Posts Tagged ‘Travel’


>The Curious Journey Of Curious George
Intelligent Life
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The little storybook monkey had many big adventures, but none so dramatic as what his German Jewish creators experienced, writes Erica Grieder …

Special to MORE INTELLIGENT LIFE
The little monkey had a happy life in Africa—eating bananas, swinging on vines. When he was captured, by a man in a yellow hat, his distress was written on his face. He gaped at his body, clearly shocked to find it trapped in a brown sack, winched at the neck. But the little monkey quickly recovered his equanimity. By the time he boarded the rowboat, he was sad to be leaving Africa, but a little curious, too.

Thus began the adventures of Curious George, one of the most popular and enduring children’s characters of all time. During the course of seven original stories by H.A. and Margret Rey, he moved to America, joined the circus, and became an astronaut. Those are big adventures for a little monkey. But none was quite as dramatic as what had happened to his creators in real life. “Curious George Saves the Day”, an exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco through March 13th, makes that much clear.

Hans Augusto Reyersbach and Margarete Waldstein were German Jews from Hamburg. Hans, born in 1898, lived near the zoo and taught himself to draw there (also, how to bark like a seal). After the first world war he tried to scrape together a living drawing posters for the circus, but soon packed up and moved to Rio de Janeiro. He was there, selling bathtubs, when Margarete arrived. She was working as a photographer, and knew Hans as a family friend.

Hans and Margarete married in 1935, and shortened their name to make it easier in Portuguese. The next year, they packed up their pet marmosets for a honeymoon in Paris. Louise Borden, in her short biography of the couple, mentions that the marmosets died during the cold and rainy crossing, even though Margarete knitted them a pair of sweaters.

They planned to stay for two weeks. That turned into four years. The Reys, working together, were becoming established as the authors of children’s books. He drew the pictures, and she wrote the text (and occasionally modelled the animal poses). The monkey who would become world-famous made his first appearance as Fifi, in stories about a giraffe called Raffy who made friends with nine little monkeys. There was a brave one, a strong one, a good one; all were without tails, the Reys explained, because the illustrations were already cluttered with the monkeys and the gangly giraffe. Fifi was the curious and clever one. The Reys decided he should have his own book.

As the decade drew to a close, no Jews in Europe felt safe. The Reys were working, but in letters to his publisher H.A. made it clear that progress had slowed. In September 1939 the couple left Paris for the Chateau Feuga, tucked away in the Dordogne region. ‘It feels ridiculous to be thinking about children’s books,’ wrote H.A. Rey. At one point French police turned up at the castle—they were suspicious about what the strangers were up to—but finding the illustrations scattered around, left them in peace.

The Reys returned to Paris several months later to find that the situation had grown more ominous. Refugees were streaming into Paris, and streaming out for safer destinations farther south. Ms Borden describes the preparations the Reys made for their escape: they tried to buy bicycles, but the only one they could find was a broken tandem. Hans bought spare parts, and spent an anxious few days fixing up a couple of single bikes. On June 12th 1940, the couple left Paris. The Nazis arrived less than two days later.

The Reys made their way to the south of France, and spent several weeks in a makeshift refugee camp in a high-school gymnasium before proceeding to Lisbon. From there they arranged passage to Brazil, and months later to New York. They carried with them the first drawings for the Curious George books, and showed them to police as proof of their occupation. The first book, ‘Curious George’, was published in 1941. The little monkey arrives in New York and strolls off of the ship with a smile, holding his papers in one hand and a little red valise in the other. A policeman salutes in welcome.

Curious George has his share of troubles in America. For example, he had to go to the hospital after swallowing a puzzle piece. The emotional clarity of Hans’ illustrations is brilliant in these scenes of setback. Sitting alone in his hospital bed, with a single fat tear rolling down his cheek, the little monkey is the picture of distress. And he is occasionally naughty. The exhibition displays a hand-written list, from Hans, of Curious George’s infractions: obstructing traffic by sitting on a light, escaping from jail, monkeying with the police.

But these were just bumps in the road. George’s intentions are never malign, and order is quickly restored from chaos—sometimes with an assist from the man in the yellow hat, sometimes with reassurance from other understanding adults. Over time, George becomes fully integrated. He goes to Hollywood. In 1957 he travels to outer space, just weeks before Laika became the first animal to actually do so. He visits the circus, an interesting venue. Janet Davis, a sociologist, has explored the circus as a place where 20th-century Americans worked out some of their feelings about social and cultural change. George’s adventures there bring out his status as both outsider and insider. He’s a monkey, sure, but he’s also a hero, and a highly relatable character.

