Enjoying Hermance

Post by Lauren

Geneva has a lot of lovely villages that surround it.  During the women’s club hikes, I have been able to experience a few of these little towns.  Since we walk fast through them, I just note which ones I should re-visit.

One such settlement is Hermance (pronounced Err-mance, with a silent H).   Hermance is about a half hour bus ride or car ride north of Geneva.   It is a lovely little village with a beautiful church and bell tower.

While the family was here, we decided to take a day trip up to it so that part of the crew could walk over the border to France. We took the bus which dropped us in the middle of town.

Hermance is on the border of Switzerland and France


Dunkel kindly pushed me around as I still wasn’t up for much walking.  We took a stroll down the streets of Hermance, noting it was like stepping back in time.  We only saw a few pieces of evidence of technology in bikes that had been left in the street — otherwise, just a peaceful quintessential Swiss village.

During our few hours, we ventured on the stone beach.  While walking near the shore, we noticed scuba gear.   Apparently the town is great for diving. They even have restrooms with showers for divers.

After the walk on the beach,  Dunkel, SweetWine, and The French Cougar took a quick walk over the border to France, which Mama Mia, The Gladiator and I just relaxed on the Swiss side.  Their passports weren’t checked as there is no border patrol at this quiet passing, but confirmed they were in France by some gentleman walking home from Hermance.

After the border crossing adventure, the group recharged with ice cream from the local epicerie (the only grocery store in Hermance) followed by some pastries and coffee at the lone patisserie in town.

Enjoying Hermance. In the photo of The Gladiator and Dunkel by the "creek", they are on the Swiss side, but the trees are in France.

The town is quite nice for guests to experience a quaint Swiss village.  And a plus for those wanting to add another country to their list.


Geneva’s Old Town Train

Post by Lauren

With my feet out of commission, I had been brainstorming ways to show our most recent guests around Geneva.

Luckily there are three tourist trains in Geneva – one that goes to Old Town, Left Bank, and Right bank.   The Left Bank train became my friend last summer when I didn’t know anyone.  It spoke English and was comforting to hear it pass now and then as I was sitting on the lake front.  Good thing I made friends and didn’t have to the rely on forms of transportation for my social life.

Anyhow, on the day that our crew of 5 arrived from the States, we took the Old Town Train.  This particular one starts at Place du Fusterie and winds around the middle of town for 35 minutes.  It costs 10 francs and passes by the following stops:

The little Geneva tourist train

The Statue of General Dufour

University of Geneva

The Reformation Wall

Palais Enyard

Palais de Justice

Bourg de Four*

L’Hotel de Ville

Statue of Pictet de Rochemont

Bust of Henry Dunant

La Maison Calvin

Calvin’s Auditorium & La Cathedrale St Pierre

La Maison Tavel

Le Musee Rath

Le Grand Théâtre

Le Conservatoire de musique


I would rate this train a 5 on a scale of 1 – 10.   It was hard to hear the announcements – they were muffled by the street noise.  Also, the website conflicted with the times that were posted at the entry point causing some confusion.   But for my current condition, a moving vehicle that took us by some Geneva highlights** so that I could fill in commentary was a great thing for us.  If you do have guests or if you are visiting Geneva yourself, email the company for confirmation when and where it will pick up the day you plan to take it.

*I have a friend who lives in Old Town. She detests the Old Town train because of the noise it makes passing her window.  I kind of felt guilty taking it but at least we were going in the middle of the day.

**Our guests asked the baggage guy in the airport what there was to do in Geneva.  He gave them a blank stare and said they’d come to the wrong place for activities.  He did mention Old Town was one thing that they should check out.  Good, glad we had this on the itinerary.






Post by Lauren

Recently, I was fortunate enough to get into a tour at CERN. CERN is located in Geneva, but its underground facilities span both in Switzerland and neighboring France. CERN stands for Conseil European pour la Recherche Nucleaire but also is known as the European Lab for Particle Physics.



It was founded in 1954 by 12 countries (now 20 are members) to determine the origin and structure of the universe. You may remember it from the scene from Angels and Demons when the antimatter was stolen.

I am relieved to find out that this scene is not based on fact. You can’t use antimatter for energy like this, and it can’t be captured and “stolen”. Good to know. Especially because it under us right now. Like literally. They are trying to recreate the Big Bang underneath where our apartment lies so they can understand more about the Universe.



