After a two year hiatus from international travel, I was double jabbed and ready to consider travelling further than the neighbouring county for some much needed respite at the end of the year. It wasn’t a planned visit, but quite a spontaneous affair. I had visited Switzerland before, but not this region. In December 2021 it still proved difficult to navigate the ever-changing goal posts for testing and isolation amidst the varying government guidelines and restrictions, and yet somehow I miraculously managed to find a brief enough window, just as rules were set to tighten again,
Determined that we would make it safely, my father I boarded the short flight from England to Lake Geneva, an idyllic stretch of water straddling the borders of Switzerland and France and reflecting the panoramic vistas of the towering snow-capped peaks and alpine scenery that surrounds the region.
A lot has changed since my last foreign foray, not least the fact that passport stamps are now issued again for a European getaway, and I can’t lie that I for one am willing to abide by the old-school queues for the first stamp in my passport in 5 years. There is a free train that runs the short distance (5 mins) direct from the airport into Geneva. I step off the train onto the bustling concourse and catch a dwindling sliver of light through the elongated street ahead that runs right down to the iconic lake – the tip of snow-capped mountains just visible in the far distance, off-setting the evening scene.
Our Hotel International and Terminus was mere steps from the station ahead of us and believe me I was excited when we checked-in, Opening the door to pour room it finally struck me how amazing and strangely normal it felt to be abroad again after a two-year hiatus – it filled my heart with joy. It was a gentle 10 min stroll to reach the lake, which we crossed in order to view the intriguing marvels of Geneva’s Christmas Market. We skipped through the queue quickly and after a brief panic around Covid ID, I was relieved to be granted freedom to roam around the festivities aglow. Twinkling fairy lights illuminated trees, with charming wooden huts presenting a smogasboard for the senses, the night air filled with a distinct whiff of Swiss cheese fondant, a fabulous sight to behold.
Soaking up the jovial atmosphere, I sat on a bench along the promenade and sampled a slice of Swiss fondue pizza which offered welcome warmth and nourishment after a long day of travelling on a relatively empty stomach. To experience the merriment of the festive lead-up against the enchanting evening backdrop of Lake Geneva was a small miracle, after the hardship and confinement of the last two years. There was a wide array of food and drink, with a scattering of handicraft stalls mixed in and I stood for some time with my bottle of cool local ale, absorbing the magical atmosphere from my mezzanine view over the festivities.
Despite the charming choir of elves warming young hearts, by the time I had knocked back the last dregs of my beer it was starting to get rather chilly, with a cool nip heralding an urgent need for gloves as we made a reluctant retreat back towards our hotel for some much needed rest. Tomorrow, we would start off early for an intrepid journey into the mountains above, prepared for a colder climate still, at altitude…