The Curious George stories were an international hit, allowing for a few cultural variations. In Britain his name is given as Zozo; the publishers thought it would be disrespectful to have a mischievous monkey named after the sitting king. Whatever the case, children around the world were taken with George’s unwitting mischief, and charmed by the cheerful, brightly coloured illustrations. But his story of travel, migration and cultural collision has a paradigmatically American dimension.

Against the backdrop of the Reys’ own dramatic travels, these children’s stories assume a poignant cast. The Reys became American citizens in 1946, and stayed in New York the rest of their lives. They never talked much about their narrow escape, and even today the story is not widely known. This is perhaps because, despite the direct biographical parallels, the Curious George stories give so little indication of their dark historical backdrop. The outlook is resolutely cheerful. George explores his new world fearlessly, and his confidence is justified. Strangers are kind to him. Authority figures are corrective, not punitive. The inevitable misunderstandings are quickly sorted out and forgiven. He is just a fictional monkey. But those would be good standards to help any newcomer feel at home.

‘Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey’ was organised by the Jewish Museum in New York. It is on view at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco until March 13th

Erica Grieder is the South-West America correspondent for The Economist. Picture credit: Curious George, and related characters, created by Margret and H. A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. © 2010 by HMH.

THE CURIOUS JOURNEY OF CURIOUS GEORGE | More Intelligent Life

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Jerusalem

The Diary: Simon Sebag Montefiore

By Simon Sebag Montefiore
FT.com / Life & Arts – Published: January 28 2011 22:03 | Last updated: January 28 2011 22:03

Jerusalem has always driven people mad: the Jerusalem syndrome is a madness caused by the disappointment of finding that the real, messy, chaotic, angry place is not the Celestial Holy City of the imagination. One hundred visitors a year – mainly Christian pilgrims – go insane and are committed to the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre. Many emperors, conquerors, leaders, Jews, Muslims and Christians have, in their way, succumbed, losing touch with reason when it comes to Jerusalem.

In 2000, the British Journal of Psychiatry described the syndrome as a “psychotic decompensation … related to religious excitement induced by proximity to the holy places of Jerusalem”. The study warns tour guides to be aware of the danger signs in their groups and these include: an obsession with taking baths; compulsive fingernail/toenail clipping; preparation, with aid of hotel bed linen, of toga-like garb, always white; screaming; ranting; procession to shrines and delivery of sermons there. Even writers about Jerusalem have been known to suffer bouts of the syndrome: my wife Santa thinks we’ve all been suffering from it in our house. She is very glad my book Jerusalem: the Biography is out.
. . .
On the subject of family, it is tempting to write Jerusalem’s astonishingly dramatic history as a succession of massacres and conquests but cities are really created by families over centuries. I found myself researching an epic family saga of dynasties – royal, aristocratic and sometimes obscure.
When I am in Jerusalem I always stay in either the American Colony Hotel in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah or the Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the guesthouse beside the Montefiore Windmill. Sir Moses Montefiore founded the Montefiore quarter and windmill (a real one he exported from Kent) in 1860, the beginning of the expansion of the Holy City from within its walls to create New Jerusalem’s Jewish and Arab suburbs. It was thanks to this great-great uncle that I wrote my book: indeed our family motto is “Jerusalem”. He founded the Montefiore quarter for poor Jews but it was so dangerous to be outside the city walls that, initially, its inhabitants crept into the city to sleep.
During the 20th century, the King David Hotel was built almost next door. During the Arab Revolt of 1936-38, “the Montefiore” area came under Arab attack; during 1948, Arab irregulars tried to storm it while the British, based around the King David Hotel, fired on Jewish forces and blew the top off the Kentish windmill. Now it’s one of the loveliest parts of the city outside the walls, the site of the city’s literary festival.
The American Colony has a parallel history: a mansion built at almost the same time but by the greatest Arab family, the Husseinis. Rabah Al-Husseini, its owner, sold it to a sect of American evangelist millenarians, the American colonists led by the Spafford family. They had settled there in 1888 to prepare for the apocalypse but became a much-loved Jerusalemite institution. Later they converted the house into a hotel: in 1948, Bertha Spafford, the founder’s daughter and now a Jerusalemite matriarch, tried in vain to prevent an Arab ambush, launched from the hotel grounds, of a Jewish convoy of ambulances. In the 1990s, the Oslo peace talks started there.

