To Italy and Back Day 14

Last Day 🙁

We had parked our car in the street near the hotel in Nancy. This was the first time we had not used a secure hotel car parking space. When we went to it this morning someone had written a message and put it on the screen saying how amazing it was. Very odd but nice. We still have not seen a single GT86 in France on the four trips we’ve made here.

From Nancy we drove back to Reims where we had found the old Grand Prix Circuit on Day 1 as we wanted to visit the small motor museum there. It’s a far cry from the large collections we’ve seen recently, mainly French cars and bikes and no translations or video tours. However, the lady who ran it was very friendly and welcoming and I like these sorts of places a lot. Sometimes you find real gems in them.

Jacqui now wants one of these. A Pininfarina designed Peugeot 504 two door coupe.

Which is odd as she’s been saying all holiday she’s going to get a Panda 4×4.

Every other car in Italy was a Panda and as I now have a Panda 100HP I’ve been particularly interested. Expect a blog post soon about these fantastic little cars.

I learnt to drive in a Dauphine.

From Reims we travelled north to Calais and were first on our train through the Tunnel.

It’s been another great roadtrip in the GT86. 2,755 miles and an average fuel consumption of 34.9 mpg. It seems like the perfect car for us.

To Italy and Back Day 13

We decided to forego the motor museum in Mulhouse (We went there a few years ago… far too many blue Bugattis) and head back east to visit the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein in Germany. Here they have a fantastic collection of mid century modern furniture and the estate and collection of Charles and Ray Eames. This is of special interest to us at the moment since we have just sold our house and are looking for a fifties or sixties project.

From there we drove to Nancy and have a city centre hotel for our last night. We walked to Place Stanislas for a meal…

… and on the way saw one of these. Only the second one we’ve seen all trip. (We saw a bronze one in the distance in Turin).

That was close! Almost had no motoring interest!

To Italy and Back Day 12

Today we did the big drive north through the Swiss Alps taking a route recommended by Michelin Maps rather than Google Maps. We avoided all major roads and went over the old San Bernardino Pass. There were hardly any other cars on the route but we did get a wave from a Ferrari going the other way.

We arrived just south of Zurich at about 5 and decided to go west to Basel. However, the motorway from Zurich to Basel was a nightmare. Stop Start for over two hours.

While crawling along we were on booking.com looking for a hotel but couldn’t find anything affordable in Switzerland. So we pushed on to France and are now in a hotel in Mulhouse.

We went to the huge Mulhouse Bugatti Museum years ago and I see it’s now called Cité de l’Automobile so who knows, we might pop in tomorrow.

To Italy and Back Day 11

The air was very heavy and the sky dark and foreboding over Lake Garda when we awoke this morning and we could hear the rumbling of thunder for a good hour before the rain started. By that time we were half way around the lake and it was torrential.

After completing the drive around the lake we headed west towards Bergamo but because of flooding or accidents, we don’t know, the two roads we tried were closed by the police. So we returned to the lake for lunch.

By the time we had finished, the rain had stopped and we found the road open. Next stop Brescia.

Regular readers of this blog will remember that a few years ago we went to Sicily and drove the Targa Florio course. The other big Italian road race was the thousand mile Mille Miglia which went to Rome but started and finished in Brescia. There is an excellent museum in Brescia…

Then we headed towards Lake Como. On arrival I drove on to Cernobbio (south west bank) and then we took what turned out to be a very wrong turn.

An hour later we were very high up on a very narrow, very very windy road. I can’t even find it on the map. And it started raining. Thunder and Lightning. Darkening fast. And then a truck appeared in front of us carrying logs.

It’s not the first time I’ve got myself in such a position – having to reverse and then turn around on a mountain road with interesting drops.

The plan had been to find a cheap hotel as this is Day 11 and money is fast running out. However, we decided if we made it down to the lake again in one piece, we’d take the first hotel that presented itself. And so I find myself relaxing in a very pleasant bar writing this while it pours with rain outside. I have no photos of the mountain we’ve just ascended and descended as there was no opportunity to stop for pics. So I’ll leave you with one I took last night at Lake Garda.

