On Journey

It was hot. Unusually so for Switzerland in late September. The lake was covered in  a hazy fog as the boat (Henri Dunant) left Geneva at 09:15 and sailed from one quay to another along the Swiss shore before zigzagging across the lake to the French side.

After coffee and a croissant in the restaurant I took myself up onto the deck so I could absorb the scenery. As we approached each town, buildings appeared and disappeared through the mist: church towers and romantic turrets, quays adorned with flowers and queues of people patiently waiting in the soft sunshine, shuttered windows and petite balconies overlooked the lake.

Sleepy boats tied to wooden jettys belonging to millionaire’s houses on the shoreline. Autumnal tints in the trees. A white swan at Coppet. Straight lines of vineyards on the hillside.

The sun broke through as we left Nyon. A yacht lazily passed by, not much wind in its sails. As we approached Nernier on the French shore, the mist revealed a quiet harbour. Covered boats, closed parasols, empty chairs on the terrace of the café, odd pollarded trees.

Departing we got our first glimpse of Yvoire. My destination. The marina and the chateau and the shiny silver-topped church steeple.

I had read about this medieval town famous for its flowers and ‘Le Jardin des Cinq Sens’ (The Garden of Five Senses) and knew that during my brief visit to Geneva I had to try to get there. As the boat left the dock I was eager to depart and start photographing the floral town.

It is rare that I choose to travel by water. I am not a good sailor, but a lake is generally calm and it is not usually a problem plus on this occasion I was drawn a place that I couldn’t easily reach any other way. On the journey back to Geneva I managed to catch one of the jewels in the Belle Epoque fleet – the Savoie – an elegant paddle steamboat which deserves its own post.

~wander.essence~  On Journey


Cathy’s travel stories on ~wander.essence~ has made me hunt out an old travel journal that I used to take with me on overseas trips to look for snippets that could be turned into poems or prose for the travel writing invitations on her site. This is the first of my ‘Impressions’ series and I hope she and you enjoy it.

Carouge, Geneva’s Italianate district, was created by a bunch of architects from Turin in the 18th century as an independent town.

“I catch the tram from Plainpalais to the terminus in Carouge with the intention of walking back to the River Arve following the tram lines to photograph the Italianate architecture.

I am charmed by the shuttered townhouses and thrilled with the hidden courtyards, secret gardens, a small world, typically “carougeois”.  I idly wonder if there is a map showing them all, as I poke my nose into a few of them. I eat a wonderful vegetarian wrap in one. The wrap was a little messy to eat, but the combination of crisp lettuce, mozzarella, marinated aubergines and tomatoes was delectable. Only CHF6.50 so a bargain here in Geneva. The courtyard where I am sitting to write this is a delightful restful place. The sound of running water from the drinking fountain can be heard, joyful birdsong and the faint hum of a tram going by, the occasional sound of ringing church bells in the distance. The drinking water is crystal clear and cold. Poured from a sublime brass spout shaped like a jaguar’s head. Why a jaguar? I might be confused.

I draw a little sketch of my courtyard.

Carouge is such a pretty ‘village’. Many of the older buildings have wonderful wooden shutters, some faded and peeling, but just so right, some have wrought-iron balconies often with a bike leaning against them or washing hanging from lines strung between the shutters.

I cannot stop taking photos of the wonderfully ornate fountains that can be found along the street and in the squares. I am fascinated by what I first think are black swans, but later learn are Basilisks, a legendary reptile reputed to be a serpent king who can cause death with a single glance. Although I think the ones below probably ARE swans.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays Carouge gets a further boost with the arrival of the market on the lovely Place du Marché. Although I am unable to buy anything as I am staying in a hotel, I can enjoy looking around the stalls where fruit and veg, cheese, honey, fresh bread, flowers, wine and locally made treats are for sale.

As I drift past fountains and flowers the basilisks with their water spouting out I turn my camera to shops and shop signs, a theatre, more shutters – predominately green – street signs and sculptures, cafés, a church, more fountains.

People come here for the many restaurants and shops. It is true that the area’s numerous independent shops and artisanal workshops turn any shopping spree into an adventure, but I am too curious to be satisfied with that. I want to know what makes Carouge different to the rest of Geneva. 

As I reach the River Arve I look along the river before catching a bus back to the city, but Carouge is hidden from view. A secret enclave of Geneva. I like it.”

~wander.essence~ prose

home thoughts from abroad

Home thoughts from abroad is a new series on Travel Words featuring a single photograph that reminds me of a country visited and showing something that uniquely identifies it as being ‘abroad’.

“Commonly referred to as the “Greenwich Village of Geneva” I had to take a bus out to Carouge crossing over the river l’Arve to see this interesting suburb of Geneva for myself.  It really is a village, designed by Italian architects and modelled on Nice. I got off at the terminus and walked back along the main street absorbing the architecture, the secret courtyards, the shabby shutters, the mix of grocery shops with high price boutiques, workshops and restaurants. Markets and fountains. My most abiding memory is of fountains and flowers and shutters…”

home thoughts from abroad

Home thoughts from abroad is a new series on Travel Words featuring a single photograph that reminds me of a country visited and showing something that uniquely identifies it as being ‘abroad’.

“Except Cycles”

Sitting in the square drinking coffee whilst taking the weight off my feet after several hours of exploring the old town of Geneva allowed my  eye to roam noting the little things that instinctively scream out ‘foreign’. Like a bike casually tied to a tourist sign in French. Round roof tiles and open shutters letting out the sound of someone practising the recorder. Badly…

Thursday’s Special

Paula’s (Lost in Translation) challenge this week is Inflated

A wet sheet and a flowing sea,
A wind that  follows fast
And fills the white and rustling sail
And bends  the gallant mast;

~ Allan Cunningham


Yachts on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) at Montreux were struggling to catch any breeze to inflate their sails.


and the strange low mist / cloud gave the impression that they were floating in the sky.