Distance: 12 km (approximately)
Weather: Partly cloudy; it warmed rapidly in the morning to a high of 81F, with the breeze waiting until mid-afternoon to develop.
I’ve been visiting pilgrim friends who live near Lake Neufchâtel, northeast of Geneva. It’s been lovely to see them again, and give myself a chance to recover from jet lag. But, just as ships were not built to stay safely moored in port, this pilgrim must set foot upon the road once again.
Route: From the Protestant cathedral Saint-Pierre, where I ended the previous section and where I got an initial stamp in my pilgrim credential, the way is well- marked as the “Route 4: Via Jacobi”, as it has been all across Switzerland. Leading along lightly-trafficked streets in this heart of the old city, I see many wrought iron balconies and flower pots in the typical French style, as well as an assortment of shops, bistros, and cafes. I was too early for lunch however. Several repurposed horse fountains are along the route, starting before the cathedral, and all are marked “eau potable” so they are safe for drinking (the spigot, not the trough). It’s a great way to wet your hat on a hot day, which this was turning into. After about 30 minutes’ walking, there is a Lidl (discount German food mart) of good size with fresh baked goods. Another 10 minutes later there is a Migros (Swiss grocery chain). These are directly on the route, and the best place for resupply I saw all day. If you are disinclined to hike through downtown and suburban Geneva, tram 12 stops one block toward the Lake from Saint-Pierre, and follows the Via Jacobi exactly for the first 45 minutes of walking, where the old town ends, the suburbs begin, and there is an end-of the-tram-line loop.
Not long after that, things became interesting. The marked route departed the sidewalk and was headed toward a lovely shaded footpath; however, the path was completely blocked by a gate and chain across the entire path, wall to wall. A sign indicated two months of construction was in progress, and a map indicated a circuitous detour that tripled the distance of the affected interval ( think three sides of a square). So I set off in an effort to follow the detour. I should mention that suburban Geneva is one of those places where you cannot go around the block and end where you started. Fortunately I still had the Swiss Mobility app loaded on my iphone, with its complete map set of the Via Jacobi route across Switzerland. And Google Maps has a setting for “walking”. The walking was a bit cross-country, along paved sidewalks through some exceptional neighborhoods (Troinex was one) with very fine homes. Occasionally I would pick up a marked regional walking route, but I kept going in the right general direction. As it happened my hotel was also not directly on the route (now labeled the Chemin St Jacques because I have crossed over into France), so it all worked out in the end. For a while though, I was worried.
Meals: Having been too early for lunch in Geneva proper, I swore to stop at the first opportunity occurring after 12 noon (the canonical hour to begin lunch). The place turned out to be the very unprepossessing Auberge Croix de Ronex, which had outdoor seating under the shady sycamore trees. Do not judge a book by its cover. The kitchen produced an entirely satisfactory cold salad plate composed of fresh ripe tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella drizzled with pesto, and some thinly sliced Parma ham, all dressed with vinaigrette. Entirely routine – and entirely delicious!
Hotel: Ibis Hotel, 23 Rue Ada Byron, Archamps France. This business hotel is near the Chemin, and as it is Bastille Day here in France, I did not want to leave the lodging to chance. Clean, spacious, all the mod cons and free wifi. Available through Booking.com.