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  • Day1199


    October 8, 2019 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Today's post is a bit different to our usual descriptive accounts. Its focus is niche but we hope it is still accessible, informative and enjoyable to read.

    Vicky had managed to book two tickets for a guided tour of CERN. Although tours are free, obtaining these oversubscribed tickets is not easy, so we were excited when we recieved confirmation that our applications had been successful.

    CERN stands for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire or European Council for Nuclear Research. The idea for a pan european organisation to focus knowledge, skills and resources into the research of particle physics, was conceived in the late 1940s with the aim of providing a force for unity in post war Europe and stopping the brain drain to america.

    Today CERN is an international body focussed on discovering what the universe is made of, how it works and how it started, through experiments using particle acceleration facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider.

    Based near Geneva, its vast site crosses the French-Swiss border. It is made up of 23 member states, including the UK. There are many more associate member states and nations with cooperation agreements and observer status. In total, the community comprises over 12,200 scientists of 110 nationalities, from more than 600 institutes in more than 70 countries. In other words, it's a very big deal.

    Arriving early, we parked in the free car park, ate lunch and checked in at reception. Putting on our pre-printed visitor lanyards, we used the time before the tour to take a peak at the gift shop and some of the (free) exhibitions including a molecular journey through time, from milliseconds after the Big Bang to the present day. The atrium steadily filled with visitors speaking many different languages. We couldn't help checking to see whether anyone resembled the characters on The Big Bang Theory. We weren't disappointed (although no sign of Penny)! When upwards of 100 people had gathered, stewards began to direct school and college groups towards the cafeteria. 24 of us were soon ushered into a lecture room and introduced to our guide, a young woman from South Africa who'd been working on the ATLAS project for the last two years.

    After watching an introductory video, she led us through the Microcosm exhibition with detailed explanations of the different experiments and equipment at CERN; past present and future. We would normally have been able to visit the ATLAS experiment, but unfortunately this was shut down for routine maintenance. Will got a lot out of the talk, but much of the more technical content went over Vicky's head. However the displays were modern, interactive and engaging so she didn't get bored.

    CERN's key achievements incude the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle and the fabrication and study of antimatter via a machine called the Antiproton Decelerator. They created the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator; the Large Hadron Collider, which they are already in the process of developing into a High Luminosity Large Hadron Collider, the next stage in experimental particle physics. Oh, and the World Wide Web was invented here back in 1989!

    The final part of our tour took us over the French border to the building where CERN's very first particle accelerator, the Synchrocyclotron still resides. First brought online back in 1957, the machine functioned for a good 33 years before being decommissioned and eventually opened to tour groups in 2013. Designers had made understanding its function and purpose accessible through a very effective sound and light show, with images projected directly on to the huge contraption.

    With the tour over, we headed back to the gift shop to buy Will a T-shirt. We don't normally purchase souvenirs but CERN had given us so much and we hadn't had to pay a penny (or even a centime!) Our final destination was the Universe of Particles exhibition, housed within a huge wooden sphere, called The Globe of Science and Innovation. Armchairs and display cases with futuristic atom-like designs were arranged around a central cylinder, cut at an angled cross section a few feet high. Together with the curved walls it acted as a projection screen, showing a fun six minute animation on the beginning and development of the universe. Circular touchscreen panels allowed visitors to interact with various atomic discovery programs.

    We came away with a real sense of awe. As atheists, visiting CERN is as near as we are ever going to get to walking on hallowed ground! The mind boggling nature of the work. The theories, research, discoveries and inventions that have been formulated, enacted and created here. The immense collective intelligence of the organisation's community. The huge and exciting potential for future progress. One thing we particularly loved was how CERN is only as successful as it is because of its international cooperation. So many brilliant scientists from different cultures all over the world, speaking so many different languages, but working together towards the common goal of furthering the human race's knowledge and understanding of the world around us. It was a truly inspiring experience to visit such a place.
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  • Day182

