the train diaries: hmmmm Geneva…


In the original plan, when I left Milan, I was meant to head over to Chambery in France. No I hadn’t heard of it either, but it seemed pretty enough and it was on the recommended route, on the Interailing site. However, my accomodation fell through a few days before, and I decided instead to be brave, and see where I fancied once I got to Italy.

So I looked again at the train map, and realised I would have to go through Switzerland to get to France (no I didn’t realise this before, because my general geography knowledge is shocking) and as Geneva was down as a station I would have to change at, it seemed to make sense, to see a little bit of Switzerland.


In fact, I got see a whole lot of Switzerland through the window on the train ride, and it was stunning. The views you get travelling across Europe, are reason enough to go interailing. Yes you have to work out all the different reservations and the journeys are long. But you don’t get to really see a country by flying over it. All these beautiful mountains and perfect aqua green lakes, I started to imagine a Swiss Summer, as towns that looked like they had been painted to feature in a picture book whizzed past.

As you can imagine by the time I go to Geneva I was pretty excited to see it. The lake. The Fountain… The rain. Oh the rain.

And this is where I wrap up everything else I am about to say in this post on the pretext, that the weather was horrible, and no where looks its best in weather like that. And of course, I was going to compare wherever I went next to where I’d just come from. And I’d just come from Milan. BUT,  when it comes down to it. I just don’t think I liked Geneva.

I stayed in the City Hostel. Perfect location, I had 24 hours in Geneva, so a hostel that is 8 minutes from the train station and provides you with a free travel card for the trams makes a world of difference. No where near as swish as my Milan hostel, this was much more your average hostel experience. But it was nice enough, and the bathroom was very clean. And god knows a hostel should be judged on its bathrooms. Plus the two other girls in my dorm were really nice. Would I gushingly recommend it? Not exactly. Did it do? Yes.

Another thing you should know, that at £22 a night’s stay, it was a bit pricey. But then everything in Geneva is a bit pricey. Apparently this is a well known fact. Maybe they taught it in Geography, when I was undoubtedly, not listening.

They also have their own currency in Switzerland. Luckily the man serving coffee on the train let me in on that little secret.


So I arrived, it was dark and it was wet, but I was determined to see something. I only had 24 hours after all. Once I’d dropped off my bags at the hostel, I took the 30 minute walk down to the old town, crossing the lake at night time. It’s charm wasn’t completely lost on me. I’d just left Milan so I didn’t much fancy eating pizza for three times the price, so instead ended up in a pretty swish food hall.  I feel like this food hall kind of summed up Geneva. It was designer and it was clean. It was a bit flash, and it was expensive. But it lacked personality, it could have been anywhere in the world. But still, I was happy enough to just people watch as always and then headed back for an early night.

One thing that was nice about the hostel in Geneva was that unlike Milan, there were a bunch of other people staying there and travelling through. After a couple of days without any prolonged conversation with anyone who wasn’t a waiter, or trying to chat me up, or both, it was nice to sit in the common room and find out where other people were going and what they were doing.

The next day I checked out early, and used my free tram pass to head up to see the UN. even with all the rain, the UN was still pretty majestic with all its flags, and I felt like for me, it was a big tick on the old ‘things to see’ list. Where I made the mistake was not going in to see if I could get on a tour. Instead I thought I would head over to the other side of town and see as much as possible in the little time I had left. So back on the tram, back to the old town.

To me it felt a little bit like the old town had been hidden away behind rows and rows of fancy retail shops, like they were hoping the neon signs would distract you from going any where else. But I perservered and headed up towards the cathedral. On my way there though, I found myself in the most adorable tea shop. And on this one, Geneva wins. Vivel Patisserie ‘Salon de The’, was exactly the type of place I imagined spending my time in Europe in (yes, when I imagined my adventure, it pretty much looked like one cake followed by another).The picture right at the top of this page was taken in there. A tiny tea spot opposite a chocolate shop (naturally) which really wasn’t all that expensive. Besides the hot chocolate was served in a tea pot. You can’t put a price on that!


Revived, and ever so slightly dryer I headed up the hill. I was glad to see that some part of Geneva still had a personality. Old narrow streets that open up into squares, sit much more comfortably with the surrounding mountains, and I imagine on a nicer day, with more time to spare, and without a suitcase to drag along, I could have happily spent one or two hours just wandering around, and seeing what I could find. Maybe then I wouldn’t have felt quite so much like, seeing stuff was a formality. I saw the cathedral, so that I could say I’d seen the cathedral, and then I wandered back down to the lake and the botanic gardens thinking ‘Well it was ok, but wasn’t the Duomo.’

