I am spending March 4 - April 30 at the Fondation Brocher, a medical ethics and policy research institute in Hermance, a small, picturesque village (population ~1,000) on the left bank of Lake Geneva that dates back to the 13th century. (Ten researchers, who generally come for periods of one or two months, are in residence at any one time; members of the current group hail from Italy, Portugal, Germany, Australia, Eqypt, Israel, and the US).
[Update on April 7: Eight of the ten completed their one or two-month stays and departed on March 29. Michal Lavidor (from Israel) and I were the only researchers to stay on, and we were joined by a new group on April 3. (In between, we had the whole estate to ourselves, the staff having also temporarily departed, and felt very much like the lords of the manor). The very lively new group is on average considerably older than the one it replaced and more European. Two researchers are from the Netherlands, one is from the US, and the others are from Germany, France, Ireland, and Norway, (The Norwegian brought a guitar and he played and we all sang for hours last night after dinner).]
Returning to the original narrative:
The travel here was challenging. Although the originating flight (on TAP Portugal) was fine, the transfer at Lisbon airport was a disaster. A 2-hour long line to clear immigration was followed by a lengthy security rescreening. Although it should not have been a tight connection, I only made the Lisbon-Geneva flight because the latter had been delayed. Then on arriving in Geneva, I had to take two local buses to the institute. I found the right bus from the airport, managed the transfer, and was feeling pretty self-congratulatory – until I got off at the wrong stop for my destination! There I was, in the middle of nowhere, with luggage sufficient for a 2-months’ stay that crossed seasons and no idea of far I was from the Brocher or with any way to find out or to contact someone. But I eventually spotted a young woman across the road, and when I told her my sad story, she said not to worry, that she lived nearby and would retrieve her car and return in a few minutes, which she did! So I was driven to the door and not just dropped off at the Brocher gate (as with the bus), and what would have been a memorably awful travel experience was transformed into a memorably lovely one.
The Brocher estate, which consists of several structures and beautifully-landscaped grounds that slope down to the lake, is about a 5-minute walk along the road to the village. Here are some photos of the Brocher:buildings (Villa Brocher, Centre Brocher, and a belvedere on the lake) and the grounds. I have a sleeping room in the Villa Brocher, seen in the first photo, which is also where meals are served, and am very fortunate to have a separate office (sometimes shared with Maya the cat) overlooking the lake in the Centre Brocher, where the administrative offices and auditorium are located. The views from the office -- both daytime and at sunset -- are spectacular (and seriously distracting)!
Below are some photos of Hermance, which is on the French border. Apart from a lovely church, the village has a small grocery store, a pâtisserie/boulangerie, several restaurants, a pier, and a really nice beach (with outdoor dining).
The final photos were taken on a (hilly, muddy, winding) hike on a path through the woods to Hermance with colleagues Bahir (from Egypt) and Meredith (from Australia). On the left of the stream is Switzerland, on the right France.
Update on April 7: Due to explorations by one of the new Dutch researchers, we now know of an entire network of walking/hiking trails that branch out from Hermance (most crossing the French border). So the last photos were taken yesterday evening (it's now light til at least 7:30) when, inspired by the report of our Dutch colleague, Michal and I decided to explore new walking paths.
Today (24 March) our group made a communal raclette dinner under the guidance of Luca Chiapperino (an Italian at the University of Lausanne, who is married to a French woman). Luca ordered a half-round of cheese from a shop where they also loan the machine for holding, melting, and scraping the raclette cheese, and during the week, we picked up the cheese and machine and then drove to a supermarket in France (where food prices are much, much lower) to buy the accompanying potatoes, cornichons, charcuterie, veggies, etc.
The institute is about 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Geneva city -- a trip of about a half-hour on a bus that conveniently stops right at the Brocher gate. Here are some photos from multiple Geneva excursions. These include a visit with colleagues Luca and Melissa (who teaches at the University of Michigan) to the Patek-Philippe watch museum and several sights along the lake including colleague Brigida (from Portugal) at the iconic flower clock (l'horloge fleurie), the water-jet fountain (Jet d'Eau), and the little yellow mouettes ("seagull" boats) that criss-cross the lower lake as part of the public transport system.
Sign seen in UN bathroom (courtesy of Bahir Ibrahim) and a bottle of local wine.
Geneva - the old city
It is March 30, and Spring has definitely sprung in Geneva with the fruit trees in bloom, spring flowers abounding, and leaves beginning to appear on trees. It is very quiet at the Brocher since 8 of the 10 researchers in residence finished their 1 or 2 months terms and departed (in most cases, very reluctantly) yesterday morning. Until Wednesday, when the next group arrives, that just leaves the Israeli researcher Michal and me, and Michal left early this morning to meet her visiting brother-in-law in Zurich. But the weather is absolutely gorgeous, and I decided that it would be the perfect day -- as indeed it was -- to do an organized walking tour of the old city. which I didn't know at all. Here are a few photos from the 2-hour walk, including the Mur des réformateurs (Reformation Wall) overlooking the Parc des Bastions, a section of the old city wall (with cannons), and a replica of Geneva in 1850 at the Maison Tavel, the oldest house in Geneva and now a wonderful small museum of Geneva's history.
tÉLÉpherique du salèVE
Another gorgeous weekend day in the period between the departure of one group and arrival (on Wednesday) of another. I decided to make an excursion to Mont Salève, just across the border in France (about 20 km from the center of Geneva, and a very popular day-trip from the city). There's a cable car (téléphérique) to near the summit, and many trails that climb the rest of the way or to other observation points. I did only one of them and it nearly killed me!
The city of Lausanne is on the other side of the lake from Hermance -- not too far as the crow flies but in practice, at least a two-hour trip as one needs first to take buses into Geneva and then to the train station and a train to Lausanne -- and in my case, the metro the university, which is on the outskirts of the city. (There is a boat crossing to Lausanne, but it's either to/from Geneva, which is no savings in time) or to/from Evian in France, requiring a taxi from Evian to Hermance). So a rather long trip for such a short distance. But it was the last of a string of gorgeous days, and after my talk, I was taken for an informal tour of the city center and lakeside Lausanne is known for its steep hills -- the city climbs straight upward -- its medieval streets, and its 12th century cathedral.
snow in hermance (4 april 2019)!
The new group of researchers arrived yesterday, and then last night and continuing into this morning, it snowed -- finally providing an opportunity to wear the very smart galoshes that I bought with Alyssa Landry's help before leaving. Here's what it looked like from my bedroom and office windows.