As you can see, a 27 km pipe runs 100 m underground, creating a vacuum comparable to outer space. The particles are whizzing beneath us within the ring 11,000 times a second into France and then Switzerland.

Basically, they accelerate and create head-on collisions for the particles to try to detect and look for “The Higgs Particle” sometimes called “The God Particle.” Each beam has around 3000 bunches of particles, with an average of 100 billion particles in each bunch. Even with those numbers, there is typically on 20 collisions among 200 billion particles. The machine generates. However, there are so many that they can only keep the most interesting ones. So they filter for that and store only the most interesting data.



They have about 100,000 computers in a networks (called computer farms) to analyze the interactions. Only 10,000 or so are here in Geneva  and the rest are in labs all over the world. They use a web network to share and confirm the data transmissions.



You can see in real time how this data is coming in from all over. In fact, the World Wide Web was actually invented at CERN in order for scientists to share their data & experiments. Interesting!

Someone is watching the data and systems 24/7. Mostly it is a team of scientists in Europe. But they said that the folks in the USA take the night shift, so its being monitored and controlled by a lab in Chicago.

They used to let people underground up until when construction was finished 3 years ago. Thus, I didn’t get to go underground, but did get to see the former version that they still use in conjunction with the new systems.

However, I did get to see the spot where antimatter was first discovered!



The CERN guy joked that while the main building is in Geneva, since their facilities spans the border, they actually tap into French electricity. They are using 7 trillion volts of electricity to make this happen and in France it is a lot cheaper. Just like my groceries.

For another take on the tour, check out my new friend’s blog, The Adventures of Miss Widget and Her People.

Famous Swiss Foods: Chocolate

Post by Lauren

Maybe one reason that the Swiss don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day is that it is it is an occasion for chocolate EVERY DAY here.

General Facts:
-The Swiss eat the most chocolate in the world. The average Swiss eats 25 lbs of chocolate per year compared to the 11.7 lbs consumed by Americans.
-The Swiss eat 54% of their chocolate production, only exporting 46%

Personal fact: Gabe and I eat four pieces of amazing Swiss chocolate every night after dinner. We haven’t gained any weight. In fact, Gabe has lost weight.

I was lucky to get a tour of Stettler last week. I felt like Charlie let loose in the chocolate factory.

It was 100% in French so I caught about half of the information being that I haven’t learned all my vocabulary for chocolate production yet. However, one doesn’t need to catch every word to be blown away.

This “chocolate laboratory” is in Geneva and is just one of the many chocolate factories and tours in Switzerland. If you are a francophone, I would highly recommend checking this particular one out.

Moonlight Snowshoeing

Post by Lauren

On the night of Gabe’s birthday, we went snowshoeing in the Jura mountains, around St. Cergue, with AIWC. It was the night of the full moon and it was beautifully clear.

I wish I could share lots of images to capture the beauty but it was so cold on the hike that there was no way I was going to take my hands out of my two pairs of gloves to snap photos.

How cold is too cold to remove hands from gloves? Negative 14 degrees.

I did manage a few shots as we started and finished.

Getting geared up in our snowshoes

Unfortunately, I got a bit faint about 10 minutes in… I think the combination of altitude and the chill with the exercise got to my body and I had that feeling that I was going to pass out. We had some experienced snowshoers in the group and they assured as that this was normal due to all the changes in temperature and pressure with the sudden movement. Luckily, they were right and I started to even out in dizziness as we pressed on. It was a good thing as the bus had already departed from our drop off point and it was still a 45 minute hike in the snow to our pick up point.

So thankful the group was so kind and patient to me, especially those who were experienced. Glad to report that I wasn’t eaten by coyotes and didn’t freeze to death in the wilderness and we made it to the end destination of a fondue restaurant.

We left our snowshoes before heading into the fondue restaurant

Since we really had to work for it, it may have been the best fondue we have ever had.


Geneva Museums: Swatch Museum

Post by Lauren

Unfortunately, many Geneva museums are closed on Mondays*. However, one that is actually open is the Swatch exhibition in the Cite du Temps building. They have an entire floor dedicated to the quirky Swiss watches.

So, Monday, Pascal, Gisele and I enjoyed browsing the Swatch timeline and seeing the models from all the different years.

