Christmas Vacation 2009-10, part 1 – Geneva and Manchester

We left Kuala Lumpur in the middle of the afternoon on Dec 12th, then arrived at London Stansted airport around 10:30pm GMT. It seemed maybe a hundred other travellers had the same intention as us to spend the night at the airport, and a lot of floor space was used up by people who’d brought their own sleeping bags and other bedding. I happened to have a small blanket, but nothing more. I didn’t get much sleep at the airport, but certainly more than Jeremy or Doyle did, and at least Doyle had been able to sleep on the plane.

Early the next morning, we flew to Geneva, Switzerland. Flying above a bed of cloud was incredible to look at, and so thick to fly through before landing. There it was obvious we would not be able to see the sky at all during our stay in Geneva, and indeed we arrived to a sprinkling of snowfall.

Dec 13th, when we arrived, was the last day of the Escalade festival weekend, so after we checked into our hotel, we headed out to the old Geneva area to see some of the festivities taking place. On the way, we stopped off at the Christmas markets and tried some hot chocolate and mulled wine in a heated tent. The festivities included parading drummers and flautists, people wearing traditional Swiss costumes, and demonstrations. We didn’t stay out too long, however, as we were not dressed especially well for the weather – and in fact I’d had to buy a hat and gloves at the markets because I’d forgotten to bring my own, and no other shops were open.

The reason we went to Geneva, however, was because Jeremy had a WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) meeting to attend for the week. So most of my week was spent looking after Doyle, and only heading out of the hotel for a couple of hours a day, in which Doyle slept for most of that time. The sleeping was desirable for me because it meant I didn’t have to deal with Doyle complaining about the cold. Though he did like getting to see the snow when it snowed over the last couple of days in Geneva.

Highlights include:

  • Getting to meet one of my new Internet buddies, Tamara, and her son. She took me to the Coop shop restaurant for lunch, and then we wandered through some shops for a while before stopping for hot chocolate and then saying goodbye. Doyle fell asleep when we got to Coop and then stayed that way until after we got back to the hotel.
  • Visiting the Art and History museum, which was on the bus route the left from the front of our hotel.
  • The free breakfast at our hotel every morning.
  • Witnessing a protest of some description out the front of the UN building before catching a tram.
  • Trying out the cheese fondue.

We left early Saturday morning, Dec 19th, to head to Manchester, but our flight was delayed about two hours due to bad weather in the UK delaying our plane’s arrival in Geneva. This didn’t matter too much, though, since we were meant to be meeting Jeremy’s parents in our hotel, but they weren’t even there when we arrived anyway. It was actually very convenient to get from Manchester airport to central Manchester by way of the train. And our hotel was, luckily enough, only around the corner from Piccadilly train station. While we waited for Jeremy’s parents to arrive, we headed out to a couple of pound stores, where we picked up a couple of things for a pound. Just after we got back to our hotel from that outing, Jeremy’s parents walked in the door. It was around 5pm by then, but it had already started to get dark around 4pm – certainly not what I’m used to, where sunrise and sunset doesn’t really change time of day at all in KL.

Our only full day in Manchester was spent mostly visiting a museum at the University of Manchester, and I spent a great deal of time reading about Charles Darwin at a temporary exhibit. We stopped at a pub for a cheap pub meal on our way back to our hotel, but were kicked out because Doyle was under 18 and apparently not allowed there, so we were directed to a different pub he was allowed in.

In the evening, Jeremy’s parents looked after Doyle so that we could go out and see a Pet Shop Boys concert – our prime reason for going to Manchester, and my Christmas present to Jeremy. From those I’ve told about the concert beforehand, I got quite a bit of negativity, which wasn’t very nice because I don’t like to judge anyone based on musical tastes or otherwise. Nevertheless, I am going to proudly announce that I thoroughly enjoyed the show – it was quite a spectacular night, which I would describe as a live music video. The special effects and dance routines were indescribable, and I am so glad to have joined Jeremy on this outing. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen musicians as famous as the PSB live but definitely worth it. I’ll admit I got a little excited and looked at Jeremy when my favourite Pet Shop Boys songs were performed.

We had a little time to check out some more of Manchester before we left the following day, so Jeremy and hopped on a bus and got off near the town hall, where we found Christmas markets that were of a much higher quality than those of Geneva. Overall I thought Manchester was a charming city, and I wished I’d had another couple of days there to see more of it.

We hopped on a train in the afternoon to Nottingham, where we will be for Christmas. But I’ll write about that in my next post.

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