July 25, 2010
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.