Evening again (or early morning)! Tonight's episode of the Italian Job Tour comes from Luxembourg where we've reached the end of our first day of European driving. And what a day it's been.
What was intended as five hours driving with a couple of hours of breaks to simply get us down the motorway to the interesting parts of the continent ended up being a long hard slog.
A WhatsApp message at 8am told us that we had our first car problem. Not the £400 306, not the 13 year old S2000 and not Lee's incident prone Clio, but the nice reliable VW which had a nail stuck in the tyre.
But first things first, shopping. We're now seasoned veterans at this and as a way round paying stupid motorway services prices we now have fridges. Well except in the S2000 of course. No chance of that fitting in the boot... So we did the cheap thing and bought rolls, butter and jambon et fromage to make our own. I'd even bought a knife to cut the rolls, which I'd been brandishing in front of the hotel CCTV the night before. Oops.
With our food now in Lee's fridge and the tonneau cover in the 306 the next mission was to find a garage to fix the tyre. First one had no idea and directed us in a way down the road to another. Another we'd found on the sat nav also couldn't do repairs. Eventually we found one we'd driven past about half an hour previously and the Polo was sat being fixed whilst the rest of us were busy trying not to be run over by crazy locals.
Now two hours behind schedule we made for the rather boring E42 to make some progress in the direction of Liege and were almost immediately held up for 15 minutes by a lorry that had hit a dear and presumably it's driver sweeping the entrails off the road. Nice. The weather was 'changeable' resulting in my first attempt to raise the roof on a motorway (at around 30 mph) and the entire interior of the Honda getting a thorough drenching. You know things are bad when the wipers are on but they're not clearing the screen because the water's on the inside...
The visibility was almost zero at some points and then eventually we hit serious traffic around Mons with only 13 miles to our planned stop. The next hour of crawling, which included some pretty good order shuffling through the traffic and at one point three lanes being made into four left us now three hours behind the plan but we were still on track to reach the hotel at 8pm so we stuck with it.
The stop eventually came outside a small town calld Thieu, where rather than simply pulling into a layby for a driver change we paid a visit to the world's second highest boat lift - an ingenius contraption designed to carry canal boats from one level to another about 100m higher. It also gave us a quick opportunity to make the now patented 'car sandwiches' and for Jez to take the wheel for the next stint to Spa.
We did a little more roof up driving until we were sure the weather had made up it's mind, at which point we did a drive through a services to put it down, at which point the 306 also did likewise. We carried on without anything more of note as I took many photos of my head and the other cars, until we reached our turn off for Francorchamps.
We were greeted with what appeared to be people leaving an Aston Martin track day, with several V12 Vantages and a Rapide heading the other way, also followed by a McLaren 12C. The planned petrol stop was closed so we parked up and did the usual wander into the always open grandstands and took the usual photos of Eau Rouge.
Three miles down the road following a trip down the old Spa circuit to Stavelot we found another petrol station, and it was also closed. Luckily they had a pay at pump system and the 306 that had spent the last half hour on the fuel light was refilled. Meanwhile, I hedged my bets on my quarter of a tank as we carried on into Luxembourg, looking to get the maximum range possible for the more uneconomical car for the next day.
And 300 miles after filling up in Kent, I found the Shell I'd planned to visit, open and serving up 98 RON V Power for just 1.42 Euros, cheaper than it would be in pounds in the UK. Now that's why I came to Luxembourg!
Now half an hour from the hotel everything was going well until we had a road closed and with a quick manouvre to take in a diversion we spent the final 15 minutes of driving taking in a windy hilltop road with a gorgeous red sunset. We rejoined the motorway and quickly found ourselves at our final destination. The Ibis Budget.
It's pleasant. It does have a shower more or less in the middle of the room, but it's pleasant. And the wifi 'sort of' works.
After unpacking and checking out the menu for the restaurant in the lobby we decided to pay Luxembourg city centre a visit and piled into the Polo and cab for the short trip in. Ed first took us on a few cruising laps before deciding on an underground car park. Evening meal was served in a Mexican restaurant and was decent and reasonably priced. It even included free nachos. Lots of free nachos!
Finally we did a little sight seeing before returning to the car park, breaking the ticket machine and then lapping the town and driving back to the hotel four up with the roof down. Epic :-D
We'll aim for another 9am start in the morning, hopefully nobody's got nails in their tyres tomorrow...
Unscheduled pit stop in Dunkerque
Gulf elephant in Luxembourg City
The colossal boat lift at Thieu
Cruising the city in style