An international one-day cycle tour...
After putting my name down to help at a local 10K run at work, I had a lieu day to use for a day out somewhere!
My first thought was to head back to the Lake District, but I had only just recently visited Windermere and nowhere else was taking my fancy. As I was searching on National Rail for train tickets, I received a 20% off easyJet offer code by email and decided to see where I could go for the day by plane.
Day trip to Switzerland - Why not?!
After looking at the EasyJet schedules and prices, Geneva seemed like my best bet. The flight left Manchester Airport at 0800, arrived in Switzerland at 1050 and departed at 2150. Best of all was the price. Only £18 each way and the airport is conveniently located only 5km from the city centre.
So for the price of a return train ticket to North Wales or the Lake District, I was off to Switzerland for the day!
It's somewhere with great memories for me...
I've always liked Switzerland and have been fortunate enough to see the country in great detail on educationals, rail passes and personal tours. I have been on the Glacier Express train, rode around Lake Constance, visited the Schilthorn, explored Zurich, stayed in 5* hotels in Lugano and Bern and had one of the best days of my life riding around on cables cars near Interlaken.
In fact, for my 30th birthday, I received a Mondaine 'Swiss Railways' watch because some of the most memorable moments of my twenties happened in Switzerland.
I'd never been to Geneva before though.
Geneva - Diplomatic City... French-speaking Geneva is only the third-largest city in Switzerland but is one of the major international 'capitals' of the world due to several institutions being based in the city. These include the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organisation (WTO), Red Cross, CERN and several international 'missions'.
After arriving in Geneva, I headed into the city centre to collect my bike from a local hire shop - GeneveRoule close to the train station. The airport to city centre transfer time was less than 10 minutes and I was on the bike within 30 mins from leaving my seat on the plane!
My plan was to go to CERN to see the 'Large Hadron Collider', ride around the lakeside cycle path and visit some of the key buildings in the city.
On my way to CERN in France, then Switzerland...
My main aim of the day was to visit CERN (European Nuclear Research Centre) and find out more about the Large Hadron Collider that circles for 27km around the Geneva region. I have read many articles about this machine and it aims to find the elusive Higg's Boson and the conditions at the start of the universe. To be honest, particle physics isn't my strongest hand and I had a bit of a shocker getting there.
I put in CERN into Google Maps and ended up cycling into France to an outlying site just over the border instead of the main visitor centre not too far from Geneva airport. Frustratingly, this cost me an hour though I did enjoy the ride out into the surrounding countryside and crossing into another country.
I did return back in Switzerland across the open border, went to the main CERN centre at Meyrin and toured around the museum. After leaving, I was no further in finding out the truth behind the machine and came away with more questions than answers!
Back into Geneva city centre...
Geneva is a compact city and easily navigable by bike. There are plenty of bike lanes, but most are just painted lines on the road. Surprisingly, signage is not great though in this part of Switzerland and I struggled to get back to the lake from the suburbs at times even though it is virtually unmissable.
To guide me, I tried to keep an eye out for the famous 'Jet d'Eau' that rises 140 metres above the lake and shoots water skywards at over 200km/h! It is an impressive sight and dominates the low-rise Geneva skyline.
After crossing the busy Mont Blanc bridge over Lac Leman, I headed to the Nation Quarter to see the 'Palais des Nations' and the home of the UN. It was an impressive sight to see the grand building with each flag represented in the surrounding park. Nearby is the Red Cross building and the WTO. The whole world really is found in this tight corner of Lake Geneva and I've never seen so many diplomatic number plates on cars in all my life.
Time for milk, chocolate and Rivella...
I returned the bike to the hiring centre after covering most of the city since touching down at the airport. The roads were also getting busy as people were leaving the offices and institutions to head off home for the weekend.
I walked around the pretty shopping centre area, bought some Swiss chocolate from the outstanding choice of varieties in local supermarkets and bought a bottle of Rivella. This is a unique soft drink made from lactose that has a distinctive taste and is sadly unavailable in the UK.
After walking around for an hour or so, I headed back to Geneva train station to catch my return to the airport and repeat what I did only a few hours before in reverse.
Back into Manchester 18 hours later and bed...
I boarded my EasyJet flight to Manchester and managed to stretch out by having a row to myself. The flight landed on time and I was back at home just before midnight even though we had to wait at the airport for Passport Control for about 30 minutes.
There was a sense of achievement with this day trip to Geneva as I proved that with a bit of planning, imagination and 'thinking out of the box', it is possible to fly and do an international cycling day trip for both the cost and travel time of going somewhere closer to home!