A Travellerspoint blog

T.W.T. 2013 - Chequered Flag In Sight

WE GOT A PRIZE!!!!!!!!!!

snow 14 °F
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We are in Austria and I'm raring to go. Almost too excited to eat breakfast. We've had a quick look at the route. At 0819 hrs precisely (18th to leave) I'm given pages and pages of route changes, Track Tests and Regulations all to be done before lunch and the chequered flag.

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They no longer phase me. This is our last day. Where did the previous five go? On Tuesday I was dreading the rest of the week, didn't know how I would get through it physically and mentally. But now....Wow....Everyone is bouncing like Tigger this morning. Ben's warming up Bianca outside the hotel door and we are off. Forecast is for ice and fog so the chaps in their open Bentleys and Alvis are all wrapped up, heated vests plugged in, as it's snowing pretty hard.

Hot on the heels of a Top-on-Bentley

Hot on the heels of a Top-on-Bentley

We have a long stretch on the motorway, which isn't much fun but gives me time to makes the changes to the route, plot the next Regularity and look at the Track Test; I'm better at my left and right hand hairpin warnings now! Passing logging trucks en route, we reach the first Time Check with time to spare and even manage a hot chocolate and espresso. A group of Navigators are grouped around Tomorrow Never Dies with furrowed brows. No longer in awe of their expertise and feeling 'like-a-girl', I join the group. There is laughter all round and off we go.

And I didn't get us lost; we found all the chapels and drove down tracks you wouldn't think a tractor would attempt.

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If someone had told me a week ago we'd be doing this I would have had them certified as insane!

We see a covey of partridge blithely unawares of the buzzards overhead. Snowboarders and skiers, smoke pours from chimneys and children sledging with red noses. This is truly spectacular; I wish we had time to stop and stare.

The Faistenau Track Test was a big one. It seemed like we'd all turned up at once! There's something different in the air; everyone's smiling. And I've never seen so many men having a pee! Honestly, as soon as we are all in a line waiting to go through a Time Check these chaps all get their todgers out. I have wondered what they'd do if I went into the midst of them and 'do what women do' when desperate? At least it gives us few girls something to laugh about!

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The light had gone flat. A red Porsche 911 came off the track and buried itself in the snow. The driver's out with his shovel. To avoid collision we plough into the same snow. They close the track. I'm thrilled and throw myself out of my door with camera in hand.

Porsche first then it's our turn!

Porsche first then it's our turn!

They reopen the Track and we finish with a perfect STOP ASTRIDE. We want to do it again. Ben's CROSS. It's the first time he's come off the road.

So then it's a dash/chase to the finish at the magnificent Schloss Hellbrunn (where they filmed the Sound of Music's "I am 16 going on 17"!). We have two cars in front of us and we are all going as fast as **** off a shovel. Through the chequered flag, Winter Trial arch, up on Bianca's roof,

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champagne in hand, photographers, tears, hugs and kisses all round. WE ARE TRIUMPHANT TO HAVE FINISHED.

We Made It!

We Made It!

We get chatting to other drivers who, until now, have been elusive largely down to their competitiveness. Topless-Alvis-Bill who is charm personified (and competes with his equally delightful son-in-law navigator) says, "Is it true you have never rallied before?". We replied in the affirmative saying we didn't buy Bianca until 11th December 2012. "F****g 'ell!" he shouts. "Are you mad? What possessed you? This is the hardest rally I've ever done and I've been doing it for bloody years." Others join in. We are beginning to feel a bit proud. Seems it was tough for everyone not just this wimpy girl and her ever-patient husband!

Tulip maps back to the hotel; Topless-Alvis-Bill comes along side at a junction and shouts to Ben,"will you swap navigators"? and promptly sets off in the opposite direction. I can't get my head around the fact it's over and am still shouting directions..."right after 1.23kms, left at next traffic lights." "Sweetheart, it's over," says my driver. I don't know whether to be elated or distraught. Just as I was getting the hang of it......

So, it's time for the Gala back at the Schloss. Black tie dress code. Ours is still hanging on our bedroom door back home. No matter. I do have my four inch heels, one frock, a fur collar and lipstick. What more does a girl need? We get on a bus. We navigators wonder if the driver knows the way.

Champagne, candlelight, flowers, people on stilts, hot and cold running waiters. Glorious. Screens with photos of cars in snow, off roads, spinning round corners. Photographers have been everywhere and were a comforting sight as they were obviously expecting you to come around that particular corner in the middle of bloody nowhere.

Speeches. Father and daughter team won the novice prize. Dear Reader; this 'family' were not speaking at the end of the rally. Serious issues must have gone on as there were no photos, fizz or celebrations when they came through the chequered flag.

WE GOT A PRIZE. All competitors were asked to vote for the Most Gentlemanly Team; the team which exhibited the True Spirit of Rallying. It was awarded to THE FISHERS. There must be other Fishers (Fischers) competing and we hadn't realised. NO, DEAR READER, IT WAS US. You can imagine the tears. I haven't won anything since I was six at my Primary School and I think that was a 'pity' prize. The elation was beyond anything imagineable.

