Our friends Stephanie and Morgan live in the center of Geneva in a one bedroom apartment on the second ( but what they call the first) floor with their dog Tao; an expat pooch from West Virginia. Since they knew we were driving around Europe, they invited us to come see their home in Geneva while we were traveling. We knew that we loved Switzerland, having already visited the Italian and German regions, so we went visit them for some climbing in the French Alps.
We arrived on Friday evening, which happens to be Aperitune night. Morgan created this get together on Friday nights, where a couple of friends head over to his house and have drinks and share music. The catch is that the music that they share must be a song that no one else has heard before. It is their way of discovering new music together. Another couple came by and we all hung out, had drinks and food and listened to music. It was a delightful way to spend the evening; it felt more like being back in SF, except for the fact that everyone was speaking French most of the time. Later that night, we headed to a concert a couple blocks away from the house. The opening band played old gypsy tunes and classic Russian, Romanian and other eastern bloc music.
Though we went to the show to see the main band, by 1am, they still hadn't come on and we were pretty exhausted (Steve was actually getting sick AGAIN) and needed to crash. We headed back to the apt, where Steph and Morgan had moved their loft bed to the floor due to my "condition", making getting in and out a little easier. So thoughtful! We were incredibly comfortable and I was truly thankful that I didn't need to make a ladder descent in the dark...
We were hoping to go climbing the next day but like many other days we have experienced here, it was going to rain, so instead, Steph and Morgan showed us around Geneva. Since it was Saturday, the city was bustling with activity. We took the metro and headed toward the lake, the central attraction in Geneva, for lunch. We ate right on the lake with a view if the Jet d'Eau Fountain, a 140 meter geyser that shoots out of the middle of the lake. You can tell that during the summer the area is packed, there are beaches, separate swimming areas with diving boards, boating areas and the like. It reminds me of Lake Tahoe in California, but perhaps a bit smaller.
On our way back to the house, we bumped into some friends of theirs who told us about some bike comp taking place in town. We had nothing else to do, so we decided to go and check it out. In the center of town, there is a large open space, where they host a variety of activities. It is next to the skate park that the city just built. The bike comp was a type of freestyle, bmx biking on different obstacle courses. These guys were pretty incredible to watch...
Later that eve, we headed over to a small Ethiopian restaurant. A food that we missed dearly. We often forget how much the bay area has to offer, especially the food; it is so easy to eat well in the bay area and boy, do we miss it! The restaurant was an everyday apartment converted into a restaurant. Morgan explained that these types of small businesses, just like their climbing gym (more on that later), are considered non-profit or small-profit, so do not fall under the same laws as normal businesses. These small businesses can operate without being taxed and are encouraged. Tt is a way for small businesses to make enough money to cover their expenses. These businesses are not looking to become bigger and more profitable, they want to remain small and cover what they need and nothing more. Dinner was absolutely delicious but of course the price tag was very different than in SF. The dinner that we ordered included a meat dish, so it probably would have cost $50 for the four of us, but alas, in Geneva it cost $68. Switzerland is quite expensive but as Morgan explained to us another day, people make more money, so in the end, it is all relative...
The next morning we headed to Chamonix to climb. What an amazing place! After taking the train to the top with a beautiful view of la mer de glace, we hiked a little ways down to do some bouldering.
F*** alpine, we're going bouldering
Morgan and some of his friends had already discovered and cleaned off a new cluster of boulders in the canyon, that included a very special compression problem that Morgan was dead set on conquering. Steve was excited to climb on the granite boulders; since most of the problems that they cleaned off were tall, 6b or above with sketchy landings, I was in charge of taking pics and watching from the sidelines. I need to be careful with little Crankenstein now, no more falling, so only easy climbing for me. With their efforts combined the boys managed to send the new compression line, an instant classic. While Steve grabbed the first ascent, it was a team effort for the beta and all the boys sent. Morgan later named the problem Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds with a mutual agreement on 7b+/7c grade. Nice work guys!
