I have arrived.
Well, I actually arrived quite a while ago, with the train not living up to Swiss timekeeping (I blame the French) by arriving late, at 18:35 and not its scheduled time of 18:27.
I wandered around the station a bit after going through ‘customs’. I use that punctuation due to the fact that no passports were checked or any other sort of ID check, like the customs we know and, well, don’t love.
I exited the station at a random exit, since the person I was staying with had told me to text him when I was outside the station. I texted when standing outside a restaurant and opposite a hotel, as I figured even if he didn’t know their location easily, the large signs would probably give it anyway.
He – Benoit – arrived and greeted me in the traditional way on the continent, a kiss on each cheek. This surprised the Brit in me, but I’m just going to have to get used to the fact that out here a handshake just doesn’t cut it.
We walked to where his scooter was parked and decided to do a little sightseeing before going home. First we headed to a park on the edge of Lake Geneva, where I had a cup of yea and he a beer and we had a chat while surveying the beautiful scenery of the lake. After this, it was onwards to a fountain, a true tourist spot of Geneva. It goes by the name of Jet d’Eau, which is a fairly apt description. Through a spot of researching I discovered that it was built in 1951 and the water reaches 140m above the base of the fountain. It is pretty awesome, very picturesque around sunset and really hard to get in one photo without being incredibly far away.
It was then time to go home and have some dinner. We bought some bread, and the meal consisted of that, salami, cucumber salad, plum tomatoes and a local cheese (I won’t try to spell it). It was a nice light dinner, and quite enough for me.
Next up, a shower. After a 16+ hour bus journey, two train journeys and riding pillion on a scooter through the streets of Geneva, I was in desperate need of a shower. I felt so much better afterwards, and I began to think of what had been my essentials on my first day.
Day 1 Essentials
1) inflatable travel pillow – this was a saviour on the bus journey, and my neck still functions. When needed, you blow air into the pillow until fully inflatable and it’s wonderfully comfortable. When not needed, you squash all of the air out and fold into a tiny space in a backpack or handbag.
2) a jumper – when walking to and from trains, it’s not needed. However, once you’re on a train, in your seat and the air conditioning is on, a jumper can be quite useful. It can also double up as an extra pillow.
3) small handbag – this is more applicable for girls, as guy can probably fit their wallet etc into their pockets. However, women’s clothing generally doesn’t permit this. I bought a cheap cross body bag from Claire’s and it has come in highly useful. It sits close to my body, making it harder for pickpockets, and means I don’t have to remove my rucksack when I want my phone, money or passport. Or nail varnish. Or penknife. Or notepad and pen… Yes, you can fit a lot into a small bag, fear not.
4) confidence – don’t know where you’re going? Ask at the information desk, but do check first if they speak English. I’ve perfected my ‘parlez-vous anglais?’ today, but luckily by this time tomorrow I will be able to understand what people are actually saying. Confidence also plays a great part in travelling alone and getting to know people. It’s all part of the experience. Don’t be afraid just to strike up conversation with someone. Maybe you’re sat next to them in a waiting room, if they look like a fellow traveller/backpacker/holidaymaker – or simply look like they would be interesting to talk to – ask something like ‘where are you going?’ even just ‘parlez-vous anglais?’ Not if you’re not in France though, as that could confuse matters.
5) snacks – do not forget snacks. There’s nothing worse than realising you’re a bit peckish 15 minutes into a 1 hour train journey and not being able to do anything about it. I had that feeling, and when I realised I in fact still had a bacon and egg roll than I’d meant to eat for breakfast, I was one happy backpacker.
My final essential is sleep, and that is precisely what I’m going to do now. Travelling is exhausting, which seems absurd when you’re not actually doing that much, and just watching scenery rush past you through the train window.