The resolution will not be televised Geneva

Hello, 2016.

You're new. What's going on?

On the first working day of the year I submitted holiday requests at work for virtually everything I already have booked for the year. It felt a bit ... odd, to be booking 21 days off on the 4th of January but hey, I like to plan ahead. But in the course of doing so I realised something: I already had some overseas travel booked or otherwise planned for every month between February and August inclusive. That being the case I thought, hang on, why don't I just make a hasty resolution to head foreign every single month?

There are other good reasons to travel too. Obviously flying for its own sake is worthwhile so there's scarcely a need to justify it beyond that, but also I got a new pen and pad for Christmas, specifically for taking on trips with me. And then I bought an iPhone attachment to help me take vaguely better photos. I'd also made a half-arsed promise to Alex that I'd do some shopping for him if I was ever in Geneva, plus I remembered/realised that 2016 is the 10th anniversary of me running this blog. All in all, wielding my passport monthly seems a fantastic idea.

So I picked Geneva. Well, sort of. I had it in mind since back in November or so, but it was one of several locations to make my shortlist. My ideal criteria were:

  • doable as a day trip with a useful amount of time on the ground
  • reachable from London with a oneworld alliance airline
  • somewhere with which I am largely unfamiliar
  • begins with the letter M, if Helen is coming with

So my original shortlist came down to 4: Lille (ticks only 2, but trains are quite cool too); Madrid and Milan (tick all 4) and Geneva (ticks 3). I went to work on Helen, convincing her with a mixture of incessance and arithmetic that it was a viable thing and hey presto, with her vote cast we settled on Geneva (I'm not too disappointed by the letter M thing, though it does break the streak of our travels together; I have other alliterative travel in the works anyway).

So I booked, and fast forward a couple of weeks. Friday lunchtime at work a couple of colleagues ask if I have any interesting flights coming up. Well, maybe.... and then it's the evening. My 2016 is littered with fuzzy resolutions, in particular I have banned myself from takeaways, chocolate, crisps, chips (still), pizza, pastry, and school night drinking, at least for January. Separately, I have decided to create an account (hit me up, dipsos - I'm darrenf, unsurprisingly) and am attempting a long streak of not duplicating any beer I have. Spirits and fizzy plonk are OK but nowt else. So on Geneva-eve we decide to have a quiet, sober, early night.

This was unwise.

Drinking Tesco value gin out of a plastic champagne flute at 11pm after half a bottle of prosecco, a bottle of 'ginger beer' which was actually fizzy water and whisky, and a bottle of ESB were not really in the script. So it was not without hangover I woke at 0612, to the distressing sounds of my phone's alarm across the room because the feline alarm clock didn't go off. Normally the little git is trampling all over me and yowling by 0530 but oh no, not this time.

Anyway, out of bed and feeling bouncy bouncy excited. We're flying today! My aggravating positivity did not work fantastically well on Helen but whatever. The cab from Mogul Cars in Surbiton turned up on time, at 0730, and he whisked us to Heathrow T5. I paid my typically ludicrous tip and grabbed a couple of apron photos while Helen had a vape and the 4 armed coppers dealt with a hobo.

Good morning, Heathrow

This week I became my own social media ambassador. I fucking loathe pimping my own shit because I don't see that it's my place to tell anyone that something I've done is good or worth reading; that's just not my decision. I've said it a bunch of times that my main audience for this blog is myself. So in a hybrid move I created my very own 'page' on Facebook, its aims twofold: to stop putting my blogging in front of the Facebook friends who couldn't give even a solitary fuck, but also in the vague hope that it might end up reaching strangers (via word-of-mouth, visible likes, or whatever) that like it. It's made me feel a bit uncomfortable but whatever. The most important thing is that, as I was administering my page in the cab to Heathrow I saw that the likes had dropped by 4 already. For fucks sake. I hadn't even posted anything and 4 people decided they no longer liked it. CURSE YOU ALL TO HELL.

Anyway, into the terminal and the queues at both bits of security were equal. South is, I think, the nearest and best one. I'm really not sure tbh, because in my head they aren't north and south, they are left and right. Helen sets off the alarm at security and has to get swabbed, while I clear up the trays of the 6 or so people who went before me because people are ignorant wankers. Suddenly it's 0810 and we're in the lounge. Hurrah!