"Everyone outside," shouts Bart, much to the dismay of 1972 Mercedes-280SE Peter, who loves his puddings! Soon we are cosy in aluminium 'blankets'..... (I have no idea who this man is!!)

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as we head into the snow covered courtyard. In come the two winning cars spinning around an incredibly calm opera singer who is belting out "We are the Champions". Yes, it was kitch but what the hell. We were all so high on excitement by this time if Christiano Ronaldo had been doing keepy-uppy on the car roofs we wouldn't have been surprised.

Fireworks next light up the Austrian night-sky, plus more champagne, pudding (Peter's happy) and a band before at 2330hrs we stagger back to the buses. What on earth will we do tomorrow?

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 05:30 Archived in Austria Tagged salzburg austria sound_of_music schloss_hellbrunn Comments (0)

T.W.T. 2013 - I'm Struggling

Tears and Carthorses

snow 15 °F
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Struggled this morning. Tears of nervous trepidation at breakfast. Last night's solo pouring over maps hadn't helped; rather it seemed, in my mind, to heighten my stupidity.

0C90AC252219AC68179BC279CEFE855D.jpg not a Happy Thursday!

Fast forward 20kms to a frozen river, a bridge, a vertical route and a left and a right. Three cars, going in three directions. Seconds later we all meet back at the bridge and...set off in opposite directions. This is rallying. You might ask why we navigators don't get out and discuss the route. Dear reader, it is such a performance getting out of your straps and seat in a hurry without losing something vital such as a highlighter pen, compass etc. plus WE ARE ALL TURNING INTO COMPETITIVE MONSTERS!! One car even has our pals in it!

But it is during these moments of, let's call it uncertainty, when Ben's power of positive thought comes into play. I've learnt over the days that when he says, "it IS this way" he's often right. He is marvellous; never throws his hands up in despair when I'm competely and utterly bamboozled and have no clue which way to turn. He calmly extracts himself from his belts and looks at the map with me. This supposedly never happens with experienced teams. The driver drives and the navigator navigates. But even the most experienced get it wrong. When a champion navigator tells you he's gone 30kms up a main road in the wrong direction? Now that feels UTTERLY FANTASTIC!

And why do I keep getting in a flap when we reach a town? Finding tracks and tiny roads in little villages are not such a problem; it seems childhood geography lessons on ordinance survey paid off. And when we do the Regularities I'm pretty much on it. But put me in a town with turns as close together as 100metres and I totally lose the plot.

Result: I had a nightmare getting us through Velka Bites to reach Quantum of Solace. Ben had to stop mid-run. The navigator can't see the map if she's crying. Ben's sympathy and then, "ok, that's enough", did the trick....for ten minutes, until we had to stop to let two big fluffy carthorses being 'driven' by a man on a wooden cart across the track to his farm. I was so excited I couldn't get the camera to work and then spent another five minutes wailing. Dear reader; it was obviously one of those days. Then...Ben pointed out all the mistletoe up in the trees. WHAT THE ****?

However, that was it. After that I was on a roll. 'Pulled myself together' as they say and we headed off to OCTOPUSSY with me confident I'd got the route plotted en route. It was a breeze and we are in Austria.

A Happy Driver!

A Happy Driver!

WE GET TO LUNCH but those liver meatballs are not for me. I have two slurps of tea and we are off again. No time to mess about. I don't even have much chance to comfort Judith who has hit that same wall of emotion as mine earlier.

Back in Czech Republic and Moidrams was a tricky little b****r. It read:"This is a Navigation Section which consists of a series of Passage Controls that will be checked using Code Boards and Cartrackers. Time allowed is relatively relaxed to the emphasis is on accurate navigation." Well, we made a right b***s of it only finding 2 out of a possible 9. No matter (I seem to be saying that a lot), as we pulled up to the Jilovice (Vehicle Club) in the pitch black, with an umpa band, crowd of locals, camera crews etc. and it's smiles all round. It's a fascinating spot this, in the middle of nowhere. Vintage cars, motorbikes on show and everyone's drinking beer except us. On reflection, I don't think we looked hard enough as I'm convinced we went the correct route but when the navigator hasn't looked through the windscreen for half an hour because she is staring down through her b****y potty lamp at the map and the driver is boggle-eyed looking straight ahead so we don't end up off the road I'm not surprised we didn't see stupid b****y letters hanging from posts! (Have you noticed the marked increase in bad language?)

Still, we finished on a high that night. After the start it was nothing short of a miracle we finished the day. Buffet dinner with fish glorious fish. My young Dutch friend and I hit the smoked salmon like vultures. Judith didn't make it; I feel her pain.

Ben comes back from the bar where he'd heard a good story: car waiting to start Track Test. Driver asks navigator which way. Navigator says nothing just gives him 'a look' and takes two very deep puffs on his asthma inhaler!