Everyone had a Swatch story. I actually have a vivid memory of mine. We were all visiting my family in Eastern, NC. My cousin C was older and a lot cooler than me. He wanted to go to the department store to look at Swatches. You see, he’d been saving for a long time and just received a monetary gift during this visit that I think got him to the $25 that he needed for the Swatch. We got to the store and…..he realized the money was gone. It was confirmed that it had been lost.

I was probably 6 or 7 at the time but I remember thinking that was the most awful thing in the world. He was so upset. Poor guy!

I think my other aunt & uncle actually volunteered to buy him the one he wanted. We’ll have to see via their comments if this is how the story went as I can’t remember that detail. All I remember is the lost money that was supposed to buy the watch.

Years later, in 1988, I received my first Swatch. Yup, used to rock this baby out in middle school:

In addition to me finding my gem, Pascal found the one his brother used to have. Then we started going around and finding our favorites which were the kooky ones.

They even used to run some risqué Swatch advertising. Check this out…..



I actually received my second swatch this year for my 32nd birthday, a gift from Gabe’s parents. I had been eyeing it because it was casual chic and if you can believe it, I didn’t own a watch for 10 years prior to this one. Since I didn’t even have a phone the first four months in Geneva, it was really hard to know what time the bus came without a watch. They were kind enough to give me this nice gift. Good timing (no pun intended) as it is embarrassing to be late in Switzerland.



*Fast fact – Patek Philippe makes the most expensive watch ever sold at 11million USD. After checking out the Swatch museum, we headed “upstream” to the Patek Philippe museum to check out their collection of watch history. However, it was closed. Monday. Very rookie mistake of me to not know this Monday museum thing. Oops! I promise I’ll be better by the next visitor!

Discovering Geneva: St. Peter’s Cathedral

Post by Lauren

It’s always nice to have folks in town because you can see the city through different eyes and also in different seasons. On Monday, Gabe had to work, but Pascal, Giselle and I set out for an afternoon of Geneva exploration.

We started with a walk to Old Town, or la Vieille Ville, in French. I have talked about this part of Geneva before on the blog, but case you are just joining us, it is the old walled city.

When I took a tour as a student of University of Geneva, one American frat guy asked our professor which side of the wall the city was on – the really high hillside, or down below. The teacher held it together. Of course, the town was on the hill. Towns in that day and age had to build high and fortify for their protection. Geneva was an extremely coveted independent state and had a very desirable bridge across the Rhone at a strategic point…actually, the only bridge in the Roman era. When I recapped the Escalade Festival , the post recaps the most famous attempt to take Geneva.

It’s actually pretty neat that underneath the St. Antoine parking structure, you can see the original Roman walls that still exist and are well preserved in the transformation to parking garage. They didn’t know they were there until they started work on this parking structure and now they have a little exhibition underground so you can get an idea of what the city looked like when it was walled and surrounded by moats for protection.



This city model in the Maison Tavel museum depicts how the city was perched above and how moats/dredges were dug so that enemies were kept out.


St. Peter’s Cathedral (St. Pierre’s in French) commands the view in Old Town as the tallest building/steeple. It was originally Roman and from the 8th to 10th centuries, it was one of three different cathedrals to co-exist on the site. Underneath the present cathedral, excavators found remains of 4th Century Christian sanctuaries, portions of mosaic floors from the Roman times and a crypt.


St. Peter's Cathedral - present day

However, St. Peter’s is most notably known for being where John Calvin gave his sermons in the mid 16th Century.

Ferdinand Hodler’s painting of Calvin preaching in St. Peter’s

In the 1530’s, Martin Luther had just started in Germany, the printing press had begun to print copies of the Bible, and Geneva had just opted for the Reformation. Calvin, a young French man, was passing through Geneva (he stayed at a hotel in nowadays Place du Molard) on his way to Strasbourg. He hadn’t planned to stay, but later returned to contribute to the foundation of Protestantism.

Geneva then became a refuge for Protestant people to escape persecution in France, Italy and other neighboring countries. More on this and its contribution to Genva society as we know it can be found here in an earlier blog post.

