8 Fun Facts about Lake Geneva

I find it interesting that many of our guests have the takeaway that from first impression, Lake Geneva appears small.

Image courtesy of Lake Geneva Region Tourism.  This map makes it look small too!

The first few times someone mentioned this, it perplexed me……Lake Geneva is so big.   In fact, it takes over an hour at top speed on a freeway to drive to the end of it.   Driving around the perimeter on good roads takes about 2.5 – 3 hours.

There is not a bad view driving around the lake.

But, looking more thoroughly, I see where someone could come up with this conclusion from the vantage point of the city of Geneva.  Geneva rests at the far west end of the lake, at the very end.   Not to mention, the city lies in the skinniest alcove of the lake.   Thus, at first glance, the body of water appears that it stops soon after Geneva.

How one might think the lake ends over there on the horizon…..

In actuality, the visible part in the picture above is just this portion. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

So, on today’s blog post, just wanted to clear up this issue by providing a few fun facts on Lake Geneva:

1 – It is big!  Specifically, the lake takes up 224 square miles.

2 –Driving around it can add time to your European road trip.    The Mt Blanc tunnel costs 48 euros (around 75 USD) to travel through one-way.   The tunnel takes 20 minutes.  The other option is driving around Lake Geneva, which could add 3 hours to your trip.

Mt. Blanc dominates the lake

3 – It is deep!  Because it is an Alpine lake, it mimics the Alps, in the inverse.   The average depth of Lake Geneva is 507 feet.

4 – It has dual citizenship in two countries.   About 60% lies in Switzerland and 40% lies in France.  Multiple ferries traverse the water each day and are often used by commuters.  In fact, in the below photo taken in Montreux, we are standing in Switzerland but the Alps in the background are French.

5 – It has contributed to science.   In 1827, Lake Geneva was the first place for the speed of sound to be tested in fresh water.

6 – Expensive bottled water likes to call it home.   Evian comes from several springs near Evian-les-Bains, France, which rests on the shores of Lake Geneva.

There is an Evian museum on Lake Geneva

7 – It contributes to great French wine.   The Rhone flows into and out of Lake Geneva, joining the Aarve River, and down to the Mediterranean.  The famous French wine in the Côte du Rhône region sits on the banks of the Rhône, of which the river flow is derived directly from Lake Geneva!

La Jonction, where the Rhone & Arve rivers meet

8 –It doesn’t just go by “Lake Geneva”.   In French it can be called Lac Léman or Lac de Genève.  In German, you might hear it referred to as Genfersee.  In Italian, it can be either Lago Lemano or Lago di Ginevra.

Does anyone else know any other neat facts about the lake?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s officially Christmas season in Geneva.

My favorite addition is the large Sapine de Noël (Christmas Tree) at Place du Molard.   Each morning I walked to the gym, I noted its progress.

IMG_1266

Day 1….Tree going up

Tree being decorated

Day 2….Tree being decorated

And...magic

Day 3..magic

In our household as well, our tree has been fully decorated.   However, it pales in size compared to the one in Place du Molard.   While we bought the largest the store offered, I am still taller than it.

Most people don't have to bend over to decorate their tree

Most people don’t have to bend over to decorate their tree.  Our fern is also almost bigger than the tree. 

Tree with a snowy backyard in the background

Daytime tree with a snowy background

Because we did not bring any decorations with us in the move, we have been accumulating ornaments from some places we’ve traveled, to complement our paper ones we made last year.  These include a bike from Brugge, some tiny clogs from Amsterdam, a snowy chalet from Chamonix, a hot air balloon from Chateaux-D’Oex:

Sometimes, when we couldn’t find an ornament, we had to get creative.  Take this airplane bottle of Scotch for example.   Hey, we had to have something from Scotland!

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We will miss going back to the States this year for sure.  However, it does feel good to be surrounded by the signs of Christmas already in Geneva.

Swiss Baby Names

Back in the Summer, Switzerland released the 2011 Most Popular Baby Names.    It gets a little complicated because there are four different national languages, which very greatly in influence and history.

