Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reflections on the lake

You know how it is on those crisp, breezy autumn afternoons when you hop on the paddle steamer at Nyon -- first class, of course -- for the leisurely cruise along the lake shore back to Geneva. Seated in the forward lounge you peruse the menu, seeking something that will help untwist those knots of muscle which develop in the frame of a flatlander, unused to Switzerland's pretty but often near-vertical urban landscape. Your companions are making selections from the fine range of whiskies and local liqueurs on offer, but for you it must be beer. A cool glass of lager is just what's required.

Options, however, are limited. Cardinal Sp├ęciale is the height of it, brewed by those clever Carlsberg chaps at the nation's largest brewery, right by the border with Germany. At 5.2% ABV it packs enough weight to begin the unwinding process quickly, and you relax into it. It's a shame about the plastic cup it's served in: the golden age of travel is plainly far behind us. Even given the strength, you weren't expecting the pale gold lager to be quite so heavy. There's almost a syrupy texture to it. But it's not at all unpleasant as the stickiness is balanced by quite an assertive bitter bite.

On dry land this would not be a beer you'd give much for but, grasping your plastic cup and wandering out onto the deck to watch the vineyards and chateaux of Geneva's lush hinterland drift by, it's perfectly adequate for this setting.

As the city emerges from the haze ahead to herald your journey's end, you drain the last of the beer. Below decks, the engines begin their preparations to dock.

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