Switzerland Day 3: Boat trip, Old Town and plane home

  •  10 am Boat Trip

After breakfast at Pipo’s again we walked through Gare Cornavin, past a lot of expensive watch shops (including a Rolex for 54 000 Francs), and down to Lake Geneva for a 1hr 15min boat trip with Swissboat. This shorter tour covered most of the famous landmarks and buildings surrounding the lake, but there’s also a 2 hour tour which travels to castles and famous residencies on the French border of Lake Geneva.

You can walk under the 140m fountain, just be warned that you will come out looking as though you went for a swim fully clothed (not that we tried it, or anything…)

  • 12pm Old Town

We walked back towards the flower clock and up into Old Town. This is Geneva’s biggest historical city and is overlooked by St. Peter’s Cathedral, home to the Reformed Protestant Church of Geneva. Inside the church you can find a wooden chair which belonged to John Calvin, a leader of the protestant reformation, who lived in the cathedral.

St. Peter’s Cathedral. Credit: Wikipedia

We were constantly distracted by the works of art in shop windows, particularly the chocolate shops! Given that Easter is just around the corner they were full of adorable fondant rabbits and some of the most extravagant chocolate eggs I’ve ever seen, all costing more than 50 Francs, of course.

  • 3pm Visit the United Nations and the Broken Chair

On our way back through Gare Cornavin we stopped off at a cheaper chocolate shop because you can’t go to Switzerland and not buy some Swiss chocolate, can you?! They even had little chocolate truffle animals for 1.50 Francs each so I bought a clownfish for myself and a frog and a lobster for my sisters.

We took the number 15 tram to the Broken Chair monument, opposite the United Nations. The statue was commissioned by Handicap International as a plea to other countries to sign the Mine Ban Treaty and honour their commitments to help victims of landmines and to clear mined areas. It was originally installed in 1997, and was reinstalled in 2007 upon completion of the United Nations building to urge countries to help ban cluster munitions.

Geneva houses the European Headquarters of the United Nations, the Palais des Nations, housed under the dome of the Human Rights and Alliance of civilisations Room.

  • 5pm Leave for Geneva Airport for 20.45 flight

After 3 full days of sightseeing and educational visits (note to self: take twice as much money as planned), it was time to say goodbye to Geneva as we left Gare Cornavin for the last time on a double-decker train – a brilliant idea that Manchester should look into :)

Flying at night was another first for me and was as enjoyable as the other plane ride, but I’m sad to say that I fell asleep for most of it! However, I was awake during take off and landing and managed to take some amazing pictures of the land down below.

I would love to go back to Geneva but would probably only go for a weekend trip to make as small a dent in the wallet as possible.

Original photos taken on a Nokia Lumia 520

Switzerland Day 2: CERN and Bowling

Friday was a long day but it wasn’t really busy, just a lot of walking!

  • 8am Breakfast

We got a ticket to use at Pipo’s, just round the corner from the hostel, which entitled us to a breakfast made up of a croissant, a glass of orange juice and a cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate. It didn’t seem like much but I don’t remember feeling hungry until lunchtime anyway, so it was all good.

  • 8.30 am Visit to CERN

We took the number 18 tram from Gare Cornavin to the end of the line at CERN. Our tour was booked for 2pm so we had a look around the microcosm garden, visited the Universe of Particles exhibit in the Globe of Science and Innovation and browsed the gift shop before having lunch in the restaurant at 11.30.

The garden was full of particle accelerators used in past CERN experiments, which were decommissioned to make way for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and current experiments. In front of the Globe stood Gayle Hermick’s statue containing vast amounts of scientific formulae, diagrams and chemical element information, aptly named ‘Wandering the Immeasurable’.

