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The Most Magical Evening... at the John Knox

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December 31, 2014 / International / By
Katie Schenk

Firstly, I must apologise for the quality – and the quantity - of pictures.  I never meant to share this story.  It’s just too personal.  I don’t want to suggest that there’s anything embarrassing about it; quite the opposite.  Returning to the John Knox Centre is so close to my heart that sharing it feels like I’m giving a piece of myself away. 

You know that time in your life when everything doesn’t just seem perfect; it is perfect?  For me, that was life at the John Knox (more than) a few years ago.  When I return, I become giddy as I walk the path towards it. 

I’ve been back before, but not with someone.  I’ve never shared the John Knox with anyone, except the people that lived with me while we studied there.  I was nervous that I had built a mountain, when in fact, the John Knox is just a small meeting destination with glorified dorm room accommodation.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not magical, right?

Getting to the John Knox was a bit of a mission.  Sure, I knew that you take the 8 bus to OMS.  That was easy enough.  But finding my way up the path to the edge of Grand-Sacconex village was slightly more of a trick.  My boyfriend was convinced I was taking him to some unsavoury place in the woods to... well, do unsavoury things.  Then he became convinced the night would be a disaster.  Secretly, I was worried about that.  Would the cafeteria be open?  Would the chef, José, still remember me?  If it was a bust, I was on the wrong side of Geneva to rectify it quickly.  But, as the driveway emerged in front of us, and the warm glow of the reception came into view, I was happy. 

 

There was a table set up in the reception hall by the fireplace, towards the cafeteria.  It was set for a wine tasting, and there were a dozen or so people milling about.  And behind the table was José.  I approached with a strange sort of determination I can fake when nervous.  But, he recognised me as I came closer and a smile broke out on his face.  He excused himself from the couple he was assisting and came to greet me. 

“What are you doing here?” he asked (but, of course, in French).

I responded (pleased with my French, mind you), “We’ve been on holiday.  Basel... London... Paris...”

He cut me off...  “et maintenant le John Knox.”

“Absolutment!” I squealed in reply.  We exchanged some pleasantries, and I asked if he was serving dinner as it seemed like there was a private function.

“For you, anything.”

My boyfriend and I walked around to the cafeteria, grabbed a bottle of wine and then a table.  It’s amazing what feels like home, isn’t it?  And that’s what it is to me. 

We stepped outside so I could point out where I’d BBQ’ed with my friends many years ago.  (Yes, girls, I sang a bit to myself.)  I pointed towards the houses I could never afford and off in the distance towards the French border. 

The other people there were indeed having a function.  It seemed to be a club of sorts, dedicated to the opera composer Paolo Tosti.  It wasn’t a large group, but they seemed to be having a good time.  As they took their seats, José brought us an enormous plate of Serrano ham, which was so good we could have inhaled it.  Then the entertainment started for the Tosti group.  They’d brought in a piano player, and an opera singer and we were treated to the most incredible entertainment. 

 

When they broke at one point, my boyfriend and I excused ourselves to thank them for making the evening magical for us, and we were treated to smiles and a dossier of information on Tosti.  I chatted with José.  I chatted with Fatma, his assistant.  I chatted with Mark, the GM of the John Knox.  We were served Coq au Vin for our main meal and it was easily the best I’ve ever eaten. 

As the evening wore on, I asked José where he’d gotten the ham (it was that good).  And he said from Spain, not Geneva.  But, he waived me into the kitchen and vacuumed packed a large piece for my boyfriend and I to take with us.  Then it was time to go.  I nearly cried.  I didn’t want to leave; I wanted to stay and work from a tiny room in the basement.  I wanted to eat in the cafeteria every day. 

But, as I asked José to take a picture, he produced something even more magical.  Can you see it?  It’s the picture of José, Julie and I all those years ago. 

That time, that experience – it wasn’t just special for me.  I think, perhaps, it was magic for all of us. 

 


John Knox Centre

Country: Switzerland

Province/State: Geneve

City: Grand-Saconnex

Address: 27, chemin des CrĂȘts de Pregny

Zip/Post Code: 1218

Location Tips: Near the OMS

Phone: +41 22 747 00 00

Website:http://www.johnknox.ch/...

Price Guide:$$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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