From Silverstone and SW19 to St Andrews, there’s a lot of sporting action ahead.
With the second week of Wimbledon well underway, the Tour de France in its early stages and the much-anticipated Ashes test series beginning today, it’s a fair assumption that sporting fans are not going to be moving from the comfort of their armchairs any time soon. Add into that the European legs of Formula One – Sunday saw Lewis Hamilton win the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and there’s Germany and Hungary coming up – mixed in with some golfing action at next week’s Open in St Andrews and the IPC swimming world championships in Glasgow, and you’re positively spoilt for sporting choice.
So with all this sporting action mere metres away from you on your TV screen, it may well be that a European city break is not on the cards over the summer. Yet why not consider a short break combining some sporting action, perhaps to Geneva, easily accessible from across the UK with regular direct flights or via Eurostar and TGV Lyria (changing at Lille, a total journey time of just over 6¼ hours)?
Coming up this weekend in Geneva is the ETU European Triathlon Championships, with the elite competitors taking part in a 1.5km swim in Lac Léman, followed by six loops of a cycling circuit starting off on the shores of Lake Geneva and passing the World Trade Organisation, climbing the Chemin de l’Impératrice and passing the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations, before turning back along the lake, a total circuit of 40.8km. The final part of the competition sees athletes undertake a 10km run through a lakeside park.
Anyone watching the triathlon will not fail to miss Geneva’s landmark Jet d’Eau, spurting 500 litres of water per second at a speed of 200km per hour some 140 metres high! Centrepoint of Geneva’s harbour since 1981, the Jet d’Eau is best viewed from the Bains des Pâquis, Geneva’s city beach, or from a boat cruise on the lake itself and is a photo pre-requisite on a Geneva city break.
Another landmark on the triathlon circuit and indeed for Geneva itself is the Palais des Nations, the European headquarters of the United Nations and the largest UN centre after New York. The palace itself dates back to the early 1930s and a guided visit inside (CHF 12) introduces you to the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilisations Room, the Council Chamber, the Assembly Hall (the Palais des Nations’ largest room) and the Salle des Pas Perdus, from which you can see the Armillary Sphere and the monument commemorating the conquest of outer space.
And in front of the Palais des Nations is the Place des Nations, Geneva’s contribution to world peace and where you’ll find water jets, mosaics and the striking Broken Chair sculpture, a most emblematic work of art created from wood and symbolising the campaign against the use of landmines.
Just a stone’s throw away is the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent where you’ll discover 150 years of humanitarian history alongside details of current Red Cross and Red Crescent worldwide operations. The museum itself comprises three main areas, so divided to explore the trio of major challenges facing the world today: defending human dignity, restoring family links and reducing natural risks. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am, entrance is CHF 15 for adults and free for children under 12 years of age.
And whilst you’re there, be sure to take in the special exhibition entitled ‘Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Non-Violence’, the first exhibition of its kind to explore the visual arts and Gandhi’s lifelong mission to highlight non-violence, compassion and social justice. Running until early January 2016, the exhibition brings together some 100 works spanning several centuries and continents, with paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, sculptures, rare books and films on display.
Of course whilst Geneva enjoys its reputation as a centre for peace and diplomacy, there’s so much more to see and do whilst in the city. The Old Town, dominated by the Cathédrale St-Pierre, is Switzerland’s largest historical city and a wander around its charming cobbled streets will allow you to absorb the city’s heritage, character and atmosphere. A climb to the top of the cathedral tower (157 steps) meanwhile will reward you with sweeping panoramic views over the city, lake and beyond whilst underneath, you’ll find fascinating archaeological remains dating back to the 4th century.
As well as being cradle of the Reformation movement – be sure to pay homage at Reformation Wall in the Parc des Bastions – Geneva is also famous as the birthplace of watchmaking and across the city, you’ll find tributes to and examples of this longstanding tradition and industry, from the fully-working Flower Clock in the Jardin Anglais (it boasts the world’s longest second hand) to the musical chimes of the fairytale clock in the Passage Malbuisson. And at the Cité du Temps, take in the top-floor exhibition devoted to one of Switzerland’s foremost watchmakers and iconic brands – Swatch.