We thought visiting three countries in one day was impressive a few weeks ago. Today we hit four, including nine border crossings (if you include our quick stopover in Monaco). Not once did we have to show our passports. I love Europe.
To make it to Geneva, Switzerland, by night time we had little choice but to take the tollways. Garmin said it would save us two hours of driving, and we calculated that the money we would save in petrol would roughly cover the tolls. We couldn't have been more wrong. In the end, the tolls came to €80, mainly because we drove under Mont Blanc (France's tallest mountain and, to my surprise, taller than any of Switzerland's mountains) and that 11 km stretch of road cost us €50. I was flabbergasted. We couldn't exactly turn around at the toll point so we had to cough our banknotes. The other tolls weren't as cheap as we were expecting either.
At least the scenery distracted us from our dwindling funds, as we drove through France, then Italy, then France again, then Italy again, then France once more before eventually making it to Switzerland. For a while we followed a river through rocky mountains, with towns perched precariously on the cliff faces. We saw several snow-capped mountains and witnessed a beautiful sunset. Then night time hit and we couldn't see anything but the road ahead. It was almost midnight by the time we reached Geneva, after leaving Monaco at 3.30 p.m. We followed directions to a camp site then parked on a residential street nearby. We fell asleep about 1 a.m., exhausted.
Our car park was perfectly located next to a bus stop, making our journey into the city an easy one. The only concern we had was our currency: we only had euro on us, no Swiss franc. Luckily for us the automatic machine on the bus took both euro and franc, so we were saved there. The first thing we did in the city centre was change our money over, to prevent further worry.
Being Easter weekend the city was dead quiet, which was a welcome change from the crowds we had faced recently. Geneva is situated on a huge lake and is surrounded by mountains, but the centre is fairly flat. In the distance we spotted Mont Blanc, and just looking at it brought up feelings of frustration.
Danny was happy to amble around aimlessly, and I had a plan, so we went our separate ways. I walked along a jetty in the lake (passing people sunbaking on the pebble beach, despite the absence of sun this morning), then up to the United Nations building. There were a few demonstrators outside but it didn't appear to be anything exciting. I signed up for an English tour, which was guided by a French man with a strong accent that was difficult to understand. We entered a few of the rooms, including Assembly Hall and another room that apparently holds 9000 conferences a year. None today though - the slackers were taking the holiday off. The building itself was attractive, covered with artwork of various styles and surrounded by tranquil gardens. A little different to my workplace, full of screaming kids, where tranquility only came after the final school bell had rung.
Quick UN quiz: guess which nation is the only one that does not belong to the UN (I'll let you think about it for a while). I'm pretty sure I don't remember anything else that the tour guide said but it was still worth the visit.
Next stop was the Red Cross Museum, which delved into the history of the Red Cross. Nowhere near as good as I was hoping it would be (or maybe just not what I was expecting). It was interesting and I learned a bit but wouldn't recommend it.
After that disappointment I walked back to the centre of town, through the new city (boring) to the old city (fantastic). Both cities looked equally expensive, with big name brands at every turn. Luckily I wasn't there to shop, although I did buy Danny some over-priced Swiss chocolate for Easter. I walked past the main cathedral, hung out in quiet plazas, watched lively games of giant checkers and chess, and strolled along the shopping strips. The place was filled with people carrying shopping bags – surely they could buy these items cheaper in another country that was only a stone's throw away?
The last attraction I wanted to tick off my list was the Jet d'Eau, a huge water jet in the lake that is one of the main attractions of Geneva. I could see it all day while walking around but I was keen for a close up view. I made my way down to the lake to find that Geneva had other ideas for me. The Jet was off. Apparently this happens in high winds, but there was no wind as far as I was concerned. I wandered around trying to waste time, hoping they would turn it back on but an hour later there was still nothing. Giving up, I caught the bus back to the van.
We were almost out of water in our van, but luckily Danny located a water source at the end of our street. Once it was dark we drove up and quietly filled our water tank, glad not to pay for it (and glad not to get caught). We then drove into town, where I could finally see the Jet on and lit up. As we were double/triple parked, there was a mad rush to take the obligatory photos before retreating to our side street for the night.
The answer to the quiz: Vatican City.