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361 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello All,

Its been 11 months since my last European Road trip so for this latest instalment the destination was the Pau Historic Grand Prix, held every 2years in the beautiful French city of Pau at the base of the Pyrenean mountain range.

Check out the website here: Home
(do not confuse it with the 'Pau Grand Prix' - they are 2 different events)

Search the BB for: European Roadtrip No4 - to see last year’s trip...

Car Prep:

Over the winter I’ve made some cosmetic changes to the car, including converting it to single headlights & fitting 15 inch wheels. The dynamic effects of the bigger wheels have been very pleasing, but I'm still not too sure about the look of them, - one of my fellow AROC UK members described the new wheels as making the car look like a tart! :eek:


Apart from that, I didn’t really do any car prep for this trip, unless you count taking it on a track day two weeks prior to departure for a bit of an 'Italian' tune up - i.e. thrashing it round a race track to blow out the cobwebs!

I recently bought a house, so most of my time is spent doing DIY these days & the poor old car has been a bit neglected lately.

Anyway, I wasn't really concerned - the car has never let me down on one of these trips so far...

The Plan:

This years plan was quite complicated as I had friends who wanted to come over from New Zealand to Europe for a holiday & then join me in Pau for the GP. This was great, but it meant there would be three people on the trip & the car only accommodates two!?

I examined all sorts of scenarios for getting the 3 of us from A to B but the logistics of it all seemed impossible. In the end my girlfriend, Emanuela (the brains of the operation) offered the solution... (unfortunately, Emanuela wasn't able to join me on the trip due to business commitments)

Jo (Gwyneth) & Mike (Genius) would fly from NZ to Paris as they had originally planned, spend a few days there, then fly from Paris to Toulouse, where they would pick up a cheap rental car, before driving to Pau to meet me. In the meantime, I would
drive the Alfa from London to Pau - via a suitably scenic route - to meet them. Then we would enjoy a few days together touring the region (in the 2 cars) before returning to Pau for the GP. Then I would take the rental car back to Toulouse & fly back to London, while Jo & Mike would take my car and enjoy their own European Road trip driving back to London - via a suitably scenic route...

I have no problem lending my car to Jo & Mike, Jo was my co-driver for many years when I used to race my car back in New Zealand.

After much discussion (and changing our meeting point to Lourdes instead of Pau) we finally had a plan that worked & everyone was happy, so our itineraries looked something like this:

Nick itinerary:
sat 7: London - Folkestone (Eurotunnel) Calais - Dijon 160km-1.5hours + 575km-5.5hours
sun 8: Dijon - Gap 400km-4.5hours
mon 9: Gap - Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon - Mt Ventoux - Orange 375km-6.5hours
tue 10: Orange - Les Vans - Mende - Millau - Perpignan 485km-6.5hours
wed 11: Perpignan - Andorra - Bagneres de Luchon 340km-6hours
thr 12: Bagneres de Luchon - Lourdes 220km-4.5hours (meet up)
fri 13: Lourdes - San Sebastian 250km-4.5hours
sat 14: San Sebastian - Pau 160km-2hours
sun 15: Pau
mon 16: Pau - Toulouse (Flight) London Gatwick 200km-3hours (return rental car to airport)


Jo & Mike itinerary:
mon 9: Arrive in Paris
tue 10: Paris
wed 11: Paris
thr 12: Paris (flight) Toulouse - Lourdes 175km-2hours (rental car)
fri 13: Lourdes - San Sebastian 250km-4.5hours
sat 14: San Sebastian - Pau 160km-2hours
sun 15: Pau
mon 16: Pau - ???
mon 23: ??? - London

The inevitable last-minute change of plan:

So, on the 4th of May (3 days before departure) I unexpectedly found myself lying in a hospital bed!?! When I was discharged on the 6th of May (1 day before departure) I was in no fit state to drive a car!?!

The drastic re-think:

Phone calls were made, emails sent, carrier pigeons despatched, bookings changed, and a new plan was developed...

As I could not deliver the car to Pau, I would fly out to Toulouse instead on Thursday 12th and meet Jo & mike at the airport, we would enjoy the Pyrenees & the GP in the rental car and then we would all fly from Toulouse to London on Monday 16th where Jo & Mike could pick up the Alfa and begin their own European road trip starting on tues 17th, from London to where ever they wanted to go...

