Geneva : The Rive Gauche
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The Flower Clock (©_OTG / Aeschlimann)

Geneva’s Rive Gauche (Left Bank, or southern bank) is lined with the tall, blank, almost disapproving facades of dozens of bank buildings. Behind the banks, the arrow-straight Rue du Rhône – principal thoroughfare of Les Rues-Basses, once a dockside slum and now Geneva’s fanciest shopping district – stretches a kilometre or more east, crammed with jewellers, department stores and designer boutiques of all kinds. A throng of traffic streams over the Pont du Mont-Blanc beneath the spectacular view of Europe’s highest mountain (4807m), which stands some 80km distant amidst the Savoy Alps beside the immense, shimmering blue lake and its extraordinary water-spout. At the foot of the bridge is the charming lakeside Jardin Anglais, focused around a double statue celebrating Geneva’s joining the Confederation in 1815, a fountain, bandstand and famous Flower Clock. The Jet d’Eau spouts only 400m along the lakeshore, while Parc La Grange, 1km further east along the lakeshore, is a landscaped expanse of some forty thousand rose bushes which drench the air with scent for most of the year.

West of the Pont du Mont-Blanc, past the bustling Place du Molard with its medieval tower, is the Pont des Bergues, with a footpath midway along it linking to a tiny island, the Île Rousseau, formerly a bastion and now a minuscule public garden graced with a statue of the Genevan philosopher. With such controversy surrounding Rousseau, even half a century after his death the city authorities were grudging in honouring him, and the statue, behind its sheltering camouflage of trees, originally faced the empty lake – to all intents and purposes cut off from view until the Pont du Mont-Blanc was built alongside in 1861.

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