Mike's Geneva diary

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Sunday, 2nd March

Reardon's tournament for mission 15 took place on Sunday 2nd March, 2008 at the snooker club in Leamington Spa. Chris, David, Dave, Rupert and Mike all took part in the tournament. The first round was a race to 15. I got through very early, with David soon finding himself in negative territory. The first frame finished with Chris holding a slender lead over Dave and Rupert. The second frame was a lengthy affair. Chris finally got through second, with Rupert joining him some time afterwards. David had gradually clawed his way back into the frame whilst Dave found himself going backwards and becoming negative. David finally got through with Dave being eliminated.

In the second round, a race to 20, David found some form and soon secured his place in the semi-final. I kept up my steady play and was the second one through. Rupert slumped to -16 points, whilst Chris kept fouling in the teens to keep Rupert in the game. Rupert clawed his way back and soon found himself on 13 points with Chris on 18. Eventually Chris potted the brown and made it through to the next round.

In the third round, Chris got into an early lead, but several fouls saw him fall away. I secured my place in the final with David soon following me.

In the final, I took an early lead, but David soon fought back and took the lead himself. I got back into it and was one point behind on the colours. I potted the yellow, but David potted green and brown. I then potted the blue to leave myself one point behind with pink and black remaining. David played the pink, but left it hanging over the corner pocket. I potted it, but left the white almost on the cushion with the black in the middle of the table. I got down and potted the black, only to see the white go around two cushions and go into the corner pocket. So David won Reardon's tournament by two points.

Back at my house over a late lunch, David revealed Vienna as Reardon's choice for mission 16. I also revealed Vienna as Glogg's Reardon Helpimede.

Thursday, 1st May

I woke up for early for the pre-break day, as Rebecca and I were due to go on an outing. We got in the car and drove around the M40, in the direction of Dudley. After some discussion, we decided to go to Dudley Zoo and Castle. We parked up and paid the entrance fee, walking up the hill to the zoo. There were few animals in the cages, most of which seemed to be mangy and ill. The castle, however, was interesting - we crossed the drawbridge over the sea lion area to enter a large courtyard. We climbed up a small tower and paused to admire the views from the top.

We headed into a cafe for a couple of sandwiches, then headed out of the castle, checking out a rather fat sea lion on the way. We then passed the penguin enclosure and headed around to an interesting walk through a lima area. That was the highlight of the zoo - the enclosure was open so the limas could walk across the path. We took some photos then descended to the primate area, looking briefly at the chimpanzees outdoors then the gorillas indoors. We then decided it was time to head back to Coventry. I suggested a trip to the cinema, but once we'd arrived we decided there was nothing to see so we went to TGI Friday's instead. I called David, telling him we were getting some food. He was about to set off.

When Rebecca and I had finished our food we drove home and David soon arrived. The Geneva experience had started for both of us. We chilled for a while then walked to the chip shop. David got in a battered sausage and chips and we then walked home, via One Stop where we bought a bottle of wine. We then returned home and chilled out watching Steve Coogan in The Alibi, before punching the sack in readiness for the first day of the break.

Friday, 2nd May

I woke up around 2.30a.m. and quickly got my things together. Once the car was loaded, I said goodbye to Rebecca and David and I headed off. We drove to Tesco for petrol, but it wasn't operating, so we began the drive to Luton. As we did, we listened to the coverage of the elections of the radio. I rang Rupert and Dave, but got no answer from either of them. On route we stopped for petrol and after about an hour and a half we arrived at Luton. We had booked into the Long Stay Car Park, which turned out to be a long drive away around the back of the airport. We eventually got there and parked up before getting on a bus to the terminal. I rang Dave and he told me that he was on the same train as Rupert but the two of them were in different sections.

The bus arrived at the terminal and we disembarked. We tried to enter the airport via the revolving doors, but there was massive dicking around going on. People were trying to squeeze in and a particularly stupid woman was stopping the doors by standing at the back. We gave up and entered the airport via another set of doors and found our check in desk. Once we'd checked in, we headed through security and went to Starbucks, where we chilled out with a coffee and a muffin. The others hadn't arrived by this time and I phoned them. Dave told me they'd just missed a bus and were waiting for the next one. I began to worry that they wouldn't make it. After a while, our gate was announced, so David and I headed over there. The walk was quite lengthy and on route we received a phone call from Dave to say that they were through security. We told them to meet us at the gate. David and I arrived at the gate and about five minutes later Dave and Rupert joined us to signal the start of the Grand Unified Experience. We were standing in the B area, whilst people who had wasted their money on "speedy boarding" were in the A area. As boarding was announced, people began to barge around from the B area into the A area, so we followed the route and boarded the bus. The bus drove us to the plane and, as it arrived, we were the first ones off, thus shafting those people who had paid for speeding boarding.

David took a seat by the window on the right, with me in the aisle. Dave sat behind David whilst Rupert sat behind me. The flight was about an hour and a half long and David and I listened to the IPod to pass the time. We soon descended to land at Geneva airport and, after disembarking and going through passport control, we picked up our bags. Rupert and Dave dicked around at a cash machine before we headed to the station, bought some tickets and boarded a train to Geneva. The journey to the main station took only five minutes. Once it arrived we got off and walked outside to find our hotel. David spotted it almost opposite the station, just off to the left. We made our way over there but, as it was quite early, we couldn't check in. We deposited our bags and then headed to the waterfront. We turned left out of the hotel, then left again and soon arrived at a small square. There were several posters for the forthcoming election for mayor in Geneva. One candidate appeared to be the victim of a hate campaign as his posters were covered in graffiti. We carried on walking and came to a little park with a statue, just across the road from the waterfront. In front of us was the Jet d'Eau, a massive fountain squirting water into Lake Geneva. There was also a massive football on the lake, presumably as a tribute to the upcoming European Championships. England had, of course, not qualified, so we didn't care too much about that.