And that is exactly what we did.

The Trip Report:

That doesn't leave me with much to write about in terms of a European road trip in an Alfa...

I'll continue with the story of our time in the Pyrenees & at the Pau Historic GP, then I’ll hand over the writing of the Alfa Romeo road trip report to Jo & Mike...


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
T5 d1

Day 1: Toulouse to Lourdes 175km-2hours

I arrived on time at Toulouse airport where I was met by Jo & Mike who had arrived earlier from Paris. We walked to the rental car area and drove away in a nice new Peugeot 508 (diesel) from Avis. Mike was on driving duties, I supplied the satnav.
I'm not used to modern cars & this one had the very disconcerting new feature of 'auto start/stop'. This is a fuel saving idea which means whenever the car pulls up to a stop the engine cuts out, then automatically starts up again when the driver presses the accelerator. It is very weird & took a lot of getting used to...

We had an uneventful drive along the Peage (French toll road) to Lourdes, but trying to negotiate our way through the maze of one way streets to our hotel was a different matter. This is not helped by the fact that the one way system is reversed every two weeks for the benefit of the souvenir sellers!? The satnav was useless so we had to do it the old fashioned way - with a map!

If you've never heard of Lourdes before, here is a brief description courtesy of Wikipedia:

Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees, famous for the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes that are reported to have occurred in 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous. Following the reports that Our Lady of Lourdes had appeared to Bernadette on a total of eighteen occasions, Lourdes has developed
into a major place of Roman Catholic pilgrimage and of alleged miraculous healings. The 150th Jubilee of the first apparition took place on 11 February 2008 with an outdoor mass attended by approximately 45,000 pilgrims.

Today Lourdes has a population of around 15,000 but is able to take in some 5,000,000 pilgrims and tourists every season. With about 270 hotels, Lourdes has the second greatest number of hotels per square kilometre in France after Paris. It is the joint seat of the Diocese of Tarbes-et-Lourdes and is the largest pilgrimage site in France.

Personally, I would describe Lourdes as the place where the "Roman Catholic Church" meets "Disneyland". The sheer volume of religious paraphernalia for sale in the souvenir shops was simply staggering...

We had dinner at a superb local restaurant & we stayed at the Au Petit Languedoc Hotel, which was basic but very cheap at approx €27 ea & has secure parking (not that it was needed in the end)

The Church at Lourdes (or is it Disneyland?)

View from the church towards the Castle

Jo & Mike in front of the church

A typical souvenir shop window

What next? confession via text message?...


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
T5 d2

Day 2: Lourdes - San Sebastian (via the Col d' Aubisque & the Col du Marie-Blanque) 250km-4.5hours

We started the day with breakfast at the hotel before a quick wander around the town, then we headed off towards San Sebastian - just over the Spanish border. We chose the route via the Col d' Aubisque & the Col du Marie-Blanque to make the journey a bit more interesting. I have been up the Col d' Aubisque before on a motorbike, in conditions that were so bad you could barely see your own hand in front of your face (in July 2004), so it was nice to finally get to see what is at the top. The answer is "not much", but we did meet 5 crazy Englishmen in various sports cars who were travelling in convoy to the Historic GP. It was cold up there & 3 of them were in open topped cars!

We found our way easily to the hotel in San Sebastian, and from there we hit the 'old town'. I once spent New years eve in San Sebastian, 20 years ago, with a friend of mine & twelve Spanish girls for company (yes 12) :D . At the time the only Spanish phrase I knew was "Dame un beso por favor". I have fond memories of the place...

The 'old town' is a maze of small pedestrian streets lined with seemingly endless Tapas bars & restaurants. This time round things were a bit quieter than last time I was here, but we spent the night wandering from bar to bar enjoying the local beer & wonderful food. The locals were very friendly & Jo's attempts at speaking Spanish seemed to improve with every beer consumed...

We stayed at the hotel Niza, which was very nice - but also very expensive at €200 for a triple room. (Finding an affordable hotel with parking in this town is not as easy as it might sound) San Sebastian is a truly awesome place, but it is not a cheap holiday destination....

Our rental car, - not exactly an Alfa...

