Its about time I did my write up for my euro trip…this is long and rambling so you have been warned.
On the 28th May at 7.50 my (ex) girlfriend and I boarded the Eurotunnel in my Honda S2000 to embark on a trip I’d dreamt of doing for many years. A combination of lack of faith in my previous car’s ability to make the trip and lack of cash meant I’d never attempted it before. I was pretty confident the Honda would make it but I still made sure I had breakdown cover for the trip with The Green Insurance company, 52 quid for a years cover was pretty good I thought.
I spent a lot of time planning the route before we went so I was pretty comfortable to do the trip without a sat nav and just use the maps function on my godphone every now and then. The first part of the trip was a pretty boring cruise down the autoroute to Reims to take the obligatory shot next to the old pits.
From there I headed cross country and took the D951, 373, 619, 671 and finally the D971 to Dijon. Quite the scenic route and some decent flowing roads interspersed with little French towns. A great way to cross the country I’d say, even though its pretty time consuming.
After spending the night in Dijon we again headed across country to Switzerland and picked up Lake Geneva at a town called Nyon. We stopped for lunch there and had a little wander around before continuing around the lake and into the Sion valley. I’d researched the motorways and deliberated about getting the required sticker in my windscreen to use them in Switzerland and Austria, but in the end decided to stick to the A roads and get a better view of the scenery.
We finally arrived in Mollens at around 7.30 that evening. To be honest I think I’d underestimated the time it would take to travel this way and I was pretty shattered that day, to the point where I lay down when we got to our room and instantly fell asleep. I woke up at midnight and ended up having chocolate biscuits and pringles for tea that night. Still, we awoke to some amazing weather and an even more amazing view over breakfast…
Day three was when it was supposed to get properly exciting. The first of the ‘known’ passes we were going to take was the Furka, so when we got to Obergoms and found that the pass was shut it was pretty disappointing. Being the end of May I knew we were right on the cusp of passes opening after the winter so this wasn’t a good sign. Still, we got on the land train and waited for the train to leave. I was expecting some pretty awesome views so I got the camera ready….to spend 45 minutes in complete darkness as we travelled straight through the mountain
The next pass was the Klausen, which thankfully was open and was one of my favourites. Some great fast flowing roads and some pretty awesome scenery too. From here we made our way to Davos and across the Fluela Pass and Ofen Pass before finally picking up the Umbrail to cross into Italy. The Umbrail was one of the most incredible bits of road I’ve ever driven. Impossibly narrow in places and the middle kilometre or so wasn’t even surfaced, just gravel. At one point I got a bit worried that I’d taken a wrong turn but I was having so much fun on the gravelled hairpins I didn’t care (she wasn’t quite so impressed).
Then, as if by magic, we popped out near the top of Stelvio and crossed over into Italy. It was pretty late in the afternoon by now so we headed straight down into Bormio for our next overnight stay.
Despite advice from Marv and Chris to get up at 4am to do the stelvio I decided that 8am was more than adequate. Luckily, being very early in the season, I was correct and had a pretty clear run to the top (apart from getting stuck briefly behind a banana van on the way up AND the way down). Approaching the top from the western side was amazing, the scenery as you get further and further up was just incredible, with 3 to 4 feet of snow either side of the road at points. I’d been watching the webcam before the trip and a week or so before we went they were clearing the snow off the roads. After a brief stop at the top (it had dropped to 4 degrees from about 20 in the valley and we were wearing shorts and T shirts) we down the Eastern ramp.
I have to admit, I was pretty fed up of hairpins by now and was actually looking forward to getting off Stelvio. After finally reaching the bottom we then began the long journey to Venice, stopping off in Bolzano for lunch before heading through the mountains again.
My original plan was to head into Austria and pick up a few of the passes there before heading down to Venice, but I realised after the previous day that this was a step too far so cut out Austria completely. The trip across Italy was pretty epic though, I lost track of exactly which roads I took but I basically scribed a route from Bolzano to venice via the mountains.
We then had three nights in Venice which was a welcome break. I stayed on Lido and caught one of the ferries across each day. We had a 48h pass for 30 euros that got you on pretty much any boat you liked, so getting around was easy peasy.
After three days of good food and wine it was time to get back in the car and head for maranello. Again, avoiding the motorways, I scribed a route across country and spent the day navigating from Venice to Maranello, where we found a fantastic converted mill to stay in. Next day we went around the museum, which was adequate. As a Ferrari fan I enjoyed it despite being accosted outside by several Italians trying to sell me a ride in a Ferrari. The highlight of the museum was sitting on the potty and hearing an F1 car blasting around Fiorano. I pulled up to the circuit when we left the museum and watched an ’07 F1 car blasting round the circuit in the pouring rain. That was cool.
Next stop was Pisa, via a short stop in Lucca for lunch, again via some fantastic mountain roads.
From Pisa we followed the coast all the way around to Ventimiglia for the night, before spending the day mooching around Nice and Monaco, where I spotted a superb Renault 5 turbo cruising through turn 1….it sounded great.
After a night in Menton (half an hour up the road from Monaco but a quarter of the price) it was on to the Col de Turini. These were some awesome roads, possibly my favourite of the trip and seeing the rubber laid down by the rally cars on the way into every corner was pretty cool.
A long days driving through the mountains culminated in a night in Grenoble and then a night in Paris before getting back on the train to England.
It was a pretty whistle stop tour so I’ll definitely be heading back to spend a bit more time in some of the areas, and definitely get into Austria, but all in all it was an excellent trip and the car was faultless. I had two gopro’s mounted to the car for Stelvio and a few of the other passes, at some point I’ll get around to editing some of the video.
and so it begins...