Les Grottes

This is post #? of our 2016 Geneva, Switzerland trip: Thursday, May 12, 2016.Les Grottes MapLes Grottes is an area of Geneva directly above the train station (Gare Cornavin) of interesting architecture known as Les Schtroumpes, or The Smurfs, as well as another set of buildings called The Caves (after a river that used to flow through here).  It’s also a bohemian neighborhood with tagged buildings, run-down areas, impromptu sculpture, which is a vast change from Geneva’s button-down, cleaned up general atmosphere.

GenevaSchtroumpes_1The Swiss architects — Christian Hunziger, Robert Frei and Georges Berthoud, built these between 1982 and 1984; the four Schtroumpf buildings contain 170 city-subsidized apartments for rent.  (I found most of the information in English from the Newly Swissed website.)GenevaSchtroumpes_2They said they were inspired by Gaudi, of Barcelona, with his use of natural forms and aversion to the traditional right angles.GenevaSchtroumpes_3 GenevaSchtroumpes_4 GenevaSchtroumpes_5 GenevaSchtroumpes_6But that’s not all Les Grottes is.  It has several small quirky shops, bike repair places (the “parking garage” for bicyclists using the trains is within Les Grottes, picture below), and eating places.  I enjoyed walking through it on one of the not-rainy days.

GenevaLes Grottes GenevaLes Grottes0

At one point, they were going to raze this area and put in skyscrapers, but the residents protested and blocked it.  Admittedly, it is kind of jarring to see Heidi’s cottage all tagged up, but the difference between what we usually see as tagged buildings (concrete housing projects) and this more humble, traditional building, make us think a bit.  I got a hugely negative reaction to this photo when I posted it up on Instagram, but given the neighborhood, I thought it kind of amusing.GenevaLes Grottes1 GenevaLes Grottes2 GenevaLes Grottes2a GenevaLes Grottes2b GenevaLes Grottes2c

Is this the Old Folks Home?  It’s pretty cool-looking, if it is.GenevaLes Grottes3 GenevaLes Grottes4

Ceiling of entryway into parking garage.GenevaLes Grottes5 GenevaLes Grottes6

In this neigborhood, there is the Smurf Buildings, the Caves, tagged and decorated traditional buildings and then this elegant doorway.GenevaLes Grottes7 GenevaLes Grottes8 GenevaLes Grottes9 GenevaLes Grottes10

Random Art atop a community center (? it’s hard to tell what things are when everything’s in a language you don’t understand or read).GenevaLes Grottes11Usually we are at breakneck speed, checking off things in our guidebooks to see, racing around neighborhoods.  But when you are in a place like Geneva — known as a two-sight town — you have to drill down through the usual to find the unique.  This qualifies, I think.




From Home to Geneva • Initial Impressions

This is post #1 of our 2016 Geneva, Switzerland trip: Friday, May 6 to Saturday, May 7, 2016.

We woke up at 3:30 a.m., left by 4:30 a.m., all to avoid the erratic and unpredictable LA traffic.  My husband Dave and I arrived in plenty of time for our 8:25 a.m. flight to Dulles, Virgina, the first leg of our trip to Geneva Switzerland, where he was serving on a committee for scientific consensus under the direction of people at the United Nations in Geneva.

I’d made us lunch, so after eating that (trying to shift to the next time zone, and since we hadn’t had breakfast), Dave logged into the airplane’s wifi and worked on his document for the meetings.  I try to nap and read as there is no entertainment online.  I’m so tired of United Airlines cutting back on their amenities.

United’s new freebie treat.  Wow.  Whoop, whoop, whoop.

We switched planes in Dulles, and were on a vintage plane with weensy screens (4″ on one side?) and 4 movie channels.  Dinner was meh, but were handed out frozen mango sherbet from a separate bag for dessert.  More trying to sleep, but it was a challenge (meaning…almost no sleep).

The Alps and the water.  We arrived early on Saturday morning, around 7-ish. I pushed the happy face.

We found the get-money place, and passed by some beautiful treats in the coffee shop on the way out of the airport (below): We caught Bus #8, and about 15 minutes later, walked the block and a half from the stop to our hotel, Hotel Ibis Geneva Centre Nations.
While charm is not a word you would use to describe this place, it was clean, the bathrooms utilities worked and the bed was pretty good.  Because it was in-between seasons, and foreign hotels don’t turn on A/C (or heat) when it’s “in-between seasons,” we later got a fan to put in our room to cool it down. Our window overlooked another apartment building, and I got to know the habits of the tenants I could see.

