A very cosy coach ride with 60 Australian rugby fans deposited me at London Victoria Coach station, where I sensibly dumped the luggage for the rest of the day and went for a wander around London, the nice bit. Every time I go to London I can’t get over the size of it. The houses of parliament take up an entire city block. Buckingham palace grounds could easily fit a large village. Anyway, I had a lovely time traipsing about, admired the Fortnum and Mason wares, and their elegantly dressed staff, before raging against the prices – 20 quid for a tin of hot chocolate powder. Tcha! I enjoyed sunset from the steps of Trafalgar Square, admired the moon with scores of other people on the steps below the Crimean war monument (was quite odd there were about 100 people congregated on the steps staring up at the moon like pagan worshippers…but nice, very pretty) , and explored the Institute of Contemporary Art. The exploring took about 10 minutes, it is disappointingly small, but the mosaic floors are fantastic, as is the entry fee – 1 teeny pound. It also has a nice bar. Just saying.
I was actually in London not so long ago for a reunion with friends, one of whom I hadn’t seen for 21 years! After an extremely educational afternoon at the Natural History Museum (Not being facetious here, the London NHM has hands down the best geothermic – yep, volcanoes and earthquakes – section I’ve ever seen, and it’s got dinosaurs, and it’s in a really cool building), followed by a very late, boozy evening, we had a leisurely breakfast and took a walk in Battersea Park. Now I’ve always had the idea that Battersea Park was some sort of industrial area on the outskirts of London. I can’t say for sure where this idea came from but I suspect it had something to do with the name ‘Battersea’ being one short consonant sound away from the word ‘battery’. Anyhoo, I was utterly wrong. Battersea park is a lovely long stretch of green spaces, and sculptural features, next to the river Thames. Next time you’re in London, go. It’s very enjoyable, lots of fountains, contemporary art, and tucked away seating areas to spend a sunny afternoon with a book or a loved one, or a lap top.
As London began to quiet down for the night I took a coach to Gatwick which, let me tell you, for an international airport has really crappy night time services. Especially the North terminal. If you’re waiting for an early flight at Gatwick, do yourself a favour and go and hang out in the South terminal until it’s time to check in for your flight, they at least have a 24 hour M&S food shop and a WH SMITH so you can get a magazine.
By the time I landed in Geneva I’d gone through the other side of tiredness and back into “Oh my god I’m somewhere new” excitement.
Geneva was easy to like even before I left the airport, if only because upon arrival you can get free train tickets from the airport into the city, woohoo! However, my French isn’t good enough to really understand all the writing on the airport machines so a nice German chap took me, and a Turkish girl who was facing similar illiteracy problems, under his wing, getting us seated on the train and introducing us to his two Australian friends who gave us a general description of life in Geneva. As you may have noticed from that one incident, Geneva is a cultural melting pot. Apparently the rest of Switzerland refers to Geneva as the garbage can of Switzerland because it does have such a vast array of foreigners living there…bit harsh as nicknames go, but if that means that less people want to go there then that’s fine by me because I thought it was splendid and want to go back.
I spent a glorious, sunny day (good weather the first time you visit a place is priceless, it colours your perception of everything. If LA didn’t have sunshine virtually every day of the year, it would be ugleeeeeee… like a cat without fur) strolling through the wide, bustling streets of the city centre before wandering across a bridge over the clearest, bluest body of water I’ve ever seen in a city. Geneva is really close to the French border and the country’s influence is seen everywhere from the language to the food, to the architecture. The old town part of Geneva, over the water, is particularly charming with an abundance of cobbled streets, balconies, boutiques and brasseries inviting you to forget your life’s purpose for a while. Or they would if I still had a life purpose; declaring with heartfelt emotion to anyone who will listen, “I never want to work again!” does not count.
There is this marvellous air of diplomats and ambassadors abounding in Geneva, it leaks through permeates the city like the smell of the carnivore two streets away having a BBQ. Walk two city blocks and you will have heard probably half a dozen different languages wafting by in various clouds of conversation. Passing by the five star hotels on the waterfront you witness soirees amongst the presumably wealthy and immaculately dressed. The elegance of people all around you: the good quality clothes; the expensive hair cuts; the gracious manners; the discreet scent of classic colognes and perfumes; the lean, spry physique that one associates with lifelong health & a balanced lifestyle, as opposed to diet pills and 3 hour work outs. The city whispers wealth and good taste at you, it would scream but that would be ostentatious.