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 06:01 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

T.W.T. 2013 - Wednesday

Heading to Brno

snow 15 °F
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Wednesday: Flasks and hotwater bottle filled, bacon sandwiches stowed away and we are off to Brno. Some readers will remember our little terrier, Bruno, so I saw this as a good sign! One of the gigantic Dutch chaps (why are so many Dutch men massive?) tells me, as we are waiting to get our time checks stamped, "I know Brno; my rifles all come from there." Oh, right then, that's great. If all else fails we'll just head to the gun factory and hope he turns up!

We are one of the first to leave. First challenge after a mere 33kms is at the Autodrom Vyskoke Myto. Ben gets pretty wild approaching a hairpin and I can't remember my right hand from my left. Then there's STOP ASTRIDE when your front tyres have to be over a line and your back tyres not. Easy? Not when you are whizzing around at speed on thick ice and applying the brakes is something of an issue!

Various other Time Controls and Regularities happen in the morning. The Living Daylights had these instructions: Using only yellow roads, depart SW from RSM 5.2 (at ! sign), then go to RP 5.2 passing through 4 chapel symbols. Note that you pass through a symbol if it breaks one or both of the black lines along the side of the marked road, and that you must pass through exactly 4 symbols - no fewer and no more. Yes, dear Reader. It's Chinese. Truth be told, we did pretty well at that one from a 'going-in-the-right-direction' point of view. However, and it's a big however, you are supposed to do this at varying laid down speeds e.g. 50kph for 8.80km, 35kph for 1.30km. As Bianca's speedometer doesn't function quite as it should we had no chance. No matter, we had fun hurtling around farm tracks looking for churchs; sorry chapels. Yes, there is a difference.

Church Czech Republic

Church Czech Republic

So we are still in the Czech Republic and I find it fascinating. We noticed speakers on a church and wondered if it was a mosque until we spied them on lamp posts too; obviously they are evidence of the Communist era. I'm sure it wasn't a cheery "Good Morning Campers" waking the local inhabitants up each morning aren't you? Our pal, John, said he wound down his window in one village in an attempt to ask, "Where the **** are we?" and the man ran away. It seems that the older locals are still extremely wary of anyone displaying any sign of wealth. And Bill, driving an open Alvis (and hereafter called Topless-Alvis-Bill) told me they had been held at gunpoint at 1am during a Night Trial by a mad-crazed villager during a Winter Trial a couple of years ago. The police knew him (the gunman, not Bill) of old, but it still took two hours for them to talk him out of blowing them to smithereens.

We had no such dramas though I did see a man butchering a grey-furred creature outside his house. Was it a donkey, a wolf (one lovely chap told me he'd seen a "massive wolf" but he is navigating in an open Bentley so clearly has had the rational part of his brain removed and hence unreliable as a storyteller), or a deer?

It's been a long day with seven Track Tests/Regularities to complete. By the time we get to Diamonds Are Forever it's pitch black so off come Bianca's spotlight covers and the snow shines brightly. She blows her horn at two deer standing in our way. Dear Reader, this is the life!

We finish up at the Holiday Inn. It's wonderful; a porter got us a trolley for our luggage (you have no idea what a joy that is at the end of 10 hrs on the road). Without exception staff are helpful beyond belief, speaking English and have brought me a kettle for early morning (6am) cups of tea, filling of flasks and hot water bottle; I know I'm repeating myself but, honestly, without these I don't think I could get through the days!

I left supper early and spent an hour pouring over the route trying beyond trying to get it into my tired grey matter...we'll see if it worked tomorrow!

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 05:18 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged church tests Comments (0)

T.W.T. 2013 - What Day Is It?

"This is Tough Man"

snow 17 °F
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Today is Tuesday. I think.

Dear reader; We have risen to 12th from the bottom; I was literally hopping with excitement after last night's boiled (these Germans do like to COOK their meat) venison, when the results got posted.

Loving Bianca at 7.30am this morning

Loving Bianca at 7.30am this morning

Thank God we aren't in this!

Thank God we aren't in this!

We were 4th off the grid at 8.04 precisely. And that means I have to get my timesheet stamped, pick up the GPS thing so they can find us at all times (apparently) and leap back into Bianca, get my four belts done up tight, get the map, route map and potty lamp out and find my glasses, and a pen, and a highlighter, and put lip gloss on! Then Ben says, "where are we going?". It didn't start well today and by lunchtime (which we made on time I will have you know), I was feeling a bit teary and battered as the map had clearly been drawn by a moron. A big smiling Dutchman took me to one side in the carpark and said, "You do realise this one of the top ten Rallys in terms of difficulty world-wide. This is Tough Man." I am a girl, and was being a bit girlie but he did make me feel better and MAN UP so to speak.

