Day 6 | Advent Calendar
My First Taste of Christmas at McDonald’s in Geneva by Dr Gulara Vincent
‘Let’s go to Geneva for Christmas,’ my friend said.
It was late autumn 2004 and we were taking French classes. As our vocabulary was expanding, my friend had a bright idea of putting that knowledge into practice.
‘Why not France?’
‘It’s harder to get a visa to France. Let’s go to Geneva for Christmas, and get back in time to celebrate New Year. We’ll have the best of both festivals.’
It sounded like a good plan, so after a few rounds of this conversation, I agreed to go. She had a friend working at a travel agents, and all I needed to do was to hand over my passport and money for her to sort it all out.
Finally the big day arrived and we headed to celebrate our first ever Christmas in Geneva. Arriving at a deserted small town with a giant lake and a tall fountain gushing in the middle of a lake was a shock to the system. There was nothing festive about Geneva. Coming from a country with no tradition of celebrating Christmas, we had no idea that it was a family festival, that everyone was either at home, or had booked every available seat in the restaurants. The next day, we walked the empty streets of Geneva with rubbish flying around us. It was surreal, almost like a scene from one of Stephen King’s books. All the shops were closed, you couldn’t see a single person on the street, and there was definitely no one to speak to in French.
The next day was no better.
What was going on, we kept wondering. Public transport didn’t work either, so the height of the visit was walking to look at the Red Cross building … from the outside. Eventually we managed to quiz a Russian-speaking receptionist from Latvia, who explained that during Christmas everything shuts down for three days. Doh! How were we supposed to know that? The worst part was there was nothing much to eat. The only place that was open was McDonald’s. We had our breakfast, lunch and dinner there, and after five days of that diet I vowed to never go anywhere near McDonald’s again.
Towards the end of our visit, sleepy Geneva started waking up with people bustling at the train station. I even managed to speak to a cashier in broken French. It was worth the visit after all.
Dr Gulara Vincent is a writer, university law lecturer and a Momentum Mentor for Writers. When not writing or teaching, she helps women writers to re-write their inner stories so that they can (re-)gain momentum in their creative process. You can connect with her on her website (www.gularavincent.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/drgularavincent) or Twitter @gulara_vincent. Better yet, sign-up to her mailing list to receive compassion meditations and other support she sends out to her subscribers https://www.gularavincent.com/subscribe-gularas-newsletter/.