Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Final Word ... Angela's Blog Postscript

Andy took over 12 hours of footage which he has managed to cut down to 30 minutes!  He says 'we' edited it but I had very little input....he managed to delete almost all of day 2 and he says there was never any footage of our 'tiff'.  So for those of you not the slightest bit interested in cars, roads, bridges or tunnels here is a synopsis of the holiday according to Angela!...Andy Beach's European Driving bootcamp... no particular ranging from fantastic 5 star with concierges who parked the car and carried all of our luggage to the room with delicious food to basic but clean and comfy we had cold but fresh and sunny, torrential rain and thunder storms through overcast but warm to bright hot sunshine ranged from uggs, jeans, jumper, winter coat and scarf through to maxi dresses and flip flops (I did have to do an on the move change, as I was driving, to take my layers and uggs off and drove for a while in my bra) face looks like it's been roasted for a couple of hours on gas 7/200/180 fan and the rest of me remains white!

..the 'tiff' went like this, Andy shouted at Angela so she skidded to a spectacular halt in a layby, got out of the car and told him he could "fstarking drive"

...inspector gadget as he is now known has been torturing me with unnecessary electronic devices that fstarking beep all day long, forget Chinese water torture there is now Beach Beep Torture!!!

...we have had a lovely adventure and have had some great experiences, definitely recommend it but it's not for the faint hearted (I am typing this on the iPad whilst Andy is driving at 215kph/135mph!!! on the autobahn to see how fast the car will go!), the different countries, languages and food (not to mention service stations) has been interesting and the scenery fantastic...

....we didn't have time to do any shopping (even though he teasingly drove past the Gucci, Valentino and arpels and Van Cleef shops 4 times in Monaco and seemed not to hear my protestations to buy me something shiney! - I bet that didn't get to final edit either!)

...the trip was exhausting but an exhilarating challenge and my admiration for Ewan mcgreggor and Charlie boorman and the top gear team reached a whole new level! In my mind I likened andy and myself to the cool, handsome and daring Ewan and Charlie but when the videos were played back we bore more than a likeness to The Two Fat Ladies!...

...I am, of course, my whitty, debonaire self and thank my straight man for feeding me so much material to take the piss out of him, my favourite being:

Angela: "what are you TRYING to do?"
Andy: "I really don't know how to do this selfie thing"
Angela: "it's easy, just point the [phone] camera at yourself and take a picture"
Andy: "but I want the arc de triomphe in the background"
Angela: "but it's not there!!!!!!!...sighs and shakes head (and confiscates phone)

..the Nurburgring, I'm at a loss for words! would need a chainsaw to cut thought the testosterone in the air! has reinforced my opinion that all men are mad and some of them are fstarking mental/crazy/insane...there we were having a nice little pootle around the track, taking in the scenery, planning where to set up our picnic and 50 million lunatics come racing past us at 4 million mph (I mean 6 million kph!)...forget all the rules you're told in the briefing someone forgot to tell these boys that they can't overtake us by flying over the top of our car on a blind double left hand apex hairpin carousel thingy!...I don't think I've ever said this before but I was too scared to drive!  I shall not be taking up     a career in racing, I'll settle for motoGP in the comfort of an armchair, that's how exciting I want to get!

We loved the trip and will do another time I'll be in charge of the publications!

...hmmmm...wonder what he's planning next :) 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Video Highlights of the Alpine Tour

The long awaited video of Andy and Angela's Alpine Tour has finally arrived!  From over 12 hours of material we've chosen just 30 minutes of the key highlights showing the emotion and the excitement generated by this trip.Capturing some of those special moments ("You are a pain in the arse") and revealing for the first time the growing emotional bond ("my next road trip I'm planning to do ... alone!") this is a not-to-be-missed documentary of our trip from Stratford to ... Stratford.  Enjoy ......

(For those of you where 30 minutes is just not enough we also have a feature length DVD with nearly 3 hours of extended coverage ... contact us for a special signed copy!!)

Use this link if the video does not appear on your screen

And here's a couple of extras you might enjoy ....

Friday, July 4, 2014

Day Eight - Daun to Stratford ... WE MADE IT!!