We followed a lovely young Dutch couple, he a mechanical engineer, she an elementary school teacher (they look so young!) in their Lotus Super Seven SIII on a Regularity Trial through the forest. We caught up with them and were happily in convoy when they came off the road right in front of us. Their car was only stopped by a tree. They were lucky. If the tree hadn't been there they would have disappeared over the side of an incredibly steep wooded hillside. They were very brave and fine apart from bruising and the wife's obvious shock. It highlighted the fact that though this is fun it is also dangerous. We have seen some crazy driving by Boys in their Toys but Bianca catches up with those Porche 911's when it comes to snow packed tracks. (Yesterday it was a red Porsche 911 that gently skipped off the edge of the road. He was pulled back up again by the Crew and carried on.)

Tonight's hotel is in the Czech Republic. What a country. We have seen beauty beyond belief; forests Santa must surely live in, little tiny wooden chalets with smoke pouring from chimneys, boys playing ice hockey on frozen ponds, people just going out for a stroll even though it is ungodly minus something centigrade, children waving with pink cheeks aglow and old boys with long white beards (told you it was Santa land).

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland

On the other hand; factories galore, chimney's billowing smoke, deserted buildings, hideous blocks of flats.

We are on a learning curve I believe possibly like no other either of us have experienced. We saw a Chinese navigator with a google map print-out of the Trial areas and some special measure so he can tell his driver to the metre when the next turn is coming. There are professional navigators here. Yes, being paid not to get lost. HOW BLOODY MAD IS THAT!!!

I am skipping dinner. No more boiled-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life meat for me. Got my vodka and tonic, route map to study then a good thriller.....

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 11:17 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

T.W.T. 2013 - Snowplough

Move It!

snow 19 °F
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We came 4th from bottom yesterday. We were elated not to be last. That was our aim.

We had a pretty good day. It is much much much much more difficult than I thought. The Driving Tests, when Ben flings poor Bianca around cones, hairpins etc on disused racetracks, are enormous fun as it is quite tricky to go the wrong way unless your navigator is in tears of hilarity or terror! I've got that under control now.

Navigator!

Navigator!

Regularities, however, are a different beast altogether. They give you an ordinance survey map printout with points, A, B, C etc marked on it. Then you have to drive to them in certain orders. If you get it wrong you get penalty points. These maps don't have many land markings apart from the odd tiny church or shrine. It's a nightmare. I would give you an example but realise it would bore you rigid; you have to be here, so to speak.

However, we have seen some spectacular scenery.....

Middle of Nowhere in Czech Republic

Middle of Nowhere in Czech Republic

....and did get "a wriggle on" although snowploughs do get in the bloody way!!

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It's extraordinary how my emotions flip from elation to finding some obscure village on a 'white road' (cart track to any sane person) to utter despair when I realise I have absolutely no clue where I have led Bianca and Ben; that I may never see our children again, never shop in Waitrose again, kiss my Mum or eat caviar (the last once was for effect; not a massive fan of the old fish eggs unless with bilinis and fizz). You can see how things blow out of proportion can't you.

Still, we had our flasks of tea, bacon and egg rolls from breakfast, Czech Rep. Snickers bars and Halls menthol sweets. So all was well in the end. And I can't tell you how much I love Bianca. She is a Goddess!

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 11:11 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

The Winter Trial : Suffolk - Netherlands

We are on our way!

snow 21 °F
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Early start. tunnel train late. Car broken down.. Not ours. Met four chaps going to rugby in Lille. And three lovely young chaps; two from Sheffield, one Welsh (we can't all be perfect) going to Courcheval snow boarding. They asked if we had sleeping bags (hilarious!) and did we know Bianca's "wiggles and piggles". NOW THAT IS ONE BRILLIANT EXPRESSION!!

Long way to hotel...8 hours driving. We park Bianca after some snow removal. I am worried about her being outside. Hotel is candlelit. Everyone seems full of 'it' though I don't know what 'it' is. I am scared to death. Four glasses of fizz, hot bath. See you in the morning.

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 14:11 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

T.W.T. 2013 : Day 1

We Are Off!

17 °F
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Roadbook

Roadbook

Right now this bright orange folder is the most important thing in my possession! It clashes with my outfit but...never mind. We got to the start. Everyone looks as though they know what they are doing. I pretend! Ben does the same.

There had been a fire. We didn't know we had to follow the orange arrows. Drove down a cycle lane. Stopped by cross policeman (very nice uniform). Drove along canal. Looked like scene from The Killing. Where was Lund?

I don't remember much about the day. It passed in a blur of high emotion, terror, tears. We did one of these timed trial things around bollards and trees on an airfield. THEY HADN'T CLEARED THE SNOW OR ICE. At one point I was laughing so hard I couldn't see the instructions. Driver frustrated but, OMG, he was amazing!

We stopped for hot chocolate at another timed spot. WE WERE BLOODY EARLY. Can you believe it. We had to hang around before we clocked in. I was well chuffed! Did we have lunch? Oh yes. We didn't have more than a quick inhale of broth. One of the female crew actually gave me a hug;
I obviously looked on point of meltdown.

Did timed trials of things called Moonraker, On Her Majesty's Secret Service etc. My Daniel Craig did very well but at times I longed for the ejector button to send me to Mars! I reckon he would have liked to send me to Mars.

