Saturday, January 13, 2007

Heidi hi

I'm now back from my first proper holiday away in ages. I've been on lots of trips for work over the last few years, but very few have actually involved taking much time out to for non-work related activities. This trip away was different as it was entirely non-work related and the plan was to just have fun (I only checked my work emails twice in a whole five days!) So sit back and relax as I regale you with what I got up to in Switzerland - this could be a long post (or I might split it into two).

Last Sunday, along with spacetimewaster, I set off for Geneva. We were going to be staying with our friend Helen, who has a flat in Geneva as she's working at CERN at the moment. This meant that we had free accommodation, and along with our cheap easyJet flights, would mean we didn't spend too much overall. The free accommodation had a downside though - the flat was a studio flat and as such had very little space to accommodate two guests, but we made do. Upon arriving in Geneva we made our way across the city to the old town where we were going to be staying. By the time we'd dropped of our stuff it was getting quite late, but as we'd not eaten yet we headed out into the city centre for some food. We'd been promised some Fondue as our first meal, but the fondue restaurant we tried was closed. Finding the next closest eatery I had some flammenkueche which at the time of ordering I didn't really know what it was. It turned out to be a sort of pizza with a creamy, rather than tomato, sauce, and was quite nice. In the restaurant I also had my first opportunity to test out some of my rusty GCSE level french - I asked for a beer.

After dinner we returned to the flat to sort out sleeping arrangements. I took the two seater sofa, whilst spacetimewaster took the floor. It wasn't the most comfortable of situations, but was manageable, and as I said, it was free.

The next day we planned a bit of sightseeing around the city. To start off with we tried a local bakery to get some breakfast, but this was closed - a fact we'd see quite often that day - apparently after an exhausting Sunday of being closed, many shops decide to stay closed on the Monday to! We did find ourselves a Pattiserie to serve our needs after a short walk around though. The weather on Monday wasn't great with a dull start and a fair bit of rain in the air, but we headed out hoping things would clear. Our first stop was a local park which contained several huge chess and draughts boards. Here spacetimewaster and I had an epic draughts encounter, which he won by a slim (well ok maybe it wasn't that slim) a margin. This lead to us getting slightly damp in the rain, but we carried on with our tour of the town. Our next stop took us to the Jet d'eau, a huge fountain on in Lake Geneva that can reach height of nearly 150 m. You can walk out along a jeti up to, and passed, the fountain, so we went along it to get a closer view of the rather impressive jet. The wind determines where most of the water from the fountain lands and when we walked past most of it was directed into the lake, but a strong spray still cover the jeti, meaning we added to our wetness from the rain by running under the spray. After lunch we decided that a boat trip on the lake would be a nice relaxing afternoon past-time. The boat was quite large and at the ticket office we were told that they needed at least 15 people onboard or it wouldn't sail - this being a Monday Geneva was dead and there were only the three of us and another couple waiting for the boat. The time it was supposed to sail passed and still no-one else turned up... until after about 10 mins a small family of four arrived. Despite there only bing nine people in total the boat's crew took pity on us (and our pleading faces) and said they'd do the trip. We then had a pleasant hour long boat ride across Lake Geneva taking in some of the sights along the shore of the lake. For dinner that night our plan was again for fondue. The strange Monday opening hours again scuppered our plans and instead we went to a restaurant in the Old Town that specialised in chicken - and when I say specialised I mean they only did chicken dishes - but it was very good. We then stopped of for a drink in a nice little cafe called the Demi Lune Cafe.

On Tuesday things around town seemed a little more lively and everything was open. spacetimewaster and I were left to our own devises in the morning and spent the time visiting the Cathedral to got up it's tower. This gave some good views of the city, although I have to say that the Cathedral wasn't one of the most impressive I've seen. The Cathedral did have some interesting history behind it, due to Geneva being one of the hotbeds of the Reformation and the Cathedral being the church adopted by the leading reformer John Calvin. After our dip into Christian history we went for a general wander and came across, in particular, a cool little shop selling antique scientific equipment like telescopes, microscopes, medical tools etc. All the stuff in there was great and if I had the money and the space I'd have loved to have bought it all. One of our plans for the trip was to try a bit of skiing, so later that afternoon we went along to a ski hire shop. Wanting to look cool and all I opted for hiring a snowboard rather than skis.

That evening we did our first winter sport and went on the outdoor ice rink in Geneva. It wasn't too busy so we got fairly free reign of it. There were a few attempts at going backwards, although I've not really mastered the art yet, and one fall. After two days of missed attempts we finally got to have our fondue. It was melted cheese and bread galore! The fondue was really good and is definitely a nice food experience as the whole ripping up bread and dipping it into cheese on a big fork adds something to the event. That night we went to bed with the prospect of an early morning start to head out to the slopes for a days skiing. I'll get onto that in my next post...