First class...sweeter words have never been spoken, especially to someone staring 14 hours worth of travel in the face. Not only will I never be able to afford this luxury on my own, but also, I truly believe that even if I could, I would not be able to convince myself the luxury is worth 4x as expensive tickets. That being said, when it's offered to you for free...you would do just as I did.
Total has this brilliant stipulation that flights at the beginning and end of Expat terms are first class, and so I found myself on a rainy April evening, settling into a padded first class seat with a flute of champagne, watching the plebes board (I have to get my jabs in during this, the one and only chance I will ever have to do so). And the flight to Montreal was just the start, from there I would be able to enjoy the comfort of the Maple Leaf Lounge and its free food and booze until I boarded the second leg. An overnight flight to Geneva. And let me say, Air Canada international business class does not fail to impress...
Fully reclining seat - check
Free 4-course meal - check
Noise canceling headphones, blanket, pillow, sleep mask and a partridge in a pear tree - check
Oh, and once again, all the booze you can drink...
I've gotten sidetracked here, but needless to say, it was a nice break from the potential hours of sweaty snoring in coach...It did not come without limitations for me though, as I will explain later.
Eventually, we arrived in Geneva (Bwaaah you say, that's not in France you say...). As we were landing, I had a moment to ponder the countryside. The Swiss really hit the jackpot when they wandered into that patch of land and decided it looked good enough to live in. Huge mountains give way to green pastures and hills that cascade right into the blue waters of Lac Leman...breathtaking. And the city of Geneva itself is surprisingly small and quaint, only 400,000 people, which is nearly a hamlet by European standards. Also, I feel the need to point this out...there were lots of swans...I'm not a bird guy, but they were everywhere, hanging out like they owned the place...curious.
The other thing that I found amazing was that pretty much everyone I talked to in Geneva spoke multiple languages. In fact, my cab driver welcomed me in French, then switched to English when my reply was, "duhhh, Je ne parle pas Francaise". Then he talked to his dispatcher in Swiss (which I have since discovered is a slightly different form of German) and finally he took a call and was talking what I believe to be Afrikaans. In Canada, this guy could run for Prime Minister, or at least Minister of Finance.
Once we landed and I had arrived at my hotel (Royal Manotel for anyone who is interested), I found that I was actually about 5 hours too early to check in. So, being the good tourist, I stowed my bags at the hotel and decided to peruse the town. I should point out that at this point, despite my having had the luxuries of first class I pointed out earlier, I had not slept a wink on the flight over...a curse I deal with when in transit anywhere. What this meant now was that the last time I had slept was 2 days ago in Nova Scotia...I was tired.
Willing myself to go on anyway, I did manage to walk around the lake and see the "sites of Geneva" (I will post the photos I have to my photo blog soon...promise) as prescribed by the hotel concierge. I even randomly encountered a huge bike race (that's man-powered not motor), which by-the-way, is infinitely more popular and fun to watch in Europe than it is in North America.
Returning to my hotel about 6 hours later tired and weary, I was ready to pass out. Surprise, surprise that I should find that they had actually lost my camera bag...amazing. Fast forward to about 3 hours later, and now I am basically a standing zombie, but they have found my bag (and the camera) after systematically searching every room in the hotel. It seems it was delivered mistakenly to another room and I can only surmise that the fine upstanding tenants of that room decided that the hotel had ran out of mints for the pillows and had given the next best thing.
Anyway, I then proceeded to stumble off and pass out cold in my room...for 5 hours...
Day two started like I can only assume a heart attack would, as my alarm went off at 7am waking me for my meeting with the French Consulate (The reason I am in Geneva instead of Paris...Did I not explain that? Oops).
Cab ride...wait in line...45 minute meeting...pit stop at the toilet later and wham bam thank you ma'am you have yourself a temporary "Carte De-Sejour". Unfortunately, temporary isn't permanent and "Carte De-Sejour" doesn't necessarily mean Worky Worky in France, so I will point out that I am still waiting for the more permanent, actually useful documents to process...that's a story for another day though.
After this, it was back to the hotel to pass out for a few more hours, another quick walk around the lake, an awesome French hotdog (A hollowed out baguette with a wiener in it...no joke), and I was off to the airport for the last leg of my first class trek.
Normally, I would end there, however, the Geneva airport is an oddity that I feel begs a little extra description. Geneva being right on the France border means that they can take liberty with certain things. One of which is the airport, which is actually half on Swiss soil and half on French soil. An interesting fact that I found out when I attempted to check in on the Swiss side and was told that I had to go to France first...This was a bit confusing...Luckily, once again, the Swiss attendant spoke perfect English and explained what I had to do.
So, it was then that I found myself finally crossing the border into what will be my home for the foreseeable future, France.