5 mad Englishmen on top of the Col d' Aubisque

Nick & Mike enjoy a beer & tapas

The 3 Amigos

Churros & Chocolate, mmm...


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
T5 d3

San Sebastian - Pau 160km-2hours

Saturday dawned cold & raining, but Jo & Mike were up surprisingly early so they went for a walk around the deserted streets while I stayed in bed recovering... After breakfast we travelled up the autoroute directly to Pau.

It was too early to check in to our hotel, so we parked the car near the circuit and went in to check out the action. Today was the practice / qualifying day for tomorrows races, so we had a leisurely wander around the paddock area drooling over all the amazing cars... It was great to be able to get up close to the cars and to talk to the owners.

The sights - and the sounds - were fantastic!

Later that evening after checking into the hotel, we returned to the centre of town for a lovely meal in a restaurant in the narrow streets near the castle. Jo seemed to be stuck in 'San Sebastian' mode & ordered her meal in Spanish, - luckily the French waiter didn't seem to mind...

We stayed at the A L'hotel, it’s basic but reasonably cheap (approx €47 ea) Unfortunately the night was spoiled by a bunch of teenagers who were also staying there - partying till 2 in the morning in the hotel car park.

The castle at Pau

Narrow streets in the old part of town...

The quiet streets of Pau


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
T5 d4/1

Pau Historic Grand Prix

We had grandstand tickets for the big day, so we got to the circuit reasonably early and settled in for an excellent day of racing. The weather was perfect & the on-track action didn't disappoint! The competition was fierce & considering the value of the cars, the drivers weren't afraid to push them to the limit.

The "GP Legends" race included 11 Bugattis, 2 ERA's & 2 Maserati 250F's!!!. Another highlight was the "60's endurance" race in which we witnessed a Ferrari 250swb being driven sideways through the corners hotly pursued by 2 Lightweight E type Jaguars & 2 Alfa GTA's! There was also a huge field of Minis racing - which are always entertaining - and a superb selection of classic single seaters...

The racing continued all day long, from 8am to 6pm, with the lunch break filled by parade laps from the classic car clubs which had their displays on the circuit infield. It was a real shame that I was unable to bring my car along too. I would have loved to be ale to say I've driven my car around the circuit de Pau...

I stayed more or less glued to my seat, while Jo & Mike took some time to look around at the club displays. There was a large Lotus club presence as well as a huge number of Alfa Romeos from the French owners club...

We concluded a top quality day of racing with another excellent meal in the town centre before heading back to the hotel.

Jim Clarke's Lotus 72?

The Yardley BRM - it's v12 engine sounded amazing!

250swb holds off E type Jags & GTA...

GTA's at Pau

GTA's at Pau


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
T5 D4/2 Photos

Fabulous Delahayes

A huge selection of beautifully prepared minis

Warming up the ERA

Maserati 250F - stunning!

Alfa Heron?


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
T5 D4/3 Photos

A Kelison?

Pick a Porsche...

Newly restored Delahaye 145 v12

Bugatti anyone?

Lovely French Sprint


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
T5 D4/4 Photos

Alfa Club displays







361 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
T5 d5

Pau - Toulouse (via Auch) 200km-3hours

Our last day started with a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, with the manager apologising repeatedly for the disturbance caused by the teenagers from the night before. Then we hit the road to Toulouse, stopping in at the picturesque town of Auch for lunch on the way. From there it was a short drive to the airport & we were on our flight back to London...

The picturesque town of Auch

Lunch in the square


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
T5 Summary

Summary: (part 1 - by Nick)

Miles driven in the Alfa = 0
Time spent with my friends = priceless

As I've said previously, it was a real shame that I was unable to drive my car to Pau, but considering that I was still in hospital the day before the intended departure, it is a miracle I was able to attend at all!...

I owe a big 'Thank You' to Jo & Mike for looking after me during the first few days of our trip (I was still a bit unsteady on my feet) and for their patience and willingness to change their plans at the last minute for my benefit.

I guess that’s what makes true friends...

The event at Pau was probably one of the best I've ever attended, the atmosphere was fantastic & the cars amazing...

Where to next? I don't know, but you can be sure that in 2013 I’ll be at the next Pau Historic Grand Prix - in my Alfa!


