In the city, I live in the municipality of Vernier, adjacent to the city of Geneva, and not far from the airport. More than half the population is of foreign origin, which makes for an interesting diversity which is well integrated into the community. The population of Vernier of over 32,000 makes it the 15th largest city in Switzerland. The city is very environmentally conscious, as is normal in Switzerland. It has met an international gold standard for energy economy, and has many parks and gardens (see below).

The city is made up of several neighbourhoods, the village of Vernier to the west, two large housing estates of Les Avanchets to the north and Le Lignon to the south by the river, some smaller neighbourhoods, industrial areas and streets with single family homes, and Châtelaine to the east along the limit with the city of Geneva. It takes about 40 minutes to walk from Châtelaine to Vernier Village (the bus is faster).

The village of Vernier has kept some of the charm of an eighteenth century village on a bluff overlooking the Rhone River.
entrance to the village . rue du village . Rue du Village
Entrance to Vernier Village, and the main street (Rue du Village)

Mairie . Mairie . Mairie
The Mairie (city hall) was a stately home set in a beautiful park on the Rue du Village
Ecole . Maternelle . Maternelle
The village school and kindergarden
Rue du Village . Maison minergie . Esplanade; eglise
The centre of the village; the first house in the canton of Geneva to meet the Minergie standard for energy economy; the Parc de l'Esplanade and the Catholic church

From the Parc de l'Esplanade in the village, there are beautiful views of the Rhone River as it loops along the south side of Vernier, nearly cutting it in two.
Rhone River . Rhone River
Just behind the village are cow pastures and natural vegetation along the Rhone River, an important nature conservation area and Ramsar site for migratory birds.
Rhone River . Rhone and le Lignon
On the far side of the river, the apartment block of Le Lignon, 14 storeys high, extends for more than a kilometre. When it was built in the 1970s, it was the world's longest apartment building.

Not all of Vernier is green
Tank farm . Tank farm
Much of the fuel for western Switzerland is stored in tank farms in Vernier, at the end of a 600 km pipeline from Marseilles

August 1, Swiss National Day

The Swiss national day, August 1, is celebrated each year in Vernier, usually at Le Lignon. There is free soup for the elderly, and different associations serve food from many countries. The mayor and other dignitaries give speeches, the town band plays, everyone sings the national anthem (not very well, it is not easy), the flag is raised, and the evening ends with fireworks, a bonfire and dancing. There are usually typically Swiss things like alp horns, flag tossing, cowbells, or Swiss wrestling, although one year there was Portuguese music and dancing because more than 10% of the residents of Vernier are of Portuguese origin, and another year Kosovo was honoured to welcome the new immigrants from that country.

1 aout 2018 . 1 aout 2018 . 1 aout 2018
Part of the crowd; the bandstand; an alp horn concert

Alp horns     Bells
Alp horns; cowbells
Flag tossing . Flag tossing . Bonfire
Flag tossing; bonfire


Voie VerteThe city has traced a Green Way (Voie Verte), a walking path connecting the parks, forests, river bank, green spaces and quiet streets around the town.

Rhone River
Vernier is bordered on one side by the Rhone River with tree-shaded banks

Stendardo balcony
My Baha'i friends the Stendardo's won third prize for their flowered balcony in 2010, and first prize in 2011

farm . farm and forest . farm
There are still some farms in Vernier, but the city buildings are not very far away

During my convalescence after hip surgery in 2011, I finally had time to walk around my neighbourhood (on crutches) and discover a surprising amount of nature and beauty in the middle of the city, all within a half-hour walk of where I live. The pictures below show what I discovered.


Balexert ParkWhen I walk to the shopping centre (15 minutes), I go through Balexert Park, a small park which has some old trees, a community centre (below right), a youth centre, a recreation centre for children (Jardin Robinson) with animals (goats, rabbits) and demonstration vegetable garden, and a playground with an intermittent fountain area for children to play in.

