The Bologna and Back Raffle

That’s it, we’ve been back a week already (time flies!), and it’s time to start thinking about the raffle prize draw we’re organising to raise further funds for Severn Hospice and Cancer Research UK.

Tickets are on sale now, at £1 each (split equally between the two charities). The draw will take place on Saturday 15th October at The Last Inn, Hengoed, Oswestry from 7:30pm onwards. Everyone is invited, so feel free to drop by and have a pint with us if you’re nearby!

We’ve had some fantastic prizes donated, including:

  • Apple iPod Touch (donated by Pega Systems)
  • XBOX 360 Console
  • Three course meal for four people at The Armoury in Shrewsbury, or any Brunning & Price pub (donated by Brunning & Price)
  • A midweek overnight spa break for two people at the Lion Quays Country Club (donated by the Lion Quays)
  • Round of golf for four people at Llanymynech Golf Club (donated by the club)
  • Round of golf for two people at The Great Hay Golf Club, Telford (donated by the club)
  • A MINI Cuckoo Clock (donated by BMW UK)
  • A case of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, donated by Capgemini UK plc
There are further prizes to be announced, so if you fancy your chances and would like a ticket then please contact one of us and we’ll be in touch.
Thank you again for your support.
(ps, If you’re not sure what a MINI cuckoo clock is, take a look at this!)
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Posted by on September 17, 2011 in Cancer Research UK, Severn Hospice


Le Mans (briefly), Rouen, Calais and home!

As it turns out, getting to Le Mans before our hotel check-in closed last night wasn’t as close as we’d feared – we were out by an hour and a half, and arrived at the hotel at just after half-past midnight.

With the hotel closed and no way of checking in to our rooms, we took the decision to press on north and get as near to Calais as we could before taking a rest break. Calais came around quicker than expected and by 3am we were at the Euro Tunnel terminal waiting for the 6:30am crossing – fourteen hours ahead of our scheduled departure.

By 7:00am UK time we were on the road (and on the left hand side of it). Having rested whilst waiting for the train and during the crossing, we were soon driving through Kent and Surrey before crossing into Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, the Midlands and up into Shropshire.

We arrived home just before 10:30am, having covered exactly 3,300 miles since leaving nine days ago.

In the course of our adventure we passed through nine countries and visited four of the planned six racing circuits (Spa Francorchamps and Monza were too far off route on the day). We experienced the ride of our life in a BMW M3 around the Nurburgring Nordschleife, spent thousands of pounds (in our minds) in the museums of BMW and Ferrari, and spent almost as much real money on a bag of sweets in a supermarket in Lichtenstein.

We discovered how well the infamous Autobahn motorway system works in Germany, and how driving the Autostrade network in Italy makes you realise how well the German system works. We lost count of the number of tunnels we passed through and viaducts crossed in our descent through the Italian Alps into France, and learned to our cost that Google Maps can’t always be relied on for navigation.

Thanks to the hard work and organisation of the guys at Motoscape, we had a fantastic time and met some great people en route.

Signing off for now, all that’s left for us to do is thank you for following us and supporting us. We had a great time, but we’ll never forget why we did this rally in the first place – for Jenny and for Baz, and to raise as much money as we can for Severn Hospice and Cancer Research UK. We’ll be publishing details of the raffle prize draw soon.

Thank you,

Gareth, Matt and Toni.

Day 9 distance: 549 miles
Total distance: 3300 miles


Posted by on September 11, 2011 in Cancer Research UK, France, Severn Hospice, UK


Futuroscope – our day off

A week after setting off from home, we were all due a day away from the car where we could relax and stretch our legs a little. Conveniently to this cause, we’d checked in the previous evening to one of the hotels neighbouring Futuroscope just outside Poitiers.

Futuroscope is a theme park with a difference. Established in 1987 it is an IMAX amusement park, with many of the rides and attractions showcasing different aspects of IMAX cinema technology – sometimes on 100m high screens, sometimes in 3D and sometimes in 4D – where films are shown with accompanying sound, movement, wind and sometimes touch technology.If you think IMAX is just seeing a film on a big screen or in 3D, you won’t fail to be impressed by some of the technology being used at the park.

We spent the day exploring the park and admiring the buildings which house the attractions – in some ways these are just as impressive as the rides themselves.

The highlights of the day (other than serving Kronenbourg 1664 on tap) were undoubtedly the new Arthur l’adventure 4D IMAX adventure based on the Arthur and the Invisibles characters, and Danse avec les Robots (“Dance with Robots”) – huge robotic arms, each seating two people at the end, in choreographed movements to pieces of music. Both are experiences that you’re unlikely to get anywhere else, and were both fantastic.

With the evening drawing in, we took one last look around Futuroscope before leaving (we had to leave before their evening show began, which is a shame as they’re just as impressive and innovative as the regular attractions) – that night we were staying in Le Mans to the north, and hotel check-in closed at 11pm.