We took some photos then crossed the road and walked to our right around the lake, crossing a long bridge. In front of us was the Jardin d'Anglais, a huge leafy park more famous for being a hang out for drug dealers and tramps than anything else. In front of the Jardin d'Anglais were a couple of stands selling toys. We noticed a small stuffed cow and decided a good new addition to the draw would be a "trapped under a cow" round. We decided to purchase a cow mascot later in the break. We crossed the road behind the park and walked up a hill towards the old town. Having spotted a bakery, we commented that Geneva was clearly the sort of place you could find a bakery and decided to go in for coffee. We went inside and noticed a wide array of cakes, including some strange coloured cakes of various kinds. As Dave and I ordered a cappuccino and a pain au chocolate, David expressed his desire to order some gateau bizarre, pointing at the strange multi-coloured cakes. However, he bottled out from asking for one of those and ordered the same as me. Rupert opted out of the cake and just bought a bottle of water, which turned out to be as expensive as our cake and coffee combined.

Dave led us to a table in the corner and we chilled out on some comfy seats. Dave got out a miniscule laptop and began to do the tabulus on it. After a while of chilling, we paid the bill. On the way out, David suggested getting some gateaux bizarre to go, but we decided against this. We left the restaurant and crossed the road, heading uphill towards the old town, soon arriving at the art gallery. We ascended a slope, walkedd in front of it, then crossed another road and descended down into the old town itself. We arrived at an old square with lots of outdoor cafes and David spotted a restaurant called Restaurant Carnivore. David suggested this would be a great place to eat. Heading out of the square past restaurant carnivore, we made our way uphill towards the old town then turned right and arrived at the Cathedral St Pierre. We decided to go inside and go up the towers. The stairs were very narrow and it was a very tight squeeze when we crossed people descending. Eventually we arrived at an inside area halfway up with a route up both towers. We headed up the first one and arrived at an outdoor overlook, but it was crowded, so headed up to a higher viewpoint. This too was crowded and there was little standing room as we attempted to admire the views. There was a little area inside, but it was closed off. We weren't sure why, but Rupert thought it might be to stop any noise from disturbing the orchestra in the nave. I felt that this was unlikely. After a while we headed down the tower to the halfway point and then started to ascend the other tower. At the bottom of the narrow stairs to this one, there was a very strange green light, red light system which told you when it was okay to go up. However, it didn't seem to work, as we waited for the green light only to be confronted by hordes of people descending. We reached the top and entered an enclosed area with pictures of the church in olden times on the walls. We sat down on a bench and chilled out, saying Well team whenever a bell rang.

After a while we decided it was time to descend, so we waited for the light to turn green then headed off just behind a woman who was also wanting to go down. There was a massive group coming up and they began to shout at the woman in front of us for descending. She shouted back, which we found slightly amusing. We soon emerged at street level and left the church. We crossed a square in front of us, then went round a corner to see a house with "Bitch" graffitied on it. As a woman walked past the sign, David wanted to take a photo, but he wasn't quick enough. We turned left up to the main street again, then turned right into another little square and walked past a restaurant. Dave thought it looked like a good place to eat. We descended some steps, walked through a little square and an underpass only to emerge further down the main street through the old town again. David was getting a little thirsty so we started to look for somewhere for a drink. However, we couldn't find anywhere on the main street, so decided to head back in the general area of our hotel.

At the bottom of the main street we found a large shopping street, so we turned right along it, then left to the waterfront. We took a brief detour to the waterfront, purchasing one of the cows we'd seen earlier, to be our new mascot. We didn't know it yet, but La Dole had just joined the Colonel's Regiment. We then crossed over the Rhone towards our hotel. We walked up the main road towards the train station and, arriving in a pedestrianised area, we found an outdoor cafe area in the square that looked like a good place for a drink. David and I got cokes in and shared a hot dog, whilst Dave had a hot dog and a beer and Rupert opted for a diet coke and a croque monsieur. We chilled out at a table with an umbrella and consumed our food and drinks. Once we'd done this, we went back to the stall and got ice creams in. Having eaten our ice creams, we returned to the hotel to see if we could get our rooms, then we decided to head on over to the United Nations Headquarters. At the hotel, we were allocated rooms 619 and 623 along with free public transport passes for local trains, trams and buses. We piled into the elevator and went into room 619 to do a room ballot. I prepared the pieces of paper then everyone drew one in turn. Rupert and David were in room 619 whilst Dave and I were allocated 623. We went to our room and deposited our stuff then left the hotel, pausing only to ask the concierge the tram number we required. We crossed over to the tram stop, at which point Rupert realised he'd left his passport in the room, so he went back to get it, arriving back moments before our tram arrived. We took the tram all the way to the last stop on the line and got off in a large square. In the centre of the square was a massive chair with a leg missing. It turned out to be some kind of land mine memorial statue. We took some photos then walked around tp the left side of the United Nations building, somewhat unsure where the entrance was. We crossed a park and passed a museum that looked like it contained several boringameads then arrived at the entrance to the United Nations Building. Inside we had to go through a security check point then have an ID badge for our group, which was allocated to me, before we could enter. We then went down an escalator to a desk and got four tickets for the four o'clock tour. Across from the desk were postcards with flags of all the member states. David suggested we could use this to decide upon the Leprechaun's choice.

