While visiting Geneva, I decided to take a quick trip to Lausanne (which is 40 minutes from Geneva, 30 minutes from Chillon). Lausanne is MUCH better than Geneva so my advice is to skip Geneva and spend your time visiting Lausanne, Montreux and Chillon.
Lake Geneva is in the southwest corner of Switzerland and separates the country from France. This area is known as the Swiss Riviera and the predominant language is French. Lausanne calls itself the “Olympic Capital” (it has been the home to the International Olympic Committee since 1915). This colorful city was first founded on the lakefront by the Romans (and really, what city didn’t they discover???). Once Rome fell, the original Lausanners fled to the hills to escape the barbarians and established what is today referred to as “vieille ville” (old town). Lausanne has 2 parts: 1) the lakefront Ouchy (which has restaurants & the Olympic Museum) and 2) old town which has an Old World charm and other museums (i.e. Collection de l’Art Brut). These two areas are connected by the Metro funicular (source Rick Steves’ “Switzerland”).
Lausanne is absolutely beautiful and very serene. You can walk along Lake Geneva during the breathtaking sunset.
Or, stop to view the flower displays as you stroll the main boulevard.
We arrive in Lausanne and take a taxi to the Olympic Museum (which is AWESOME!). This museum is interesting to both Olympic enthusiasts and those of us who like to watch the games every 2 years. As you enter the museum, you will pass by the Olympic store which has shirts, posters, etc. from previous games (and the future London 2012 games). After you pay the entrance fee, you are given a ticket which you will need to insert into the turnstiles to enter each exhibit.
They have several small theaters which recount the history of the Olympics. In 1894, Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee and restarted the games after a 1,500 year lapse. Barron de Coubertin was a teacher who was born into a French aristocratic family. He was really into physical fitness and channelled that passion into restarting the games. During the film, you hear him ask the nations that will take part in the games to respect each other. Now, I do have to give Mr. de Coubertin the side-eye because he felt that the inclusion of women would be “impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic, and incorrect.” Whatever, Pierre. Women eventually were allowed to compete in the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris.
The ground floor traces the history of the Olympics from its start in Greece through about a century’s worth of ceremonial olympic torches.
Upstairs has medals and information/highlights from each Olympics.
Muhammad Ali’s shoe from his gold medal win in boxing at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
Wilma Rudolph’s track shoe that she wore to win three Olympic titles (the 100 m, 200 m and the 4 x 100 m relay) at the same 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome as Muhammad Ali.
The basketball signed by the U.S. “Dream Team” led by Michael Jordan at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
And, Shannon Miller’s leotard from her gold medal win for balance beam at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.