It was going to be tight…

Day 8 distance (to Le Mans): 118 miles
Total distance: 2751 miles

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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in France


The journey north – Sète, Millau and Poitiers

Today started very much like yesterday finished – in the scenic surroundings of Salon de Provence, just south of Avignon in the south of France. After packing and checking out, we were ready to make an early start whilst looking for breakfast on the way – we ended up at a McDonald’s which was much nicer than we get at home – and they serve beer (but not for breakfast, eh?)


From our McBreakfast we continued to the beach resort of Sète, south west of Montpellier. The beach at Sète is another place down here that holds happy memories of childhood holidays here, so it was good to visit again. We spent a short while enjoying the beach as temperatures soared into the mid thirties.





Once back on the road, we had some serious mileage to do and so pressed on towards our destination for the day – Poitiers. We were however taking a more indirect route, so we could visit (and cross) the Millau Viaduct – at over 2,500m long and 350m tall it’s an impressive structure, and holds the title of being the tallest bridge in the world.



From the viaduct, nothing but rest stops stood between us and Poitiers. We arrived this evening after a glorious drive through the French countryside, and now look forward to a day off tomorrow as we enjoy a day away from the car in… well, I’ll let you know in the next update!

Day 7 distance: 519 miles
Total distance: 2633 miles

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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in France


Now we’re on our own – Genoa, Monaco and Provence

So this was it – our first day on our own.

After breakfast at the hotel in Bologna, we thanked the organisers of the rally and said our goodbyes before those competing in the extended rally continued to Croatia and the city of Split before finishing in Prague. We were heading home – albeit the long way.

The first stretch of the journey found us making our way out of Italy via the most direct route possible – the Autostrade. Having to negotiate a mountainous area, the Autostrade took a stunning course through mountain tunnels and over viaducts across deep valleys before slowly descending into our first stop of the day – the city of Genoa.

In Genoa, we explored the harbour area and admired some of the many boats moored there, including a galleon. A short stroll through the streets brought us back to the car and ready to continue our journey.



With plenty of miles to cover we pushed on, soon crossing the border and entering France, and making a quick stop in the border town of Menton to visit a hypermarche (France does these very well) and stock up on supplies. The lure of the beach proved too much, so we extended our break with a visit to the beautiful (but pebble, not sandy) beach. (As per Lake Garda, I didn’t have a paddle).


From Menton, we pushed along the coast to arguably the most famous spot on the Riviera – Monte Carlo. The difference between the principality and its neighbouring French towns is vast – Monte Carlo is peppered with expensive hotels, fast cars and rich, beautiful people. The famous Formula 1 circuit is largely on public roads, so we were able to drive the track (albeit not quite at F1 speeds – Monte Carlo is as busy as it is beautiful), before returning to the Autoroute and our next stop – Frejus.


Frejus is a popular area on the Côte d’Azur, and one Matt and I fondly remember visiting with mum and dad when we were younger. We took a brief drive around the area – which seemed vaguely familiar despite us not having visited since the late 1980s – before stopping for dinner in the local Geant Casino (another hypermarche – I told you the French do these things well), before driving the final leg of today’s journey to the Salon de Provence district and our hotel for tonight.

Tomorrow we’ll start driving north – we’re heading home!

Day 6 distance: 448 miles
Total distance: 2114 miles


Posted by on September 8, 2011 in France, Italy


The final push – Lake Garda, Ferrari and Bologna!

First up, apologies for the delay in posting yesterday’s update – we ran out of Internet and had top top up.

What we hadn’t appreciated last night as we raced up the mountain roads to our hotel was just what a spectacular view would greet us when we woke up this morning – hills and mountains stretching out in every direction, and Renon and Bolonza nestling in the valley leading towards Lake Garda. I was lucky enough to wake up before my alarm and see the sun rise over the landscape – it was simply stunning.


From our hotel, we made our way back down the pass through the village of Renon and the larger town of Bolzano before making the steady drive to our first stop of the day – Lake Garda. Joining the lake near the top and driving down the shoreline we were able to take in the beauty of the lake and surrounding scenery, and enjoy a short rest stop and paddle in the water (well, Matthew and Toni did – my feet remained on dry land!)


From Lake Garda, and following another drive on the Autostrade (see yesterday’s update for a description) and quick stop for the component parts of a picnic from a supermarket, we arrived in Modena – more precisely Maranello, and the home of the town’s most famous export – Ferrari.

Galleria Ferrari (to use it’s Italian name) is a museum near to the manufacturer’s main factory in the town. It houses a modest collection of some of Ferrari’s most significant (and expensive) sports and Formula 1 cars. We spent an hour exploring the museum (and the prices in the gift shop) before returning to the car and pushing on to our hotel.


So that’s it – we’ve made it to Bologna! We now need to work on getting back. Stay tuned…

Day 5 distance: 231 miles
Total distance: 1666 miles


Posted by on September 7, 2011 in Austria, Cars, Italy


Chur, Davos, the Stelvio Pass (almost), and Ritten

Today began like the others – breakfast followed by our early morning briefing with the rally organisers, then set off and make our way to the finish. After building our own excursions into the itinerary over the last couple of days, we thought today would be the day when we could finally take a more relaxed journey to our finishing point, exploring some more beautiful scenery at the same time.


