Photo Gallery and Diary
Honda Euro Tour - 27th May to 3rd June 2006
The date, 27th May 2006. The location, Dover. This was going to be the start of a trip over 7 days, visiting France, Belguim, Germany, Switzerland and an in and out visit of Italy. Due to an early ferry from Dover we all met up and stayed in a hotel overnight, and of course a curry night was planned.
The white cliffs of Dover were our view at 5:30 in the morning as we headed to catch our ferry. Around 9:00 we arrived in Boulogne and regrouped ready for our Journey across France into Belguim, then into Germany covering 306 miles on day one. On our way we visited what was to be our most visited place on the trip, the petrol/service station. One of the members of the group was literally running on empty as we got to the service station and actually rolled in and had to be pushed to the pump. After meeting up with our overseas friend we headed to our destination for that day, the Nurburgring. We arrived around 3:00 at the ring and it was heaving, we got a few passenger laps with an overseas friend and were enjoying the sunshine and cars. Unfortunately our overseas friend mate had an incident and he went to see what had happened, then unfortunately an accident that ended in a fatality had closed the track. We decided to head to our hotel for the night in Koblenz and settle in for the night, ready for the next day of the trip.
Day Two starts early again so we can leave at 9am ready to tackle the 390 miles we have to go, mainly Autobahn from our hotel to Andermatt, Switzerland and taking in the Hockenheimring on the way for a spot of lunch. We reached Hockemheim with slightly fewer cars than we originally set out with, 4 cars in fact as apposed to 12. We headed on our way to make use of the Autobahns although don’t be fooled into thinking you can do whatever speed you want all the time, you can’t, that said though we did manage to reach 145mph on the clock without too much trouble. We finally reached the border after a good few miles traveling through Germany close to Stuttgart and Freiburg on the A5 to the Switzerland border where we were stopped and checked for passports and licenses. The rest of the party were only 10 minutes ahead as they had been stopped for 30 minutes, probably because one of the Swiss Customs didn’t believe one of their passengers couldn’t drive. Apparently the conversation went something like “Can I see your driving license please?” to which our tour member John replied with “I don’t have a license, I can’t drive” to which the chap at the border looked a bit puzzled and looked down at his passport, he replied with “You are 26, you are in a Honda club, and yet you cannot drive??? Pass me your wallet” to which he stood there and went through his wallet.
We made our way and kept to the limits as the Swiss can be strict and it was throwing it down with rain, so we decided to play it safe and cruise along at a steady speed. It was around 6pm when we saw sight of Andermatt and proceeded our way into the town to find our hotel. Finding the hotel was pretty simple really, Andermatt is a small village in the Swiss mountains and it was really quiet, the hotel with 3 Integra’s, 6 Civics and a Subaru outside kind of narrowed the field down slightly. After going out for something to eat, the waitress at the restaurant was having a chat with us and she gave us some worrying information, it had been forecasted it would snow down to 800ft, and we were currently at 1800ft. This also meant our plan of doing the Furka pass was well and truly halted as it had already been closed, so at the hotel bar a re-route was carried out and a new route was formed, which involved us taking a car train into Oberaald, missing the Furka pass and saving us a lot of time traveling a good way around to get to our next destination in Mont Cenis just outside Val-d'isere, France.
Day Three and we awoke to a view out of the hotel room window we had been warned about, all the rooftops, trees and mountains beyond were covered in snow, including all the cars. However as this is not the UK where a bit of snow and everything comes to a halt! Not one bit of snow had fallen on the roads or tarmac. The train leaves the station every 30 minutes past the hour so we got all the cars warmed and made our way from the hotel to the train station to catch the 8am train. This was not your average car train when it eventually halted at the station, a canopy over the top of the carriages was pretty much it, in fact you don’t even get out of your car. It’s a strange experience as you are sitting in your car, yet your actually riding on a train through the mountains, and most of the journey in darkness, hence no photos were taken on this bit of the journey.
