A Short Tour of Western Switzerland

16 Jul

I know this post is a little late in the making but here we are! Last month we had the grand privilege of hosting and entertaining my sister and her family for a few days during their jaunt around Europe.

I had been planning their visit for months; where to go, what to see, how to entertain the kids, etc, but unfortunately the weather was less than accommodating to our plans. Nevertheless, with the hubby playing tour guide and the double pram in hand, we were seen at the following spots:

1. Lac Leman (Lake Geneva)

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva

The Lake of Geneva is the largest inland lake in Europe and Geneva is at the very end of it. It is an absolutely beautiful location for an afternoon stroll in the sunshine with crystal clear water, the Alps and the Jura towering in the background and a million sail boats lining the shore. Oh, and not to forget the Jet d’Eau – the most famous landmark of Geneva (stats here for those interested)! In the Summer months, the shores of the lake are filled with people soaking up with sun and swimming in the lake. The most popular spot for swimming and sun lounging is the Bains des Paquis. Historically, the Bains des Paquis was the towns public baths however now you can not only enjoy swimming in an enclosed area but also a massage, hammam and super cheap, super yummy food at the “buvette” (plate of the day is around chf16!). From mid-July onwards there are music festivals (La Fête de la Musique and  Musiques en été) and outdoor movie theatres (CinéTransat and Orange Cinema), and of course the biggest event of the Geneva calendar the Fêtes de Genève (I will post about this one later in August). So if  you are visiting Geneva in the summertime then you will certainly not be lacking in things to see and do.

2. Gruyères and surrounds

We hired a people mover and set off on a day trip to Gruyères. At only 75 minutes drive from Geneva, in the Canton of Fribourg, Gruyères shows off some wonderful (and typically Swiss) landscape, is the home of Gruyère Cheese (and a few typically Swiss cows) and is a stone’s throw from the Cailler Chocolate Factory in Broc (of course, typcially Swiss). This little day tour is well worth the effort. The playground at the Cailler Factory was the biggest highlight for the kids whereas the free chocolate tasting at the end of the Factory tour was the biggest highlight for the adults.

3. Playgrounds, playgrounds and more playgrounds

My nieces love the park so it’s a good thing that there are parks and playgrounds everywhere in Geneva. We are fortunate enough to live in a commune that has 2 or 3 good playgrounds within easy walking distance.  You will also find that most communes will have a small animal sanctuary with ducks and geese that you can feed but there are also plenty of ducks and swans on lake Geneva so you don’t need to look too far.

4. Geneva Old Town

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation (Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft / Confédération suisse / Confederazione Svizzera / Confederaziun svizra), is a Federal Democracy made up of 26 individual Cantons (States) and Geneva was the last Canton to join the Confederation in 1815. The Old Town of Geneva is an area of buildings and lane ways surrounded by a fortress wall, much the same as many other cities in Switzerland and Europe. It  is a very serene and calm part of town and is home to many restaurants, cafes, museums and antique shops. The 12th Century St. Pauls Cathedral sits in the middle of the Old Town and the spire can be seen from many locations in Geneva. The Cathedral is not so large when compared to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the Duomo in Milan but it is quite impressive in its own right and is well worth a look. You will also be rewarded with a magnificent view of Geneva and the lake if you climb the spire – unfortunately we did not manage to do this with this kids in tow.  Beneath the Cathedral is an archaeological site, open to visitors, displaying ruins of the previous Cathedrals built on the site dating back to the 4th Century. We have previously walked through the archaeological site and it can be interesting for those who find that sort of thing interesting (not me!). As with most museums in Geneva, entry is free on the first Sunday of the month.  We have eaten at most of the restaurants in the Old Town and have not yet been disappointed which is why this location is a top pick by many locals. This particular time we ate at Demi Lune Cafe. Great atmosphere, friendly staff, moderately priced (cheap by Geneva standards), children and prams are welcome, food ranges from tapas and burgers to tagines and fondue. Something to suit everyone in the family!

Well that’s just a quick snapshot of my current hometown and surrounds. Do stop by sometime and enjoy it.

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