Switzerland / France
20-22 December 2019
Day 1 – Geneva, Switzerland
The motive for this getaway, celebrate my girlfriend’s dad’s birthday.
Birthdays in late December can be a blessing and a curse. We took it as a blessing as it gave us all the opportunity to truly get into the Christmas spirit and visit the cutest Christmas market we’ve yet seen. Geneva is usually one of the cheapest Europe destinations from the UK and return tickets can usually be found for less than £70. We made sure we done our online check-in well in advance (after seeing the consequences of not doing so on a previous trip) and arranged our accommodation right in the centre of New Town Geneva, Switzerland.
On arrival we were drenched with continuous rain forecasts which did not stop for the full 3 days we were there (as to be expected in Europe in December), but we didn’t let that dampen our weekend. Being the travel geeks that we are, we were keen to see what Geneva’s rainy climate had to offer and it did not disappoint!
In an attempt to hide from the rain, we accidentally wondered into a luscious glass roof shopping precinct in the ‘Place de la Fusterie’ area – the definition of fine dining springs to mind in this shopping court. But do not let all the expensive restaurants fool you, there is a tiny McDonald’s waiting just round the corner 🙂
Next stop, St. Pierre’s Cathedral. This is a grand Roman Catholic built cathedral located in the centre of Geneva’s old town.
For such a large cathedral it wasn’t the easiest to locate via Google maps (I blame trying to navigate in the rain, with everything getting wet).
Standing outside St. Pierre’s Cathedral, completely soaked once again, it was worth holding off just a little while longer before going inside, to capture a shot from the outside.
Entry to the ground floor is free and I feel it was definitely worth the trouble battling the elements getting there. Once we stepped inside, we were all taken back a little bit by how tranquil and grand it really is. It’s hard to imagine how over 850 years ago the Romans were able to build a structure as complex and beautiful as this place.
Just as we were about to leave, a hidden door in the left hand corner caught our eye. This hidden gem was our favourite part of the Cathedral! Although pictures do no justice, and we would really recommend going to visit it in person, we’ve attached a snippet below.
And now for the Cathedral’s grand finale…. its viewing tower! Precisely 157 upward spiral steps later, (I did actually count believe it or not, whilst we all made ourselves dizzy) we arrived at the top of the Cathedral. For a small fee of 5CHF (approx £3.95), this gym work out was the best value you’ll find around!
By following the maze of old fashioned beams and walkways, you will be rewarded by beautiful aerial views of Geneva. One thing that you wont miss is The Jet d’Eau. This unique fountain is one of the city’s most famous landmarks, jetting five hundred litres of water per second to an altitude of 140 metres. The water leaves the 10cm nozzle at a speed of 200 kilometres per hour (120 mph). At any given moment, there are about 7,000 litres of water in the air. Most importantly, if you want to visit the fountain up close make sure you check to see if it’s going to be turned on the day you want to go (we failed massively here and didn’t get to see it up close).
Whilst up on the viewpoints you can get pretty close to one of the towers, which I thought framed really well for a cool looking picture.
What’s the best thing to do on a December evening in Geneva? Noel aux Bastions! Although not being even half the size of Winter Wonderland, this is the largest Christmas market in Geneva. The beauty of this Christmas market was the simplicity and traditional decor. Using only gold fairy lights and wood, this Christmas market felt both homely and magical at the same time.
Day 2 – Chamonix, France
Being just a stone throw away, we crossed the scenic Switzerland-France border by coach and arrived at the breathtaking alpine ski town of Chamonix. In 2020 there are two ways to go to the top of a mountain. 1, for free (Bear Grylls style) and 2, pay and whizz up in a cable car. It’s safe to say we spent money on this occasion. The cable car took us right to the top of Aiguille du Midi where we overlooked the French, Swiss and Italian Alps.
It was quite expensive to get to the top (3777m high, the very peak of the mountain being 3842m) costing 65Euros per person but it was worth every cent of that for the views we experienced. Make sure you bring suitable clothing as it is very cold at the top, we experienced -10°c with a lot of wind (was quite scary in the cable car, not for the faint hearted).
After we descended from the magical mountain tops, we spent the rest of the day in Chamonix and enjoyed the heart warming views at every turn. Chamonix is a town for the whole family and has something for everyone of all ages. This excursion was truly the highlight of the action packed trip for me.
Day 3 – Geneva, Switzerland
One of the best things about staying in a hotel in Geneva is that you get access to free public transport! This includes buses, trams and trains – including trains to the airport! We were keen to take full advantage of this and headed to the United Nations building by bus.
Standing 12 meters high opposite the building is a ….broken chair. This gigantic chair symbolises opposition to land mines and cluster bombs, and acts as a reminder to politicians and others visiting Geneva. [cue musical chairs joke]
Any hope of seeing any political characters was very slim as it was a Sunday, but that didn’t take anything away from how cool the building looks with all 193 flags perched outside.
Looking like something from a Gothic movie, we stumbled upon Monument Brunswick. The monument was erected for Charles II, Duke of Brunswick, who gave up his fortune to the city in exchange.
One of the most popular spots in Geneva is the Bains des Pâquis, an artificial peninsula, it’s is unmistakable due to the lighthouse at the end.
Picture this, torrential wind and rain with a outside temperature close to zero, yet a handful of people in bikinis and what looked like Speedos running to the end of the peninsula and jumping in the lake at the end next to the lighthouse. Epic.
Special mention for the numerous swans that seem to inhabit Lake Geneva. such beautiful and elegant creatures.
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