DAY 1: DECEMBER 19, 2014
Lindsey and Angela arrived to my apartment to sleep over from their cities in the south of Spain the night before so that we could catch our morning flight out of Madrid on this day. We already got a late start that morning, but of course the metro line we needed was closed off and there were cops everywhere surrounding the entrance. To this day I still don’t know what happened, but we spent a half hour trying to walk to different metro stops/try to flag down a cab. Neither proved possible. So we did a loop back to the metro stop next to my apartment and we finally figured out that just the one line was closed, so we re-routed and made it to the airport with just enough time to check-in and board our flight.
It was amazing flying over the Alps! Switzerland was never on my list of places to see, but it was at the top for Lindsey and Angela and man, am I glad they got me to go! Everywhere was just stunning. When we landed in Geneva and got off the plane, the temperatures were NOT what we were expecting for Switzerland in December. It was sunny and in the 50s! It got cold later during our time there but it was nothing unbearable.
I loved Switzerland with the exception of the RIDICULOUS prices. Literally everything was triple the price. We had our first meal at McDonald’s at the mall across the street from our hotel (we don’t scream American, do we?) and a meal there was easily 13 euros!! But we surprisingly did the best job at managing our money in Switzerland. We bought fruit, bread, and granola bars at the grocery store to hold us over for breakfasts and snacks. We also just didn’t really eat that much in general while in Switzerland. We pretty much starved our whole time there, but it saved us loads of money! Also, for being so expensive, Geneva offered some opportunities to save money such as free public transportation which came in handy because our hotel was located about 15 minutes by bus outside the city. Which, speaking of, we stayed in a HOTEL. Hostels were way too expensive in the center of Geneva so instead Lindsey found the Ibis Hotel for much cheaper which was amazing. Since living in Europe, I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve stayed at a hotel was with my parents (it’s just not in a young travellers budget). So the fact that this hotel was such a steal was amazing and we were definitely spoiled at the beginning of our trip!
After checking into our room, we headed over to the mall where we exchanged our money, did some shopping at H&M (we complain about being poor in Switzerland and yet we still had enough to shop. Go figure.), did a little grocery shopping, and walked around the center of Geneva that night. While we were at the mall, I dropped the back of my earring and looked like a crazy person bending over trying to look for it. Suddenly a nice older woman started to join me to look! She asked what I was looking for and I showed her the back of my other earring. Then ANOTHER woman started to join, as well as Lindsey and Angela. Suddenly we had a full search party for the back of my earring! After looking for a while, another woman came out of nowhere, found it right away, and handed it to Lindsey. I couldn’t get over how many people were willing to stop and help find the silly back to my earring. It was such a great first impression of the Swiss people!
DAY 2: DECEMBER 20, 2014
The night before while we were in central Geneva, we bought a (very expensive- but it was Switzerland, so what else is new?) 2-day train pass that ended up being so worth it because there really wasn’t much to see or do in Geneva itself. The Swiss countryside and small towns is where it’s at, and those little trips are what made Switzerland such a great stopping point on our trip.
The first day trip we took was to Montreux- a gorgeous little town located on the other side of Lake Geneva. The sights were UNREAL. This is where I fell in love with Switzerland. We chose Montreux because it was said to have a spectacular Christmas market which did not disappoint! We did a little shopping around the market and walked to the Château de Chillon which was about a 45-minute walk from the town. On the way, Angela pointed out that our surroundings resembled those of the famous “it wasn’t over, it still isn’t over!” scene from The Notebook. So, being big fans, we obviously had to recreate this scene. After doing a few different casting takes, we decided Angela was better suited to play Allie and I was better suited for Noah, meanwhile Lindsey made a fabulous (and patient) videographer/director. Our laughing got the best of us and it took many takes to finally get a video we liked.
We finally made it to the Château only to find out the entrance fee was way out of our budget so instead we just walked around the area and the [free] views in itself were worth the long walk. On our way to the Château, Ange and I realized that we messed up the lines in our Notebook reenactment (only slightly). Since the imperfection was eating away at us, we decided to stop at the same dock on the way back to re-record. We were working against daylight but that didn’t stop Ange and I from not being able to hold it together, thus taking even longer to get the perfect video. In the end we finally did it! Take a look at our masterpiece:
If you’d like to compare our performance to the real thing:
That night we walked around the Christmas market some more, drank mulled wine, did some shopping, and FINALLY ate. The only thing we ate that day was a piece of fruit and a granola bar in the morning (thanks, Switzerland, for making your outrageous prices starve us). Our stomachs were growling all day but the food at the Christmas market might have been worth the wait!