Read the rest of the article online at FT.com

FT.com / Life & Arts – The Diary: Simon Sebag Montefiore

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Fantasy island

By Felix Milns
Published: December 3 2010 22:56 | Last updated: December 3 2010 22:56

Laucala Island
He may own two Formula One motor racing teams (one of which has just won the world championship) but Dietrich Mateschitz is not to be found among the champagne-swilling motorsport set in Monte Carlo. The 66-year-old Austrian businessman founded the Red Bull energy drink company, expanded it into a business with a turnover of more than €3bn and created one of the world’s most visible marketing campaigns. There are Red Bull football teams from New York to São Paulo, an aircraft racing championship and Red Bull-sponsored athletes in sports from snowboarding to surfing, cycling and canoeing.
Yet despite being a master of creating publicity for his brand, Mateschitz is known for shunning the limelight (so much so that it’s often said that he bought Austria’s leading society magazine purely so he could avoid appearing in its pages). So, when it comes to holidays, there’s only one choice – a private island.
Seven years ago, Mateschitz was on business in Fiji and was told by his lawyer that one of the country’s most exclusive islands was for sale. When he set eyes on Laucala Island, he was instantly smitten.
A mountainous 12 sq km island in Fiji’s northern Lau chain, Laucala is surrounded by a calm lagoon of the deepest blue, encircled by a reef. Its coves, curves, contours and long stretches of white sand beaches are the very essence of the South Pacific.
In private hands for more than a century, it was initially run as a coconut plantation by a British family before being sold to Malcolm Forbes, of Rich List fame, in the 1970s. Forbes kept the island as a private retreat, with a small plantation house and staff quarters, for entertaining the likes of the Rockefellers and Elizabeth Taylor, so it remained undeveloped until Mateschitz bought it from Forbes’ heirs in 2003.
Since then, Mateschitz has been developing Laucala into a paradise retreat complete with numerous high-octane boys’ toys in keeping with Red Bull’s adrenalin-fuelled image. Only 25 super-luxe villas are spread along 4.2km of coastline, all sharing facilities that could happily service a large hotel. Moored off the jetty are a dive boat, three sailboats, a waterskiing boat, a game-fishing pleasure cruiser and three lightning-fast jet skis. “The best way to get a real sense of the scale of the island is by jet ski,” says an instructor.
The diving and snorkelling are superb, with 40m-plus visibility. The island has 25 dive sites – look out for schools of hammerhead sharks – and is only a half-hour boat trip from the White Wall, Fiji’s top diving location. It is definitely worth the trip – you drift along a 60m-high wall covered in iridescent lavender and white corals before swimming through a narrow passageway into a garden of corals in a thousand shades of purples, lilacs, yellows and reds.


