A Lot of Swiss Chocolate and a Oui Bit of France
A wise, anonymous friend of mine once said: “The only way to cure a chocolate hangover is with more chocolate.” Trust me, she is so right. And that is why I have returned to Spain with seven different varieties of Swiss chocolate and a higher BMI in exchange for leaving my dignity and sense of judgement in Geneva.
I’m kidding. But if you are an avid reader of this blog you know there’s always a somewhat ridiculous story to accompany my adventures.
At 2 A.M. on Friday morning me and the rest of my travel gang headed to the bus station to catch our five hour bus ride to Madrid, where we would then catch our two hour plane to Geneva. I would have been perfectly content staying on board for some extra pizza and swiss chocolate, but apparently that is strictly prohibited under the Swiss Air code of conduct. Upon arrival at the hotel, we had quite a bit of brainstorming to do. These next few moments would determine the rest of our trip and possibly whether or not I would end up in a Swiss jail cell. To sum things up, we had legitimately purchased two hotel rooms suitable for two people each, with a total of six people. Now I’m no mathematician but I was pretty positive that meant four people could stay in Hotel Moderne legally. I decided to take one for the team and volunteer to be the stowaway for the weekend along with my roommate’s friend from home who is also abroad and joined us on our travels. For the next five days we interchangeably exercised pretending to not know each other, returning strategically before and after the others (six minutes. every time) and pretending to be foreign. By foreign I mean that if the receptionist spoke to us in English, we were Dutch. If he spoke Dutch, we were American. If he spoke Chinese, I would be thoroughly impressed and ultimately blow our cover. Upon arriving at our room, my two hotel-mates and I noticed how tiny our bed was in comparison to our other friend’s. Without hesitation my friend Krissy marched down to the front desk and gave the “why is our bed so much smaller if we’re paying the same amount of money?” shpiel, which worked flawlessly. We then picked up our luggage and trudged up one more floor to our new temporary home. As we opened the door, a few angels harmonized and welcomed us with open arms (at least that’s how I recall it). Not one, not two, but three beds! We couldn’t help but hug each other and make awkward sounds expressing our excitement. This was our “IT’S A GIRL!” hospital room moment.
No post would be complete without a traumatizing situation in which you can laugh at my expense. And so, the following story is the real reason I brought you all here today. It is what I will refer to as “555: The Incident” for as long as I am on this earth, and you’ll see why in just a minute. I don’t care who you are, how many tattoos you have, how many bar brawls you’ve been a part of, you do not know fear until you are about to be homeless (okay, hotel-less), in the streets of a foreign city.
One fine morning, Em (my sneaky companion) and I decided to be daring and go down to breakfast. Our sneaky stunt had been flawlessly executed and we felt we were deserving of a 1,000 calorie reward. Of course we knew better than to speak to our other friends, but we figured at this point it would be safe for us to enjoy a croissant or four. Then, out of nowhere, a disgruntled French woman appeared from the kitchen and demanded our number. I had a split second to decide if I wanted to fake a heart attack or surrender. I even thought maybe I could get away with a “this isn’t where I parked my car” moment, and make a mad dash for the door (my sprint is still slower than the average walking pace), but instead I simply decided to stare at her until she melted. Angrily, with her spit flying onto my butter knife, she repeated: “which.room.are.you.in?!” This back and forth occurred approximately three more times, and every time our answer, in unison, was “I don’t remember.” Finally, we caved. “551, I think?” Close to vomiting on the table, I crossed my fingers that this would be the end of her interrogation. Room 551 was actually the room number of our other friends who were ye close ( )<— [that is drawn to scale] to entering the room when they saw us struggling and ran back upstairs. From then on we decided the best method would be the sneaking food back to the room via napkin.
All debacles aside, Geneva is beautiful! I strongly recommend a trip to anyone looking for somewhere touristy that doesn’t necessarily scream “mug me, I’m not from around here!” or “make sexual advances from the stoop of your convenience store!” We were just steps from the bus and train stations, the tourism office, and the lake. Each day we decided to do one main attraction and then just go with the flow. Day number one was designated for aimless walking and getting situated. Our first stop was the tourism office to make sure we had all the information for our tentative plans. We then strolled along the lake where I took an uncanny amount of pictures of birds, and got my first glimpse of the Jet d’eau, a 459 ft fountain that is more or less the most famous landmark of Geneva. I swear for 10 minutes I was in some weird sci-fi film because out of nowhere appeared a man stripped down to a speedo and strutting his stuff down the snowy/icy dock in the middle of Lake Geneva. Not caring who was watching he hopped right in for his early evening dip. The water must have been 30 degrees, if that, and this dude’s in there playing with swans. At this point I was certain we were in for a great vacation. Next we found a cafe and enjoyed our first bites of Swiss chocolate. The chocolatiers were outrageously priced (to match everything else in Geneva) so we opted for supermarket chocolate which is definitely just as amazing. However soon our tiredness caught up to us and we all agreed that an early bedtime wasn’t such an awful idea.