Once we'd acquired our tickets, we went outside into the UN area and headed over to the building where the tour started. We found several cones in the area and soon spotted a group of seven just in front of the building where our tour was. We decided it was risky but a great opportunity, so Rupert, Dave and David took two each and shouted, "Stop telling me what to do!" whilst I took the picture. We then went inside the building and waited for our tour to begin. The tour itself was very long - we were directed first to the viewing gallery of the General Assembly, which was very interesting. After this, our chinese tour guide took us on a mini tour around the outside of the general assembly room, showing us various gifts from different nations and then spent ages talking about a massive boringamead attached to the wall. The tour took us up an escalator to a corridor with some rubbish art on, then into the older section of the United Nations with a display on nuclear weapons. We were told that the floor of this room was donated by Finland whilst the stars on it were donated by Belgium. After leading us down another hallway our guide took us into a room with lots of dull art on the wall. She told us in excrutiating detail about Abraham Lincoln and his mission to free the slaves. I was puzzled that this artwork was there, knowing full well that William Wilberforce, a British Citizen, succeeded in abolishing slavery at least 60 years before Lincoln ever thought about it.

Eventually our tour finished and we were led to the exit. I mentioned to Dave and David that I couldn't understand why William Wilberforce wasn't on there instead and Dave suggested that maybe it was Wilberforce in a Lincoln costume. This seemed most likely to me. We left the UN building and walked back around to the tram stop. However, rather than getting the tram we decided to return to the hotel on foot, via the waterfront. We walked alongside the UN building, crossed over the railway and then turned right. After about fifteen minutes of walking, we arrived at a park on our left. We went in and sat down on a bench looking out at Lake Geneva. To our right there was a football game going on, with some guys playing in shirts and some in skins. David was disgusted with this concept, remembering the days we were forced to do it at school. He said it was only marginally better than being allocated to play on a team called, "pants with your cock out". He then asked Rupert if he'd ever been picked to play on such a team. After a chill on the bench, we walked down to the Lake and paused for some photos. A guy then walked up to us and asked Dave if he'd take his photo. Dave duly obliged then we walked back alongside the lake in the direction of the Jet d'Eau. After a short recreation of a horse statue enacted by Dave and David, we arrived opposite the Jet d'Eau and found a waterfront bar. We decided to relax with a drink, so David and I got in lemonades whilst Rupert and Dave opted for beers. We sat on a little table overlooking the view and soaked up the atmosphere. A barman came up to us and gave us a little bowl with some nuts, that were apparently on the house. Once we'd finished our drinks, we headed back to the hotel. Dave decided he knew a short cut and so we crossed the busy road by the lake and found ourselves in a really dodgy area full of sex shops and prostitutes. We were a little perturbed but eventually emerged at the hotel. David, Rupert and I conceded that he was right that it was quicker, but somewhat more dangerous!

Back at the rooms, we headed through the shower then meet up to go our for dinner. We decided to walk to the old town, but took a slightly different route, crossing the river Rhone and then walking up some steps to pass the restaurant Dave had recommended, Cafe Eccellenza. We went back to the square with restaurant Carnivore in it, pausing to check out a couple of other restaurants on the main street. We decided to go to Restaurant Carnivore the following night and opted instead for Cafe Eccellenza. We wandered back there and took a table outside. I sat next to the wall with Dave opposite me. David was to Dave's right and Rupert was to my left. David and I opted for pasta soup for the starters followed by steak with butter. Rupert had a salad starter followed by an expensive steak, whilst Dave missed the starter and had an expensive steak. Across the square we noticed a group of scary looking mentalists hanging out near the restaurant.

As our starters arrived, we did the number draw to determine who would reveal their mentalist destination first. It turned out to be David, and he went for Berlin. Dave was next and he opted for the slightly mental Zakopane. Rupert then revealed Liechtenstein whilst I was last up and revealed Quebec City. It was then time for Piparus' draw. We all wrote down a destination on a piece of paper and dropped it in the hat. I eliminated first, knocking out David's Paris. Rupert then eliminated my Heidelberg. Dave eliminated his own Stockholm, leaving David to reveal Rupert as the winner of Piparus' round with Stockholm. Stockholm was therefore added to the mentalist list as Piparus' choice. We tucked into our steaks, which were very good and all agreed that we'd chosen a good restaurant for our first night.

Once we'd eaten our fill, we paid the bill and, as we were all tired, decided to head back to the hotel for a relatively early night. The walk back felt pretty long, but we eventually arrived back at the hotel. In the bar, the semi-final of the World Championship snooker was on TV. O'Sullivan was playing Hendry and was 16-6 up. We sat down in the bar and watched the next frame, which O'Sullivan duly won to win the match 17-6 with a session to spare. As soon as the match had finished, we headed up to our rooms and punched the sack in readiness for an early start on day two.

Saturday, 3rd May

I woke up and went through the shower. Once Dave was ready, we went to David and Rupert's room then decided to head out to find some breakfast. We headed into the shopping mall next to our hotel and went down to the basement level, where we found a cafe serving a variety of pastries and some gateaux bizarre. Again we turned down the gateaux bizarre and opted for orange juice and pastries instead. Once we'd had our breakfast, we went into a food shop and bought some stuff for lunch. We bought a big pack of rolls, along with a packet of Nature chips, plus some raclette slices, some biscuits called Toggenburger, some strange crispy cakes called Nippon, along with an assortment of chocolate vars and some meat for the sandwiches. We also bought some water and blue energy drinks for the walk. Dave found some cans of beer for around 60p so decided to buy himself one to drink on our excursion.