    Stansted to Geneva

    December 30, 2019 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 2 °C

    At 4.30am we were trying to eat our free breakfast at the hotel because it was free!!
    Staying at the Hampton by Hilton at Stansted Airport meant we only had to walk 5 mins to the terminal thank god so by 5.30am we were all checked in and going through security for our 07.05am flight. The airport was packed it could have been 5.30pm!!
    We saw a couple trying to get to their flight through a gate that had closed 30 mins before... and then we were boarded 40 mins early!! Luckily we were in situ so no harm done.
    By 9.15am we had touched down in Geneva!
    There is a machine that dispenses free train tickets for the 6 mins from the airport to the city centre so we v soon found ourselves in downtown Geneva after the most efficient airport transfer ever.
    Next it was off to find the Hotel Montbrillant to dump our bags... and viola there it was right next to the train station.... 5 metres from the station doors. Loving Switzerland already!
    10 mins later and our bags were safely dropped off, tickets for free transport provided and a city map we set off to find a much needed coffee.
    We found a great little coffee shop, had refreshments and then spent several hours walking around the lake and town- Geneva is a v beautiful, clean, easy city- just what we needed.
    Migros supermarket provided us with a quick ( but quite expensive) lunch which we took back to the hotel as we checked in.
    Our room was v nice and so super convenient.
    After meal planning for the next few days it was back to
    Migros and another supermarket for supplies and bottles of wine to take with us to see us through the next few days including New Years.
    In the bowels of the mall opposite the supermarket there was this random little beer cafe full of locals so we decided to join them for a quick beer- it was hilarious!! An unexpected local experience but sadly could only afford 1!!
    Back to the hotel for a relaxed evening and an early night as we were leaving at 08.30am the next day. This was after hanging the bag of food out of the window to keep it cool as the fridge was too small!!
    Leaving at 08.30am sounds like a decent time but it’s dark until this time and quite cold so not so easy getting up early- in fact it’s getting harder and harder to get up.... we need daylight!!!
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  • Day37

    Guten Tag, meine Damen und Herren

    November 6, 2019 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    Ich war mal wieder der erste morgens beim Frühstück. Und während ich da so saß und auch heute den Kopf über das schlechte Frühstück in französischen Hotels schüttelte, kam ein älterer Herr, ein anderer Gast, in den Raum.
    Mit Betreten des Raumes sah er mich und begrüßte mich mit einem freundlichen Lächeln: „Bonjour, monsieur“ (Guten Tag, mein Herr).
    Ich dachte so: „Gute alte Schule: Wer den Raum betritt, grüßt zuerst. Und der Zusatz „mein Herr“ ist besonders höflich.
    Nur wenige Minuten später betritt eine etwa 40 Jahre junge Dame den Raum und grüßt: „Bonjour, Messieurs“ (Guten Morgen, meine Herren“.
    Jetzt war ich sensibilisiert: Wie geht‘s weiter?
    2 x wiederholte sich das noch mit weiteren Damen.
    Dann kam ein Typ „Mischung aus Rocker und Hippie“, komplett tätowiert, ärmelloses T-Shirt, gefärbte lange, aber gepflegte, blonde Haare, der sich eindeutig auf dem Rückweg von „Woodstock“ verfahren hatte. Er sah sich um und grüßte: „Bonjour mesdames et messieurs “ (Guten Tag, meine Damen und Herren)

    Ich war begeistert: Wann hatte ich das das letzte Mal erlebt? Das muss Jahrzehnte her sein. Schade, dass gutes Benehmen bei uns aus der Mode gekommen ist.

    Mit diesen Gedanken steige ich, dick angezogen, bei zunächst strömenden Regen auf die Maschine und richte das Vorderrad in Richtung „Genf“.
    Der Plan für heute: Im Rhône-Tal bleiben und nicht höher als 500 m fahren.
    Musikalisch ist heute „Classic Rock“ dran, und zwar jeweils die lange Version. Ich fange an mit „Hold the line“ von Toto, drehe den Sound hoch und werfe einen Blick in den Himmel. Im Takt der Musik trete ich den ersten Gang rein.....Kupplung kommen lassen... hat das Hinterrad „Grip“? Weiter beschleunigen.... und laut mitsingen. Yeah!

