A perfect day in Geneva


You've got a day to kill in Geneva, the streets are stirring and you're crying out for a croissant and a café renversé – if only you knew where.

This content was published on January 31, 2006 minutes

swissinfo asks two English-speaking expats with their finger firmly on Geneva's pulse for the inside track on how to turn a blank canvas of a day into a memorable masterpiece.

"I would start my day with breakfast in the Old Town, ideally after waking up in the Hotel les Armures," says full-time mother Ann Broome, who grew up in Carouge and now lives among the vines in the village of Cartigny.

"I don't have any particular favourites, but if it's summer then definitely outdoors and in winter there are lots of little cosy cafés for a hot chocolate or a coffee. Then I would have a wander around the Old Town, which I think is really special."

While also a big fan of the cobbled, sloping streets of the Old Town, World Radio Geneva (WRG) presenter Jennifer Clickner has a positively squishy spot for Carouge where she has lived for the past eight years.

Her ideal first port of call on a cold winter's morning is the Wolfisberg bakery on Place du Temple, which is manna from heaven for those with kids in tow.

"Inside they have lots of magazines and funky sofas – they even have a kids' romper room," says Jennifer, who presents WRG's drivetime show and a weekly travel programme called the Great Escape.

"You literally throw them in this room and they're behind a plate of glass. You can sit quietly and drink your coffee while you watch them bounce off the walls."

"Then you have got to have a wander around Carouge because it's totally charming. There are lots of silly shops, tons of atmosphere and a wonderful old cinema called the Bio 72. There's also a great farmers' market on Wednesday and Saturday."

Classic Carouge

And the sales pitch for Carouge doesn't stop there. According to Jennifer, first-time visitors could even find themselves drawn back in the evening.

"It's also really good fun at night. You have the Chat Noir if you want a bit of live music down in a smoky basement. A really nice bar if you like leather chairs and champagne by the glass is the bar A Côté next door to Café des Négociants, which is a hyper-trendy monument to nouvelle cuisine.

"If you're looking for the best fondue you go to the Au Vieux Carouge, which has big, long communal tables. If you want something really old-fashioned and lovely the Olivier de Provence is a dream."

Leaving the delights of Carouge behind and heading back into town, both Ann and Jennifer make a beeline for the lake.

The lakeside offers plenty of options for whiling away a couple of hours whether among the "beau monde" at the Bains de Pâquis in summer (they do a champagne fondue in winter, says Jennifer) or taking a stroll and admiring the view from the Parc des Eaux-Vives or the adjacent Parc des Granges.

Out on the lake, even in the middle of winter, the Compagnie Générale de Navigation runs lunchtime and dinner cruises. But the period from mid-April to the end of October offers more fruitful pickings for those keen to chug around on a belle époque steamer.

"You can take a boat up to the medieval village of Yvoire for lunch and have 'filet de perche'," suggests Ann. "You can then have a walk around in the afternoon and visit the Garden of the Five Senses, which is a joy to behold. If you have a car there are little villages on the way to Yvoire, which have ports as well and are less crowded."

Red Cross museum

Back on dry land once again it's time for a spot of culture. For something unique to Geneva, Jennifer plumps for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum just up from the Place des Nations.

"It gives the whole history of the Red Cross, how it came about, and there are lots of artefacts from the field," she says.

Ann has two favourites: one a recent discovery and the other a favourite with her children.

"A place I discovered really recently to my shame, seeing as I've been here such a long time, is the archaeological museum of the Old Town of Geneva, which is under the cathedral. It is beautifully laid out and super modern," she says.

"I also love the Natural History Museum in Eaux-Vives because it has all the flora and fauna of Switzerland, including a stuffed bear!"

Ann, for whom cooking is a passion, is similarly effusive about the gastronomic delights of the Geneva area, which she says is home to some "real pearls and treasures".

And while at the end of her perfect day in Geneva, Jennifer is spoilt for choice in Carouge, Ann has her eyes set on one table in particular.

"My ideal day would finish off at the Domaine de Châteauvieux in Satigny, with a drink on the terrace in summer or inside in winter, and eat at the table d'hôte that chef Philippe Chevrier has there.

"He has a table in the kitchen where you can have your dinner with friends and you can watch everything going on around you. It's absolutely wonderful for anyone that's the least bit interested in cooking."

swissinfo, Adam Beaumont in Geneva

In brief

Basel is pharmaceuticals, Zurich banks and Geneva a diplomatic crossroads par excellence.

English is more than just a second language in these cities; it has helped define their characters in the modern age.

But what is it about these very international cities that have convinced so many native English speakers to put down roots?

swissinfo speaks to expatriates in Basel, Zurich and Geneva about the places to see and the things to do in their adopted homes.

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