Early the next morning we met in front of the tourism office for an actual professionally guided tour of the old city. Our guide was an American who moved to Geneva with her family some 40 years before but never went into detail. After ending at the site of John Jack Russeau’s house, we took advantage of the beautiful weather, bought some paninis from a truck and ate lunch outside. Hey, remember that time a bird attacked another bird mid-air and threw it’s mangled carcass just inches from where we were eating? Yep, me too. Well, after losing our appetites from that, we got on the local bus headed to the outskirts of Geneva to ride the cable car up the Saleve mountain. The bus only cost us $3.50, but we soon learned this was a rookie mistake because the bus drivers never even checks tickets. I need to backtrack for a second and explain how complicated of a process finding this destination was. Not because of the bus system, but because the woman in the bus station the day before had convinced us that the only way to get up to the mountains without actually skiing was to go to France, which would cost at least 40 Swiss Francs. Confused and tired of exploring any more options, we almost left the station with no plans for the next day. Miraculously, the lightbulb in my head went off and I remembered the name of what I had looked up online weeks before. The moment uttered “Saleve,” her face lit up. I’m still boggled as to how she didn’t realize what I had asked her about in the first place. She understood me, and clearly this is a popular tourist destination, so thanks but no thanks for suggesting I go to another country and spend four times the amount of money. Anyway, the cable car went virtually straight up the mountain and let us off for as long as we wanted to take pictures of the Alps and play in the little bit of snow that was there. Word to the wise: strangers do not think it’s funny when you joke about “getting some air” while simultaneously reaching for the door in a cable car. I learned that one the hard way. Little did I know my ears were going to seal themselves shut as the air pressure increased and I
thought knew I was going to die. Some have ‘nam flashbacks; I have Disney flashbacks. There I was, six year old me, unable to be excited because of the tremendous amount of pressure and pain in my ears caused by the airplane. I was scared to yawn, scared to swallow, scared to blow my nose, and scared to do anything that didn’t involve eating chocolate, really. Instead I bitched about the pain until it took me by surprise 10 minutes later walking back down to the bus. It sounded exactly like a fog horn when it finally happened. I honestly may have blacked out. I thought my hearing was back to normal after the first explosion but over the next 15 minutes, it happened two more times. Those who know me personally know that I have an extremely low tolerance for pain and this was not pleasant. Not pleasant for me, and certainly not pleasant for those around me. Later that night our group of nine decided to split up. I wound up at a bar with three of my friends and tried a Strongbow “beer.” I put that in quotes because I literally had to ask the bartender if there was an alcohol content in what seemed to be sparkling apple juice. I also should mention that for $8.50 you better believe I split that bad boy with Ruth (my partner in crime.)
It was only the third day and I had felt as if I’d been in Geneva for weeks. We had plans for a bout tour at 3 pm, but time is precious on a five day vacation so yet again wakey wakey eggs and bacy by 9. Onto the bus we loaded and rode for a few minutes to the United Nations building of Europe. The building was closed so the only pictures we took were from the outside, but that was good enough for me. I do realize there is a UN building in New York, but obviously everything is just cooler to do in Europe, so I got my artsy wind-blown flags pictures and called it a day. Just up the road there was a glass and pottery museum which was empty besides us. Clearly not a popular place to visit, but still worth the visit. Plus you know I love me some good ole fashion china and cutlery that I can visualize at parties I’ll be throwing in my future house. After we had killed enough time and eaten lunch it was off to the lake for our hour-long boat tour. There’s only so much detail I can go into about a boat sailing on a lake, but believe me it was gorgeous and a lot of fun.
The real highlight of this day was dinner. We figured when in Switzerland, do as the Swiss-get fondue. I prowled the internet to find out the best spot for authentic fondue and we made a reservation for 8 pm. We got there right on time, and were quickly disappointed when the owner told us we did not have a table because the reservations go to her e-mail which she only checks every 24 hours. Was this bitch surrious? What if she checked her email at 2pm and I e-mailed her at 2:30. How is that fair? I don’t take no for an answer, however, in this jam packed establishment I couldn’t even get close enough to her to argue as I normally would. Luckily after seeing our disappointment and realizing we probably didn’t fully understand the website’s French directions, she promised us a table 20 minutes later. Success. I had spent an ample amount of time on google earlier that day making sure it was safe to take two lactaid pills at once (you can all thank me for that one), and sure enough-it was. I was excited, and rightfully so.
On our last full day in Switzerland, we went to France. Funny, right? Don’t you just love when countries are all molded together all pangea-esque and what not? The bus to Annecy, though more than I would have liked to pay wound up being well worth it once we caught our first glimpse of the fairytale setting. Mind you this was over an hour and a half after we got there because eating lunch and getting lost took a
bit lot longer than expected. It felt like the setting of a princess movie, and so stereotypically French, at least in my mind. Annecy had a lake as well, with more views of the mountains, lots of swans, some sailboats, and cute surrounding gift shops and cafes. Right in the middle of the river was a really old castle, that was…old. I don’t know anything about this stuff and really don’t feel like trolling the internet so just bear with me. I wish we had been able to spend more time there. Luckily, I’ll be seeing France again later this month!
Our night winded down in true peasant-like fashion, eating yogurts and fruits purchased from the grocery store and listening to music in the hotel room while recapping our trip and obviously preplanning Facebook album titles. I can’t really capture how much I loved this vacation, nor is there much I would change. But what I can do is ponder the following: Why isn’t everything in life made out of Swiss chocolate? If your reservations for fondue are illegitimate is it called fondon’t? And lastly, how do the owners of the clock stores not go cuckoo?