Now, Jo & Mike's report of their European Road trip in my Alfa...
(Written by Mike)


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
T5 d6

Mike: "I guess this should really be a continuation of Nick's trip as his GTV was along for the ride..."

London to Honfleur 485km-5 hours

After an overnight pit stop in London Jo & I packed up the GTV with everything that we'd need... maps, phrasebooks, Lonely Planets guide (don't leave home without one!), snacks and Nick's SatNav - which we soon renamed "la Bit ch".

Nick threw me the keys to the Alfa but unfortunately before I could lay my hands on them Jo plucked them out of the air in true frenzied bridesmaid style and I was relegated to navigator...

Making our way out of Nick’s driveway was interesting to say the least... His final shouted instruction was "watch out for the speed-humps!" Almost immediately it was obvious that my pie eating addiction had taken its toll... London is the land of 'sleeping policemen' (speed humps) and within 50 meters of the end of the driveway we'd touched not one but two with the low slung muffler... I've no idea what Nick was thinking as we drove away but I'm pretty sure my parents were married! Sorry mate!!

Nick had rearranged his original Eurotunnel booking for us giving us a 9:20am booking and a couple of hours to get there... The 100 mile blast to the Eurotunnel was exactly that... a blast! The GTV has undergone a couple of modifications since I'd seen it last and the new engine is a cracker.

Unfortunately due to a bit of congestion we just missed the scheduled departure so had a bit of time to kill waiting for the next one, all of 30 minutes later... I have to say the Eurotunnel is brilliant. Drive through customs, drive on in England, drive off in France 35 minutes later... how easy do they want to make it!

We'd decided early that we'd try to cover a big distance on the first day. Nick recommended a hotel in a small coastal town just south of Le Harve called Honfleur and we were making for there.

At a stop to refuel Jo threw me the keys and asked if I wanted to drive... do bulldozers sleep in paddocks (Jo’s thrashed the pants of the GTV at a number of tracks in New Zealand but this was my first time behind the wheel of #18)? Within 15 minutes of pulling back onto the Peage, I was telling Jo enthusiastically that I wanted a 105!

I have to say that driving on the French Peage system is certainly fast if not exactly scenic... we covered a lot of distance in a relatively short space of time and arrived in Le Harve... Nick had told me that to get to Honfleur we'd have to cross a bridge like nothing I'd ever seen before... I thought he was joking until I saw the Pont de Normandie in the distance! On the uphill drag I noticed a cycle lane painted on the outside lane... are the French mad! And on the down slope we passed two pedestrians... I was convinced!

Our arrival in Honfleur was simultaneously a relief, and a journey back to the 17th century... The old town is something else, and looks very much like time has stood still for the last 3 centuries!

We checked into Hotel Restaurant les Cascades and ended up being given the penthouse complete with old exposed beams for the princely sum of €65 and then took to the incredible little town with its cobbled streets and alleys and houses leaning at all sorts of crazy angles! Sitting in a cafe drinking beer beside the sunny port and watching life go by is a very relaxing pastime. This was followed by the most delicious crepes

In the Eurotunnel train

Pont de Normandie Bridge

Mike & Jo enjoying a beer in Honfleur

Buildings in Honfleur

Market place in Honfleur


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
T5 d7

Le Misnil-Amey 151km-2:50hours

Today was always planned as being a reasonably busy day so after a leisurely breakfast of coffee & croissants (again!) we continued our discovery of Honfleur including the impressive wooden 1500AD St Catherine’s church with an unusual feature of a separate belfry.

I'd always wanted to see the D-Day beaches but never actually managed it despite living on the other side of the English Channel for a very long time so our next stop was Arromanches-les-Bains, which is better known the outside world as Gold Beach.

On the way 'La *****" took us close to Caen so we decided to stop for lunch and a look at what remains of the castle. Jo spotted a car park literally underneath the castle keep and drove in unfortunately clipping the very well disguised speed hump at the top of the ramp. I had a bad feeling about this... there was no way a car this low was going to get back over the hump without damaging something, the angles were all wrong!! The coffee was good, the old town picturesque and the castle fascinating but we couldn't stop thinking about our marooned Alfa...

