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Mille Miglia Road Trip Part Seven

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Friday 31st May 2013

Beastie let me lie in this morning so we had a latish breakfast at 9.00 but nonetheless we were all ready to go very promptly. We are getting the hang of this touring stuff. It’s all to do with organisation and lots of bags! Today our destination was Rome and we set off excited with one adventure behind us and another awaiting. Of course as now seems to be the way,we went the wrong way in San Marino about 30 seconds into our journey and found ourselves facing a policeman somewhere we shouldn’t have been, having missed a ridiculous 180 degree turn and having very little room to turn round. The Policeman won the face off and we turned around. I am glad Beastie likes to start these days of driving.

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Our stay in Rome was for two nights so we decided to try to stick more closely to the true Mille Miglia route for the first half of our journey to Rome and avoided not just the toll roads but anything that even looked like a motorway. Consequently, we had a lovely drive through the hills, not really mountains but some were pretty high and it was all looking just like Italy ought to. Beastie was still in the driving seat and SilverBeast roared up every hill and popped and banged down every hill too. He was loving it and clearly so too was SilverBeast. However, we couldn’t dally all day in this beauty or we would never get to Rome, even though as we all know, all roads lead to it.

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We had planned a stop in Spoleto but on the way spotted a beautiful town again plastered up the side of a rock. This turned out to be Assisi, so we made this our lunch stop. We weaved up some roads and parked in an underground car park that handily had escalators to the top. The rain had been spoiling for a fight again, and began in earnest just as we found the centre of the town. Clearly then, it was time for lunch but everyone else thought so too and it took a while to get settled. And then it rained… It looked like the storm had followed us from San Marino and waited until we got out of the car to strike. But Ha, we were cosy and eating pizza so… Screw you rain!

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We had a walk around this lovely town, took some pictures and decided that if we ever did this drive again we would include an overnight stop here. It really was that pretty and like San Marino, nothing was out of place. Lunch over we pressed on as Rome beckoned and arriving at 5.00pm didn’t seem to be the best time to get a good run in to the city. Beastie had a scare while I was driving as suddenly a siren blared and he thought the Police were going to pull me over. However, it was due to us being teenagers in the 1970s and it was only Blockbuster by Sweet blaring out over the HiFi!

And yes we arrived in Rome around five we were right, it was busy! However, As luck would have it I had booked a place the right side of Rome and by jumping on the motorway at the last knockings, it meant that the traffic wasn’t too bad. We found the hotel – the Hotel Tiburtina – easily enough and it proved to be very pleasant and close to the Metro with free parking. Oh boy, I am a genius and don’t worry I remind Mr Beastie of this fact often!

We decided that a little foray into the city to try out the Metro and get our bearings would be a good idea for the evening. So we walked the 10 minutes to the Metro station and then bought our tickets. The thing with Italians is, ok so Italian is the first language and then, well English would be the next for most people to understand and the Italians get this. Not so the French though, who have French first and then… struggle. So buying our ticket was made very simple as we had an English option, and 1.50 each, each way seemed a bargain for a 20 minute ride. We got out at Colosseo and wham(!), there it was right slap bang in front of us, the Colosseum.

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A few pics and then it was time to eat and wait until dark for some more when it would be lit up. Dinner was a simple but tasty meal consisting of one pizza and one spaghetti carbonara, which we shared. after dinner we walked all round the Colosseum taking lots of night photos on the Fuji X-E1, which we hope have turned out good.

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After this it was A quick train ride home and here we are back again at our hotel in Rebibbia, very chuffed that we managed a train ride to the centre of Rome, when we have in fact already driven 2,500 miles in the last week!

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Mille Miglia Road Trip Part Six

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Thursday 30th May 2013

Another early start as we have a long way to go and want some time to enjoy San Marino. Our route followed various Mile Miglia routes avoiding toll roads but this of course meant we spent a lot of time behind lorries. Coffee and cake mid morning and a snack for lunch meant we arrived in San Marino at 2.15. I’m not sure what the sat nav was on but it gave us a stupendous route into the town for the last 20 km, not the way it was signposted, but over windy, bendy roads and ever increasing hills until we finally reached the town itself, which was plastered up the side of a mountain. This was our first sighting of San Marino.