We bought our food and drink items, then headed back to the hotel rooms briefly to get everything together, before wandering over to the train station. We had decided to take and excursion to a hill known as La dole, some distance outside Geneva. This involved us taking the fast train to Nyon then transferring to a slow train up the mountain to a little town called St Cergue. We bought our tickets then boarded the train to Nyon. Some twenty minutes later, we arrived and went to an underground side platform to get the train to St Cergue. There was a train at the platform waiting and, as there was only a train every hour, we were determined to board it. We hurriedly got tickets from the machine and made it on board just before the train departed.

The train journey up the hill was slow and seemed to take ages. On route we got a text from Chris to inform us that he was about to leave to fly to Geneva. About halfway up to our final destination, the train stopped in the middle of nowhere, opposite a field. The train conductor entered the compartment and announced that the brown cows in the field were the original Milka cows. We took photos but didn't really believe him. A train shortly passed us in the other direction and we continued our journey through the trees up the side of the hill. Eventually we arrived at St Cergue station. After a short debate we decided that we would indeed attempt the walk up to La Dole. There were several yellow sign posts indicating walking routes. Each one was accompanied by a distance and time it would take to get to a given location. It appeared it would take us between 3 and 4 hours to get to La Dole. Our walk took us through St Cergue itself. We passed a shop on the right and decided to go in it briefly to get a few more supplies. David, Rupert and I bought a can of beer each to have at the summit. We left the shop and carried on walking through the town. Soon we began climbing a hill and entered a wood. The walk was pleasant and we crossed a meadow. We soon joined a road leading up a hill and found ourselves next to a few houses. We were greeted by a man who was playing with his children outside one of the houses. Dave asked him in French the best way to La Dole and he explained that there were two routes we could take, one of which was significantly shorter than the other. We followed his advice, which turned out to be spot on and after some distance we arrived in a valley with amazing views of the mountains on all sides. We speculated which hill was La Dole. There was a big mountain with a golf ball on it in the distance and we thought that it must be that one.

We took a steep path to our left out of the valley and soon hit the snow line. It was very slippy and hard work. I took the lead and struck out across the snow covered route. After about an hour and a half of walking we reached another meadow, somewhat devoid of snow. Above and to our right there was a wooden hut and above that, a wooden building with "Restaurant de la Barillette" written on it. We concluded that we had reached the halfway point in our walk, the hill known as "La Barillette". The views were incredible. We could see Lake Geneva below us and the city to our right, with the Jet d'Eau prominent. Behind the lake there was an incredible view of the Alps, with Mont Blanc towering over everything. We sat down next to a telescope and relaxed with a roll, some Nature chips and a drink. Having chilled out and taken a mascot photo, we decided to continue our walk to La dole. We walked around the side of the cafe and walked up the hill behind it, joining a road for some distance. We soon arrived at a large TV mast, which signalled the summit of La Barillette. At this point, we were unsure of the best route to La Dole and Dave decided we should head out across country, making straight for the mountain with the golf ball on it. We went through a massive snow covered field, following several sets of footprints and soon entered some woods. By this point we were knee deep in snow at times and, whilst the air temperature was quite high, our feet were somewhat cold. We descended a steep hill and arrived at a small stone wall. As we crossed it, I speculated that we had crossed into France.

To our right in the distance there was a large cross on a saddle between the golf ball mountain and another mountain. We recognised this cross from the walk description so headed over to it. We descended into another saddle point, pausing at a post with various yellow signs on it. We tried to determine whether there was a quicker way back, but decided to head up to La dole first and then decide from there. We started our ascent again, across a field then alongside the adjacent hill to La dole. There was a large drop to our left which was slightly disconcerting. Eventually we arrived at the cross. The route up to La dole looked somewhat tricky as it was covered in snow. After some debate, we decided to make the attempt, so began to go up the path. We soon discovered that there was far too much snow on the path, so clambered up the ridge to our right to see if we could ignore the path and go along the ridge to the summit. Rupert slipped whilst trying to climb up the ridge and nearly plummeted into the valley beneath us. Everyone made it to the top of the ridge safely and we struck out along it, through thick snow, arriving at the golf ball. We went to the far side of the buildings and sat down overlooking the valley and Lake Geneva, before cracking open the beers and toasting Mayor Boris Johnson, the newly elected mayor of London. We then decided to have second lunch. After another roll, I decided to open the Nippon. It turned out that they were basically popcorn covered in chocolate and were slightly strange. As we chilled out, we speculated that Chris was probably wandering around Geneva on his own and would currently be looking at the Jet d'Eau. At this point we got a text from Chris to say that he had arrived. We gave him a quick call, telling him we were up a big mountain and were just about to head down. He said he would do a bit of orientation until we got back.

We wandered around La dole taking in the views, then decided to begin the trek down. We walked back down towards the cross, going to the left of the ridge this time. As we descended towards the cross, David suddenly yelled out and his leg disappeared down a huge hole in the snow. Fortunately he was unharmed and we managed to drag him out to safety. We passed the cross and descended on to the saddle point with the yellow signs. After a slight debate, we turned left and descended a snow plain, taking an alternate and hopefully quicker route down the mountain. After a while, we arrived at another snow plain and the footprints disappeared. We began to speculate that we had gone the wrong way. We soon arrived at a massive snow drift with a stream to our left. There was nothing else we could do, so we went across it. The snow was very soft and our legs sank in all the way to our thighs. I was wearing shorts and began to get very cold. We all slipped several times and as I did I shouted, "Cockfosters!" at the top of my voice. David followed suit and soon we were shouting "Cockfosters!" over and over as we went through the snow drift. As we arrived at the bottom of the snow drift, we crossed the stream and stopped in an attempt to dry our shoes and socks. Dave took his shoes off and shook his socks out a few times, with apparently very little effect.

