My friend, James, was back in the UK for Christmas, and the new year. His easiest route back to Canada was going to be via Zürich in Switzerland. As it was a place neither of us had visited, he invited me to join him for a short stay starting in Geneva - and taking a train from there.
Whilst I was in Canada after the Chicago Marathon, we booked the hotels; having booked the flights during the summer. They weren’t the cheapest; but we found reasonable deals that balanced proximity to the sights against price. All we’d need to sort after that was any tours that needed booking, and a train between the two cities.
In terms of currency, Switzerland uses the Swiss Franc. We figured we’d take more than we need as James believed a popular UK supermarket offered a deal where for a fee the buy back rate would be the same as the sell rate to avoid losing money. However after running four miles to the nearest store I was told they didn’t do this anymore, and I’d get a better rate online - so I ran home again. I was in the middle of putting in some extra miles for the start of marathon training - so it wasn’t entirely wasted time.
We decided we wouldn’t take as much currency, so this meant having to go back to order some. Eventually we got it, and moved on to booking a train and some tours. We’d got two we wanted to do: CERN, and the United Nations Office at Geneva. Sadly both tours updated their website in December to indicate they’d be closed over Christmas and wouldn’t re-open until Monday 7th - a few days too late to do either. There’d been the possibility of a private tour of CERN, but this had fallen through as well. It was simply the wrong time of year.
The train was easy enough though - we booked a midday one for the middle of the week to give us equal time in both cities. Just like in the UK you can use your phone to show them the ticket so there’s no need for them to post one, or for you to print one. I’d also booked a train to get down to London on New Years Eve - I’d be spending a day there first.
Fortunately I could pack light - instead of a suitcase I’d be taking a backpack with a few changes of clothes, and mostly running kit. For the first time ever I was also trimming my camera backpack down to just one body: the Canon EOS 5D mk3, and two lenses: 28-135mm and a 50mm 1.4. This should be all I’d need for a few days in a city. If it wasn’t for taking a wash bag I could probably have gotten away with just a cabin bag, and no checked luggage.
Sure two cities isn’t much of Switzerland - there’s a lot more to see. I’d have liked to have seen some of Lucerne too; but time was of a premium, and I could always go back one summer to see the mountains. Keeping it short would keep the cost down, and running would help with getting extra sightseeing done - I’d already checked out a few running routes along waterfronts to make sure I’d be okay.
My plan was to take a packed lunch with me from the UK for the first day so that I’d get to use some of the leftover Christmas food. I could eat this at the airport, and then buy food at the airport for the following day. We’d read that restaurants in Switzerland are expensive so we figured it was good to find ways to make it cheaper. We would after all be going to New Zealand soon...