During the first part of our visit to Geneva, we had spent most of our time on the eastern and southern shores of the lake, so we crossed the bridge for the day. We’d been to the United Nations in New York and now we wanted to see its equivalent at the Palais des Nations (photo on the left) where 25,000 delegates meet each year. We didn’t have time for a guided tour indoors because within the Palais park grounds we wanted to see the Ariana Museum that houses thousands of examples of glassware and ceramics from the Middle Ages through the 20th century and to have a school lunch.
On the lakeside of the Palais grounds is the city’s conservatory and botanical garden that contains 14,000 plant species from around the world. An advantage of our summertime visit was seeing (and smelling) so much in bloom. Right down the shoreline from there was Parc de la Perle with remnants of a 2000-year-old Roman villa much like one we had seen earlier in the week directly across the lake.
That school lunch I mentioned above turned our to be worth a Michelin star, in our opinion. The École Hôtelière de Genève is a school dedicated to hotel and restaurant management where students learn every aspect of running a hospitality business. In Le Restaurant Vieux Bois the food is prepared and served by students carefully supervised by experienced teachers intent on a successful experience for diners and pupils alike. The price of a 3-course set meal was 61 Swiss Francs, or about the equivalent amount in euros or dollars.
Sunday brunch, especially with sparkling wine, was something that we enjoyed no matter where we lived in the US but it doesn’t seem as popular in France. When we saw that we could combine that festive meal with a cruise on Lake Geneva we reserved it right away before it sold out. We spent a leisurely day aboard a classic 1920s Belle Epoque paddle boat, stopping for a few minutes at 10 ports on both sides of the lake, enjoying mountain views of the Alps and Jura, castles, and glimpses of the medieval French town of Yvoire (featured photo at the top).
You might remember that much of the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley takes place in Geneva. At one point in the story the young scientist’s creature flees the city and heads into the surrounding mountains for refuge. As if frozen in time in the Plainpalais neighborhood where he was created, there is a 2.4 meter (7.9 foot) tall, scary looking bronze monument of the “monster” on his way to escape. Here in Pete’s photo you can see how he towers above us.
After that experience we needed our own form of escape so we headed to the lake and to one of the many waterside cafés for a revitalizing beverage. We had a genuine laugh-out-loud moment, as did the folks sitting at the tables around us, when our rosé wine was served in a plastic shot glass. Our 100 ml (3.5 oz) portion was 5 Swiss Francs plus a 2 Swiss Franc refundable deposit for each “glass”.
To finish off our time in Geneva with something a little different we took tram #14 to the Jonction stop to see the “junction” where the Rhône River meets the Arve River. Because they are each a different color and traveling at different speeds, their mingling creates an interesting effect. It’s best seen from the railroad bridge over the water which we accessed by a footbridge over the Arve and then a winding uphill pathway through the park Bois de la Bâtie.
Travel time on the train between Geneva and Carcassonne, with a change in Lyon, is about 5 hours and the roundtrip cost per person in First Class with our Senior Railcard was 90€.
Travel tip: Overnight visitors are entitled to a free public transportation pass to use within the city throughout your stay that can be issued by your hotel’s reception desk. It can be used for the buses, trams, and even the yellow Mouette boats that cross from one side of the lake to the other. For even more tips, there’s a pdf link below detailing some more of our experiences.
By the way, while researching this trip and using “Lake Geneva Switzerland” as the search term, the results would sometimes refer to the lake in Wisconsin. I had better luck with “Lac Léman”, the French name used for the lake in this French-speaking part of Switzerland.