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Sam's impromptue euro trip ft. Le Mans content

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I’d umm and err’d about doing Le Mans for weeks, it’d be a solo trip, so was hesitant. I’d booked the days off work, including the week after, and last Friday I decided I had to do it. A last minute call to 1st Tickets and I had a spot at Premier Vert. At the very last minute (12 hours prior to the crossing) I purchased a ticket from an other PH’er for a cheap crossing. Not knowing if I’d just come home Monday, or extend my trip over the following week.

The Z4M was loaded up, I packed bloody everything. Clothes for hot, cold, rain and 10 days worth. Beer cooler ended up in the footwell as the boot was so packed! Le Mans was on! My ‘bulb gone’ light appeared 40 miles outside of the track, I’d decided to get some supplies, pulling off the motorway I spotted a BMW dealer, some result. We struggled to understand each other, but got to the point they understood my Xenon bulb had gone (£176!). But, I remembed I’d struggled changing the beam deflection for driving abroad, turns out I’d managed to knock the connector off, money saved. Stuck to a sensible speed, plod seemed to be up to all sorts, saw at least 4 people pulled over. Upon arriving I setup camp, had a warm beer, thanks ‘cooler’ and settled in. Quickly joined a group, and others also joined. 8 of us sat around the telly and someones camper, I had a good spot. Their telly suffered a stray bottle (as the dish wasn’t doing it’s job), so already onto the 2nd tv…

The temptation to sit in the shade watching the TV with cold beers and a toilet the other side of the camper meant I didn’t see as much track side racing as I’d have liked, but it was a good spot. Managed to see the last 4 hours from the Guiness bar near tertre rouge with a great vantage point (the last of the photos). We headed over to the music, which was very disappointing. Possibly the worst DJ I’ve ever heard, followed by some s**te band. Ultimately lost 3 hours of night racing to that…

I got back to camp at 3:30, and learnt that the dish had flown off the roof and taken the 2nd TV out at 3:10, good timing! A few post race beers and to bed. I woke up still not knowing if I was going to go home, or make a trip out of it. I decided I was silly not to explore a bit, so started making plans. I figured heading towards Germany, for some ring time, or museums etc. I settled on Dijon, it was far enough to get me into Germany and cheap for an overnight. 6 hours later, I arrived in Dijon, had a well deserved swim and shower and headed out for some proper French food, steak frites!

That brings us up to now. Sitting in my hotel in Dijon, planning the rest of the trip, I’ve figured I can get down to Italy before heading home. So, Stelvio Pass tomorrow, just the 7 hours (343 miles). I plan on staying local, so I can do a few drives tomorrow and wed. Before heading off again. Loose plan is to head over to Munich, get to the BMW Museum. Then onto the ring, probably for some mentalist to take me for a spin. Then onto Luxemburg & Ghent before getting what ever crossing I can manage. Nothing is booked, I’ll do it on the road at pit stops. Lets see what happens.

Here are some photos so far, watch this space for more updates…

Your winner...

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Just crossed Into Switzerland, a quick stop for a traditional French lunch, fromage, jambon dans la baugette (as good as my French gets...).

Petrol station roulette isn't fun, driving in the middle of no where with 30 miles left, along the best roads I've had all week! New rule, if it's at half, fill up! Even a full tank only gets 200 on a good day.

Lunch stop at Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland. 220km left to do, all fairly scenic. Need to get some pics of the motor, this will have to do for now...

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Decisions decisions....

Done a few passes today, will try and get some pics up tonight.

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Today was the day for the passes. Previously I had decided on a few alternative ones from Stelvios Pass, as I’d read some negatives. If they were better or not, I’m not sure, but they blew me away! I was never going to set records, but enjoy the drive and maybe the odd blast in between the curvy bits. It started off quick at the bottom of Sustens pass, but soon it became too twisty to carry any speed, and I could smell the brakes from the drivers seat, so I relaxed and just enjoyed the views.

Sustens pass turned into Grimsel pass quickly, apart from all the stops. I’m sure I overtook the same van 4 or 5 times, as I was stopping so often! I climbed passed 7300ft and back down again, before stopping for a quick ‘boiled sausage’ and chips, yours for the cheap price of €30, with a coke. I wasn’t going mad, you’d be silly to use too much of the loud pedal, but it was still exhilarating, the noise of the S54 bouncing off the cliff faces, and nothing between you and a fairly hefty drop. Use low gears for maximum noise and engine braking, slight concern the brakes would give in and I’d coast over the cliff edge.

The staff at last nights hotel gave me some good tips for places to stay after the passes too, so I hit the road with nowhere to stay. Eventually, at my lunch stop (4:30pm…) I booked a hotel just outside Laax. You can defiantly see the transition between French Swiss and German Swiss as you go along. Annoyingly, rain was on and off, so additional stops to put the top up or down were required. I finally reached camp at 7pm, with 7 hours of driving, but only covering about 150 miles. A quick dip, followed by a very overpriced (£40) veal steak. Thunder roars in the background.

