As many, if not all of you know I recently did a two week tour of duty in Central Europe, specifically around Lake Geneva, for work. While I spent the vast majority of my time in the office or on the phone at the company owned flat, I was able to find some time to look around and take a few pictures.
I boarded a flight out of Minneapolis at 7 pm on Sunday March 26th for an overnight flight to Amsterdam then a quick shuttle flight to Geneva, Switzerland. Usually, I sleep very very well on flights; not this one. My Admin put me about two rows from the bathroom (which turned out to be the most happening place overnight, seriously you would have thought they were giving away gold bricks in there) and in an aisle seat so I didn't get a wink of sleep. The flight was about 8.5 hours, essentially leaving at dusk and arriving at lunchtime.
The next leg of my trek was a quick jaunt to Geneva. Luckily my flights were so close together that they pushed me right to the front of the customs line. The lady at the check was nice enough once I let her know that I was taking a course in Switzerland to provide information for a commodity trading course with my company, which I take is a horse of a different color than if I were to receive information in a commodity course; seemed like splitting hairs to me but she took it quite seriously. Below is a picture of me loading up on the shuttle flight; notice a couple of nuances; 1) it is outside, I walked down the gate down a flight of stairs onto a bus which drove us a couple of miles to this plane...that was a first; 2) the pilots window is open, flying at 35,000ft i would have assumed that the windows don't open but, clearly, I was wrong.
This flight lasted about an hour; I slept the whole trip which was marvelous yet only 45 mins. This is the image I woke up to over Geneva. I have no idea if there is any semblance to the perfect looking "V" that I can't explain how it was made, but it was pretty cool. Below is also another image of the Alps as I flew over Geneva.
I landed around 3 pm; promptly went to the office to get my key to the flat and went to the flat, which is located across the street from the office. I decided to take a walk to see my surroundings. The office is in a residential-type neighborhood, below are is essentially what each street looks like.
In addition, the neighborhood has a large park at it's center. I got to know this inside-out as to get anywhere the quickest way was walking through the park. Here I constantly saw people sitting around reading, playing soccer, flying drones, running, etc.
Some helpful tips I learned on this walk; 1) I don't know nearly enough French to be alone in Geneva for long; 2) American Express (the corporate card) is not accepted anywhere, Visa (my personal card) is accepted everywhere; 3) even though you don't have cell service you can load a map of, lets say, Geneva in Google Maps on your phone you can still use the app as it will keep tracking you and you won't get lost! This would become a huge help in later endeavors.
I (stupidly) logged onto my computer when I got back to the flat and was bombarded with IMs, emails, and calls. Geneva is 7 hours ahead of Minneapolis so this was peak morning busyness. I finally shut it down at 9 pm. By my calculation I was up 31 hours with 45 minutes of sleep after taking two flights so I'm going to bet those last couple of hours of "work" was not my best.
After getting about 12 hours of sleep I dragged myself into work on Tuesday. I met with a bunch of people, had meetings, etc in the morning then in the afternoon when it was work hours in the U.S. I was engulfed with that activity...this would be my life for the next few days (to not bore you with repeating it just assume if I am not writing something different then I am following this routine). One fun thing about the office is that there is roof access, so when needing some fresh air you can grab an espresso and poke your head out there. Here are a couple pictures of the views.
Thursday night we went to Carouge, which is a suburb of Geneva where my manager and a couple of my co-workers live. The fact is no one can actually afford to live in Geneva, if you agree with this list it is #7 most expensive in the world http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/11/the-10-most-expensive-countries-in-the-world-.html. To give you some real life perspective for lunch this day I had a pizza, just a small one and it was $45. So, even upper class people don't live in Geneva, they live in wonderful little spots like Carouge. I very much liked this town, it was laid back, a lot of cool places. There was a neat farmers market going on in the middle of town which apparently occurs every evening after work.
I only show this one because I got to know that beautiful church you see in the background very well as I walked around it for 2 hours on a call with U.S. folks regarding the project I've been on for the past few months instead of having dinner. The two ladies to the left are co-workers.
On Friday night I decided to do some major exploring of Geneva to find out what this city is really all about.
Trees were blooming all over the city. This is a type of magnolia, saw many of them as well as a few cherry blossoms.
This fountain is a big deal.
Nailed the selfie with the fountain.
Ah yes, and it wouldn't be Switzerland without chocolate. These folks go nuts over chocolate. It is an absolute art here. Hopefully you can zoom in on these eggs, which are about the size of a football and see how intricately they are put together. I have no idea how much they cost but it would likely be a choice between and egg and someones college education.
On Saturday I decided to take a train out of the city. I knew I would have to be on calls starting around 3 pm so I got up early and got to it. It took me a while to figure out the train station (where to buy tickets, where to get on the train, etc...damned French). I was finally successful, even with coffee (surprisingly only Starbucks at the train station). Crushing it!
Less than 5 mins on a slow moving train from downtown this was my view to the North
and to the South.
As I journeyed on my 1+ hour train ride I went through vineyards and small villages. Going along the North side of Lake Geneva was stunning.
First stop, which was on the complete opposite side of Lake Geneva was Montreax. Montreax is a very cool little place that is known for it's Jazz Festival. This city is all about music; in fact in the video below you will see a statue of Freddie Mercury who lived in the town, it's like Elvis and Memphis.
This plane came out of nowhere and started doing loop-the-loops, twists and flips in the air. It wasn't a formal show because there were only about 20 people watching but I appreciated it.
Elevation changes are drastic here.
To show the climate of this area those are palms. There were many palms on this side of the lake and it was described to me as similar to the South of France on the Mediterranean.
