Europe’s favourite alpine getaway offers more than just powdery snow and majestic mountains: this beautiful mountain country is the home of the such epicurean delights as chocolate and cheese, watches and clocks that are more masterpieces than souvenir, and the sophisticated and cosmopolitan attractions of cities such as Geneva and Zurich.
Taking A Dip in Lake Geneva
Everyone has a secret, often strange travel fantasy. Some people want to go on a luxury train voyage on the Orient Express. Others want to visit exotic places and eat all manner of strange, wriggling dishes. Me? I’ve always wanted to go for a swim in Lake Geneva, Switzerland.
This whole thing probably started because when I was much younger and my older brother pushed me into Lake Geneva when we were on a family trip through Europe. Be that as it may, I’ve always dreamed of being able to swim in the clear blue waters of the Swiss lake, the snow-tinged mountains of Switzerland in the background, and float for hours under that clear blue sky. So many years later, when I finally had my own family and enough money to do so, we had our annual family holiday in Switzerland.
Our trip started in the city of Geneva and after two days spent exploring the numerous pretty districts of the city, snapping pictures of the attractions and in my case, spending far too much on chocolates and cheese, we were all ready for a relaxing afternoon. I was looking forward to finally taking a plunge into Lake Geneva’s inviting blue waters when the first snag arose.
We asked for and got directions to Geneve-Plage, which I thought mean Geneva Beach (ahh, the perils of not doing your research beforehand). When we got there, I discovered to my amazement that Geneve-Plage actually referred to a water park set on the shores of Lake Geneva. Truth to tell, the water park was a lot of fun – the kids were busy make nuisances of themselves on the waterslide and my better half was having fun driving the men (and their accompanying women) crazy on the sunbathing lawn. After asking around, I even found out that the water park had access to a small beach on Lake Geneva itself, where I duly had my dip into the lake waters before returning to the lawn for a sunbath. All in all, the water park was a lovely place to spend the day; it wasn’t the waterpark’s fault that my long cherished dream seemed a little flat when surrounded by the safe, tame environs.
Family holiday in Switzerland
Fortunately, thanks to our charming hotel concierge, the next day we were directed to another beach in Geneva – the Bain de Paquis. Having first confirmed that this spot was indeed a beach on the lake, we headed out for another day of watery fun. The kids had heard there was a nice lakeside park to roam around in, my wife was eager to try out the Turkish baths on offer and me – well I was still looking for that fantasy thrilling dip.
The Bain de Paquis was everything advertised – lovely park by the lake, a beautiful promenade with some sinfully good ice cream stands and a café which gave us one of the cheapest and tastiest lunches I’ve had in Switzerland so far. There were windsurfers swooping across the lake waters and yes, the beach was thoroughly beachy – a wide stretch of immaculate pebbles leading out to those beckoning blue waters. Unfortunately, I hadn’t quite paid attention when the concierge had mentioned that the beach was very popular in summer; it really did seem like toute le monde was taking the day off to go sunbathing. It’s a Tuesday, didn’t these people have to work? My dream definitely didn’t include other people! So I had my swim in Lake Geneva and again, it wasn’t quite as satisfying as I had hoped. Struck out again.
There was another beach in Geneva, the Baby Plage (so called because it was traditionally only for children, until they opened the beach to the general public recently) but our trip itinerary took us out of Geneva on a tour of many incredibly pretty towns and villages along the shores. By this point, I had given up hope of fulfilling my lake-swimming fantasy and had given myself over to ooohing and aaaahing over the scenery (there should be a law against people saying “My God, that’s gorgeous!” more than 10 times a day – and I would be the first offender). So it was that we came to the little village of St Prex, a little town between Geneva and Lausanne.
St Prex is a charming little town, filled with centuries old buildings set on winding streets. In Switzerland, it qualifies as a commuter town; most of the residents work in Geneva or Lausanne during the day, leaving the town pleasantly quiet as we strolled through the streets and admired the many flower bedecked house facades. The kids wanted to work on their photography skills in the old town and rather than suffering the mayhem which ensues when teenagers with cameras compete for the best shots, my wife and I left them to take a stroll on the lakeside promenade, savoring a little time alone together and admiring the view. We were just thinking of turning back for lunch when we rounded a corner and I spotted the beach of my dreams.
It was a tiny stretch of shoreline, hidden away by a curve in the path, hidden by trees and bordered by a wooden walkway. Dark blue waters lapped on the warm grey pebbles. Brilliant sunlight shone down from a cloudless blue sky. Not a soul was in sight. This was it!
Blessing that little shred of hope which had made me keep my swim trunks in my wife’s carryall, I changed quickly in a nearby shower facility and strode resolutely down to the beach. Walking slowly across the pebbles, I slowly waded through the shallows and struck out to deeper waters for a swim. The water was cool, clean, and so clear I could see down to the lakebed beneath. There were no windsurfers here and no boats in sight. I turned over and look up into the sky, its deep blue mirroring the waters around me. For an eternal moment, I felt like I had the entire Lake Geneva all to myself.
My wife was smiling when I finally emerged from the waters. I would have liked to say I rose like Aphrodite from the waters but unfortunately, a cold breathe of wind made me scuttle out like a crab escaping a cooking pot. It didn’t matter. Finally, I had done it! I’d gone swimming in Lake Geneva!
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Sailing on the Lakes of Switzerland
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