David and I sat on the snow drift and posed for a photo, before we decided to head through the trees in front of us in the hope that we could find the trail again. We found ourselves descending a hill through the trees and arrived in another valley covered in snow. David fell over face first in the snow, shouting "Cockfosters!" as he did. There was a road in front of us, so we joined it and turned right, heading downhill. After another fifteen minutes or so, we found ourselves back in the valley that we'd been in earlier, just before we'd turned off to go up to La Barillette. Relieved to be back in the right place, we entered the valley and sat down on some logs for a snack and some drink. We broke open the Toggenburger, which turned out to be fairly bland biscuits. We then took some photos, before leaving the valley and then turning left to take what we thought was a quick route back to St Cergue. The route took us across a field, then we joined a road, which we followed downhill past some rather bizarre children's play area on our left. Eventually we arrived at a ski area on the edge of St Cergue. There was one large ski slope, but we were puzzled by the presence of a hut right at the bottom of the slope. We wondered how skiers would be able to stop when they got to the bottom. There was also a very small ski area with a tiny chair lift, which we concluded must be a chair lift for rodents. We walked back through the town and arrived back at the train station. The next train was not departing for another half an hour, so we sat down in the platform and waited. Eventually the train arrived and we boarded. We were all thoroughly exhausted and collapsed in our seats. The train arrived in Nyon after the traditional halfway stop and we went to the main platform to catch a train to Geneva. After another twenty minute journey, we found ourselves back at Geneva station, so headed across the road to our hotel and went to Chris' room to welcome him. Chris answered his door and we greeted him. We also noted that The Experience of Everything had started.

It was approaching time for dinner, so we returned to our own rooms and went through the shower in readiness for our evening out. Once we were all ready we headed out to the old town, via the waterfront. We headed for the square with all the restaurants and bars in, deciding to eat at restaurant Carnivore. We soon found the restaurant and went in, but no one came to seat us at a table. After about ten minutes we decided we wanted to leave, so exited and went down the main street through the old town looking for an alternate venue. We eventually settled on another restaurant on the main street. We were guided to a table in the corner. Chris sat at the head of the table with me to his left and Dave to his right. David sat to my left and Rupert sat to Dave's right. The restaurant's speciality turned out to be fondue. We decided we really ought to go for it. David ordered his own fondue which came with potatoes, whilst Dave, Chris and I opted for three between us, all of which came with bread. Rupert decided against the fondue, opting for steak instead. After a lengthy delay we were presented with large clay pots containing melted cheese of various types. A basket of bread was given to Dave, Chris and I for dipping, whilst David had potatoes to dip in his. The fondue was good, but we had to admit that it was somewhat strange to be having a meal which was basically just melted cheese.

The service in the restaurant had been painfully slow, so once we'd eaten our melted cheese, we decided to miss pudding and head to the large square near restaurant Carnivore to have ice cream and drinks at the outdoor tables. We headed over there and took a table outside one of the bars. Dave wanted to get a drink from one of the bars in the square called Arn but it turned out to be closed, so we got in ice creams. I opted for a small ice cream from the ice cream parlour, whilst Dave got a beer and the others got slightly larger ice creams. We then settled down to play the inaugural Pete Gibbon's Schweinerei tournament. This was a game of Pass the Pigs, with a race to 250 points the order of the day. The winner would decide which round to impose Pete Gibbon's mystery destination into the draw. The game turned out to be a tense affair, with David being the first one past 200 points. Within a whisker of the line, he threw the two pigs, but they ended up touching, giving him a Makin' Bacon. This meant that he would lose all of his points and be back to zero. He took more risks to claw the points back, but had too much to do. Eventually Dave crossed the line first, with Chris and I hot on his heels. Rupert was slightly behind us, whilst David had managed to get himself close to 100 points which was an incredible recovery.

After finishing the game, we decided to go for another drink and around the corner we found a bar called Murdock's. We went inside and ordered some drinks from the bar man, who turned out to be a bit of a comedian. We chilled out there for a while then decided to leave. As we did, Dave decided to get Hel's choice from the barman, so he made his way over with the list and asked for his choice. The barman looked for a while and then selected Quebec City as his choice. I was somewhat disappointed as this meant that Quebec City was now in Hell and could not become PC Bourne's choice unless Hel 2006 was bummed. Once we'd acquired Hel's choice, we left the bar and took the long walk back to the hotel. We eventually arrived back at the hotel and returned to our rooms to get some sleep.

Sunday, 4th December

I woke up at around 8.00a.m. and once I'd been through the shower, I went to David and Rupert's room to see if they were awake. We then collected Dave and went downstairs to Chris' room, before all of us wandered over to the station to get some breakfast. As it was a Sunday, a lot of places were closed, but we eventually found an open bakery in the shopping mall in the basement, advertising a petit dejeuner with croissants and coffees or tea. Chris and I sat at one table whilst David, Rupert and Dave sat at another. We ordered 5 petit dejeuners with orange juices, 4 coffees and 1 tea and were soon given 10 croissants with 5 different types of jam. Some flavours looked more appealing than others so we decided to do a random draw to determine who got what. I drew blackcurrant but swapped with David as he was unhappy with his apricot flavour. Chris got the rather strange looking pear jam, but seemed happy with this. Once we'd finished our breakfast, Chris David and Rupert paid whilst Dave and I went to look for the bus timetable. Chris, David and Rupert joined us, having apparently been charged for 8 breakfasts. Apparently they managed to eventually explain that we'd only had five. We then walked back to the hotel to ask where the nearest supermarket was, only to be told it was in the station. We walked back, with Dave taking a different route from the rest of us and found one on the ground level. Dave was there waiting for us. We bought some more Nature chips, chocolate bars, Nippon and drinks and got some more bread from the adjoining bakery. Dave also bought an expensive box of chocolates.

