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 Mâcon 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.

Oliva

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…

Sitges

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

 

Roadtrip to Spain 2018 (Part 1)

Blogging from the passenger seat… We crossed by the Eurotunnel yesterday morning and got to Sancé near Mâcon by late afternoon.

From my postcard blog (postcardsforpetrolheads) I was aware of this fine photograph and postcard of a cafe in Sance. What a fantastic location it would make for a Maigret novel! I couldn’t use it of course since it didn’t have a car in, but decided to go and see if it was still there. Jacqui is most accommodating to my little whims so eventually we find it. What a great building! So I got her to position the car just so and plonked a nice car in my own photo of the place. Next stop Figueres.

We passed some impressive chateaux along the way but I prefer the path less well travelled and the slightly odd ball places. We’re now in Figueres and find ourselves in this bar on the wall of which is a photograph in which is a Renault Dauphine. I learnt to drive in a Dauphine at the age of ten so have always had a soft spot for them. So I took a photo of it. Went for a walk later and found the same building. Perhaps this is going to be a theme of this holiday – past and present.

Snow Day Blogging

snow

It’s a snow today today and the GT86 is safely tucked up in the garage. I had some minor scratches sorted in the week by Smart Insurance, who I can highly recommend, and while they were here (they work at your home or workplace) they pointed out that the lacquer had come off various small places on the front. I hadn’t noticed this before but took it into Toyota yesterday to see whether we can claim on the warranty. Photos were taken and  sent to head office. They didn’t say no, so fingers crossed…  The car has to go in for a power steering recall anyway but I have to say that after 41,000 miles it is still running absolutely perfectly and is still a great practical sports car. That said, we are thinking of changing it before the summer to get another convertible as we have a trip planned to Tuscany.

Before that though we are planning a drive down to Oliva in Spain at Easter and a snow day is just the opportunity I need to plan the trip. 1,800 km each way, so 600 km per day should be feasible. We did contemplate doing it in two days but that would curtail the lunch stops and we do like a nice lunch. My brother-in-law and my nephew did it in one go in a Porsche 911, but they could not sit down for a week after that. The last time we did it was in the Honda S2000 over the Pyrenees, but that was a more leisurely drive. This trip we want to get there quickly.

The idea was to have a couple of weeks of warmth and sunshine, so it was a bit of surprise to hear that the F1 testing in Barcelona this week was more or less snowed off. That’s not supposed to happen!

The timing of this trip isn’t perfect as I’ll miss the first hillclimb event of the season at Loton Park and I’ve also realised that we’ll have to be careful about the hotel choice on 24 March as it will need to be showing the Australian Grand Prix on TV for breakfast on the Sunday morning. First GP of the year. How will Alonso do? Very exciting! Very exciting too to see an Alfa logo once again on a GP car. Good luck to Sauber!

Sauber Alfa Romeo

If you read my other blog about my postcard collection – Postcards for Petrolheads  – you will have seen quite a few Italian cars featured recently. This morning I posted my Iso Grifo card. What a find! And I’ve also just bought one with a  Facel Vega on it, which is a coincidence since I mentioned that rare marque only last week on here.  Here’s the Facel Vega postcard which I will be blogging about after working out the route to Oliva.

Facel Vega postcard

OK, let’s get planning; route, tolls, restaurants and hotels. I do love a road trip!

 

Museo Fernando Alonso

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A couple of weeks ago we visited Alonso’s museum in Northern Spain. I had a read a few  5 star reviews on Trip Advisor and was really looking forward to it. However, despite being a big F1 and Alonso fan I was disappointed. And here’s why…

The museum contains lots of F1 cars, which is good and interesting, but all look immaculate and have their engine covers on.  The museum also contains hundreds of Fernando’s helmets, overalls, gloves and boots (is that interesting?) and hundreds of trophies.  OK some of the trophies were unusual and interesting to look at, but when you’ve seen one huge silver trophy you’ve seen them all in my opinion.  There were a couple of short looping videos which were quite interesting and a shop and a cafe so why was I disappointed?  Because there was no real story. Because there were no captioned photographs showing memorable moments – great overtakes, accidents, power slides, Alonso in the bar with other drivers etc.  It was just a huge shed with his things in it.

I felt the same when we went to  the Schlumpf Collection in Mulhouse. Just too any Bugattis in one place. But the Le Mans museum on the other hand was full of old photos capturing moments from history and telling a story.

Here are a few of my photos…

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What it needs are more photos like these….

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And some interactivity. A simulator would be ideal or the opportunity to sit in one of the cars.  So, no five stars from me I’m afraid.

Day 3 Rain to Spain.

Lots of rain on the drive down through France. Must get some tape tomorrow to hold it all together. It wasn’t as bad as this last night.
Campsite up in the mountains above San Sebastian. We’ll be here two more days.
It’s not all driving, this holiday. There’s drinking to do too. Bus from campsite into the city every 30 mins. Perfect.
San Sebastian about 5pm. It was warm and sunny two hours later.
Bet they never backed it into a tree.
Love tapas. Pintxos (sp?) they call it around here.