I had a night of little sleep as I got everything ready for the big departure. I never mind going into a flight exhausted though, just means that I’ll be able to sleep on the flight. So with my life crammed into a backpack, my mother and I set off for the airport.
On the way we made a couple of important stops. First was to the supermarket where we got no less than 14 Cliff Bars. These are high in energy and will really help me survive when I find myself hungry yet too cheap to buy any food. One of the other stops we made was at Jimmy Johns, where I got one of my glorious subs.
The last stop we made was at the UPS distribution in GR to pick up the internet enabled device that I would be I using throughout this trip. My mother took us to somewhere completely wrong. Completely. We made it to the airport with time for lunch sub numero dos, this time at Quiznos. I also tested my photo capabilities.
The flight was fine, though the Swiss pilot from DC was pretty amusing. Emphasizing that it American regulations against gathering in the isles, the disco lessons would have to be canceled. For shame. My sleep deprivation strategy served me well though, as I slept for about 7 of the 8 hours. By the time I came to life we were already over Lake Geneva. The skies could have been a bit clearer, but as a first glimpse of European soil, I couldn’t have asked for much more.
After arriving, I had to pay about 3 dollars for some chocolate in order to get the WiFi code to the cafe – I do hope my family appreciates that sacrifice, given what a chunk of my budget it represents…
After that I hit the ground walking all over the city. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I considered how different this all looked and how much fun I was going to be having. After a bit of orientating, I settled on the old town as my first destination, since I wanted to see the picturesque buildings – most of them older than America. I was there fairly early so there weren’t many people yet. Those that were tended to be meeting with friends at cafes. Most of these people seemed to be smoking, which I thought paired very stereotypically with their French and coffee. One of the ways that I knew these people were different was that I saw many of them smoking cigars and pipes as they walked around.
The place that I had set my sights on was the St. Pierre Cathedral, situated right at the heart of the old quarters. I knew it when I saw it though, it was very large and really stood out with its Roman pillars. I could go in for free of course, but in order to see anything worthwhile I needed to drop about 20 dollars. My patronage earned me passage up the narrow, winding staircases to the towers. People-jams could scarcely be avoided and were only solved by sucking in and shoving past. Up one stair was the belltower, and the other led to an incredible panoramic view of the lake, Mont-Blanc, and the rest of the city.
I left the church to the museum about the Protestant Reformation and some of the most important figures in all of that. John Calvin was one of the most influential of course. There was some good info about why the Reformation came about, but it got more in depth than I was really interested in so I took my leave. It did feel good to validate something that I’ve learned about in history class over and over. The next stop was to the ruins below the cathedral, which had foundations and such dating back over 2000 years ago to the beginning of human settlement.
Once I left the historic town, I set my course for the harbor to see the Jet d’Eau. While not as impressive as the fountain in Dubai, it is the tallest jet of water in the world. I walked all the way out, getting damp from the mist and the sprinkle of rain that began to fall.
The rain fell harder, so I worked my way to an indoor venue, The Palace of Nations. This was originally built to house the League of Nations but that failed, so following WWII everything was repurposed as the United Nations. I wanted to see what they were b up to over there so I joined a tour. While she claimed to not know the history so much, our guide was quite informative and was able to offer lots of interesting info. She led us through a number of the meeting halls and offered up tidbits about everything. Because it wasn’t being used at the time, we were able to go into the main hall as well.
After stopping at a grocery store for a not so delicious dinner of dry pita and Camembert cheese, I boarded a train and set off for Lausanne to meet my host. I would be staying with a couchsurfer which meant that after a day of solitary wandering I would have someone to chat with. We made some plans to meet a couple of his friends at a restaurant. One was Italian and the other Spanish, so the four of us were a rather international table. I gather that this is normal for this country though. I got a beer and a goat cheese sandwich and both were excellent.
Following dinner and on into the night, we went to a bar called The End of the World and later a place to dance. Twas a grand evening, especially considering it was my first.