Now there’s a lady who really knows how to relax.

To Italy and Back Day 10

Wedding over, back to the programme and a visit to Maranello and the Ferrari museum.

I had a go in a simulator and chose to do Spa. I was ridiculously bad and span it about four times and then crashed at Eau Rouge.

After lunch we continued north a short distance to Modena so Jacqui could see a special exhibition. Something to do with women. Relationships are give and take after all.

It was quite good. It was on at Il Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari and the exhibition was called ‘Il Rosso & Il Rosa.’ Believe it or not they even had a few cars there.

And a few engines …

Tonight we’re in Garda on the lake. Tomorrow we’ll drive around it and then head for the hills.

To Italy and Back Days 7,8,9.

Day 7 was spent driving from Roccalberti to the wedding venue in San Gimignano with a brief stop in the medieval walled town of Lucca for Jacqui to have her hair done.

On Day 8 we visited San Gimignano in the morning before the wedding in a vineyard just outside town in the afternoon.

Today, Day 9 we drove over to Pisa and in our normal naive and optimistic fashion drove straight to the centre and parked three minutes walk from that funny old leaning tower.

Back to San Gimignano tonight for a final meal with friends before we get back on the road tomorrow and head to Marenelo and Modena.

To Italy and Back Day 6

The view from our bedroom this morning.

Today we drove up the steepest most windy road I think I’ve ever driven. Not a great driving road to be honest as it was so slow and tortuous but a great experience.

At the top was San Pellegrino in Alpe and a church with the mummified remains of two saints – Saint Pellegrino and Saint Blanco.

Then it was on to the walled medieval town of Castiglione.

We’re still staying with my brother but tomorrow we’d better get on to the wedding.

To Italy and Back Day 4

First stop the boulangerie for croissants and take-away coffees to eat overlooking the lake my brother had mentioned. It wasn’t far but the weather closed in and the view… well see for yourself…

It was a good drive though up Mont Cenis and down the other side.

We booked a hotel-apartment with underground parking in the centre of Turin from the car and arrived at lunchtime in the rain.

After checking into the apartment we visited the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile.

It was very Italian. Behind this E-type was a looping film of kisses in E-types from the movies. Just kiss after kiss. Nice.

Here’s another one.

Here are some other pics from the museum.

That French couple with the Morgan and Union Jack cushion I mentioned on Day 1 would love this. Chateau Morgan.

Oh, let’s have one more…

Tomorrow the coast. The Med. Or Ligurian Sea apparently around Genoa, which is our first stop.

To Italy and Back Day 3

We spent the morning poking about Aix-les-Bains. It must have been magnificent a hundred years ago and is still quite wonderful today.

The glass ‘porch’ on this building caught Jacqui’s eye and then we noticed the coat of arms above.

I like the fact that Queen Vic gets a definite article in France.

Lots of once grand shops. I like photographing them.

And if I can slip in a car or bike, so much the better.

I bought a couple of postcards for my collection and my other blog – postcardsforpetrolheads.co.uk. Of course they too must have an incidental car.

Our departure was then slightly delayed by having to track down the locations.

My brother had recommended a good place for lunch on the way to Turin, up in the mountains on Mont Cenis overlooking a lake. We took the scenic route and because we left Aix-les-Bains late we didn’t quite get there, even for dinner. We’ll make it a breakfast stop tomorrow.

Tonight we’re in what clearly is a ski resort, though not in June – Lanslebourg, staying at Le Relais des 2 Cols Hôtel. It’s very quiet.

When we pulled in it was beginning to rain so we sat under the awning of a bar and had a drink then walked around the graveyard where there was a René Arnoux buried, though not the former F1 driver of course as he isn’t ready for a plot yet. F1 René was born down the road in Isère though, so perhaps a relative.

