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Parc Mon-Repos

July 26th, 2007

geneva parc mon repos_1

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If you build a city beside an enormous lake, as Geneva did some centuries ago, you not only have a good water supply, you get to play in it during the summer. The Swiss know a good thing when it laps at their ankles. On hot summer days, it seems all of Geneva head to the shore, and lucky for them they had good (modern thinking) city planners: lakefront Geneva is a people’s park and recreation playground, not the spoils of arrogant developers.

geneva parc mon-repos_2The Parc Mon-Repos blankets hundreds of acres along Lake Geneva’s western bank. Across the street begins Geneva’s city center, where you’ll find most of its tourist hotels and dozens of international restaurants. This makes morning runs, evening strolls, and afternoon picnics convenient. While the park is not very wide, just 200-300 meters in most spots, it stretches nearly two kilometers.

The park’s best features are its huge fields, airy and open to the sky. From its high point at the street running north-south along its western perimeter, Parc Mon-Repos slopes toward the lake, which gives you sweeping views of Lake Geneva and far off eastern banks. Visitors bring blankets for all-day picnics and park activities like Frisbee, football, and just plain hanging out. The lake is the focal point from the banks, and it’s easy to find yourself enjoying the day simply by watching the boats race or sail across the water.

A wide path runs along the seawall, where people stroll, bicyclists pedal, and benches welcome the setters. Smaller paths branch off and wind through the trees separating those many open fields. They run along formal garden displays, fountains, the kid’s pool, and through the courtyards of the former owners’ estate homes. Swiss nobles owned the three estates that make up the park until the middle of the 20th century.

geneva parc mon-repos_4It was Philippe Plantamour who helped create most of what is Mon-Repos today. He built his family mansion here in 1848, and quickly established a collection of rare plants. In 1901 he bequeathed his estate house and the property to the city of Geneva. They converted the building into the Museum of Ethnography. Today the estate house is home to the Henry-Dunant Institute, which studies environmental sciences. The trees, bushes, flowers and plantings throughout Mon-Repos reflect Plantamour’s vision of community between people and their environment.

I especially like Mon-Repos’s landscape design that separates areas using the natural landscape and indigenous trees. Groves of poplar separate a children’s swimming pool from a larger, more adult-active area. Lines of cedar firs block one open grove from a formal garden. There are sunbathing areas and party areas; shady groves for intimate picnics and sunny lanes for bicyclists.

(read more about Parc Mon-Repos highlights here

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