Well, there was never any doubt ... really!!  We arrived back in Straford this evening to a rousing reception, at least the dog was pleased to see us.  

For the first time this week Angela was up first and had even packed the car (!) so we were ready to leave pretty well on time for our return Channel Tunnel booking.  

Given the blue smoke from yesterday we set off a bit tentatively at first just to make sure all was well.  After a run and oil level checks all seemed as normal but this left us a bit tight for time so Angela was on a mission to get us to the tunnel before last check in ... if the Boxster was expecting a quieter day after being hurled around the 'Ring then it was to be disappointed.  The usual delays around Brussels made this seem like an impossible task, but she did it with seconds to spare ... not even time to grab a drink before boarding!!

En route at each stop for fuel/coffee we bumped into one of the UK contingent so there was a good sense of camaraderie - on the tunnel we were nose-to-tail with another UK Porsche so we compared notes and experiences from the day before (Angela was enthralled ... Not!)

Back on home soil we then only had the Friday afternoon rush hour to contend with!!  Hold ups on the M25 meant we has to go the long way round ... given the distances we have travelled over the past week this part of the journey just seemed to drag.  We finally pulled up on the drive having driven precisely 3,250 miles on the trip.

And so our adventure ends.  We have photos and loads of video which I will sort out and post links for those who are interested and have nothing better to do!  Thank you for joining us on this adventure, but for now it's goodbye, au revoir, arrivederci, auf Wiedersehen.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Day Seven - Nurburgring Nordschleife - OMG!

For those who don't know, the Nurburgring Nordschleife (North Loop) is the now infamous former Grand Prix circuit last used in the 1970s, scene of Niki Lauda's horrific crash and fire which so nearly claimed his life.  These days it is still used as a race circuit for less powerful machinery, but also has become a Mecca for idiots, sorry drivers, to test their mettle in their own cars on its 13 miles and 73 bends.  Today I was one of those idiots, sorry drivers.

The day started badly when first I broke my little GoPro camera which was going to film us driving around. One of our fellow UK contingent came to the rescue to charge the batteries for me.  Then we couldn't find our way to the circuit due to many road works in the area!  We were one of several cars that kept bumping into each other on various diversions!  Don't follow me, I'm lost too!!  At least the sun was shining ....

When we eventually made it to the circuit we headed straight out on a 'sighting lap' with a restricted speed and no overtaking - both of which were completely ignored by one of the many race drivers testing at the circuit.  When the track 'went green' (no restrictions) we did two cautious laps still finding our way around the circuit and trying to avoid the many cars who we're going a lot quicker than we were (they were measuring their lap times in 10ths of a second, we were using a calendar!).

To build a bit of confidence I booked a 'Follow Me' session for a solo drive with an instructor which was really worthwhile.  Reinvigorated Angela joined me again and out we headed with her strict instructions ringing in my ear - "don't crash!"  As if .....

We did a three lap stint then headed for the exit as we were already running low on fuel.  We joined the queue at the one and only local fuel station before returning to the track for a planned two laps.  However on pretty well the first bend a UK driver in a BMW (of course) lost control and hit the barriers hard ahead of us.  This bought out the red flag closing the track (not the first time today but the first while we were on track) so we had a leisurely cruise back to the car park.

Track cleared we headed out once again for another planned two laps, but partway round it looked like we were trailing blue smoke from the exhaust so this ended up being another slow cruise back.  Everything looked fine so we decided it was time for Angela to have a drive .... in the car park!  We thought that was enough for one day, we had survived (which can't be said for all of the UK contingent - two will not be driving their cars home tomorrow!) so our final tally was nine exhilarating laps.

Tomorrow we return to the UK ... :-(  ... But it won't be the end of the blog!  Keep watching for a post script on the trip from Angela (she won't show me what she's written!).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day Six - St Moritz to Daun

I woke early to a miserable, rainy St Moritz, a bit of a change to recent days!  I had intended to get up and out and drive a couple of local passes before breakfast but the lure of a couple more hours under the cosy duvet was too great!!  (Needless to say I would have been on my own as wild horses would not have been able to drag Angela out of bed at that time of the morning!)

