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August 19, 2010

At the end of July a friend’s wedding afforded me the excuse to travel to one of the world’s most unaffordable cities: Geneva. Actually, I spent almost no time in the city itself. My hotel and the wedding was located in Vevey on the north shore of Lake Geneva, part of the so-called Swiss Riviera. As the photo above indicates, the entire stay was a series of postcard picture moments, each more stunning than the last. I was only there for a few days, lest I become inured to the constant presence of scenic vistas and delicious pace of life.

Although I viewed Geneva as unaffordable, in fact it is very affordable to its residents. It is a place where the high cost of living is matched by high salaries. My friend was telling us even an entry-level executive assistant can expect to make almost 100K. Sign me up, I said. The Swiss seem to have an economic philosophy that is somewhat antithetical to the US model of driving costs down to make things affordable to the masses. Instead, they keep prices high, ensuring that people are paid well enough to be able to afford the goods they produce. At least, that was my layman’s interpretation of how it works.

I hope you’ll also forgive me for observing that things there work… like clockwork. The entire country seems to be one beautifully designed watch. One day we took a drive down to Chamonix in France to do a hike with superb views of Mont Blanc. As soon as we crossed into France, the roads shifted from smooth, flawless black to cracked, lumpy gray. In fact, I don’t recall that I noticed any areas in a significant state of disrepair during my entire stay.

And everywhere we went, people out enjoying life, doing that peculiar European thing of lounging around unhurriedly in cafes, sipping their wine. It seems very American to envy the Europeans their quality of life, and there is only one appropriate response for the traveling American: to join in and partake.

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