READER: THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN.

We went through forests. Snow, ice, pretty if you had time to look. Car on side in ditch x 2. Not ours!!! Made it through. MY GOD WE WERE PROUD.

Got to the Rat House in Ratsbrauhaus. Prettier than it sounds. NOW IT'S DARK. Had enough. Garmin to hotel. Hot bath calling but bar shouts louder. Another novice navigator tells me he's had no problems all day but then I discover his driver is a Professional World Class Rally Driver. I no longer feel useless. Two charming Dutch chaps smile, chink glasses and tell me we were sensible to quit in the dark as "it's bloody tricky". NOW I CAN SLEEP TIGHT!

As bond would say....TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 14:08 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

The Winter Trial - One More Sleep

Relax...Bianca's Done This Before

snow

One more sleep and we two girls are as ready as we'll ever be. I think I'll give Bianca extra oil tonight and I most definitely should have an extra vodka and tonic; for medicinal purposes you understand, to ensure a good night's sleep.

Truth be told, Bianca's pretty chilled out about the whole thing. As you can see......

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....she's done a few things like this before. You might wonder why all her previous Rally stickers are on our garage window? We are proud for her, but...we are RALLY VIRGINS! So, when we make a total bollocks of it all we have an excuse. Those 'teams' (yes, we are a 'team'.... I've always hated team sports) with all their badges of honour along the sides of their cars supposedly know what they are doing. Team No. 90 - that's us - can pootle along (is pootle a word?) in blissful ignorance. THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN!

Packing was done. Mum came round with her bright pink pashmina. "I think it's going to get very cold Darling. Why don't you borrow this." PINK? what the Hell do I do now? Offend her by leaving it behind or totally re-think my whole capsule wardrobe that has been a month in the making? Offend it is. She takes it well. I think the start of a nervous tic above my right eyebrow did it.

Now, as Navigator, I do have certain responsibilities. I KNOW...I KNOW...TELLING THE DRIVER WHERE TO GO. GOT THAT!

Yet another list :

  • Pencil Case (thank you Rose; she made it at school...18 yrs ago) with pencils, pens, highlighters, paperclips, filing cabinet, wipe board, projector; some of those I am struggling to get in.
  • Ruler (to keep my eyes on the 'right' line of the route).
  • Glasses Wipes (Pound Shop)
  • Potty Lamp - I KNOW...THE MIND BOGGLES. Relax, it isn't one of those things you saw on the top shelf of the chemist yesterday and know you might need one day. Rather, it's this round, potty-shaped magnifying glass thingy that will, apparently, sit on top of the map and help me see the way. Hmmm.
  • Maps - Wouldn't it be a scream if I forgot those!
  • Route Folder - ditto above
  • Fingerless gloves (thank you Hils) vital as I won't be able to follow the route on the map with ski mittens will I or punch (sorry, lightly press) the Trip Meter, which I am determined to make my New Best Friend?

Have you noticed how many of my family and friends are 'getting involved'. They are more excited than I am. Did I tell you? THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN!

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 09:22 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (3)

The Winter Trial 2013 Car Rally - Fear of the Unknown

I am SO totally out of my Comfort Zone

snow 17 °F

Two more sleeps. Emotions are all over the place but at least Ben no longer has to lead me back to bed at 2am like some crazy person after finding me hunched over the kitchen table, magnifying glass in hand, gazing teary-eyed at maps.

So it's time to pack. Dear reader, you might have read my What Women Really Need on Safari blog. I felt I had some pretty relevant experience on that one. I have none for a Winter Rally involving a Classic car, snow, off-road routes, languages I can't speak (although I'm pretty sure "Where the **** are we?" will be understood in German and...what do they speak in the Czech Republic?). My issues are multifaceted. Bianca has an amazing heater but I'm the one who has to keep getting out into God knows what kind of weather to get instructions, fill in time sheets, plan route changes, etc etc (you think I know what I'm talking about don't you!) while Ben keeps Bianca happily ticking over. My body temperature will be all-over-the-place. WHAT'S A GIRL TO DO? The seatbelts are like being in a strait-jacket (actually, I don't know what that feels like but can imagine) so will it be coat on, coat off, sweater on, sweater off............... I AM SO TOTALLY OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE HERE! IT'S FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN.

So, back to the packing. I have three bags. One for daytime, one for night-time and one for shoes, hot water bottle, washbags, chargers, adaptors. Wow - I know, it sounds complicated. But I tried getting it all in one big bag. Bianca was having none of it. Not on your Nellie was she having her snow chains left behind for my cashmeres! Rally Organiser, Bart (you just know I'm going to call him Marge at some point), has 'kindly' offered to take the men's Black Tie suits to our final destination for the Farewell Dinner. Well that's a humungous, massive help isn't it. What about me? My dresses will look like rags by the time they've been pulled in and out of their bags at six different hotels. Ben says it's very kind and shows confidence in our ability to make it to the Farewell Dinner at all. THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN!

