Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Adventure #6: Geneva

Some of the teachers in Besancon are on strike this week so I teach five fewer classes than I normally do. Perfect time to catch up on blogging and make up for the last two pity posts that I whipped out and in which I used way too much passive voice, disappointing The Manship School and all their writing essentials.

NEWSFLASH: going to anther country means you need your passport. It doesn’t matter if they still speak French or that it’s “just” Switzerland. Laura and I both forgot ours but we lucked out and never got checked (something to be thankful for at Thanksgiving this week), but I’ll be honest, I prayed some Hail Marys going through customs. I think saying them in French gave us the extra edge. Lesson learned.

Geneva sits at the base of Lac Léman which fog completely covered most of our trip. We didn’t get to see the famed “Jet d’Eau” either, it wasn’t spouting for some reason… whatever, I’ve seen the real deal Old Faithful. But we did get to ride on a boat! Geneva’s public transportation includes water taxis that run across the lake, so we just hopped on for a round trip, pretty much the aquatic equivalent of riding a city bus around the block for fun. And it WAS fun, I like boats. ALL boats.

What impressed me the most about Geneva? The drinking water fountains. I usually drink more than the recommended eight glasses, but I find staying hydrated while traveling in Europe a bit of a dilemma. Sure, you can ask for a “carafe d’eau” in restaurants (hopefully for no charge) but what about in the meantime? Either you have to shell out two Euros every few hours for a new bottle or tote an empty one, which never fits nicely into your purse or pocket by the way, hoping to eventually fill up. But where? You can’t trust every sink you come across, much less a nearby lake, though I’m sure Bear Grylls has some tips for that. Finally, if you do manage to safely fill up that just makes your bag heavy so you drink it quickly. Good for your thirst but that means you’ll just eventually need a restroom, which are sometimes even harder to find and throw a wrench in your day plans. Quite the Pandora’s Box isn’t it?

Anyway, Geneva closed the lid on the where? problem with their nice fountains all over the city clearly labeled “Eau Potable,” i.e. “Drinking Water.” They more resemble outdoor fountains than the ones you find in school hallways. (FYI: LSU’s best water fountain is upstairs in Prescott. A classmate tipped me off to it. Runner-up is by Daddy’s office in J.C. Miller. Consistently cold, but not so cold it hurts your teeth, they have substantial, steady streams and foot pedals.) Filling up my empty Evian bottle at little spigots in quaint town squares made me feel connected to the Genevan women who, before indoor plumbing, possibly fetched their cooking and washing at these same spots.

I will now discuss my favorite activity of this particular weekend adventure: Ice skating in a perfect, picturesque little rink in a perfect, picturesque little park, in perfect, picturesque Switzerland (with skate rentals only costing a perfect two Francs, the only cheap thing in that town). What could possibly ruin this perfect, picturesque, Swiss Christmas-village moment? My skating. I have skated before, thanks to the Baton Rouge River Center and this go-round, I did find it easier than I remembered. I didn’t need to grasp the wall white-knuckled and I only fell once, when I got vain and tried to imitate the nice graceful, glides of a Swiss girl who could actually skate and even had the cute skating outfit (a Fair Isle sweater and tights). Falling isn’t the worst thing about skating. The worst thing is when you’re about to fall and for a split second a panic consumes you that you’re about to die. But other than that, skating was SO fun. If I could live another life, it would be as a figure skater. There’s a rink here in Besançon that I’m pretty sure I have a coupon for… wouldn’t it be fun if I came home able to skate? I’d love to be able to at least do this.

Food? Fondue. Chicken. Deliciousness. We ended up spending an obscene amount of Francs on a fondue dinner, but totally worth it, I mean, it WAS cheese, and the Swiss are celebrated for their fondue (in addition to using their army knives while not using their army). So, when in Rome! Also had my first mille feuille (I’m pretty sure they call it a Napoleon back home), white wine I actually really liked, and a proper, machine-mixed McFlurry! We saw the outside of the United Nations, walked through a flea market, walked for an hour to find a cemetery that ended up being gated closed, went through a very nice art and history museum, and the Botanical Gardens that I very much enjoyed, all for free. Despite the nasty weather, we had a successful trip. Unlike Lourdes, I’d definitely revisit Geneva, especially in the springtime and when someone else is paying (time to recommence Operation: Get my Parents to Europe).

Click here for my Geneva pictures and special thanks to Laura for the fondue pic of Natalie and me above.

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