We started by crossing over the border from Austria to Lichtenstein – small at only 62 square miles, but another country crossed off the list regardless. A quick stop at a supermarket made us realise just why Lichtenstein is the tax haven it’s famed for being, and we were soon on our way.

Our first major stop of the day was the Swiss town of Chur – a large but pretty town overshadowed by the Alps. After an hour exploring the area – including a short break on the edge of a beautiful lake we happened to pass ready were ready for our first motoring challenge of the day – the Alpine roads between Landquart and Davos.


The mountain road to Davos was spectacular – as was the scenery that surrounds it. Peaking at 2,900 metres above sea level, wave after wave of Alpine meadow, waterfalls and lakes unfolded before us as we pushed on to our destination.

It was on this stretch of the journey however that we noticed a small problem with the car – its characteristic sports saloon low profile, coupled with large wheels, wide tyres and ten day’s worth of clothes for three people in the back meant that negotiating the steeper uphill sections was proving difficult. Over a picnic lunch at Davos, we made the decision to seek an alternative route. We’re disappointed not to have been able to do the Stelvio Pass, but happy to have driven the mountain road to Davos (which was also named by Top Gear as one of their ultimate driving roads, and is in fact 200 metres higher than the Stelvio) – small compromise I think!


From Davos, we sought flatter ground and returned to the motorway system, soon crossing into Italy and getting our first taste of the Autostrade (think of them as the German Autobahn, but with the rule books torn up). After a stunning evening ascent into the Dolomites, we reached our hotel for the evening in darkness and headed straight for diner (the first two courses were beer), and retired for the evening.

Today was a remarkably car-free day. We’ll fix that tomorrow with a little help from Ferrari on our way to Bologna!

Day 4 distance: 261 miles
Total distance: 1435 miles



Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Austria, Italy, Switzerland


Hockenheim, Munich and Feldkirch

Another busy day inspired by our (and our dad’s) fascination with BMW, their brand and the cars they produce began early this morning with a ‘short’ 300-mile detour to the BMW factory, museum and visitor centre in Munich.

Following our early morning briefing from the rally organisers, we were on our way and (after a short stop in the local Aldi – they’re the same as at home), ready to make the journey to Munich.


Today’s driving was mostly on the infamous Autobahn – long stretches of motorway mostly without speed limits – allowing us to drive quickly and smoothly through the beautiful German countryside towards our first stop of the day – the racing circuit at Hockenheim.

The Hockenheim circuit it’s self was unexpectedly busy, with a superbike race underway which we stopped to watch for a while after visiting the circuit’s motor museum.

A moderate drive later found us in Munich, and shortly afterwards in the BMW Welt visitor centre, connected to the BMW factory and museum, and the 1972 Olympic Park. To our disappointment (I’ll blame bad planning on my part), the main museum is closed on Mondays, but the visitor centre was open and allowed us to enjoy plenty of exhibits and demonstrations, as well as browse the collection of many of BMW’s current models. We spent a lot of imaginary money this afternoon (least of all, a bespoke Steinway 7-series limousine, costing over €202,000).




Returning through the south of Germany, we soon crossed the border into Austria and found the town of Feldkirch – our home for the night. The Alps gave their first tantalising views – what will tomorrow hold?

Oh yes, the Stelvio Pass…

Day 3 distance: 452 miles
Total distance: 1174 miles



Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Austria, Cars, Germany


Nurburgring and Koblenz

Here we are at the end of the second day in the German city of Koblenz.

Hopes of an early start disappeared when we realised that parking in the far corner of the carpark at the hotel in St Omer meant we were boxed in by other cars taking part in the rally. Not a problem, and after breakfast and our morning briefing we were on our way by 8:30.


A 13:00 ride in the BMW Ring Taxi – the opportunity to be driven around the famous “green hell” racing circuit by a professional driver in a BMW M3 sports saloon (and a personal treat) – meant that we quickly found the autoroutes and stayed there for most of the journey, quickly entering Belgium and arriving in Germany at lunchtime. The ride was everything you’d expect and more – fantastic!


Once we’d recovered, we pressed on to Koblenz, exploring the beautiful parks and taking in the Rhein before finding our hotel.

Tonight we’re visiting the last night of the local wine festival – it promises to be an experience, finishing with a spectacular firework display. We’ll keep you posted!

Day 2 distance: 323 miles
Total distance: 722 miles


Posted by on September 4, 2011 in Belgium, France, Germany


St Omer

So here we are in St Omer, about 40 minutes south east of Calais, signed on to the rally and checked in to our hotel for the night ready to face whatever tomorrow may bring.

The car gave us a bit of a panic at 04:00 this morning, but nothing a little angry conversation from Matt didn’t sort. We were soon cruising down the M40 on our way to the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

It’s warm! Certainly in the high twenties – not sure we’ll be needing our Motoscape fleeces yet, but give it a couple of days and we’ll be making our way through the Alps.

Tomorrow we get to see Belgium, Germany and the Nurburgring – but before that, it’s time to explore St Omer and find out if the Kronenbourg 1664 tastes better over here (of course it will!)

Day 1 distance: 399 miles
Total distance: 399 miles



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Posted by on September 3, 2011 in France