I do figure I need as little stress as possible when it comes to clothing so am perfecting my capsule wardrobe. There will not be the gorgeous Winter White I favour - Bianca is circa 1962 remember; that's a lot of accumulated gunge. So it's lots of black, lots of grey. Oh, and a gorgeous new light blue cabled sweater, and a new pair of olive stretch trousers, and Brora's cashmere socks in 'happy' colours (they won't be seen under my ancient goat-hair boots but I'll know they are there), and one of those fur hats that covers your ears, and cashmere, silk scarves, bunny-fur-lined gloves and new Ray-Bans. Dear reader, I'M GOING TO HAVE A MARVELLOUS TIME!

And I know I'll need my comforts for when Bianca is sulking in the carpark, Ben's looking for a new Navigator and the bar's run out of vodka - not likely I know in Europe but, you never know. So I have my candles, cards, snuggle pants (that's trousers to you not panties!), Kiehl's Ultimate Hand Salve (the absolute best), Tea Pigs red bush tea (because the bags are such a cute shape) AND CHOCOLATE.

See what I mean about 'emotions all over the place'?

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 07:22 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

The Winter Trial Car Rally - Thermals

How will Bianca cope?

snow

Three more sleeps.

It was approx -10C last night here in Suffolk. By 9am the temperature had risen to a mighty -7C. It's beautiful but Bianca hasn't got any thermals. She's snug in the garage for now but how will she cope being left outside in temperatures we have been assured will be colder than this? Do we want to put her through the trauma?

Perhaps we should go in this instead?

Jan_2013_Snow_tractor_003.jpg

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 03:42 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged snow tractor bianca Comments (0)

The Winter Trial 2013 Car Rally - All the Essentials

Lists

snow 32 °F

The countdown has begun for us two Rally Virgins. Four more sleeps.

List #1:
• Blanket
• Thermos x 2
• Handwarmers (thank you Mike)
• Hipflask (Navigator’s perks only)
• Hotwater bottle

Have you noticed how much of that list is 'heat' inducing?

List #2:
• Chocolate (general wellbeing)
• Liquorice (apparently marvellous for constipation although I don’t think that’s going to be an issue on this trip)
• Salt crackers (anti-nausea – Navigator’s requirement). N.B. salt crackers are brilliant to combat any form of motion sickness, as is excitement but the only experience I have of that is when sea-sickness goes overboard deep sea fishing if you hook something bigger than yourself.
• Almonds (energy)
• Granola bars/flapjack (because they looked good)
• Lemon drops/humbugs (thank you Peter)

Are you wondering why we need so much food? We have been reliably informed by an ‘experienced’ rally driver that there is a strong chance we’ll miss each and every lunch/coffee/tea pit-stop as a result of our ‘inexperience’ and are quite likely to hallucinate due to lack of sustenance. THIS IS GOING TO BE SUCH FUN!

List #3:
• Ground sheet (I have no idea but if anyone thinks I’m sleeping in a flaming tent.....)
• Jack (no idea about Jill)
• Spare tyre (of the snow variety)
• Maps x 3 (with route highlighted in a lovely shade of pink)

Tomorrow I'm going to pack. I’ve been told some people take this so seriously they take the bare minimum. I DON’T THINK SO!

In the meantime; Ben is clearly considering sleeping in the garage with Bianca. By the time we set off I feel confident he’ll know her every unexpected twitch and heart-stopping tremble. He's in love.

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 10:37 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged tulip_maps trip_meter Comments (0)

The Winter Trial 2013 Classic Car Rally - Meet Bianca

RALLY VIRGINS

overcast 32 °F

We've signed up to do The Winter Trial 2013 http://www.thewintertrial.nl/. Why? It seemed like a good idea at the too-much-champagne-time and so-called-friends persuaded us it WOULD BE FUN.

We needed a car....but not just any old car. It had to be a Classic Car.

MEET BIANCA aka 1962 VOLVO AMAZON
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Our Volvo Amazon had to be Bianca. (We don’t know a Bianca apart from the mad crazy woman in Australian soap Home & Away; our girl bears no resemblance.) You see, we had a Bianca before. She was a white 1970 long wheelbased Land Rover and something of a legend on the party circuit largely down to her capacity for getting ‘the young’ of Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, safely home. Sadly, we can't find a photograph of her but, Oh, she was SO BEAUTIFUL!

Bianca #2 is somewhat curvier than her predecessor. She’s faster too and, hands-together-in-prayer, more reliable. She isn’t the cleanest but what she lacks in personal hygiene she certainly makes up for in character. I feel Bianca #I’s few shortcomings were largely down to years of abuse by a previous owner and a life spent by the ocean. We miss her and wonder where she is now, if she’s happy, loved and cherished.....

Back to the point. Time to practice some Tulip maps. I know, sounds pretty doesn’t it. There are no flowers involved; just lines, arrows, dots and dashes. Bianca is the dot.