Keeping a group of 14 cars together could of been tricky so we split into 2 groups and made our way along. We were traveling towards Martigny on a two lane motorway/dual carriage way when on reaching a junction we were greeted by 2 police cars who waited for all our cars and then pulled in behind the last car in the convoy, then one made his way along, looking at them as he went by. At this point I decided to move the recording equipment from the windscreen, as I thought it would have been an excuse to detain us for longer and cause us more problems. The police car then vanished out of view but as we went under a bridge and out the other side towards an island, we could see him in the distance parked and was standing behind his car, this was it! We stopped and he wanted us to follow him so we obliged and he led us just across the road to a nearby Renault garage. They checked our cars, passports and driving licenses before letting us carry on, they were not exactly friendly and with a gun holstered on his belt, I didn’t feel the need to try and crack a smile either. What may of caused us to be pulled up was that the earlier group might of caused a bit of aggravation and was thought to be going through at 140mph.
We headed back on our route and continued up the road leading to Chamonix which was basically cut into the side of a mountain with no barriers just bare rock face beyond. We stumbled across a warning hazard sign on the side of the road, and opposite in a lay by, one of our tour members with his bonnet up and on the phone. Unfortunately an unwanted rock in the road hit the underside of the car and had hit the oil sump with full force, causing a rather large hole, where the oil dropped straight out the engine. We stopped with him until the recovery guy came and then headed on our way. We then made our way and headed towards Fummet and Aberville to then take us to just outside Val-d'isere in a little village called Savoie. We drove into the sleepy town of Mont Cenis just outside Val-d'isere around 4:00 and around 350 miles later we had arrived at our hotel for the nights stay.
Day Four and another early start as we all met in the restaurant for Croissants and French bread. It was decided to separate into smaller groups and so our group left a little later. We set on our way into the mountains just at the back of where our hotel was situated, the weather was really getting bad with snow and visibility really poor, although that still didn’t stop all three of us overtaking a lorry that was currently traveling up the same way. As we got further up and came from the fog the last group that left were still up there taking photo’s and had stopped at a small shop situated up on the mountain in the remotest of places, they said all they could hear were us coming up the hill then all of a sudden appearing through the fog mist. We parked in their place and had a few photos taken too. We then headed on our way as we had to cover around 330 miles today and get into Monaco and on to Cannes where we were staying for a couple of nights and hopefully get some sun; we had not seen much of it yet! We had a brief stint into Italy going across the border briefly, yet more snow covered mountains but was excellent for yet more scenic photos and we headed off again, before we knew it we were back in France. Somehow along the route we were taking, we managed to miss one of the Col’s and before we knew it we were on our way to Vars. We stayed together pretty much all the way down towards the south of France and onwards to Barcelonette but 2 cols that we were planning on doing (Col de la Cayolle or Col de Resteford) were both closed. The new route was going to take us east towards Cuneo (via the SS21), and then head south down the N204/ E74 back onto the original route. Now the new route that was sorted didn’t take into consideration altitude, due to the maps not informing us of this fact, so before long we were heading higher and higher, with the weather changing from sun, to rain, and then the inevitable came, heavy snow! Now some of the pictures we took looked superb here however it wasn’t too much fun for one in our group and stripping the car of its interior and the heater, his passenger was not too impressed as where part of the ventilation system had been taken out, they had not got around to blocking up one of the larger holes, so it was blowing ice cold air directly onto his feet, it was actually freezing the inside of the windscreen up rather than the outside.
After our new route sent us into Italy again, we see more of a little town called Cuneo than we anticipated but we saw sight of Monaco from above and stopped to take some scenic shots across the whole of Monaco with the sunset behind. We then headed for the centre and arrived around 7:30, so it wasn’t too busy and were surprised that pretty much everything from the F1 was still in place, as it apparently takes 4 months to take everything down. All the barriers, seating stands, advertising boards and corners were still there and was an awesome sight. So we decided to drive around the whole circuit and luckily managed it in one complete go with not having to stop, it was really quite cool, thinking that only a few days ago the best drivers were doing the exact same course at break neck speed. We could not resist a good blast through the infamous tunnel that runs under the Fairmont hotel, even our cars sounded awesome under there so to hear F1 cars shooting through at triple figures must be phenomenal. From Monaco to Cannes was mainly motorway driving so the day’s events were getting to show, a steady drive was the order for the rest of the journey and we arrived at the hotel around 9:30pm, a bed for the night finally but today had been a truly superb day.
