A Taste of Geneva [Gal About Town: Fashion and Travel at Your Fingertips]

Geneva, Switzerland was one of our first destinations in our three-week, whirlwind European holiday. We flew into Geneva from Manchester, UK (A VERY lovely airport, I was impressed by it’s décor, calm atmosphere, and cleanliness) via EasyJet.

It had been about five and a half years since I had flown on EasyJet, one of Europe’s most economical airlines. The are the Southwest or JetBlue of Europe, offering fares at amazing prices, with most being somewhere in the double digits. I often advise that if you are travelling to multiple cities in Europe, first check if EasyJet (or RyanAir, another discount airline) flies between the two cities. It’s amazing how often taking a plane is actually cheaper than taking the train. EasyJet does tend to nickel and dime, but in the way almost all airlines are now: checked baggage is extra, more legroom is extra, etc. But, unlike RyanAir, use of their bathroom is complimentary (seriously). I have to say, this flight on EasyJet was much more pleasant than the last, and much more pleasant than most of my Southwest flights as well. The plane was clean, well maintained. The staff was quite lovely and helpful. And I didn’t feel like a stuffed sardine. While the flight was short, as most within Europe are, for being so inexpensive it was very pleasant. If you have the choice between RyanAir and EasyJet for flying in Europe, I would pick EasyJet any day.

Once we landed in Geneva, we were shuttled to the main terminal and waited to go through customs. The line was long, but honestly, I was just really happy to get my passport stamped in Switzerland. Traveling by train is wonderfully picturesque, but you do not get any passport stamps when moving from country to country.

Geneva’s airport was small, but thoroughly modern and posh. The airport offers free wifi, and offers a free public transportation ticket within 80 minutes of arrival. Meaning if your hotel does not offer a free shuttle, you can get there free via public buses. There is a machine to pick up your ticket in the baggage claim area on the Arrival level.

Geneva is a relatively small city, and can be thoroughly toured in two days. We only had a day there, and it was just enough time for us. The city can be easily navigated by walking and public transportation. Our hotel, Intercontinental Geneva, provided free public transportation passes for our stay, and it seems like this is customary for many other hotels as well. Make sure to ask your hotel if they offer this service. Also, in recent years pick pocketing has become more common in Geneva, so please always be aware and guard your belongings.

Being the home of United Nations, Geneva is a bit of a melting pot, but still very proud and holding tight to their customs and history. The main language is French, but nearly everyone we encountered spoke advanced English. And when they didn’t, my beginner’s French was sufficient for a Franco-English conversation. Also, while they have their own currency, the Swiss Franc, Euros-and even US dollars-are accepted widely.

When we arrived at out hotel, Intercontinental Geneva, the outside of the building wasn’t too impressive. A regular steel and concrete building that you would think housed offices, yet as soon as you walked inside the lobby was magnificent. We checked in to a very helpful Front Desk staff and Concierge. They were kind, informative, and eager to have a nice conversation rather than shoo us off to our room as some places tend to do. We were staying there free on rewards points, and because of this, we did not receive all of the benefits of being a Royal Ambassador that we normally do. Most hotels do still extend all benefits when staying on points, but Geneva was very strict not to. And while this was a little odd and off-putting, I’m very glad that we spent points instead of money. Their basic rooms average a price of around 300 CHF (Swiss Franc), which is about $322 USD.

And really, the rooms were not anything to write home about. While they were spacious, which my husband liked, they had a sparse, dorm-like feel to them. The bathroom was sleek, modern, and gleaming clean. The bathroom was fancier than the bedroom. And after seeing their gorgeous lobby, I was surprised at how under-designed the bedrooms were, and we had been upgraded to a junior suite. Additionally, due to my husband developing a nasty head cold and our very early train ride, we decided to dine at the hotel for the sake of ease. I ordered a wedge salad (the easiest item to alter for my allergies) and John-Paul ordered a cheeseburger, and we shared a glass of wine.  Our total (including the customary tip of rounding up) came to 81.50CHF ($90 USD).