Helen hadn't been here before. I'd given her a verbal tour last night and my memory was perfect, which isn't really surprising. The bit where I always tend to find a space had space and we perched. She went off and loaded up on free breakfast while I started using the Sharpie pen. Ooh, it's nice. Do like. Though the lid is frustrating. Also the new pad is nice, though once it's finished I already know I'm going to replace it with some faux-Indiana Jones leather bound cotton paper hipster nonsense. Yeah.

The weather in London is gorgeous. Cold and sunny. Simon Calder, the Independent travel journalist who the Beeb wheel out for consumer news is on BBC News 24, stood outside Heathrow, talking about all the cancellations to east coast USA due to Snowgeddon 2016. A woman has a very loud video call with a very loud child, and some men shout about RSA keyfob authentication across the lounge at one another and then my phone goes, oi, your flight is leaving from T5B. The satellite. I hate the satellite.

All my Bs are finished - banana, bacon baguette - and we scoot off to the monorail. It's a monorail, yeah, and I know I love them, but ... this one I'm really tired of. And it eats into lounge time. There is a lounge in T5B but we don't bother, since there's only about 15 minutes 'til boarding and neither of us are on the sauce. Instead we wander around and I gawp at planes, especially the 747s.

We use my new phone holster gizmo to take a load of selfies and then boarding is announced. It doesn't look too busy at the gate, and there'd been a last minute equipment change from an A319 (quite small) to an A321 (not quite so quite small), which also bumped our seat assignments back from row 13 to row 30. We're on the cheapest tickets available which means even my shiny card doesn't allow me to pick seats anywhere else.

Onboard and we're surrounded by kids. This is not a good development. They're all being really loud, whatever mood they're in, and neither of us like kids at all. Grr. We exchange glares, and type notes to each other on phone screens in order to say things that the parents would probably be offended by. Helen says "where's my free stuff?" repeatedly because well, where's the free stuff? But this is not first class on a long haul plane and I have to explain that there'll be a derisory food offering, no amenity kit, but there will be alcohol.

We've both forgotten that planes are fucking loud once we start moving, and they drown out the kids. Hurrah! And once we're airborne the condensation clears from the window and we can see a ton of clouds which, as always, are pretty as fuck.

There's no-one sat next to me so we have 3 seats between 2, and the armrests down make for a comfortable ride. The derisory food arrives, Helen's a couple of lemon biscuits and mine some "street food" nuts bag. Plus a gin and tonic, and vodka and orange. I almost actually put the tonic in my gin before I realise that I like gin and don't want to ruin it.

My uber-snobbishness comes out in full effect when we start taking loads of photos out of the window, and I point out it's a rare pleasure to see the wing from behind it. Ha. But it does look cool, especially when on our descent the clouds disappear and we get some frankly incredible views of the Alps. The scenery is amazing and we take oodles of snaps.

Helen is transfixed

We land just after midday and are hindered by basically the entire plane, in spite of the fact we are probably spending the least time in Geneva out of anyone on board. Fellow passengers get in the way repeatedly all the way along the corridors through which I scope out the likelihood of being able to to a same-plane-turnaround here in future. There are adverts for wealth management and watches and pretty much nothing else. I think perhaps a Nespresso ad. But mostly wealth and watches. Airports are weird places, IMO, for this ridiculously aspirational stuff where most people who see them are flying on a strict budget maybe once a year, but what do I know?

There's a queue at immigration which almost reaches to the end of the travelator, and we both engage in French conversation with the officer behind the desk. Bonjour, merci. Research has told us that arriving passengers are entitled to a free 80 minute travel card from a machine before customs. We get them; barely anyone else is doing so. I wonder if they just don't know? It's a great deal, essentially long enough to get you to your accommodation where they will then give you a pass for you entire stay.

Helen's desperate for nicotine so we stand outside in the sunshine for a bit, marvelling at the sunshine. It's not just not cold, it's warm. I've not put my coat on. This is marvellous. The train station is just up at the end and the next train is in about 5 minutes, first stop Geneve/Genf/Geneva. This multi-lingual service is ridiculous, as the UK government keeps telling us it's imperative that everyone in a country speak one language for fucks sake.

It's a 6 minute ride to the main station and of course is impeccably timed. In the city we wander somewhat aimlessly for a bit, but google maps works fine because Switzerland is a Three "Feel at home" country so data is free and plentiful. Huzzah! One block along we eye water, so go down the side street past a lot of shops desperate to remind us where we are, being merchants of army knives, watches, and cuckoo clocks. At the end we cross one of the numerous pedestrian (mostly) bridges to the vielle ville.