We never watch TV, but here it is.

The closet AND dresser.  We mostly just left our suitcases open on the love seat to the left of the desk.  Unfortunately, just after we arrived at the hotel, I started feeling really dizzy, and couldn’t get up off the bed.  I crashed, trying to sleep it off.  We got up at noon, and clinging to Dave’s arm, we got ourselves together.  Well, me…just sort of.
We walked down to the train station, about a ten-minute stroll and find lunch a La Pret a Manger, a downscale version of the known DC/NYC shop I’d eaten at several times.  It was good.  We had a small salad (with even smaller bottle of salad dressing, below) and two good little sandwiches.  : We found the food that we did eat during our stay here was pretty good, although we trended towards lower-cost fare.

Cool screen in welcoming hall in train station.

The round dot is where our hotel is, and the middle blue square 1 icon is the approximate place of the train station.  We found that if we located ourselves on the Google Maps at the hotel, then the GPS would continue to work, so we weren’t too lost.  We always put our phones into airplane mode when out of wifi range (to avoid those fees) and this map trick helped a lot.  We walked to the IT (Information for Tourists) office, but they couldn’t tell us anything without checking the internet, while we waited and waited.  I kind of miss the old days where the ladies behind the desk knew EVERYTHING about their town and could rattle it out.  Now the kidsters at the IT office have to search online anytime you ask them anything.

We checked into one Swatch watch shop and then another, where Dave purchased my Mother’s Day gift for me (it was the next day).

We ambled over to the Manor Department store, where we found Mecca for tourists: an amazing food floor with chocolate chocolate chocolate and the most amazing food. And bathrooms.

The Lindt guy was passing out free chocolates for “Fetes des Meres,” something like Honoring the Mothers. Some beautiful flowers and those funny cookies from the airport.

From the photographs, you think we’d never seen produce before, but every time we head to Europe, we are amazed at the freshness and the displays in the produce sections.  I ate the small red tomatoes on their vine daily.I’m impressed by the way they trim up their mulberry trees–not the way we butcher them at home in our home town.

From Manor, we wound our way down through town and across the bridges to the Old Town section.   We went into the church at the top of the hill, where we found these choir seats from the 15th century.  We are ambling, aimlessly going through different sites.  We have today, tomorrow (Sunday), then Dave starts his work and no more touristing for him. Paved “path” up the winding interior of the Hotel de Ville.Overlooking the park.  We would be heading to that mount in the far distance tomorrow. We found the Hotel de Ville, the park on the back side, and headed back down the Grand Rue, finding a stitchery shop. I made a note to hit this on Tuesday, when it would open again.  Much of the Old Town was closed because of the Mother’s Day holiday, it appeared. Detail, fountain.  Such a dandy.We found our way back to the main drag (this is where a major bus stop was, with multiple busses at multiple stations), then back to the Manor to get some “room snacks.”  We saw several vintage cars out for display, and no, we have no idea why. We stopped for dinner, just below the train station (you can see it behind Dave’s head in the above photo), where we each had a salad and shared a dish of freshly made pasta for dinner.Why do salads taste so good when you travel?(We thought the money was amazing-looking, and checked it out while we waited for our food to arrive).

We ate here multiple times, nearly always sharing some pasta and each getting a salad.The famous Jet d’eEau on Lake Geneva, or as the locals call it, Lac Leman.So you can ride your motorbike in the rain? We paused outside on the back patio of our hotel to eat our treats, then went up to bed, and hopefully, sleep.

If I walked to the end of the hallway on our floor, I could just about see the Jet d’Eau over the rooftops of the buildings. Then when I came back to the room, it was a puzzle trying to work out how to plug in two iPhones, two computers, 1 iPad, 1 fan with only two outlets (4 plugs).  We learned the art of daisy-chaining using the ports of the computers.

The next thing to get was a top sheet from the main desk, as we knew from experience that trying to sleep under those standard-issue duvets on a hot summer night is torture mighty uncomfortable.I began keeping track of my steps, if only to work off the treats of Geneva:So nice to be able to buy good chocolate at reasonable, grocery-store prices again.