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We drove into the old town looking for our hotel and stopped when we could not find it, only to be told it was just round the corner from where we had come to a halt. SilverBeast though had been clocked by some tourists as a JCW MINI Coupe is a rare sight in Italy, so we spent 10 minutes showing people the car and letting them photograph it, before we moved on to park at the hotel. And yes you are right, of course we loved the attention that the car was getting! I suspect that MINI sales in Greece will be up by one shortly!

The hotel was simply the perfect location, nestling in the shadow of the old castle and just about as high up as you could get. Our stay in Brescia the day before was made all the more perfect for our hotel being right in the old centre and Peanut had come up trumps again when she found the Hotel Rosa in San Marino. We checked in, threw our cases into the room and set off to explore San Marino. This is the view from our hotel bedroom window.

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After looking in most of the shops we went up to one of the three turrets that guard the city. The climb up to the turret itself was quite scary to be honest and involved us clambering up a steep stairway and then rungs and out onto the floor of the keep. Well that was bad enough but then we also had to come down said awful stairway to get out again and Beastie kindly volunteered to go first so I could fall on his head! Fortunately I didn’t!

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A small beer in a sunny corner and then it was time to get back to the hotel and get sorted out for the evening, and at this point I decided to soak in the lovely corner bath. A few interweb jobs and it was time to go out and eat.

It was by now quite windy and cold and not at all the sort of evening for a stroll, so we went back to a place we had seen earlier which seemed to be the place to eat, as it was very quiet in town and we didn’t fancy sitting in a corner like Billy No Mates with a plate of food. The view from Nido del Falco – the restaurant we were in – was out of this world. The pictures don’t really do it justice.

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It was even colder when we came out, so one picture of the turret lit up and then home…quickly!

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Mille Miglia Road Trip Part Five

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Wednesday 29th May 2013

The start of our road trip today so we needed an early start to get the 600 km journey to Italy done and dusted. It was bright and lovely when we left and the journey was completely hitch free which was nice.

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We arrived at the Mille Miglia museum at about 12.45 and thought we would have lunch there before we went in. The restaurant looked very nice, a bit posh really for a museum, but as it turned it we never ate there because the Aston Martin owners club had a do on there and it was their turn for lunch. So no-one else got a look in and the restaurant was closed to everyone else, which was a bit poor we thought. But hey ho we walked out of the museum and had two paninis and drinks in a proper Italian bar in the town.

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Then back to the museum and a look round before the Aston hoards spoilt our pictures (as well as our lunch!). We had the place to ourselves for our visit, which was nice, but the shop itself didn’t have anything we really wanted to buy. That was odd as we had an idea of what we would like, a badge, a hat, maybe a red jacket for me. But no red jackets, no badges and the baseball hats were E30 which really seemed a rip off. The museum though at E7 was really good value and well worth visiting.

After a short but quite fraught journey into the centre of old Brescia we found our hotel, checked in and got the car parked up. Brescia is a lovely town full, and I do mean full, of watch shops, both new and second hand stuff, things that you rarely see, so Beastie was happy as Larry. As we mooched around the rain began to get heavier and the thunder boomed.

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We decided eventually to go back to the hotel and get some tea, dry out and wait for the storm to pass, which it did, and by 5.30 the sun was shining and we looked forward to a dry evening stroll and nice meal.

We walked up the hill to the castle took a few pictures and then came back into town and found a nice restaurant where we had a few drinks and some pasta dishes. The storm clouds grew as we ate but luckily we got back to our hotel before any serious rain.

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Tomorrow we head for San Marino.

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Mille Miglia Road Trip Part Four

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Tuesday 28th May 2013

Not such a bright start today, in fact quite gloomy. So I had tea in bed and a long lie-in and read while Beastie updated his blog and other interweb stuff. The plan was to go to St Maxime and drool in front of the best watch shop in town, maybe try something on. Oddly, although the car park was full, there seemed to be no-one in town and we never did find out where they had gone. Then to cap it all, the watch shop was shut on Tuesdays. So one miffed Beastie and although he tried to put on a brave face, I suspect we will be back before we go home.