That’s up to now. I have decided Munich is the next stop, I can either go direct, taking me 4 hours, or go via (it’s not really a via…) Stelvios pass, which would add an additional 3 hours (albeit 75 miles!). For the sake of it, I think I’ll go the long route, it is after all what I set out to do in the first place, I’ll just get up early and make tracks.

So far, I’ve been lucky and only had one causality (apart from 10,000 flies), the air duct for the brakes. I’ll have to sort it once I can get the car on a jack. Daily checks of tyres, oil and coolant are being done also. I also recently installed the intravee II, basically provides more diag info for the car. It's more of a hindrance though, I am keeping an eye on the stats, and coolant topped out at 99 degrees, and oil went well past the half way mark.

As I tick over 1150 miles. Total is looking to be 2400…

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I'm defiantly doing stevlios pass, I'm so close! A quick continental and I'm off.

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Today was set to be a long one, with the diversion via Stelvio pass. I set off at 11, taking the scenic route down. The pass up to Stelvio was almost the best yet, although they are all breathtaking! I'd stopped as I saw a Brit with his bonnet open, offered my spare coolant if they needed, but were just on a cooldown. Hope the guys were ok.

I managed to get a fairly clear run at stevlio's too, only catching a car towards the end. It really takes it out of you, legs are struggling a bit. Car once again took it in its stride, but you can't get any speed, it's just constant 2nd pull aways, keeping the oil very warm! I met a Swiss guy who I followed in a 370Z, he make quicker progress than me, but when I stopped he was there, photo of the 2 below. Also got 'toged by a guy selling shots coming down Stelvio , I'll post it up when I buy a shot.

Once the passes were done, it was time to make tracks. I was in Italy and still needed to go through Austria, before getting into Germany. €10 for the vignette, although I didn't go on a motorway (I think!) so a waste. Getting stuck behind 2 articulated lorries up the windy bits really hindered progress, barely got over 20kph. Crossed the border into Germany and time to make some progress!

Finally on the autobahn, I put my foot down, with the top down. Topped out at 144mph (gps), and then it got too busy. Checked into eurostars hotel and went for some food. I had arrived at 8pm, 9 hours on the road, with only stopping for fuel or the views.

Tonight's decision is, BMW museum, or get to the ring and hope to score a free ride (I've asked on here if anyone is about!). My tyres are really close to the limit and think a lap would kill them. Although I could dordle about. After that, 1 more stop, probably in Belgium, to add to the country count, before heading home. Lost would stand as: France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, U.K.

Photos don't do any of it justice, but here are some to entice you across...

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Now I'm on a PC again, I can be a little more constructive with my posts...

Munich arrived after another rather long stint in the car. After a long day driving, I’d just headed to the hotel bar for dinner, a cheap pizza in the bar with a beer. Annoying the French football was on, so ended up listening to that rubbish, whilst finding my next hotel in Luxemburg. Up early and out to see if I could beat the crowds at BMW Walt. The hotel view left a lot to be desired…

Thankfully it was fairly quite at 11, when I arrived (it’s early for a holiday ok…). I’ve been before, so it was all fairly similar, with a few different cars about. Photos below. Once done, it was back on the road, with the target being my Luxemburg hotel, purely to add to the country count! The ring was a no go, as it wasn’t open to the public. Fairly uneventful part of the trip, the views, whilst great, were not matching the Alps. Luxembourg threw me a bit too, seems a more difficult city to navigate, but got there in the end. It looked a little fancy so wore my only shirt down for dinner. 6 people in the restaurant, waste of time that was! A fantastic steak (again, there is a theme) and an early(ish) night.

A good selection of drinks!

With some nice cars in the carpark

I’d never been to Luxemburg, so wanted to explore a bit, whilst it wasn’t disappointing, there didn’t seem much to wow. Mainly shops, or office buildings. Found a little café (about 100 of them actually) and settle in for a croc monsieur & coffee.

During the drive on this day, the other brake air ducts bit the dust too, as well as the bumper doing this, but was easy enough to pop back on thankfully!

You could also defiantly see the difference in approach to hotels and how they were run. The Alps hotels were all very warming and friendly, whilst the city hotels all very clinical and staff who just looked fed up. I imagine its season, off-peak in the Alps now, peak in citys.

I need to also point out this is probably the best 1 item for the whole trip (apart from the car of course!). My iPhone holder. €7 at a petrol station, the 4th I’d looked in for it. The built in sat nav is neigh on useless, so I was relying on my phone, but sitting in the handbrake area, it wasn’t the best!

And some of the BMW photos....

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Sorry for the delay (if anyone is still reading)!

