House- and cat-sitting in a little village near Geneva

Swans on Lake Geneva at Vevey, hoping to share our lunch

It had been awhile since David and I did a pet- and housesitting gig for someone new, but we had a couple of weeks to fill between our latest cat-sit in Antwerp and the time I’d set aside for a long-wished-for trip to Corsica. On whim, I searched for something that might work. (See my earlier posts on pet- and housesitting here and here.) I was intrigued to find a two-week cat- and housesit in Thoiry, France, a small village nestled against the Jura Mountains just outside of Geneva, Switzerland. I wrote the owner, Lydia, right away; we had a great video chat and it was a done deal. Her tomcat, Leo, turned out to be the easiest cat-sit ever. He roamed at night and came home in the morning for breakfast and to socialize and nap. He never even used his litterbox during our stay. Lydia’s home was cute, comfortable and modern and a breeze to maintain with techy touches including a robot lawn mower and big, retractable awning over the patio.

A mere 7.5 miles (12 km) from the Geneva airport (GVA), Thoiry is an easy commute to the city, but still retains a charming “main street” with a terrific bakery (La Boulange), a grocery store, a wine shop, a few eateries, and a lively market filled with regional goods every Sunday. A modern mall sits amid a commercial center 2 km from the village center. Thoiry prides itself on its beekeepers and honey and wooden bee statues are scattered throughout the town.

One of two bee statues flanking the approach to the Thoiry town hall

I hadn’t been in the region in many years, since the first year I’d lived with my boys in Paris. Back then, we’d trained to Geneva to stay with family friends at their chalet in the Haute Savoie on the other (still French) side of Geneva from Thoiry. I was looking forward to revisiting beautiful villages along Lake Geneva/Lac Leman and discovering others yet unknown to me. Then, there were interesting places to explore in the Jura and daytrips to be had in Alpine towns.

There’s been plenty written about Geneva and the gorgeous towns along Lake Geneva, so although we loved Vevey, Montreux, Ivoire and more, I won’t go into much detail here save to share a few photos and say that the castle at Montreux (Château de Chillon) is worth a visit, especially on a pretty day. Just remember to have your paper “parking clock” to put under the windshield if you’re driving and want to park on the street. We picked one up for free at the castle, but it turned out the car rental company had provided one in the glove box, if only I’d thought to look.

View from the Château de Chillon in Montreux with the
Dents du Midi (in the Chablais Alps) in the distance

[Note: France now requires an international driving permit or that a foreign-language license be translated into French by government-approved translators (a near impossibility for short-term tourists). One-year international driving permits are easy to get and cheap at AAA, but need to be gotten before leaving the U.S. unless you’ve got lots of time abroad to mail your application and for the permit to be mailed before you need to drive.]

Driving was easy on great French and Swiss roads. Like everyone in the region, we made frequent border-crossings, always passing right through with no passport check; even though Switzerland is not an EU member it is in the Schengen Area. The biggest driving hassle was Geneva traffic which seemed never-ending and made the city an annoying-if-lovely bottleneck. I’ll touch on a few of our favorite daytrips in the posts that follow: Annecy, Voltaire’s château, Chamonix, and the Jura, with quirky little St-Claude and its pipes and lush hiking trails being an unexpected treat.

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