We mooched about and ended up in a cafe where we had a late breakfast croissant and chocolate. As the weather had still not improved we thought we might visit some of our other favourite shops in Cogolin – Maison du Monde and Gifi,. Both had their temptations but we left empty handed and ended up in good old Geant for some odds and ends.

Dinner was Chinese followed by the lovely cakes you see above and as this was a quiet photo day we have also padded things out with a picture of our home while we stay in the south of France.

We will be off on our road trip tomorrow so some packing was required, and a little planning for the day ahead. It soon started raining so it looks like our journey to Italy might start out like our last one, in the pouring rain. I have to say it has been unseasonably cold here for the end of May, as the locals are very keen to tell us. But all things are relative and cold here is 18 and cloudy, so not that much like home at the moment. Still we are glad that we have a few jumpers in our wardrobe.

Montalbano was finished today so Beastie is starting on Dan Browne’s latest Inferno, which is set in Florence, so just about right for our Italian road trip!

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Mille Miglia Road Trip Part Three

Monday 27th May 2013

A leisurely day was planned once again for today, so it began with me updating the diary once more while Peanut enjoyed another hour in bed. Eventually she awoke and hailed the butler to serve tea in bed. The sun streaming into our bedroom finally demanded that we got up and went out to play.

Play was nothing more than a drive into St Tropez for a mooch around the shops. The coast road skirting the Golfe de St Tropez was very quiet and the sea was mill pond flat and we drank in the scenery along the drive and decided to park by the port and walk by the boats and into town, instead of parking at Place des Lices as we usually do.

Obviously our first job the was to choose which boat we liked the most and while there were several candidates it was a beautiful wooden decked Riva that won our hearts. The first bit of virtual shopping was quickly done then.



As we reached the port proper there was a clothes shop right on the corner just on the edge by the end of the port car park and the window display was stunning. I like those trousers said Mrs P pointing at some finely striped slightly distressed white jeans, so in we went. All the clothes were lovely and I had to try the jeans on. Very nice but at 125 Euros they needed thinking about, especially as we had only been in St Tropez for ten minutes! We decided to see if we had any pennies left after doing our drive around Italy. Virtual shopping part deux then!


We then walked along the edge of the port towards the centre and were struck by the charm of St Tropez. It was busy but not manically so and the port was not rammed with boats, so it looked very photogenic. I took a panoramic shot on the Fuji X-E1, which in the camera looks good, so I am looking forward to sharing that when I get home and can view it properly and upload it. On this holiday we are starting to appreciate some of the extra features on the Fuji. The video, was great for capturing the sound of the bells on the cows we saw yesterday and this panorama was great for capturing St Tropez. Thinking about it the iPhone has these features too, so I must try them out, as I have to say the iPhone 5 really has been a step up from the iPhone 4 we have.

Anyway, past the artist stalls on the harbour edge and our way to the Breitling shop was blocked by a humongous Rolls Royce in matt gunmetal grey with chrome alloys. It was so bad it was good. In fact it was more than good, it was obscenely, ostentatiously, gloriously bad ass good. I love glimpsing how the rich live, I don’t feel envious or jealous and I don’t resent that I will never be a part of it, or that the best I can do is report on it, I just like seeing it now and again. It is what makes the world go around, it is what drives the world and makes for change, creates wealth and money which is what you need to make the world a better place. More importantly, the really rich do not do bland and their cars reflect this, they are loud and stand out and we love them.


Well we had to pop into the Breitling boutique, it would be rude not to and in short order I had a military style 48mm cased Chronospace on my wrist. I photographed it and shared it on line. My pal RVW said it was too big on my wrist. I guess he was right but I didn’t care, I loved it and so did Mrs P. However, in reality, not only was it too big for my wrist, it was too big for my wallet! I loved it though and the case and the bracelet were the exact same shade as the Rolls Royce we had just seen. I went outside to tell the man with the Rolls that I had just found the perfect watch for him!


