I experienced a bit of déjà vu on Wednesday: I pushed through one of the enormous glass doors of the Geneva Apple store, weaved my way through the sea of eager customers trying out the latest Macs and made my way to the left side of the room where I knew I would find the iPad-wielding employee that essentially serves as the bouncer for the Genius Bar. As far as I could remember, I had not set foot in the store since the several-week debacle over my MacBook shortly after moving to Geneva, during which I helplessly relied on my husband to communicate on my behalf. But this time, I reminded myself, things were different. I took a deep breath and approached the smiling bouncer.
My iPhone battery is acting up and I am here to get a new one installed, I explained. I filled out the paperwork and agreed to come back in three hours to retrieve my re-energized phone. When I returned at the designated time, I even engaged in a little banter with the friendly Genius assigned to assist me — yup, I’m sure you guessed it — ALL. IN. FRENCH.
It seemed a little poetic given that the timing coincided with our two-year Geneva anniversary, almost as if I had come full circle through the unlikely prism of the Apple store. Of course, after spending two years in a French-speaking country you would hope I could get around in the local tongue. But given that it can be so easy to avoid speaking French in Geneva — all my classes are in English, I work entirely in English, all of my friends speak more-than-decent English — I felt a quite the sense of accomplishment.
“Merci beaucoup!” I told the Genius with a smile as I bounced out of the store, texting Guillaume about my victory. “Bonne journée!”
On the one hand, it seems like ages ago that two jet-lagged Americans arrived in Geneva and asked their hotel receptionist for directions to the nearest Starbucks in desperate search of Wifi to forage apartment postings. Yet, on the other hand, two years? Where on earth does the time go?
As anyone who follows this blog knows, Guillaume and I have been taking advantage of the trusty train network and regional budget airlines to see as much of Europe as possible during our time in Geneva. Since the roundup of favorite travel destinations that I included in my one-year anniversary post was quite popular, I thought I’d do a second edition. So without further ado, here is a recap of our top 10 favorite destinations from our second year of Swiss residence, in no particular order.
If you can brave the hoards of tourists crowding the stone streets for a Game of Thrones tour, then go ahead and pack your bags — The walled city of Dubrovnik and its sparkling orange roofs are quite the treat. I’d recommend visiting in early spring to avoid some of the worst crowds and make sure you can get a spot at Buza Bar. There’s nothing like sipping an Aperol Spritz while watching sailboats glide across the Adriatic to the epic tune of the Games of Thrones theme song (and we don’t even watch the show).
I finally compressed my photos from last month’s trip to Tromsø, Norway, so a blog post will be coming shortly, but here’s a teaser. Our visit to the Arctic Circle with our friends from the Netherlands felt like one of those special once-in-a-lifetime experiences, with the minimal daylight hours spent exploring the fjords and the expansive night hours consumed by chasing the Northern Lights. It’s not a cheap trip by any means — in fact, it was the most expensive flight we’ve booked in Europe — but something we’d argue is definitely worth saving for.
I kept vacillating between Lisbon and Porto (blog post to come on the latter, I promise), but in the end I decided that colorful capital should be everyone’s first stop in Portugal. From the gorgeous tile-covered buildings to the affordable and delicious eats, there are many reasons why Lisbon is one of my favorite cities. Take advantage of TAP Portugal’s free stopover options between Europe and North America and plan a mini-holiday — Just make sure you take a day trip to the palace of Sintra while you’re there.
You may remember that my family had some auto troubles trying to reach Scotland’s most famous isle, but nothing can sour my taste for Skye. Just taking a stroll through its magnificent landscapes is a feast for the eyes — though, admittedly, the problem with Skye, as with Dubrovnik, is that too many eyes have been coming to see it. Plan your trip well in advance and email me for a fantastic Airbnb option right outside of the isle (my mom’s all-time favorite European accommodation).
Our New Years getaway also makes the list, despite the unfortunate array of maladies my family was juggling. The mix of grand Italian architecture and crumbling graffitied buildings make the city a photographer’s paradise — and then, of course, you have the world’s best dessert to fill your belly at even the slightest hunger pangs. Oh how I love you, cannoli.
Stockholm is one of those cities I could totally picture myself living in, though maybe that’s because we didn’t visit in the winter… The locals speak amazing English, the cinnamon buns are fantastic and my love for unisex fashion could be pretty close to satiated. When you book those tickets to Tromsø, consider spending a few days in Sweden’s quirky capital along the way.
Speaking of quirky… Ah, Berlin — I had never seen so many hipsters in one place before! There’s also a ridiculous amount of history to take in — my personal favorite being the East Side Gallery, one of the remaining sections of the Berlin wall covered in murals — but make sure you find time for a pint (or two) in one of the local biergartens.
Don’t let the giant parking lot of charter-buses deter you: Mostar’s Stari Most bridge is beautiful inside and out — both for its sweeping arch and symbolism — and also happens to be located next to the restaurant with the most incredible kebabs we have ever tasted. If you need more convincing, just check out the close-ups of the food in my blog post 🙂
9. Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre had been on the top of our wishlist since we arrived in Europe, but given the horror stories we had heard about the crowds and its relative distance from an international airport we had trouble settling on when and how to visit. Our October adventure via rental car (which I just realized has yet to be blogged — stay tuned) turned out to be an ideal combination. All I can say is don’t let the picture-perfect vistas fool you — Those hikes are a heck of a challenge, so be prepared to sweat.
Our day spent hiking around the Matterhorn will always be one of my favorite Swiss memories, both for the anxious anticipation (will the clouds ever clear?!) and the peaceful solitude of being the only adventurers on our path for
miles kilometers (yep, old habits die hard). The mountain’s famous silhouette may be familiar from the packaging of the Toblerone you picked up in the airport duty free shop, but it’s quite something else to see the peak in person. The charming town of Zermatt in the mountain’s shadow will win your heart along the way.