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Published: February 27th 2016
Last weekend, some of my best friends from college came all the way to Europe for a long weekend! I met them in Geneva, and we spent time in Switzerland and France, around the lake. On the Friday, they got into Geneva at 7am and did touristy things there all day despite being sleep deprived. When I eventually found them in the train station at 7pm (note: there is not a metro in Geneva—there are trains and buses. Don’t waste your time wandering the airport for the metro line; even if the city transport map makes it seem like it exists, it doesn’t), we were ready to go to our hotel, which was in the French town of Evian les Bains.
We took a city bus to the French town of Annemasse, and promptly missed our train by a couple of minutes! So in the hour while we waited for another train, the friendly train station worker showed us a kebab shop, where we had some dinner. When we arrived in the town of Evian les Bains, we found that the train station was about a mile from the hotel. Buses were done running for the day (by
then it was after 9pm), and there were no taxis at the station. So we hauled our luggage through the slushy snow and eventually made it to our hotel.
The next day (Saturday) we took a ferry across the lake to the Swiss city of Lausanne. The weather wasn’t ideal for a boat ride, or for views of mountains, but we occasionally spotted snow-covered Alps. We had unintentionally bought the combo ferry ticket that also included unlimited public transportation in Lausanne, so we took the metro from the cute area of Ouchy up to the Old City of Lausanne. We enjoyed wandering the hilly terrain. We happened upon the tail-end of the Saturday street market, which was cool. It was great to see so much fresh produce available. The weather turned windier and rainier in the afternoon, so we spent more time with lunch and coffee indoors. My umbrella died in Ouchy, and I had to lay it to rest in a local shark-decorated garbage can.
Lausanne was my favorite part of the trip, and I think it could be better in nicer weather. The city has retained older architecture, but also integrated modern
designs. It reminded me of my short stop in Zurich a few years ago. The biggest disadvantage of Lausanne is that prices (like Switzerland in general) are higher.
Sunday was our day devoted to Evian les Bains, the namesake of the bottled water now known around the world. The town started out in the 1800s as a posh retreat with thermal pools. We didn’t go to the spa in town, because it seemed pretty expensive for a short session. We did go to the free water dispenser (“the source”) to get water. Then we walked along the lake, savoring the small period of sunshine. Like in Spain, lots of stuff is closed in France on Sunday. Most of the day was relaxing, eating, and drinking because not many shops were open.
Monday, we left early in the morning. We caught a bus directly from the train station to the main bus station in Geneva, walked to the train station, and then we took a train to the airport. It was a lot of travelling for only a short trip!
Overall: I hate winter, so I think the cold-ish, snowy, rainy, windy
weather tempered my experience of the area. My short travels through Geneva gave me the impression of a Swiss Washington DC, due to the international yuppie vibe. In the area on the whole, lots of service workers seemed to be able to speak in English, and even those who couldn’t were extremely helpful and kind to us. My friend had some French, and that helped a lot. But the whole area has a tourist infrastructure, so generally people are used to interacting with non-native French speakers. The area is beautiful, but not the most interesting (at least in February). It is an easy place to travel around—it would be a good place for older travelers not used to non-English speakers.
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