The music hall with busts of music legends...surprisingly all American. Aretha Franklin is the close one, Ray Charles behind her, there was also B.B. King, Carlos Santana and others who had all played at some point at the festival.
After spending about 3 hours in Montreax I hopped back on the train and headed back toward Geneva. On the way was a city called Lausanne which I was told I had to see if I had time. I found out later that the CEO of Cargill was at a European commodities summit in the city just a day prior. As I was walking around the city I found this cool little chocolate shop where I could see they were training about 8 chocolatiers. I decided this was the spot to go in and buy my quota of chocolate. No one in there spoke a lick of English, I was no help with my French, they thought that was hilarious and gave me a bunch of free chocolate...I like this place a lot.
Lausanne is more of a boating city than Geneva, Montreax, or Evian. Clearly if you have a boat on this lake this is the spot to dock it.
You might notice a change of weather from the first pictures and video. I actually go sunburned in Montreax and froze in Lausanne. It was time for me to get moving.
While travelling it is always a pain to try and get workouts in, but with my handy Google Maps app that wouldn't let me get lost I was still able to get a couple of runs in while getting to experience different parts of the city. Here was my Sunday run with a few stops along the way to enjoy the views.
Sunday was my last chance to do any sightseeing. I felt like I had seen the whole place by this point but went back to Old Town primarily in hopes of finding somewhere to eat. This brings me to another point that I haven't hit on. Everywhere in Geneva outside of the core of the city shuts down at 7 pm, I'm not kidding. Same with the suburb towns, just the core of the town will have something open. This posed a problem as I was roughly 2 miles from the main part of the city, so if I didn't get food quickly after work I was in for a long walk to find something. Sundays are much worse, even in Old Town I only found one place open, which was an Irish Pub.
Bill and Hillary Clinton had breakfast at this place with the cannons, I just know this because every person from Geneva told me this; there is apparently a plaque too.
Midday Tuesday I headed to Evian. My Enterprise Leader wanted to give me a ride so we could catch up (I am associated with a business unit which is part of an enterprise, there are 30ish business units that make up 5 enterprises that make up Cargill; since this guy runs one of the enterprises he is one that I do not say no to if he wants me to do something). All positive on the ride. Evian was about an hour drive on the South side of the lake (I've now essentially hit every corner of this lake) and was blown away at the hotel they were putting us up in. It was a hell of a resort. After checking in I had dinner and drinks with my other 30 participants and 15 members of Cargill who either helped put together this course, were presenting, or were there to observe and gather information.
The next few days are not terribly interesting unless you are into trading so I will spare you most details. One thing we did that was cool was go up into the mountains to this restaurant you see below, very authentic where we ate nothing but cheese and lunch meat (essentially).
The event culminated in me giving a recorded 15 minute presentation that will be seen by executives and others (which they will probably not really watch or care about in general) followed up by a 15 minute Q&A from people who I really doubt think that I can give them any information they don't already know.
Friday afternoon I headed back to Geneva to catch a 7 am flight home; I was in an airport hotel which was a pretty easy walk. I got to the airport a shade before 5 am on Saturday; it was early enough my baggage check wasn't even open yet. Finally people started to show up closer to 5:30, when I got to the front I was told that my flight out of Geneva was cancelled because the pilot was sick and I was going to miss my flight to Minneapolis! Outstanding. She then kindly asked me to go in this other line to be re-booked. I went to the other line where I was the 6th person back. I proceeded to stand in that line for 1 hour and 20 minutes before I got to the counter. Luckily when I got there I was fully taken care of, I had a flight out of Geneva at 9 am and a flight to Minneapolis at 1 pm, they even ushered me to the front of the baggage check and proceeded to shew me off to security where I walked right through getting to my gate at 8:20. I leisurely went to this little cafe to get a coffee and muffin, free of charge for all of my trouble, then headed back to my gate to hear that my plane had been delayed 15 minutes, sure whatever. The next thing I notice is my 9 am flight time now says 10 am; hmm I hope I don't have any problem getting on my next flight I am thinking. About that time they turn off the gate screen entirely; s#!t. The pilot then comes out and tells us that there is an oxygen leak on the plane, can't fly, and we need to go back and get our luggage from baggage check and go back to the freaking ticketing line to be re-booked!
Mind you all of this is happening in the middle of the night Minneapolis time, so I'm texting Daisy who is clearly not understanding the gravity of the situation because she texts me as I'm trying to get my bags thinking that I am on my flight to Minneapolis out of Amsterdam (she was correct the flight I was supposed to be on back home left right on time). I finally get my bag and get into another line.
I stand there for what seems like forever, below is a picture of the chaos. Daisy has let me know that there is a noon flight to Amsterdam and a 3:45 flight to Minneapolis so I still have hope. When I finally get to the front of the line (I was second in the line so this was no real win) I lay down the law. I demand a first class seat to Minneapolis today, and I don't care what airports or which direction around the globe it takes me to get there! That is perfectly acceptable Mr. Simpson we can get you first class through London on Monday arriving in Minneapolis at 7:45 pm. I then really lay down the law; I will take any seat on any plane any direction around the globe that gets me to Minneapolis today! I'm sorry Mr. Simpson but we have overbooked all flights out of Geneva that would get you to Minneapolis today; the best we can do is fly you out Sunday at noon... 😒
So they put me up in a hotel and give me free food. I wait another hour and a half for the shuttle. For some reason they put me up in a hotel in the middle of farmland, seriously I could see horses and cattle out my window and below is the view as I arrived at the hotel.
The next morning I awoke, went to the airport, got on the plane, and had an uneventful flight back home. This time I did get to have some company as there were a couple other Cargill folks on the flight. I finally got home at 6 pm on Sunday so happy to see my family again. Seriously the kids seemed so much different than when I left, luckily they still remembered me!