Golding gives analternative take on the Geneva.
I cant deny
it Geneva is a strange place. Some people love it, I know a few
that hate it, and personally, I just I cant fathom it. To be honest,
unless you are a diplomat, banker, chocolatier, or gold magnate, Id
be surprised if youd already visited the city.
Ive lived in Geneva for the past 10 months and I have discovered
its a really interesting city. I must admit though, the city has
a weird atmosphere. A history of openness and peacekeeping tempered
with banks, bunkers and bullion. A country that boasts the Red Cross
and the United Nations alongside (ahem) yearly defence spending of 4.5
billion Swiss francs (9% of state spending) and which should make it
the most efficient, yet untested army in the world.
Unlike cities such as Paris or Amsterdam, Geneva doesnt attract
an artsy, bohemian crowd. In spite of this, there is enough of an alternative
scene to make checking out these places worthwhile. A few of these places
are off the beaten track, literally, so what follows is an alternative
take on the city.
Im a great one for saving time when I arrive somewhere - I want
to get to the cool stuff NOW. I dont want to wait for a likely
looking arts student or moody writer to point me in the direction of
the hippest underground bunker happening, so if this sounds familiar,
If youve just disembarked, note that the cool areas
are (arguably) Plainpalais (flea markets, cafes, antique shops, bookshops),
Paquis (red light district and home to some great restaurants and a
fab jazz club, Sud des Alpes) and Carouge (sits on the outskirts of
Geneva and is just like a small French town with a slow, shuttered Mediterranean
The Genevois may disagree, but unlike most European cities, Genevas
old town isnt a welcoming mix of cobbled streets and cosy cafes
rather its full of expensive art galleries, overpriced
coffee and old ladies riding the novelty tourist bus. Its worth
a fleeting visit as there is some interesting architecture, (including
a rather spooky cathedral) but to be honest, its a bit soul-less.
So apart from the Irish bars in the area, notably Spring Brothers and
the Roi Ubu on Grand Rue there are more interesting quartiers to uncover.
and flea markets
The Plain of Plainpalais is, to be honest, a rather desolate
and dusty wasteland like a sprawling overgrown car park. In spite
of this though, it is the natural heart of the city housing a flea market,
a fruit and veg market, circuses, fairs and, in the summer its
a great place for outdoor weekend festivals.
From 6am on Saturdays and Wednesdays, the Plainpalais flea market is
a fantastic place to while away a few hours and pick up some real bargains.
After a hard bout of haggling, reward yourself with a panini (delicious
fat-filled, high-carb Italian toasted sandwiches) from Panini Show (a
mobile van) for the best paninis in town.
Rest tired legs in the Remor café (top of Plainpalais). This
cosy old-school café is home to intellos poring over leftie papers
and black-clad beatniks smoking moodily and struggling with film scripts.
Order a renversé (Swiss equivalent to café latté)
and enjoy a spot of people watching on the terrace.
Another great hangout in this area is Les Recyclables, (rue
de Carouge) a friendly second-hand bookshop-cum café with sofas,
whole-food lunches and Miles Davis on the stereo. Piles of books (French
English and German) and industrious students from the nearby faculté
make for a chilled out atmosphere.
If a spot of serious shopping is in order, continue down rue de Carouge
and stop off at Flying A stockist of urban street-wear from Diesel
and Hello Kitty. Theres also a groovy range of kitsch household
Also worth a visit is the completely divine Septième Etage at
the foot of the old town. Owners Katarina and Thaddeus are both ex-New
Yorkers and it shows. This stylish boutique is packed with hip American
designs (including Kateyone Adeli and Isabel Toledo). In addition to
some completely off the wall clothes, youll also find gorgeous
make up, to-die-for bags, exceptionally yummy candles and the delicious
Aesop cosmetic range. Prices are steep though - I once bought a coat
from this place that had me living off tuna fish for months afterwards
Saturday Night Fever
This is tricky.
Catering mostly for the citys gilded youth, Genevas
club scene leaves a lot to be desired. Unless you fancy hanging
with hardcore Eurotrash in all their (un-ironic) 80s glory,
head for some of the citys better bars. The 2eme Bureau
(rue de Stand) has a funky, retro feel, great music and is popular
with trendy media-types. Check LUsine for off beat happenings,
homemade techno/hard rock bands and the occasional musical gem
on a Sunday night. Qai GB is a tiny cosy lacquered Chinese
puzzle-box of a club situated next to the deliciously hip Comptoir
restaurant both are seriously worth a visit. (Rue Richemont).
For an early evening aperitif check the Alhambra, (rue de la rotisserie)
a fantastically bewitching, enchanted place full of magical hanging
lanterns, movie projections, glittering beads, feathers and other
flights of fancy. Also features tea dancing and jazz brunches
here on Sundays.
also has some good night spots. Bar du Nord (rue Ancienne) is
a small stylish bar stuffed with Bauhaus inspired furniture. LEquinox
(at the first tram stop in Carouge) has a wholefoody atmosphere
and is a favourite of local artists and boho types.
photo: Nick Constance
Luckily for you, Im about to give away a trade secret on the best
restaurant in town. Called LAmalgam, this eclectic place on rue
Léman has no telephone
so if you dont know it, youll
be hard pressed to find it
or call it! This place is always packed,
drawing a local crowd who flock for the truly excellent home cooked
food. Theres only ever one menu each day, which will be anything
from spicy Mexican rice and beans to coconut and lime Thai chicken.
The prices are also tasty an extremely reasonable 18 - 20 francs
a head for a three course meal. (Approx £8) Cafe des Bains on
rue des Bains is perhaps more stylish, as is the food
this serves up east-meets-west cooking and prices start at 40CHF a head.
The restaurant has a great minimalist café next door featuring
stacks of magazines, a chilled, trendy vibe and perhaps the best latté
in town. Both are opposite Genevas contemporary art museum, MAMCO.
Diner -Photo: Nick Constance
Here comes the
Okay! Summer! Run to the Bains de Paquis Beach! Cafe! Food! Swimming
in the lake! Music! Just go as soon as a heat wave hits the city
its a great place to soak up the sun, and only two francs to get
in. Speaking of summer, Geneva really finds itself at this time of year,
and the festival season has just kicked off. Coming up in July is the
Paléo festival Six days, five stages and 100 concerts,
this is Switzerlands answer to Glastonbury. Paléo is held
just outside Geneva in Nyon (15 min train ride). This year Texas and
Pulp are playing, as are St. Germain, Red Snapper, Ash, Ben Harper Manu
.Kool and the Gang! The festival runs from the 24th
29th of July and a six-day ticket pass costs 210 Swiss francs. (180
www.paleo.ch - festival
© Romily Golding
2001 (photos Nick Constance)
For a glimpse of
Geneva on film, see THREE COLOURS RED -Kristof Kieslsowski's last film.
also by Romilly Golding
IS SO COOL € Romilly Golding: Basel is the new
black. It's official
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