The Universe of Particles was interesting. When you go inside it’s almost a pitch black room, illuminated only by the light coming from the screens of the interactive pods detailing the goings-on at CERN. Every half hour or so there is also a video about the Big Bang and the origins of matter and particles (alternating versions of French and English). I took a video of the English film but unfortunately I can’t upload videos in the free WP version, so I’ve uploaded some stills instead.

The gift shop was smaller than you’d expect but I still managed to spend a total of 39.50 Francs (£27) on a blue CERN hoodie, pen and canvas bag…so I’m glad that the restaurant was the cheapest place we ate during the trip! A whole Margherita pizza cost 10.50 Francs (£7) and it was a massive pizza, I’d say about 30cm/12in in diameter.

The first part of our tour took us to see the LEIR (Low Energy Ion Ring), previously the Low Energy Antiproton Ring, which pumps lead ions into the LHC.

Due to recent experiments taking place we weren’t allowed to visit the LHC, so we were taken to the antimatter factory instead. Here, they smash together protons and antiprotons and electrons and antielectrons (or positrons) to try and investigate more about the elusive antimatter – what it is, what it does etc.

  • 5pm Head to Balexert Shopping Centre for tea

We hopped back on the number 18 tram to Balexert. We had 2 hours to do some shopping and find something to eat before bowling night so we had a quick wander round the shops, past the central Easter display of chocolate and pink bunny balloons, and triple checked the map to make sure that we headed in the right direction for H&M, despite not seeing any of the neighbouring shops :/

There were only 5 restaurants to choose from for tea (including McDonald’s, which would probably have been the cheapest choice but we wanted a proper sit down meal) so we went with a Mexican restaurant and I tried tacos, guacamole and black bean sauce for the first time. The tacos were good, not so keen on the other stuff, though.

  • 7pm Bowling

I think this was the part of the trip that we looked forward to most, after CERN of course! Somehow my team was the only one allowed to have the barriers up on the lane (I’m not complaining, I would have ended up with consecutive gutter balls otherwise).

All in all, a very eventful day!

Switzerlnd Day 1: First Ever Plane Ride!

On Thursday 26th March I went on my most exciting trip ever. Our school Physics department were going on their biannual trip to Switzerland to visit CERN. Although I don’t study Physics anymore (I dropped it at AS), I do study Maths and Further Maths, so I was allowed to tag along!

Normally I would be as excited as I am for choir trips, but this was even more exciting because it was going to be my first ever time on a plane!

  • 5am – Set off for Manchester Airport to catch the 8.20 plane to Geneva

We flew with Easyjet, so the cost of the trip was kept to a minimum. After all the ‘Behind the Scenes’ programmes on TV about unhappy customers with Easyjet, I was pleasantly surprised. We only waited in the check-in queue for half an hour, and the staff were very friendly and welcoming despite the early morning start. We all got through security in under 10 minutes because there were only a few other people In the queue, so we had half an hour spare to look around the airport shops before boarding the plane. Passport and Boarding Pass check at the gate was quick and easy, which is always good when a group of 17-18 year olds are trying to navigate an airport on four hours sleep!

I think I may have screamed on take-off, but it wasn’t a thrilling-rollercoaster-descent scream, more of a little wasn’t-expecting-that yelp. Before I knew it, we’d landed at Geneva Airport very smoothly. 10/10 for the crew.

It’s a good job that Switzerland doesn’t charge for public transport given the price of everything else (more on that later) as we used an average of 4 trams/busses/trains per day. At the airport, everyone can get a free transport ticket via machines which are valid for 80 minutes to get you to your accommodation, where you will be given another free ticket to use for the duration of your stay. We took a train from the airport to Gare Cornavin Train Station and then it was just a five-minute walk to City Hostel Geneva, Rue Ferrier.

They don’t offer meals but we got breakfast provided at a restaurant around the corner called Pipo’s, and on each floor of the hostel there is a communal kitchen where you can prepare snacks and microwave food. There aren’t any en-suite facilities, just communal toilets and showers per floor (4 showers, 6 toilets), which weren’t too busy actually, I don’t remember waiting for more than a minute or two. I forgot to take pictures of the hostel, but there are loads available on booking.com. Also, there’s free Wi-Fi in all rooms and communal areas.