We then went outside to board a bus to Veyrier, having decided to climb up the hill overlooking Geneva, called Saleve. After about 30 minutes the bus arrived at its destination and we got off, walking towards Saleve which was towering over us. We were soon greeted by the French border, but it was unmanned and we were able to walk freely across into France. We started to follow the yellow signs for Saleve through a little town, but they soon disappeared. We took a right alongside a railway line and soon found ourselves at the Station Telepherique or, in English, a cable car station. We went inside the station and looked at a map on the wall to discover the route we needed to take up Saleve. It turned out the Saleve was made up of two hills, the big Saleve and the little Saleve. Our route would take us up between the two hills and then up to the top of the big one. We commented that we thought there was only one Saleve and speculated that someone would have to build a bridge between the two.

Leaving the Station, we walked along the railway line, crossed a busy road and started climbing up the hill. Soon we were surrounded by trees and there were several cyclists riding like mentalists as fast as they could down the hill. The path was quite steep and similar in many ways to Grouse Mountain near Vancouver. We stopped a few times to admire the views of Geneva and the Jet d'Eau. We soon arrived at a long, spooky tunnel and then a bizarre set of massive steps which took us up to a little village in the valley between the two Saleves. We followed a path to our right, unsure of where to go next. A couple of walkers passed us and we asked them if they knew the route, but they didn't. We arrived at a church and turned right and soon found the correct path up the big Saleve. As we climbed again, a man passed us running with some ski poles, nearly impaling Rupert with one. Just after this, Rupert took a right and I informed him that he was heading down someone's driveway. We continued the walk up the hill through some trees, crossing the road winding up Saleve several times. I ended up some distance in front with Chris and the two of us had a good chat. After a while we passed through the trees and arrived at an open area by the road. Chris and I sat on a grass verge and had some drink whilst waiting for the others to catch up. In front of us there was a house with a Stella Artois advert on the side. I commented that it was a bit like a Stella Artois advert. The others joined us and we chilled out for a while together. Dave spotted a woman sat outside a house on the right selling honey. He wanted to ask her for a destination but bottled out. We carried on walking past the building with the Stella advert, which turned out to be deserted. Very soon, we arrived at the other Station Telepherique at the top of Saleve. We walked to the balcony at the front and admired the views of Geneva below us, before walking uphill behind us into a little park and sitting down on the grass to have lunch.

To our right there was a long slide and David pointed out a child at the top of it, shouting "Regarde!" to his family. We thought it would be amusing if Chris went and did the same to us. After our lunch Rupert used his Euros to get in a round of Calippos and Cornettos, with Chris opting for a Magnum. We then carried on walking up the hill to a higher point of Saleve. After a relatively short walk we arrived at a large field behind which there was an incredible view of the Alps. Slightly further up the trail we passed a man with a great big bushy beard and arrived at the Observation table which was a big stone table with directions to various places throughout the world. It was broken and a chunk was missing from it. Further up the hill, there was some strange green artificial turf, which David suggested was a putting green. We thought it was a strange place to have a putting green and slightly dangerous so close to the edge of the cliff. We walked past a building, down a slope then up a hill behind it to a large open space at the pinacle of Saleve. There was a tower to our left, so we walked over to it and sat in the shade behind it. We cracked open some cans of beer and chilled out for a while. It was very relaxing and after some time we decided to head back down to get the cable car to the bottom of Saleve. We walked back down the hill and passed the green turf again. This time, there were people there with hand gliders and realised that the turf was for mentalists to launch themselves from Saleve and float down into Geneva. We passed the bloke with the big bushy beard that we'd seen on the way up and eventually arrived at the cable car. I tried to use the toilet in the cable car area, but a man said, "No, no, no!" and gestured at me as apparently he was trying to repair them. I decided to sit down and wait with the others. A few minutes later the cable car arrived and the operator told us that it would depart ten minutes later. Eventually we boarded and made our way down Saleve, slightly quicker than we'd gone up it. At the bottom we were directed to the till to pay for our passage, which Chris duly did, then we left the station and walked back into Switzerland to catch the bus back to Geneva.

The bus was waiting at the bus stop when we arrived so we boarded hurriedly and sat down. It was very hot on board and the journey seemed to take a long time. Eventually we arrived back at the main station and we returned to our rooms to prepare for the stammtisch, which we had decided would be at Arn. Back at our room, Dave went through the shower first then sat down to chill out whilst I went through the shower. Once I'd got ready, we decided to leave as there was no snooker for us to watch on the television. We took the walk to the square in the old town and arrived at around 5.10p.m. We were the first to arrive so we selected a table and sat down. We ordered Franiskaner or "Frank Skinner" beers from our waitress. She soon arrived with Erdweiss beer and a broken glass which we asked if she could replace. She told us that Erdweiss beer was just the same as Frank Skinner beer. Dave got out his laptop and, whilst we were waiting for the others to join us, we went through all the rounds of the draw and documented how the draw should operate. David and Rupert eventually joined us around 6.00p.m. and we got a second round of drinks in. At this point, we decided to get PC Bourne's destination from the waitress. She looked at the list and after some deliberation opted for Quebec City. I was pleased that she'd picked my destination, but Quebec City was already in Hell so would not be put into the draw unless Hel 2006 was bummed. We began to wonder where Chris was and thought about ringing him, but he eventually turned up at around 7.00p.m. At this point we opted for a third round of drinks before heading to a restaurant for dinner. Chris opted for an orangina whilst David got a coke. I decided not to have another drink. Once we'd all finished our drinks, we walked down the hill past Murdock's and arrived at Le Flore restaurant, where we would be having our final night meal.