Back on dry land, there’s an equestrian centre, tennis courts, mountain bikes and a perfectly manicured championship-level golf course designed by David Mclay Kidd, famous for the Castle course at St Andrews in Scotland and Bandon Dunes in Oregon.
Ten greenkeepers keep the course in immaculate condition, making it arguably one of the most beautiful and exclusive in the world. Those less fond of golf should not despair, however, as the course cannot even be seen from the resort, the main hub of which is built around a show-stopping swimming pool.
At 5,000 sq m, it is the largest pool in the South Pacific. There’s a stunning lap pool, a raised glass box that sits above a cluster of organically shaped pools that flow down over pebble-lined waterfalls into a vast lagoon with multiple sandy bays. It’s extravagant, bold and a little crazy.
As such, it epitomises the whole project. One fellow guest, a French banker on a seven-week worldwide honeymoon, put it succinctly: “We have travelled to some of the world’s best hotels but this beats everything. It’s like one man’s crazy dream. Yes it’s absurdly expensive but, even so, you know you are getting a bargain.”
The reason being that it has been built on such a grand scale for so few guests. Such is the air of exclusivity that, despite first opening in December 2008, the resort is still scarcely marketed and the management team is almost loath to see the hotel run at full capacity. There were three other couples on the island during our stay and, unless it was an exclusive booking, it’s unlikely you would ever share with more than 10 or 15 other guests.
With a permanent staff of 329, at first it seems almost criminally extravagant to offer such a high level of low-key yet immensely professional service for so few guests but that is at the very heart of the Laucala philosophy. Maja Kilgore, a co-manager, says: “We don’t want you to have to pre-book your diving or spa, whatever you want to do will be ready for you whenever you want.”
Unsurprisingly, it does not take long to get into the groove. Waking up one morning to some tropical rain, we put in a quick call to the spa over breakfast and saw out the storm with a three-hour treatment.
The same philosophy extends to the catering. There are five different restaurants to choose from, including a fresh grill at the beach bar, excellent Thai food at the Seagrass Lounge and fine dining at the Plantation House restaurant, plus the option of eating whatever you want, wherever you want, anywhere on the island.
Aside from the colonial-style Plantation House, which Mateschitz had rebuilt three times before he was happy with it, the architecture is rooted in a traditional Fijian aesthetic, with a very organic approach. There are no straight lines, only soft curves and free-flowing shapes.
The attention to detail is eye-catching. Not a single nail has been used in construction; instead the hardwood beams are joined by magi magi – coconut thread produced on the island – and all the buildings are thatched with local sago palm.
Some of the roof lines of the public spaces are particularly dramatic, the pool bar is almost a miniature of the Sydney Opera House and the roof of the beach bar opens up like the petals of a flower.
And yet the resort takes up only a fraction of the island, most of which remains a dense jungle, barring the farm in the south-west corner that supplies the restaurants. There is a tour of Laucala that provides a fascinating insight into running a private island.
When Mateschitz advertised for managers, he was looking for a couple with luxury resort experience as well as knowledge of forestry and farming, a spectacularly tight brief. But in Thomas and Maja Kilgore, he found exactly what he was looking for. Not only do they run the resort with an exacting eye for detail, the agricultural side of the island is thriving. To date the island is more than 70 per cent self-sufficient, producing most of its own fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and seafood. The farm rears pigs, sheep, beef (although they also import Australian Wagyu), chickens and ducks, while vast gardens and hydroponic greenhouses produce salads, herbs and vegetables.
After a golf buggy tour of the gardens and the back of house, we swapped to horseback for a ride through the avocado trees and fields of pineapples to the palm-fringed golf course. We trotted past duck ponds, grazing cattle and mangrove swamps but it was not until we reached Long Beach that we really let out the throttle, the horses happy to be galloping through the surf.
Getting to Laucala takes time – we flew via Hong Kong with a two-day stopover – but it is a quite remarkable island. And don’t worry about the jet lag – there’s Red Bull on tap.
…………………………………………..
Details
Bailey Robinson (www.baileyrobinson.com) offers a 10-night package at Laucala Island (www.laucala.com) from £18,500, including all meals and drinks, activities and a day in the spa. Felix Milns travelled from London to Fiji with Cathay Pacific (www.cathaypacific.com; return flights from £1,050) and stayed en route at the Four Seasons Hong Kong (www.fourseasons.com/hongkong; double rooms from £378)

FT.com / Travel – Fantasy island

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Taking your time in Geneva

Sat, Nov 13, 2010
The Swiss city is expensive to visit but don’t let that put you off – you get what you pay for, writes Adrienne Cullen
AS YOU MIGHT expect from Switzerland, Geneva is living proof that quality of life doesn’t come cheap. While it has an almost permanent presence in the world’s top five most attractive cities, you’ll usually find it in the top five most expensive as well.
Don’t let that put you off though. Again as you might expect, you get what you pay for – in this case the buzz of a global financial centre, the sophistication of a city that’s home to a telephone book full of international organisations, and a whole lot of local history, colour, and charm as well.
Plus, you’re in the home of high-end watches. That means you get to use as many watch, clock and time-related puns and references as possible during your stay. Hey, watch it! Just a second! This transport system runs like clockwork. That chimes with me. Don’t be alarmed . . . you get the picture.
Geneva is all about its physical setting. In the background there’s the awe-inspiring vista of the snow-covered Alps, with Mont Blanc visible on a clear day. In the foreground there’s the glamorous waterfront of Lake Geneva. So not surprising-ly, the big leisure time pursuits here are sailing and skiing – sometimes both in one day.