  • Find lunch

Warning: Switzerland is not cheap! The average sandwich will set you back around 10-12 Francs (£7-8) and you might have to become very fond of free tap water, with 500ml bottles costing up to 5 francs (£3.50)! To give you an idea, this is how much my food cost during the holiday: (conversion rates correct on 30/3/2015)

Day 1: Chicken Panini with chips and bottle of water in a café round the corner from the hostel, 17 Francs ( £13)

2 Lamb Koftas with salad and houmous and glass of top water in a Lebanese restaurant round the corner from the hostel, 18 Francs (£13)

Two scoops of ice cream in a tub at a lakeside hut, 7 Francs (£5)

Day 2: Whole Margherita pizza with fruit salad and bottle of water, 20 Francs (£14) – the CERN restaurant was very cheap, though!

2 Chicken tacos with rice and salad and glass of tap water in Balexert Shopping Centre, 26 Francs (£18)

Day 3: Spaghetti Bolognese with glass of tap water and ice cream sundae at an Italian restaurant in Old Town, 28 Francs (£20)

Pasta in tomato sauce and bottle of water at Geneva Airport, 17 Francs (£13)

Total – 133 Francs (£96)

  • Saleve Cable Car Ride

We took the number 8 bus from Gare Cornavin to Veyrier Douane at the France/Switzerland border on Mont Saleve, and took a five-minute walk over the border to find that the cable car was closed until April…managed to get some nice pictures, though!

  • Visit the Flower Clock and stop for ice cream

We had a few hours to fill before tea time since the cable car was closed, so we got the bus back down the mountain and walked to the Flower Clock situated in-between the shops and Lake Geneva. We then took a river taxi across to the ice-cream hut, where I particularly enjoyed the banana ice-cream and lemon sorbet combination.

  • Night-time lakeside walk

After having tea at a Lebanese restaurant near to the hostel, we walked down to Lake Geneva and walked along to the Lighthouse, which was lit up like a Christmas Tree. On the way, we passed lots of swans and ducks, a slide for people to use when swimming in the lake in Summer, and a free mini-gym consisting of a cross trainer and a bike/rowing machine. On the way back to the hostel we accidentally ended up walking through the ‘colourful area’ of Geneva but luckily it was only 9pm so there wasn’t much going on.

Then it was an early night to prepare for the main event on Friday!

March Favourites

TV: You’re Back in the Room – ITV, Saturdays 8.20

I haven’t laughed like this at a TV show in a long time, it’s absolutely hilarious and the hypnotist is a genius.

Music: Taylor Swift – Blank Space

Tech: Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Netbook

Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Netbook

I used my netbook yesterday for the first time since November 2013 and instantly fell in love with it again. The 10.1″ screen makes it easily portable and it’s very lightweight. The only downside is that the battery doesn’t last very long on a full charge – 2 hours max when I was writing a Word document. Full review to come soon!

Top 6 Period Drama Adaptations

I love period dramas. The costumes, the speech, the acting…it’s amazing. Note: BBC dramas are some of the best things ever created.

6. Death Comes to Pemberley – BBC, 2013

Adapted from: Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James (2011)

Starring: Matthew Rhys, Anna Maxwell Martin, Jenna Coleman

Alt=Series tile over an image of the house

Set in 1803, 6 years after the wedding of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, the Darcys are preparing for their annual ball when Lizzie’s uninvited sister storms in claiming her husband (Mr Wickham) has been shot. But who has really been hurt, and who shot them?…

5. Sense and Sensibility –  Columbia Pictures, 1995 (US release), 1996 (UK release)

Adapted from: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811)

Starring: Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman

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So they may have changed Elinor Dashwood’s age from 19 in the book to 27 in the film so that 35 year old Emma Thompson could portray the sister destined for spinsterhood, but no other actress would do the part justice. Thompson also wrote the screenplay and kept to the book incredibly well. I don’t think I could watch another adaptation without complaining that it will never be as good as this one.

