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Trip 8: Cut short by coronavirus

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When your phone begins to vibrate incessantly at 2 o’clock in the morning it’s usually the precursor to big news. In this case, it was a flood of texts from family and friends determined to let me know that the President had just announced a travel ban and I needed to get out of Europe before it was too late. My heart skipped a beat. There was a lot at stake. My daughter and my Godchild were with me on this trip!

Until that moment, our trip to Geneva had mostly gone as planned. We had filled our belly’s laughing over fondue and raclette at Hotel Les Armures. Seriously, we ate enough at one meal for like a week. The 15-year-old and 20-year-old can throw down some bread and cheese like grown men! 

In fact, for a few days, the only thing that seemed different was the stock of cleaning supplies in my backpack.

We wiped down every table before we ate and each hotel room we stayed in. I even brought my own cup from home for water! We held wipes on railings and escalators. We wore gloves in train stations and airports. We even slept on pillowcases I had packed. 

Life still seemed to be moving forward. We leisurely strolled around looking for someplace to have breakfast. We found the perfect Patisserie which had the right combination of funky atmosphere and good food.

We sat for a bit and planned out our day while people at other tables sat reading the newspaper! You don’t see that every day anymore!

Even with the snow-capped Alps surrounding us, there were signs of spring in bloom at the Conservatory and Botanical Garden. It’s free which, with 50 trips planned for the year I turn 50, that’s a bonus. 

Seriously, the place looked like a real-life fairy garden! I can only imagine how beautiful it is in full bloom.

The lakefront in Geneva is a beautiful place to walk, with the star being the fountain in the center known as The Jet d’Eau. You can see the fountain from the air it’s so big!

We couldn’t leave the waterfront without finding the famed Flower Clock. It’s a tribute to the high-end watchmaking tradition in Geneva. It looks different every season as it’s made of various flowers that bloom at different times of the year.

We did a little shopping too, of course. These girls have the shopping thing down, too. It was fun to see them stroll into Prada and Gucci, a little timid, eyes wide, trying to play it cool. I want them to learn to dream bigger for their own life!

Of all the places we saw in Geneva, Old town had to be my favorite. The cobblestone streets seemed frozen in time. It was a stark contrast to the many American influences we saw in other parts of town like Five Guys, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and KFC.

Fortunately, before the Corona chaos erupted in full force we managed to get in a few educational stops while we were there! Geneva is home to world diplomacy. The World Trade Organization, the International Red Cross, and the World Health Organization all have headquarters there.

It was surreal to walk by the WHO only to see a press conference from there hours later on CNN International about the coronavirus! 

Unfortunately, the public tours of The United Nations were closed due to the outbreak but we walked the grounds anyway. Outside a group of protestors was drawing attention to the need for human rights in Tibet. They’ve protested on the same day of the month, every month, for 8 years. Let that sink in. What do you care so deeply about that you would show up consistently every month for that long just to make your voice heard?

Dreams of the day quickly faded as I woke to the sound of my phone, signifying an end to our trip. It was time to go and FAST. I grabbed my laptop and said a prayer. Airline sites were overloaded. No one answered the phone. I tried Travelocity and booked 3 new one-way tickets home, trying to ignore the astronomical cost. I let the girls sleep as long as I could while my brain raced in the darkness of the hotel room. Finally, it was time to wake them up. Their faces dropped while the news registered in their brains.  I know it was a lot to absorb. Then we sprung into action. I am so proud of the way they handled everything. We managed to laugh through the anxiety and find joy in the small things like a row to ourselves on the plane and really yummy in-flight salted caramel ice cream (yes I made them wipe down the container first!).

We got back to Atlanta just before lines at the airports became 6 hours long. In fact, we got through Customs with almost disturbing ease given the fact that cities across the world were shutting down.  We were exhausted but safe and felt fine. Angels were traveling with us no doubt.  They were also at work back home, stocking our fridge for our 14-day self-quarantine.

If you are wondering, YES. It was worth the trip.