Clemence for coffee nearby. I had read about this small bar, it was recommended to have a coffee stop here as it has an “oldy worldy” traditional setting and sits in the old town’s main square on the top of the hill. Hot chocolate, coffee and a basket of pastries later we felt revived and headed out to browse the town. You could see and feel the tradition as you wandered around, in the buildings architecture especially and as they were getting prepared for christmas time, unlike in the UK where I feel we are now too commercialised when it comes to the festive season, they were still enjoying the simpler traditions!
From the old town we walked down the hill to Bastions Park to see the Reformation Wall, it wasn’t too much of a walk and the wall was much bigger and longer than I thought it would be! The Reformation Wall is also known as The International Monument to the Reformation, it was built in 1909 into the old city walls and it is a commemoration of the role of the Reformation. You will see that in the middle of the wall are the main statues of the leaders, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, John Knox and William Farel. A motto runs above the statues on the wall saying “Post Tenebras Lux” meaning After Darkness, Light which was part of the ‘Calvinist philosophy’. I would urge you to go and see it for yourselves.
One of the places I was desperate to see was the Flower Clock, L ‘horloge Fleurie in french, yes it is a working clock too!! After we visited the wall we walked, you can walk everywhere in Geneva if you wish, to the clock in Jardin Anglais park. It is very near Lake Geneva on the front and it is a nod to the watch makers of Geneva,Switzerland. As Geneva is known for it’s quality watch making and craftsmanship all around the world. So as a tribute they made the ‘biggest clock in the world’ from flowers (over 6,500) in 1955, which changes from season to season and ever since it has been a major must see in the city, I can tell you it is fabulous and I couldn’t stop looking at it and taking pictures. No picture does it justice, you have to see it for your own eyes.
After a slight rest to take in what we had seen and chat about our trip, we took a lengthy walk to the Patek Philippe Museum as we knew there was a Saturday guided tour at 2.30 pm and we wanted a ticket. It is situated in Plainpalais and it costs 10 Swiss Francs to enter or 15 for a guided tour, the museum is open Tuesday to Friday 2-6pm and 10am-6pm on a Saturday. We got our tickets for the ‘A Legacy of Genius” tour which helps you discover Patek Philippe’s collections and get an understanding for the art of watchmaking and horology, which is the “art of measuring time”. We were told to go downstairs and put all our belongings in a locker, no photography is allowed in here and to meet back upstairs for the tour. There are floors upon floors of this museum and it is a masterpiece in itself, my husband is very interested in watches so he was keen to come here. Patek Philippe Museum is the home of the Geneva based “Master Watchmakers” which was founded in 1839 by Antoni Patek when he started making pocket watches here in Geneva and in 1845 he joined with french watchmaker Adrien Philippe, who was the inventor of the keyless winding mechanism. In 1851 Patek Philippe & Co was founded, the rest is history as they say. It is actually the ‘last independent, family owned Genevan watch manufacturer’. Our guide met us all, a group of around 20 people and we made our way into the museum, after two hours of lots of information, history and looking at many amazing watches and time pieces, I certainly knew a lot more than before! This tour is for anyone of any age, whether you love watches or not you will definitely enjoy it and the guide was amazing.
After our tour we thought a drink was in order, so we headed back to the Bains des Paquis for a mulled wine, or vin chad (4 Swiss Francs) I should say. Sitting and taking in the wonderful Geneva skyline! With a much needed shower and a quick change back at our hotel, we then went back to Geneva Old Town for dinner and ate at an Italian restaurant called Spaghetti Factory. After a delicious dinner, same price as last night, we had a nightcap at a nearby bar called Arthurs and took the tram back home.
The Ibis Petit Lancy Hotel was comfortable, clean and affordable, a great base to see all of Geneva’s sights with very friendly staff. Breakfast was just what you needed to fill up for the day and the trams were outside your door. The airport bus arrived over the road and collected you to take you back right outside the hotel’s door. No complaints just pure praise!! Book it for yourself.
Geneva was a lovely surprise, I was happy to explore this fantastic city with ease and a free travel pass. I managed to see all it had to offer. It is pricey to eat and drink but we were only there a weekend and I think that is just the right amount of time to do and see everything here. I would truly recommend you to visit, I am so glad I took advantage of EasyJet’s great flight offer and came. My first taste of Switzerland was brilliant, where shall I go to next??
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