BELIEVE IT OR not, Geneva’s best known sight, however, is neither the mountains nor the lake. It’s bang in between. The Jet d’Eau, at 140m high, is the tallest fountain in the world, visible from virtually everywhere in the city, apparently even from an altitude of 10km.
But don’t be content with seeing the Jet d’Eau from a distance. For the sake of the children, take the trip out to the stone jetty on the left bank of the lake and you won’t be disappointed.
Better still, do it at night when it’s beautifully illuminated in different colours. But watch out, the slightest change of wind direction and you’re drenched . . . this is advice based on personal experience.
Having dried off, it’s time to head across the River Rhone to the main shopping district, tucked between the neighbourhood of Les Eaux Vives – where the Jet d’Eau is located – and the ultra-discreet banking district.
The streets to look out for are Rue du Rhone, Rue de Rive and Rue du Marché. Once there, it’s strictly a matter of willpower: there are boutiques to rival London or Paris; all the timeless watchmakers, Patek Philippe, Piaget, Raymond Weil, Omega, Swatch et al; art and antiques, and chocolate – as much as your wallet can handle . . . or perhaps simply window shop.
A quick(-ish) lunch at La Favola on Rue Jean-Calvin – certainly the best Italian restaurant in Geneva – and when you emerge after a refreshing petit café , you’re ideally positioned for an afternoon in the Old Town, a stone’s throw to the south.
Two places not to miss: magnificent Cathedral Saint Pierre, which has great views of the lake and the mountains; and the Town Hall, where the League of Nations and the Red Cross were both founded. The 14th-century Maison Tavel, the oldest house in the city, now a museum, is also worth a visit for the flavour of history.
As evening falls you’ll be glad that Geneva is packed with Michelin-starred restaurants, nine this year in the city and canton combined. The most renowned is Restaurant Hôtel de Ville in Crissier, run by Switzerland’s foremost chef, Philippe Rochat. It’s on Lake Geneva, but closer to Lausanne than to Geneva itself, unfortunately.
Still, for my money, there’s nothing as Swiss as a bubbling cheese fondue. In which case, first choice has got to be Restaurant Les Armures in the Old Town (near Maison Tavel, in fact). A plaque near the door marks a visit in 1994 by Bill and Hillary Clinton.
There’s always something to do in Geneva as night turns to morning. If you have a slush fund for cocktails, head for Gold Platinum on Quai du Seujet, where the city’s moneyed 20- to 40-year-olds gyrate on the dance floor and sprawl in the VIP lounges. It’s cool. It could be anywhere. But the prices are certainly Swiss!

Where to stay, where to eat and where to go

5 places to stay

  • Hotel Beau-Rivage. 13 Quai du Mont-Blanc, 00-41-22-7166666, beau-rivage.ch. Old-world opulence sums up this magnificent five-star hotel on the shore of Lake Geneva and in the heart of the business district. It has two well-regarded restaurants, Le Chat-Botté and Patara. Doubles start at 800 CHF (€598).
  • Hotel les Armures. 1 Rue Puits-Saint-Pierre, 00-41-22-3109172, hotel-les-armures.ch. Known for its excellent restaurant, which specialises in traditional Swiss cheese fondue and raclette, this hotel is a favourite with visiting celebs. Jimmy Carter stayed; the Clintons just dined. Doubles from 674 CHF (€500).
  • Mandarin Oriental Geneva. 1 Quai Turrettini, 00-41-22-9090000, mandarinoriental.com/geneva. Perfectly situated on the bank of the River Rhone, at the edge of the financial district, this building has beautiful art deco detailing and a fabulous roof garden. Doubles start at 590 CHF (€440).
  • Hotel de La Paix. 11 Quai du Mont-Blanc, 00-41-22-9096000, hoteldelapaix.ch. A lovely elegant establishment, totally renovated in 2006, Hotel de Paix sits on the shore of Lake Geneva with great views of Mont Blanc. Its restaurant, Vertig’O, has just won its first Michelin star. Doubles start from 497 CHF (€370) prepaid and non-refundable, otherwise 585 CHF (€437).
  • The Warwick. 14 Rue de Lausanne, 00-41-22-7168000, warwickgeneva.com. Very much a business hotel, well located opposite the railway station, just 10 minutes by car from the airport, and not far from UN HQ. Double rooms from 378 CHF (€282).

