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Geneva offers Swiss bliss

新华网 2016-01-08 12:37


  Lake Geneva is the heart of the city with its waterfront parks, and Switzerland's best shopping is never far away. Photos by Mike Peters/China Daily and Provided to China Daily

  Geneva is known as a business hub, but Mike Peters seeks out its fun side.

  Museums. Shopping. Boats. "The Lake." Chocolate.

  There are lots of reasons to love Geneva.

  "We're listed first among Swiss cities in Lonely Planet," says one of our guides during a quick city tour, "and that's not just the luck of the alphabet."

  This charming cosmopolitan center boasts nearly 150 resident nationalities, he adds, but in Geneva you are most aware of the French. It's all about geography: France surrounds the city on almost every side, and while Switzerland's other three official languages (German, Italian, Romansch) are certainly audible in the streets, Geneva is the heart of French Switzerland. It's not the capital-and it's only the third-largest city-but it hums with an energy and self-awareness that make it larger than life.

  "The Lake" gives Geneva a lot of its presence: The city is strung out along the western tip of Europe's largest lake, where banks, luxury watchmakers and chocolatiers, gelaterias and grand hotels jostle for their toeholds on the waterfront.

  This business city can be one of Europe's most expensive, but a stroll along the shore brings out its simple pleasures. Takeaway kiosks offer pretzels filled with all kinds of savory goodness for a few Swiss francs. And petite parks are everywhere with views ranging from Mount Blanc (on a sunny day), the Cathedral St. Pierre or the peacocks that strut in the Parc de l'Ariana that sweeps along the United Nations and the botanical garden.

  Our two nights at the Swissotel gave us a front-row seat of the lakeside, with easy access to the beach for a morning swim. And a more commanding view on the roof, where a lively cocktail bar features absinthe, savory local beers and the option to dine with a sunset view of the Jet d'Eau. Visitors see this huge plume of water from the air as they land: A "pencil fountain" that shoots as much as 7 tons of water sky-high at any given moment.


  Charming pedestrian streets are lined with shops, cafes and the flags ofSwitzerland and old Geneva. 

  While the hotel chain celebrates its spa culture around the world, the Metropole Geneva may bethe only member of the Swissotel family with no freestanding spa due to space limits in this primereal estate. What you get instead is steam-driven room service: a sensual spa shower that's atouch of divine luxury after a morning swim or a day's shopping. 

  Any treatment you choose from the spa menu features the hotel's exclusive line of Purovelcosmetics, which you can see in their moment of creation by touring the nearby farm collectivethat produces them. 

  Alexander Reber, our 57-year-old guide, explains that he and the other nine farmers in the grouprepresent families that have worked the land for more than a century. The current generationcultivates a hybrid mint, lemon balm and canola among other crops that are distilled for their skin-pampering qualities and fragrances. As he talks, we enjoy the sunshine, ruffling the fragrantstalks of mint as if they are puppies, and later walk over to see huge fields of rose-coloredbeebalm, where a blue ceramic pig-as big as a bus-stands guard. That porcine charmeralone is worth the short drive to the farm, a selfie magnet with her two suckling piglets. 

  In the fall, myriad small wineries can be enjoyed as workers harvest grapes along the shorelinenorth of the city proper. Winter is a festival season; the alfresco cafes become sauna bars,fondue pots are simmering everywhere, and you can enjoy it all after a day on the ski slopes. 

  Year-round there are spectacular museums-many are free on the first Sunday of the month, andthe Geneva Pass is good for museum entries, free public transport and discounts on city tours,speedboat rental, theater tickets and more. (Prices start at 25 Swiss francs-$27-for 24 hours.) 

  When warm weather returns, lakeside cafes spring to life. 

  Tourist boats ply the waters. Parks and beaches hum with reveling locals and visitors. While thecity is celebrated as a business center, there are plenty of attractions for families and kids, fromfeeding ducks and swans at a popular park to an electric-train tour or the Tarzan-inspired treepark (with irresistible rubber-tire swings) at Baby Plage. 


  An enormous pig sculpture presides over farm fields of aromatic herbs, luring passers-by for a photo op. 

  Where the past produces a place in modern times 

  Geneva is rich with history. 

  John Calvin, whom you might think was a beer brewer considering the way his image is used onbottles and billboards, was a Reformation leader who pushed to turn the city into a "ProtestantRome" in the 16th century. 

  Well before that, the city was shaped by occupying Romans-a grand mosaic depicts the arrivalof Julius Caesar on a fine white horse. 

  The city is also the birthplace of the Red Cross, which still calls it home, along with manyhumanitarian organizations. The League of Nations was based here after World War I, and it's animportant regional center for the more successful United Nations today.