Keeping Time in Genève

The last leg of our Swiss vacation took us to Geneva where we spent about two days exploring the city.  Our first day began when we left Cully after breakfast and arrived at the Geneva train station just around lunchtime.  It was another toasty day, but there was a cool breeze, so we opted to make the walk from the station to our hotel.

We kept in the shade and walked past the Jardin Anglais as well as the Flower Clock.  Hoping to drop off our bags, we didn’t linger too much as we had food on the brain.

Our room wasn’t quite ready, so we left our bags at the hotel and set out to explore the surrounding area and cool off with a small lunch.  Jim found Brasserie Lipp, which was maybe a 5-10 minute walk from our hotel in a mall (of sorts) with a huge outside terrace (where we sat).  First thing was first, we both ordered a Aperol Spritz (Thanks again Genevieve) and decided we’d like to get something cold and fresh – oysters!  After looking through the menu, we settled on a seafood platter which included:

  • 9 oysters (3 different types)
  • Assorted mussels
  • Crevettes & Gambas (Shrimp)
  • Tiny Grey Shrimp
  • Whelks (Sea Snails)
  • Winkles (small sea snails)

The oysters were delicious.  Perfectly big and briny.  I bet we could’ve ordered two dozen and been pleased as punch to eat just those, but we were feeling adventurous.  We saw bulots (whelks) & bigorneaux (winkles) were included in the platter, but we didn’t know what they were.  Who cares, we said, we love seafood.  When they brought them out we saw there were two big bowls full of snails.  And one large bowl of tiny shrimp.  This is where it might’ve been nice to have a little instruction from someone on how to eat whelks and winkles along with these tiny shrimp.  All I kept thinking about was Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman each time I picked up a snail and tried to remove him from his home (they are slippery little suckers).

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of sea snails.  They’re pretty chewy, quite similar to clams, but chewier even still.  They’re also incredibly tricky to get out of the shell (I never got a winkle out of the shell successfully) though Jim developed a good system for the whelks.  We decided snails probably need to be stewed or braised for an incredibly long time to make them tasty.  Just as we discussed this the gentleman next to us was brought a platter of escargot, which was a little terra cotta dish with a snail in each spot, filled with what looked like pesto, cheese, butter, garlic.  It smelled amazing.  We had a little bit of snail envy.  Next time, we’ll order some of those, too.

The tiny grey shrimp were not entirely appetizing to me (we didn’t eat too many of them).  I’m not sure, but I’ll guess you were just supposed to eat the shrimp whole, which also wasn’t super appetizing to me.  Has anyone had these before?  What’s the secret?  It’s impossible to remove the head (that’s basically the whole shrimp)

After lunch, we checked into our hotel and set out to explore the “Brooklyn” of Geneva.  Armed with our free transit pass (I think all hotels provide guests with these, which are amazing), we boarded a tram and headed toward a biweekly flea market.  Unfortunately, it was mostly closed off for the day, so we just walked around the area, dropping into cute boutiques here and there.  We found one really cool store (Indie Cat), but it was closed for vacation (a real bummer).  This happened with a few other stores, so when we passed by a movie theater, we decided seeing Baby Driver (in the AC) sounded like a great idea.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t playing there, but it was a little outside the city.  So we decided we’d continue to explore the city and maybe hit up a wine bar (unfortunately, the one we chose was also closed for August holiday).

After a somewhat unsuccessful afternoon, we decided we’d get some gelato (from Manu II Gelato Italiano) ice-cream and sit in the shade while planning our next move.  It was probably close to 100 degrees, so we headed to the mall where the movie was playing and ate something around there, where at least we were in the AC (I think we had city and heat fatigue).

Fast-forward, and we were spending more time in this Geneva mall than either of us had probably spent in a mall in the last 10 years combined.  But, we saw Baby Driver (a good watch, but not the best thing I’ve ever seen) and took a bus back to our hotel.

The next morning we woke up feeling a bit refreshed and were excited to find out the temperatures had dropped down to around 75 degrees (AMAZING) and we didn’t have a plane to catch until 4pm.  As such, we explored the lake (Lac Leman/Lake Geneva, largest in Europe) as well as the Old Town (Vieille Ville).

Everything about that afternoon felt amazing.  The sky was blue, the water was turquoise, the wind was blowing, the sun was shining, and the whole city was preparing for the Fete de Geneve.  We wandered around the water (did a little swan sighting) and made our way to the Living Room Bar and Kitchen for some brunch.  Let me just say, this place has some amazing brunch.  Fancy fresh squeezed juice (Carrot/Orange/Ginger or Pineapple Kiwi), so many egg dish options, as well as waffle and pancakes galore.  I got blueberry pancakes with bacon (the first I’ve had since we moved to Toulouse) and Jim had a waffle with sausage.  It was perfect and the staff was, too.  Funny story – when we were paying our bill, our waiter asked Jim if he was related to Garrett McNamara (the surfer).  We said we were not and he explained he was from Portugal and Garrett McNamara had set/broken a world surfing record there and was very popular.  We’d never heard of McNamara, but were intrigued.  What makes this story even funnier is that a second person brought this up at the airport in Geneva as Jim went through security, “Wow – are you the surfer?!”  Hah.  We’ve been saying, “McNamara, like Robert McNamara” but it seems we should start saying, “McNamara, like Garrett McNamara, the surfer.”

After lunch, we made our way back toward the Old Town and toured the Cathedral St-Pierre and surrounding area.  It might be touristy, but man it was pretty.

As I snapped our last shot (above), we hopped back on a bus and made our way to the airport.  Our first Swiss vacation together had come to a close and I think we’d both say it was a smashing success.


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