I have been in Geneva a week now and I think I have the measure of the place. Let's skip quickly over the excruciating prices and the rash of impossibly chic designer shops that make me want to raise the barricades and start a revolution. Oh, I'm not that radical but the vile smugness of them drives me mad. And where do their employees get off on looking so snooty and disdainful? Don't you dare try and sneer at me! You work in a bloody shop for God's sake!
You see? That's the trouble with Geneva. You just want to yell at all the self-important bankers, financiers, jewellers and spoilt-brat Porsche drivers that you find around every corner.
So, moving swiftly on, I have found a few things that can make the cheapskate, like me, reasonably happy.
A couple of transport tips for the Geneva neophyte:
When you arrive at the airport, there's a ticket machine in the luggage hall that will give you a free ticket, valid for 90 minutes, enabling you to use any form of public transport to get to your destination in town. So you can take the train and then a tram or whatever, absolutely free. Very civilised.
If you're staying at a hotel, the hotel will give you a free travel pass for your entire stay!
As we're staying in digs we don't benefit from this but there are all kinds of passes you can buy for not much money. I only discovered a few days ago that there are various ferries that ply across the lake which are also part of the public transport system. It is perfectly feasible on a sunny day like today, to plant yourself in the stern of a boat and potter back and forth all day, all for seven francs (about £4.40), the price of an all-day pass after 9 a.m. And the boats don't seem to stay on just the one route, but switch their routes every time they arrive at a pontoon, so you're not repeatedly covering the same stretch of lake. (If you're hotel hasn't given you one, you can buy a day pass from the machines at every tram or boat stop. You need coins though; exact change.)
The other day, just because I could, I took a tram to France. I got on by our flat and took the 16 for about ten minutes to the end of the line at Moillesulaz. I got off, walked about ten metres and crossed the unmanned border. I love doing that. (In Strasbourg once I did a very dreary walk out of town just so I could invade Germany on foot. Well, it makes a change eh?)
Not that there was much to see the other side. Just more of the same really, which was pretty dull. I ended up buying some groceries in a Casino supermarket, which was a bit cheaper than doing it in Switzerland. I did feel oddly furtive though as I recrossed the border (even though I'd spied several Swiss doing the same thing) and walked the half hour back to the flat.
There are some decent museums in town which are free and oddly empty. I like that though. I'd rather see some good paintings in a quiet gallery than fight the crowds to glimpse a celebrity piece elsewhere. Though some joy in the latter can be had in opining loudly on the ghastliness of Renoir in front of a bunch starstruck tourists. It can be a bit like going into a MacDonalds and saying at the top of your voice that you think the Jonas brothers are talentless twats, but so very worth it.
The last tip is a restaurant we stumbled upon in the Paquis. It's a scruffy Italian place with indifferent service, but it's homely and authentic. Pavarotti's name is emblazoned on the outside and the chef, who waddled in from time to time, doesn't look dissimilar.
I had the 32 franc menu (about £21) - a mixed salad generously topped with anchovies, rigatoni with pesto, saltimbocca with sautéed vegetables and a slice of strawberry tart - amazing value for Geneva (or Milan for that matter), while Lucy had what we thought was going to be just one course, but turned out to be two, for 22 francs. She had a mixed salad then two scaloppine served with linguini in a fantastic tomato and garlic sauce. She had some of my tart, of course, and the waiter anticipated this by bringing her a fork. If I went again, I'd do what Lucy did and choose a so-called single dish as the portions are massive. My only quibble was that we weren't shown a wine list, just offered some suggestions, and we only found out our half-litre bottle of Nero d'Avola cost a disproportionately expensive 24 francs when the bill came. It's cash only and we just scraped by with what was in our wallets.
I'd definitely recommend it for chic-weary visitors and it's called La Locanda Toscana, and is at 61, rue de Berne.