In September 2004 we joined a group of twenty sportscars on a tour of the European Alps, organised by Dettaglio for the web club PistonHeads. During the six days we were on the road we covered some two thousand miles in six countries and once again made many new friends. The route we took is outlined below:
After a short trip through the Chunnel we spent the first day on a gentle cruise through France and Belgium to our overnight destination in Vervins. La Tour du Roy hotel is a mock chateau, beautifully furnished in keeping with its period and offering the best of French cuisine.
Day two began with a visit to the now disused racetrack at Chimay, and despite the rain it proved a stimulating warm up for the main event. After enjoying the French rural scene and skipping in and out of Luxembourg, easily missed if you have your thumb in the wrong place on the map, we arrived in Germany. Climbing steadily up winding mountain roads we reached our second stop, the spectacular Schlosshotel Buhlerhoehe set high up in the mountains. This proved to be one of the most luxurious hotels we have ever stayed at, with breathtaking views over the Black Forest, a fine restaurant and every facility you could dream of. However, the next morning a mist had descended, depriving us of the scenery and transforming the place into a sinister castle fit for Dracula himself.
As we drove back down the mountain the mist disappeared and we had the rare opportunity to exercise our cars on the unrestricted German autobahn. Crossing into Switzerland we savoured the main dish of the day, a wonderful twisting climb up the Grimsel Pass. This has to be one of the best drives in Europe - forty miles of tarmac in prime condition, armco in all the right places and one hairpin after another relentlessly challenging the driver. Our third stop was at the Grimsel Hospiz, a quality hotel perched on its own small peak at the top of the Pass. We arrived to find several inches of snow, but recently cleared from the road by the ever-efficient Swiss maintenance crew.
The next morning we had the unusual experience of starting the day by driving downhill. But this driving Nirvana still had much to offer - the Furkapass, St Gotthard Pass, Nufenenpass, Col du Grand St. Bernard and Petit St Bernard and a final pretty run along the shores of Lake Annecy to our fourth overnight stop at Le Cottage Bise in Talloires.
As we left the Alps to return north to Reims I felt the real driving was probably over, but I was wrong. Just north west of Geneva between Gex and Poligny we enjoyed a final exhilaration along some delightful French roads parallel with the Swiss border. The main motoring attraction of rural France is the lack of traffic, allowing you to both drive and enjoy the surroundings without the constant hassle of overtaking. Also, because the roads are winding and undulating they test your driving skills without the need for excessive speed. Although the journey from Talloires was almost four hundred miles, we basked in the sunshine with the roof down all the way and arrived relaxed and on time for our farewell dinner at L'Assiette Champenoise in Reims.
We completed our tour with a visit to the champagne house Moet et Chandon at nearby Epernay before returning to Calais for our Chunnel ride home. If you enjoy mountain driving, French cuisine, fine wines and good like-minded company then there are few better holidays than taking a tour with Dettaglio.