- 11 Jun 08, 10:35 AM
Geneva - 608 miles travelled
Rather like Steve Martin in The Spanish Prisoner, I have always been taken by the idea of opening a numbered Swiss bank account.
Just a few digits that imparts on their owner a little brush of the mystique of James Bond, a man who would undoubtedly be very much at home in Geneva.
A numbered bank account hints at danger, a secret life and hidden wealth. Being in Geneva, I was keen to explore the possibilities but was stopped dead in my tracks by the head receptionist at my hotel.
"Of course you can open a numbered bank account... provided you have a minimum of US$100,000."
Undaunted, I ventured into a plush foyer having seen a sign proclaiming 'private banking' and made a discreet enquiry. A sort of sympathetic, slightly confused and most definitely condescending look from a receptionist dripping in designer gear ushered me towards the door. No words were necessary.
I'll stick to my current account, with its free breakdown cover and travel insurance.
In some ways I'm just a northern monkey, always have been, always will be and wouldn't have it any other way. Sometimes it pays to know your level.
Sweaty, scruffy and unshaven - it just isn't a look made for this city, which is a world apart from the quaint and old worldly German-speaking part of Switzerland that I have so far visited.
I trailed up and down the road where my hotel was supposed to be after arriving in Geneva. The sun was beating down and my T-shirt turned into a wet rag. Classy broads and suave blokes dodged me at every turn. By the time I finally found my abode for the next two nights even I was trying to avoid myself.
No wonder I've ended up in the room that shudders every time the lift moves up and down. (Note to editor - always beware of hotels with the word 'quality' in their title.)
Before I left England for Euro 2008, Helvetaz posted a comment on one of my blogs in which he suggested several things I should do in Geneva.
One of them was to try the numbered bank account shenanigans - a miserable failure. Another involved swimming in the Bains de Paquis and clocking all the lovely 'crumpet'. This suggestion has its attractions but, alas, fell foul of a couple of critical points.
One being that I'm away from the missus for several weeks and an hour spent with the express aim of looking at lush, immaculately presented Swiss women would have put a definite strain on long-range conjugal relations. Of course, had I managed to open a numbered Swiss bank account, which remains undisclosed at divorce proceedings, it might have been a different story. The other is that it would have been unfair to inflict my bone china-white body on an unsuspecting and bronzed public.
The third task was to take a trip up the cable car at Mont Saleve in nearby France - and on this front at least I could oblige.
It was also an activity from which my wife would have willingly excused herself, so steep and quick was the ascent. As my ears popped, it did occur to me that just a few metal cables separated me from a conversation with my grandparents.
The vista at the top - 1,097m above Geneva - was spectacular but obviously not engrossing enough for one particular individual, who spent fully 30 minutes filling in his Sudoku puzzle.
Geneva looked so small it was hard for me to reconcile the mishmash of buildings with a city gorging itself on its own fabulous wealth.
The city boasts one of the world's most expensive hotel rooms ($33,000 a night, according to my guidebook), the world's longest bench (126 extremely impressive metres), the world's tallest fountain (shooting water up at 200km an hour) and the world's biggest machine (something to do with particle physics).
Throw in designer shops big enough to dwarf Preston bus station, a liberal sprinkling of top-of-the-range sports cars and more jewel-encrusted watches than a party on one of Roman Abramovich's yachts and you just about have the picture.
Eventually I found my level, striking up a conversation with the evening concierge at my hotel.
He lives in France and moaned like hell about his wages. The previous night a Czech man had asked him to change some Euros to Swiss francs and had whipped out 3,500 from his inside pocket. For my new friend, it was a perfect illustration of what this city is all about
But, my new buddy assured me, there are people in Geneva like him and me. Normal people. The conversation was going well, we were bonding. It was when he explained his 'obby was country music line dancing that I started to work on my exit strategy.
p.p.s Will a team ever equalise in this tournament?
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