One of the things I was most disappointed about not seeing was the fountain. When I’d done my very little bit of research it was the iconic fountain that really pulled me to Geneva, but it wasn’t to be, and when I realised that, I just felt a little bit like that was that.

Like I said, Geneva had a lot of things counting against it, through no fault of its own. It was wet, I was tired and I tried to cram too much in. But that is ok, it is ok to see a part of the world and not like it that much. I loved every minute of my adventure even if I didn’t love every place I went. I went interailing to see a little parts of the world I’d never seen before and let them sink in. I saw Geneva and I wasn’t a huge fan. But it is better to see somewhere and know you wouldn’t go back then just to take somebody else’s word for it. I’m not going to tell you, not to bother with Geneva, I’d just check the weather before you go, and maybe make sure, you fill your purse with swiss francs and not euros!

Live life & make up your own mind x


12 thoughts on “the train diaries: hmmmm Geneva…

  1. So interesting to see the comparison! I had flown from Florida to Geneva without any sleep (I can never sleep on planes) and we went straight to the city center. Maybe my tired was different, or maybe it was the sun, or maybe it was that I came from the US but I loved Geneva! I definitely wouldn’t put it in my Top 10 cities, but the best allure was driving around the city when you could see all the houses cascading around the lake. If you ever go back, rent a car and go to Yvoire (France) nearby. Now that is quite possibly in my Top 3 cities. It was the quaintest and most colorful little town. It would’ve been perfect for your journey. It was there I had my first rose cappuccino in a little hidden cafe – so lovely!

    • Ok, first thing… WHAT is a rose cappuccino and where can I get one???

      I honestly fully believe, that if the weather had been different, or if I hadn’t felt so on the clock, I would have had a very different opinion on Geneva, and if I was ever in Switzerland and had time I would definitely go back!

      Yvoire, sounds a bit like Valence, which is where I went afterwards, but that was a small town rather than a city xx

      • Yes! Rose cappuccino was quite divine. I don’t remember the name of the cafe. I also recently discovered organic rose jam at a market. If you’re interested I’ll send you a link to order online :). Looking forward to reading more about your trips! I go to Copenhagen next week so your travels are getting me excited for mine!

      • Organic rose jam sounds amazing! Have you ever had lavender and blueberry jam? Ooooo Copenhagen! Ever since I’ve got back, every time some one mentions a city to me it goes on my list of places to see! I should write them all down, it would make quite a good post! xx

  2. It’s absolutely fine not to fall in love with every city you visit. I felt the same way about Paris, I was tired, it was freezing, I tried to cram too much in, got really stressed out and I found the whole city really impersonal and I don’t have any desire to go back. I think a lot depends on cicumstance when you visit a city.

    You are totally right though – you cannot put a price on hot chocolate served in a tea pot! Genius! xx

    • Yeah, I really think Geneva suffered from the fact that it was right smack bang in the middle of my trip. So I’d had three days of sightseeing already and it still felt like I had a lot of time on my own to fill, where as when I got to Valence, I was embracing my last day alone, I had a good nights sleep, it wasn’t a tourist spot.

      But that is just how it was, and I got fed up of trying to work out maps, and how many photos of European churches can you really take? So I spent my last hour in a Starbucks, it was familiar and in Switzerland they serve Green Tea Matcha lattes! xx

  3. This made me giggle A LOT! You’ve told the story really well. It’s a shame it was raining – I remember going to Budapest and when I got there at night it was pouring down! It’s strange how things work out. Although let’s face it, what can compare with Milan!

    Your pictures are great and your threw yourself into it which is the most important thing 🙂

    Holly xx

    • Well exactly, the fact is, Milan was a massive high, and by the time I got to Geneva I was on a bit of a come down. One thing I learnt about travelling alone, is that if you are fed up and want to just spend the day in a cafe reading, then that is what you should do, because there is no one else there to gee you up or make you snap out of it. It is all part of embracing that alone time, and I guess, accepting, that wherever you are in the world you are still a human being. And some times human beings just don’t want to be soggy xx

  4. I was there this weekend and also left disapointed. But I’ve been told to go to Lausanne instead and well, didn’t act on it! I still found a nice consignement store though, that was not too expensive! I also saw the cathedral, didn’t see the fountain on the ifrst day even though I was right in front of it!!!!

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