To Italy and Back Day 14

Last Day ūüôĀ

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 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 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 Cit√© 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 – 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 H√ītel. 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 Ren√© Arnoux buried, though not the former F1 driver of course as he isn’t ready for a plot yet. F1 Ren√© was born down the road in Is√®re 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 ūüôā

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 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.

Roadtrip to Spain 2018 (Part 2)

We’re just back from a two week jaunt to Alicante in Spain.¬† The total distance was 3,354 miles and we averaged 36.9 mpg, which was marginally better than the 36.4 we achieved on the trip to the Picos de Europa¬†last year (see blog post Roscoff to Stourbridge) .

GT86 BRZ fuel economy mpg

While Jacqui was driving on the last day I went onto a Pistonheads forum and asked whether I could do better than the GT86 for a ¬£30K sportscar / 2+2 which could average 36 mpg on a roadtrip.¬† There was a good discussion and I think we concluded that if we rule out hot hatches (which I do) and all diesel cars (which I also do) then there isn’t really anything. There was some debate as to whether the GT86 is a sportscar and some suggestions for things like the Elise, but having owned one and also done a few European journeys in a Honda S2000, the GT86 is definitely the most comfortable and most practical. So practical in fact that when my youngest son flew out to Alicante¬† to join us for a few days we could pick him up in it and we even drove to Valencia and back with him in the back and with no complaints. I have thought about getting an Abarth 124 Spider but you couldn’t do that in one of those.

Adult in the rear seat of a GT86

As mentioned in the previous post we¬† crossed the Channel through the Eurotunnel, which is our favoured way over to France. However, we did try something new this year which we have not used before. These are toll tags. My brother-in-law recommended them and they are brilliant. You have one for each country and they stick onto the windscreen behind the rear view mirror. Then when you approach a motorway toll, instead of stopping and paying (always a hassle in a low right-hand-drive car on the continent, even with a passenger), the tag beeps and the barrier rises (and your bank account is debited). So satisfying to pass the queues of people hunting for change or their mislaid tickets. They are also brilliant for hiding the costs of all of those tolls from you.¬† Normally, after paying, we say to ourselves that we should really try to avoid the toll roads. These things lull you into thinking that they’re free! I daren’t look at the bank account!

Motorway toll tages for France and Spain

It took us three days to get down to Oliva just north of Alicante, stopping at M√Ęcon and then Figueres. Jacqui thought the road down through France was boring (which it was) so for the return journey we took an extra half day and went via Andorra in the Pyrenees. Our return journey looks a bit odd when plotted on the map but we called in to see some friends in Auvillar and that pulled us a little west. Anyway, the return journey was much more interesting. Some may wonder why we avoid Paris. Lots of people go that way and we have too in the past, but I doubt our marriage could survive another afternoon sat in traffic completely lost on the French equivalent of the M25.

It can never make financial sense to drive to Alicante as opposed to flying and renting a hire car. However, we like the journey and the unexpected things you see on the way. We also like the freedom of being able to change our plans¬† at a moment’s notice and take odd little detours.¬† Here’s a little unplanned detour- well, as you can see we were a little lost somewhere in northern Spain with the snow covered Pyrenees in the distance. That GT86 can go anywhere!

a country road in Spain

This is the road we should have been on…

We normally take in a motor museum on our trips but alas on this trip we didn’t. However, the Dali Museum in Figueres did yield this little artistic gem.

Car at Dali Museum

My photo doesn’t really explain it and neither does this video I suppose, but at least the video shows why it is called the Rainy Taxi.

Oliva, where we have an apartment.  There seems to be a good classic car club down  the road in Denia.  Shame about Brexit.


My son took this photo. No Photoshop involved, just careful positioning of the car and camera. A real crock of gold.

Rainbow over a GT86

On the way home our first stop was in Sitges. This was taken in the morning at the harbour. By lunchtime the scenery was a little different…


We’ve driven over the Pyrenees¬† before but only in the summer and were surprised there was so much snow there still.

On a road trip the music is all important. When I first bought the Giallo I thought the audio unit was very weak and there was also no built-in sat nav so I bought a Clarion NX302E head unit.

This gave me a Bluetooth connection to my phone for Spotify and phone use, a rear view camera and European maps. The sound quality was immediately better, however, the unit really is disappointing. The main problems concern the number of clicks (stabs with your finger on the display) that you have to make to change anything.¬† When you’re driving fast on the wrong side of the road in a foreign country you don’t want to be distracted by a slow reacting interface. The things that irritate me most are that you cannot quickly change¬†the maps from North Up to Direction of Travel Up and you cannot easily zoom in and out. Also, you cannot easily turn the volume off (really! there is no Off button, only a temporary¬†mute button). OK there is a volume off setting, but that is buried deep in the system settings and you cannot navigate to those easily when driving.¬† The radio is ridiculous¬†– there are pre-sets but they are not easy to set (which you need to do when you leave the UK) and there is no auto tuning facility and no tuning knob.¬† The Bluetooth¬†is also flaky and the unit doesn’t fit the dash without spacers either¬†side. Why did I buy it! So, for the next roadtrip in June to Italy I want to get something different. Not sure what yet but it’s sure to have some hard buttons on it,¬† not just virtual buttons and if I cannot get what I want I will ditch the sat nav and use my phone and settle for a good audio system. I’m not sure these all-in-one things are any use at all. Rant over.

Apart from the head unit everything else on the car worked perfectly and it got a lot of admiring looks along the way and favourable comments at service stations.¬† As on previous visits to France and Spain we didn’t see one other GT86 or BRZ. Well, come to think of it we didn’t see one on the way to and from Folkstone either. We saw lots of Porsches and BMWs. Common as muck they are.

So another good trip, but at the end of the journey – What a mess!

Spanish Fly