Some shopowners sell to make a living. Others care about their merchandise but keep the relationship strictly professional. Then there are those who embrace the individuality and provenance of each article as if it were a child, valuing its uniqueness while creating a harmony in the family of merchandise as a whole. “There isn’t one thing here I don’t love. I can only sell what I love.” It’s obvious that Isabelle Giovenni is just such a proprietor as she introduces me to each of the product lines at her boutique Capricieuse, which opened its doors on 11 April in a luminous corner property at the intersection of rue des Eaux-Vives and rue des Vollandes in the Eaux-Vives neighborhood of Geneva.
If it’s spring it’s time again for the creative extravaganza that is the UNIcréa Arts & Crafts Salon, which twice annually brings together more than 100 artisans ‘handpicked’ for their originality, passion and talent by UNIcréa founder and director Céline Dreveton. I spoke with Céline last autumn (Meet Céline Dreveton: Artisan, Entrepreneur and Creative Force) just before the Salon’s 22nd edition at the Château de la Sarraz and she impressed me with her commitment to unveiling fresh, new talent at each subsequent fair.
Since the early 1900s, Geneva’s food hall has been a beloved feature of culinary life in the city. Many generations of the same local families — and expatriates and visitors who come and go and come back again — loyally purchase goods from the merchants whose stands line the two long corridors of the Halle de Rive. The President of the Halle’s Merchants’ Association tells me why that’s so. One of my favorite shortcuts — whether or not I needed food — when walking to my former home in Geneva’s Eaux-Vives district from the city centre led me straight through La Halle de Rive, a culinary corridor running between Rue Pierre-Fatio and Boulevard Helvétique. The observance of quality and service, the array of beautifully presented produce, the friendly greetings of the food merchants, and the enjoyment of the locals gathering for lunch or raising un verre at the in-house Bistro des Halles left me feeling I was sharing a cherished, time-honored tradition in the life of the city. Which, of course, I was.
The diversity of foreign foodstuffs on Swiss and local French supermarket shelves has dramatically increased over the past few decades as has the number of independent suppliers offering high-quality ethnic ingredients from faraway sources. So an expat desperate for a fix of home needn’t go far to satisfy cravings for a favorite edible or to find the necessary ingredients to whip up a beloved dish in their own kitchens.
Many medieval villages dot the landscape of Vaud Canton, but of those that lie in populous areas and withstand heavy traffic, possibly none have preserved their charm and architectural integrity more successfully than the Bourg of Coppet. Located about halfway between the cities of Geneva and Nyon, Coppet’s main street, the “Grand-Rue”, runs parallel to the Lac Leman shoreline and in summer, day-trippers disembark from paddlesteamers at the town’s quay to visit the Château de Coppet, located a five minute walk uphill along a village sidestreet.
Due to unanticipated, and to me at least, deeply disturbing events in our world this past year, I’m really craving some comfort and joy this Christmas time. Happily, there’s plenty on offer at Christmas markets across Switzerland this November-December, including some very special ones right on our doorstep in the Lake Geneva region. Here are a few of my highlights for you to consider, all of them within easy distance by car or public transport.