in the middle of his novel The riddle of room 622 (2020), Joël Dicker allows himself a license and notes: “Alone in my room in the stillness of the night, I think of Geneva, my beloved city, and I thank you. City of Peace and good people”. And the investigation of the crime that will be carried out by the narrator (named Joël Dicker) and Scarlett Leonas, an accidental guest at the Palace hotel in Verbier (based on the Schweizerhof, in Flims) continues, where the writer retires to try to overcome a heartbreak and disconnect . The young woman will push him to write the book she doesn’t want, a thriller which ends up being a tribute to his hometown, described to the millimeter. A kind of updated travel guide that includes a dissection of social layers, history and clues about the idiosyncrasy of this financial center and crossroads of nationalities located between the Alps and Mount Jura, at the foot of Lake Leman.
We start the route just like the novel, in the renowned Champel neighborhood, where the narrator lives (and where Dicker lived until recently): at number 13 avenue Alfred-Bertrand, opposite Bertrand park, to which He goes for a run every morning in the hope of sparking a chance encounter with his neighbor—and girlfriend of two months—Sloane. A park where everything is in its place and which explains why Geneva is the third greenest capital on the planet.
Nearby is Rue de Contamines, with buildings from the 1930s, including one by Maurice Braillard, a fundamental architect in the Swiss city. His is the Mont Salève cable car from 1932, a wonder deco closed last august for renovation and to go up without fail when it reopens next year.
In the Quai des Bergues we find the Four Seasons, in the novel Hôtel des Bergues, where Lev Levovitch lives (together with Macaire Ebezner and Anastasia, one of the members of the love triangle). It is the first hotel to be built in Geneva in 1834 after the demolition of the fortifications. And on its top floor is the Japanese restaurant Izumi, where the narrator invites Sloane to dinner before she leaves him. Life is not always as we expect, that’s why novels are written.
The shores of Lake Geneva shine in fiction and in reality. In front of the accommodation, between the two banks, where the lake gradually becomes the Rhône river, we find the welcoming island of Rousseau, which both serves as a refuge for the characters (Lev and Anastasia) and as a rest area for the builders. of the plot (Joël and Scarlett). Today here stands a statue of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, another illustrious Genevan, around whom there is always someone listening to the sound of water.
Where Empress Sissi died
Beyond the Pont du Mont-Blanc (the one that is crossed most times in the reading and on this route), another key location: the Beau-Rivage hotel, the most historic and the one with the best views of the ubiquitous Jet d’Eau fountain and even, on clear days, of Mont Blanc itself. It is not surprising that Olga chooses her terrace to have tea with her daughters, trying to emulate one of her most renowned clients, Empress Sissi, who left on September 10, 1898 to take the steamboat and on the same pier she was stabbed by a young anarchist, before barely making it back to the hotel, where she died. Just step on the entrance and admire the careful neoclassical architecture of the interior courtyard, with its mosaic floor. art nouveauto feel the weight of tradition and charme since 1865 and the feeling that if you entered a suite room, the exterior would cease to exist and would only be forced out, handcuffed, between gendarmes. A visit makes us agree with Kofi Annan, who said: “Just like there are five continents and then there is Geneva, there are grand hotels and then there is the Beau-Rivages”. Jean Cocteau, Sophia Loren, Anthony Burgess, Marlene Dietrich or Eleanor Roosevelt fit into his guest book.
Following the trail of the good life that is lavished in the novel, the Roberto restaurant is inevitable, the Italian where Olga takes her daughters. When Anastasia asks for her celebrated tagliatelle a la creme aux truffes, his mother prevents him, alleging that he must maintain the line and imposes grilled sole on him. A clearly unacceptable decision, because that dish is art. Although, once finished, perhaps Olga was right, because that flavor will haunt you, and from then on life will consist of recovering that foundational emotion that, as usually happens, will be unrecoverable.
Another essential setting is the Grand Théâtre, built in 1879 in the image of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. Not only because of the gossip that the characters are up to or because of the Wagner operas they come to see; also because afterwards they always end up at the nearby Café Remor, a wonderful classic, according to the narrator “with an intellectual air” that we are not going to deny.
Macaire and Anastasia live in the “cocktailed commune” of Cologny. Next to Pret Byron, on Route de Ruth, 9, it is easy to spot the Villa Diodati estate. Apart from being a majestic building with views of the lake and beyond, it is the house where Lord Byron stayed in 1816. As he was bored, he called his friends Mary Shelley, John Polidori and Percy Bysshe Shelley to cheer him up. . It was so cold that instead of walking they dedicated themselves to inventing stories, one of which ended up being Frankensteinwritten here.
The neighboring Auberge du Lion d’Or, commanded by the duo Dupont & Byrne, is the gastronomic restaurant where Macaire invites Anastasia to dinner without her getting to taste the food because of a call. You can not imitate them and eat, but keep in mind that Macaire does not invite and that the chefs accumulate stars.
Missing from this literary journey is the Ebezner Bank, around whose chairmanship the enigma revolves, located at number 11 Rue de la Corraterie. We are between commercial Geneva, in the rue basses (low streets), and the old townthat of Saint Peter’s Cathedral, where Abel Ebezner is buried (a detail that gives a good account of the character’s importance), and that of the traditional and bubbly Place du Bourg-de-Four, where it is convenient to find a place in the terrace of La Clémence, close the book and open a Calvinus craft beer, another work of art.
Find inspiration for your next trips on our Facebook and Twitter and Instagram or subscribe to the El Viajero Newsletter here.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.