5 places to eat

  • Le Chat-Botté. 13 Quai du Mont-Blanc, 00-41-22-7166666, beau-rivage.ch. Located in the opulent Hotel Beau-Rivage, this restaurant, run by chef Dominique Gauthier, is reputed to have one of the best wine cellars in Switzerland. Groups of up to eight can reserve a “chef’s table” in the kitchen.
  • La Favola. 15 Rue Jean-Calvin, 00-41-22-3117437, lafavola.com. Regularly described locally as “the best Italian restaurant north of Bologna”, this is also a contender for Geneva’s best restaurant. Just taste the Risotto alla Milanese au Safran.
  • Restaurant de la Cigogne. 17 Place Longemalle, 00-41-22-8184040, cigogne.ch. The panelled dining room, friendly but not overpowering service, and most of all the food – try the Turbot Façon Grandmère – make this an experience worth paying for.
  • La Perle du Lac. 126 Rue de Lausanne, 00-41-22-9091020, laperledulac.ch. Apart from the food, the real attraction of this restaurant is its fantastic location right on the shore of Lake Geneva (also known in French, by the way, as Lac Léman). Terrace tables must be booked.
  • Café du Bourg-de-Four. 13 Place du Bourg-de-Four, 00-41-22-3119076, cafedubourgdefour.ch. A charming bistro-style restaurant in the Old Town dating back to 1874. Perfect for a relaxed traditional meal.

5 places to go

  • Le Jet d’Eau and Le Jardin Anglais. Quai du Général-Guisan, 00-41-22-3119970 (tourism office), ville-geneve.ch. The Jet d’Eau is the big must-see in Geneva, though given its height of 140m, you can’t really avoid it. Le Jardin Anglais next door is famous for its flower clock, a 1955 masterpiece of technology and floral art. It has the largest second hand in the world – more than two and a half metres long.
  • Cathedral Saint Pierre. 6 Cours Saint-Pierre, 00-41-22-3117575 , saintpierre-geneve.ch. This site has been occupied since at least the 4th century. John Calvin gave sermons here in the mid-16th century. Climb the 157 steps of the north tower for the best view in the city. Phew!
  • United Nations. Palais des Nations, 00-41-22-9171234, unog.ch. This is the European home of the UN, its second largest complex after New York. It’s where both the League of Nations and the Red Cross were founded – and regular hour-long tours are available in 15 languages.
  • Musée d’Art et d’Histoire. 2 Charles-Galland, 00-41-22-4182600, ville-ge.ch/mah. If you’re an art lover, you’ll find exceptional works here by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, and sculpture by Henry Moore. Reason enough on its own to visit Geneva.
  • Villa Voltaire. 25 Rue des Délices, 00-41-22-4189560, ville-ge.ch/imv/. Institut et Musée Voltaire, also known as Villa Voltaire, is the great philosopher’s Palladian villa, where his library and manuscripts are available to visitors. Fascinating for its uniqueness.

Hot spot

  • La Clémence. 20 Place du Bourg-de-Four, 00-41-22-3101096, laclemence.ch. Place du Bourg-de-Four is the very heart of the Old Town, and La Clémence is where gossip of every sort changes hands, over coffee by day and over wine after nightfall.

Shop spot

  • Geneva is an international shopper’s paradise. It’s so high-end that even the Plainpalais Flea Market feels chic. The main shopping streets are Rue du Rhone, Rue de Rive and Rue du Marché, adjacent to the banking district. And you’ll certainly need to nip to the bank!

What to avoid
Confusion over the euro. Switzerland is not a member of the EU, and its currency is the Swiss Franc (CHF). The euro is widely accepted, especially in areas favoured by tourists, but you can’t count on every shop and hotel accepting them.
A good night out
Restaurant Les Armures. 1 Rue Puits-Saint-Pierre, 00-41-22-3109172, hotel-les-armures.ch. A cheese fondue is more than just a meal here, it’s a night out. It’s entertaining, great fun for groups, and delicious. Chef Gilles Legay and his staff do their best to make your visit special.
Get in the mood
How about a DIY fondue? Essentially it’s your favourite cheese melted slowly in warm white wine, then scooped up on cubes of bread. First to drop bread into the cheese does the washing up! If you’re planning to visit Villa Voltaire, re-read Candide .
More information
You’ll find plenty of local info at the official website, ville-geneve.ch, and at geneva.com. An alternative is geneva.info, although I think when whey say “Get Out” on the home page, they really mean “Get Out and About” . . . at least I hope they do.
Go there
Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies from Dublin and Cork to Geneva. Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies from Dublin to Grenoble in France, an hour-and-a-half by road from Geneva.
© 2010 The Irish Times

Taking your time in Geneva – The Irish Times – Sat, Nov 13, 2010


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Let’s play ‘Guess where I am?’