We were guided to a seat on the veranda opposite the main restaurant. Rupert took a seat in the corner facing the wall with Dave to his right and Chris to Dave's right. I sat opposite Dave whilst David sat opposite Chris. Chris and Rupert decided to order some expensive wine whilst David and I had cokes and Dave ordered a beer. We were presented with our menus and I ordered minestrone soup for starters, as did Dave and Chris. David and Rupert opted for omelettes. For main I had the fish pizza whilst David had the four cheese pizza and Chris and Dave ordered other types of pizza. Rupert decided on steak. I then prepared for the first mascot draw. Dave and David would not be taking part in the first mascot draw - David had won Reardon's pool tournament whilst Dave had won Pete Gibbon's Schweinerei tournament. The tile container was handed around and the draw was made. Rupert was allocated Grosser Vass, Chris drew Barney and I got Steve. David already had Reardon and Dave had Pete Gibbon. A second mascot draw then took place and David drew Kurt, Rupert drew Glogg, Chris drew Seamus, Dave drew Shaft and I drew Hel 2006. A final draw took place with Chris being allocated Eric. I took on PC Bourne should his destination be reinstated.

At this point, Dave announced that he would be attaching Pete Gibbon's choice to Kurt's veto round. That meant that, should a destination be vetoed, Pete Gibbon's choice would be put into the draw instead. Our starters arrived and we tucked in. The soup was good and, once we'd completed the draw for order of revealing, we began to reveal our destinations.

I was up first. I said I found this choice quite difficult but was opting for a traditional Christmas market city. My choice would therefore be:


Steve was next up. He'd sent me a text message with his choice, so I looked at it, to reveal his destination as Vienna. However, Steve had put Vienna into the last draw, so it was ineligible. I texted him to ask for another destination and eventually he texted back with his choice of:


Chris was next up and his choice was:


Our starters were cleared away and as our main courses arrived, Dave revealed his choice as;


David and I were unimpressed as we knew that there wasn't much to do in Palermo.

It was now David's turn and he said that he wanted to put in a slightly different destination. He'd mentioned the possibility briefly on the previous day and his choice would be:


Finally it was Rupert's turn and he declared that his choice was:


Chris then led the discussion for Seamus' choice. Eventually the Little Lucky Leprechaun's choice was announced as:


Reardon's choice, as selected by David, had already been announced as:


We ordered desserts, with Dave going for tiramisu, David having a big ice cream, Rupert going for the Colonel, which we were delighted to see on the menu and me opting for creme brule. Chris decided to go for a chocolate dessert called fondon, which apparently took fifteen minutes to prepare.

Rupert took charge of Glogg's Round, selecting Eric. This made Glogg rather redundant, particularly when he selected "No bum". The draw was therefore unchanged. Chris then took charge of Barney's round and Rupert was selected for diplomatic immunity. Our desserts arrived and Chris' fondon turned out to be a miniscule chocolate cake. He was disappointed and thought about ordering himself another dessert to accompany it. We ate our desserts and moved onto Kurt's veto. I texted the destinations to Steve and asked him for his choice as he had Thorsten's veto vote. We wrote our choices on pieces of paper and then handed the glass to David. He picked them out one at a time saying, "I'll count the votes". He then revealed, "Palermo", "Palermo", "No veto", "Palermo", "Palermo", "None. David, Chris, myself and Steve had voted for Palermo, whilst Dave and Rupert had voted for no veto. Palermo was thus vetoed and that meant that Pete Gibbon's choice, as supplied by Ben Manning, would be introduced into the draw. Dave opened the envelope and revealed Pete Gibbon's choice as:


David and I groaned and wished we hadn't vetoed Palermo. Dave then took charge of Shaft's round and shafted Kurt's veto. A double whammy as Palermo was reintroduced. Shaft's choice therefore became:


Rupert took charge of Grosser Vass' round and nothing was made Grosser. We ordered coffees for David, Rupert and myself, whilst Dave got another beer in and Chris ordered a cappuccino. We then decided to do the rehearsal draw. As Dave had been vetoed, the first result of the draw was:

10th Palermo, Dave (vetoed).

Pete Gibbon was first to eliminate, so Dave drew a tile and eliminated Vienna. Chris consoled himself with a Barthez.

___ To Amend 8th (Reardon eliminates) () 7th (LLL eliminates) () 6th (Rupert eliminates) () 5th (David eliminates) () 4th (Shaft eliminates) () 3rd (Chris eliminates) () ___

After six more eliminations, it was David against Steve. I drew a tile on behalf of Steve and handed it to Dave to reveal, keeping the other myself. Dave then revealed Barbados as the runner up. I celebrated with a Shearer on behalf of Steve as Budapest was announced as the winner. However, we declared that that draw was "just a bit of fun" and that it was now time for the real thing.

Our drinks arrived and we settled down for the draw. The tile container was handed around for mixing up and Dave eliminated first. He picked up a tile and eliminated:

9th Denmark (Seamus). The Little Lucky Leprechaun consoled himself with a Barthez. David then eliminated on behalf of Reardon and proxy-eliminated:

8th Barbados (David).

David was unimpressed.

Chris then eliminated, on behalf of the Little Lucky Leprechaun:

7th Vienna (Reardon).

It was now the turn of Rupert to eliminate and he eliminated:

6th Palermo (Shaft).

David and I breathed a sigh of relief as Palermo disappeared from the draw. However, we began to worry as Bergerac was still there. David then eliminated and selected:

5th Budapest (Steve).

