This guide rounds up hotels for each destination that have both a prime location and reasonable standards of comfort, narrowing coverage to those hostelries offering particularly memorable stays. Our hotel picks are categorized by price range - but you should be aware that seasonal fluctuations can be great, particularly in the resort areas. While luxury houses across Europe maintain similarly exquisite standards, hotels at lower ends of the scale tend to vary by region in comfort and cleanliness. Breakfasts are normally included in budget and moderate room rates. Luxury hotels usually tack on a substantial charge. However, the meal is not an American-style feast, but a modest buffet spread of bread, meat, cheese, and jam, normally served with a choice of juices and coffee or tea. Bidets are a common European feature, a great little gadget intended for washing your nether regions. I've heard of some creative uses, too, ranging from a sock-soak to a baby bath. High-tech versions prove a real hoot, with water jets that have controls for pressure, temperature, and pattern; built-in blow dryers; and (requiring some imagination) portable remote controls. A wide range of accommodations are available, including youth hostels, private rooms, mountain huts, guesthouses, hotels, and spa resorts. I've included mostly hotels here. When booking lodging at the lower end of the price range, expect to share a bath; at the upper end, expect to pay extra for breakfast. While Switzerland shares cuisines with each of its neighbors, its most intimate culinary relationship is with France. Along with the northwestern corner of Italy, Switzerland and France dish out an astounding array of cheese dishes. The fondue Savoyarde is the most famed of the cheese mixes here, a bubbling pot of fromage made tangy with white wine and a shot or two of kirsche liqueur. Raclette, too, proves another oozy favorite: The traditional service involves a large block of cheese melted tableside over an open flame - and served with a mix of steamed potatoes and pickled vegetables. Other open-flame affairs include chunks of meat with fondues bourguignonne, a pot of hot oil; chinoise, a pot of boiling bouillon; and Bacchus, a pot of spiced local wine. Grilled specialties, mixed salads, and a variety of sweet and savory crepes all prove popular, too. Unless there's a host posted at the door, European restaurants intend for you to come in and seat yourself. (Leave your coat and umbrella at the door.) In casual and traditional settings, it's not uncommon for strangers to share your table. Although it seems an oddly intimidating question to pose, you shouldn't be afraid to join a stranger's table, either. Just ask if the seats are free. You're not necessarily expected to chat - although it is a pleasant way to meet strangers. Oddly, Geneva holds the world's largest foreign celebration of American Independence Day each 4th of July - fireworks and all. When Christmas rolls around, festivities include a month-long International Christmas Market at Fusterie Square, a Christmas Tree Festival, and La Coupe de Noel, a nippy lake-swimming competition. Finally, in the midst of the holiday season, comes the Escalade, Geneva's favorite party. Carnivale comes to town during the pre-Lenten season, and Le Bol d'Or draws over 500 crews for a prestigious sailing regatta. Geneva's Musical Summer takes center stage from June through September, Swiss National Day is celebrated at Bastions Park on the 1st of August, and the Fetes de Geneve Summer Festival brings shows, concerts, parades, and food to the city's shoreline in early August. For drinks in Old Town, Café La Clemence has a big terrace on the Bourg de Flour. Later, English-speakers congregate at the old Shaker's Club at Rue Boulangerie 7 or nearby at Flanagan's Irish Bar. Both are in old town. Several disco venues dot Geneva's outskirts, but for dancing action in the city center, try l'Inderdit or drag-show-driven Le Loft; both stay open until dawn.
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