The silent spot was for a good reason this time, folks. We are just back from Geneva. Husband had a judgely huddle to attend at WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation although I like it better in French when the acronym is OMPI) and the boys and I sort of just tagged along. Inconspicuous, like. We didn't actually attend the seminars, although I am sure they would have been absolutely rivetting, judging by the breeze block-sized folder of papers Husband brought back with him.
We arrived on Sunday to find that Geneva had increased its policy of giving out-of-towners free public transport and they now give free travel from the airport to the city too. On a train. A clean train that leaves on time. Miraculous. Why can't Edinburgh do this? Oh yeah, our airport doesn't have a train line and even the much lauded new trams aren't quite going to reach the airport. Duh.
Anyway, Sunday in Geneva was lovely, sunny and mild and we wandered along the lake and had lunch outdoors. Followed by dinner that evening in the hotel restaurant, which sounds rather a dull thing to do until you know where we were staying. The Hotel Edelweiss, which is exactly twice as twee as it sounds. The decor kind of looks like the writer of Heidi ate too much chocolate and designed it in a cuckoo-clock-induced delirium. It was great. More gingham, flowers and carved wood than you could shake a stick at. And the restaurant was even more so. Covered, just COVERED in cow bells and alphorns and chairs with lovehearts carved in the back. There was live yodelling, tunes played on a long string of cowbells held by obliging members of the audience and an alphorn so long the guy had to go upstairs to be able to play it. We ate fondue. It kind of felt compulsory, as the entire hotel, including the World's Smallest Lift smelled of cheese fondue. You kind of got used to it.
On Monday Husband went conferencing and the boys and I went exploring, discovering that the little yellow boats called "mouettes" ("seagulls") were more fun than walking anywhere, even if walking would have been quicker. We explored the old town, went to two museums which were closed and one which was open, ate lunch in the open again and bought the boys a little Swiss Army knife each. They both promised faithfully to be responsible and careful with them and once each of them had inflicted minor cuts on themselves, they actually were. In fact Second Born likes the nail file and tweezers best and First Born just likes using the toothpick to do his Al Capone impression (an impression much improved by the scars on his face he picked up arguing with a bush earlier in the day). Second Born also took many photos of us with the Jet d'Eau (that big fountain spouting out of Lake Geneva) apparently coming out of our heads.
On Tuesday we hung out in museums (Second Born translating hieroglyphs for us and explaining how after you die you have your heart measured against the feather of truth. The security guard was mightily impressed) and then in the evening took a bus into France to visit an old friend of ours who now lives in France but works in Geneva. For dwellers of an island nation, the concept of jumping on the local bus to go to another country for dinner was a bit weird and we were definitely the only ones on the bus who were excited at the sight of the border crossing (where the bus didn't even stop) And when I say "we" were excited, I mean Husband and I. Both boys had decided to have a nap instead.
Dinner was fantastic and our friend's wife, who we were meeting for the first time was lovely. Their son who is nearly 1 was endearingly cute - just at the stage where crawling around and waving spatulas pinched from the kitchen is the height of fun. We ate, drank and talked until the boys got bored, and then carried on talking while they sighed and muttered about wanting to go home. They were fortunately instantly appeased by the production of a laptop, the small boy equivalent of a pacifier. Our hostess then kindly drove us back into Switzerland (10 minutes away) so we could catch a tram home. Second Born was slighty nervous on trams after one earlier in the day had tried to eat his foot when the doors closed on him. Bravely he decided to risk going on one again though. He just leapt on at the speed of light the minute the doors opened.
On Wednesday we again took advantage of our free travel and took a bus to the French border where we got off, walked into France and took a cable car up a mountain for a walk. It poured with rain so we felt quite at home. When we got back to Geneva, we briefly went for a walk to find some chocolate but it was raining so heavily that we eventually abandoned the idea and went back to the hotel to slob around until it was time for dinner, which we had in a little restuarant round the corner. The boys were pretty much adopted for the evening and we even managed to get both children to order their own dinner and drinks, and even converse a little in French. Dessert was then taken in an ice cream shop over the road from the hotel where Second Born had discovered "the best chocolate ice cream on the planet" (his own words and he has carried out a fair amount of market research on the subject over the years).
Husband and I had coffee and a little bit of ice cream (just to be sociable, you understand) and Second Born had a bowl of ice cream the size of his head. First Born of course could not participate as even the sorbet had some milk in it (sacrilege!) so had to make do with the biscuits I keep stashed in my rucksack for such eventualities. The lady in the ice cream shop was very very sympathetic. I think that the Swiss are so steeped in dairy produce (cheese, chocolate, ice cream) that the thought of being allergic to milk touches them very deeply. She re-appeared with a plate of fresh fruit and a sympathetic pat on the head for First Born.
On our last morning, we ate the by now traditional huge breakfast, and in the case of the boys, I mean huge. Eight year old Second Born ate: bowl of cereal, pot of yogurt, two sweet pastries, couple of slices of yeast bread, slice of smoked turkey, little ball of Babybel cheese, slice of ordinary bread with Nutella on it and hot chocolate to drink. 10 year old First Born had three glasses of apple juice, bowl of cornflakes (no milk), several slices of ham and about three quarters of a loaf of the yeast bread. We had to ask the other diners what the bread was as he was so enthralled with it, he wants me to try to make it at home! Husband and I of course were very restrained and simply drank coffee and nibbled on some muesli. Ahem.
We then went chocolate hunting. In a shop called Zogg. Who could resist buying chocolate from Zogg? We were relatively restrained, only bringing back a little box of "paves de Geneve" for ourselves. Second Born got a house brick made of chocolate and the boys both brought some presents back for friends, including Swiss Army knives made of chocolate. First Born again excited the sympathy of the lady running another chocolate shop with his milk allergy and she plied him with sugared almonds to make up for his obviously deprived upbringing! (He liked them so much we went back to buy some to take home at which point the lady stressed that she had not given the sweets to FB to persuade us to buy them, or even because she felt sorry for him but because "he is such a nice, well educated young boy". Clearly a generous lady but a poor judge of character!).
We wandered back to the airport and returned to a wet and VERY windy Edinburgh. The flight into Edinburgh airport can best be described as "bouncy" So now we are at home again, enjoying a day of lazing around before we gird our loins ready for the return to work and school. My ability to speak French was of course improving a little just as we were due to leave and will have thoroughly rusted up again by the time I visit another French speaking country.
In other news Second Born and I have both confirmed our entries for the Great Winter Run in Edinburgh on 10 January 2009. Those of you who run, come and join us. Those of you (the sensible ones) who don't, come and cheer us on/perform CPR/plie us with chocolate.