Balexert Park . Community Centre

Goats . Playground . Vegetable garden
Goats, playground and vegetable garden

Old horticulural school


A five-minute walk towards Geneva takes me to a wonderful large park mostly hidden behind houses and buildings. It used to be the horticultural school founded in 1887 (right), so it has retained extensive rose gardens with many varieties, an arboretum of unusual conifers, a half-abandoned grotto with waterfalls and pools, large grassy areas, children's play areas, a large wading pool with fountain, facilities for skateboarders, a separate garden for walking dogs, and a hidden natural wetland fenced from public access. It is a lovely place to sit and read, or take a sun bath.

grotto. grotto . pond under willows
The natural garden with grotto and pond

Rose Garden . Rose Garden . Rose Garden
Extensive rose gardens with many varieties of hybrid roses

Rose Garden . Rose Garden . Rose Garden

Rose Garden . Rose Garden . Rose Garden

Rose Garden - Rose Garden . Rose Garden

Roses . splash of colour . Roses
Splashes of colour

Grassy area . Conifer collection . Conifers
Extensive lawns, and the arboretum of unusual conifers

Sculpture . wading pool
Sculpture commemorating the former horticulture school, and the wading pool


The Parc de l'Etang, a little way beyond Balexert, includes a long narrow pond with various species of fowl, including some endangered varieties. It is another island of green with industrial areas on one side and family gardens on the other, as well as a children's playground and a separate park for dogs.
Parc de l'Etangl'Etang . l'Etang
Park entrance and the pond with shelters for various varieties of fowl

l'Etang . l'Etang . l'Etang
Vegetation along the pond
walkway . geese . swans
Path along the pond, and rare varieties of geese and Australian black swans, who came to visit when I sat on a bench to read

pine trees . swans and pond . duck
There are large trees along the park and pond; a painted duck

dog run
The large separate park for dogs to run and play in


Twenty-five minutes walk from my apartment is a large wooded area, the Bois des Freres, crossed by several paths. It is mostly an oak forest, but in one section the old oaks have been cut to encourage regeneration of younger trees.
Bois des Freres . Bois des Freres

Bois des Freres . Bois des Freres . Bois des Freres

Bois des Freres . Bois des Freres - logs
The logs show the size of the trees that were cut to encourage forest regeneration

Bois des Freres . Bois des Freres . towards the river
Beyond the forest is a grassy slope and then the forest that grows on the banks of the Rhone River

Bois des Freres . Bois des Freres

Bois des Freres . Bois des Freres . Bois des Freres

A road separates the Bois des Freres from the Bois de la Grille, with a stream running down one side.
Bois des Freres - stream . Bois des Freres - stream . stream


Just beyond the Bois des Freres, between busy highways, a tank farm and the Rhone River, is a most unusual park, the Bois de la Grille. It includes a high ridge with grasslands and pines adapted to dry conditions, as well as broadleaved woodlands on the slopes. Botanically, it is a very rich fragment of original native vegetation that somehow survived in the middle of the urban area. Several steep footpaths cross the woods and meadows, and provide a beautiful view of the Rhone River. If it were not for the traffic noise, the airplanes taking off, and the smell of petroleum from the tank farms next door, you could really feel lost in nature.

Bois de la Grille - sign . Bois de la Grille
The park is bounded by the Rhone River at the top, the Bois des Freres beyond the stream to the left, the autoroute and village of Vernier on the right, and a tank farm and highway on the bottom (North)

Rhone River Rhone River Rhone River
The Rhone River borders the park on the south. An apartment tower (Le Lignon) can be seen in the background

Bois de la Grille - meadow . Bois de la Grille
Meadows and woodlands alternate

Bois de la Grille - stairs . Bois de la Grille . Bois de la Grille - path
There are stairs for the steep slopes, and narrow paths through the forest

Bois de la Grille . Bois de la Grille
The high grasslands have 14 varieties or orchids, and other rare plants

Bois de la Grille -view of Rhone . Bois de la Grille - Rhone
From the ridge top, there is a good view of the Rhone River

Bois de la Grille - pines . Bois de la Grille
The native pine forest is a distinctive feature of the park

Bois de la Grille . Bois de la Grille . Bois de la Grille

Bois de la Grille - autoroute
The autoroute is just behind these trees, and beyond it the village centre of Vernier