And so it was then that after a leisurely breakfast we headed off on what was basically a get from Point A to Point B day.  That didn't stop us squeezing one more pass in on the way so the Julienpass also gets crossed off the list.

Angela drove the majority of the eight hours today, some of it in really atrocious weather - at times a boat would have been a better bet.  Slowly the weather cleared until by the time we reached the Stuttgart area of Germany it was bright sunshine and 28 deg C.  The top came down and, you guessed it, Angela had a change of clothes!

We arrived in Daun to plan by which time a fair number of the British contingent were already in the bar! There's some quite serious machinery here that will leave us for dead on the track!

So, driver's briefing completed and helmets sorted (no, Angela, they don't come in pink!) we're all set for an exciting, safe and enjoyable day on the famous Nurburgring tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day Five - Alpine Passes

Anyone who knows Angela will understand when I say she is not at her best in the mornings!  This week has therefore been a bit of a challenge to get her up and ready to leave in line with what she describes as my "relentless schedule"!!  So this morning I took pity on her and let her wake at her own pace which meant by the time we were ready to leave half the day had gone!

This, along with the fact we got a little bit lost, meant we had to cut short our planned ten-pass tour to get back in time for dinner but nevertheless we can cross Umbrail, Stelvio (twice, up and down), Ofenpass, DeFoppa, DiGavia and DelBernini off the list.  While the weather was mixed (on DeFoppa we drove into the clouds) the scenery was simply stunning - we have lots of photos to bore you all with!  Next time (if there IS a next time!) I must allow more time to appreciate the view.

Despite this being our lowest mileage day by far we're both cream crackered so I'll leave it there.  Until tomorrow ....

Driving the Monaco Grand Prix (Circuit)!!

A short extract from the lap of the Grand Prix circuit, exiting Casino Square, through the hairpin and into the tunnel.  I had a couple of Police bikes ahead of me so had to a bit cautious .... 

Another a Glorious Day!

This is the view we have from the balcony of our room in St Moritz - Birmingham/Stratford won't seem quite the same again ....

Today we do a circuit of some of the biggest mountain passes in the area.  Angela isn't proving to be the best passenger when it comes to driving next to sheer drops!  Can't think why?!  We'll definitley have the on board video recording so that should be fun to listen to ...!!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Day Four - Sauze D'Oulx to St Moritz

Day Four, marking the halfway point of our Alpine Tour, proved to be a mixed day both in terms of weather and driving.  First thing this morning it was bright sunshine but bitterly cold (see previous post) yet by the middle of the day we were peeling off the layers and slapping on the suncream.  By days end we were wrapping up against the chill again as we ascended to St Moritz.

First thing we headed north to the Mont Blanc tunnel, a bit disappointing as the mountain was shrouded in cloud and the tunnel didn't seem as big as it looks on Top Gear!  Nevertheless we saw the glacier on the drive up from Chamonix and managed to get the engine note reverberating around the tunnel without exceeding the speed limit by too much!

Our next landmark was Lake Como - what a super place to visit!  We were only able drive the (surprisingly long) length of the lake, with the snow capped mountains in the background, but it looks worthy of a longer stay.

We did stop briefly on a couple of occasions ... did I mention it was very hot during the day?!

After Lake Como we headed up to St Moritz and our first alpine pass - the Moloja Pass!  Angela drove but her progress was thwarted by a rather sedate German Mercedes driver ...

We finally arrived at our hotel for the next two nights, the 5-star Kempinski Grand Hotel - it's rather nice, I don't think we're going to want to leave!

Top Down Motoring .... Whatever the Weather!

There's not much point in having a convertible if you don't get the top down!  So with the sun shining this morning we dressed for the weather and headed off on Day Four of our adventure ....

(This one especially for the guys at PCT Cars for their help in getting the car together for the trip - thanks!)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

This is what we woke up to this morning ....

The view from our bedroom window - lovely!

