Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Magical World of Geneva - Part 1

Well here we have it! Our getaway to Geneva, Switzerland documented via my Canon camera, though I shared many, many iPhone pics along the way (check my Instagram if you'd like to see more of our day to day). I've finally gone through and edited everything but I think I'll break it up into a couple of posts as to not overwhelm you with photos right away. I'm horrible at whittling away to my  absolute favorites and tend to share most of what I have, so eventually everything might start looking the same to you. Don't want to risk that. ;) This is Europe after all! And no amount of cobblestoned corners or pastel and curlicue architecture can ever satisfy a girl. 

We were given the opportunity to visit Geneva for work. My husband is a part of an incredible company called Laugh Your Way America (click to read more) which is all about helping couples to have a successful marriage by offering a marriage conference that shares life changing information in a funny way. It seems that one of the best and easiest ways to reach people and make a difference, particularly in relationship or marriage counseling, is through laughter. A church in Geneva invited us to do a video conference for their congregation and then asked my husband to preach at their Sunday service. So awesome! YES, we'll do it! 

The invitation came in January, so it was a whirlwind of a trip. So mind blowing when something wonderful surprises you when you least expect it. And it happened to be the weekend of our 16th wedding anniversary. :) 

On our first day it snowed and our hosts kept telling us how we had brought the snow with us because "it doesn't snow in Switzerland". What?! Apparently it rarely snows like this and it was, in fact, their one snow day this winter. Of course, the Swiss Alps are another story and they are so high in some areas that the snow stays even through the summer. Side note: flying in and out was magnificent, seeing the Alps from above. When we arrived it was perfectly clear but when we left, it was a cloudy day. The beautiful thing about having the clouds was seeing the stunning height of those mountains which managed to reach up higher than the clouds along with our plane, creating the most breath taking peaks above them.

This is the view from our hotel room that first day. 
And above are a couple of shots taken in Gruyere. The drive from Geneva to Gruyere was unforgettable. It took us alongside the water (Lake Geneva) with the mountains towering on one side  and on the other, the beautiful lake with a spectacular view of France on the other side. As we drew closer to Gruyere we passed the towns of Lausanne and Montreux, and what a view that was! Our guides pointed in their general directions through the windows and it was truly astounding. Just imagine the slow decent of the Swiss Alps into the lake and how the chalets, which are dotted here and there begin to cluster closer and closer together until they're nestled snuggly into the valley all the way down to the water's edge. So breath taking from our view. The roads tunneled underneath the mountains too and as we finally reached a higher altitude we could see where the snow left a literal line along the mountainside with the top portion fading grey up into a white. It was quite funny to see as the horizontal line of snow was so perfectly placed that it looked as if someone had spray painted it. 

Gruyere was lovely. We toured the cheese factory and had dessert at their cafe. I couldn't get enough of the cappuccinos over there though it's always my favorite drink when overseas (South Africa also makes the BEST cappuccino ;). And we were told to try the meringues with double creme which would, when mixed into one bite, melt in your mouth. And so they did. Mmmmm.....

The next morning, our hotel view had warmed into this below. No more snow. And bright green grass!
Most people living in Geneva are from other countries, many working for the UN or other private international businesses. It's an incredible community of people, where there is no majority or minority. It's quite beautiful. Because of the business that employs much of the city, it's a very intellectual community with people who speak several languages and earn loads of money. Hence very expensive to visit but we were prepared for expensive so were happy to be surprised that first night at Au Petit Chalet, where we enjoyed a few super yummy Italian dishes. We also had the traditional swiss fondue one evening and Brazilian gaucho for another. 

Geneva is on the French border, so they speak French. Switzerland also shares a border with Germany and Italy, so in those regions they speak German or Italian. In the French region, our friends told us that there are many French accents and ways of speaking the language so you can tell a difference in how it's spoken from city to city. They would giggle when they heard someone speak with a different accent (much like we might giggle at a Minnesota accent versus a Georgia accent I suppose) but I got the impression that they felt like their French was superior to that spoken in France. Heehee. Anyway, just interesting things you learn. The taught us that in France they do not say the number "80" but instead say "20x4". And instead of "90" they say "20x4+10". Really! 

We became comfortable greeting everyone with a "Bonjour" or a "Bonsoir." Everyone is so friendly and always shares a musical greeting. So cute! And then of course there was the "Merci" and "Sil Vous Plait". They also always said "Bon Appetit!" before a meal which I thought was lovely. So I had all the very basics down but I'm eager to learn more. 
Most of the population lives in apartments and they are discouraged from buying houses. Apparently they are running out of space for everyone, so are demolishing the old chalets and building apartments in their place. I think it might have something to do with the fact that the buildings can only be built at a certain height as there is a law about obstructing the view of the mountains. So if you can't build up, I suppose you have to build out. Interesting huh? 

Here's a shot of the main UN building below and then a close up below that. The UN is spread out in several buildings around that area, each with it's own specialized agency. We toured the Palais des Nations and it was a fascinating experience. 
But honestly, this was the good stuff. When we arrived in Old Town Geneva, I was in heaven.
My model was really working these shots. :)
Thank you for reading! More to come soon. 

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Thanks for reading!
xx Kirsty

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