It’s hard to believe that I am now in my third week of being in Geneva. The time is flying by and even I am amazed at how much I have managed to see and do in just three short weeks. Despite having gotten lost a few times (which arguably isn’t a bad thing) and sometimes feeling a little overwhelmed with settling down, so far so good!
Here are 10 things I have discovered about Geneva that make it a fantastic and enriching place to live:
1. The location of Geneva
It’s not every day that one gets to wake up and say they live in central Europe. Located in Switzerland’s southern tip, this means Geneva shares a border with France and Italy (it just doesn’t get old saying that!). Europe is also renowned for it’s travel system, whether it’s booking flights somewhere or hopping on a train for the weekend at a low cost. In the few weeks I have been here I have driven to La Clusaz (in the Alps) for skiing, caught a bus over to France and hiked Mount Saleve, caught trains to Lausanne, Bern, and driven to Grenoble! I may have also booked a few flights for the coming weeks (to destinations including Amsterdam and Barcelona!!)…
2. Numerous markets
It doesn’t get more European than visiting a weekend market. Every week there is a food market set up in an area called Plainpalais just two tram stops from my apartment. There are numerous stands with cheeses, breads, (the list goes on) and several food trucks. Rumour has it France has some lovely markets so that’s on my long list of things to do and see! It just feels as though you’re in a movie when you wander around a Saturday market doing your groceries!
3. Grocery shopping in France
Unfortunately I have to confirm the numerous warnings I had about how expensive Geneva is. At times it is a little shocking…but there are ways around this. For example, I have now resorted to hopping on a bus to France to do my weekly shopping. Although it takes a little longer to shop, the difference in price makes up for the time spent. It makes that weekly, often mundane, chore a little more fun!
I am a sucker for anything “cultural.” Luckily for me, in Geneva the museums are free on the first weekend of each month! I took advantage of this the other day and went to the Ethnography museum and a modern art exhibition. A little culture is always good for the soul! Next on my list is Geneva’s famous watch museum, Patek Philippe (that’s a must see, given that Geneva is the great creator of watches).
5. Transport system
I love how easy it is in Geneva to hop on and off the tram. There are stops all over the city, including one right outside my apartment which couldn’t be more convenient when I am rushing out the door for class! From my place, the tram line takes fifteen minutes to get to Gare Cornavin, Geneva’s train station, and from there it’s another 7-minute train ride to the airport or one can get on a bus and go elsewhere in Europe! Pretty convenient I must say.
6. The old city
Every city has its special spot. Situated just above the city centre, Geneva’s old city truly embodies that “European charm.” Paved with beautiful cobbled streets and decorated with buildings or monuments that date back to the 16th century, it’s a wonderful place to get lost in or have an (expensive) hot chocolate. The cafes and shops are beautiful and have that fun boutique vibe. It’s always nice to window shop if things are a little pricey.
7. The diversity of people and language
Due to the location of Geneva, naturally there are people from all over the world here to study and work. In Switzerland depending on the city, people speak Italian, German, French, and English! It’s incredible how many people I have met that come from all over the world. It always astonishes me when I meet people who speak 4 or 5 languages – which, in Geneva, is common, let me tell you. It puts me to shame when I say I only speak English and sort of French – which, by the way, I am improving in already!
8. The chocolate and cheese
Dangerous words I know, however I am in the land of chocolate and cheese, after all. It’s a good thing I walk as much as I do… because it is IMPOSSIBLE to escape the temptation. The streets are lined with chocolatiers and the shelves in grocery stores are stocked with endless supplies. Quite honestly, the way I see it, it would be insulting not to taste some of Switzerland’s finest products. I wont say any more on the matter as I don’t think it’s necessary for you to know how much chocolate I have devoured.
9. The Lake
Having grown up in Vancouver, I constantly miss seeing the ocean. Though I’ll admit it’s a little smaller than the Pacific, Lake Geneva provides me with some of the comforts that seeing the water brings. The jet d’eau (a fountain in the lake) is lovely to look at and the other week I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. I can’t wait for summer when you can use the waterbus to cross the lake! You technically can use it now, but it may be a little cold for that.
The University of Geneva has a different feel than McGill. Rather than being a campus, there are different buildings (fairly close) around the city. My classes are divided between the main campus, which is a little more modern, and another campus that is older and situated in a beautiful park. I am starting to understand my way around now and just discovered a nice little library in one of the buildings! Discovering a new campus has been exciting, challenging and a little scary at times! It feels like I am a first year all over again, hoping I don’t walk into the wrong lecture.
So far, my exchange has been full of amazing experiences and I can’t wait to see what is next in store for me. Tune in for my next “Geneva Chapter” piece!
Photos are the author’s own.