We caught the 9:30 train from Paris to Geneva. I had time during the 3 hour ride to catch up on a bit of blogging while enjoying the French countryside whipping by on the high speed train. Photo opportunities are fleeting at 300 km/hr.
Arriving in Geneva, we quickly found our hotel and hopped on the tram to the United Nations European Headquarters in time for the 2:00 guided tour. We arrived along with 2 bus loads of raucous high school teenagers but luckily they had their own tour guide. Our guide was a young fellow from Egypt and he was well rehearsed in the history of the original League of Nations which became the United Nations after the 2nd world war. The building itself is impressive with 33 major conference rooms…we saw only 4. First a general meeting room where we were explained how meetings were conducted, then the Human Rights room with the famous ceiling by Spanish artist Miguel Barcelo… the multi colored stalactites change color as you move around the room, representing multiple perspectives. Next the largest conference room that seats 2800 delegates and which was being set up for the World Health Organization meetings next week. Finally the original League of Nations Room with the painted frescoes on the walls and ceiling. All throughout the building one strolls past fantastic art that was donated by the 193 member countries. Impressive!
Supper time! Downtown we go on the tram and easily found an authentic Swiss restaurant. Expensive!!! But really delicious. And then a stroll through the “old city” to see the narrow cobblestone streets (Julius Caesar conquered this city a few years B.C. so that gives you and idea how old some of the structures are. The St. Pierre Cathedral was closed for the day (sad face) but the walk along the lake promenade was beautiful. Home for the night and in bed by 9:00.
Next morning dawned bright and beautiful. Mon and I got up early and let Ryan sleep in as we went for a walk to Notre-Dame de Geneva Cathedral right around the block. We caught the tail end of a mass and enjoyed the acoustics as the congregation sang the closing song. Hauntingly ethereal. After they left, we took our photos. The sun was pouring in through the east windows casting multi colored rainbows across the church.
Collecting Ryan, we went for breakfast and then walked across the Rhone River (outflow from Lake Geneva) to the old city where we had been last evening. This morning, St. Pierre Cathedral was open (happy face). Dating to the 4th century, it has a Romanesuqe style. Simple and bright, the windows are under stated compared to other cathedrals we have seen. Still a lovely church. Neat to see several student artists there sketching the windows.
We strolled back to our hotel along the same lake-front promenade we walked yesterday. This morning, the jet fountain in the lake was shooting water 200 ft. into the air as the morning sun sparkled through in the mist. VERY nice! We also visited the Brunswick Monument, commemorating Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand (duke of Brunswick… a state of the Holy Roman Empire in Prussia in the 1700’s).
At by noon it was time to leave. We caught the train to Milan and thoroughly enjoyed the ride along Lake Geneva with its many vinyards sloping down to the shoreline. Down through the valley we passed beautiful and exotic villages (like Stresa) on the shores of long narrow lakes framed by the snow capped peaks of the Alps. We were charmed beyond amazement, almost like being hypnotized.