We had trouble with the Trip Meter. That’s this black box thing on the dashboard in front of my seat with two buttons that click like demented....oh, I don’t know....clickers; one click for every 10 metres travelled. (I THINK THE CLICKING COULD DRIVE ME DEMENTED.) The left one keeps the total kilometres travelled and other I’m supposed to press to zero every time we fulfil a task e.g. Turn left; click, go passed white railings; click, four left hand bends; click, etc. ARE YOU KEEPING UP AT THE BACK? Ours wasn’t calibrated. So...when my Tulip map diagram indicates Turn Left after 0.65km but the Trip Meter indicates 0.95km...well, dear reader, you can see my problem. I’M A RALLY VIRGIN FOR GOODNESS SAKE. I CAN’T BE DEALING WITH DUFF EQUIPMENT!

Ben fixed it. All by his own self. The man is a veritable genius. It’s taken me 26 years to realise that I married him because he’s a Trip Meter fixer.

Turns out, Tulip maps are pretty straight forward. LISTEN TO ME! My main problem (as Navigator) is that Ben (as Driver) doesn’t trust me (as Navigator). Me: “You are going to turn left after the fourth bend.” Him, still with foot half way to the metal: “When?” Me: “That was the third bend. Turn at the next.” Him: “Are you sure.” He is now attempting to drive and look at MY map. Me: “TURN LEFT NOW!” Bless.

Guess what, we only had to turn around once.

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 10:27 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (8)

Lake Maggiore - Heading Home

But not before some shopping!

sunny 82 °F

To Shop or Not to Shop...

Ascona is definitely the place to shop with all the sophistication expected of Switzerland. Streets are clean, flower displays oppulent and watered. Most store staff speak English and ARE FRIENDLY!

P8260034.jpg Ascona from the water

The town itself has a really comfortable vibe. Parking is easy either on-street or in the underground carpark. Some streets are wide and modern whereas those housing small boutiques catering to every taste, and specialist food (cheese, pasta, hams) shops seem to be along the small cobbled streets, which are largely pedestrianised. But the Falke (they of outstanding tights, stockings, socks etc) stand-alone store was my favourite. It's fabulous but guys don't panic; next door is a boat 'shop' to salivate over. There's a real-life specimen on display shining like a film star's new veneers, its leather seating Botoxed to smooth unlined perfection and wooden decks that will never see a stiletto. And right next door to that...a cosmopolitan bar/restaurant. This is also clearly 'car strut street'. They are all here; Ferrari (of course), Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Bentley. All parked, cruising or revving.

Head downhill and you will come to the promenade on the edge of the lake; much prettier than all the other places we had seen. There's the ubiquitous row of restaurants all selling pretty much the same thing (pizza, pasta, lake fish) but there is a warm, friendly atmosphere and LOTS OF SMILES! Early for your ferry? Order a drink, pay straight away and it'll be a simple hop, skip and jump on to the boat's deck.

Sadly it's Goodbye to the blissful Eden Roc and Hello to put-your-other-head-on-if-you-are-flying-Ryanair. TIP: go through last. The first 85%'ish passengers for this flight were told by a po-faced member of Ryanair staff their bags were probably too big. Now while it can be mildly amusing watching people attempt to wear all their clothing so their bag will shove into that flippin' measuring box thing it's all so unneccesarily stressful. As it started to dawn on the the aforementioned 'po-faced one' we were almost at take-off time, all checking went out the cattle-shed departure lounge windows (if you'd flown Ryanair out of Milan you'll know exactly what I mean) and she practically threw us on the bus. Shame. I was feeling thrilled we wouldn't get that bloody trumpet fanfare when we landed in Stansted as we were clearly going to be late.

I think Ryanair should be renamed Supermarket Sweep as the first 30-45 minutes seem to be taken up with the sale of scratch cards, duty free, food (that's truly what they call it), sweets, magazines, newspapers, puppies and kittens. Ok, I made the last two up but you get my drift. By the time they came around with drinks I'd totally lost interest. One blessing: we weren't flying EasyJet and we didn't have to sing Happy Birthday to cabin staff member Wayne, Britney or Chelsea.

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 08:16 Archived in Switzerland Tagged boats restaurant shopping bar cheese boutique pasta ham ascona falke Comments (0)

Lake Maggiore - Ferries & Flirtation

And Chocolate Heaven - well it is Switzerland!

sunny 82 °F

==The Sparrows are Still so Polite at Breakfast==

...not like the massive scary black crows at The Taj in Mumbai where I suggested importing Trafalgar Square's falcons to the tearful restaurant manageress.

We sat marvelling at water and sky; both clear blue after the previous night's storm. Guests plodded, pottered and plopped into the (beyond chilly) lake for their morning float. Scullers skimmed from East to West and, in the distance, a lone water skier made graceful turns, the sunlight glinting on perfect spray arches.

