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Old 26th May 2007, 05:24   #1
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Default Mediterranean Road Trip - Easter 2007

Ok now.... I know I have been quiet for an awefully long time. But been busy enjoying life. To cut a long story short,we did during easter 2007, a hectic and exciting Mediterranean road trip!!! As you can imagine, a trip involving 4 people, 4 countries , 11 days and 3500 miles of motoring was quite eventful, especially since one of the trippers happened to be a 5 year old "fast car fanatic" another a TSM (Thirty-Plus Single Mallu).

In the interest of brevity am sticking to the trip highlights.

Trip Summary
Duration 11 days from the 5th of April '07 to the 15th of April '07
Distance covered 3350+ miles (~ 5375 kms)
Road Trippers Prithvi, Rahul, Sahina, Sujith aka Wadax and his 'Sharp 770sh'
Trip Steed '98 BMW E36 323i with a 2.5L inline 6 engine
Countries covered England, France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland


Coolest moments
1. Using a Porsche 911 Turbo and a Corvette V8 as pace cars at 135mph average on the stretch between Dijon & Reims in France. At one point I glanced at the speedo and got psyched seeing 145mph (~230+ kmph). Eased off and decided that I wouldnt cross 140mph. After about 10 minutes, the 911 eased off and I overtook him by maintaining my speed (~135mph). While passing the 911, I stole a glance to see who was driving and whether it was a left or a right hand drive. The guy got cheesed off with my cheeky move and zoomed past me. The ease and oomph with which he overtook at 135mph was like how I would overtake at say 80mph!!! The statement he made was "Dont try to teach your father how to screw around" A literal translation of the Malayalam saying "Appane kali padippikkan nokkaruthe"!!!!

2. Oversteering and having the rear end step out at a hair pin bend on some Swiss hill on the border between Switzerland and France. That was the first time I had any car oversteer like that on tarmac!!! At the first hair pin, had the rear tires squealing and then biting back in. the second hair pin i went harder and the rear snapped. Felt fantastic to balance the throttle and steering to get the rear back in..... Tarmac felt more fun than gravel and gravel is anyday better than snow :-)


Hairy moments
1. nearing the end of the petrol tank on Easter sunday (8 April) and finding all petrol bunks closed in the french country side. With less than 2 litres left in the tank, managed to locate a pump in Castellane using the GPS, only to find that they didnt accept Euro currency and UK cards. Then got friendly with a french biker and filled up using his French credit card and paid him cash!!!

2. following a car into a restricted zone in St Tropez without knowing it was a restricted zone. Realized it was a restricted zone when the bollard came up and banged the car from below. < Automatic Bollards, Automatic Bollard Systems - Barriers and Bollards Ltd - > fortunately it hit the outer edge of the rear bumper. a metre and a half earlier and i would probably have lost my drive shaft and/ or differential!!!!

3. While driving through the twisty hilly one ways in Monaco we got hopelessly lost trying to find the casino in Monte Carlo. At one junction, in a desperate attempt to take a U turn and egged on by navigators, I started to take a left turn. A 5 series behind me starting to blast his horn as if all hell had broken loose. That psyched me, but still continued with the left turn. Suddenly there was a scooter right in front and I almost banged into her. Thats when i realised that I was turning into a one way street and that the 5 series was trying to warn me. A few hours earlier I had read in the lonely bible that Monaco has the highest density of cops (uniformed and plain clothed) and that if one was ever in doubt about this fact, to try and jump a red signal. Needless to say, the "near one way violation" left me pretty shaken and not stirred!!!!


Impressed by
1. The AutoStrada joining Nice with Genoa - It is one loooong stretch of tunnels and bridges across mountains and valleys. The road goes through 1km tunnel and then a 1km bridge and then a 1km tunnel and then a bridge and so on and so on forever!!!!

2. the 11km tunnel through Mont Bianco - It is one STRAIGHT tunnel through the mountain on the border between Italy & France. Mont Bianco, I hear, is the tallest mountain in this part of the world.