By Tyler Brûlé
Published: September 17 2010 22:22 | Last updated: September 17 2010 22:22

It’s been a while since we played Saturday morning quiz on this page so, in the spirit of back to school and sharpening one’s wits, let’s play a round of “Guess where I am?” I’ll start by giving you a clue.
I’ve just come off an airliner and it’s absolute pandemonium. There are gate agents screaming for transfer passengers, there are sniffer dogs, there are loads of immigration officers and there’s a general sense of disorganisation. My fellow passengers look bewildered and flustered after their eight-hour, 45-minute flight from Frankfurt, and there’s a lot of huffing and puffing as we’re divided up into groups of arriving passengers and “connectors”.
The holding pen where we’ve been told to wait is too small to accommodate a full jumbo-load of passengers and those of us at the front of this mass are scolded by security staff and told to move back until our bus arrives to take us to the main terminal. At the same moment, a special bus on stilts pulls up in front of us and, just as we’re about to board, a delegation from an obscure German state is ushered in front and boards the bus first. At first it looks like we’re going be able join the junior ministers in their socks and sandals and saggy French-fry style moustaches, but the doors abruptly close and the delegation rolls away across the tarmac to the distant terminal. Any guesses where I am yet? OK, here’s your second clue.
When our shuttle bus finally arrives, we all board a vehicle that has long benches down either side but no one wants to sit on them. It’s clear that many passengers know the drill, so they stand at the entrance, slowing the boarding process and ignoring the calls for them to move down the vehicle and take their seats. This causes considerable grumbling, and in the process a sweet German granny takes a tumble over a wheely-case and this gives way to a lecture about inconsiderate businessmen. When we finally pull away from the terminal, we pass aircraft from South African Airways, Scandinavian, Qatar Airways and Air France. Care to guess where this is? No? All right, here’s the final clue.
In the immigration hall there’s a corral for citizens of the country I’ve just arrived in and a much larger maze for everyone else. The citizens’ line has about 200 people waiting to be processed, while the other pen has more than 1,000 passengers waiting to be interrogated.I reluctantly join the latter queue and try to gauge how long it will take to reach the processing point. I study the scene for about five minutes and reckon I’m in for at least an hour’s wait. When passengers from a Jeddah flight are escorted to the front of the queue, I quickly revise my estimate to 90 minutes.
As the line inches along, I pass a screen showing that flights have just touched down from Copenhagen, Doha, Paris, London and Geneva. On the wall there’s an annoying poster full of smiling faces and a cacophony of typography welcoming us in various languages but – as most of us have now been in line for close to an hour and a half – no one’s feeling particularly welcome.
When I finally reach the front and am told what booth to stand in front of, I have to remind myself not to say anything smart as I’m likely to be thrown into detention and escorted back to my Lufthansa aircraft. OK, it’s time to make your guess. Where in the world am I?
You might think I’ve rocked up in some shambolic banana republic or poorly managed police state, but I’m actually at Washington DC’s Dulles Airport late on a Sunday afternoon. As I’m about to walk up to the booth for inspection, a voice booms over the public address system with an urgent bulletin – “Attention all officers, attention all officers, anyone who has not signed up for overtime today, I repeat, anyone who did not sign up for overtime can now leave their post”. In a flash a series of officers pack up their stamps and take their super-size slurpy cups and waddle off duty. The 1,000-plus people in line just stare in amazement.
As I approach the desk, I feel like giving the young gentleman a lecture about how bad this whole performance is for Brand USA – particularly on top of a whole week of television reports about the new fee that visitors will have to pay to get a visa and how these funds will be used to create a campaign to encourage more tourism to the US. I want to ask him if he (and his bosses not far away in the District of Columbia) think a 90-minute wait in a dumpy airport is any way to welcome the world and if his department is really that interested in having people visit the US.
I’m all ready to vent but I hold my tongue because I don’t want to be carted off to the naughty room (a place I know very well) and given the third degree because I’m a journalist travelling without a special visa (a requirement for all of my sort visiting the US). I smile at the officer. He nods and asks the purpose of my visit. I tell him I’m in town for a party. “Well, you’ve come to the right place,” he says. Clearly.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine
tyler.brule@ft.com

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Rosh Hashana Recipes Routed Through Africa


Nanda Gonzague for The New York Times
From left, Carole Chaouat, Cathy Levy, with makroud, and Corynne Mas share recipes for the High Holy Days. Like many Jews in France, their holiday meals have North African influences.