Someone who doesn’t know the teaching of Calvin might characterize St. Peter’s cathedral as the most bland church in all of Europe. However, it was intentionally so. Calvin was very strict in his views that money should not be spent on embellishing the church. So much so that all its altars, statues, paintings and furniture were stripped away during his time. There is still very little decoration, only tiny stained glass windows.


Recent trips to cathedrals in Madrid, Siena, Florence and Lyon show that the Spanish, Italian and French have different theories than Calvin on church decoration


Despite its very simple interior, there are really amazing views from the top of the cathedral. This were actually taken in the Fall vs. our winter trip as it was a bit cloudy that day.


I find it interesting Geneva still serves as a haven for those escaping religious and political persecution. Makes me grateful that I was born in a country in which we didn’t have to fear for either.

Swiss Holidays: L’Escalade

Post by Lauren

This weekend was the annual L’Escalade celebration. In French, “escalade” means climb. In 1602, the Savoys (now France) wanted Geneva badly. It was its own republic and not to mention, a free town. The Duke of Savoy wanted to push out Protestantism and make it his capital. So, his army secretly gathered and tried to climb into the city gate with ladders. They were thwarted and Geneva kept its independence. Thus, the holiday’s name.


Geneva, back in the day. Courtesy of wikipedia - escalade-battle-2.jpg


I was originally told that there was a lady was up late at night cooking soup who heard the climbers and dumped her boiling pot of vegetable soup on their heads and their screams woke up the Genevois so they could defend their city. Apparently, this recount is false that she was the initial defender, but she did dump soup on one soldier’s head and killed him. And his screams woke up more people. She also was the mother of 16 children.

And to commemorate the brave Madame Royaume (the soup thrower lady) they have a marmites (chocolate cauldrons) into which they dip marzapan vegetables to symbolize her vegetable soup. How this correlation was made, I am not sure, but I do know that the confectioner’s on Rue de Marché are very grateful.


A typical chocolate display for L’Escalade. I can’t imagine what the big pot cost. Also below are marzipan vegetables.

Nevertheless, the Escalade celebrates Geneva’s victory and all weekend, people are gathered in Old Town, dressed in period attire. We went Saturday to explore.

Every half hour, there were demonstrations on musket firing, cannons, and battle scenes.

Just for L’escalade weekend, they open the Passage de Monetier, a secret passageway that was used during enemy attacks. It was very tight!! They served vin chaud, a hot spice wine that was very handy to keep warm. I don’t recommend having four cups if you want to have a productive Sunday.

Sunday, we went to the grande cortege, or parade. It was really cool and done in the dark so it is by candlelight, to mimic the time of evening of L’Escalade. There was lots of fire involved and thousands of Genevois in costume.


At the end, they do a huge bonfire in St. Peter’s Cathedral.

We enjoyed our first L’Escalade and are glad to live in this city so proud of their heritage!


Maybe we got Halloween all wrong

Post by Lauren

This weekend is a big weekend in Geneva history, L’Escalade. I knew there would be historical celebrations in store. What I didn’t count on was hundreds of teenagers, in costume, throwing eggs and flour at each other in downtown Geneva. In fact, I was almost caught in the cross fire coming home from Globo Gym Friday.

No one seemed alarmed at all. See all the passerbyers just checking their blackberries, smoking their cigarettes, in all black, of course. I consulted wikipedia, and yes, it quotes, “Teenagers tend to throw eggs and flour at each other as part of the celebration”.

Good that we cleared that up. Here are a few photos from this mornings wait for the bus:

Glad I made it safely home instead of being made into a cake.

Our little yellow boats: the mouettes

Post by Lauren

I just adore Geneva’s transport system. The TPG (public transportation) has a really handy site where you can map your trips. I use this site or the app 3-4 times a day to check up on schedules and waiting times. Frequently, if I need to make a short trip to the other side of the lake, it will suggest one of the water boats. They can be the quickest way to get across the lake due to heavy Mont Blanc bridge traffic. And they are so adorable.

While they are the most affordable way to get out on the water in Geneva, don’t be fooled – the mouettes are all business. They’ll zip you along under the bridges and across the other side in 5 minutes flat. You may need to go back and forth a few times to get the true lake experience!

But, no fear, you can ride them unlimited amount in an hour for 3 francs, or 2 francs for one way. If you have a TPG pass for the day, month or year, they are free!

If you visit, I promise we can go on a ride!