On day 5 of our tour we departed Paris for Geneva very early and we were in the bus the majority of the day, driving through the burgundy hills and wine region of France.

Château On A Hilltop

Now, it’s quite tragic that I didn’t get a video of Jelle saying “burgundy hills” because it was the best thing he said the entire trip. The way he says it with his accent is simply incredible. That and “Rhone River.” Just try and say it to yourself in your best dutch accent with long, drawn out rolled r’s and you’ll have a good idea of how ridiculously awesome it was. We stopped in the middle of burgundy wine country in a town called Beaune. There is a really pretty building with a cool looking courtyard and roof there that we checked out, then we walked into the center of town and ate at a nice french sit down place and the menu was totally french so I just randomly picked a salad, which wasn’t a good idea. It was pretty weird. I think there was some kind of meat in it that I couldn’t identify.

Hospices de Beaune

Since I didn’t eat much we stopped in a pastry shop after, and while the French have a way to go with entrees but they definitely have their pastries down. I had something with fresh strawberries on it that was amazing.
Magasin Climatisé
Beaune was the first place we stopped that was really hot… about 32 degrees Celsius which is 90 Fahrenheit. (I finally learned to read Celsius while in Europe! Immersion is the best way to learn, hands down.)
Our next stop was Geneva! On the way Jelle was explaining the history of the country including something very interesting to the graphic designer in me… Switzerland’s original name was the Confoederatio Helvetica, which I’m going to assume is where the Swiss typeface Helvetica that all us designers use and love so much got it’s name from.
Upon our arrival we did a quick introduction to Geneva tour with Francesco and Jelle. First we drove past “Broken Chair”, a memorial sculpture for children killed by land mines left over from WWII. Then we stopped at the United Nations building and the Red Cross headquarters for about 20 minutes.


The UN is a fairly impressive building, the Red Cross wasn’t much to look at. Sad it’s not the other way around. After that we drove to our hotel… it was about 6PM. We had planned to go out but our dinner was in an hour so we just chilled in the room instead. The hotel was one of the nicest on the tour, brand new and super modern (figures… the Swiss have such a great design sense).

Swiss Hotel Room

We then had included dinner in the hotel and ate with our Aussie friends Rob and Chanel and our Singaporean friend Nikki, who is quite funny and adorable and we learned was only like 17. She seemed a lot older. The meal was really good… salad with a lot of nice carrots and pork something with nice vegetables.

I don’t know why but some of my best memories from the tour are just some of the funny conversations we had with the people we met. Now up until this point on our trip I was convinced our driver, Francesco, didn’t speak English because I hadn’t seen him talking to anyone on the tour except the few that spoke Italian, so I just assumed he didn’t. At dinner Jelle and Francesco were sitting the next table over from us and since he was facing the sun, Francesco seemed to be having the same problem as me with the sun being in his eyes. The super modern stringy curtains covering the windows just weren’t cutting it. So I joked that we should pull our tables away from the windows and just push them together into one massive table. Francesco laughed and thought this was a good idea I guess because he stood up and started to push his table. I got up to push ours as well but nobody else was paying attention at this point and lost interest in the sun blinding me. Francesco and I just started laughing at one another and finally Jelle started laughing at us and said “what are you guys doing?!”

Thanks to Francesco and I’s funny exchange Jelle and Francesco started conversing with everyone at our table and after a few minutes, Jelle said to Ally and I “I have a question to ask you Americans… why is it you grab your knife, you cut something, and then you switch your knife with your fork to eat it? Why don’t you just eat like everybody else in the world and keep your knife in one hand and your fork in the other, ya?”
Now to finish this story I have to fill you in on another Jelle-ism I forgot to mention. Throughout the trip Jelle would always explain the downsides to each country we would visit (the strange or weird customs you would encounter; like no shower curtains or toilets that were in fact holes in the floor). Jelle would say to us “it’s not strange, it’s different… only different. You asked to be here. Do as the locals do!” So when Jelle was all done laughing at me and the way Americans switch their fork and knife around when cutting and eating, I shot back at him “Jelle! It’s not strange, it’s DIFFERENT!” Everyone laughed pretty hard at that one.
The next day we set out on another included tour in the morning. Our main stop was a park where the Reformation monument was located. On the way Jelle taught us about Geneva’s involvement in the reformation movement… very interesting to learn about. To this day Geneva is like 90% protestant. When we got to the monument it was unfortunately hidden by scaffolding and stuff because there had been a concert or something in the park the previous night, but it was still beautiful from what we could see. In the park there were a few life-sized chess boards, which was very exciting to Ally and I, the chess geeks that we are. So Ally went and stood next to a piece for a picture, and Jelle says “No, no no… that’s not how you do it… “ and he walks over and grabs the king and queen and he stands in place of the king and puts Ally in place of the queen and says “this is how you play… now we’re the king and queen”… hahah…


We had some free time after that and Francesco dropped us off at the shopping district right near the Jet d’Eau, one of the world’s largest fountains.