Inland a block, and there's a city gate with a clock atop it and a pedestrianised square, so we surmise we're in the centre of all the old shit. There's a pizza restaurant next to the 'Lord Nelson Pub' and a brewery. Ooh. But that's kind of it. Just at the top there's sounds, which are being made by a pair of buskers - one playing rock-ish guitar and singing, the other kinda tap dancing. Weird.

Now we're on a main road with trams and shops and stuff. We walk along it and it's bland, basically like the middle of Sheffield but with all the pound shops replaced by insanely valuable jewellery and watches. They really need to get a grip with that. Soon we're opposite an English garden and at the lakefront again. There's a nice shore to walk along and some very cool trees. We wander along, towards a lot of boats, wondering where the big fountain is. Geneva's meant to have a big fountain, right?

There's loads of these. I love them.

Here, Helen looks near and tiny. She is in fact distant and of normal stature.

At one point we find a boat that's also a restaurant, whose gate is covered in posters for ... oh, there's a fun run along this shore front this afternoon. And indeed, after a while we find the finish post, a podium, and a truck selling Kronenbourg. We keep walking past the small beach and along a pier-esque thing from which the views of the snow-capped mountains are pretty spectacular, especially when we can see the plane's landing in front of them. Planes!

It's quite cold now, and we're hungry. My coat and hat both came on during the walk. It's still dead sunny but the breeze bites. The fountain is either seasonal or broken, there's no sign of it. There's been nowhere to eat, really, since the first square so we retrace our steps and head back to Sheffield. Just as we reach the end of the garden a van goes past, its logo written in Comic Sans in this most typographic of nations. Helen gets ever so slightly annoyed at this.

A little way along in Sheffield we spot a tourism and walk up the hill towards it. It's some religious building of sorts, next to a tavern which says it doesn't do alcohol. What kind of tavern is that? Then there's another pedestrianised square with a load of people sat outside a restaurant. But none of them look very appealing, plus we remember we are yet to withdraw any Swiss francs to spend. In fact, we haven't seen an ATM. How does money work in Switzerland? Is it always anonymous?

sans alcool? sans us, then.

I spot a bunch of people walking up a street away and figure there must be somethng interesting up there. There isn't. We double back, and go round, past yet more uninteresting places and, oh, the front of a big cathedral. But it's not photogenic because they're doing too much work to it. By now we're starving and thinking, fuck it, let's just go back to one of those places near the English pub.

That gets scuppered because, once again back on Sheffield Street, we think it might be a good idea to try the other direction. This doesn't work very well until a UBS cash point leaps out and we manage to get 100CHF. Then we're by the lake again and, oh, some lakefront restaurants! About time.

First one doesn't take our fancy. Second one looks crazy expensive and posh. Then we walk across another bridge, and past some other non-starters, and we're back at the first bridge, and look, really, this is getting quite serious now. I'm starting to feel light headed. So yes, we go to the place next door to the English pub.

The place next door to the English pub is a bar brasserie selling artisanal beer, so it says. It's not right cheesy inside, pleasantly. We find a booth at the back and the table behind us are eating, but we can only find a drinks menu, which has the name of the English pub on it. A waitress comes over and says we're not allowed to sit where we're sitting. So we move, and a few minutes later she comes to take our order and tells us the kitchen is now closed. Fucksticks. But we have a beer and a wine anyway. The beer is made on the premises and is very nice.

I check Alex's shopping instructions and look for the shop itself. It closed at 2pm. At this point it's about 3.30pm. Fucksticks again. Two doors away is a pizza and pasta restaurant. We get a tableaux pour deux immediately and the menus are all in Italian and English. Helen orders some gnocchi, small portion, and I order a big risotto. It takes ages to arrive but drinks come quicker. When it finally does come through, the food is bloody lovely. I am repeatedly physically and ear-bashed by an aggravating child. Why are we being tormented by aggravating children today?

There's syrup for kids.

and a category of 'moderately priced'

So when we finish eating and pay, it's about 4.30pm. We've managed to spend 90 of our 100 CHF. Our timing is also spot on, because we'd always thought that being back at the train station for about 5pm was a good thing to aim for. We wander across the bridge once more, and a man shouts "salut!" at me. I wonder if he's the only person to acknowledge the fact I'm wearing a Swiss grindcore band t-shirt today, for maximal aptness.

