Thought you might be interested to hear about my recent participation at this year's Maserati International Meeting in Switzerland.
Having finished a huge breakfast I locked up the flat, and with Maserati luggage and keys in hand, jumped into to 'Trusty', my faithful Ford Focus, and drove down to meet up with Vera, my co-driver for the trip.
By the time I left it was 7.45am on a dry but misty Wednesday North London morning and the rush hour was as busy as ever. By 9:00am and I was on the M4 and about 15 minutes away from Magna Carta Island, Surrey.
Our Channel crossing via Eurotunnel was booked for midday, and with plenty of time in hand we joined the M25 and headed towards Folkstone. Traffic was light and we arrived at about 10.45am hoping to catch an earlier train. Unfortunately that train had been cancelled so we had to settle for our original booking at midday. A quick wander through the services and we queued up to be loaded on the shuttle for the crossing to France.
We disembarked about 35 minutes later and with our mobile phones beeping noisily as they locked into the French networks began our long journey south. Our intention was to get to a small town near Dijon by nightfall and stay overnight at a hotel recommended by a fellow club member blessed with an all round knowledge of the area! There we would meet up with some of our fellow English club members and travel in convoy to Switzerland the following morning. Refuelling some 200 miles later in the Champagne region we continued our blast south on the A26. We stopped for a late lunch of lovely sandwiches, kindly prepared by Vera, and later another refuelling stop saw us in the warmer climate of the Bourgogne region. We thought about taking the hood down on the Spyder, but, with evening was fast approaching and a drive that involved mainly motorways, we resisted that temptation.
Some 530 miles and about 11 hours after leaving the Finchley Road, we arrived at La Chaumiere in Dole. It was getting dark and we checked in to a pleasant little hotel just as the others had got to their table for dinner. A quick pit stop in our room and we were back in the dining room. We then sat down to a truly excellent meal washed down with some pleasant local wines. Some brief but amusing after dinner chat saw us ready for a good night’s rest as we had intention of leaving by 9:30am the following morning. Our aim was to arrive at our destination by mid-afternoon thus allowing us ample time to relax and enjoy the evening’s welcome address at the Hotel Victoria-Jungfrau in Interlaken.
Our journey east-by-southeast saw us crossing the French border near Pontarlier. The weather was overcast but reasonably mild. Our decision to meander through Switzerland rather than blast along motorways gave us some beautiful mountain scenery along some incredible valley roads. Lunch was a simple affair and we pressed on for Interlaken arriving later than hoped for. Fortunately we discovered that this had been a blessing in disguise as some of the earlier arrivals were kept waiting whilst their rooms were prepared!
The Victoria-Jungfrau is a beautiful 5 star Grand Hotel and Spa in the ‘capital’ of the Bernese Oberland in the heart of Europe. It is located at the foot of the towering Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountain ranges. A truly spectacular setting for the 2006 Maserati International Meeting. Check-in was easy and with all the Maseratis parked safely in the hotel underground car park we unpacked ready for what was looking like an exciting weekend.
A champagne reception was followed by a welcome address by our hosts, the Maserati Club of Switzerland, and a gourmet dinner. Thus allowing us to catch up with our fellow Brits, and the usual 'trying to remember names to fit the faces of our fellow European Maseratisti!' With a nightcap at the bar and our instructions for the weekend discussed, it was bedtime. Friday morning was the Rally day consiting of a timed interval section starting from the front of the hotel at 8:30am. Lunch in the mountains was followed by a second timed interval section taking us back to the hotel. The evening started with drinks and a dinner at the Casino Kursaal combined with a folklore presentation that we found quite amusing. Highlight of the evening were the efforts of one of our more colourful English members, who was invited onto the stage to blow an alpenhorn, and, with the locals watching politely and the rest of us chuckling, he was advised against giving up his day job!
Saturday morning saw the grey skies evaporate, and in the warm sunshine, we took the hood down on the Spyder, allowing us enjoy some extremely beautiful mountain scenery near Beatenburg. This was followed by lunch at an airfield and an afternoon regularity and skill section with the old and new cars separated to make things reasonably equal.
With a feeling of summer very much in the air we returned to the hotel to rest for an hour or so and get ready for the Gala dinner. Evening wear saw some in black tie others in smart suits, all looking very glamorous indeed. We had the pleasure of a charming young Swiss lady singing a few songs as part of the evening’s entertainment. She had a great voice and clearly many admirers! Post dinner drinks at the bar saw many of us recounting events from the weekend and discussing the return journey home after brunch the following morning.
Sunday morning brunch and prize giving saw two winning English teams, followed by several speeches, including a 'thank you' speech by the President of the Maserati Club UK, followed by the traditional steady trickle of Maseratisti heading to their respective destinations. Vera and I left at about mid-day with the intention of trying to catch the 10.36pm train from Calais some 800-odd miles away. We made steady progress in some dreadful weather conditions and after severe delays due to poor visibility just managed to make the train with 15 minutes to spare! It was quite a drive and arriving at Vera’s at about mid-night, a swap-over to Trusty I was home by about 1:00am. Exhausted but pleased to have made it back in one day. The following morning I received a call from a fellow club member asking how far we’d got on the journey home. When I explained that we’d arrived the night before, I sensed their amazement - they were still driving through Germany on a busy Monday morning in their Ghibli SS.
To some, these International Meetings could be seen to be more about smart hotels, fine food and wine, than about racing our powerful Maseratis. But, I think that in these modern times of traffic laden roads and the strict speed monitoring by local authorities, it is perhaps wiser to appreciate and enjoy these special cars and the beautiful settings of these events. I have often heard people muttering that it’s just a jolly for those with money to burn and time to waste. Whilst I understand that many may feel that way, I feel that these 'dissenters' are missing the point. These events are an ideal opportunity to meet like-minded Europeans and more importantly to see their cars and note that ours are better!
I have attached several photos of the event so that visitors to your site will be able to sample the atmosphere of the 2006 meeting. By the way, the 2007 Maserati International Meeting will be hosted by the Maserati Club of Holland.