Dave then eliminated, on behalf of Shaft:

4th Bergerac (Pete Gibbon).

David and I were really relieved - that took the pressure off.

The container was passed to Chris. He was still in the draw, hoping to win for the first time. He selected a tile and revealed:

3rd Vienna (Chris).

Chris had succeeded in self-eliminating.

Two destinations left and it was my Budapest against Rupert's Athens. I selected a tile and again handed it to Dave to eliminate on behalf of Steve, keeping the other for myself. Dave then revealed:

2nd Budapest (Mike).

I'd proxy-eliminated! I then revealed the winner as:

1st Athens (Rupert).

We all said, "Well, it's Athens next time!" as Rupert celebrated with a Shearer. We agreed that the draw could have turned out worse and that Athens may prove to be an interesting destination to visit for a winter break. We finished our coffees and decided to get the bill, but the waiter was dicking around and it took ages for our bill to be delivered. Eventually we received it and paid, before leaving to walk back to the hotel. Rupert and Chris had had a fair amount to drink as became obvious as we walked. We headed down the hill, crossed the road bridge and then took a detour underneath it to look at Lake Geneva with the Jet d'Eau lit up. We chatted about the updated draw statistics as we made our way back to the hotel. We wandered back up the hill and soon arrived back at the hotel. Dave and I said goodnight to the others then returned to our room to punch the sack in readiness for a very early start the following day.

Monday, 5th May

I woke up at around seven in the morning and went to David's room to get the suitcase we were sharing. Once Dave and I had packed, we met the others and checked out of the hotel. We crossed the road and went into the station and acquired tickets before boarding the train to the airport. Ten minutes later, we arrived at the airport and walked towards departures. Chris suddenly disappeared inside the terminal, having gone into the Easyjet France area by mistake. We carried on outside and entered the correct door, to be shortly joined by Chris who had realised his mistake. We checked in via the touch screens and then deposited our bags at the bad drop area. Once we'd done this, we proceeded through security and ended up in a small area with a few shops which appeared to be some sort of intermediate area between the check in area and the gates. There were three routes out through security into different departure areas. We turned left and foud a bar and cafe which served ritazza coffee. I got in a hot chocolate and a lemon muffin and the others ordered similarly. We then sat down and completed the tabulus. As we'd spent Euros in France whilst up Saleve, we had a multi-currency tabulus. Eventually we completed the tabulus and, as predicted, we all owed Rupert.

Once we'd had our breakfast, Rupert decided to wanted to get some duty free, so he went into a nearby shop whilst we waited for him. At this point, our plane's gate was announced, but Chris informed Rupert that he had some time before boarding. After a while, David, Dave and I decided we wanted to go to the gate, so I went and told Rupert and then the three of us walked into an underground passageway to the gate. There was a big queue for another secure zone which led into the gate area. We joined the queue and Chris soon followed, but Rupert wasn't in sight. We were a little perturbed, but proceeded through security. Eventually Rupert arrived. It turned out he'd gone through the wrong door from the intermediate area and ended up in the wrong gate area so had been forced to come out again and then make his way to the correct gate. We all ascended an escalator in front of us and ended up in a large circular room with glass all around. It turned out to be an isolatatroid - the only connection to the main terminal building being underground. There were several similar pods visible dotted around the area. After a short wait our plane was announced for boarding, so we all said goodbye to Chris, who had a little longer to wait before his plane. The Experience of Everything had thus ended for Geneva.

On the plane, Dave took the seat in the window whilst I sat in the aisle. Rupert sat in the aisle to my right and David sat in the window. As the plane took off, we declared that Geneva was over, but that the Geneva experience continued. I read my book during the short flight and at around 10.30a.m. the plane arrived at Luton airport. We got off the plane and proceeded through passport control to collect our bags. Our suitcases arrived very quickly and we went through customs. Dave and Rupert were heading for the train station, so we said goodbye to them as we went to validate our parking ticket at a desk. The Grand Unified Experience was thus over. Having done this, we went outside, passing Rupert and Dave again, who were trying to get bus tickets from a machine. We declared that the Grand Unified Experience had resumed again, then ended again as we boarded our bus to the long stay car park. We sat down on the bus behind a couple of guys who were sat in front of me on the plane. The bus arrived at the car park and we walked to the car to begin the drive back to Warwickshire.

The drive was uneventful and about an hour and a half later we arrived in Warwick. Rebecca texted me asking me to pick up a sandwich for her, so we stopped on route to pick up a sandwich and a couple of coffees for ourselves. We drove first to the Bridgehouse theatre and delivered Rebecca's sandwich. We sat at the desk for a while watching some of the World Championship snooker on the television, then drove to Frankie and Benny's where David and I grabbed some lunch. We both opted for burgers. Once we'd had our lunch, we drove back to the theatre then decided to go over to Redditch with Rebecca for her play rehearsal so that the three of us could have dinner afterwards. We drove back to Kenilworth and dropped off David's car, then drove over to Redditch and parked at the theatre. Rebecca gave David and I a quick tour of the backstage area, then we went to the nearby Wetherspoons to wait for Rebecca to finish her rehearsal. We got some drinks in and played on the quiz machine, relaxing and chatting about the break.

Once Rebecca's rehearsal had finished, we met her at the theatre then drove in the direction of Alcester. On route we spotted a nice pub, so went inside and got a table for dinner. We shared a starter and I ordered a lamb main course. We chilled out there for a while, then all drove back to my house in Kenilworth. David gathered his stuff together and prepared to depart back to Thatcham. I said farewell to him and we declared that the Geneva Experience was over. However, we delighted ourselves with the news that it was Athens next time.

Mike's Athens Diary