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Up Quarks. Down Quarks. CERN (with a side of Geneva)

Up Quarks. Down Quarks. CERN (with a side of Geneva)

Jan 28th, 2019, 01:59 AM
  #1  
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Up Quarks. Down Quarks. CERN (with a side of Geneva)

Normally Switzerland never makes it onto our holiday radar because, well, we have mountains and cows and alpine food and wine here in Austria at a fraction of Swiss prices and without the bothersomeness of currency conversions (C/F to C/J as well as Euros to Francs).

However, at least one of us endeavors to attend DD’s HS sports tournaments and honor orchestra festivals as time and resources have allowed. This particular tournament was being hosted by ISGeneva, so a short skip across the alps was planned for the two of us once DDog’s sitter confirmed availability. Plus, this is DD’s senior year, so there are scant excuses months remaining to take a long weekend away from the office.

The primary focus being to cheer on the team meant that our sightseeing would have to fit around the games. Of course, the administrative address for the school places it conveniently near Geneva’s Old Town (and with a tram stop practically across the street); but the actual campus where the tournament was to be held was some 18km outside of Geneva in Founex, accessible via a precision-timed SBB/regional bus/650m walk scheme. Ugh.

Sightseeing was now carefully prioritized: CERN, the ICRC Museum, and Geneva’s Old Town. The Airbnb was reserved. The 0715 departure on Austrian Airlines was booked; and the airport driver pickup was arranged for oh-dark-thirty. Knowing the terrible state of VIE’s food offerings even during regular business hours we pre-purchased the optional catered breakfast from Do & Co (an upper end Austrian catering/hotel/restaurant group) to be delivered to our flight.

Wise move. While others around us were enjoying(?) cold Kipferl and paper-cup java DH settled in with scrambled eggs, bacon and OJ (in a real glass), breakfast purist that he is; while I spent much of the 1:20 flight nom-noming and snapping my Bento Box.



After depositing our case in one of the airport train station lockers (easy-peasy!) and purchasing a transit day pass for €8 we caught our connection trams to CERN for a tour. Fully badged we began the visit with a tour of the Microcosmexhibit for an at-your-own-pace description of what goes on at CERN, for which we were both glad we had made time. The tour itself began with a film that was wildly dramatic, with music and spectacular PowerPoint effects; while the walking tour was perhaps a little lecture-y with thankfully no Sheldon Cooper jokes. Though one does not get up-close-and-personal to the collider action, we were able to observe the control room of the Atlas Collider (though it is presently shut down while the magnets are being refurbished) and we were shown a portion of the IBM computer system that birthed the WWW. The tour ended with a visit to the long-decommisioned Proton Synchroton and a fascinating timeline video that put everything into perspective. For the two of us STEM nerds the tour was informative and engaging in a geeky kind of way, and an interesting look at how Europe rebuilt its scientific community after the war.

By the time the two-hour tour had finished our tummies were rumbling. Lunch! Just then, our Airbnb host rang and asked if we could check in early, so we rerouted to the apartment up in the embassy and permanent missions ‘hood. After the hellos and key-collect DH and I walked a couple of blocks to a postcard perfect dark wood floors, rickety wicker-backed chairs, mismatched-dishes-on-the-table crowded café. The chalkboard menu emphasized the Fondue Maison. Well, why not? 60 Francs later (Okay, the fondue was spectacular) we eased out of the restaurant and planned our late afternoon walkabout in Geneva’s Old Town.

Charming. The mostly-pedestrian area was Instagrammable and largely void of tourists. The #36 bus does a loop near to many interesting sights within the Old Town, and we took advantage of that rather than walk between sights on this sunny but cold day. In between we roamed around, the light snow cover adding romantic effects to our scenes. In one storefront window we spied a watch—not surprising—with a 17.000 Swiss Franc price tag. Again, not surprising.

Still, we somehow managed seven kilometers on foot before dinner. Our hearts had been set on a Poulet roti and a Swiss or Alsatian wine, curled up on the sofa of our flat while plotting the remaining time in the city. But our hearts were broken when we arrived at the Rotisserie near the grocer—all the Poulet had been sold! After sulking about the grocery for several minutes we decided upon a supper of pan-seared steaks with salad, paired with a sublime Gamay, a couple of bottles of which I regret not bringing home.

