Geneva with its river, hills, one-way streets, tramways, bus traffic, bike paths and right turn only lanes, is a nightmare to navigate especially for a directionally handicapped driver like myself. Consequently, I leave the house at 6:30 a.m. with my French chauffeur, aka Gerald, for my 7a.m. chiropractic treatment. After the adjustment, I hoof across town to the podiatrist, for it only seems appropriate to travel to a foot doctor by foot!
The last vestiges of winter chill fill the early morning air, so I shove on my gloves and pull up my hoodie. I stride down Rue Voltaire, past the Cornavin Train Station, and down the pedestrian street lined with watch makers, to the foot bridge across the Rhône separating the city into the right and left bank. Then I follow the lakefront on a route paved in gold, where a square foot of property is worth a thousand dollars.
I pass storefronts of the most expensive, prestigious boutiques in the world: Louis Vuitton French luxury leather, Hermes scarves, Cartier, Dior, Chopard and Bucherers leading name jewelers and Gucci, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Dolce and Gabbana – Italian clothes shops. I gaze at the mannequins in designer dresses that may cost more than my annual salary.
Across the street, Lake Geneva shimmers like a diamond too, in the first rays of sun creeping over the Mont Salève, illuminating the city. On the quay, restaurants, cruise boats, souvenir stands await the crowd. Geneva’s trademark 140-meter high water jet and « horloge fleurie » flower clock symbolizing the Swiss watch industry offers a feast for the eyes. Patek Philippe, Geneva’s famous luxury watch manufacturer is strategically placed adjacent to the flower clock, and Mont Blanc, maker of chic accessories, like pens and lighters, is across the street. How can an entire store sell only pens that start at a retail price of $70? This is Geneva!
Along the lakeside promenade, in the lovely Jardin Anglais, pink and white blossoms peek out of thinly leaved trees like children playing hide and seek. Lining the boulevard Platanes, with knobby bare branched tree tops, appear as gnarled arthritic hands reaching toward the sky in despair.
Two uniformed doormen stand guard the entrance to the five star Swisshotel Metropole on the Quais General Guisan, in the heart of Geneva’s financial and shopping district. They are ready to pamper guests every inch of the way from taxi door to curbside. Servers, dressed in black suits and starched white shirts, whistle as they wipe down sidewalk tables that spill out of the eateries preparing for the lunch crowd.
The heavy morning commuter traffic makes crossing streets dangerous, especially when cross walk lights are never synchronized. I perch on the curb in the island between 6 lane thoroughfares waiting for the little man to turn green.
The city springs to life. Seagulls soar overhead and pigeons coo. Street cleaners hose down the sidewalks, builders resurface storefronts, and city workers tear up gutters for repair. After all, Geneva is an old city, dating back over 4000 years to antiquity.
Though I dawdle at every light and gawk at every window display, I arrive an hour early for my next appointment, so I nip into the nearest cafe where I can while away the time people watching. An endless parade of interesting characters enter and exit while I fill my notebook with more stories, but those tales will have to wait until next week. A bientôt!