3. The cities of Siena, Perugia and Nice -
Siena - In the main city vehicles other than cop cars and taxis are not allowed. The philosophy is that its for the people to live, not for cars to pollute. To add to the whole experience, we met an old Italian dude, who used to run an italian restaurant in Chelsea. he gave us the history of Siena and walked us through the best route possible into the square. Historically Siena and Florence have been at loggerheads with each other, trying to be the centre of renaissance. Fantastic!!! BTW, Siena hosts a horse race called Palio. (Now you know from where Fiat gets its inspiration, for its cars in India)
Perugia - This is a bit of an odd ball town. There is a section of the town which is in the underground ruins of an old fort. Windowless yet swanky shops on either sides of a dark underground passage. Jazz is very big in this part of the world. I walked into a Jazz CD shop. It had this narrow door and steep dark steps leading down into an underground "nothing". I asked the storeowner where it led and he said it led to an ancient wine cellar which used to be a truscan temple before it became a wine cellar!!!
Old town in Nice - This felt a bit like the Jew town in Fort Cochin with spice vendors and fresh antique sellers!!! the promenade in Nice was like the Marine drive in Mumbai except there were topless sun bathers here. Me and prithvi spent time on the beach while Sahina & Wadax unsuccessfully tried to break into a Matisse museum ;-) The Socca we had from Socca Nisso was fantastic (and cheap).

4. Idyllic isle of "Isola Polvese" in Lago Trasimeno with no roads and its olive gardens


Coolest "Patel Point" activity
Driving through the tunnel and the swimming pool complex on the Monaco Grand Prix circuit. When Kimi and Alonso race through the tunnels next month we can claim that we had been there before them this year ;-) Incidentally the tunnel smells like a fish market.


If I were to do it again, what would I do different?
Spend less time on the french riviera and more time in Italy. Dont get me wrong, the Riviera is cool. After all its where the rich go to hang out and let it all hang out. Yacht mooring charges at St Tropez harbour is apptly in the region of Euro 90,000 a week during peak season!!! the average yatch is double the size of a 3 bed house. You can see more Ferraris in front of the Monte Carlo Casino in half an hour than you would see in London in a month!!

But Italy... Italy has a raw charm. People are friendlier, food is nicer (spicier?) and the landscape is amazing. Driving in Italy can be "interesting". Lonely Bible suggests touring Italy on a bike and having seen the roads there, it is a FANTASTIC suggestion. (Anil, hope you are reading this?) The day (Friday the 13th of April) we drove from Tuscany to Cogne (in the alps) through Turin, the change in landscape was dramatic. From rolling hills, floral fields and olive gardens in Tuscany to the farmed planes around Turin to the snow covered Alps and pine trees in Cogne. Italy also has good beaches and dramatic cliff side drives along the coast, volcanoes, history, Mafia infested towns, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Alfa Romeos, Maseratis and Valentino Rossi!!!

Italy has it all. A bit like India, in some respects.... :-)


Im thinking we do another trip like this, 10 years from now. Either late May 2017 or late september 2017. Now, that gives something to look forward to, doesnt it?
So block your calendars....

Regards,
Rahul


Pictures from the trip
Given the number of days on the road and the number of cameras involved, there are over a thousand pictures from the trip.... post editing etc etc... some of the better snaps are at:
<Picasa Web Albums - Rahul - Road Trip - E... >

Trip Route
05/Apr From London, GB To Troyes, FR
Via Dover, Calais
EOD miles 350

06/Apr Fom Troyes, FR To Antibes, FR
Via Millau, Montpellier
EOD miles 1050

07/Apr From Antibes, FR To Antibes, FR
Via Juan Les Pins Antibes, Cape d' Antibes, Antibes
EOD miles 1075

08/Apr From Antibes, FR To Antibes, FR
Via Grasse, Castellane, Gorges de Verdon, St Tropez
EOD miles 1345

09/Apr From Antibes, FR To Antibes, FR
Via Nice, Monaco
EOD miles 1430

10/Apr From Antibes, FR To Toricella, IT
Via Genova, Pisa
EOD miles 1860

11/Apr From Toricella, IT To Toricella, IT
Via Isola Polvese in Lago Trasimeno, Panicale, Perugia
EOD miles 1933

