Geneva is the farthest westernmost point of Switzerland extended into France. It looks like France tried to bite off the little city and got stuck with jaws on either side. So when Sandeep announced our plans for a trip over the French border to Salève, I didn’t bat an eye. Despite the grey skies in the morning, I packed up my very ugly and very functional poncho and we fearlessly boarded the tram into the city. Our first destination, a flea market near the center, was postponed when Sandeep spotted a farmer’s market lined with colorful stalls selling vegetables, fruit, mushrooms and bouquets of flowers. We walked up and down the aisles peering over the shoulders of local shoppers as they compared heirloom tomatoes and varieties of bread.
After the flea market, we caught a bus with the rest of the group and rolled up the mountain to the French border. I watched as our little group breezed past the empty border checkpoint, having forgot the casual nature of traveling between countries in Europe. Up ahead, a small red gondola climbed up the steep 1,100 metres to the top of the mountain. This Mont Salève cable car carries (15 euro for adults) passengers up and down the sheer rock face, suspended by wires and held captive by breathtaking views. Braver souls than ourselves often choose to climb up the steep uphill trail instead, which takes approximately 4 hours from the base to the summit. Additional hiking trails and a full restaurant with views overlooking Geneva await newcomers and regulars alike.
We had lunch at the top, munching on our farmer’s market purchases (baguette, fresh goat cheese and fruit). I don’t know exactly how long we stayed on the grassy hill at the summit, taking pictures and napping in the sun, but I couldn’t get enough of the incredible view. I recognized buildings I had walked past the day before, now just miniature versions of themselves scattered in near proximity to the lake. The pictures on my camera paled in comparison to the wonder and magnitude of the picturesque landscape. I took it as a sign that I should stop trying to document everything and simply basked in the gratitude of being in this place. We took a leisurely walk and stopped from ice cream before descending back down the mountain and home to prepare for the firework festivities.
Since this was the last weekend of Fêtes de Genève, a large fireworks display was planned for Saturday evening as the month-long celebration’s big finale. Sandeep and I headed to an apartment in the center of town and rode the elevator to the 9th floor for a balcony view of the lake and mountains beyond. Adam and Kevin, the hosts of the party, were attentive and kind providing both intelligent conversation and bottles of wine depending on current need. The fireworks began around 9:30pm and lasted for almost an hour with a variety of musical interludes. Prior to that evening, I had always watched fireworks from a picnic blanket or lawn chair. Never before had I witnessed such a display from a top floor view. From the balcony, I felt myself floating above the city alongside the burning embers exploding into the night. There was just one more day left in Geneve and a perfect ending to my first destination on this backpacking expedition.
*The Internet here is incredibly slow. It will only upload one or two pictures so please stay tuned. I hope Wi-Fi will pick up soon!**