Whiff of Scandal among the Mountain Tops; Geneva Is an Unusual Spot for a Weekend Break - but Byron and Shelley Made the Most of It. and So Did Ray Connolly

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Byline: RAY CONNOLLY

SOME people get more from mini-breaks than others. Take Lord Byron and the Shelleys for instance.

They went to Geneva, as I did, Byron in his house above the lake at Cologny, Percy and his teenage mistress, Mary, in their menage a trois with Mary's young aunt, renting a villa on the road below.

But after a little youthful debauchery, Mary came home with the start of the most famous gothic horror novel, Frankenstein, while Byron wrote a chunk of Childe Harold. All I have to show for my few days by Lake Geneva is this article.

I can only imagine the ambience of Geneva must have changed a bit since Byron and friends were there in 1816.

Modern-day Geneva seems more Gap than gothic, more materialistic than romantic.

You never saw so many sparkling, gem-encrusted watches in shop windows. And you won't often see such a tonnage of well- turned-out women up and down the Rue du Rhone shopping.

I found Geneva's eccentric side, too - listening to the Blue Danube playing among the BMWs in the spotlessly kept underground Mont Blanc car park, or the young, punk accordion player outside the Cathedral St-Pierre, or seeing the child-sized chess pieces in the Parc des Bastions.

It's a city of small contradictions, one being that it regularly punches above its weight.

One of the most famous cities in the world, in one of the most beautiful locations, Geneva is actually very small, not much more than a medium-sized town, its fame being largely based on the organisations based here.

Most famous is the Red Cross, begun by a Swiss saint of a business man called Henri-Dunant in 1864.

There's a disquieting Red Cross museum on the Avenue de la Paix which illustrates why the world needs the Red Cross, and its creation, the Geneva Convention, with its rules on modern warfare.

Visually, Geneva is in a stunning setting, between two alpine mountain ranges, where a 450ft water jet has been mesmerising watchers for more than 100 years. …