After a little siesta we popped out and wow! Where had this lot come from? We’d been the only car of interest in the town at 5, but by 7…

All British registered. I’ve still got the yellowest though.

Later edit for my mother who likes a map 🙂

To Italy and Back Day 2

Jacqui made a visit to a hairdressers in Dijon before breakfast. True. Really. Then we went shopping for a handbag. Didn’t buy one (not the right shade of yellow) nor any mustard (despite Dijon mustard coming in every conceivable flavour). Then we hit the road. Now in Aix-les-Bains where we have a lakeside hotel with a hillside view. Very hot today but the beer’s chilled so all good.

The barman likes the GT86 (he’s never seen one before) and has a million French questions I can’t understand. I offered to show him the motor. I might as well have been speaking Russian. I oppened the bonnet and he said Ah! Le motor.

To Italy and Back Day 1.

It seems we have only just completed our road trip to Spain and here we are heading across the Channel again. This time for a very special reason – Laura and Liam’s wedding next Saturday in San Gimignano in Tuscany.

Here’s the plan…

Google Maps.

This is a motoring blog so I make no apology for a certain bias in what gets reported…

This is us queuing up to board the Eurostar. What company! A Porsche, a classic Sunbeam and two Lambos. In fact we joined a convoy of Lamborghinis on the M20 all heading for the Eurotunnel. We spoke to one of the owners at the terminal who said it was their annual jaunt to France and there were thirty of them going.

On the train we found ourselves behind the Sunbeam and the guy told us it was a 1960 model which he had restored himself. The boot was full of tools, spares and petrol. Doesn’t the gauge work? I wondered whether he’d chosen his girlfriend because she traveled light or whether he wooed her in a C Class Merc and then sprung the Sunbeam on her. Anyway, while under the English Channel he pumped up all four tyres with a foot pump. Wouldn’t the pressures have been all wrong down there?

On the way down the A26 in France we stopped for coffee in a motorway services and met a woman in an MX5. Her boot was full of luggage – over full really – and she was rummaging through it looking for something for her passenger who was a white Highland Terrier. The two of them were heading to the south of France. The dog had her own seatbelt and liked travelling. I wonder whether she chose that mutt for her like of road trips or whether she just struck lucky. We had a dog who puked within ten minutes of the house.

We took a slight detour on the way south to see what was left of the old Reims Grand Prix Circuit. We found the grandstand and the pits and a nice restaurant called Bistro de la Circuit. There were some Brits at the restaurant who were on a ‘Champagne Tour’ whatever that is. One couple had a Jaguar XJS, another an immaculate frog eye Sprite with torneau cover. They said another couple had a Mustang. We’d seen them behind the pits ten minutes earlier but I guess they weren’t hungry or good at navigating.

Much of the infrastructure is faded and crumbling but the ‘Friends of Reims’ are trying to restore it, which explains why some bits are brightly painted.

This is it back in the day…

Further down the road we stopped for petrol and went in for a coffee. When we came out we found a new Morgan next to us. The driver, an old guy about my age, French, was helping his wife into the passenger seat. She obviously had a bad back, whether caused by the vintage style seats or lifting sacks of peat I’m not sure. Anyway, they had a solution. He pushed a Union Jack cushion down behind her back and buckled her in. I smiled at them and they smiled back but as I got in to our Japanese Toyota I just couldn’t think of anything to say to them. Rule Britannia.

Tonight we’re staying in the Hotel de Paris in Dijon, which isn’t as grand as it sounds but is in the centre, has free wifi and a private car park in a cave underneath. We booked it on Booking.com from the car as we got close to the city and it all worked out perfectly.

Had a good meal outside in the Place de la Liberation in the old town and I am now sitting outside another bar writing this on my phone (which is asking for trouble I know). It’s warm and gone nine. Nice. Tomorrow we’ll be further south but will it still be as warm as we get nearer the Alps?

And that was Day One.