Extreme Christmas shopping: 7 luxurious shops in Carouge, Geneva

An original Superman cartoon? A hand-crafted dress? A Swiss clock with a 35,000 Swiss Francs price tag? Bespoke millinery? Pink pepper chocolates? How original will your gifts be this Christmas? And how deep are you pockets when it comes to stocking-fillers for your nearest and dearest?

Strike off mundane items on your Christmas shopping list in central Geneva’s exclusive designer stores but then take a yellow tram. Cross the River Arve to cultured Carouge’s discrete artisan quarter for those very special personal presents. This is where you’ll use a credit card to buy chocolates and a bank loan for a made-to-measure dress.

Carouge became Geneva’s escape-valve during straight-laced Calvinist times. A place where Genevans could let their hair down with wine, women and song. Today, after gentrification, Carouge has journeyed beyond hip. It is Geneva’s Greenwich Village, a bohemian quarter whose quirky creativity and hedonism should not be missed.

Philippe Pascoet chocolatier 

With absinthe, ginger, lavender, pink pepper, saffron, sage and thyme fused with chocolate in his experimental laboratory Philippe Pascoet is to Swiss Chocolate what Heston Blumenthal is to egg-and-bacon ice-cream. As you walk down the Rue St. Joseph chocolate aromas waft an irresistible invitation.

Phillippe is as welcoming and as sophisticated as his grand cru de chocolat. Speaking in measured tones, as reluctant as any Genevan to let go of the last syllables of a sentence, he somehow controls his undoubted obsession with chocolate.

His tiny shop is a chocoholic’s paradise, particularly if Philippe offers a tasting.

Anne-Claude Virchaux dress-maker

Traces of Anne-Claude’s training as an architect remain in the lines of her dresses, in the fall of the fabric. In a moment of epiphany, celebrated by the fortunate ladies who achieve a lifetime’s ambition and possess a Virchaux, Anne-Claude abandoned her degree to train alongside a weaver.

Principles of geometry and mathematics provide the structure for the silks, woollens, linens and cashmeres that Virchaud transforms into a second skin with her shimmering creations.

This isn’t really a shop, more a temple to the art of dress-making, and if you have to ask the price – then this is probably more of a shop for browsing.

Little Nemo Gallery 

To the French cartooning is the Ninth Art. But Little Nemo, branching out from its original home in Turin, has gone multinational, with its walls colourfully adorned by superheroes and vilified politicians.

Although there is a strong Italian influence in the cartoons and prints there’s still enough to interest other nationalities. Investors may be able to pick up an original Superman drawing – at a price.

And the name? Little Nemo was a New York Herald cartoon character (1905 – 14) who dreamt in a fantastic wonderland, until a fall from his bed brought an abrupt end to his dreams.

Monsieur Wolfisberg boulangerie

If cartoons are the Ninth Art then surely, for the Swiss, this aromatic boulangerie/patiserrie/café must have a claim to represent the Tenth Art?

Baguettes and boules are just part of the story at Monsieur Wolfisberg. Centuries of experience, handed down from generation to generation, led to the triumph of the current Monsieur Wolfisberg at the Boulangerie World Cup.

Recently he has been elevated to the status of judge, travelling to Paris for the bakers’ World Cup. A Christmas cake from Monsieur Wolfisberg is very tempting.

Betjamin and Barton tea merchants

With tastings pairing teas with cheeses and a wedding breakfast that featured a tea to complement every course these tea merchants have elevated tea to the status of fine wine.

Almond, frangipane and verbena – essentially a discrete Bakewell Tart in a cup – is just one of the dozens of flavours on offer. But no longer will it be served in a teapot from China, these tea connoisseurs have decreed that Chinese ceramics are now too toxic.

If your French is up to the job dip into the book that B & B commissioned for their 20th anniversary celebrations. Take a peek at the story where teapots narrate their own tales, authentically written by an author whose own teapot collection, many of them from B & B, is pushing 400.

Zabo Milliner

As with so many of the artisans in Carouge the lines between work and social life are blurred. Some days Isabelle Hoffmann, maverick milliner, nick-named Zabo, even sells home-grown vegetables, as well as hats. Chatter and business merge as the proprietor sits behind a seriously heavy duty sewing machine and an intimidating armoury of hat-pins.

After selecting from numerous swatches of fabric lining the walls or lounging on tables, customers can ask for a bespoke creation.

How long will that take?

“Sometimes a hat can take just two hours, if it is a hat that I’ve made before. Other times much longer. It is art. Who knows?”

Jean Kazes Horologist

Although he is now in his mid-eighties Jean Kazes, world-famous for his sculptural timepieces, shows no sign of retiring or of slowing down. Even on a Saturday morning the talented craftsman is bent over a mini lathe. Countless screwdrivers and stamps give his bench the air of a Disney cartoon creation.

“Sometimes there are 10 prototypes before I am satisfied with a piece,” said Jean of his latest steel creation of exceptional mechanical intricacy. Such a piece may go on sale for around 35,000 Swiss Francs.

On his wall he has a fading cutting of Guinness Book of Records recognition of his creation of the longest clock ever. The pendulum measured 30 metres and you can view the clock in the lift-shaft of Geneva’s Hotel Cornavin.

Kazes is keen to ensure that his intricate skills do not die with him and he has been passing on his skills to Vincent Calabrase, another highly talented horologist.

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