The following morning was a Swiss-precision routine to reach the school in time for the first game tip-off (DD is the starting Center). From the bus stop we walked in biting winds to reach the school (fun!), and I arrived with a red nose and watering eyes, looking as if I had instead trekked to the North Pole.

We had been “warned” that the school was nearly in the middle of nowhere and that we should bring provisions, as the downtime between relevant games was not sufficient to find a restaurant or walk across the tundra to a grocery. Thank goodness we had come prepared, because the offerings at the school ranged from chicken hot dogs to Cup O Noodles to chicken (or perhaps veggie) hamburgers kept warm in the oven. At one point I took leave of my senses and decided to try a noodle cup. Nope. Couldn’t finish it and pawned it off on DH. I think my taste buds are still stinging from the salt.

Did I mention that the sports facility resembled a concrete-enclosed ice cube? We spent the day in full parkas, alternating between sitting on the (cold) concrete benches or walking about the (cold) facility and peeking at the snow capped mountains, all the while cheering on our Basketball, not Ice Hockey team.

Sprung from the games about 10 hours later, we were on a mission to find Poulet Roti. And we did. I sautéed some fingerlings and tossed the remaining salad to go with, and we uncorked a rather quaffable Alsatian Gewurztraminer to pair while we caught a few episodes of The Sopranos (Have AppleTV, will travel!)

No need for an alarm, as a drunk neighbor shouting and stumbling in the hallway at 0446 woke us the following morning. A repeat of our precision moves ensued (after coffee, naturally), with the extra step of storing luggage at the main train station, but without the need to procure provisions as the tournament ended in the early afternoon. Once the tournament ended the remaining afternoon hours were spent touring the International Committee of the Red Cross museum. The high ticket price of €15 aside, we both agreed that while the museum was worth touring overall, it was perhaps a little lean on substance in certain facets (The Moral Failure) and a little “wordy” in others with the many first-person viewpoints. The section devoted to humanitarian efforts we found rather moving: the (still active) archive of more than 6 million prisoners of war and the wall of missing Rwandan children particularly so.

As we had more or less skipped the midday nosh we settled into a quiet corner booth for an entirely acceptable Pizza Diavolo and a “pot” of house wine at an airport train station restaurant in the late afternoon before our flight. Our Austrian Airlines pilot put the pedal to the metal so we, and the team, touched down in Vienna 15 minutes ahead of schedule. The airport driver was waiting, and in no time at all we were greeted at home by DDog.

To wrap up this little tale, with perhaps the exception of not having time to tour the Patek Phillipe Museum I think we allotted the right amount of wintertime for Geneva. On previous school-related trips to Zurich and Basel both DH and I felt the same. Perhaps one goes to Switzerland more for the countryside than the cities? That may be, but then again we have the mountains and cows and alpine food and wine here in Austria, at a fraction of Swiss prices.

Thank you for reading.
fourfortravel is offline  
Jan 29th, 2019, 03:05 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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You can make even an "eh" trip interesting! I have to admit my inner nerd would probably enjoy the Collider tour.
elberko is online now  
Jan 29th, 2019, 03:15 PM
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Thanks for posting - especially bit about CERN and Sheldon jokes - my son is into theoretical physics and the work being done at CERN - he's French so goes to France a lot and wants to visit CERN.
PalenQ is online now  
Jan 30th, 2019, 04:06 AM
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Thank you both. I debated over whether to post anything at all; however, touring CERN and the ICRC Museum was different enough that I decided to report out. Perhaps my biggest challenge on making a "Meh" destination interesting is coming up in May, however: four days in Waterloo, Belgium! This will be DD's final T&F tournament, so we will have plenty of downtime in between her events. I'm envisioning a rental car to explore Wallonia...
fourfortravel is offline  
Jan 30th, 2019, 07:52 AM
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Never debate over posting anything! Your reports are always fascinating, and SO well written - a joy to read.
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