However, my eye couldn't help but be drawn to a young Italian flinging herself on and off her sunlounger, picking up a book, throwing it down, lotion on, hat on, hat off, into the water, on the lilo, off the lilo. It was exhausting and I don't want you to think I was 'spying' (there's that word again) but...this was a fascinating study in female flirtation. I was just a bit slow on the up-take in realising her 'show' was for the restaurant waiters setting up for lunch.

Hooting ferries pass by;

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time to get on the water. A ten minute stroll along Ascona's promenade (and a lighteningly fast produced pizza SERVED WITH A SMILE) saw us hop on a ferry (48 Swiss Francs/£32 each for a return trip) to Locarno. We didn't get off at San Nazzaro, Vira or Magadino en route; it looked as though they were sleeping.

Locarno is busy compared to everywhere else. The Piazza Grande is indeed Grande and a good place to wander, window shop and eat gelatto. Five minutes walk from the Ferry Station you can jump on a funicular railway up to an old monastery. The walk back down apparently takes around 30 minutes or you can swing up to 1,600m in a cable car. Sadly, we didn't have time for either; there is a shop very close to the Station selling heaven's idea of chocolate by the gram. Fashionable salty, chilli topped, nuts, black as black varieties all displayed like the jewels and watches in adjacent stores. The journey 'home' was obviously going to be fraught with anxiety; blazing sun = melting chocolate.

Our return ferry 'crew' were having a marvellous day flirting with senioritas on the small beaches as we came into dock at Magadino but making real messes of their mooring pylon lassooing. Yes guys...they did notice!

We hadn't bothered stopping at Vira (it looked the prettiest) because no-one wanted to get off. We were unable to establish what would have happened if someone wanted to get on? I imagine jumping up and down shouting like things possessed would attract their attention but not if they were still giggling and joshing over those senioritas.

Ascona from the water

Ascona from the water

FERRY TIPS

1. Check the timetable. Weekends are different and sometimes you forget what day it is on holiday!

2. Take layers. It can be hot on shore but windy on the water.

3. Sit outside, up front for the best views.

4. Don't forget to tell the crew where you want to get off AND ON!

5. Don't be late; ferries here run with Swiss pricision timing.

6. There is a bar serving drinks and food on board.

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 06:10 Archived in Switzerland Tagged chocolate lake monastery ferry heaven cablecar crew flirting maggiore hotel_eden_roc senioritas funicular_railway Comments (0)

Lake Maggiore - Hey...it's Mr. Speedo!

Tom Daley's got Nothing to Worry About Here!

sunny 84 °F

And finally the sun shines

...the lake is like a mill pond, grass is green, sunloungers white, towels large, fluffy and yellow

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and the bar has ice...oh, it's all going perfectly now.

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This is a rather fab hotel...you can tell; the sparrows (how I miss sparrows back in Suffolk; I blame the raptors) eat croissant not Mother's Pride white sliced, Louis Vuitton bags reserve sun loungers and (if I could smell) there would be a waft of Hermes/Chanel around the pool. There is a light breeze and I spy (funny how that word keeps cropping up) Italians with tiny bikinis and a book (which they never read because they are too busy chatting), Brits dowloading the Daily Telegraph onto ipads, and then there's the French. How come wealthy French ladies never look anything other than cool, uncrumpled and gorgeous? I swear no lakeside umbrella would dare up-end itself around a chic Parisienne. Then there are the Germans with bling earrings and full body tattoos - men and women! Oscar for entertainment, however, goes to the Italian wearing minuscule white Speedos, a Captain's hat (if he's Captain of anything I'll eat my Prada sunglasses), and reading a comic book...what the heck's that all about? And when will men wise-up and realise the only bodies that should be seen in Speedos are Olympic divers?

There are no flies in the ointment apart from clouds of minuscule white ones, which don't appear to bite but make me relieved I didn't have my delicate little nasal hairs removed along with the coiffuring of eyebrows. (Yes...nasal hair removal hurts like nothing on God's earth; you need to be feeling 100% brave to withstand the agony.)

The closer we get to brunch the bigger the arriving boats. Boats_Maggiore.jpg

Always good for a laugh this; try and look cool whilst mooring and you are guaranteed to make a total Horlicks of it. And if you throw a dog into the mix...well, it's pure poetry. Funny how "stupid b***y dog" sounds the same in any language isn't it! (My other half and I realised many years ago, whilst living in the South of France, that owning a boat and a sense of humour have to go hand-in-hand.) The finest specimen on show at Eden Rock is a drool-making 60+ft Riva complete with shiny headed Capitain [sic] in pristine white polo shirt. N.B. to white Speedo man....he isn't wearing a 'Captain' cap.

And all this lazing with a cold glass of Prosecco, this month's glossy magazines and a clear blue sky. Church bells - it is Sunday after all - ring out in the surrounding hills (4pm is especially tuneful). Even the ducks are happy.

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Where does time fly away to on days like this?

Posted by haveyoubeenyet 03:22 Archived in Switzerland Tagged churches boats captain lake_ hotel_eden_roc lake_maggiore speedos Comments (0)

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