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Geneva aerial view buildings, lake geneva, ferris wheel and geyser

European Adventure Geneva

Due to image limitations on this site of only 10 pics, I’ve included a link to my Google photo album. Please feel free to peruse the album while reading my story…Trip photos. This album is just the highlights of my trip, just enough to help tell my story for those who prefer visuals with their text. My real photo album consists of more than 500 pictures. Yep that many! Please feel free to message me if you’d like to see the complete album.

Before you go any further, please be forewarned that this will not read like your typical touristy travel blog. Like the ones you would see on other popular travel sites. This is my travel story. Complete with funny observations, musings and yes some keen valuable travel tips sprinkled in as well.

So, for quite some time now, I’d been meaning to take a real European vacation. My very own Euro trip if you will. After all, this was one of the main reasons why I moved to DC. A closer gateway to Europe and whatnot. Of course that meant having the time and resources available to do so which is never easy. So when all those cheap fares to Europe started popping up in my inbox, I jumped at the chance. It was never going to be the perfect time but I thought to myself, it’s now or never. Let’s do this! And so I did.

This trip would see me fulfill a life-long promise I made not only to myself but to others I promised to visit as well. Fellow like-minded travelers, wanderers and nomadic souls that I was fortunate enough to have met along the way in different places and at different stages of life. That promise was finally becoming a reality. I would look forward to seeing them soon in Europe.

Unfortunately, people aren’t always available when you want them to be. Things just don’t work out that way in real life. People get busy or move on. Some remember, and others forget. That’s life! So in addition to this being a trip of reconnecting it was also going to be a trip of meeting new people, connecting with new souls and sharing new experiences. This would prove to be a trip of many firsts and I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to make these new connections.

One of my past connections, who thankfully hadn’t forgotten, was Sylvia. We met in San Diego when I was still living there and working as a tour guide on the side. We got in touch through couchsurfing. I won’t get into explaining what that is but feel free to look it up if interested. While I’m not a huge fan of the site for its technical limitations and lack of functional creativity, I must admit that it has served as a great platform to meet other like-minded traveling souls. Sylvia was one of these souls.

Sylvia didn’t need hosting. She just needed someone to show her around the city. I was already doing this for free for couchsurfers who had similar requests even though I got paid and paid well for my tour guiding. But I enjoyed it and always thought about the quid pro quo or exchange benefit. I act as a local tour guide for someone today and hopefully they’ll do the same for me when I need it. This definitely proved to be Sylvia. She was someone who embodied the true spirit of couchsurfing.

Geneva

So the first stop on my European adventure would be Switzerland, in the beautiful city of Geneva to be exact. That’s where Sylvia lives and where she graciously offered to host me even though it had been two years since we met and two years since I made the promise of visiting in the not too distant future. I didn’t realize it had been that long but Sylvia was quick to kindly remind me. After taking a red-eye flight the night before, I was ready to explore the city. I had a whole full day to work with. Switzerland was a country I always wanted to visit and Geneva proved to be just as a beautiful as I had hoped.

Sylvia met me at the central train station and immediately we began exploring. We walked around the city center and went to the top of an old church building that offered up fantastic views and picture ops of Lake Geneva. A beautiful lake filled with swans and the iconic Jet d’Eau, that water jetty thing that started as a drilling accident but later became an iconic symbol of the city. We then took a train ride all along the waterfront on the cute ‘Petite Le Train.’ Admittedly a very touristy thing to do but also lots of fun!

After we had tired out from sightseeing, we headed to Sylvia’s home for dinner where I was treated to a traditional Swiss Raclette meal joined by some of her family and friends. It was one of those rare travel experiences where I got the opportunity to really immerse myself in another culture. I just wish my French would have been a little better at this point. “Mon français est pathétique.” It was still great conversation and I enjoyed a wonderful evening in good company.

For those who aren’t familiar with term ‘Raclette’ it’s very similar to fondue but I think the main difference is it uses cheese instead of chocolate? I’m really not sure, but it was definitely tasty and a really nice experience. All in all, I could not have envisioned a better start to my European trip, and I had Sylvia to thank for that.

The following day I’m off to Italy and I’m forced to say goodbye to Geneva and to Sylvia but not before one final train ride together. We took the same train from Geneva that morning. She would be getting off in Lausanne, and I would be getting off in La Spezia. Initially, I sat in a different seat from the one I had reserved so I could sit next to Sylvia. Trains are funny like that, as long as it’s not a reserved seat you can sit there.

The one thing I wasn’t aware of and no one really warned me about including the ticket taker, is that sometimes train compartments do split. Sylvia did mention it was probably best for me to move up to my seat at some point and apparently there was something said about this in French at the station before we departed but she couldn’t make out exactly why or what was said.

After she departed, and we said our goodbyes, I heeded her advice and moved up to my coach. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have done this had it not been for someone else I met that morning who was on the same mission of getting to her rightful seat. I noticed her struggling to navigate the aisles with her oversized carry-on bag and she quickly grabbed my attention. Her name was Martina from Roma and she would be the first person I met on my train travels.

Initially, Martina and I were both seated in unreserved seats, but I think she also heard the train conductor mention something about the train splitting. So at the next stop, we both got off and raced to the front of the train as fast as we could with luggage in tow. When we finally got to our seats, I looked back and sure enough the train had split. So, to whoever is reading this, something you may want to keep in mind for future train travels.

We ended up sitting next to two people who worked together in Geneva and were headed to Italy just like Martina. They were researchers working in a lab on some type of cognitive brain experiments and having to do with genetics or something like that. Anyway, it proved to be quite the interesting conversation for most of the trip. This is what’s great about traveling by train, the time just flies by and you forget it’s been like 6 or 7 hours.

During this time, I also got to know Martina better. We talked a lot, and she gave me good advice on Rome and Italy in general. She was a fun, quirky, carefree spirit and her happiness was truly intoxicating. Just the type of person I needed to be around at that moment. We both had connections to catch in Milano. She was heading on to Roma and I would be heading off to La Spezia. When we reached the station in Milano, we said our goodbyes, exchanged numbers and continued on our separate journeys. We would keep in touch later on throughout my trip and even to this day.

I boarded my train headed to La Spezia. I remembered Martina and I laughing about how we had to race to the front of the train before it split and her assuring me that this would no longer be something I needed to worry about on trains in Italy from here on out. Well sure enough, on one of my next stops I looked back and noticed that this train had also split. So, once again moral of the story here, always make it a point to sit in your designated seat coach when traveling by train.

This time I found myself sitting across a couple from Australia. They were telling me all about their travels and they’re very active lifestyle. And how it takes Aussies a very long time to travel anywhere from Australia so when they do travel they make it worthwhile. Which means long holidays packed with lots of activities.

Sitting across from us on the other side of the isle was Vada. He overheard our conversation and was eager to chime in with his own comments. Again, I can’t stress enough how easy it is to start conversations and meet people on trains. Those new people you meet can turn into some great travel connections or even new friends.

Vada and I clicked immediately and we exchanged numbers. Through the course of our conversation, we realized we were both on similar itineraries but just on different days. There was still a chance we might be able to meet up at some point and so we left it at that, hoping to reconnect at a later date. I was still on my way to La Spezia, and he was on his way to Genoa.

Onward to Cinque Terre

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