We’ve had our beautiful and exciting days of snow and now we’re back to that rainy fog that tends to descend on Geneva during our winter months. Let’s face it, living next to a lake surrounded by mountains sounds great but during the months of mid-November to mid-February our location creates a damp and foggy weather pattern.
The good news is our winter tends to be only 3 months long. The bad news is those three months can do severe damage to one’s mental wellbeing. So let me share my advice of surviving Geneva’s winter months.
Find the sun: This is imperative and actually not so difficult. The sun is usually not far away; less than a thousand vertical meters. In fact during times of fog the radio stations announce the height you need to climb in order to find sunshine on your face. Near Geneva you can hike the Saleve or go a little further into the French Alps which are only an hour by car.
If you prefer Switzerland, you can go anywhere by train and bus. I like to head to the Valais. I kid you not that as soon as you reach the other end of the lake and enter the valley, the fog disappears and the sun beats down bringing a smile to your face. The southern exposed resorts of Ovronnaz, Villar and Crans Montana are known for their sun (but don’t expect great snow.)
Get warm: Geneva has two lake-side sauna/spas. The Bains des Pâquis is very low-key with its saunas, Turkish baths and steam baths (check out the blog Winter Heat at the Bains des Pâquis) . It is located on the lake’s edge so after heating up you can plunge directly into the cold water. My Swiss friends tell me this is an excellent form of building up one’s immune system.
Alternatively there is the new luxurious Bain Bleu near Genève plage. I have not yet been to this upscale spa with its heated rooftop pool and beautiful Turkish bath but based on the photos I’ve seen it may be worth your money.
If you don’t like saunas, another warm experience is the champagne fondue at the Buvette des Bains des Pâquis. By ordering your fondue outside in the freezing cold, you feel even warmer when you step into the cozy, wood-heated shelter to eat. I found this nice description of one visitor’s experience at Be a TravelBee. Dinners are full so call ahead to reserve.
Get out and explore: Try visiting somewhere you haven’t been yet; maybe a museum, the cathedral or a new part of town.
One exposition that caught my eye is called “Mirroir d’eau. Du Léman au Biwa” at the Musée du Leman. The photographer has captured on film the moments when the sky and water flow into one another. Sound familiar? Perhaps this exposition can shed light and beauty on the weather that is so difficult for our minds to handle.
Be social. Be with friends: A good laugh, dinner or excursion with friends is always an important aspect of wellbeing. If you’re new to Geneva and a woman, come visit our Club. There is always something going on and it usually includes a warm cup of coffee or tea, maybe a bit of wine, some laughter and always a smile.
Embrace the weather: Sometimes you just have to force yourself to see the beauty in darkness. Personally I love taking walks along the lake or in the fields when the fog is at its lowest. I have also started taking nighttime bike rides on the dedicated bike paths along the lake. This past December was particularly special when the fog was so thick that the airport was closed. I was out early several mornings walking and I enjoyed hearing the eerie fog horns of the yellow public transport boats carefully crossing the lake.
Lastly, you just have to be patient. Every now and then at the end of the day something changes in the temperature. The fog lifts and the sun comes out just for a few minutes. Make sure you stop what your are doing, step outside and soak in those rays.
Is there something special you do to keep the winter blues at bay? I am always looking for new ideas so please share.
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/
I go by Geneve Plage all the time but did not realize the baths had opened! Nothing to beat the winter blues like a nice steam bath and massage. Thanks for sharing!
If you go, please tell me how they are. I am currently training a service dog and am afraid he’s not allowed in there!
Excellent post! The gray, dreary months can seem endless, especially at first. But sunlight and springtime always beckon.
One thing that I’d add to your advice would be: make an effort to explore all parts of winter outdoor activity, even if you’re not a “skier”. I shied away from the slopes every year, but then friends introduced me to snowshoeing and it was so much fun.
Cortney, it’s so good to hear from you! Thank you for your comments. I agree with you. Skiing isn’t everything. We used take the kids up past St. Cergue to sled and then have hot chocolate and a dried meat and cheese plate in a very cozy fire-lit “cabane.”