GENEVA JOUR­NEY

Vin­tage cars and a day at the lake

Road Trip - - CONTENTS - Story by Mar­cus Brewster | Im­ages © Mar­cus Brewster & Sup­plied

Rolls-royce, Bu­gatti, Isotta-fras­chini, Ver­morel and His­pano Suiza are amongst the 50-odd leg­endary mar­ques, in­clud­ing the crème of Swiss mo­tor­ing his­tory, to be found in the vil­lage of Mar­tigny, Switzer­land, a 138 km scenic drive from Geneva. Mar­cus Brewster vis­ited the Gianadda mu­seum.

For the start of our road trip around the shores of Lake Geneva, we de­parted from the Ho­tel d’an­gleterre. In fact, if d’an­gleterre had an en­gine, it would park very com­fort­ably amidst the vin­tage car col­lec­tion which was our des­ti­na­tion: polished, refined, and pedi­greed – a land­mark of his­tory and tra­di­tion.

Dat­ing from 1872 and ac­knowl­edged as one of the her­itage sites of the city, the prop­erty show­cases the dec­o­ra­tive touch of the cel­e­brated ar­chi­tect An­thony Krafft. The five sto­ried façade of the d’an­gleterre, ex­tended in 1910, has all the cir­cum­stance if not the pomp of a nine­teenth cen­tury may­oral **ho­tel de ville** with wrought iron bal­cony de­tail­ing and mansard roof.

A well-rea­soned de­ci­sion was made to move the foyer from the front prom­e­nade on the Quai de Mont Blanc to a taste­ful side-street. Re­lo­cat­ing the en­trance to the Rue de Mon­thoux has meant that what would have been the lobby is now the beau­ti­ful Win­dows Restau­rant over­look­ing the lake and its iconic 127-year-old foun­tain, the Jet d’eau. This ar­ti­fi­cial geyser shoots a can­non of wa­ter 140 me­ters into the air at a rate of 500 litres per sec­ond. Over break­fast, lunch, af­ter­noon tea, or din­ner, there is sim­ply no bet­ter place to ap­pre­ci­ate the most fa­mous land­mark of the city.

Leav­ing Geneva in the rear-view mir­ror, the drive around the lake passes neatly man­i­cured ham­lets that are so un­ruf­fled, they ap­pear two-di­men­sional. Although it is pos­si­ble to do the 138 km jour­ney in 90 min­utes with­out stop­ping, you would miss some of the most fa­mous towns of the re­gion, in­clud­ing Mon­treux (whose casino con­fla­gra­tion in­spired the rock clas­sic ‘Smoke on the Wa­ter’) and Lau­sanne.

An­other pic­turesque spot to break the jour­ney is Morges. This tran­quil vil­lage holds a fortress-like cas­tle along the banks of Lake Geneva and is also the place where Au­drey Hep­burn chose to marry her sec­ond hus­band, the Ital­ian psy­chi­a­trist Andrea Dotti.

By the time you get to Mar­tigny, the road has curved in­land away from the lake and to­wards the Alps. Although Mar­tigny has been a tran­sit point for many gen­er­a­tions of ski en­thu­si­asts, it is now a des­ti­na­tion in it­self for the Pierre Gianadda Foun­da­tion.

It was built by Leonard Gianadda on the re­mains of an an­cient Celtic tem­ple, the old­est of its kind in Switzer­land, and named af­ter his brother Pierre who died in the af­ter­math of a plane crash while seek­ing help for his fel­low sur­vivors. The foun­da­tion was in­au­gu­rated in Novem­ber 1978, forty years ago.

Oddly rem­i­nis­cent of a Mayan tem­ple, the Gianadda mu­seum com­plex also houses a mag­nif­i­cent Vin­tage Car pavil­ion. Some 50-plus ve­hi­cles dat­ing from 1897 to 1939 com­prise the bulk of the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion, all in work­ing or­der. The old­est is a Benz of Ger­man ori­gin and the French Jean­per­rin, both dat­ing back to 1897. Other cars of the early 20th cen­tury in­clude a Ber­liet, an Oldsmo­bile Curved Dash, a Stan­ley from 1902, sev­eral Mar­ti­nis built in Saint-blaie, the old­est of which dates to 1903, a De Dion-bou­ton from 1906, a Ford Model T of 1912, a Bu­gatti and a Ver­morel of 1914.

Back in Geneva, amidst the fi­nanciers, watch col­lec­tors, and diplo­mats in con­vivial con­ver­sa­tion at the Leop­ard Room Bar & Lounge of d’an­gleterre, we toasted our good for­tune. Ahead of us lay France. But we would never for­get our day at the lake or our nights at the Ho­tel d’an­gleterre.

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