Global Gumshoe | Ron Stern
I am frequently asked where my favorite place is to visit. Since I have traveled to Switzerland more than any other country, I suppose the answer is obvious. What’s not to love? Spectacular snow-covered mountains, safe cities, fabulous hotels, chocolate and natural and man-made attractions always beckon me to return.
My latest trip was in mid-April to Geneva when the last vestiges of winter were fading. Intermittent rain showers gave way to deep blue skies, puffy white clouds and trees just starting to blossom. To me the entire country is, in a word, cute. Everything from the architecture to the cleanliness to the efficiency are all typically Swiss.
Geneva could be called the world’s smallest metropolis. Home to 200,000 inhabitants, it is best known as the birthplace of the International Red Cross as well as the home to 32 international organizations, including offices for the United Nations. The Red Cross museum is particularly impressive with moving displays of humanity in the face of decades of world war.
Geneva also played a pivotal role in the Reformation under the preaching of John Calvin at the Cathédrale St-Pierre. The new International Museum of the Reformation is a newer addition to the city and traces the history of this movement and its influence on modern civilization.
The Rhone River flows to Lake Geneva, creating beautiful opportunities for walking along the waterfront. At dusk, the city takes on a new look as the sky turns dark blue and the lights of the many shops reflect off of the water. This is also the time when people stroll along the lakefront, have a meal in one of the many cafes or just to people watch.
The Jet d’Eau fountain is a focal point of Lake Geneva. The column of water shoots out of the base and rises to an amazing height of 560 feet. At night, lights illuminate this water feature, making it a convenient landmark for finding your way around the city.
Of course, dining in and around Geneva can be as simple or as elegant as you wish. Many sidewalk shops sell a wide variety of fare, from baguettes filled with meats and cheeses to sausages, chocolates and afternoon tea. Cheese is, of course, always in popular demand and fondue is on the menu at many local restaurants.
Most of the tourist areas consist of cobblestone streets with a variety of retail shops, many of which offer luxury items like watches and jewelry. If you love chocolate like I do, you will be in heaven as there are about 10 different chocolatiers, all plying you with taste-tempting creations.
One of the more unusual, and arguably one of the best, is Philippe Pascoet. Starting as a relative unknown, he has built a reputation and following featuring unusual chocolates infused with various intense flavors from things like jasmine tea, cognac, basil and saffron. I had to throw out some clothing from my suitcase just to make room just for the chocolates I wanted to bring back.
Contrary to popular opinion, Geneva isn’t just a place for bankers and big business types. There is a hidden side to this beautiful city that most never see. Just 15 minutes from the city center is an entire countryside waiting to be explored and is quite popular with locals for cycling, horseback riding and wine tasting.
The charming 18th century township of Carouge is a few minutes by tram. This small village has 600 shops and restaurants, many of which are one-of-a-kind. The Philippe Pascoet chocolate shop is located here, along with many artisans still using old-world tools and craftsmanship making everything from clocks to perfume.
If you have never been to Switzerland, you owe it to yourself to add this to your own “bucket list.” The country is safe, easy to navigate, loaded with beauty and fun to explore. This must be the reason I keep coming back. Whether you come in the spring or other times of the year the cities of Bern, Geneva and Zurich will work their “cute as a button” charms on you so that your first visit certainly won’t be your last.
Where to stay
Le Richemond, a Dorchester Collection: Part of the Swiss Deluxe Hotel group, the Le Richemond is ideally located right in the heart of the city with many rooms offering balconies and stunning views of Lake Geneva, Brunswick Gardens and the Alps.
Mandarin Oriental, Geneva: This is another fine property situated on the River Rhone within walking distance of most shopping and historic districts. All of the rooms offer views of the river, Old Town and the mountains.
—Ron Stern can be contacted at email@example.com or by visiting ronsterntravel.com and globalgumshoe.com. Promotional considerations were provided by Switzerland Tourism, Geneva Tourism, Zurich Tourism as well as the hotels and other providers mentioned in this article