Well Day Five was our rest day and everyone did there own thing, we decided to take one car and head back to Monaco after getting a feel for the place last night. It was fairly busy when we arrived at around 12:00pm but we found our way to a car park, which we found out later to be actually sitting in the sea in a large steel container. We headed out onto the port at Monaco and was amazed at some of the boats, they were bigger than most houses even some were like hotels on water, one particular that was docked was huge and it even had it’s own helicopter sitting on the edge of the top deck, Lady Moura was the name and apparently is worth $100 million. The whole of Monaco is rich with designer shops littered around, in the main square it was more like a car show than a street, it was littered with Ferrari’s, Porsche’s, Bentleys, Mercedes parked around the Monaco Casino and hotels, you could smell the money in the air. We took a look at what would have been the pits of the F1 with the tyres marks still fresh on the concrete and the ‘Front Axle’ marked on the ground. We headed back to the hotel to spend the rest of the time resting and looking forward to our final leg of our trip tomorrow, traveling from Cannes to Bourg en Bresse and the route Napoleon. We got back to the hotel to find our damaged sump guy had returned with motor intact and fixed, luckily no other damage was found, and also with a small memento we gave him the rock that caused the damage.
Well another early start on Day Six to get on the road and try and take in as many mountain passes as possible, as this would be the last chance we would have. If time was not on our side then we could jump on one of the motorways and cut half of the route out, as doing all the passes wouldn’t be wise if people were getting tired and you need your full concentration taking some of these roads. We left around 9am and headed to the motorway first and then into the mountains taking in the well known N85 Route Napoleon and past the Verdon Gorge. Once we were on the mountain roads the fun finally started and we were flying round the mountain roads and taking every car in its path as using a secret plan of radioing back and telling the car behind, so we were able to overtake on blind bends without running the risk of meeting another car coming the opposite way. This how- ever was not pleasing the other cars on the road as obviously they didn’t know what we were doing, so they just didn’t looked pleased at all. The roads were amazing and the views were something else, when we got to the Verdon Gorge we just had to stop and take in the views, they were just something special. We carried on our grueling schedule and come to stop in a little village called Reiz for everyone to have a chat, sit down and something to eat. We then carried on and as the time was slipping away from us and with the past few hours a bit manic on the roads, we decided to head on the motorway to our hotel in Bourg en Bresse. It was a long journey but I think everyone preferred this way, when your tired the last thing you want to do is be blatting around mountain roads with sheer drops. After around 200 odd miles we arrived at our hotel all in one piece and oil sumps intact, and our last night of the trip was upon us.
Final Day - Day Seven
Well the Final Day of the tour and a few hundred miles to cover yet, as we need to get across to the other side of France pretty much to the coast. The only downside to this is no more mountain passes, as it will be mainly all motorways. We all gather in the car park at the back of the hotel and get our cars all parked up for a photo altogether, all bar two. We then head off on our journey and decided that it was probably best to split into 2 groups rather than 12 cars stopping together. The first group then head off with around 7 cars then the remaining cars about 5 minutes later. The usual motorway antics followed and everyone had there cameras out recording each other and drivebys, then it wasn’t long before we stopped again for refueling. One of our group decided to carry on as he was a bit paranoid about missing the ferry. Our next plan was to stop at some old racing pits in Geuex Reims and have something for lunch, unfortunately we did not have a clue where it was, we came off at the junction for Geuex, as there were no signs and scared of getting too lost we decided to carry on. At the side of the road we came across a warning triangle next to a Civic on the hard shoulder belonging to one of our group, posing in a rather fetching fluorescent jacket. Luckily it wasn’t serious and he only ran out of fuel, that would teach him to carry on. Then from nowhere the police showed up to see what was happening, we knew it was illegal to run out of fuel somewhere in one of the continents, so we told him not to mention about the fuel just incase, they moved us on though so we had to leave him there. The policeman then stood in the slow lane of the motorway to stop the traffic to let us out. We then reached Boulogne and to the docks where we then all checked in and made our way to the lanes to board the ferry, everyone started to appear in the queue. The guy that ran out of fuel also appeared, it ended up costing him 160 euros for running out of fuel as a tow truck was called and he was towed off the motorway. It wasn’t long before they started loading us onto the ferry and packing us in like sheep, we were heading back to the UK and the reality sunk in, this was the end of the tour.