Saturday, December 01, 2007


Today was to be a bit of a lazy day. We woke up mid-morning, Zach went for a run, afterwards I made pancakes (from scratch!) which, if I may say so myself, were kinda kick-ass, and then in the early afternoon we took a nap.

Zach was about to put some fish in the oven for dinner when we realized that the Course de l'Escalade, which we'd though was happening tomorrow, was actually happening today.... and in fact that the marmite, the last race which was the one we wanted to see, was starting in about an hour. So we put the fish back in the oven, put in a quick pizza instead, and then headed into town so as not to miss this famous Geneva event.

The Escalade is an annual Geneva holiday, in celebration of the defeat of troops that were trying to pull a surprise attack on the city. Legend has it that in the middle of the night the soldiers were trying to climb up the walls into the city, when a woman making a big cauldron of soup saw them and poured it over the soldiers. The soldier's screams woke up the town, which was then able to fight them off. Next weekend there will be a whole celebration in the old town for the Escalade (which officially happened on the night of Dec 11, I think) but this weekend was the annual race. Participants are divided into categories by age and gender, etc, and then hold races throughout the day starting at about 10am.

The last race is called the marmite, and it's the one where people get dressed up in costumes and families will run or walk and it's much more relaxed and festive, I guess, as opposed to being a running race. It's kind of like San Francisco's Bay to Breakers (except with less alcohol and more clothing).

We made it to Parc de Bastions pretty much right in time to catch the beginning of the marmite. It was fun seeing the costumes, since you definitely noticed themes and and many were different from what you'd see in the US for costumes. There were lots of christmas-related costumes, like santas and snowmen, also lots of nature-related ones like mushrooms, trees, and ladybugs, and several groups of colored or black sheep (as a reference to the infamous and controversial UDC ad). We also saw at least one large group dressed as playing cards, and many nurses/doctors with the red cross symbol.

Once the race was over things kinda petered out, since many of the racers had young kids and I'm sure were ready to head home, and it had started sprinkling by then. Zach and I decided to walk down by the water and try to find a place to get a coffee or hot chocolate. We had to laugh a couple times when we passed a bus or tram stop and would see a bunch of people huddled up waiting for the bus to come, and waiting beside them was, say, a group of guys dressed as bumblebees. We ended up passing by the skating rink that's set up near Place de la Fusterie and saw some kids skating with the help of these penguin toys to help them keep their balance (brilliant!), then walked past the closing booths of the Marché de Noël on the plaza and grabbed a seat and a quick chocolat chaud and soup de courge at this little stand where the waiters all wore santa costumes. A quick walk back through old town and then back to the car, and then on home we went.

A lot of downtown is now all lit up with colored lights reflecting off trees and Christmas decorations, which I'd love to go back and take good pictures of, but tonight it was rainy off and on so I didn't want to risk bringing the big camera. Hopefully we'll get a chance to do that some other time. We may also need to go back and explore the Cirque de Noël going on at Plainpalais, we walked by and it looked kinda fun to walk through.

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