DAY 3: DECEMBER 21, 2014
We got another early start for our second day trip. We caught the train to Gruyere which gave us amazing views of the Swiss countryside. Our first stop was the Gruyere cheese factory where we took an audio tour through the cheese-making process. We were given three cheese samples, each were SUPER strong and had matured for different periods of time: 6, 8, and 10 months.
We had some time to kill before our train to the Cailler chocolate factory so we hiked up the hill to the cute medieval town of Gruyere. We LOVED it and wished we could have stayed longer to explore. There was a fountain in the center surrounded by the cute buildings that it reminded me of the scene in Beauty and the Beast where Belle is singing and reading to a herd of sheep. So I asked Ange if I could borrow her Hunger Games book (in Spanish) and I tried to re-create that scene. Lindsey and Ange thought I was strange for keeping my mouth open in the picture, but I was pretending to sing like Belle!
Afterwards we caught the train to the Cailler chocolate factory which was A. Maz. Ing. We got there right as the English tour was about to start so we paid the 8 euros and got right in. The tour was awesome- it was like a walking ride in Disney World! We were told that we were given unlimited free samples at the end of the tour, so during the part where we watched how the chocolates were wrapped, there was a bowl of chocolates that we could eat. We thought that these were the free samples so we took probably more than we should have thinking that was it- but boyyyyy were we wrong.
At the actual end of the tour, we entered a room with a wrap around table with trays of about 18 different chocolates. We didn’t dive in slowly. We lingered at the tables and maybe 2 or 3 different tour groups passed by us, finishing their free samples while we were being gluttons and eating probably a whole box of chocolates each. Towards the end of the table we began to really slow down. Ange, who is lactose-intolerant, started to feel the nauseating effects first. Then Lindsey and I also began to drop. Suddenly the unlimited free chocolates didn’t seem like such a good idea and we started to feel SO sick. We limped out of that room holding onto our stomachs and we were emptied out into their chocolate-world of a gift shop. We couldn’t even bear the sight of all of that chocolate. We sat in the attached café for a little while as we grabbed our bearings and then headed for the train back to Geneva. Though it made us feel like utter crap, the Cailler chocolate was incredible- especially the caramel filled chocolate cups! My biggest advice is to just pace yourself- something we definitely did NOT do.
DAY 4: DECEMBER 22, 2014
Our flight to Brussels wasn’t until later that evening, so we had most of our last day in Switzerland to explore Geneva since we didn’t really see much of actual Geneva, which was okay because there really wasn’t that much to see.
We walked around the English Gardens, saw the fountain (Jet d’Eau), the flower clocks (L’horloge fleurie), St. Pierre’s Cathedral, and the UN office. While walking around the city, we were those obnoxious American girls walking around with Lindsey’s phone playing Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” and Hairspray’s “Good Morning Baltimore” and having a huge sing-a-long while doing so. For lunch, we used our last day to splurge on eating out because Lindsey and I needed to have fondue before leaving Switzerland. We found a place that only listed fondue for one person, so Lindsey had a minor freak-out that Ange and I still endlessly tease her about because she was scared that the waiter wouldn’t let us share the fondue and ultimately we wouldn’t have our Swiss fondue. All turned out well and we shared some delicious fondue, while Ange ate soup that was essentially broth with a poached egg in it.
We were able to see everything we wanted in Geneva with just enough time to head back to the hotel, grab our bags, and head off to the airport. So long Switzerland, hello Belgium!!
Switzerland was never on my travel list. I’m not sure why, but it just never interested me. But I can honestly say I fell in love with it and I’m so glad that Lindsey and Ange both wanted to go there on this trip otherwise I might have gone my whole life not knowing what I was missing. Geneva honestly didn’t have much to offer in my opinion, but the scenery of the surrounding villages and the chocolate alone are enough to bring me back. And come on, where else would a pack of strangers in a mall help me look for the lost back to my earring?! I can only hope that I become rich when I’m older so that I can afford another vacation back to Switzerland and maybe buy one of those beautiful Swiss watches (a girl can dream).