In the end escape was a relatively simple process... After surveying all of the possible exits the one we were left with was the one we had entered by... I 'borrowed' a large stack (about 5" high) of free advertising papers from a stand at the door to the car park, you know the ones that no one ever reads. Jo drove the car back up the ramp crossing the hump at an angle with the front wheels I stacked the papers under the trailing wheel... Even with the extra 5’ of lift the muffler still just clipped the hump but we were free... Lesson for the day... No underground car parks!! Sorry mate!

'La *****' was on top form today. I asked for the route to Arromanches avoiding motorways and she certainly obliged taking us through some beautiful but probably seldom visited villages on the way.

Parking in Arromanches we actually managed to stumble on a mechanics garage with a silver 105 GTV parked outside and a 105 sedan inside... I'm hoping that the GTV is destined for a bit of love and attention as unfortunately it looks like time (and the sea air) is starting to take it's toll.

Gold Beach is a sobering sight... A large expanse of white sand with what remains of the Mulberry Harbour used to land an entire army and millions of tons of equipment still there. There is a fascinating museum covering all aspects of the invasion and if you get the chance it's well worth taking it in for yourselves. The remains of Mulberry Harbour silently told a story of an amazing engineering feat and of bravery of the soldiers. Jo’s Grandfather was a POW and she found it very moving learning the history of the WWII.

Being so close we had to see the Bayeux tapestry... It's the oldest known comic-strip depicting the history of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 and a pretty important piece of history to both the French and English.

Again 'La *****' was on top form... Bayeux was a doddle to find... Unfortunately we encountered some of the roughest roads of the trip in the town and the road works weren't exactly helping either forcing us away from the direction that we wanted to head... Jo said "let's just park here and walk... Bayeux can't be that big!" I was sceptical as we were officially off the map in the Lonely Planets guide but we parked and headed off... less that 250 yards later we were at the museum!

In one day we covered invasions in both directions 900 years apart.

For that night’s accommodation we decided to be brave and take up the invitation of one of the many B&B signs on the side of the road. We drove down a narrow lane, over a bridge, past some sheep to find a stone 400 years old farmhouse run by a Dutch chap. Dinner was an entertaining experience with 6 people, 4 nationalities and 3 languages!!! And the food was simply brilliant.

Jo sitting on the wall sideways with concrete platform in the sea behind

Mike standing next to concrete platform on the beach

Silver Alfa parked outside garage at Gold Beach

B&B from the garden


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
T5 d8

Granville – Mont St Michel 151km-2:40hours

Breakfast was culturally interesting….boiled eggs with no egg cups (2nd time....are there no egg cups in France?) and who knew there was another use for chocolate sprinkles apart from kids parties? The Dutch eat the stuff on toast for breakfast! We did discover the Dutch make the BEST peanut butter on the planet – Calve Pindakaas.

Having finally managed to get in touch with our NZ friend Jason, our destination for today was to be Granville on the Western Normandy coast... The drive was relatively short and uneventful but "la *****" was refusing to acknowledge the address Jason had given us... So having parked the Alfa at the first available space (outside the Casino!) we followed the signs to "Haute Ville"... Jo's navigation was spot on but I did question the directions when she came out with "we turn right at the draw-bridge"! Eh???

Granville's old town is built onto a peninsular and is pretty spectacular... Old cobbled streets and narrow alleys... Jason and his wife Flo are lucky people living here...

After a catch-up and an invitation to stay, we headed to le Mont St Michel...

I remembered reading in one of the books that you shouldn't park your car in either of the two lower car parks closest to the Abbey as they are submerged when the tide comes in (and it does come in in a awful hurry here!)... Guess where were directed to!

Some may think that it's a bit of a tourist trap but to actually see the scale of the Abbey and the sheer commitment that it must have taken to build the place I can only say that we were both simply gob-smacked by the immensity of it all... While standing on the terrace we witnessed first-hand the speed of the water flow around the Mont... As the tide receded the river was cut off from the sea and simply re-routed itself around the base of the rocky outcrop at an alarming speed!! I started rehearsing the phone-call to Nick!!

Dinner in the evening was at La Citadelle (Rue du Port) which was recommended by Flo's mum... and what a choice it was... I'm not the biggest seafood eater so I was resigned to finding what ever I could on the menu... The food was simply spectacular, For all you non fish eaters, the pantard in a butterscotch sauce is the dish to go for... I'm still lost for words to describe it! Jo had trio of fish, which she described as divine.

le Mont St Michel...

