Here are some of the friends I made going about my business within blocks of our apartment

One of the things we’ve enjoyed living in the heart of Geneva is that over time, you begin to identify your favorite business establishments, and as you more frequently patronize those establishments, you begin to make friends with the proprietors or clerks who work there.  So for me, whether I was going to the grocery store, filling the car up with gas, buying a croissant or chocolate at our favorite patisserie, I could always count on seeing a friendly face and getting a chance to speak some french with one of my friends.

Like the city of Geneva itself, this is an eclectic, diverse group of people:

I’ll start with Huseyn, my friend from Turkey who who I wrote about in a recent review proclaiming him the architect of the best shawarma sandwich in town.   The fun thing about Huseyn is that as I would enter his shop, he would enthusiastically greet me with a firm handshake, ask how many sandwiches he needed to make me, offer me a free beer while I waited and then go to work on my sandwich(es).

My master shawarma making friend Huseyn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our go-to grocery store, called Coop (pronounced “cup”) is just a block away.  There were days where I would venture over there once in the morning, realize I needed something else and go again in the afternoon, and realize I needed one more ingredient for that evening’s meal and go one more time as I was making dinner.  Point being, I am there a lot. I became friends with one of the clerks, but never learned her first name because her name tag only revealed her last name.  She is from Marrakesh Morocco, a detail I learned when I told her once that we were going to be visiting that city, and she pondered the idea of me “delivering something to her husband” who still lives there.  She ultimately decided against it, which in retrospect was a good decision because I don’t know how anyone could possibly find anyone else in that crowded city.  I asked her if I could take a selfie with her, but she didn’t like that idea, I don’t know whether it was for religious reasons or just that she thought it would be weird to take a picture with a customer, even though we had become pretty tight.  In either case, I wanted a picture of her for this blog post, so I went ahead and snapped this photo of her without her knowledge.  That’s her with her hands behind her back walking in the opposite direction.

Coop grocery clerk

I also spent a lot of time in the local drug store filling certain prescriptions.  I never learned this woman’s name either, but she was always incredibly nice and helpful and friendly.  One time I was hiking up the Saleve and I ran into her up there.  She also just recently changed the style of her hair, it used to be longer and dark, and now look at it!  The first time I saw her with her new hair style, I made a point of saying, “J’aime bien votre cheveux!” which she seemed to appreciate.

My friend at the drug store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And speaking of hairstyles, after posting a piece in this blog lamenting the fact that haircuts — like everything else — are expensive in this town I found a barber who would cut my hair at a reasonable (sort of…) price.  His name is Salah, and he hales from Iran.  He doesn’t speak a lick of English, and since its a barbershop where you are obligated to make small talk for the duration of the haircut, I could always count on getting a good 20 minutes of french practice in.  The most exciting thing is that he recently became a first-time father of a little girl, which gave us plenty to talk about.

Salah and me

Salah and me after one of my reasonably priced haircuts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the perks offered to foreign U.N. diplomats is that you get a break on gasoline taxes.  I’m not sure that I like the idea or even think that its fair, but as long as it is UN policy, I’m going to take advantage of it.  But the process of getting the cheaper gas requires that you fill up at just one or two stations in Geneva, so I got into the habit of always filling up at the same gas station, which is where I became friends with this nice young lady, whose name I never learned.

Gas station lady

My gas station friend always had interesting colored hair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last but not least are my friends at our favorite patisserie, Frederic Ducret.  Frederic Ducret is a little shop just up the street from our apartment that we identified early on as the best place to buy croissants (my favorite, their almond croissants!) and chocolate truffels.  We would frequent this shop every time we had guests and lots of times when we didn’t.  On trips back home, we would always stop there before heading to the airport to buy some chocolate truffles, of which they had about 40 varieties.  As you can see from the photo, they were the nicest people ever.

Frederic Ducret friends

Frederic Ducret friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it comes time to leave and head back home, these routine encounters are some of the things I am really going to miss.

 

I’ve made some good friends hiking up Le Salève!

Have I mentioned that I like hiking up Geneva’s local mountain the Salève? I like hiking up the Salève so much that I’ve done it 80 times. Yes, for some obsessive compulsive reason, I’ve kept count.

In past posts, like this one, I’ve chronicled my hikes up with various family members and friends. Most of the time, though, I’m alone. And because I’m kind of a friendly Gus, I am always on the lookout for potential hiking companions who are there to hike the mountain at the same time as me. Continue reading

I spent 3 days in Lullin, France with Philippe, and we took down his 100-year old shed! (…and we had pig blood sausage one day for lunch.)

Followers of this blog will recall my good friends Philippe and Linda from a previous post on how they make the best ice cream on the planet. When they are not working in Geneva at ArtyGlace making ice cream, Philippe and Linda live in a beautiful, quaint, rural village called Lullin, nestled in the French alps about an hour away from Geneva. Lullin is characterized by the surrounding majestic mountains, sloping fields with grazing cattle, and all the essentials necessary in a small village, but not much more, which is just the way its 800 or so residents like it.

A while back, Linda happened to mention that there was an old shed adjacent to the property that had become a bit of a hazard and hinted to me that Philippe might be able to use some help in taking it down. Continue reading

Greg was here to hike for a week. It’s Game On!

My friend Greg came for a visit, and he came with just one objective. To better the record of my other friend Pat M. who was here a couple months back and hiked about 50 miles with me on his 6 day visit. Greg told me that he had been training for this week by hiking up and down stairs near his house along the nearby Mississippi River, which is the closest thing they’ve got to the Swiss alps.

So, here we go. Two physically fit, adventure seeking, hiking enthusiasts going mano a mano (albeit a month or so apart) for the undisputed title of “Top Visiting Swiss Sojourner Hiking Partner”. Continue reading

I rock to classic Lynyrd Skynyrd on the city tram!

I ride public transportation in Geneva virtually every day.  One of the things that users of the system soon learn is that they will frequently be “entertained” and subsequently solicited for donations by a variety of musical acts while riding the trams (Geneva’s light rail network). These acts typically involve some combination of guitars, accordions and/or stand-up bass fiddles, along with some vocal accompaniment.  I’ll be honest, when I see a group filing onto the tram with their musical instruments, I generally groan, but I do reach into my pocket for a franc or two figuring that if someone has the stones to wake up in the morning and decide they’re going to spend the day riding around town on the city tram playing an accordion for donations, that’s worthy of a small donation.

So I’m riding the tram to work last week, and two guys climb on board, one with an acoustic guitar, the other with an electric guitar.  Now I’m somewhat intrigued.  Continue reading

My friend Pat throws down the hiking gauntlet on all future visitors.

Meet my good friend and notoriously-slow-Snickers-candy-bar-eater Pat M. He was just here for six days. I’ve known Pat since we were teammates on a powerhouse third grade boys soccer team back in the late ’60s. These days, Pat spends much of his time working outdoors as a wetlands scientist so I knew he would be up for a solid week of hiking and exploring in the Swiss and French Alps. He did not disappoint. Continue reading