Postcard from Genève

September 2009 – Place du Bourg de Four

Place du Bourg-de-Four
Place du Bourg-de-Four

I am sitting here outside Chez Ma Cousine ‘on y mange du poulet’, (literal translation – at the house of my cousin one only eats chicken) which is just one of the little cafés in the square, having a rest after walking around the Old Town (lots of ups and downs and cobbled streets), sipping a large café crème. The sun is shining and it has been another very warm day for late September, so the shade of the umbrella above me is welcome. The Place du Bourg is lovely!

Geneva, fountains and flowersThis is the centre of the Old Town and has an 18th century flowered fountain, which I am sitting next to. I have got into fountains in a big way since coming to Genève – they are everywhere, and all so different, flowers, sculptures, swans – fascinating!

As I look around me I notice that this spot attracts lots of little sparrows alternating between sips of water and splashing in the fountain to cheekily trying to pinch crumbs off the tables. They land on the tables and chairs all around me, but are too quick for my camera, though I manage to capture one poised on the edge of the fountain, with his back towards me, of course! There is the sound of someone playing a recorder, badly, from within one of the apartments in the square. Shutters and windows wide open to the sun and the constant murmur of people in conversation buzzes in the background.

Geneva - Place du Bourg-de-FourAlthough it is only four o’clock in the late afternoon there is very little space at any of the cafés. Empty tables are soon filled. People are now drinking cold beers and white wine; groups of friends meeting up – standing up to greet each other nosily  with the flamboyant kiss/kiss/kiss on both cheeks.

“Eh! Comment ça va?”

(Hey! How are you?) their happy smiling faces. Husbands wait patiently for their wives to stop their shopping in the Rue du Rhone, Rue de Rive and Place du Molard (watches, parfumeries, fashion and chocolatiers); elderly ladies, very smartly dressed and coiffured, read a book or a newspaper and a young student sitting opposite me with her study books open on the table makes notes whilst casually sipping her Evian water

Geneva Fountain
Sparrows on the fountain

Occasionally a young boy on his way home from school will arrive at the fountain and climb up for a drink, casually dropping his school bag in the dust and eyeing my camera with curiosity. Small children amuse themselves by running around the circumference, giggling as they hide from their parents. It is a busy, lively place, sunlight streaming through the autumnal trees. I have had to buy another coffee as I am reluctant to leave just yet.

boy and fountain
Boy in the fountain

An elderly gentleman has come to sit at the table next to me, he is also alone, his red polo shirt matches the red umbrella under which he sits in the shade and together we observe all who pass by. Two young Genevois couples meet up and order bottles of Rosé wine and a tall jug of Pimms: they all light up cigarettes.

Geneva - la Clemence

It strikes me how many young Genevois smoke. Must be how they keep so slim! Funny how we have become so used to no smoking in public in the UK that it is now so noticeable in Europe!

At another table in the next café along which has white umbrellas, a beautiful Italian-looking lady is wearing the classic dark glasses. Silver bands hold back her glossy black hair and she talks loudly on her mobile phone – hands gesticulating in the air – her large cup of cappuccino forgotten and going cold. Ah life is wonderful, but now I must go and make my way to the Promenade de la Treille to see the avenue of Chestnut trees and the world’s longest bench.

Ciao, ciao – I’ll write again soon xx

The City of Love: How I left my heart in San Francisco

(This is a long post about my love affair with San Francisco which started in 1965)

San Francisco first hit my radar way back in 1965 when “California Dreamin’ ” by the Mamas and the Papas hit the British charts. Knowing nothing about LA or indeed California, anywhere that offered warmth in winter seemed like a good place to be to me. By the time Scott McKenzie was singing “San Francisco (be sure to wear some flowers in your hair)” a hit in the spring of 1967, I was hooked. This was one USA state I had to visit. Haight-Ashbury frequently featured on the television with its flower-power, incense-burning, acid-dropping, tie-dye-wearing, peace-and-love-vibe hippies during the summer of love (1967) and I fell in love with the whole enchilada. As the ‘60s turned into the ‘70s I too became an incense burning, peace-loving hippy myself, though it was an awful lot more years before I would get to San Fran.

The next time the city nudged its way into my life was in 1972 when I was working for a brief spell in Zürich as an au pair and came into contact with a group of Americans from California who were over in Europe to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War. Falling in love with a gentle, flute-playing, blonde haired surfer from San Francisco made me yearn to visit that golden state again. All too soon he took off for India and I returned home to the UK, alone. The years passed and the USA was no longer on my ‘must see’ list and San Francisco faded from my dreams. The summer of love was long past… Continue reading The City of Love: How I left my heart in San Francisco

Strolling around the Île de la Cité

I once read somewhere that “life is too short not to go to Paris as often as one can” but must admit to not having adhered to that having only been there three times in my life. The “City of Lights” or “La Ville-Lumière” as it was then called, comes from the fact that Paris was the birthplace of the Age of Enlightenment and it was famous as a centre of education and ideas throughout Europe. The city’s early adoption of street lighting probably also contributed to its “City of Lights” tag.

Le quai des Grands-Augustins depuis le Pont-Neuf

My previous visit had been during the dull days between Christmas and New Year when everything seems flat. Leaving London Waterloo on Boxing Day seemed like a good idea at the time. Paris put on her usual glittering party frock and despite the bitter cold and wet weather the OH and I enjoyed a few days walking along the banks of the River Seine and exploring the usual tourist sites that we had both seen (though not together) in our late teens; eating expensive steaks and drinking expensive wine and taking rather bad photos (I blame the weather – too damn cold to take off the gloves)

Café EsmeraldaSo in 2010 when the opportunity to spend five days in Paris in early spring arose it was not to be sniffed at. Once again we took the Eurostar (this time from its new terminal in St Pancras station) to ‘gay Paree‘, hoping for a somewhat warmer welcome. As the OH was to be “au conference” pretty much the whole time it gave me an excuse to wander aimlessly and have a look at the hidden parts of Paris. There is nothing better for me than to venture into districts I have not been in and to look more closely at those I had. So armed with a good map, several metro tickets, camera and notebook, off I went to explore. Continue reading Strolling around the Île de la Cité