Account of travels across the world. This blog provides descriptions of travels in different parts of the world. Pictures related to many of the blogs can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/7330879@N05/ and for more information I can be e-mailed at ananda@wfu.edu

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

July 3, 2004

I got up early and went for a walk. It was absolutely gorgeous in the morning and the Mont. Blanc and the surrounding glaciers were glistening. Decided to sit by the river for a while. Was soon joined by a really pleasant person who was visiting Chamonix for a week-end getaway from Lyon where he was at a meeting with French electricity. The gentleman was from Delhi and was obviously a pretty high-placed engineer with India’s premier power generation company called National Thermal Power Corporation. We chatted for quite some time. He said he had been to Switzerland before with his family and it was good to sit and talk about engineering and stuff since he was also from the same system of engineering colleges (IIT) that I was from. Both of us decided that the early mornings are the best to enjoy the mountains be it in Chamonix or in the Himachal in India. He eventually left to awake his friends and I went to stir my family. Since Mikku was feeling sick, we decided to let her rest and Bebo and I took a stroll through the town. There was a farmer’s market going on and we also visited a tiny little church. Then strolled back to the hotel and after packing and loading the car we decided to try and visit the Mars De Glace which is basically a glacier above Chamonix. The principal attraction of the cable car ride was closed and so we settled on this option. The station for this trip is located behind the station (Gare) of Chamonix and after figuring out a parking spot we strolled over to the tiny station for this special train ride. We decided to not board the first train but took the second train up. Much like the mountain trains in Switzerland, this was also a short-gauge cog-train and it chugged up about 4000 feet and finally deposited us at the top of a glacier at about 7500 feet above sea level. Mikku was not feeling too well and the light air was no help. So we first decided to have lunch at the self-service restaurant. They had special ham sandwiches called baguettes and I got two of those. Mikku was not very excited by this and she got a different sandwich. We noted some other people of Indian origin here too. Then Bebo and I decided to visit the ice grotto. From the description it appeared that it would be easy enough, with a cable car ride down and then a stroll through the cave. However, given how Mikku was feeling, she decided to wait in the restaurant. The cable car ride was quick (about 5 mins) and pleasant. Then, I noted that the cave was still about the equivalent of a 15-storey building under us. The glacier itself was about as tall as the equivalent of a 10 storey building and the cave was carved at the bottom of this. Since we were half way there and I had myself pumped full of ibuprofen (in case you missed it, I was still nursing a fever!) Bebo and I decided to go down and see the cave. Of course, the walk down was not a problem. The cave was phenomenal, very reminiscent of the cave in Jungfrau, sans Bajaj, but this was more close to nature since it was dug right into the glacier’s base. What was interesting is that the constant landslides actually cover the ice of the top of the glacier with rocks and stones, and one does not see the ice but the ice is deep and blue and we walked right through that ice. It was really surreal to be doing this. Anyway, after that what loomed before me was a climb up to the cable car point. It was a long and strenuous climb but we made it. Eventually, we all took the train back to Chamonix. It was about 2:30 pm and after a brief stop at a souvenir store we headed out towards Geneva taking Highway A40/E25. The first several miles went right by the Mont Blanc and we stopped often to take pictures and also to fill up gas. Then we hit the toll-way (assume about E1.60 about 4 times between Chamonix and Geneva). The road was uninteresting since we were leaving the Alps behind. We often noted that the place looked very much like North Carolina. We were, however, driving through France. After about thirty minutes Mikku declared that it would be a mistake not to get some French cookies in France. So we pulled off the toll-way and drove into the town of Cluse. There we found a grocery store (Sparc) and got some French cookies and UHT milk for Bebo. We strolled around the tiny town, and then headed out towards the Geneva. We hit Geneva downtown around 5:00 in the evening. Amazingly, having internalized the street map of Geneva I was not too lost and eventually reached Gare Carvin (the main rail station) and found the Hotel Terminus on Rue De Alps. There was a slight mix up at the hotel since the person could not find my reservation. I think it is the French attitude. In general, I have realized I prefer the German and Italian parts of Switzerland. The people in the French part of Switzerland behave too much like the French. Enough said! This was pre-reserved through the Minotel chain of Switzerland. While the hotel was across from Carvin and was on Rue De Alps, the area was shady. Essentially it was not too far from the Soho of Geneva with numerous bars and stores offering pleasures of the flesh. So, I packed the two of them quickly in the room, which was cozy and nice, and then slowly unloaded the car, found a parking spot for it, located a coin-operated laundry (this is on Rue Montheux which runs parallel to Rue De Alps and is half way between Rue De Lausanne and the lake side, it costs 2 Francs for a wash and 2 francs for a 16 minute drying cycle). Given that I was completely drained out from the cold, fever and the long day we eventually called it a day. There was a Pizza Hut across the street and Bebo and I had pizza and Mikku had falafel from the Middle-Eastern store across the street. This whole district of Geneva is populated with numerous Middle-Eastern and African eating places.

July 4, 2004

I got up at about 6:30 in the morning and after the shower and stuff drove over to the laundry. There were still some women out on the street at that time of the morning. The laundry was open and I got the cleaning started. Was illegally parked and so decided to sit it out in the car. It was a glistening clear day and the Mont Blanc was visible in the distance. It took about an hour to complete the laundry. Got back to the hotel, dropped it all off and then took the car back to Avis (it is on Rue De Lausanne on a street right across from Hotel Monotel, take a right into this street of you are coming from the direction of the station, starts with “M” can not remember the name, and the Avis garage is to the left). Walked back to the station, and bought the three day passes for two zones in Geneva for use on bus/tram/boat (8 Francs for adults), and then got back to the hotel. Mikku and Bebo were getting up and then got everyone ready and had the hotel breakfast. We then walked out of the hotel and down Rue De Alps to the Qaui. The lake and the Jet de Eau (the water fountain) were right in front of us. We then strolled on the Ponte du Mont Blanc (the bridge over the river Rhone, btw, the river in Chamonix came with us to Geneva too), and went into the Jardin Anglais (English Garden) with its fountain and the infamous flower clock. This was perhaps my greatest disappointment of the trip. I remember the flower clock from the picture postcards my father brought back in the 1970s, and I had seen the picture-perfect flower clock 14 years ago when Mikku and I were in Geneva for the first time. They have completely redone the flower clock and I actually thought it looked quite bad. But it was there and Bebo was excited to see it. We then walked along the quay to the water fountain. Bebo wanted to run under it which is absolutely dangerous given it is a 460 feet high water spout. He was disappointed we did not let him do this. We then ate a quick lunch and took the bus to Geneve-Plage to get on the boat to come back to the center of town. Here Bebo chased pigeons for some time and then we strolled around the central area and went to a park where Bebo watched street chess. We also stopped at a small restaurant for ice cream and beer since it was a really hot day. Overall the city was dead being a Sunday and Geneva is a non-distinctive city anyway. It does not have the beauty of Munich or Salzburg nor does it have the vibrancy of London or Paris. Essentially it is like a city which is there to be ostentatious. We eventually took the number 8 bus back to the hotel and started to pack for the trip to Venice. The evening was exciting because it was the night of the Europe 2004 football match and Geneva came alive with car honks and fireworks after Greece won over Portugal. We called it a day after that. I also took a stroll around our hotel. Also got a chance to chat with Samad, and old college buddy who now lives in Geneva.

posted by Ananda  # 4:31 PM


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