Tag Archives: Geneva

Stuff I will miss: Geneva gay scene

The Gay Times described Geneva’s gay scene as “slight”. Compared to Zurich it’s definitely modest, which isn’t surprising since Geneva, despite it’s reputation as wealthy and international, is a small city. It doesn’t help either if you don’t speak any French: this is, after all, Suisse Romande. Once you get that, there’s plenty to enjoy in Geneva: Association 360°, a comprehensive, informative and fun LGBT magazine, cafe/bar Le Phare in Rue Lissignol and cafe/bookstore Livresse in Rue Vignier. A saturday morning coffee at the crowded Chez Quartier in Rue Voltaire and afternoon tea in La Theiere qui rit (The laughing teapot, Rue de la Cite, strollers are not allowed inside!) are among the things I will miss in a few months, when I’ll be living in the Gay Mecca of Amsterdam.

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Le Phare

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Visiting Geneva? Don’t miss this cafe

No flashing of overpriced watches in cafe Le Phare and no exorbitant cars parked in front of its terrasse. This gay/lesbian/whatever cafe is one of the last alternative strongholds in a city that ranked forth in the 2012 list of expensive world cities. Treat yourself to a beer or a hot chocolate and enjoy the relaxed, welcoming atmosphere of Le Phare. Image

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Stitch ‘n Bitch Geneva

photoStitch ‘n Bitch Geneva, every wednesday night in Starbucks at Quai Bergues, is a great way to meet fellow knit and crochet addicts, chat and enjoy hot chocolate. But you can also just take a nap, as my dog shows.

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Free Pussy Riot in Geneva

It was stifling hot in front of the United Nations headquarters in Geneva last Friday. A group of Iranian dissidents was preparing a sit-in for the 477th day in a row. Tourists were taking photographs of the flags decorating the entrance of the world’s leading organization for human rights. A friend and I unrolled a banner, put on a colorful balaclava and armed us with yarn and needles.

It was a few hours before three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot would be sentenced for their “punk prayer” against Putin in a church in Moscow. The day before, a fellow knitter has posted a call for action on Facebook. Knitting a balaclava, part of the band’s trademark outfit, in front of the UN would be the proper way to show our outrage.

“Imprisonment for a subversive performance?” a Spanish gentleman asked us. “Ridiculous.” A tourist from China wanted to know if I was related to one of the band’s members. He was just taking a picture when three policemen approached. “Do you have a permit for this manifestation? In Switzerland, if two people hold a banner, you need a permit. Those are the rules.” Could we apply for one at the spot? The policemen looked as if I swallowed a balaclava. We should have applied months in advance! “There’s a philosophical conflict between liberty and equality,” a Russian scientist from CERN tuned in. “Let me tell you something about nineteenth-century Russia.” Either the idea of a history lecture or my fishnet stockings softened the policemen. “We won’t fine you just now. But you can’t show your banner or wear your balaclava. Those are the rules.” Amazingly, we didn’t need a permit to knit. The Iranian protesters offered us chairs. “I wanted to bring flags,” an employee of an international Trade Union said. “But our Russian members are all pro-Putin.” A Russian MD nodded. “You can’t have an important position in Russia and be against Putin.” His supporters had already spotted our Facebook event page and were posting vulgarities.

The Pussy Riot members are sentenced to two years in prison. I will finish that balaclava and wear it.

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The real France

Yvette rolls her eyes and clucks her disapproval. “Do you remember the Parisian who lives at number 23? We haven’t seen her for ages!” Though Yvette is 82, she keeps a close watch on everyone. Yvette lives with her 85-year-old brother Maurice. “Living with your sister is actually worse than being married,” he jokes. “I can’t divorce her.”

Yvette and Maurice are our neighbors in Anduze, a village in the south of France where Spouse and I bought our first house. The region enjoys an abundance of wine cellars, hiking trails and medieval castles. Unfortunately, unemployment is very high. After a few blissful years spouse and I had to move to the other side of the country. We let our house in Anduze. Maintenance offered us the chance to revisit.

We were welcomed back with open arms. “It’s not the same without you,” our neighbor Monique said. “Are you moving back?” the baker’s wife asked hopefully. “I don’t allow Dutch people on my terrace,” the owner of our favorite café said with a grin, “but I’ll make an exception for you”. We were informed about births, deaths, the dry weather and the shortcomings of monsieur the mayor. This is no simple gossip. It’s care for the village, its inhabitants and surroundings and comes with sunshine and the easy lifestyle that characterizes the south of France.

The contrast with our new habitat couldn’t be bigger. People here don’t know their neighbors. They don’t care who the mayor is and what decisions he takes. The weather allows for lush vegetation, which people fight with trimmers and chainsaws. They are too stressed to tolerate the mooing of cows, the leaves of a tree on their terrace or a teenager turning up his music. There’s no café here, the only place for people to meet is in the traffic jams morning and night. The average income is twice as high as in Anduze but people seem four times as unhappy.

When I say goodbye, Yvette grabs my hand. “Will you say hi from us to your girlfriend?” Maurice asks me if we’ll come back soon. I’m already dreaming of it.

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