We carried on exploring, passing a huge black Hummer on the corner and I began to think that a Hummer would also be a good car for a man with a military styled £5000 Breitling Chronospace! You see, I love St Tropez, it makes me dream. The window displays are all so good and Naf Naf and Promod are there as well as your Dolce and Gabbana and Luis Vuitton!

Lunch beckoned, so we headed up through the Three Arches and joined the rue de la Citadelle to eat at a place we liked just by Place Forbin. Fish soup starter, dourade fish main and tarte tropeziane dessert with a pitcher of rosé wine, made the world seem a lovely place.


More meandering around the town after lunch before walking back to the car, which by now seemed a long long way away in the port car park. We had planned an afternoon walk in the hills near Gassin, but we had walked enough so we went home for afternoon tea and then popped into Charlie’s bar for a lager and a play on the Internet.

Charlie’s Bar is 50 yards from our flat. The chap who owns it runs a building crew who are renovating the Beauvallon hotel nearby on the road to Ste Maxime and his gang get their tea and a pint after work in his bar. Most are scousers and it really is a corner of England. While we were there tea was served, which oddly was a full English breakfast but huge with loads of toast on top. We were having bolognaisse on fresh tagliatelle for our evening meal and it almost got put on hold when we saw the food being served up at Charlie’s Bar!

We resisted and over dinner convinced ourselves that we did the right thing as the fresh pasta really was delicious. Sometimes in life you have to say these things even though deep inside…

A walk into Port Grimaud saw out our evening, before bed time with Inspector Montalbano for my read.

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Mille Miglia Road Trip Part Two

Sunday 26th May 2013


I awoke early to brilliant sunshine and crisp air that guaranteed it would be a day filled with the wonderful bright light that has made painters gravitate to the south of France for centuries. After such a long miserable winter in the UK the quality of the light here struck us both throughout the day. It was just a joy to behold.

I let Peanut lie in and after a quick bowl of flakes I sat down on the terrasse and began this holiday diary. This would become the routine, followed by tea in bed and then we would get ready for the day. Today’s plan was simple a drive to the beach at L’Escalet for a walk and sunbathing.

This is a lovely drive going through the hill top villages of Gassin and Ramatuelle before dropping down to the beach at L’Escalet. SiverBeast enjoyed the windy hill climb up to Gassin and in sports mode the engine popped and cracked wonderfully. We have done this drive hundreds of times over the years in all of our cars and it is always fun but the pops and bangs in SilverBeast surpassed those of all that had gone before, including our supercharged Works Checkmate MINI.

On the drive we passed the windmills at Moulin de Paillas and stopped to take some photographs as we had spotted a herd of lovely brown cows with bells round their necks. It was lovely listening to the music of their bells filling the air and Peanut did a quick video to try and catch the sound.

From here we dropped down to Ramatuelle which is nestled on the coastal side of these hills looking down on the famous beaches of Pampelonne. The route through the town was blocked by their Sunday market, so we made another impromptu stop and explored the market. Our cameras were busy once more, again inspired by the clarity in the bright light and the wonderful photo opportunities that the market gave us.


As you can see our twenty minute drive to the beach had somewhat lengthened so when we finally got to L’Escalet the first thing we did was have lunch at the food and drinks van by the beach. This is a ritual for us and something we have done on every holiday we have down here. A hamburger and chips baguette laced with mayo and rose wine in a plastic cup – never let it be said that Mr Beastie doesn’t’ know how to spoil his bird!


We walked lunch off with a coastal walk, turning back at a chateau owned by a rich American wine maker, whose vineyards are harvested by moonlight to ensure the perfect taste! Pretentious yes, but gloriously so and therefore totally excusable in my book!


Back at the car we armed ourselves with towels and la sun brolly and walked the other way along the coast towards Cap Taillat and our favourite little cove there. It was windier than we would have liked and the sea was too cold for me but we decamped and had a snooze. There was a lot of driftwood there which really would be better cleared away, so We will see how this looks when we come back in a month or so.

Our evening was quiet just in the apartment. We cooked dinner on the barbecue – rice with salmon steaks and ratatouille, followed by caramel flavoured perle de lait and cheese and crackers.