We pop into an alternative shop for Alex's request which, I might as well now reveal, is to buy some ludicrously expensive cigars which are even more ludicrously expensive in the UK. It's quite an experience. I spend a ton of money in a really posh shop full of mega high end nicotine and stuff, and the woman offers to give me some random bits of cigar to taste for free. I decline. This all means bugger all to me! We're in and out in about 5 minutes, maybe longer because of the vacuum packing, and then wander back up to the train station.

Two tickets to the airport cost 6 CHF in total and the train is leaving in 10 minutes or so. It's a double decker beast and of course, leaves perfectly on time to the second. 6 minutes later and we're back at the airport. I already have my boarding pass but Helen doesn't have hers, so we go in search of the check-in machines. There aren't any, only desks, and the man manning what passes for a queue says we can both get fast track stickers because of my silver card. Huzzah!

Upstairs to security, fast track is fairly fast, except it's my turn to be metallic and get swabbed on my palms, backs of my hands, and iPad. We were given directions to the lounge and it's easy to find... and very full. Not so full we can't find seats, but unpleasant nonetheless. Of course we are perched opposite some screaming child. Will people please stop procreating? It's maddening. Let's just call right now the pinnacle of humanity and stop, OK?

An Iberia flight is announced and half the lounge fuck off. But of course, not the child. I get angry at the wifi because my phone won't bring up a keyboard to let me type in the password. I have a Tiger beer and strange cake slice, Helen gets a glass of wine. I totally cheer up when getting news that AFC Wimbledon have won away 2-0, and fancy a glass of port but then, oh, they announce boarding and everyone ups and leaves. So, so do we.

The flight is from gate B33. We're both wholly unfamiliar with the airport apart from what you've already read. These B gates are a bit of a trek along watch-and-wealth-advert-lined corridors, of course, through passport control, and then into an unhealthily warm little satellite of departures only to the UK - there's a Jet2 to Leeds, easyJet to Bristol, and BA to London all leaving within 20 minutes of one another.

It's all as unpleasant as a boiling hot atrium full of flying Brits sounds. There's barely anywhere to sit and about half a plane's worth of people are queueing up ready for priority boarding anyway. We wander round the shop and find some Swiss chocolate for exactly 4 CHF, meaning we spent the 100 exactly. Wallet zero! Then we sit down for a couple of minutes before various types of boarding are announced and, meh, we stroll through fast track just as they open up everything.

It's really busy. Full, they say. There are 12 rows of business class. 12 rows! 48 people! I've never seen a service in Europe like it. (The number of rows is a thing because these planes are changeable, they can move the curtain back and forwards and configure as many or few rows as they need; from Bergen, there were only 3 rows and 2 people including me!).

Someone's already in the aisle seat of row 17 and he shifts for us. In row 16 there are, of course, 2 loud children with occasional shouting and tears. GOD FUCKING DAMN IT. But again, loud plane drowns them out and anyway I think they fall asleep. It's dark so the views are shit, and up in the air the service is pretty prompt because this flight is only going to be around 1h20m. I am passing out and desperate for caffeine so opt for a vodka and Diet Coke, Helen has the same without the diet. The ham sandwich is laughably small, and I start writing this blog. I don't get far because, well, we start to descend over the channel and stuff has to go away.

Back on the ground and Helen is once again in desperate-for-nicotine mode. Even though everything since the lounge has been pretty unpleasant, and apart from almost passing out on the plane, I am still in my relentlessly chipper mood because getting up early and flying somewhere and doing loads of stuff and flying back is a fucking AWESOME way to spend a Saturday. Friday seems like it was so long ago! Boing boing boing I go. Might also be because I load up on yet more caffeine. Helen does largely agree, but is totally shattered and just wants to get home.

I'm very used to getting back to Surbiton from Heathrow, but not Thames Ditton. The suggested route is a tube to Hounslow East, then the 111 to Hampton Court and a train. We miss the first Piccadilly line service by literally 15 seconds or so, but otherwise take this exact route. The 111 is marvellously bleak, going through somewhat less than salubrious bits of town in dark, moody, wet weather. Most of the route is straight apart from the bits which feel like circles. Before we know it we're in Hampton, then Hampton Court, and on the train home. It's only half nine. The cat is really happy to see us, and us him. Aw.

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Darren Foreman

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