And here they are:

GERMAN SPEAKING SWITZERLAND NAMES:

BOYS:
Leon – 310 boys were named Leon
Noah
Luca
David
Leandro
Levin

GIRLS:
Mia – 341 girls were named Mia
Lena
Elena
Leoni
Julia
Alina

FRENCH SPEAKING SWITZERLAND NAMES:

BOYS:
Gabriel – 128 boys were named Gabriel in 2011
Noah
Nathan
Maxime
Louis
Nolan

GIRLS:
Emma – 131 girls were named Emma
Chloé
Lara
Zoé
Eva
Léa

ITALIAN SPEAKING SWITZERLAND NAMES:

BOYS:
Mattia – 37 boys were named Mattia
Alessandro
Leonardo
Matteo
Luca
Davide

GIRLS:
Giulia – 41 girls were named Giulia
Sofia
Emma
Alice
Sara
Anna

ROMANSCH SPEAKING SWITZERLAND NAMES:

BOYS
Flurin, Luca, Nino and Noah all tied – A whopping 3 boys were each named those names in 2011

GIRLS:
Anna – 4 girls were named Anna in 2011
Laura
Madlaina

Apparently Luca, Leonardo, Noah, Emma, and Anna transcend all languages since they appear in multiple regions with different dialects.  And Gabe fits into French speaking Geneva quite well with his name, Gabriel, being #1 in 2011.

I only wish this was the case with me.   Lauren is pronounced exactly the same as Laurent, a common French name for men.   If there is no indication to check Mr. or Mrs., I receive plenty of letters and emails addressed to Mr. Lauren.   Gabe also was instructed by his French tutor to make sure to insert some sort of reference to me being a woman when he talks about his home life or travels with Lauren.

 

Headlines from Geneva

I always glance at the headlines of  Le Matin and Tribune de Genève while walking down rue de Rhône each day to the gym.  I am used to translating the day’s feature from French to English in my head for practice.

However, today’s news caught me by surprise with a topic familiar to all of our US readers, mainly because it was a day late.  But it does make sense that as the election was confirmed in the USA, it was 5 or 6am here in Geneva, well past the print deadlines for that day.  So, today was the big day for European media to cover the US election.

Text reads: Obama re-elected. Their hopes. Their challenges. The photos.

 

 

 

The Swiss: They are just like us!

You hear so often from us what is different in our ex-pat lives compared to our previous life in America.  This week, I thought it would be funny to do a spoof on US Weekly’s “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” column to show a few everyday examples of the similarities in American and Swiss citizen’s day-to-day life:

When their cats go missing, they post signs! This reads “Little tricolor cat lost. Please call # if you find it. Thank you.”

They don’t like junk mail. This sign reads “No ads/junk mail in this mailbox”

Baby on board sign

They have troops of Boy Scouts looming around town, saving the day.

They have dollar stores. Sort of. This is a 2 Franc store in the Italian part of Switzerland. So, its more like $2.25 store. Close enough.

They send spam on phones too. Not cool.

They advertise about going green.

Their youngsters play beer pong.  Article / photo courtesy of 20 Minutes.

I’ll keep on the hunt of more examples…..stay tuned!

Pumpkins Galore at the Fête de la Courge

The Sunday after our guests left we went into withdrawal.  We’ve been traveling non-stop for what seems like 4 months.   So what should we do?

Luckily, the small commune of Corsier was holding the annual Fête de la Courge.   Courge means pumpkin in French.  We didn’t quite know what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised by the sweet little festival.

The pumpkin was certainly in the spotlight.  Farmers were selling every variety of gourd….from pumpkin, to squash, to small decorative ones.  They had pumpkins from Switzerland and pumpkins from Provence.

Lots of little pumpkins

A very attractive line-up

They had pumpkin pie.  Pumpkin quiche with bacon.  Pumpkin soup.    We even found the “great pumpkin”.

Delicious pumpkin treats

Gabe with the Great Pumpkin

However, sorry to report that there were no pumpkin spice lattes.

They also had a ton of local merchandise: sausages, macarons, wine, and Gabe’s favorite: Brasserie des Murailles beer.

A nice spread

Homemade macarons

Sausage

Brasserie des Murailles beer

We enjoyed the revelry and even bought our own pumpkins to decorate our flat.  They are not the traditional Halloween kind….more natural and lopsided, but they will do!

