Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Geneva alone and in the rain...

Air travel has always amazed me and will continue to do so; outside of the fact that it's actually possible to fly at such ridiculous heights (37,000 feet) it's the fact that when you're on the ground there is cloud and rain, but within a minute of leaving the ground there are blue skies and sunshine. Yes, folks, that awful weather that characterises England is but a thin membrane of misery hiding the reality of happy weather just a few thousand feet away.

I left Gatwick in the gloom and within that magical minute found myself squinting in the brightness and joy of what could have been a summer day. Alright, let's be honest, we've had a great summer this year, so there's nowt to complain about, but you can't get too much of a good thing and I'm already missing wearing tee-shirts and shorts and not having to bother about umbrellas and raincoats. Now, as we head towards mid-September (in fact, we're past the midway point) the summer is but a memory and all we have to look forward to is, well, er, winter gloom and people counting down the shopping days until Christmas.

Room 205, Les Nations hotel, Geneva. There's Swiss chocolate in the fridge.
The worse thing about a short haul flight – in this case to Geneva (all 70 minutes of it) – is that the weather the other end is exactly the same as what I left behind. Alright, there was no rain when I arrived, but it's been making up for it ever since and right now, at 2224hrs on a Wednesday night in Geneva, it's pouring down outside.

Bad weather when you're alone is even more depressing than if you've got someone to talk to; alright, I'm not a complete loner, but it just so happens that tonight, I'm alone. Actually, I'll be alone for the rest of this trip and I was alone last night 'enjoying' a pizza in a small trattoria virtually next door to my hotel, the Les Nations hotel. Sometimes I don't mind being on my own. Last night was fine as I'd arrived later than expected and by the time I got to the hotel and sorted things out, it was gone 9pm so I opted for the small restaurant recommended by the hotel's receptionist.

The glamorous view from room 205, Les Nations hotel, Geneva
It was pleasant in its own way: plain, but cosy and friendly and I enjoyed a pizza and a couple of glasses of the house red. Eating late, however, is not good. I fell asleep initially, but then woke up around 0230hrs and couldn't really get back to sleep. In all honesty, I should have gone to the same restaurant tonight, but the need to inject a bit of variety in to my stay in Geneva forced me out of my comfort zone and into a taxi. I headed for Geneva railway station, crossed the tracks (not literally, but via the station) and found myself on 'the other side of the tracks'. There were restaurants a plenty and I had to simply choose one.

I found an Indian restaurant, but I have a new rule – one that I made up there and then, in the rain-soaked streets – that I wouldn't have an Indian meal unless I was in the UK or in India itself. Why, I don't know, but it's something to do with getting food poisoning and being stuck in Geneva and so on. Having said that, I'd imagine India itself would be a worse place to go down with food poisoning and let's not forget that I once went to Belgium on business, ordered the chicken and was firing on all cyclinders way into the night. Not very pleasant.

I settled for an Italian restaurant again, although this one was a little more upmarket than yesterday, not that I hadn't yearned for the simplicity of yesterday's trattoria and had even considered taking a taxi back there before common sense told me to just get on with it, find a restaurant, have something to eat and head back to the hotel. I found Le Milan on the Rue Chaponniere and knew immediately that I'd picked a good place to eat.

I started with smoked salmon and parma ham with salad leaves and tomatoes and then opted for veal in a marsala sauce. Very nice. There was also a half bottle of Italian Cabernet Sauvignon and some Pellegrino mineral water and, being as I had no companion, I read a trade magazine. After the meal I considered walking home in the dark, but the poor weather (the driving rain) forced me to take a cab to the hotel and here I am writing this blogpost and wondering what to do next. Except that I know what I'm going to do next: I'm going to bed as it's now 1038hrs.

Les Nations is a pleasant hotel, although there's no restaurant (only a breakfast room). My room, room 205, is fine; it even has a two-ring electric cooker and a mini bar that is actually full of stuff (chocolate, soft drinks, beer, wine, spirits (I've eaten the chocolate and indulged in a mineral water, but that's my lot. Another reason I like this hotel is the fact that it trusts its guests. All the coat hangers have the conventional hook arrangement and not those awful hook-less affairs that take an age to work out how to secure them to the rail in the wardrobe.

Last night I slept very badly and I put this down to eating later than usual, although the same, give or take, happened tonight, so I'm anticipating a poor night's sleep.

Geneva seems like a pleasant enough sort of place, if not a little on the pricey side. It's not a threatening city and the general vibe is friendliness tinged, perhaps, with a bit of boredom. One more day of conference and then it's time to head home again. I'm hoping for some better weather tomorrow.

My eyes are feeling a little heavy and a wall-mounted Samsung television awaits my attention, not to mention Graham Greene's Stamboul Train, which I've almost finished. I'd better go.

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