Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Europe - Episode IV

Tuesday, September 4th
We had reluctantly decided that we should leave England to leave time for Switzerland and Italy. So we had booked a flight from London Gatwick to Geneva, Switzerland. We were to fly on EasyJet. Europe has several small airline companies that offer reasonable rates on short notice. We found them online by going to sites like Orbitz and Travelocity to see what airlines offered cheap fares and then book directly with those airlines. It’s easier to deal directly with airlines about schedule changes than with Orbitz and Travelocity.
Chalk Cliffs of England 
We also had found a hotel near Geneva. Geneva is very expensive, and we discovered that it is about a third cheaper to stay across the border in France. We also stayed in France because during our stay we were to attend one of Alex’s friend’s wedding in a small village a short distance by bus from our hotel.
We checked out of our London hotel, took the train from Victoria Station to Gatwick Airport, flew to Geneva, and took a cab to our hotel. On the way to the hotel, the cab driver told us we were driving through CERN - Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, which is the large European super collider.
We eventually found our hotel in Saint Genis Pouilly, hoping that it was reasonably close to public transportation to downtown Geneva and to the nearby village where the wedding would be. It turned out to be perfect. There were regular buses to the Swiss border near the CERN headquarters where we could catch the light rail into Geneva, and the buses went to the nearby villages.
We explored the town and ate at a kebab place run by a crazy blue-eyed Moroccan man who was on his 7th marriage.

Wednesday, September 5th
We took the short bus ride across the border into Switzerland and went to the CERN visitor’s center. We’re from Los Alamos. We had to go in and see the particle accelerator displays. 
Visitors from Los Alamos at CERN
I talked to one of the museum staff and learned that the next day, September 6th would be a Geneva holiday. Not a Swiss holiday, just a Geneva holiday. The residents of Geneva get September 6th off to fast and eat plums. “Wait,” I said. “You get the day off to fast (go without food) and eat plums (food)?”
“Exactly,” he said.
This was good information because when there is a holiday, the bus and train schedules are goofy.
We took the train into Geneva and walked down by Lake Geneva, saying hello to the swans, watching boats, and exploring. 
Feed the Bird - Tuppence a Bag
We went to see the famous floral clock and walked into the old part of town to visit the cathedral and explore some of the other sights. 
Le Clocke du Flowers
There is a park in Geneva with giant statues honoring the protestant reformers. Alex had learned about it in a religion class at BYU, so he asked someone about them. It was short walk down to the park to see the statues.  
Alex and the Giant Reformers
While in the park, Alex and I played chess using giant chess pieces. Alex usually beats me at chess, but we fought to a draw, which made me very happy. 
The End of the Draw Game
Vexation for Alex
We were hungry, so we stopped at a pizza place. Geneva is one of the most expensive cities in the world. We studied the menu. It was clear that we were expected to sit down, order several courses, and then empty our wallets. Instead we probably offended them by buying one small pizza to split.
Swiss Pizza a la Mucho Dollars
Thursday, September 6th
We decided that while the residents of Geneva took time off to fast and gorge themselves on plums, we would rent a car and drive into the mountains. 

Switzerland Scene
There are places where you can pay lots of money to go to the distant glaciers on trams, and that sounds wonderful, but we opted to go to Reichenbach Falls. It would continue with our Sherlock Holmes theme. It is where Holmes fought his arch enemy Professor Moriarty, and the online information showed it to be a spectacular sight. And it was. Our drive was enjoyable. I drove. Alex navigated and taught us about European traffic signs and things. The Swiss country side is lovely. The high mountains are spectacular. We had fun. We took the funicular rail to the base of the falls, then walked to the top and hiked back down. 


Reichenbach Falls
A Reenactment 

Relaxing at the Top
It was beautiful.
We found the original note Sherlock wrote to Watson.
My Dear Watson
This is the Place Monument
On the way back to Geneva, we stopped at the Swiss Temple. 
Swiss Temple in the Evening
Alex’s GPS took us there. It’s fun to see the temples up close. We dined on supermarket food and drove to the hotel.  I returned the car early the following morning to avoid the goofy holiday transport schedules.

Friday, September 7th
The day of Alex’s friend’s wedding arrived. We were unsure of the bus schedule, so we left early, thinking we might have to wait for up to an hour, but the bus arrived at the stop almost exactly when we did. We had to run a little bit, but were growing accustomed to running to catch public transport. So we arrived in the town square in the little French village of Thoiry a couple of hours before the wedding. This gave us time to relax, buy a few things in the village shops, and take pictures.
Early Morning in Thoiry
Thoiry Courthouse before theWedding
A few minutes before 10:00, guests began arriving, and soon the courthouse patio was crowded. In Europe, LDS couples are married by a recognized civil authority and then they can go the next day to the temple for the sealing ceremony.
The room where the wedding ceremony occurred was really packed. I stayed out in the hall and helped entertain some young twins so their mother, who actually knew the couple, could poke her head in and watch parts of the ceremony.
We had our picture taken with the bride and groom. 
And We Came All the Way from America
I told Alex to flirt with the beautiful bridesmaids, but he would have had to flirt in French, which unfortunately limited his capability. 
Alex had purchased a gift for the couple in London: nice cutting boards (the French are wonderful cooks) and an English cookbook with recipes for Bubble and Squeak, Toad in the Hole, and other atrocities. We all agreed that it was the perfect gift.
A Gift for the Unsuspecting French Groom
We hitched a ride to the LDS chapel for the reception and sat through a few speeches in French, which once again brought on a little drowsiness.  It was worth it for the refreshments. The French, as you might expect, know how to make hors d'oeuvres.
Where is the Bubble and Squeak?

A bus we caught near the chapel took us to Saint Genis Pouilly, but we misunderstood the stops and got off in the next village. So we had to take another bus back to the stop near our hotel. 

No comments:

Post a Comment