While I was visiting Geneva, I walking through one of the parks south and east of the old city. In the far distance, I spied a gondola ride mounted on one of the tall surrounding mountains. Figuring that the ride was not too far away, I decided to walk out that way. What I did not know at the time was that the gondola was actually in French territory. At the base was the dual village of Veyrier that straddled the border. Admittedly, I found the Swiss side of the village to be more interesting than the French, so I placed this brief travelogue in the Swiss section.
The one-hour walk from downtown Geneva took me on a road generally following the Arve River from the Alps. The Arve was a fast-moving river, but not so fast as to permit a couple of groups to raft down the river. The entrance to the village was marked by traffic circle with its centerpiece being merely an open wire gate, which I interpreted as referring to the border between Switzerland and France. It was not long before I came upon the Swiss part of the village.
I found it very charming and sleepy. The town was roughly four blocks large, and mostly residences housed in simple gray concrete buildings decorated with colorful shutters and lots of flowers (I went during summer). I did not see very many shops or businesses. The first photograph showed the main square, dominated by the simple village church shown. The Alpine ridge lording over the town is shown at the background.
Only a couple blocks away was the border checkpoint, guarded by immigrations officers. I was fortunate that they allowed me to pass despite the fact that I had kept my passport locked up in a safety deposit box at the hotel (obviously, I didn't expect that I would need it). After convincing the guard that I was American and intending to return to Geneva, which didn't take long, he let me go. The French side of the village was little more than scattered houses. Beyond a park and the gondola ride, I saw no other real landmarks.
The second photograph shows the gondola called La Salève, both the departure station at the lower right corner and the upper station at upper left. At the time (2001), the round-trip ticket cost 15 Swiss Francs, which at the time was roughly $6 US (now 15 ChF = about $9, and I do not know whether or not the round-trip price has increased. This turned out to be my first-ever gondola ride, and it was fantastic. The upper station had an observation ledge on the building, but I opted to move over to the cafe that had a much safer view courtesy of a shoulder-high stone wall. The first picture on the Geneva page was taken from that vantage point.
When I was there, La Salève was hosting a major hang glider's event. There were over thirty gliders out enjoying the perfect weather. Two of them are shown in the third photograph as they passed by the cafe at eye level.
As it turned out, the ridge was very narrow and it offered a great view of the Alps on the opposite side. One of those views is shown in the fourth photograph, although it is difficult to gain the same perspective from the shot. According to one of the signs, the valley below was in the general direction of Chamonix, site of one of the early Winter Olympics. There were walking paths that took people around the top of the ridge to get more views of the Alps, ranging from thirty minutes to several hours worth in distance. I took the shortest path as I was anxious to get back to Geneva.
When I returned to the bottom and crossed back into Switzerland (without difficulty), I elected to take the bus ride back rather than repeat the walk. It cost about 2.5 francs -- about $1.50 -- and took only fifteen minutes with a changeover in the outskirts.
It was a worthy excursion, just to get a greater feel for the larger Geneva area and to see the city and its great lake from above. It did not require a lot of time or money to visit, so I felt it was well worth it, even though it compressed my Geneva schedule a bit. I would certainly recommend it given good weather.
Trip Taken 21 July 2001 -- Last Updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin