So for my Dad’s somewhat belated birthday present last year, we decided to take him to what might be one of the best motor shows in the world – The critically acclaimed Geneva Motor Show.
Often the place where new models are revealed, Geneva Motor show seemed like the obvious choice. Add to that cheap flights and it’s an even more obvious choice!
We decided to head out there for a few nights to see the cars and to experience the charm of the city itself.
The first hurdle was finding accommodation. The flights may have been a bargain, but hotel rooms in the city were eye-wateringly expensive for motor show weekend, at c.£1000 per night for 6 of us in a mediocre set-up! We had only booked few weeks prior, so I guess it was what you might call ‘last minute’ and availability was poor.
Cue a search within a 30 mile radius, for more reasonably priced accommodation coupled with 2 cars. A short search later (look here for tips) we found a reasonable apartment in France – a 20 minute drive from the convention centre and airport – for less than £400 for the entire duration of the trip. Add to that the cost of two hire cars (around £150 for both) and the cost is suddenly back within a reasonable range for a weekend away!
Getting there was easy – the flight from Manchester to Geneva is relatively short at 1 hour 50 mins. When we arrived, we waited nearly 2 hours for our hire cars! I wouldn’t use dollar / thrifty again IN MY LIFE because of this farce. As a gesture of goodwill, they offered us a free upgrade.
Unfortunately due to being under 30, I was allocated a tiny ‘hairdryer’ car for my rental, whilst my dad was ‘upgraded’ to a large Mercedes 4×4. Whilst this initially seemed like a nice treat, it was one we accepted dubiously, when the attendant asked for £5,000 deposit for it, but only a £500 one for mine.
Saturday Night – Why Is Everything Closed?!
We arrived on Saturday night, hungry and tired from the car-saga. We drove to the accommodation, freshened up and headed out to find some food.
8:30pm on a Saturday night and even the fuel stations were closed! The only lights we saw were those on the roads, and the CERN.
All we had to eat that night was a couple of snacks left over from the journey, sloshed down with some sugary tea.
The Main Event (Sunday)
We awoke the next morning, readied ourselves with our fully charged phones and cameras and set off to the exhibition centre. We arrived early, allowing ourselves the opportunity to find a little snack! Hurrah!
The show itself was brilliant. There were new models, customer builds, new technology and plenty of photo opportunities. The only criticism is that you couldn’t get in / close to some of the best models without having VIP tickets of an invitation, which made it all feel a little bit ‘us and them’ when at some of the stands occupied by the more prestigious marques.
The food on site was expensive (as expected), so we had a small lunch and then headed out from the exhibition at around 2pm. We decided to head into Geneva town centre – a 10 minute drive away – for some food and a wander around.
Geneva Centre – Pretty, but pretty dull.
OK so eating out in Geneva on a Sunday is a near impossibility. In any other city I’ve ever visited in the world, there’s at least a small possibility of being able to walk into a restaurant and get a satisfying meal. On this occasion we were surprised that we couldn’t find any open restaurants (even with the help of Google) so we instead found ourselves snacking on chicken nuggets from McDonald’s, washed down with green tea from Starbucks. You can always count on there being a Maccys and a Starbucks open.
The architecture itself is very pretty and there is a ‘fairy-tale’ look about the place. The few people who were milling about in the town centre appeared to be either homeless or at a loss for something to do.
A kind local Gentleman pointed us in the direction of the more ‘lively’ part of the town –a mere 5-10 minute drive from our current central location, so we trusted the young man – who looked very out of place walking through the old square we were occupying – and set off in that direction.
After struggling to find parking in said area, we identified an underground parking garage and I zipped down the ramp and parked the car. A few minutes later, I walked back up the ramp to find my dad awkwardly shuffling between drive and reverse as he tried to un-wedge the car from a tight turn in the ramp without touching the sides. Given the £5k excess on the upgraded vehicle, it was a particularly tense time. A worthwhile note for anyone wishing to drive in Geneva is that the streets and the car parks and relatively tight on space! Whilst initially the complementary ‘upgrade’ seemed like a bit of a ‘win’ we soon came to realise that there are few benefits to having such a large car in such a small place.
It would have been easier to hunt and kill our own food in Geneva that weekend. Never have I found it so difficult to track down a meal!
We walked the streets of the area for 45 minutes before we noticed a small light flickering on the horizon. We shuffled towards it, only to discover a charming little restaurant. The food was beautiful, and very welcome. It was nearly 9:30pm by the time we had found food, so we were pretty hungry!
Snowboarding in Les Gets (Monday)
On the way out to Geneva, we saw lots of snowboarding and skiing groups. Feeling impulsive, we decided on our ‘spare day’ to drive the 2 hours from our random French accommodation to Les Gets, buy some snowboarding pants and a lift pass, rent a board and catch the lift up the mountain for a day of snow sports.
Given that we’d only ever snowboarded in Manchester’s Chill Factor-e some 4 years previously, the first hour was a little bit hit and miss. Queue embarrassing ourselves on the ski lifts, falling repeatedly and making poor choices with regards to the many layers of clothing we wore and subsequently had to dump when the sun came out.
By the end of the afternoon we were battered and bruised, but we could make it down the slopes with vigour and (might I add) a small amount of style.
After the light began to dip, we ditched the boards and headed to a restaurant for our last meal before the light home the next morning.
Would We Go Again?
I wouldn’t go back to Geneva for a weekend, purely because there was so little to do in the area. I would however, consider flying in to Geneva for the day to visit the motor show.
I know that sounds crazy, but the flight it short and the exhibition centre is a 5 minute walk from the arrivals gate. You could save yourself the cost of a hotel by taking an early flight from the UK and taking a late evening return flight.
As for snowboarding, I’m looking at going next spring! Yay!