Solo Trip to Geneva

So I had a few drinks, went on skyscanner and looked up flights from Manchester airport to anywhere on a weekend in December, with the idea of just booking the cheapest foreign country that came up. This turned out to be Geneva for £41.98 which I booked without hesitation (or clarity it would later transpire).
Shortly afterwards I realised that Geneva is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, and the cheapest hostel for two nights would end up costing me more than the flights. This would be my first trip abroad alone, and one where I would work out how much I enjoy travelling alone. I went with no plans, no itinery, nothing booked except my bed for the night. I did look into whether a Swiss urban exploration scene existed, or some form of contact, but found very little.

Christmas Cran
I arrived on Friday night feeling pretty excited, and quite clueless! After dumping my bag at the hostel I hit the town, heading for the vast lake first. Then I went up the lake towards the River Rhone and what felt like it should be the city centre, although I'm not sure Geneva has any proper central focus points apart from the lake itself. I soon spotted a couple of cranes decorated in Christmas lights and so my objective for the evening was clear. I worked out the easiest route onto the site of the nearest one, and went to the nearest bar to kill some time and improve my French. Getting on site and on the crane was very easy, with no problems or security encountered I went up to find the very top hatch locked with no good way round. However it was possible to climb on to the outside of the crane and sit on the side of it underneath the jib quite comfortably. The view over the Rhone and Lake Geneva was pretty awesome, like none other I have seen, the crane felt like it towered over the low-rise city. After spending near enough an hour sat on this little perch I was freezing and needed to move. I spent the rest of the evening walking around the city, taking in the night sights, and grabbed a free tram ride back to the hostel. (In Geneva public transport around the city is free to tourists).

Bains des Pâquis
The next morning I woke up expecting to see snow capped Swiss mountains, but I was disappointed to find it was misty outside. I enquired with a helpful member of staff at the hostel about taking a train to Chamonix in France, but I didn't have any euros on me which would be problematic. I decided instead to spend the majority of my Swiss Francs on a train to Montreux, at other end of Lake Geneva, and the foothills of the Swiss Alps. Surely there I would see snowy mountains? After an hour or so on the train (seriously, Lake Geneva is fucking huge), the answer was disappointingly no, it was still foggy. Happily, there was an amazing Christmas market on in this absolutely beautiful town. I wandered around the market drinking hot spicy cider, listening to traditional music, eating pancakes and watching big men chop and saw up logs of wood in traditional wood cutting competitions.

Log Sawing Competition
Glass Craft
 I took a ride on a ferris wheel, trying to get a better view over the pretty roofs and the lake. What I did get was a nasty shock when my phone flashed up with EasyJet notifying me that "Your flight from Manchester-Geneva is in 2 hours"...   WHAT!!! I nearly fell out of the ferris wheel as it dawned on me that booking flights after drinking is seldom a good idea, and I had booked to return the wrong day. The flight that I had meant to book was now £180, and there were no other affordable options back to Manchester for the next two days. So instead I booked a flight to London Gatwick for £57.39 to leave the next morning. And an evening coach from London to Manchester for £7.00. Damn my stupid self. This little trip was getting expensive!

The rest of the day I enjoyed walking around Montreux, upstream I found what I would call a big culverted waterfall, almost hidden from sight. I regret realising too late that there is a train from Montreux that goes into the Alps, and above the clouds on a route called the Golden Pass. The views are meant to be incredible, maybe one for a return visit. I left Montreux as it was getting dark, feeling sad that I had so little time to spend here, with so many things I wanted to see and do. Returning to the hostel I found a Russian lad called Artem in our room who enthusiastically introduced himself and wanted to know where I had been. The group of students he was travelling with also wanted to go into the Alps, but couldn't afford the train. I tried to explain about the car sharing schemes in Switzerland, but they are difficult to fathom without speaking French. Artem wanted to see the pictures on my camera, and soon got to the crane ones from the previous night. He was almost insisting that I take him back to climb the crane, but the girls he was travelling with were not keen on him going, and I helped talk him out of it. I wanted to find a good bar for a few drinks, which they were not keen on either.

A murky Jet D'Eau
 So off I went, first to an amazing and cheap Syrian take away/restaurant in the red light district. This area of the city is certainly not for the faint hearted traveller, it was busy when I went, but full of backstreet lurkers in the alleyways and feels like you're being watched. However after tipping the staff in the restaurant with the usual "keep the change" then walking out, a member of staff came running down the street after me to give me the change. It took some explaining that this was a tip, and I became painfully aware that this street scene was attracting some attention. As I was walking away a dealer crossed the road and approached me, trying to sell weed for a stupid price, and didn't want to take no for an answer. Thankfully at that point I was leaving the district and he didn't follow me onto the main road.
Lake Geneva
My last night was spent getting fairly drunk in a cool bar called The Clubhouse, despite it costing about £6.00 for a bottle of cider I knew at this point that was actually reasonable for Geneva. And they had 2 live bands on, so I sat at the bar for 2 hours watching some fairly good rock ballad and hair metal covers, and getting tipsy. I still had a bottle of cherry beer in my bag, the man in the shop had wrapped it in brown paper and warned me not to drink it in the street! I walked along the lakeside in the direction of my hostel, sipping the beer, occasionally stopping and making friends with tame swans who let me stroke them and came over to sit with me.

The next morning I woke up very early and decided to make the most of it by packing my stuff up and getting out to catch the sunrise, then leisurely making my way to the airport. I was rewarded by an amazingly beautiful sunrise over the lake, and the maddening promise of clear skies which just refused to dissipate enough to see the mountains properly before I had to leave. I did finally get to see snowy mountain peaks in Geneva airport, and the most incredible view over the alps on the flight back to London.