To Geneva for The Haute Route

About two months ago, The Princess saw a cycling magazine lying face down on the floor of our bathroom. At the time, her vocabulary barely stretched beyond “Mamma”, “Dadda” and when she spotted the magazine in question, she pointed at it and exclaimed:

“Dadda! Dadda!”

This is a picture of what she was pointing at:

This is “Dadda” in the eyes of The Princess

Basically, if he’s on a bicycle then he must be Daddy. (The picture is actually Ivan Basso – you’d only know who he was if you were cycling obsessed or married to someone who’s cycling obsessed). This just shows how much time The Husband has been spending on his bike in the last six months, or since The Princess has been alert enough to be aware of his riding. The word “by” (for “bike” was amongst her first ten words) so the sport is a big feature in her little life.

And this sport – or rather, The Husband’s obsession with it – has brought our little family to Geneva, Switzerland, where a race called The Haute Route will began today. The race runs over seven days, from Geneva to Nice, over NINETEEN (gulp!) mountain passes in the Alps, so it is only for the super fit, super motivated and/or super insane. The race is 780km long and has 21,000m of climbing. Geography, with its deathly dull topics like map contours, was never my favourite subject and so I can’t say I would ordinarily really understand the meaning of 21,000m of climbing in seven days. The fear in The Husband’s voice when he speaks of this, though, has given me a hint.

So if you’re like me, here’s a graphical illustration of what 21,000m of climbing means:

Profile of The Haute Route 2012

Our journey from Jozi began on Tuesday evening with an 8:30pm flight to London when The Princess broke her “number-of-consecutive-hours-awake” record. She woke up from her day nap at 11:30am that morning and finally, finally, finally passed out on the plane at five minutes to 11pm that night. Then we had a five hour layover in London, before our flight to Geneva. All in all, the entire journey went off relatively smoothly considering we were travelling with a 16 month old. And then, when we’d finally, finally arrived at our Geneva Hotel, I realised that I’d left my backpack with laptop and I-pad, on the plane. Fortunately, no-one in the first world is keen on nicking the I-pad 1 and a Macbook from 2009 and so my only inconvenience in this whole saga was a return journey to the Geneva airport. Phew!

We arrived ahead of the hottest weekend Switzerland has experienced this summer. This weekend, the temperature rose to 35 degrees. I clearly recall what 35 degrees felt like inland, in the south of France, in August last year. It was death. Absolutely unbearable. But somehow 35 degrees at the foot of Mont Blanc, on the shores of a lake feels hot, but just a tad breezy and therefore somewhat bearable.

I have never been to Geneva before but I suspect that the experience of visiting this city in the dead of winter may not be all that great. In summer, I have to say, I think it’s awesome, mainly thanks to the beautiful lake that it’s centred around. Everything seems to happen on or around the lake: I’ve only been running in the mornings or walking with The Husband and The Princess, but there are people on bicylces, on rollerblades and on scooters. You can also water ski or wakeboard on the lake and The Princess and I even went to a teeny little sandy beach called literally called “Baby Plage” (not translated from the French – that’s the actual name) where you can swim in a cordoned off area of the lake.

If it weren’t for how hideously expensive everything is, in summertime, one does feel as though one could live here. A cappuccino in our hotel’s lounge will set you back just under 80ZAR. And that’s without a tip, which is expected. In December, we were horrified when we had to pay R100 an hour for babysitting in a five star hotel. In our Geneva hotel, babysitting sets you back a cool R340 per hour, at present exchange rates. You almost want your child to wake up and cause havoc at that price!

We treated ourselves to a date night with a babysitter one evening and it was then that I realised how much I adore my husband. The menu had two possibilities for beef fillet – one for ladies and one for men. The men’s portion was 220g and the ladies portion was 130g.

“ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY GRAMS? Are they taking the piss here or what?” is what I was thinking. “I mean, in South Africa, a standard ladies fillet is 200g so does that mean that Swiss men eat only one bite of steak more than South African women?”

Tick, tock, tick, tock…

All eyes were on me to place my order. And I was simply not woman enough to order the man’s portion.

“I’ll have the fillet mesdames, please,” I spluttered.

And this was the moment of admiration and adoration:

“Don’t be ridiculous! 130g of steak? That’s nothing! You can’t have that! Have the 220g portion! Seriously!”

I was secretly thrilled as I could just picture the microscopic nature of a 130g piece of steak but I couldn’t capitulate too easily or it would look like that’s what I was thinking all along… Fortunately, the waiter was sharp and read the situation beautifully. He chipped in to support The Husband’s protestations against embarrassing women into starvation with miniscule portion sizes and I had the 220g portion.

To wrap up this Geneva blog, here’s a photo of something I found quite amusing. It was on the window of an apparently up-market watch shop:

On the window of a Geneva watch store

I guess in a country where artisanal watch brands that originated centuries ago abound, it becomes increasingly difficult to apply the old-fashioned art of understatement…