Day Three - Carcassonne to Sauze D'Oulx

As we had a fairly late night last night and both of us were a bit hung over this morning we did not set off quite as early as we had planned!  Consequently our intent to drive along the French Riveria coast through Nice and into Monte Carlo was abandoned in favour of the most direct route to the principality.  We arrived early afternoon to bright sunshine, a welcome change to the grey clouds we left behind at Carcassonne.  We made for the casino being well signposted and picked up the Grand Prix circuit.

Our first 'lap' was a bit tentative - the roads look quite different in their non-race configuration though there's still enough kerbs around to see where the F1 cars have trod.  I also wasn't sure how much we could actually get around but as it turned out we could do it all except the right turn in Casino Square, this being a traffic island hence going the wrong way, and the new chicane - we had to drive down to the old chicane used in the pre-modern era (was it Lorenzo Bandini who ended up in the harbour? You can see how easy that would be!).  Anyway, having done it once I had to do it again, and then again - all the landmarks like Tabac, the old hairpin and of course the tunnel.  I have an on board video but too large to post here with mobile broadband!  When we get to a hotel with free WiFi ....

We shared the driving today, a mixture of motorway and some A-Road through the Italian hills; lots of tunnels and bridges.  Angela doesn't like Italian motorways as the driving isn't quite as well disciplined as France or the UK but she seemed to adapt pretty well!!  As it happened she drove the final few miles to the hotel which involved a few hairpin bends which she did enjoy - no brakes needed, just chuck it in and wrestle it through.  We may have some rubber left for the Nurburgring!

Sauze D'Oulx is primarily a ski resort so Sunday evening pretty well everything is closed, including the hotel restaurant!  The receptionist was able to get us a late table at a nearby restaurant where we enjoyed a beverage and a snack ....

YES - Monaco Baby!

I'm sure most F1 fans will remember Jenson Button when he won the Monaco Grand Prix for the first time .... "YES - Monaco Baby!" he shouted over the radio.  Well my excitement may only be a fraction of that shown by Monaco-resident Jenson but the thrill of being able to drive around pretty well the whole of the Grand Prix circuit today was fantastic - so good in fact I had to do it three times!  Angela was, well, less enthusiastic shall we say!  

Nevertheless here we are in Casino Square with the Hotel de Paris in the background.  It was packed with tourists and very flash cars - no chance for me to park alongside the Ferraris, Maseratis and a Buggatti Veyron!  I had a few seconds to grab this picture before being moved on.

Day Two Update

I've been asked (make that 'told') to tell you a bit about my belated birthday meal at the Hotel's Michelin starred restaurant last night.  It was very nice (not enough? Oh alright then ...)

While I had duck pate for my starter Angela tried the French delicacy frogs legs or 'cuisses de grenouille'.  She really enjoyed them!  I tried one but all I could taste was garlic so I still don't really know what frogs legs taste like!

Between courses we had Chef's specially prepared tasters which included the smallest pilchard sandwich you have ever seen!  Stick two matchsticks together and cut them to one inch long and you've got the idea!!

For main course Angela had fish and I had beef with truffles.  Now I've never had truffles before (yes, really) so interested to see what all the fuss was about .... not impressed!  Didn't enjoy the first piece so rather them go to very expensive waste Angela finished them off.  I guess my tastes are for simpler food - and plenty of it!

Given the small portions we had room for desert - Angela had a soufflé which she described as 'eating a cloud' it was so light, while I had a very fancy & delicate chocolate and fruit concoction, very nice!

So that and a couple of bottles of wine later and we've both woken up with headaches this morning!  I've done the first driving stint but have handed over to Angela before I take the wheel again for the drive through Monaco ...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day Two - Dourdan to Carcassonne ... and the sun was shining!

We successfully completed the journey to the south of France without any issues!  Angela drove all but the last few kilometres - bless her cotton socks!  En route we had to fill up with fuel twice (ouch!) and Angela had four changes of clothes by the time we had dinner!!!  Don't ask ....

We crossed the 'Viaduc de Millau', the 12th highest bridge deck in the world and a spectacular piece of engineering ....

By this time the sun was well and truly out so we just had to put the top down to get the best view of the crossing ...

From here we headed for our overnight stop at the hotel within the old city walls of Carcassonne which we found without too much trouble as Angela has been here before (we did have our first tiff but this was quickly forgotten!)

