Alistair and I arrived to Geneva in the morning. Both of us barely slept during our flight, my makeup had worn off, my clothes starting to smell. His mother would be picking us up from the airport and I was nervous. I wanted her to like me. I went to the bathroom to slather lotion on my face. As much as I love meeting new people, I consistently feel like I'm not enough. I considered make up but it felt like a lost cause and besides, Geneva was waiting on the other side of the arrivals terminal doors. Alistair was going to show me where he grew up. I was about to have the best vacation but I didn't know it yet.
We exited the hall and his mother was standing right by the door, smiling enthusiastically. She was the same height as Alistair, with the same nose and mouth and smile. She was so warm and inviting.
My first views of Geneva were of the cute stucco homes and green trees in the towns twenty minutes outside of the city proper. His mother took us to her house for coffee, in Coppet, then we went to his sisters house where we would stay the remainder of the trip. His sister's house was gorgeous and right on Lake Geneva. I could see the boats passing and the famous Jet d'Eau from her backyard. We dropped our things, napped and Alistair looked at his phone.
"Sammy wants to meet us for a drink on Lake Geneva," he said. Sammy was his old friend who lived with her husband and kids in Barcelona but was in Geneva visiting family. We hopped in the car and drove towards downtown.
"Do you mind if we make a stop?" Alistair asked. I told him no, and we drove into one of the little neighborhoods, arriving at a small graveyard. Alistair's grandmother died a few years back and they were extremely close. She was buried there with a very elegant gravestone. Alistair took my hand and said in French, "I'd like you to meet Ariel, grandmother." I didn't think it would be possible to love Alistair more deeply than I loved him before then, but seeing him clean her grave and speak to her made me love him even more. It was my favorite moment from the entire trip. I get a little teary eyed when I remember it.
We continued on. Alistair pointed out all the places from his past. Traveling makes my find feel less dense and more elastic. Passing advertisements for companies I've never heard of, street signs in French, and cars I'd never seen before. Its like opening a slow door that never gets closed. I learn, and I do it happily.
We parked a car in the garage and walked to the edge of the lake where a beach club had been set up. We took a seat with a glass of white wine each and watched swimmers jump from diving boards in the middle of the lake. It was perfect weather, a perfect spot. It was exactly what I wanted.
Sammy's friends were all gathered at an outdoor bar within walking distance. So we crossed the bridge at the end of the lake, and arrived at a public park.
It was packed with the after-work crowd. Sammy's friends were drinking a magnum of rose. Everyone was wearing Rolex watches. Sammy warned me not to leave my bag out of sight, though it was full of fashionable people, there were always purse thieves about in Geneva snatching bags from restaurant chairs. It was kind of funny that people were doing something that had long since died in New York, since no woman was crazy enough to put their bags on their chairs in the city.
We laughed and talked for an hour there, then decided to go grab dinner at Entrecôte, the steak frites restaurant where everyone gets the same meal: endless steak, fries and salad. Sammy and I have only met a few times, but it was nice to get to know her better.
The next day we had plans to swim in the pool with Alistair's brother and three-year-old son. Then that evening, Alistair took me to a restaurant on the water for the Geneva speciality: filets de perche, little fish cooked in butter.
Saturday Alistair took me to the Old Town, a neighborhood of Geneva known for it's medieval architecture, adjacent to lots of good shopping spots. We had lunch at Brasserie Lipp, sitting in the back garden. I tried to order coffee in French, but the waiter corrected me.
"In Geneva you do not say noisette, you say machiatto."
I was served toast to go with my tuna tartare, but suddenly a waiter came by and scooped up the toast.
"But she needs it for the tartare," Alistair said to him in French.
"This is Lipp! She can't have cold toast, I'll bring back warm toast," said the waiter with a flourish.
Old Town was so cute. We went to the oldest house in Geneva, now a museum, and toured it. I saw a diorama of Geneva's fortification system when it was threatened by the Savoy. We walked to the top of the Cathedral and looked down on the city's terra cotta rooftops.
That night Alistair's mom had us over for dinner (she mad a burrata, tomato and basil salad that I have daydreams about still) and showed us photos of Alistair as a baby. She has a pet parrot who sat on her shoulder through the evening doing imitations of her "oh la la!" and the like.
We had an early night, since we would be leaving the next morning for a five day tour of Switzerland and one night in Lake Como. There would be a lot of trains and cars and hotel rooms. Alistair had planned it so perfectly there were homemade diagrams for every train transfer. He knew the places well, and he was equally as excited.
"Are we going to see something that looks like it's from Heidi?" I asked.
"It's all Heidi," he laughed.