Quite large areas of Vernier are devoted to Family Gardens, where many people have small plots for a vegetable garden, and perhaps a small toolshed/cabin. These were an important result of social movements in the 20th century, and are still very popular.
Jardins familiaux - l'Etang . Jardins familiaux - l'Etang
Jardins familiaux by Parc de l'Etang

Jardin familiaux - Bois des Freres . Jardin familiaux - Bois des Freres
Jardins familiaux across from the Bois des Freres


My neighborhood is called Châtelaine. It is a working class area without banks or hotels, but a mix of apartment buildings (many subsidied for low-income families) and single family homes, a large area of family gardens, schools and a few shops and restaurants. Some industrial areas and fuel tank farms are not far away, as is the largest shopping centre in the region, Balexert. The Geneva Airport is 10 minutes away by bus, but since we are not in the flight path, the noise is not too bad.
Chemin de Maisonneuve Chemin de Maisonneuve, one of the main streets of Chatelaine

International Environment House, my former office, is only a 3-minute walk from my apartment. It houses both the environmental activities of United Nations Organizations (UNEP, UNITAR, UNDP, Convention Secretariats) and environmental non-governmental organizations. There are conference rooms and an environmental library.
IEH . IEH 1 & 2 A second IEH has been added to the right

The other three sides of the block are low-income subsidized housing around an inner courtyard
IEH courtyard . Pedibus Children take the pedibus to school (they walk)

My tiny (29 square meter) studio apartment is in a small square building built in the 1960s, presently 5 stories, but possibly to be increased to seven, one of four similar buildings set well back from any roads with traffic, and with grass all around. It is a very quiet neighbourhood by urban standards.

Apt. . Apts . Apt.

Ferme Golay The Ferme Golay, an old traditional farm house right next door, before it was remodeled for social services and a school canteen in 2014.

My apartment faces west, towards a small factory making parts for Rolex watches, with some of the Jura mountains visible between the buildings. However most of the view has now vanished (see below) as a 7-storey building was built across the parking lot in 2008-2010. The pictures of its construction below were taken from my apartment window.

View from my apartment (as it used to be up to 2008), watch parts factory (left) and green field
view of factory . view from apt.

View from my window
moonsetsunset . View from apartment
Moonset over the Jura mountains at dawn; sunset over the Jura with clouds; daytime view


It is usually a very quiet neighborhood, but in September 2008, construction began on a big low-income housing complex of over 100 apartments in a 7-storey bar in the beautiful green field just outside my window.

Start of construction, September 2008

30.09.08 . 30.09.08

The green field became a big hole by November 2008
construction . hole for foundations

By January 2009, the excavation was nearly completed
20 January . 20 January 2009

In February, the diggers departed and giant cranes were erected. They began pouring cement for the foundations
crane . crane and cement mixer

In March, the cranes were busy almost continuously as basement levels rose
crane . March construction

By the end of June, the basement levels had been completed

26 June 2009 . 26 June 2009

At the end of July, the ground floor was completed and the next floor started
27 July 2009 . 27 July 2009

In mid-August, another floor was done. My view started to disappear
16 August 2009 . 16 August 2009

By mid-September, I could hardly see the crest of the Jura mountains
Chatelaine090922 . 090922

At the end of September, my mountain view was almost gone behind the scaffolding
Chatelaine090930 . 090930

Last view of the mountains, early October 2009
last view of mountains 091004

By the end of November, the last storey was being added
30 November

By February 2010, one crane was removed
Feb 2010 . Feb 2010

In April, the entrance to the underground garage was nearly complete
April 2010 . April 2010

By May, the last crane was gone and most work was going on inside
May 2010 . May 2010

In September, the exterior was finished
Sept 2010 . Sept 2010

Interior work continued in October, and the garden was being laid out
Oct 2010 . Oct 2010

In November 2010, people were starting to move in, and by January 2011 the garden and entrance road were being finished.

January 2011 . January 2011

By April 2011, the grass was starting to grow in the garden

April 2011 . April 2011

June 2011, a playground was added, and the grass was being mowed
June 2011 . June 2011
The new building is now a settled part of the neighbourhood.

Now there are plans to add two storeys on top of my apartment building.

Sunset over Vernier

 sunset over Le Lignon

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Last updated 4 September 2018
Photos copyright © Arthur Lyon Dahl 2008-2018