Geneva and Chamonix

Made our way to Geneva, and spent a day in beautiful Chamonix.

Colmar concluded my 11-day stint in France, and I was a bit reluctant to leave the beautiful country. I’d just started to get used to the language, and I’ve been there so many times that it has felt like a second home outside of the US.

However, I was excited to move onto brand new, unchartered territory: Switzerland! We had to change trains twice between Colmar and Geneva, and finally arrived in the late afternoon, when we were met with beautiful, clear skies and a fabulous view of the mountains surrounding the city.

There wasn’t too much within Geneva itself; its a pretty modern city, and checks off everything on the list: beautiful scenery (surrounded by mountains), body of water (Lake Geneva), good food (ranging from expensive French cuisine to cheap ethnic street foods), and a standardized list of tourist attractions (Palace of Nations, CERN, museums). You could finish up a solid tour of Geneva within 2 days, 1 day if you’re fast.

Places I recommend visiting:

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CERN, or the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is home to the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. They have a very nice visitor’s center (above) that provides a good introduction to particle physics, for people unfamiliar to the subject.

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The United Nations Office at Geneva, located at the Palace of Nations. Beautiful buildings, and have tours for visitors every half hour or so. Definitely a must-see in Geneva.
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Along Lake Geneva are many luxury stores, hotels, and cafes. After taking a walk along the Shore Path and seeing the flower clock, take a tour of the shops and stop for some delicious Swiss coffee. Forewarning: (almost) everything is very expensive in Switzerland; a small frappucino in Starbucks costs a hefty $8 USD.

 

Chamonix, France

**I’d recommend bringing your passport, as you are passing the French/Swiss border to reach some of these towns. They didn’t check anyone’s passport when we got to the border, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also make sure you wear hiking boots or tennis shoes.**

If you have an extra day, I’d highly recommend taking a bus ride to any of the small towns in the Swiss/French alps. We picked Chamonix, a beautiful small town nestled in the heart of the French Alps.

Even the bus ride over was breathtaking:

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Swiss Countryside
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Small, thin streams of waterfalls could be seen between the crevices
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View of the mountains from Chamonix

The town was absolutely stunning, I had never been anywhere like this before. As we walked the peaceful, bustling streets and sat down to eat at a small Italian restaurant, we would occasionally look up and be revitalized by the image of the snowy mountains and rainbow parasails that floated high above us, a nice contrast with the warm little town.

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Small, bustling town on this June afternoon

It was beautiful at noon, but once 2pm hit, the sky suddenly turned cloudy and the winds swept in. I had really wanted to go parasailing, a popular touristy thing to do there, but the weather had turned too windy for any of the agencies to allow tourists to go out. I’d recommend checking the weather beforehand, and booking in advance.

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Clouds rolling in in the afternoon, slightly chilly with the mountain air blowing down.

The most famous mountain in the area is Mont Blanc, also the name of the watch brand. There is a tram that goes up the side of the mountain, and you can choose how high up you’d like to go (to the top, to the first plateau, etc.). It’s pretty expensive to get to the top, and it was cloudy, potentially blocking the view, so we chose to get off at the first peak, also known as the Aiguille du Midi.

Oh my god

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Aiguille du Midi, literally straight out of the book Heidi

Two little goats greeted us when we got off the tram, but we were too distracted by the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

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You can see little Chamonix nestled in the valley
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Little seester

This was definitely the highlight of the trip! If you wore your tennis shoes, you can hike around and take photos from different sides of the mountain. This is definitely not an experience to miss.

Afterwards, we headed back down the mountain, went back to the bus station, and chugged our way home, off to our next adventure.

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