Tomorrow it's Monte Carlo or bust ......

[Two quick post scripts - tonight's room has tea making facilities - yippee!  And the car temperature debate has been amicably resolved - Angela now wears her Ugg boots and a thick jumper and scarf  so has stopped complaining - a suitable compromise!!]

Ready to go .....

After a bit of a lie in and a lazy breakfast we're ready to go for Day Two and the journey south - only a bit behind schedule but hey, it's a holiday!  Angela's at the helm today!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day One - Stratford to Dourdan

We have successfully arrived at our first overnight stop - the Hotellerie Blanche de Castille in Dourdan just south of Paris.  En route we braved the Paris rush hour traffic to circle the Arc de Triomphe - twice! - followed by the Place de la Concorde and then the iconic Eiffel Tower.  We'd love show you some photos but none of them were any good (tomorrow Angela can drive and Andy can take the photos!).

Apparently it's market day tomorrow so the whole of the centre of Dourdan is cordoned off - guess where the hotel is?!  Yep, slap bang in the middle.  We toured the whole of Dourdan (probably not really but if felt like it) trying to find the hotel without success so had to park up and walk in to find the only vehicle access to the hotel was a pedestrian walkway!  The only glitch in an otherwise super day.

The room is quite comfortable and has a lovely view but no tea making facilities!!  Andy is gutted!  There'll be no living with him in the morning.

Weather on the journey was very mixed - we had the top down around Paris yet at other times were slowed to a crawl due to the heavy rain with near-zero visibility. One major point of conflict has arisen between driver and co-driver; Andy likes the car cool so Angela is huddled up in blankets and coats, yet when she drives the car is like a sauna leaving Andy gasping for breath and struggling to stay awake!  It's not certain that any compromise will be reached by the end of the trip!

Tomorrow sees us heading for the south of France and hopefully some more typically warm weather!

So Far So Good

Tempting the gods of (mis)fortune but the first leg of our journey went without a hitch - and we were only a bit late leaving!  And everything got packed although there's not a lot of spare space so no room for presents!!  Next stop France ....

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Packed and Ready To Go!

Well, we're all packed and ready to go.  To her credit Angela managed to stick to the 'one bag' allocation, which is to say one bag for clothes, one bag for shoes, one bag for hats .... !!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Just 24 hours to go ......

In just 24 hours from now we'll be setting off on our Alpine Tour, assuming we survive the stress of packing all the clothes (and cameras!) into the tiny Boxster.  Final details of the route have now been sorted so for those of you who wish to follow our progress here's what you've got to look forward to ....

Day 1 - Friday:  leaving Stratford for the Eurotunnel then on to Paris to cop an eyeful of the tower (!) before heading a short way south to Dourdan for our first night stop.

Day 2 - Saturday:  the long drive south on the French motorways, diverting to see the Viaduct de Millau (hopefully if it's not shrouded in cloud), before arriving at Carcassonne for our second overnight stop and a belated birthday meal for Andy (our second date was a birthday meal for Angela - how romantic!).

Day 3 - Sunday:  heading for Monaco and taking in as much of the French Riveria as time allows (depends what time we get up after our night out!) before heading into Italy and an overnight stop at Sauze d'Oulx.

Day 4 - Monday:  the alpine part of the adventure begins with a trip through Val D'Isere to the Mont Blanc Tunnel then on past Lake Como and into Switzerland to St Moritz for our next two nights in 5-Star luxury.

Day 5 - Tuesday:  a day of alpine passes including the famous Stelvio Pass - not for the faint hearted!

Day 6 - Wednesday:  we head north through Austria and to Daun, Germany to meet up with an organised group of 60 cars heading out from the UK.

Day 7 - Thursday:  a private track day at the infamous Nuburgring Race track - how long will the tyres last!

Day 8 - Friday:  return with the group through Belgium and France to the Eurotunnel then finally (if all goes to plan) arriving back in Stratford with some fantastic memories.

Friday, June 20, 2014

One week until the adventure begins ....

One car, two drivers, eight countries in eight days, fourteen Alpine Passes and as many laps of the Nurburgring as one set of tyres will allow!