Throughout my life, I’ve come back to Geneva like a homing pigeon.
Last week, I flew to the beautiful Swiss city to celebrate my 30th Birthday. Having played a significant role in my last 30 years, Geneva felt the perfect place to welcome this new decade of my life.
My parents moved from Canada to a small French town, just over the border from Geneva, when I was only a few weeks old. My first years of school were spent at a French Nursery and then at the downtown branch of the International School of Geneva. It was a big wrench when, at almost 6 years old, I moved with my family to the USA. Within a year, I’d forgotten all the French that I’d spoken so freely with my friends as a child, and my recollections of Europe became increasingly vague. I learnt that millefeuille wasn’t a good thing to order in cafes in the US (it wasn’t anything like the original version); much better to stick to blueberry muffins and chocolate chip cookies. I went trick-or-treating at Halloween, played with neighbours’ children in the cul-de-sac we lived in in suburban California and almost forgot what snow looked like.
I still clung to some treasured memories of Europe that had made such a big impression on my very young mind: the muted, grey tones of the buildings; the markets we went to every Sunday morning; the funny shapes of the knobbly branches of Geneva’s plane trees that I loved seeing exposed when they were pruned in the winter. Much as I settled into my life in California and then New York, I still missed the place I’d spent the first few years of my existence.
I was thrilled, then, when at 15 my Dad took a job that led us back to the French/Swiss border. I still remember that first wave of excitement when I stepped off the plane at Geneva airport and the vague sense of familiarity I had on seeing the beautiful mountains and lake once again. I was enrolled once more at the International School of Geneva (this time at their countryside branch, La Châtaigneraie, near where we lived), where I completed my last three years of high-school and got my International Baccalaureate Diploma. I picked up some shaky French and gloried in being in Europe once again.
Since moving to London, I’ve been back to Geneva a few times, visiting friends who remained in the area and stocking up on my favourite French pharmacy beauty products, Swiss chocolate and raclette cheese. Much to my joy, my Dad (who has been based in New York for the past 11 years) has returned to Geneva again for a couple years for work, and of course I’m planning numerous trips. It’s lovely having him so close to London, and it was a no-brainer as to where I wanted to spend my birthday this year.
These photos were taken on a stroll through the city the day after my birthday. I love Geneva in the autumn, when there’s a crispness to the air, but it’s still just warm enough to not require a coat, and the scent of marrons chauds served from street stalls wafts through the air. Rather than chestnuts, though, we settled on macaroons for a snack – always my preference!
I’m generally not much of an impulse buyer (I tend to obsessively research and weigh up every fashion purchase I make), but I spotted this dress in the H&M window along Geneva’s main shopping strip, and decided that at 25 chf (£15), it was a terrific deal (just a fraction of the price of this very similar Maje dress). I’m so pleased I purchased it, even if it was on a whim!
Paired with a thin belt to add more shaping around the waist, an Hermes clutch I borrowed from my Mum and high-heeled ankle boots, I knew the dress would be a great staple this season. The high collar and ruffled sleeves are a nod to the 70s-inspired latest fashion trends, whilst the colour scheme gives the dress a classically autumnal style.
And now I’m already planning what I’ll pack for my next trip to Geneva, hopefully in November.
Have you ever visited Geneva, or would you like to? Do you have particular cities that always feel like home to you?