August 31, 2010

Rosh Hashana Recipes Routed Through Africa

Perpignan, France
CORYNNE MAS said the pastries she makes for Rosh Hashana were like teiglach, Eastern European cookies covered with nuts and honey.
But the version she’ll give her family when the holiday starts next Wednesday night will be stuffed with spiced dates and scented with orange flower water — Middle Eastern touches her mother, a French Jew with Eastern European roots, would not have recognized. They are called makroud, something she learned from her mother-in-law, an Algerian Jew.
Most of the dishes Ms. Mas cooks are North African. And when she gets together with her good friends Carole Chaouat and Cathy Levy, North African Jews, the food they share is more likely flavored with harissa, cumin and honey, than horseradish, dill or sugar.
The culinary transformation Ms. Mas experienced would feel familiar to many French Jews. About a quarter of the 300,000 Jews in France before World War II died in the Holocaust, and others later left for Israel or the United States. But as independence came to the former French colonies of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria in the late 1950s and early 1960s, many more Jews emigrated to France. The customs they brought came to define French Jewish food.
Ms. Mas, 54, said she was not raised with an appreciation for her Jewish background. “I have learned everything from my Algerian mother-in-law,” she said. “The Sephardic Jews are attached to their religion and are refueling Jewish life in France.”
Many of these Sephardic dishes actually have centuries-old roots here in southwestern France and Catalonia, from before Jews were expelled and settled in North Africa. Jewish cooks here still use the ingredients of those ancestors — anise, olive oil, rose water, and pine nuts — reimagined on stovetops in Marrakesh, Oran and Tunis.
The physical traces of these traditions here are literally cast in stone in the remains of Jewish quarters in nearly every town — Hebrew letters on a grave, the indentation on the right side of an ancient doorpost indicating a once-posted mezuza, names like Rue de la Juiverie or Rue de Jérusalem found on cobblestone streets.
But new synagogues in Perpignan, or nearby in Narbonne and Béziers, have only initials in French outside the door: A.C.I.N., for Association Culturelle Israélite de Narbonne. There is no clear indication to the passer-by that these are Jewish houses of prayer.
Ms. Mas; Ms. Chaouat, 54, born in Tunisia; and Ms. Levy, 45, born in Morocco, grew up in Perpignan, a center of Jewish culture during the Middle Ages. It now has about 450 Jewish families.
As the women gathered beneath an almond tree on the patio of Ms. Mas’s home, Ms. Chaouat served a potato salad, dipping two fingers in a jar of harissa and dabbing at the potatoes she had prepared, as she would do with other cooked vegetables.
“This is the way we share recipes,” Ms. Chaouat said. “Food is our identity, tradition and our roots.”
Each group of immigrant Jews brought its own influences.
“Moroccans like sweet and salty in everything,” said Ms. Chaouat, who works as a caregiver for the elderly. “Tunisians eat couscous, but it is always savory and we serve everything on the table at once.”
Vegetables stuffed with meat are a popular holiday dish. The stuffing sometimes is made with parsley or eggs, sometimes with nuts, and always cooked slowly. Ms. Levy’s version, a Moroccan dish with roots here, includes cinnamon, turmeric and nutmeg and is cooked at low temperature overnight to be ready on the first night of the holiday. (But it can also be cooked more quickly at a higher temperature.)
Ms. Levy, a deputy mayor in her village outside of Perpignan, is usually in charge of food for synagogue events, gathering her friends to cook with her.
“We cook everyday and our children like to eat our food,” she said. “Living in a small town, we don’t lose time in traffic. So we have time to cook.”
Ms. Levy added: “If you don’t make traditional recipes at Rosh Hashana or the Sabbath, it is the revolution. Every holiday meal starts with at least two dozen tapas. Once my son said: ‘Why do you work so hard at cooking? Why don’t you make just one salad for Rosh Hashana!’ ” The next holiday, she brought out one salad. Her son looked chagrined and said, “Where are the other 23?”
So she brought out the 23 other dishes that she had hidden in a cupboard.

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