12/Apr From Toricella, IT To Toricella, IT
Via Greve, Wine Tasting in Greti (Chianti), Villa Vignamaggio, Siena
EOD miles 2100

13/Apr From Toricella, IT To Cogne, IT
Via Vinci, Turin, Aosta, Cogne
EOD miles 2621

14/Apr From Cogne, IT To Dijon, FR
Via Grand Paradise National Park, Mont Bianco, Chamonix, Geneva
EOD miles 2860

15/Apr From Dijon, FR To London, GB
Via Lac du Der, Reims, Calais, Dover, Ashford
EOD miles 3366
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Old 26th May 2007, 07:12   #2
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Where are the pics....

Abhi
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Old 26th May 2007, 11:22   #3
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awesome !! but a picture speaks a thousand words...please post a few...
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Old 26th May 2007, 11:23   #4
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Simply awesome Rahul. Saw the pictures too- brilliant. Amazing trip and pics. Thanks for sharing mate.
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Old 26th May 2007, 11:25   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy View Post
Where are the pics....

Abhi

He has mentioned the picasa link in his post. Here it goes
Picasa Web Albums - Rahul - Road Trip - E...

Rahul,

Great trip report. You pics of Italy reminded me of my trip to Italy in the spring of 2005. Like you said, its a great place.
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Old 26th May 2007, 11:42   #6
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Wow - dream trip and fantastic snaps. Just compile a list of all you ate, those you met, things you did, that you didn't for the benefit of us all

I've been dying to do a 1-2 month long ride across Europe and then ride back to India (or the other way round) - have no fundaes on requirements, expenses, possibilites. Anyone ?
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Old 26th May 2007, 11:45   #7
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Great report Rahul and fantastic pictures buddy.
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Old 26th May 2007, 12:38   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hondadude View Post
He has mentioned the picasa link in his post. Here it goes
Picasa Web Albums - Rahul - Road Trip - E...

Rahul,

Great trip report. You pics of Italy reminded me of my trip to Italy in the spring of 2005. Like you said, its a great place.
Thanks hondadude, Rahul sorry for missing the last line...

Nice report and fantastic set of pics....Pls let us know what all things did u eat in the trip....

Abhi

Last edited by akroy : 26th May 2007 at 12:46.
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Old 31st May 2007, 04:49   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zenx View Post
I've been dying to do a 1-2 month long ride across Europe and then ride back to India (or the other way round) - have no fundaes on requirements, expenses, possibilites. Anyone ?
well, ive done a fair bit of travelling/ driving around france, italy and UK in the last 2 years. if you need info on requirements/ expenses/ places to visit etc. i could give you plenty of gyan :-)

plan to drive around Germany with a German colleauge, who has a restored 1972 alfa romeo, towards the end of the year, including a few laps around the old nurburgring. also hope to smoke around amsterdam a bit :-)
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Old 31st May 2007, 07:52   #10
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Great narration, and beautiful car -the side profile is awesome.
Welcome back, and post more often
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Old 31st May 2007, 08:30   #11
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Great write-up Rahul... your 'Nice' pics made me nostalgic, I spent 3 months there in 2003. You're right about the AutoStrada... very very beautiful!! And doesn't Italy feel like u're back in India?
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Old 31st May 2007, 09:05   #12
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Nice write up. I want to visit europe once. Awesome pics.
That yacht in your pic looks like Vijay Mallya's 'Indian Empress', it is currently anchored in Monaco hosting parties for the F1 celebs.
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Old 31st May 2007, 10:19   #13
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hi rahul great writeup and pics. i can understand your comments about Italy, I love the country and was living there till last year.
well, driving in italy is pure fun, experience of a lifetime and the highways are thrilling. you can do some atrocious speeds, because as they say, in italy the speed limit is the top speed of your car.
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Old 31st May 2007, 11:56   #14
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A great trip and a very good "to the point" report. I'd beg to differ on the Italians being friendly part. I lived in Paris until this time last year and have also visited Italy. I used to think that the french were the most rude and lacked the most driving sense compared to other nationalities in europe. But a trip to Italy changed all that. The people are a lot less friendly and the traffic is even more chaotic than central paris...which says a lot.
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