Back when I studied abroad in Orvieto, I made friends with one of our painter professors, a contemporary artist named Philippe, who lives in Geneva, Switzerland. We stayed in touch a bit through social media over the past 2 years, and when I moved to France, I reached out to see if it might be possible for me to visit on my first vacances--and he said yes.
I took an overnight bus from Paris, and arrived early, early, early on a Sunday morning. Surprised to not have cell service, surprised that Switzerland is not on the euro, surprised by the windy cold, I had no idea what to expect.
As a solo traveller, I plan my trips around people, and not so much places. I have the world to see, and I'd choose the warmth of friends who can host me over being alone in a pretty city any day of the week.
But luckily enough, in Geneva, I had both the hospitality of Philippe's family, and the spectacular scenery of the city.
I alternated between solo adventures--walking in the old part of town, admiring Lake Geneva and the Jet d'Eau, visiting museums--and spending time with my hosts. When I first arrived, they took me to a sweet little café and gave me a proper tour of the city, then accompanied me to the Reformation Museum. I had the pleasure of seeing Philippe's artist studio and his current projects, and even got to go with him to a jazz club one night, which gave me a whole different window into the more local side of Geneva. But the best part was eating together--Philippe's wife Stephanie is a fabulous cook, and made all sorts of traditional Swiss meals to share. With apéritif + entrée + plat + café + dessert + thé, meals just carried on. We danced in the kitchen between courses, played one another favorite songs over the speakers, played card games. The kitchen table was the gathering place.
There's no doubt about it, Geneva is a stunning city. But I don't think I would have had even half of the experience were it not for my spectacular hosts.