Jet d'Eau

We needed to ask Jelle what the best way to get to Montreux was so we hung around the bus after everyone else had walked away. Jelle told us the best way would be train, but I had my heart set on a cruise across the lake. Turns out the cruise ship wasn’t running at all at that time so we had to take the train. Somehow we managed to figure it out again despite everything being in French. We got on the train to Montreux and it was right on the shore of the lake the majority of the ride… which was an hour. We got off the train clueless as to where to find the Rochers de Naye train, which is where we were headed – to the peak of one of the highest mountains on the lake. To my amazement and relief the second we got off the train there was a huge ad for the Rochers de Naye train right across the track on the other platform. So we bought the ticket and quickly hoped on that train, a cog wheel train that was at a steep incline for most the journey up. It also made 10 other stops along the way to the peak, each one ridiculously scenic and breathtaking.

After another 50 minutes we were finally to the top.


It wasn’t nearly as cold as I expected it to be, despite there being a dirty patch of snow just in front of us. It was a nice 75 degrees or so… with a cool breeze. We grabbed some lunch and ate outside overlooking the snow capped mountains in the distance… I remember telling Ally it was probably the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I felt like we were in a movie or a painting.

Swiss Alps

After lunch we grabbed a map and headed out on the trail that led to the very VERY top of the peak, still a little ways walk. On the way you pass fenced off habitats for marmots, which the Swiss apparently love because the marmots were advertised as the key highlight of the location, not the breathtaking views… which is what I would assume would draw more visitors. But what do I know. We caught a glimpse of a marmot sunbathing on a little marmot house and he looked dead. They really aren’t that cute either… they look like huge, fat squirrels.
Once you make it to the actual tip top of the peak the view of the lake and the surrounding villages and mountains is spectacular… you can see the town of Montreux, where the train departs from… and since the lake is shaped like a kidney bean you can’t even see all the way to the other side where Geneva is due to mountains blocking the view.

Rochers-de-Naye Panoramic

Behind you are the towering snow capped Swiss and Italian alps. It was an almost cloudless, perfect day and thus we could see all the way to Italy, and due to Google Earth I was able to determine which peak was Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in the Alps, which was visible, however barely due to the curvature of the earth and it being almost blocked by another very high peak that was closer in proximity.

Mont Blanc

There were dozens of parasailers and hang gliders out that day, sailing off and around the cliffs and peaks of the mountains… something I simply cannot imagine having the courage to do, but I decided right then that I must someday… they made it look so easy and fun.

The Point of No Return!

Another really cool thing about this mountain is they have these mongolian yurts you can stay in…

Mongolian Yurt

Ally and I stayed up there almost 2 hours, making a nice little short video at the top that you can see below. I must preface your viewing with an explanation of what you are about to see if you watch it… Ally bought these chocolate eggs as souvenirs in the gift shop there, and when I asked her to take a picture of me at the top of the mountain she set them on the ground… she was just about to pick them up when I realized they looked so funny sitting there because it was almost as if they had been hatched there by a bird… the patch of grass and dirt looked like a nest and everything. Another thing you must know is we had been surrounded by Aussies for the better part of the last week, thus the reason why we apparently forgot how to speak in American accents.

Right before we boarded the train back down, I threw a dirty snowball at Ally, who was wearing a tank top, so it hit her bare skin. EPIC WIN. Then I went to snap one more picture, and this little girl wandered into it and made it a million times better:


Over the Clouds

On our descent in the train I finally caught a glimpse of Chateau de Chillion, a castle I wanted to visit but we didn’t have time for. I just love how many beautiful sights there are in Europe… you can already be at the most breathtaking place you’ve ever been, and then as if that isn’t enough, you spot a centuries old castle on a lake shore!


Château de Chillon

After arriving back at our hotel after a failed attempt at finding a store that was open (stores close quite early in Europe!) we headed out to find some real Swiss fondue. Our hotel concierge researched the best one for us and printed out directions… we took a bus and walked the rest of the way, finally finding the hole in the wall restaurant. The menu was totally french, and there was only one employee who spoke english, and it was very little. He helped translate the menu for us as best he could… it was so adorable how hard he tried to explain what each item was. We ordered a classic cheese fondue, called Maki Maki or something of that nature, which only comes with bread to dip. We were worried it would be weird, but it ended up being amazing. They even scrape the burnt cheese off the bottom at the end and give it to you to munch on! Soooo yummy.
After our day of completely winging it and going off the beaten path we returned to our hotel, where we got a very good night’s sleep.