Alfa in the tidal carpark at Mt St Michel :eek:

Alfa parked outside Granville town wall

View of Granville harbour


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
T5 d9

Le Mans (Ecommoy) 243km-3:15hours

Waving good buy to Jason & Flo we headed for Le Mans…

The city is far bigger city than either of us expected and added to that "La *****" simply refused to direct us to the most important destination... we tried all sorts of combinations but la ***** wanted "Circuit des 24 heures du Mans"… who'd have guessed that one! I parked the car on the foot path in the middle of town (Nick reminded us many a time you can do what you want in a classic car!) and Jo went to find the Tourist Office for directions.

The car got lots of looks as we finally swung into the car park. It was very exciting to arrive at infamous Le Mans! We both vied to get the other to take our photo with the car in front of the main entrance. We headed to the museum first but took a sudden left hand turn at the souvenir shop - have I mentioned Jo's fetish collecting embroidered badges and/or pins of every town she visits? The shop was a veritable feast for the hard-core race fan with everything you can imagine... The hardest decision was which cap to buy! A new cap for the race track - very important. Jo settled on one that had a map of the track on it. The only thing I wanted to get was a Le Mans track sticker for the racing helmet!

We then took the car into the inside of the track. I was sure #18 was itching to get on the track! I know Jo was! Unfortunately we had to be content with watching Audi A1's being thrashed silly... I'm sure that despite the 37 year difference in technology given the chance the Alfa would have seriously embarrassed them!

The Musee Automobile De La Sarthe was 'magnifique!'. The museum was redone in 2008. The lay out was crisp, cataloguing the different eras of competition (and non-competition) cars. We both drooled over the wide collection of automotive finery, cars from the 1873 steam driven Amedee Bollee to the Bentley Speed 8 and everything in-between.

It’s fascinating to see the evolution of cars and the technology created yesteryear which is the basis of today's machines. Beautiful Peugeot Darl' mat 1938, Delahaye 135M Chapron 1936, Ferrari 166M...I'll stop there or I'll just go on! The staff were pretty patient but eventually we had to leave as the museum closed.

Le Mans was such a busy town neither of us fancied navigating the hectic streets again, so we took the Mulsane Straight and headed out of town. I can actually now claim to have driven down the Mulsane flat out! (well, as fast as the bread delivery van in front would allow, it was rush hour after all!

We drove south until we hit the small village of Ecommoy. So small it was one central square and 2 buildings deep each side. After checking into our ‘interesting” room with one towel, 3 flannels and lavender and Egyptian decorations (standards do seem to vary in French hotels and you never know what you are getting!) We nosed round town and settled into an outside table at the only open cafe. It was pleasant watching life in the small town tick over with a beer, warm evening and
good food.

Alfa at Le Mans

Jo & Mike at Le Mans

Cars at the Le Mans Museum:




361 Posts
Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
T5 d10

Les Andelys . 278km-5:30hours (thanks to "la Bit ch"!!)

I’ve always been fascinated by how interwoven English and French history is… I spent much of my teenage years visiting North Wales and its wonderful array of castles and having the chance to visit what’s left of Richard to Lionheart’s Chateau-Gaillard ( Château Gaillard - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ) at Les Andelys wasn’t something I was going to pass up in a hurry…

The drive from Le Mans to Les Andelys was unfortunately something I’m going to try hard to forget! “La *****” was obviously having an off day… the trip started out fine with a quick run up the highway but as soon as we turned off into the countryside it all went pear-shaped! The little electronic gizmo tried to take us down farm tracks, farm driveways and once into an open field! I resorted to the tried and true paper map and eventually we made our intended destination. Unfortunately there was a casualty during the drive… One of us left Nick’s map book on the roof of the car! Sorry Mate!

We arrived late and managed to find a large guest house sitting by the river. The drive to the hotel proved slightly more problematic than one would imagine. Having driven past the poorly signed hotel driveway, it took a further 3 kilometres to find somewhere to turn around on the incredibly narrow road. Unfortunately, whilst reversing into the only available driveway there was a sickening CRACK! (scorecard: Driveway Bollards 1-Alfa Rear Light 0). Sorry Mate!- Must say many thanks to Classic Alfa ion London for sourcing an original replacement rear light on our return… good bunch of true Alfisti).

