Geneva taught me that prejudices and presumptions can ruin a travel experience. I had composed an idea of Geneva in my mind: of what it should look like and of what people should look like, of how sophisticated and elegant it should be. It was nothing like I imagined. It turned out to be a city like any other, with graffiti on the walls, beggars on the streets, unsmiling people and big traffic jams.
We avoided the big motorways and took alternative routes from Troyes to Geneva and we wanted to drive along the lake from Nyon. Unfortunately, the shore is so densely built that all we saw was the back of houses and buildings, with just a glimpse of the water here and there. When we arrived, we were greeted by the mother of all traffic jams. Rush hour in Geneva is no laughing matter.
We eventually found our hotel. The receptionist had abrupt manners and never smiled. Actually, no one smiled. The room fee included a card that could be used on any public means of transport. Since the room was rather expensive and it didn’t include breakfast, we might as well make use of the card and went out. We walked a bit, had a couple of expensive beers and returned home.
A couple of doors down from the hotel was this hole-in-the-wall place with a sign that read “Caribbean tapas”. We had pica pollo, a typical Dominican dish (fried chicken fried plantain and salad.) It was fresh and delicious. And service was friendly, which we didn’t expect.
There was one place on my list of must-visit places: the cemetery of Plainpalais. I find historic cemeteries fascinating, although the attraction for me was that Jorge Luis Borges, the most influential Argentine writer, and Alberto Ginastera, an Argentinean classical composer, are buried here alongside John Calvin. I paid my respects while Sean sat on a bench and enjoyed the peace and quiet of this lovely public garden. The only sounds were those made by birds and a lawnmower.
On my last attempt to get close to the lake, I failed miserably: roads, bridges, buildings, more roads and lots of traffic blocked my way and I gave up. I felt we couldn’t get out of Geneva fast enough. Genoa was waiting.