For more on the festival and dates for 2013, check out the Corsier website.

Desalpe Festival

Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I realize that we live in Switzerland.   We love getting to experience a completely new way of life and new customs.   This past weekend was no exception, when we attended the Semsales Desalpe Festival.

What is a Desalpe you might ask?    In Switzerland, the cows happily live in the Alps in the summer, munching away on the greenest of grassy pastures.  However, the cold snowy temperatures that come in the winter are even too harsh for Swiss cattle.  So every Fall, the happy Swiss cows come down from their summer home in the high Alps to their lower grassy pastures and barns.

Most small villages celebrate their return home with a Desalpe Festival, literally translated, “from the Alps”.

We attended the festival in the town of Semsales, in the canton of Fribourg, near Gruyeres.   This festival is special because of its spacing.  Typically, all the herds are condensed in one parade.  However, in Semsales, each group gets the individual spotlight.    From 10:00 in the morning until 18:00 in the evening, a total of 14 families march through town proudly, welcoming their herd home for the winter.

We got quite an awakening to the procession when parking our car.   Literally, one of the herds came into us!

Well, hello there.

Walking into town, we got to see quite a few more processions.    The first few cows wear very tall ornamentation.  Sort of like Christmas trees on their heads:

Nope – not Christmas in October. Just the Desalpe festival!

Then comes the more subdued cows….smaller floral arrangements.

This lady has a classier look going on. But what she looses in floral prowess, she makes up in cowbell size. Holy cow.

Moo-ve over and get out of my way, lady.

Just an everyday walk on the highway

In addition to the cows, groups of musicians were also a special part of the Desalpe.   We enjoyed the cowbell group:

The cowbell band

Handling their bells. The muscles on these folks have to be strong!

We really enjoyed the Alphorn band

They also have delicious cheese and meat based foods.

This was a super big pot of cheesy potatoes

Local meat, cheeses, and breads for lunch. Plus some nice red wine from the nearby vineyards.

If you are attending a Desalpe, just make sure to wear old shoes or maybe even some wellies.  You are most certainly going to step in something nasty.

Hey lady, maybe you want to keep your baby out of the cow poo

I thought this was my best picture of the day until I realized what was happening.

For a more interesting visual, check out the video footage from our day at the Desalpe:

Six more pieces of “chocolate trivia”

While the Heidi and Olga were in town, we managed to sneak in a chocolate tour at Stettler Laboratories.   I had done a tour with the AIWC back in February, and it was really well done, so thought they’d like doing it.    Plus, the last time I did the tour, it was in French.   So, this time, we opted for English and I soaked up a few more facts that my previous visit.    Here is what we learned:

Chocolate can help get your full day’s servings of fruits & vegetables.   The cocoa pod, from which chocolately goodness is extracted, is actually a FRUIT!

The cocoa plant.  Kind of creepy.  Like a brain.

Chocolate can help your garden grow.    You can actually use the non-edible parts of cocoa shells for garden mulch.  Just be careful if you have a dog!!

Cocoa shell images courtesy of Homejelly.com

White chocolate actually isn’t chocolate.    It is a derivative of the delicious stuff, but really only uses the cocoa butter.

Learning about the differences in cocoa and cocoa butter

You can spread out the joy over many months.    Most chocolate keeps six months.   If it has cream or fruit-type ingredients, you should consume it over 8 weeks.  Good to know!  I always try to consume it within a week so it didn’t go stale or maybe that was just because there was fresh yummy chocolate in the house and I couldn’t resist.  But, I guess I can savor it a bit more now!

Chocolate can’t be kept as long as a fine wine, but longer than I had assumed!   Loved Stettler’s chocolate wine bottles, just in time for the grape harvest, come stuffed with truffles 🙂

However, speaking of storage, don’t keep chocolate in the fridge.  The moisture can break it down.  If you don’t have a cool, dark place, make sure you wrap it tightly so the moisture doesn’t reach it.

Mmmmmm. Tasty!

Like most hand-crafted goods, expect to pay more for quality chocolate.  Stettler is a very quality Swiss brand and all of the chocolate is made by hand.

The classic marmites for Geneva’s L’Escalade take a lot of hand-work.

