Last weekend, I made my first excursion out of Paris. I have several friends who are in Geneva doing some human rights work, and I wanted to go visit them. I took the train down to Geneva (about 3 hours if you don’t have any transfers), and it was a gorgeous ride. I had never really seen the French countryside before. It was the very end of October when I left, and the trees were all shades of red, yellow, and orange. There were rolling hills with green grass and lots of animals grazing. There were lakes and farm houses and pastures with horses. It was beautiful. I did not get nearly as much work done on the train as I planned.
Geneva itself is very beautiful and pristine and not my favorite city in the world. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. In fact, there is a beautiful lake with mountains, lots of good shopping, and enough chocolate and cheese to keep a person fat and happy for a lifetime. It would probably be a great place to live and raise a family. But, to me, it’s not very exciting. There’s not a whole lot to do, a lot of places close early, it’s a lot like being in the suburbs, really. And it’s expensive. I needed to use the internet, so I went to Starbucks, and I paid over 8 Swiss Francs for a medium-sized hot chocolate. That’s like $9. For Starbucks hot chocolate. I just tell myself that I was paying for the internet, not the drink. It makes me feel better.
On a positive note, it was fabulous to see my friends. We had a wonderful time catching up. I ate 3 dinners during my stay in Geneva, and 2 of them were fondue. That was excellent. We went to the Café du Soleil for fondue one night, and Auberge de Savièse another night. Both were good. Some other friends went to a Thai restaurant that allegedly was so good they cried tears of joy at the end of the meal. I’ll try to get the name and update the post. It was not cheap, but apparently the price was worth it.
One afternoon my friend and I went to CERN (where they have the huge particle accelerator). We tried to book ourselves on a tour, but they were booking
CERN Visitor's Center
a month in advance for individual tours and two months in advance for group tours! If you want to go to CERN, I highly recommend booking online way in advance so that you can get a tour. It’s free. We just went to the visitor’s center, which was not all that exciting. (Disclaimer: I am a law student, I’m not all that sciencey. I think science is very interesting, and I love learning about it, but the last time I studied any science was around 2003.) They showed a cool video about the big bang and the types of particles they’ve discovered (but it’s all in French!). They have a lot of interactive displays (in French and English), but it’s really just one
Inside the Visitor's Center
room. I wanted to learn more about the history of it and the work that they do, but there wasn’t much available. I know, this is not a museum, it is a scientific center, so they don’t even really need to have a visitor’s center. Still, I was slightly disappointed by the visitor’s center. The building that houses it is cool, though. I think a tour would have made this visit a lot more interesting. If anyone has been on a tour of CERN, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear about it!
Powers of Ten
Numbers in French: I made a fascinating discovery while in Geneva. Background: in French, you have to do some math when you are saying numbers. 17-19 are “ten-seven, ten-eight, and ten-nine.” Also, the numbers stop at 60. Anything after that, and you have to do math. So seventy is sixty-ten (soixante-dix), seventy-five is sixty-fifteen (soixante-quinze), eighty is four twenties (quatre-vingts), and ninety is four twenties and ten (quatre-vingt-dix). Here is a good article with all the French numbers. This system is terrible for understanding dates if you’re foreign, especially when professors quickly spit dates out at you in class, and it takes a lot of getting used to. For example, 1999 is mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf (one thousand nine hundred four twenties-ten-nine). And here in Paris they speak very quickly. I have gotten okay at it, but still I have to concentrate very hard on the dates. Discovery in Geneva: I bought something, and it was 13.90. In French, that’s treize quatre-vingt-dix. The woman rang me up and said treize nonante. Nonante?! Huh?! Is that quatre-vingt-dix? I asked her. Yes, in Geneva we use nonante. That’s ninety. Not four-twenties-ten. Ninety. Brilliant! I love Switzerland! Such efficient people! But that’s not all. She went on to tell me that they also use septante (seventy, instead of sixty-ten) and huitante (eighty), although in Geneva they don’t use huitante, they still use quatre-vingt. In Belgium it’s the same. But in other parts of Switzerland they use huitante. Dialects in Switzerland are different, and some areas use octante or even otante for eighty. But many places use it, and it’s much easier to learn!
So they have septante, huitante (or quatre-vingts, octante, otante, depending on where you are), and nonante for seventy, eighty, and ninety. Amazing!
In Other News: One of my secret ambitions is to be a novelist. To do that, I think one of the requirements is to actually write a novel if I ever want to have a shot. So, this month I am participating in NaNoWriMo, a month-long novel writing extravaganza! To win, you have to write 50,000 words in one month. I just started the novel on Tuesday, along with hundreds of thousands of others participating around the world. I’m very excited about it! I’ll keep you posted on my progress this month on the sidebar of the blog. Wish me luck! If you want to participate, it’s not too late!
New words: tomber malade (to get sick/”fall sick”), le métier (job, profession, trade, or craft), quiconque (whoever/anyone who), facultatif (optional), mettre en cause (blame/accuse/suspect), puisque (since), franchement (frankly), le moule (mold, as in the kind you use to make something), ménager (to handle something carefully), immeuble (building)