We managed somehow to dismantle our tandem into about 457 pieces distributed between two soft suitcase- sized “backpacks” that we thought Lufthansa would accept as our ordinary luggage, or at the very least only “bicycle parts”. Humbug! Only $200 each way for one bike. With fuel prices rising daily, they are getting smarter than we thought and told us we were lucky they didn’t charge us $200 apiece extra for two bikes. Gone are the days of simply flying around the globe with our tandem as regular bags.
Perhaps as karma for even imagining that we could get by from San Francisco to Geneva without extra charges, Lufthansa left half our bike (one bag) in San Francisco. Now, jet lagged in Geneva, how much do they charge for a unicycle, we wonder. We join our Santana Tandem group and discover we are lucky. Others are looking dismayed at their smashed cases, their untracked missing bikes and their lost luggage. We are assured that the other half of our bike will be delivered to our hotel tomorrow.
We rally with the other seventy some tandem teams in a pair of very nice downtown Geneva hotels and later, promenade to the Edelweiss for an “authentic” Swiss evening. Basically, we have packaged raclette, huge amounts of noise, sardine-can like crowding and I think, if we could see or hear over the other sardines, a 15-foot long flugel horn concert followed by an 18-bell cowbell recital.
But our first days shake down ride, after reuniting the 457 pieces miraculously back into one tandem bike and struggling to figure out the routing on a bike GPS, will follow Lake Geneva down to Nyon and a complete immersion course in Swiss Enlightenment Age history. Joyfully, the weather is lovely, the bike works smoothly, I am able to navigate following the pink tracks line on our GPS. We find our way there and back to Geneva for a wonderful immersion in the school of chocolate opened especially for us at Stettler, “Chocolatier Depuis 1875”.
Brownies last week and premier Swiss Chocolates this. Arriving at the chocolate factory, opened on Saturday just for our group, we are greeted with the requirement that we must suit up in specially provided hygienic cover-ups. It’s comical to see a bunch of fit cyclists wearing brightly colored cycling shirts and Lycra shorts devolve into lumpen plastique proletariat. We are required to put on white plastic overcoats which soon become like saunas as we sweat our way through the chocolate factory, wearing blue surgical booties, white masks and white fabric hair coverings that look like shower caps and the overcoats. There are probably enough cycling surgeons in this group of 173 riders who feel relatively at home in this garb. There are probably enough of the rest of us who feel squeamish because we only see these costumes when we’ve been rolled into an OR on a gurney after a biking accident.
In either case, once dressed, we then enter the inner sanctum of chocolate to meet the beans planted then imported from Africa and South America, the curing and refining process, and the steps between the bean and the delicacies produced here in the factory. We are introduced to the history, technique and preparation and tasting of about a dozen different types of chocolate truffles, bon bons, paves du Geneve, marzipan and myriad exquisite shapes including a 65 kilo trophy and small chocolate “go ahead” or “flip flop” covered in crabs. All drenched in melted dark chocolate, dripping as we are inside our plastic gowns. Hmmm. Yum. Hot feet.