    Nach 1 Stunde hört es auf zu regnen und ich sehe Sonne.
    Es wird eine traumhafte Fahrt über Nebenstraßen, durch die hügelige Landschaft des Alpenvorlandes. Immer mit Blick auf die tiefe Schneegrenze, die bei 600 m liegt und auf die tollen Wolkengebilde, die die teils schroffen Berggipfel umschmeicheln.

    Genf erreiche ich am Nachmittag. Hier übernachte ich und werde mal versuchen, bei den „Vereinten Nationen“ vorzusprechen.

    Auf dem Weg dahin kann ich einen kurzen Blick auf den „Mont Blanc“ erhaschen und belohne mich anschließend mit einem Stück leckerste (und teuerste) Schokolade von „Läderach“ 😉

    Erkenntnis des Tages:

    Ich werde bei mir selbst verstärkt darauf achten, die „guten, alten Umgangsformen“ jederzeit zu praktizieren. Es kommt gut an und macht einfach gute Stimmung bei allen.
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  • Day11

    Yvoire and Nyon

    May 26, 2019 in Switzerland ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Today we visited Yvoire, a French village on Geneva lake. To get there we went by boat from Nyon on the western Swiss side of the lake. Yvoire is a stunning village where every corner you turn is a photo waiting. We enjoyed French crepe did lunch. Nyon is where the McChesneys lived for five years and has its own castle and Roman ruins. We attended the Westlake church in the evening.Read more

  • Day10

    Genève: city of sparrows

    August 14, 2019 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Not too many disagreements about naming Geneva, although "City of Money" comes a close second. Apartment in fantastic location; 20 minute walk from station across bridge at base of the lake, in full view of the Jet D'eau. Wonderful lakeside marina, gardens, parks and eateries. Spent our 36 hours here relaxing, strolling and sunbathing ... And wishing we were millionaires! Lovely city surrounded by mountains and lake, and teeming with gorgeous people and - did we mention - sparrows!Read more

  • Day67

    Chamonix Mount Blanc

    July 21, 2019 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Well today we had an experience that is unlikely to be repeated! We drove to Chamonix which is about 60 mins from Geneva, there we bought two tickets to the top of the highest cable car in the world. At 3840m it takes you most the way up Mount Blanc. All was well until Judy started to feel quite unsafe and fearful. We could do very little about this locked inside a steel box with about forty other people. Up we went higher and higher until the final few hundred metres were almost vertical. We emerged to temps of about -2 degrees and strong wind. Needless to say we did not stay to long, but got some good photos and some video of both way up and down. Afterwards we walked around the village of Chamonix and enjoyed our home made lunch and thermos of tea! Judy was able to confirm after today that several things are off her bucket list now, para gliding, parachuting, and any cable cars over 2500m.Read more

  • Day3

    UN Tour

    May 18, 2019 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    The tour was interesting, these are some of the conference rooms where the UN delegates meet but what became very clear is the futility and frustration of much of the work done by members which is vetoed by any of the big five in New York.

  • Day3

    Geneva City walk.

    May 18, 2019 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    We took the boat across the lake and walked around the edge where the gardens showed early spring flowers, the Geneva water spout was in fine form and people strolled and drank coffee. We also visited John Calvin's church and reflected on the Hugenoughts struggle who came here from France under the persecution of Catholic Church.Read more

  • Day1

    La Rade et Jet d'Eau

    January 8, 2019 in Switzerland ⋅ ☁️ 2 °C

    Started my day with the Geneva water front with a lovely walk along the La Rade! This included seeing the Jet d’Eau, literally a jet of water, pretty accurate when it’s 140m water fountain. The walk gave beautiful views of the new and old side of the city, a really lovely start to my time in Geneva!

  • Day1

    St. Peter Cathedral

    January 8, 2019 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C

    What a historic cathedral this was. Built between 1150 and 1230 as a Roman Catholic Church for Geneva, it later became the centre for the reformation in the 1500 and still to do this day as John Calvin’s chair, one of the orchestrators of the Protestant reformation. Amazing to see after studying it for over a year!!Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Geneva, Genève

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