Water jets, parks, physics labs…

Geneva has them all and more. I’m going to rush through everything here as I don’t have much more time to add to the blog before I have to set off. A shame as there’s so much to tell! There are a few videos on my YouTube "MoshTour" player so go to my default channel to enjoy them all.

Delphine flew up from Nice on the Saturday and together we toured the city centre and surrounds. One of the major sights is the water jet in the "harbour". This thing fires water into the air at around 200kph and has been running for well over 100 years. Impressive stuff. Also around the lake, you can hire a myriad of different boats or sit on an artificial beach. The botanical gardens are rather nice with some animals in one corner, fish ponds, art displays, greenhouses and the like. On the way up there from the city is the History of Science museum which was great aside from the lack of signs in English. OK, so I’m in a French-speaking country, but it’s quite annoying when around 25% of the exhibits are marked in English and the rest aren’t. It’s also mainly a shame as it’s such a good place to visit with tons of things to see. There are other gardens on the south (or "old city") side of the lake which are also worth a visit. More like a park than a garden, really, but relaxing and with some lovely flower displays with views over the lake that the Botanical Gardens don’t have. Getting around Geneva is moderately cheap with 1-hour and all-day passes available across the bus, tram and trolley networks. Watch out for the ticket machines, though – they don’t give change. If you over pay for a ticket, you can save the little bit of paper (it has how much you overpaid printed on it) and get the money back from an office. Apparently. I never found one. An alternative is the free bike service. There are at least four "depots" where you can pick up a bike for a 20 Franc deposit and a copy of your ID. For four hours, the bike is free and can be returned to any of the drop-off points. After that, it starts at 1 Franc per hour, so still remarkably cheap. It’s even cheaper when you hire three and return them at different times and they give you the deposit back twice over… But, the coolest thing is that Geneva is home to the main offices of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. As well as being the headquarters for the largest nuclear accelerator on the planet (a 27-kilometre ring situated 100m underground and crossing into France for a fair part of that), it’s where Tim Berners-Lee drafted and tested the WWW. In fact, I’ve seen the first ever Web server, encased in glass in the Microcosm exhibition. And I am sad enough to admit that I was awestruck by a fairly crappy old PC. We went to CERN three times. The first on the Saturday as there is a free demonstration / lecture at 3pm once a week where a mad professor-like guy does stupid things with liquid nitrogen (like making ice cream which is scrummy). We didn’t get time to finish our walk around the Microcosm museum, so we went back on the Monday to finish it off. There is also a 3-hour daily tour around the facility, but it’s a different language each day and all the tours are booked up for 10 months in advance. We settled for buying geeky t-shirts and playing cards instead. That is, until Delphine invited a friend of hers over for fondue at it turned out over conversation that he works at CERN! More to the point, he could take visitors around… Not in the same capacity as the official tours, as he has to fit it around work, but all the same we leapt at the chance. Thomas was a great guide. We started off with lunch in the canteen (steak and beer!) before he took us to see the CMS Project, part of the enormous LHC ring. This thing is phenomenal, made up of parts weighing upwards of 800 tons each. These are all assembled and tested on the ground and then lowered through a tube into a chamber 100m down – the tube is barely 10cm wider than the parts themselves, so it’s precision work just getting the parts assembled underground. Our little trip was barely an hour, but definitely well worth the bus ride out (and Delphine almost missing her plane home). Just to feel the scale of the thing is something that can’t be achieved without standing right next to it. Well, as I said, Delphine flew back to Nice and I caught up with all this stuff while Daisy, my kind host, was out for the evening. The dogs kept me company as I watched us lose to Germany (on BBC1… in Switzerland!) and I finish typing this at 4am when I should be in bed! I think tomorrow will be a fairly short walk.

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