The salmon steaks were gorgeous and really benefitted from being cooked on the BBQ and the ratatouille out of a tin, while looking a somewhat unappealing mud colour tasted lovely too. The perle de lait was lovely but would have benefitted from the addition of smashed maltesers! Finally the cheese. We had picked two soft cheeses from Geant, a Zola/mascarpone and one in its own baking pot that was also delicious hot. We ate it cold and both tasted lovely. We washed it all down with a local rosé wine and a grand Marnier night cap! Yep I’m on holiday and loving every second of it!

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Mille Miglia Road Trip Diary

Holiday in France and Driving the Mille Miglia Route

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We had been looking forward to this trip for a long time it was a dream put on hold when The Big C came knocking on my door and demanded a fight. Well the referee lifted my hand at the end of that long fight (I don’t relish a rematch that’s for sure), so this trip has come off the back burner. The route had been planned, the hotels booked and now at last departure day has arrived and a 16 day European adventure awaits.

Day One – Friday 24th May 2013

A normal day in work for me but with a twist – at 4.30 Peanut was picking me up and we were driving straight to Dover to start our holiday. By the time 4.30 came and after another manic day in work I was really excited. The girls I work with sent me off with kind wishes for a great holiday and I left the building and stepped into the waiting SiverBeast. Peanut smile a greeting and I was on holiday. A quick kiss, The Channel Tunnel on our sat nav and we were off!

We were both really excited and chattering away about all sorts, the holiday, what we had packed even the fact that Peanut’s Mum had sewn Velcro pads onto BullyBeast’s feet so that he wouldn’t be flying around in the car. BullyBeast by the way, is our soft toy mascot that sits in SilverBeast guarding him. The train check in was 9.20 so Peanut thought we could stop off at a pub en route for a bite to eat. Sounds like a plan I said. Yep we were excited and giddy and still only 10 miles into our drive. Turn left said the sat nav girl but we were both too excited for her to get our attention and we missed her instruction!

Yep 10 miles in on our epic European adventure and we had gone the wrong way! We had carried on down the M5 to Bristol. I hate going back so we carried on and cut through Stonehouse and Stroud to get back on course. This served only to make matters worse as it was a very slow route. The cost was that our pub dinner became a rushed fish and chips in a service station followed by heavy traffic on the M25 and us only arriving at the Tunnel at the time of check in. We were stressed but for nothing as in truth it was chaos at the Tunnel due to it being Bank holiday weekend and they could not cope with the volume of traffic. All trains were running late and it was 12.30 French time before we drove our first mile on French soil!

Saturday 25th May 2013

The drive down to our apartment in Port Cogolin went without a hitch, there was no traffic problems and armed with a little box in the car we were able to breeze through the tolls. Most of them had quick tolls where you only had to slow to 30 km/h as you drove through the toll and the barrier lifted automatically. This gizmo really does speed up these trips.

However, we had lost a couple of hours waiting to cross the tunnel so our arrival at Port Cogolin was not until 1 pm. However, the drive was especially easy as we made sure we stopped for a small snooze while it was still dark so in truth it was 4 hours of night driving and 6 hours of daylight driving.


We leave the motorway and come into Port Cogolin via La Garde Freinet and Grimaud. This is a beautiful though windy last twenty miles of the drive and we always get so excited doing this bit. We turned into Port Cogolin and were greeted by the sight of the back of our apartment block all freshly painted and gleaming in the sun. A nice surprise and Happy times!

We brought our bags up and spent the next hour unpacking, brushing the patio and generally making the place home. It is a mad hour of hard work but worth it as we are then settled in. It is a very weird feeling as you just carry on from where you left off the last time you were here. You know how sometimes you leave work on a Friday night, have a fantastic weekend but by 10 past nine on the Monday morning it is like the weekend never happened and you are just back at work. Well it is like that but in six month chunks. Most peculiar.

The next job was to get the famous checked shopping trolley out and stroll to Geant the nearby hypermarket to get tea and a sandwich and to stock up on supplies. Back at the apartment and I have already decided I want to have two new canvasses done of photographs from around and about so it’s off for a walk to see what I can photograph for my freshly hatched plan. Dinner with a glass or two of wine and a fun philosophical chat with Lady Peanut rounded off a lovely day.