Our friends Philippe and Linda at ArtyGlaces make the best ice cream in Geneva… no, make that Switzerland… no wait, Europe… scratch that, ON THE ENTIRE PLANET!

One hot summer day a couple years ago shortly after arriving in Geneva, we were wandering around town and had a hankering for some good ice cream. So we googled: “best ice cream shop in Geneva” seeking hints on where we might go to find some. Up came a place called “ArtyGlaces”, located right in town, a few blocks away from the junction of the Rhone and Arve rivers. We put away our phones and made our way there.

Three years and much incredibly delicious ice cream later, I can honestly say that it was the best recommendation I’ve ever received from Google. This is a fun story about friendship and making delicious ice cream.

Here’s who you see when you enter the shop.

Linda and Philippe

Our best friends, Linda and Philippe on the job.

That’s Linda and Philippe. They have been making ice cream at ArtyGlaces since 2012. They are the entire operation, just the two of them. Philippe (who also has an MBA from a prestigious university) is a trained ice cream maker, having learned the craft in Italy. He is the “chemist” crafting the detailed recipes for any particular flavor, and they make roughly 40 different flavors of gelato and sorbet. Watching Philippe work is like watching a scientist in a lab, measuring out each ingredient to the gram, using a hand-held refractometer to measure the content of sugar in a specific fruit, and obsessively cleaning as he goes about his work. Here he is adding some sugar to the base for his next batch.

Philippe pouring

Philippe is pouring some sugar into the machine that mixes the milk base used in production the following day.

Linda is a very talented graphic artist and designs all the packaging – cups and lids – that feature beautiful images of the natural ingredient used in each flavor, as well as all the promotional materials. She’s also the friendliest person you’d ever want to meet, a trait that shines through when it comes to customer relations and service. On our first visit to the shop, she insisted we take a taste of every single flavor before deciding. That day I thought maybe there was something special about us, but it turns out that’s how she treats everyone on their first visit. She’s an outstanding cook and knows her way around a kitchen, a skill that is very valuable for an ice cream maker. Here she is working with some fresh vanilla.

Linda working hard

Linda is painstakingly extracting the heart of these vanilla fruit stalks for their next batch.

Here the two of them are working together.

Philippe working

Philippe and Linda filtering the vanilla

We know good ice cream when we taste it, so it wasn’t long before we started making regular visits to ArtyGlaces, not just for the ice cream, but also to drop in and say “bonjour” to our new friends. It’s safe to say we became “regulars”, finding any excuse we could to buy their ice cream. We hosted a party with around 30 people on two occasions and what did we feature for desert? Eight flavors of ArtyGlaces ice cream, that’s what. We brought just about all of our house guests, there, too Here’s a picture I took of Linda with my brother-in-law Bruce and sister-in-law Julie along with their daughters Laura and Grace on their visit last October.

Linda with friends

Linda with Bruce, Julie, Laura, and Grace. Yep, all 4 of them tasted every flavor!

As time went on, we moved beyond a business/customer relationship and built a solid friendship. Whenever we visited, they would give me tips on my French (Linda once told me that I just needed to improve my grammar and my vocabulary… what else is there?, I wondered) and we helped Linda once edit a cover letter in English for a potential client. They invited us out to their home in the French mountains outside of Geneva, and we had them over for a lasagna dinner at our place.

Now fast-forward to just a few months ago. We were talking about their business one day, and I happened to mention that some day it would be fun to spend a day helping them make the ice cream. They readily accepted my offer, and the next thing I know, I’m spending the day helping to measure and mix the ingredients, writing “best-if-used-by” dates on all the cups that they sell to restaurants, outdoor parks and other places… (They have one client who is a “naturalist” and Linda and Philippe tell a funny story joking about who’s job it was to make that delivery run!), and any of the many other tasks required to make the best damn ice cream you’ve ever tasted.

Here’s a short video I took of me entering the shop to report to work one day. You’ll recognize the trademark SwissSojourner video production quality, or lack thereof, but it’s still fun to see.

Here’s another short video of Philippe, my mentor, making darn sure I don’t completely screw something up, which is easier to do than you might imagine.

These days, I try to get over and help them out once every week or so. I always really look forward to spending the day with Philippe and Linda. Having a relaxing coffee and croissant after arriving, then donning our aprons and getting to work, all the while speaking French and English (depending on how important it is that I understand what I’m being told) and just having a great time making really awesome ice cream. Its fun seeing the customers’ faces – kids, especially – light up when they taste it for the first time, or to hear the “regulars” discuss their favorite flavors.

One time, I noticed Philippe chuckling to himself. “What’s so funny?” I asked him. He just replied in his french way of speaking “who would have thought when you came to Geneva that you’d soon find yourself in this shop making ice cream?”. Life’s kind of funny that way.

ArtyGlaces double scoop

This is the best ice cream on the planet. This one is Cassis (blackcurrant) sorbet and Fleur-de-Lait – Photo credit: Kelly Reykdal

Para-gliding looks like fun. Sort of.

Setting aside for the moment the fact that I am pretty scared of heights, I have recently found myself thinking that if I had my life to live over again, I might go ahead and get my high school degree because I might need something to fall back on, but then move to Switzerland and become a para-glider guide. From my vantage point, those dudes seem to lead a pretty good life.

Paragliding is that sport where you rely on updrafts to lift you (and a partner, for a tandem flight) up off the earth as you basically run off a cliff. Continue reading

The Swiss “Désalpes” Festival is a celebration of cows like no udder!

Every year in the early fall, festivals are held across Switzerland’s alpine villages that feature herds of cows wearing silly hats and large cowbells parading down village streets, marking the end of the cattle’s summer grazing in the high alpine pastures. This is a custom that has been taking place across Switzerland for generations, and we recently attended a festival in L’Étivaz to take in this iconic Swiss celebration. Continue reading

Watch me cross the Swiss / French Border 3 times in multi-modal fashion!

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it sort of fun to cross a national border? To me, its as close as most of us will ever get to the whole “that’s one small step for man…” thing that has the added benefit of not requiring one to leave the planet. Living here in Geneva, I get plenty of opportunities to cross many national borders, most frequently, from Switzerland into France, since Geneva is essentially bordered on all sides by France. (It’s weird I know, but get out a map and look at it, you’ll see what I mean.)

So I decided it’d be fun to share with you my experiences of crossing the Swiss/French border via three common transportation modes. Continue reading

My Geneva Pet Peeves

I generally consider myself to be a pretty easy-going guy. Most of the time, I’m not that easily annoyed. Live and let live, and all that. But like anyone else, there are a few things that for some reason get under my skin. Here is a photo montage of things I encounter too frequently in Geneva for me to just brush off. Yep, these things get on my nerves. Continue reading

There are some weird trees over here!

One of the things I’m always reminded of as I travel around Europe is the way that certain common, everyday things are very different here than they are in the U.S. Cars, for example, are all much smaller over here. Sidewalks and streets are often made of stone, not concrete or asphalt. And then there are the trees. There are some really odd trees over here. Continue reading

Dead animals for sale! Get’cher dead animals, right here!!

As I’ve documented in previous posts, we really enjoy wandering through European outdoor markets. Shopping for fresh produce and other foodstuffs for the week – whether here in Geneva, or nearby in France’s Ferney-Voltaire or Divonnes-les-Bains (thought by many to be the best of them all) – remains one of our favorite things to do on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

And speaking of remains, check out some of the only-very-recently deceased main course critters being offered for sale. Continue reading