After leaving a cold and rainy Brussels, I was greeted by a beautiful, and surprisingly hot and sunny Geneva.
It was hard to believe there could be such an extreme difference in weather after just over an hour’s flight, and the black turtleneck sweater I was wearing looked totally out of place when I stepped out of the train station.
Disclosure: I was graciously hosted by the Geneva Tourism and Conventions Foundation during my stay. All opinions are my own.
Fortunately, I was only minutes from my hotel. I had picked up a ticket from a kiosk in the baggage claim area which offers 80 minutes of public transportation to all travelers, and after a seven minute train ride, I was at the train station in Geneva. Yes, you read that correctly, seven minutes and the ticket was gratis.
Once I stepped out of the station, I had a four minute walk to the lovely Hotel Royal, one of the six Manotel hotels in Geneva. I loved the simplicity, peaceful atmosphere and decor of the lobby, stairs and sitting areas.
I took advantage of the cosy areas several times, on the way up to my room, just to relax for a few minutes after playing tourist all day, as they were so inviting. Aren’t those chairs just begging to be sat upon?
When I checked in, I was given a complimentary Geneva transport card. Was I given special treatment? Absolutely not. Every hotel guest in the city of Geneva receives this card which provides free public transportation for the duration of their stay! (Did you hear that, New York, London and Paris and Rome?) The cards are not only for trams, buses and trains, but they are also valid on the water taxis (called mouettes) which zoom guests across Lake Geneva in a matter of minutes! What a wonderful way to make tourists feel that they are truly welcome! (Hostel and campsite guests receive them, too.)
My hotel room was small, but very comfortable. You can discover the six styles of rooms that the Hotel Royal has to offer here, and you’ll find that there is something for everyone.
My first morning in Geneva was just as gorgeous as when I had arrived. I really enjoyed the buffet breakfast at the hotel, and although they did offer many menu items that you would find at an American buffet, there was so much more, and served in a room just as tastefully decorated and welcoming as the lobby areas.
Many European countries traditionally have meat and cheese for breakfast, and this was only part of the breakfast offerings at the Hotel Royal. I was so excited to discover that authentic Belgian waffles were being served, and they were absolutely delicious (I had just left Belgium, so my standards were high)! The bread and pastry choices were truly wonderful, but this made it difficult for me to choose as I would have liked to try all of them!
Cooking Lesson at Le Duo with Chef Armel Bedouet
After breakfast, I was off for my lesson with award winning Chef Armel Bedouet, who had kindly agreed to teach me one of his signature dishes at Le Duo restaurant, located right inside the Hotel Royal! I was a little nervous, since I’d only ever taken one other cooking lesson earlier this year: Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Chef Dwight Morris. However, Chef Bedouet was an absolute delight and I learned all about the local ingredients he used, right down to the fish (a whitefish called fera) from Lake Geneva from a fisherman he knows. The carrots were locally grown, and so sweet and fresh and Chef Bedouet could tell me so much about each ingredient and where it was sourced that I knew without question, that the end result would be marvelous!
After he had filleted the fish, I was instructed on how to remove the bones. They were practically invisible, so it was all done by feeling the bones, them pulling them with tweezers. It was actually quite fun, but I realized it wasn’t as easy as I thought when I didn’t get one of the bones out completely! Oops.
Chef Bedouet had some of recipe already prepared, and he explained in detail how they were made then I tasted them, and to use one of Chef’s seemingly favorite words, they were all sublime! There was pungent and phenomenal lemon sauce, a saffron infused sauce made with fish stock and a beautiful carrot puree.
I am always stressing the importance of quality in ingredients, however, the flavors in the sauces and puree were just incredible. All of our food should taste this good. I truly believe our standards in the US are so much lower than Europe’s and we not only accept food that is often substandard, but even very poor quality; however, I digress–back to the cooking lesson.
I was then taught how to prepare the delicate carrots and make decorative carrot curls with the larger ones, which I also really enjoyed. I don’t make many highly involved, beautifully plated dishes, so this was wonderful opportunity for me to learn something completely new. I scraped and prepared the perfect little carrot.
Then Chef Bedouet made slices from the larger carrots on the mandoline slicer. We cut the edges to make them symmetrical and then they were simmered them for a minute or two, just until they became pliable. Then we rolled them–beautiful!
All that was left to do was to cook the fish. Chef Bedouet explained that if the fish is too fresh, it will retract and curl up, and in fact, the fish was quite fresh, so he put a plate on it to weigh it down a little. Apparently, this whitefish is rather difficult to cook properly without under or overcooking it, but it was a piece of cake for Chef Bedouet. Once it was ready, he sprinkled a tiny bit of demerara sugar and caramelized it quickly with a torch.
Next, Chef Bedouet showed me how to plate the fish in the most stunning way using the sauces, puree, carrots and fresh edible flowers.
The completed dish was simply marvelous, not only visually, but the flavors were just as magnificent.
After sharing the fantastic fish, I was fortunate to be able to enjoy lunch at Le Duo and sample more of Chef Bedouet’s exquisite creations. As you can see, each dish was more outstanding than the next. Here is a sampling of the dishes at Le Duo. I didn’t eat all of them, but enjoyed the cucumber and cheese dish along with a crisp and lovely Swiss white wine, and chose a light and creamy rhubarb sweet as my dessert.
After lunch, I headed out to explore Geneva by foot. Geneva tourism offers an incredible amount of helpful information; depending on what one’s interests are, a trip can have many different focuses. You can find all the information you could ever want here at the Geneva Tourism website. With a small city map in hand, I started out towards one of the bridges that cross Lake Geneva, stopping by a famous Swiss chocolatier, Favarger, on the way and couldn’t resist trying their decadent chocolate ice cream! It was hot, remember?
I continued walking towards Old Town Geneva, enjoying the balconies and structure of the buildings and passing many chocolatiers, shops and even a carousel along the way.
I took a walk into Halle de Rive, which was a large indoor food market where I just wandered up and down the aisles, mesmerized by all the delicious options. However, it was a bit like torture not to be able to buy loads of the of food to take home and cook! (I did buy a small ricotta at Casa Mozzarella.) Just take a look at some of what I saw.
I then walked into old town, which is situated on a hilltop, and fell in love with the atmosphere and older architecture of the area.
Soon, I came upon the beautiful 12th cathedral named after St. Peter, which is now under the Protestant denomination, and offers some of the best views of Geneva.
Once inside, I decided to climb up all 157 of the north tower to be rewarded with the magnificent views of Geneva, and it was worth every step!
The views were nothing short of spectacular.
(Note: St. Peter’s has an archaeological site below the cathedral, if you have time to work it in.)
Instead of walking back to Hotel Royal, I made my way to Lake Geneva’s waterfront to catch a mouette (water taxi) to cross the Lake, which is included in the Geneva transport card for tourists, taking in the sights along the way.
I snapped some shots on the short trip across Lake Geneva, even capturing Mont Blanc in the background once or twice. I was in awe of the beauty in every place that I saw in Geneva; it truly is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and would not hesitate to add, in the world.
I’ll leave you with this parting shot of Lake Geneva on a perfect summer evening and will continue with my wonderful dinner at Cottage Café and a photo tour of Geneva (part 2).
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Disclosure: I was hosted by The Geneva Tourism and Conventions Foundation. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine alone. I am disclosing this in compliance with the FTC’s regulations.