Geneva, Switzerland

About 3 months ago I went to a class at my local REI about planning a budget trip to Switzerland. At the time it was a fun, just-in-case kind of thing, but little did I know I’d be visiting Switzerland in short order.

geneva-switzerland-street-cafe

It was only one day in Geneva to catch my flight back to the States, but it was still useful having a few tips of what to expect.

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For example, my friend and I had lunch at the baths on Lake Geneva. We were hoping for fondue, but learned that it’s out of season during summer! Still a nice spot for lunch, though.

baths-lake-geneva-switzerland

I also knew the street fountains were fine to drink from and a good place to refill water bottles.

public-water-fountain-geneva-switzerland

Geneva was low on the list of destinations to experience Switzerland (probably because of its international influences and big-city feel), so we spent most of the rest of the time wandering around.

We stopped past the Saint Pierre Cathedral.

st-pierre-cathedral-geneva-switzerland

And this clock garden, not to mention a few of the many watches in window displays around the city.

garden-clock-geneva-switzerland

We admired the fountains and the parks.

geneva-switzerland-park

And even came back to this one later for a makeshift picnic.

evening-picnic-geneva-switzerland

We stayed the night at the Cornavin Hotel — of Tintin fame — which is right beside the central train station in the city. The rooms were nice, with cowhide chairs and big bathtubs.

Our sunset view was over some train tracks, but it ended up being convenient to walk across the street for an early-morning departure to the airport.

sunset-view-cornavin-hotel-geneva-switzerland

All said and done I’m glad I got to spend some time wandering the city. It definitely seemed more accustomed to people coming for work than for tourism, but that made for great people watching and a low-key afternoon. There are worse cities to unwind in before a long flight.

lake-geneva-switzerland

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Chamonix, France

The next stop on my trip to France was Chamonix, a mountain town in the French Alps known best for its skiing. In the summer, Chamonix has a lot of great hiking, climbing, and cycling.

chamonix-france

We were busy all week at the conference, but the meeting included a midweek excursion to a nearby mountain. We also snuck in some extra time for walking, hiking, and shopping.

The town is rather touristy, but picturesque with the Arve River flowing through and the old architecture playing host to street cafes.

arve-river-chamonix-france

We opted for the affordable option and stayed in the dorms at the Chamonix ski school. The school trains ski instructors and mountain guides to work in extreme environments.

ecole-nationale-de-ski-et-d'alpinisme

Our dorm room came complete with some fairly legit swag as far as science conferences go — custom towels and soaps.

igs-chamonix-swag

The International Glaciological Society meetings are known for their built-in excursions and Chamonix was no different. Midweek, everyone took the afternoon off to take their pic of field trips organized by the conference. I opted for a trip up the téléphérique to the top of the mountain L’Aiguille du Midi for views of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps.

When we got to the top we saw this:

view-from-l'aiguille-du-midi

The board with what we should have been seeing and the white abyss we actually did see. Turns out it was a bit cloudy.

The top of L’Aiguille du Midi has a series of viewing platforms and bridges to explore. They also have a plexiglass box dubbed the “Step into the Void” exhibit. You can stand inside and be truly immersed in the view of the Alps.

It was a little less dramatic with the clouds.

step-into-the-void-l'aiguille-du-midi

After several hours the clouds broke a bit so we could see across into the Italian Alps. We never got a great view of Mont Blanc, but it was beautiful up there nonetheless. As we waited for the elevators to go back down, it even began to snow.

clearing-clouds-top-of-l'aiguille-du-midi

When we woke up the next morning, this was the view from our dorm room.

mont-blanc-from-ski-school-dorms

Yeah, that’s Mont Blanc toward the right. Would have loved to see it from the 3800 m elevation, but life is just so tough that I have to settle for this view from my bed.

Speaking of tough, our last night in Chamonix was the conference banquet. It was held at the Majestic, which was aptly named.

majestic-chamonix

Dinner included some amazing French cuisine and lots of wine, of course. On the menu was steak or salmon (for the vegeterians, as the host explained). Oh, France. Salmon isn’t a plant.

igs-chamonix-banquet-dessertigs-chamonix-steak-banquet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m glad I got the opportunity to visit Chamonix in this context. It’s a beautiful place,  but it can be expensive and tourist-driven so I don’t think it’s a place I would visit if I had anywhere to choose from. But I had a great time both sight-seeing and sciencing.

town-of-chamonix

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Grenoble, France

I’m catching up on posts I’ve been neglecting, including several about my trip to France in May.

First stop: Grenoble.

map-of-grenoble

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Fourth of July

Happy Independence Day!

independence-day-bunting-decorations

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Richmond, Virginia

Pictures from my trip to France in May will be up on the blog next week. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few pictures of a visit to Richmond Brian and I made over the weekend.

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