Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YORK to 80360 or send an email»
Geneva - the epitome of chic
9:40am Saturday 14th April 2012 in Leisure
There is more to Geneva than chocolate and watches, as MATT CLARK discovers.
NEAR Geneva, particles are whizzing underground at hard-to-imagine speeds as scientists attempt to answer one of the great conundrums in physics.
What made the Big Bang happpen?
Fortunately for those of us daunted by such a concept, there are less mind-numbing discoveries to be made at ground level.
Geneva, named the third most liveable city in the world by Lonely Planet, is a delight. An inland resort, woven around the shores of Europe’s largest Alpine lake, it is a finger of Switzerland surrounded on three sides by France.
This city is the epitome of cosmopolitan chic and the old town, especially, is superb. At its heart is Place Bourg du Four, the oldest square in the city and a favoured place to watch the world go by over coffee, while listening to people chatting in every conceivable language.
The square was first a Roman forum and is dominated by the Cathedrale de St-Pierre, where protestant reformer John Calvin delivered his protestant sermons during the 16th century.
Elegant cobbled streets lead from the square full of exclusive shops.
One of the best preserved is Grand- Rue, with its antiques shops, libraries and art galleries. At number 40 you can see the birthplace of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Nearly a quarter of Geneva is parkland and boasting a superb position on the lake side is its most popular, the Jardin Anglais.
Since 1854, this has been a meeting point and pride of place is a rather eccentric floral clock, one of the city’s best-known symbols. Most of the numerals lie outside the clock and at around seven feet long; the second hand is the longest in the world.
Horloge Fleuri stands a testament to the city’s watch industry.
Geneva’s star turn is the lake.
Formed by a retreating glacier, it is crescent shaped and from the northern shore you get breathtaking views of the distant, snowcapped Mont Blanc.
The lake is also home to the world’s tallest fountain, the 140- metre-high Jet d’Eau on Quai Gustave-Ador, which is beautifully lit at night.
Getting around is easy on mouettes, or water taxis, which run every ten minutes from one side to the other. But the most romantic way to see Lake Geneva is by taking one of the famous stately white Edwardian paddle steamers.
The longer tours to Lausanne and Montreux are worth taking for the spectacular Alpine scenery.
Highlights include the Lavaux vineyard terraces and the fairy-tale castle of Château de Chillon at the eastern end of the lake.
It was made popular by Lord Byron in his poem, The Prisoner of Chillon, about Francois de Bonivard, a politician and monk who was imprisoned there in 1530.
Life in Geneva is good but it doesn’t come cheap, especially with a weak pound. This city is a major centre for banks, luxury jewellers, watchmakers and chocolate shops, not to mention the UN, International Red Cross and the World Health Organisation.
But there is a less expensive part of town in Carouge, on the southern side.
It’s now a trendy corner of town with rejuvenated factories turned into luxury apartments, boutiques, antique dealers, restaurants and bistros.
Carouge was only developed after 1754, when it was granted to the Kingdom of Sardinia and a city plan was designed with a chequerboard arrangement around the Place du Marché.
Today its bustling streets still have a Mediterranean feel and don’t miss the chocolate and pastry artisans.
It may not be on the same scale as discovering how the Big Bang happened, but for mere mortals, it’s just as satisfying.