A pink taxi

A pink taxi

July 25, 2010

Combatting Sundays

Sundays can be very long winded in Switzerland. The whole country dozes off, turning into a real Slumberland. The streets are melancholic in winter and mysteriously silent in summer. All businesses are closed, including restaurants and cafes. Sundays in Geneva make Sabbath feel like a party.

When I was in boarding school our "parole" area on sundays was limited to our Petit Lancy neighborhood which consisted of a cemetery and a loony house. So I remained on campus, studied and bonded with my friends, if I could not escape to the mountains to ski. Nothing in Geneva inspired us anyway because the town slept all Sunday like it usually does after 7pm on weekdays.

But I have made Sundays with my children the most active day of the week. No sooner than we wake up that we bring out their scooters and bikes and cross the street to the Mouettes (the taxi boats) that ferry us to the other side of the lake.

We arrive in the red light district, the one area in Geneva where a handful of cafes are open, pass the closed sex shops and the random loitering prostitutes that smile at the sight of me running on foot after three kids on wheels.

We reach Cafe des Arts, a jazz bar that serves brunch on Sundays. The patron is an African man, Eric, who has known us for over a decade. I should say he knows my eldest son because they are the two to who communicate. They talk music (my son impressed him with Louis Armstrong once), he tells him about his life in a skyscraper in Dubai.

As soon as we are seated, preferably on the terrace sidewalk, my" renverse" (a Swiss cafe au lait concoction) and Ovomaltine (a malt chocolate preparation) for the kids are served. In our respective drinks, we dip our mouth watering pains au chocolat (flaky and praline nutella filled). I cannot eat any other pain au chocolat in the world after this experience. My children's boisterous conversation probably jolts the rest of the clientele's post saturday night hangovers. They sit, mumbling like the Card Players of Cezanne.

Then we run to the parks of Geneva, the more distant they are, the more attractive they seem to us. Like Victor Hugo, the poet of my childhood years, I follow my children. They rule my sundays.

The following poem, I happened upon on such a Sunday, in a park, on a sign next to a fountain.

"[...] En patriarche
Que menent les enfants, je reglerai ma marche
Sur les temps que prendront leurs jeux et leurs repas
Et sur la petitesse aimable de leurs pas
Ils cueilleront des fleurs, ils mangeront des mures."

These lovely verses by Victor Hugo are difficult to translate because they are so beautiful in their original version. This poem is about the kings of our sundays, our children who, in their lovely sweetness, lead us forward in their love of game and nature.


  1. I have so many comments on this blog I don't know where to begin. As I read your blog and began to imagine what Geneva must be like on a Sunday I went into a light coma and drool was coming out the side of my mouth... I was jolted out of that comma as I came to the part about "sex shops" I am stunned and amazed that Geneva has a red light district with actual honest to goodness "sex shops"...second of all, the idea that you are brave enough to take your very inquisitive children past those sex shops is incredible...also, I'm surprised that your son has conversations with Eric from the coffee shop rather than the smiling prostitue who is standing next to a sex shop. Who are you trying to fool with your "yawn, Geneva is so boring" blog? I bet Torab has never had so much excitement in his life!

    Now, the fact that people have hangovers in Geneva is a bit weird for me. All I keep imagining of Geneva is Julie Andrews twirling on a mountain top with a fluffy sheep munching on grass behind her. Is ANYTHING in excess ever done in Switzerland?

    My last comment, dear cousin of mine, is that Sunday's are by nature supposed to be lazy days. After 6 days of running around in Geneva don't you think you and your brood should give Geneva a break and just sit inside and REST. I'm sure that the inhabitants of that community would be ever so grateful...

  2. All I can think about now are those delicious pains au chocolat! They are legendry! Also, the best coffee is to be drank in Switzerland. Even having coffee at Geneva or Zurich airports is to die for!

  3. Cela me rappelle un certain dimanche, courant derrière Torab sur son vélo, pour venir vous rejoindre à ce fameux café, et manger ces délicieux pains au chocolat.
    J'ai pris la mouette pour rentrer, ce qui ne m'était pas arrivé depuis bien longtemps!

  4. The curfew takes place in the sleepy town of Geneva at 5:30 pm on Saturday and wakes up again on Monday morning where the busy bankers work in their secretive beehives.You have to know the place well to know that the only two restaurants open for starved visitors are L'Entercote and Da Paolo!Mind you there is one month that the tradition of closure is varied,and that is la Fete de Geneve,where the Gulf Arab visitors flood the streets.
    I have a story with the infamous red district of Geneva that starts from the train station until Hotel Beau Rivage.It was a cold Christmas night after a dinner at the Cafe de Paris,when I held the tender hands of two of my little kids,that I noticed made-up ladies in fur coats standing at the various building entrances.I innocently told my wife:finding a taxi in Geneva late at night is impossible,look at these poor ladies freezing their butts waiting for one!?thank God our hotel is close by!I guess that was the innocence of a father,believing he is walking in the Calvinist city of Geneva on a lonely winter night!