4. Emma (TV Movie) – ITV, 1996

Adapted from: Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Mark Strong

Emma 1996 TV Kate Beckinsale.jpg

My sister loves the Gwyneth Paltrow version released in the same year, but I love this one. Kate Beckinsale exceeds expectations as the naïve matchmaker , and the casting of Mark Strong as Mr Knightly was an excellent choice as the two actors make the budding romance very believable.

3. Little Dorrit – BBC, 2008

Adapted from: Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens (circa 1855)

Starring: Claire Foy, Matthew Macfadyen

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I’m determined to get to the end of this book. I’ve been reading it on and off for about 4 years now, always being interrupted by exams, but this summer I will finish it! I thought Claire Foy portrayed Amy Dorrit beautifully, expressing the complexities of her shy, broken exterior camouflaging her desire to find goodness in everything around her and her growing fondness for Mr Clenham.

2. North & South – BBC, 2004

Adapted from: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskall (1855)

Starring: Daniela Denby-Ashe, Richard Armitage

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I thoroughly enjoyed watching this when it was shown on Drama (Freeview channel 20) last year. I think Richard Armitage was the perfect choice for northern mill owner John Thornton and over time you really start to believe that he’s falling in love with Margaret. I also love how the minor storylines portrayed life during the industrial revolution and the problems of long hours working in the cotton mills, the acting was great.

1. Pride and Prejudice – BBC, 1995

Adapted from: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

Starring: Jennifer Ehle, Colin Firth

Pride Prejudice 1995 VHS PAL Rated U Double Pack.jpg

I couldn’t have a post all about period dramas and not include what is probably the most popular of them all. This is the best version ever made (I won’t even mention my disappointment at the 2005 film, despite Keira Knightley’s excellence in all her other roles) and I can’t think of words good enough to explain why. You just need to watch it and see why the world is in love with Mr Darcy…particularly Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy.

So, there’s my list of my favourite Jane Austen novels period dramas. Do you have a favourite?

Photo credit: Wikipedia

February Favourites 2015 (TV Special!)

This month has been spectacular for both the beginning of new shows and the return of some of my favourites.

TV: Mary Portas: Secret Shopper – Tuesdays 8pm Channel 4

Series 1 was all the way back in 2011, but I’m glad to see it’s been renewed for another series.

TV: The Great Comic Relief Bake Off – Wednesdays 8.30pm BBC 1

Hilarity ensured as 16 celebrities braved the Bake Off tent to be crowned Star Baker in aid of Comic Relief (13th March!!). Raw cake, coffee granules mistaken for cocoa powder, a showstopper Ab-Fab cake…and that was just week one! I’m not sure Jonathan Ross’s ‘Yorkshire Pudding’ profiteroles will be attempted again, though…

TV: The Great British Sewing Bee – Thursdays 8pm BBC 2

The Sewing Bee is back for series 3! May and Patrick return to see 10 more amateur sewers fret over complicated patterns and drown in miles of trimmings and embellishments during the alteration challenges. Highlights so far include Paul’s 3D elephant fancy dress costume, Neil’s perfectly matched-up spotty summer dress and Lorna’s adorable child’s dress made from combining a basic t-shirt and patterned frock.

TV: Indian Summers – Sundays 9pm Channel 4

Despite feeling like the episode was over in the blink of an eye, I thought the length for this was a bit odd at 1hr 40 instead of the usual 1 hour slot. However, it’s so gripping that you’re compelled to tune in next week to see what happens. Judi Dench is wonderful in her role and I think it gives a fantastic portrayal of pre-war India wanting to break free from Britain’s hold over them.