Arrival in Switzerland

Trip Start Jul 15, 2015
Trip End Aug 05, 2015

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Flag of France  , Rhône-Alpes,
Thursday, July 16, 2015

Yesterday, Wednesday July 15th,Marjolaine drove me to DFW for my early afternoon flight that would start this European and Indian Ocean trip. My long-haul tickets had been purchased from Air France, but the first flight was a two-hour code-share segment on Delta. When I checked in at the Delta counter, they couldn't find my Air France segments, or rather, I was told, they could find them on the "back end" of my reservation but not the “front end.” I didn’t know reservations had ends, but I was informed that the “end” result, if you will, was they Delta could not issue boarding passes for the Air France flights. I would have to pick them up in Detroit. They could however check my suitcase all the way to Geneva, which was a mercy.

So I flew to Detroit without ongoing boarding passes. I headed to the Delta Lounge where I had a three hour layover and where I hoped to pick up my boarding passes. They still couldn’t issue them; I would have to wait until I arrived at the gate. If it weren’t for the last minute, many things would not get done….

I was thankful that the boarding passes to Paris and Geneva were in fact delivered at the gate. I was seated next to a French woman who didn’t say a word to me during the whole flight other than responding to my greeting when she sat down. I only knew she was French from her accent when she spoke with the flight crew.

On arrival in Paris, I went through the usual formalities: locating the next departure gate and making my way there, while passing immigration and security along the way. When arriving from another country, one must go through security again even without leaving the flight side of the airport. I had time in the Air France lounge for two bottles of mineral water and a cappuccino, before it was time to board the plane for the hop to Geneva at the south-western tip of Switzerland.

If the air is clear, arriving in Geneva by air is breathtaking. The approach from Paris takes a plane over the Jura Mountains which are, generally speaking, the border between France and Switzerland, to the northern end of Lake Geneva, which in French is called Lac Léman. The plane then turns south and flies over the lake, which means the Jura Mountains are on the right and the taller Alps, some of which are snow-covered throughout the year, on the left. The weather was cloudy on this day so the Alps weren’t too clear, but they could still be seen through the foggy air.

On arrival at the airport, I followed the passengers into the Swiss side of the airport. Cointrin airport is built right on the French-Swiss border, and inside there are French and Swiss Zones. In my experience however the luggage is always delivered on the Swiss side. So I followed the line of passengers into the Swiss zone, past immigration officers who stopped every fourth or fifth passenger to check passports, and reached the luggage carousels. By suitcase popped out quite early. I walked through the customs tunnel without being stopped and the took the escalator upstairs to the departure area and followed the signs to the French zone, as if I were a departing passenger. This was because I had reserved a rental car on the French side of the airport.

I reserved a French car rather than a Swiss one because I will be dropping it in Bordeaux and that means leaving it in the same country in which I picked it up. International drop-offs raise the rental cost significantly. In my research for this trip, I found that to pick up the car on the Swiss side of the airport would have doubled the price. The only drawback would be not being sure of having the Swiss vignette sticker on the windshield. The vignette is how the Swiss charge tolls to use their highways. One pays 40 Francs, about 45 dollars, the sticker is placed prominently on the windshield and then one may use the highway for the whole year. This is a reasonable system for Swiss residents. For tourists it can be quite expensive. Even if one only uses the highways one time, it still costs 40 Francs.

I walked through the French immigration booth, there were no officials present, and into the departure zone where passengers were checking in for flights from the French zone. This is where the car rental desks are located. Things went quickly and I was very happy with the car I was given, a VW Golf turbo diesel. Diesel is less expensive than gasoline in Europe and with a turbo charger, there is little difference in the performance of the vehicle. Most of the time we lived in France, I drove a Pass at turbo diesel.

When I arrived at the car I was happy to find the vignette on the windshield. Some other renter had paid for it. And I found rather than French plates, this car has Spanish license plates. This little VW had already come a long way, and I would be taking it back toward its home country, though not all the way. I also noticed Avis had kindly personalized the license plates with my initials, so I would not get it confused with any other black Golfs.

Loading up my luggage, I drove out into France, along the airport fence that marks the border. I crossed into Ferney Voltaire, named for the famous French writer who lived and worked there for 20 years in the mid-1700s. The King of France had forbidden him to live in Paris for his critiquing of abuses by the monarchy and the Catholic Church, and Geneva threw him out as well for writing plays, which were considered scandalous. I would love to have been a little mouse in the drawing room of his estate when he was entertaining men such as James Boswell, Adam Smith, Edward Gibbon, and Benjamin Franklin.

I drove through Ferney and on to nearby Saint Genis Pouilly where I had found an inexpensive room for the night. This French suburb of Geneva, along with the Swiss suburb Meyrin is one of the entry points for the giant underground CERN particle accelerator, the largest in the world. It has a circumference of 17 miles! I remembered reading British Astronomer Royal Martin Rees’s book Our Final Hour where he postulates that smashing subatomic particles together has a small chance of starting a chain reaction that would destroy the entire known universe. If that happened while I was in Saint Genis Pouilly at least I would be among the first to know….

I had a visit scheduled for the evening, but the man I was to visit had to cancel on short notice. So I was able to rest, get some work done on our soon-to-go-online French website, and will go to bed early.
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Clyde Kilough on

And to think that custom license plates didn't cost any extra - what a deal! :) Have a great trip!

tatianameeker on

So kind of Avis indeed. Glad you arrived safely! :)


Glad to read your travel blog again Mr. Meeker! An adequate car, free vignette and a license plate with your initials on it...good start!

Martha McCarble on

Blessings for a special man that shares his trip! Thank you for allowing us a vicarious trip!

Karen Collins on

I love reading your travel blogs. It gives me an insight to other countries and what you experience. Thanks for sharing your travels.

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