16 March 2008 (posted 28 May 2008)
Well, that's a new one! I just boarded Swiss LX327 to Zurich to find my seat didn't exist!
Boarding pass: 18A. Okay... 16... 17... 25... 26... Huh? Fumble in pocket for boarding pass... 18A... Hmmm. This plane doesn't have an 18a!
Seems my online check-in the previous night had preempted a change of plane, so I was left to wait at the back with all the other recalcitrant early checkers until all passengers had boarded. But regardless, why no 18a? Did the plane hiccup, or perhaps split its sides laughing, and get stitched back together without it?
To call the iconic La Jête a fountain would be like calling Ayers Rock a pebble. This pulsing monster thrusts the waters of Lake Geneva 150 metres skywards, to roughly the height of Perth's Bankwest Tower. Alternatively, picture the twin Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur, until a few years ago the worlds tallest, and then cast your minds eye to the skybridge halfway, or forty-two stories, up which co-starred with the Zeta-Jones/Connery duo in Entrapment.
We spied this gargantuan spout on our way into the city via the unexpected windfall of a complimentary transit pass offered by our hotel. Alighting on the RIGHT bank of the Rhone, at its discharge from Lake Geneva, not quite my concept of a river which is supposed to flow into, not out of. There's the coast-centric Aussie in me poking up his head.
From the tourist office on the Rhone (literally: it sits midstream, accessed via pedestrian bridges), we meandered through the main shopping area and up the hill into the old town. This part of Geneva is classically European, brimming with history.
Breakfast was at Arn Genevé, a patisserie cum chocolaterie on the town square. Though my French is quite limited, we've picked up enough to order, but the complexity of querying table service was beyond me. When asking the question in English drew a blank, if apologetic look, we stood back and got our answer through observation as the next customer ordered and walked off with his plate.
In an adventurous mood and without the language skills to ask, I pointed at and thus procured several interesting looking pastries. My selections included a concoction of paté, gelatine and pastry, a mini-bagel with cream cheese and a pastry oozing a chocolate-like paste. In order of consumption they went from "just not my thang" to sublime.
After breakfast, Maison Tavel beckoned. While successive clans have lived here since the line of its namesakes died out, this thirteenth century residence, proudly sited opposite the cathedral above the old city, is now home to a museum to Geneva's grand houses.
While the corner tower offers a vista of Lake Geneva (or Lac Leman as it's known to French speakers) across the historic rooftops, the best view is to be had within the windowless attic. Architect Auguste Magnin spent ten years painstakingly reconstructing Geneva in miniature, capturing this six-metre by four-metre likeness before the mid-nineteenth century removal of its constricting fortifications.
Further down the hill, a fête was triumphantly delighting scores of children with old fashioned toys and games, not an electronic gadget in sight, while in a gated park below, armies of waist high chess pieces did battle upon an armada of chess boards.
In the spirit of random exploration, we hopped a tram to Mouldy Shoelace. At least, that's how it sounded. In actuality, our visit to Moillesulaz was a surprising reminder of Geneva's political geography.
In search of liquid refreshment and spying some likely looking shops beyond the terminus, we found ourselves entering France across an almost imperceptible border. To a boy who grew up in a country with no land borders, even though I've now travelled a little, I've never before seen a national border straddle a suburb and I've definitely never seen a border treated so informally. Imagine buying groceries; You'd need one currency for the butcher, one for the baker...
Rounding out Saturday with a quiet dinner, we'd assigned Sunday to the focus of our trip, the 78th annual Auto Salon, also known as the Geneva International Motor Show.