We ditched our bags and headed off into the old town to have a look at Chateau-Gaillard. Les Andelys lies at a very strategic point on the Seine and is dominated by the ruins high on a hill above the old town. The only way to describe the now ruined castle is stunning… I can only imagine what it must have been like in the 12th century.

Mike with map

Navigation - the old fashioned way...

Mike standing at cross roads scratching his head - Satnav said "go straight ahead"

Les Andelys

Les Andelys


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
T5 d11

Giverney – London 458km-6 hours

A couple of years ago Jo & I managed to catch an exhibition of Claude Monet’s paintings and I thought to surprise her we’d take in a bit of a side trip to Giverney before heading back to London… Giverney was Monet’s home for the last 43 years of his life and the subject of some of his best known work including Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies and the Water Lily series.

I thought that by getting an early start on the day would be a good idea… I hadn’t factored in that there would be a number of other early risers who were also Monet fans…

Giverney was a hive of activity…all revolving around Monet’s home and garden! Access to the garden is restricted by numbers and although there was a bit of a wait it was all worth it… The garden is exactly as you would expect… full of life (and I don’t mean the thronging masses) and colour… It’s easy to see how Monet found inspiration! Standing on the actual bridge in Monet’s pond painting was profound.

On leaving Giverney Jo discovered that she’d left her jacket in Les Andleys which meant a bit of a detour…. Unfortunately we managed to find three Gendarme doing a bit of traffic enforcement at the same time we rattled and bounced back into Les Andleys sans front number plate!… Not speaking enough French to deal with the technicalities of a traffic but having been on the other side of the same conversation many many times stop monsieur Policeman and I resorted to sign language and laughter... Again Nick’s advice that you can get away with all sorts in a classic car was on the money… although it was interesting trying to explain why I was carrying two identical driving licences!

Not really looking forward to another long drive to Calais we were considering another night in France and headed north. At the suggestion of our host in Les Andelys we headed for Le Touquet Paris Plage, a 2 hour trip… it’s an unusual town… having been immersed in centuries old towns and villages for the last couple of weeks we weren’t expecting something which more closely resembled a Victorian era windswept English seaside town. The tacky shop at the public toilet selling plastic beach toys was painful. The beach was beautiful but we were both completely underwhelmed, sealing the disappointing decision to drive straight through to London!

The port at Calais was huge, and a bit of a wakeup after seeing the beautiful historic sites. We got the cheapest ticket available, which wasn’t cheap and qued for the next ferry which was leaving an hour. One look at the rough seas suggested that we’d be late leaving (the English Chanel in heavy weather is no place for land lubbers!!) and two hours later we boarded. The ferry was very comfortable. Lots of restaurants and cushioned seating. It was sad leaving France, both of us vowed to return again.

The White Cliffs of Dover signalled our French odyssey was at an end and our holiday was drawing to a conclusion. Driving off the ferry I made a mental note to keep left. It was odd going clock wise round the round-about! The night drive to Nick’s house was an uneventful 2 hours and we arrived at 11:30pm. It had been a tiring day of travelling. It was good to be back in one spot for a couple days and be able to sleep in – bliss!

Monet’s home.

Monet’s garden, looks peaceful enough - until you notice the crowds...

Parked in queue at Calais, waiting for the ferry.


361 Posts
Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
T5 Summary 2

Summary: (part 2 - by Mike)

Petrol cost: €200 (approximately)
Total KM’s covered: 1766
Damage report: One rear light. One road map.
Croissants eaten: too many to count, give me bacon & eggs.

It was a great experience pedalling the Alfa through France, even though it had its challenges, it beats a rental car hands down! It’s a buzz driving her, hearing her engine purr and the big smiles from passers by who also appreciate her style. She took good care of us. :D

A BIG and appreciative thanks to Nick for entrusting us with his Alfa, (we know how precious classic car owners can be), and for enticing us to get to France for the Pau Historic Grand Prix.



'91 164S, '17 Giulia Ti Sport, '79 Sport Sedan (previously many GTV6, AlfettaGT, 164s, and Spiders.
475 Posts
Great job on capturing / sharing the info and photos of your adventures. I almost feel like I got another vacation by just following your details. Thanks!
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