We nearly choked. The wine was not an expensive one, the salad was literally just wedges of lettuce and shaved parmesan, and the burger was a burger. Geneva is notoriously expensive, but we felt that this was a bit above and beyond ridiculously expensive. In the end, we really loved the people that worked at the hotel, but even just staying on points, I’m not sure if we would stay there again. We would most likely explore other hotels within our Priority Club rewards program.

As luck would have it, our day in Geneva was rather wet and cold, but we were determined to make the most of it. If we needed a moment to warm up and dry our bones, we would just go into one of the many chocolate shops that were recommended to us. I mean, chocolate is known for it’s many cures, so it would surely help us warm up and dry off?! Actually, we were really looking forward to Geneva because of their chocolate. And they did not disappoint. John-Paul loves chocolate more than most things in life, and my allergy to coconut oil takes me out of the game for most American chocolates. But in Europe, using coconut oil in chocolate is a big no-no, like calling a Spanish sparkling wine “Champagne”. So, when I’m in a European region known for their chocolate, I basically binge on it.

Our first Chocolatier was Auer, located at 4 rue de Rive. The shop is tiny, and eternally crowded. Go in there knowing what you want, because it’s a hurried and impatient atmosphere. For 14.80 CHF we purchased a decent sized bag of truffles. Honest to God, their White Chocolate truffle was the best I have ever tasted in my life. It was like going to Poughkeepsie in my mouth. Its consistency was perfect and flavor was just divine. Their milk chocolate truffle was second in line, even though I’m more of a dark chocolate kind of gal. By the time we got to St. Pierre’s Cathedral (also known as St. Peter’s) we had finished all of them.

St. Pierre’s was the first of our Cathedrals on this trip. While many churches had stood on that site, the current one was built in the 12th century, and it is currently a Protestant church. The church is perhaps most famous because it is where John Calvin delivered many of his controversial sermons.  Its interior architecture is stunning, especially because it’s eclectic, adding many different elements and styles over time.  Additionally there is an archeological site/museum underneath the cathedral. For a small fee you can explore artifacts from the 4th century and on.

From St. Pierre’s it was on to MORE CHOCOLATE. Really, we just enjoyed meandering through the beautiful cobblestone streets of Geneva until we happened upon another recommended shop.  Sweetzerland (get it?) was our next Chocolatier. It’s a newly opened Chocolatier already receiving rave reviews. The shop, located at 36 Place du Bourg-de-Four, is more spacious than most shops, but still small. The ceiling is painted with a skyscape and cherubs. It was cute, fun, and modern. We were lucky enough to meet and chat with the owner. If all goes well, they are hoping to expand to having a shop in LA, much like Teuscher. And this would make me rather happy, because their truffles were superb and worth a little splurge. He offered us some samples to get a taste and we ended up buying 23.45 CHF worth of chocolate (we bought extra so we’d have these chocolates for at least a few days).

We strolled through little Christmas markets, enjoyed the way the Christmas lights decorated Geneva, and just took in the old town as much as we could. The night wore on, and the rain got worse. We found a few more chocolate shops that were not as impressive, but before we called it a night, we stopped at one more place. John-Paul had been craving a true traditional chocolate chaud. Using the best of chocolates, and less milk than an average hot chocolate, these are a drink of rich, thick, chocolatey goodness. We stopped at Du Rhone Chocolatier for this treat. At 6.20 CHF ($7) it is a splurge, but it was worth it. While it wasn’t thee best chocolat chaud John-Paul had ever had, it was in the top 10, and was a perfect way to warm up before heading out into the cold wetness again.

While Geneva is known internationally for it’s shopping, being that we were only there for a day, we didn’t want to spend our time in stores. Also, I would say that we have about 90% of those stores here in LA, and the same could be said for NYC, London, Paris, and Vienna to name just a few. Also, looking in the windows and noticing the prices, everything seemed to be priced higher just because it was Geneva.  I’d recommend skipping the shops and really taking in the quant yet beautiful old world charm that Geneva has to offer.

The next morning we boarded the train that would offer us exciting views of the Alps, and our first European pick-pocketing experience. Tune in next time to see what happened!

Now Boldly Go!

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