If you would like to visit Stettler, you can call or email them to make an appointment for a visit.   The visit costs 20 CHF per person, but includes a lovely gift of the famous Paves de Genève at the end.
Chocolats Stettler
49 avenue Blanc
1202 Genève
Téléphone: 022 738 17 20
Related links:

The Swiss Watch Blog:   It’s Raining – I guess we have to go to the chocolate factory

The Swiss Watch Blog: The Land of Chocolate & Cheese

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Famous Swiss Foods – Chocolate (My first Stettler visit)

A Perfect Swiss Day

Hooray!   Isabella and Ferdinand have been here!    They had a wedding to attend in England and we were lucky that they came to Geneva to visit us beforehand.

Ferdinand had to work at the beginning, organizing a golf event.  Once work was done, on the weekend, the four of us set off on a Swiss adventure.

Our first stop was the Lavaux wine region.  Isabella can’t drink currently (she is expecting), but we wanted to show them this UNESCO gem nonetheless.  So, we took the Chexbres exit off of the A1 and descended down the village towns into Rivaz.   They were breathtaken with the gorgeous terraced vineyards as we are every time we visit.

Next stop…..Gruyères.

Ramparts of Gruyères

Walking around the château

Lovely little village

We skipped the cheese tour (we knew we were having raclette for dinner), but all did order Gruyère-cheese based dishes for lunch.

After Gruyères, we drove to Broc, home of Cailler chocolate factory.

Smelling the cocoa beans.

Branche candy bar machine

Ta da! The tasting room!

I just go straight to the good stuff at the end now. I am trained.

Discussing the merits of milk & white chocolate

Weeeeee!

 

 

After playing on the playground a bit, we headed back to Geneva.  We had a big night in store.

The Schwingen & Switzerland crew was hosting a raclette party before the big Fête de Genève fireworks.   Ferdinand and Isabella had raclette their last time in Switzerland, in Zurich, but they were impressed by S’s monstrous spread.

The spread at the S’s

Raclette in action

 

For dessert, S had “Creme de Gruyère” and “Creme Brulée” Movenpick ice cream.  She surprised her dad and me with a candle in each carton for a birthday surprise.  It was the loveliest ‘cake’ I have ever had.  If you have an opportunity, I urge you to try Movenpick ice cream.  Full of Swiss whole cream, its the real deal.

We left their house and were immersed in the madness that is Fête de Genève.  We say it is the absolute busiest, craziest time of year in Geneva.

We luckily found a spot for 12 of us, near the rides, and watched the magnificent hour long fireworks:

The beginning of the fireworks

 

Love this type!

Jet d’eau, in harmony with the show

What a perfect Swiss day!

 

 

Related Links:

The Swiss Watch Blog:   Cheese Wars

The Swiss Watch Blog:   It’s Raining – I guess we have to go to the chocolate factory

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Famous Swiss Foods – Cheese

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Famous Swiss Foods – Chocolate

The Swiss Watch Blog: The land of chocolate and cheese

The Swiss Watch Blog: Thanks for a Joyeux Anniversaire, everyone

The Swiss Watch Blog:   The fête commences

 

 

 

A day at the beach…including killer ducks

Hermance is located north of Geneva.  It is 30 minutes on Bus E.    I mentioned in a previous post, it is a nice little village, beautiful and charming.  Also, for guests, it can be a quick way to cross the border into France, as we did this spring.

Charming Hermance

It also has a really nice stone beach.   I visited this summer with my friend San Francisco Gal.  We made a picnic and enjoyed the sunshine.

A few things to know about the beach in Hermance:

-entry is 4 CHF for adults and 1 CHF for kids

-they have a snack shop, so you can purchase food & drinks (alternatively, we brought our own)

-its really windy since it is on a point…be prepared for temperatures cooler than Geneva

-its a rock beach as is common on Lake Geneva.   Maybe bring water shoes if you plan to do a lot of walking/swimming.

Hermance beach

-there are a lot of scuba divers.  They have special scuba showers and it is common to witness scuba activity such as this:

 

Scuba guys

-They have some ‘killer’ ducks.   It started as innocent as them pecking at my big toe, but then they quickly took over our picnic.   Have you ever seen anything like this?