Morgan setting up to clean the new compression line
The beta hunt begins
Lots of chalk is showing up
..and the ascent.
Both Morgan and Stephanie had to teach on Monday, so we just hung around the house attempting to figure out insurance and other admin that we needed to accomplish prior to our return home. That night we all headed to their gym. Yes, they are part owners. It is a co-op, one of these small businesses that makes enough money to upkeep and slowly make it better and better as the years progress. It is a true training gym, not quite like Moritz's gym in Nürenberg, but it is purely for those training to get better. Steph coaches the climbing team there on Monday evenings, others coach on other nights. Monday is Morgan's night to feed everyone who is working there that night, so we all headed over there and he cooked a feast, which included huge globs of melted cheese cooked in what looked like a grill cheese sandwich maker. The idea is that you melt the cheese then drip it onto potatoes. It is somewhat similar to fondue, called raclette. Not the healthiest meal but he did include fixins for salad on the side that he had picked on his friends farm outside of Geneva. We continued to hang out there for several hours, drinking beer (of course, there is a bar) and fraternizing while people climbed and congregated throughout the night. This gym is a pretty special place; it is more like a club, they even host bands several times a year and special events that include climbing hard boulder problems as part of the activity. Everyone there drinks, smokes and enjoys, without the interference of cops or authorities. We wish there could have a place like that in SF, but it would have to be underground and in the end, would probably be busted or shut down anyway...
The world's tallest campus board
Though it rained almost everyday we were there, we attempted to get out of the house. On Tuesday, we headed to CERN, the European organization for nuclear research; it houses the largest Hadron collider. We walked through the two exhibits, read, listened and attempted to absorb as much info as we could. This is where the créme de la créme of the intellectual elites do their research. Even the internet was invented here...
Corinne and the Atom Smasher
The first WWW web server
Since Stephanie and Morgan are both math teachers, I hoped that this would be an opportunity to watch teaching in another country. Though I had planned on doing this in several places while traveling, I had yet to do so, as we were never really in places long enough for me to inquire (except for SA, where I just wanted to climb more than work). On Thursday, Stephanie set it up so that I could go and watch a class that was actually taught in English. The kids in these classes were year four, seniors, and were the best of the best, when it came to mathematics; not only were they in a top level class, a mix of Calculus and vector analysis, they were also willing to learn in English, which was NOT their native language; for most, English was their second language but for some, English was their third. The class was run as a normal lecture class, much like a college class, where they attempted to absorb as much as possible. It was a two hour class with a ten minute break in the middle. They had class four times a week. Though the teacher may have had a plan for hw, all of that changed when the students were asked how to prove that the smallest set of vectors that had certain characteristics was the null set. They guessed that the answer was null set, but when their teacher asked them to prove it, they were baffled. So, that became their homework, to prove that the null set was the smallest set. No grumbling, no arguments, they just accepted that they were to attempt to prove it. It was a pleasure to sit in on a class where kids actually enjoyed being challenged and actually, yearned for it. I realize that not all classes are as special as this one, but it does inspire me for the future.
Due to the rain, we were only able to do one more day of climbing in Geneva. On Thursday, we headed to another spot that Morgan and his friends had discovered. It was an old granite mining area, that unfortunately was too hard for me but proved to be a pretty good afternoon for Steve and Morgan...
The view from the boulders
Morgan and Steve preparing for a climb
Stephanie and Morgan were the most amazing hosts; we couldn't have asked for more. Though we were vacationing in Geneva, we also needed to complete a lot of admin...insurance, tickets back home, decisions as to where to have the baby (east coast vs. west coast), plans for shipping the van back, etc. Though we would rather not admit it, it was all a bit stressful and having a home in which to broach these decisions, made our lives so much easier. These two made it very relaxed and we can't wait until we get to see them again. In fact, we should be seeing them very soon, as they are planning on meeting us in Fontainebleau in late October. It will be great to climb with them once again...we are anxiously looking forward to their arrival.
Of course, we hope that we can return the favor when they come to climb in the states. ;)