I feel I’ve undersold Luxemburg, I didn’t really explore that much, just the main square. Alas, it was a quick stop off as I’d done plenty of miles. Packing up I knew my last overnight stop was to be Brugge, I’ve been a few times and it’s a great place to waste some time wondering about the history and shops. Once again, same day discounted hotels helped, but as its peak tourist season, I still ended up paying through the nose!

The journey was short (3h30m), and uneventful. Upon arriving and turning down a cobbled street, to which it seemed like I was going to drive right into the centre, it appeared there was some event on. (a ¼ triathlon). I finally found the car park and checked into my room at 2pm. The plan was to get here early, so I could get my touristy bit done on the Saturday and hit the road early Sunday. After unpacking a bit and finding a faulty safe, leaving my belongings behind reception, I headed out in a downpour, adamant to get my family and friends some gifts before the shops shut. A scenic route via a few monumental buildings and very heavy pricing for some chocolates I headed back to dry off.

Rain stopped and clothes changed, I had spotted the hotel bar had a cover I could sit under if it decided to rain, so headed out again. I swear all Europeans think we’re all massive piss heads, and the usual ‘large, of course?’ question is posed, obviously answered with an enthusiastic Oui! I then headed into the town again to find some food, the triathlon was in full swing, and the atmosphere was buzzing, so I just stood on the side-lines and watched for what turned out to be nearly an hour. Fantastic atmosphere around the place. 1 final steak and another beer with a view of the race before heading back to the hotel for an early night.

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As I woke up, it suddenly hit me that I needed to book the chunnel, I made a call to see if I could be cheeky and use the return for the previous Monday (which I’d purchased off a fellow PH’er cheap), and rearrange, but it wasn’t possible. £100 later for a single from Calais to Folkstone. Just before heading out to my car, my brother had called all giddy about a GTV V6 that was up for sale “close by” and would I go see it with him. I explained I was 5 hours away and probably wanted to head home etc, but I convinced myself I wanted to see it too! I was due to get home about 3, so had time anyway. I hit the road for the short, 1 hour, drive to Calais and searched for a Auchan or Carrefour, bearing in mind it was now Sunday I ended up visiting 3 little shops and taking what little 1664 the last one had. In the end the ‘port’ was the best place, 24x50cl cans of saint Omar, I was adamant I could get 6 of the buggars in the car!

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Well, it was a tall order, and I had to put the roof in the “can’t go down” position (it’s a latch that increases boot space), but I managed it. I calculated I had 101litres of beer aboard, I then googled the limit and found it to be 110, lucky the car was full! The rest of the journey was uneventful, I made it to my brothers, completed the hours’ drive to see the car, not buy it, basically drive within 10 miles of my own home, to have to drop him off an hour away and then drive back. I got home at 9pm. That V6 noise though… I think it was the cherry on the top of the proverbial petrolheads eurotrip.

A sad time.
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Yes, all this in a Z4M boot and passenger seat...
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The poor car must be exhausted, I left with 800 miles until the service was due, and the brake fluid change light on, the MOT due 1 week after I returned and it missing 2 air ducts. It was promptly tested and failed on rear discs and a broken rear spring, rear tyres were an advisory @ 2mm. It’s currently with a local specialist to do the following:

New rear discs
New rear pads
New rear springs
Oil change
Micro filter change
Oil filter change
Brake fluid change
MOT re-test


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I forgot to do my summary!

The trip was booked 5 days before the start of LeMans, with my crossing booked 9 hours before departure, with no plans other than a tent in a field. Hotels were booked as I went and made sure to go the scenic route at every turn.

I travelled over 2300 miles, 1800 of them in 6 days. I drove through 4 countries in 8 hours. I went as high as 9000ft and as low as 28ft. Without fail, I would get out of the car and feel as fresh as when I got in. I didn't doubt the cars ability to do it, just mine!

I don't have exact details of the MPG, there was enough to think of. But it averaged ~220miles to a tank, costing roughly €65, making for a total of €680 and 575 litres of fuel. The car reached a maximum speed of 144mph (GPS) with ease, coolant went well over 100degress,  didn't drink and oil or coolant and only suffered 2 slight issues; the air ducts for the front brakes coming lose.

Below is a map with a rough idea of where I went, I can only add 10 places, so some of it I would have done different routes.

England - France - Switzerland - Italy - Austria - Germany - Luxembourg - Belgium - France - England
Google link: https://goo.gl/maps/HzfaKgiR7p32  

Hotels were as follows:
Dijon - Vertigo - Design Hotels
Switzerland - Hotel Waldegg
Switzerland - Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof
Munich - Eurostars Grand Central
Luxembourg - Hotel Le Royal
Brugge - Crowne Plaza Hotel Brugge

I'm already considering the next trip, although I want to do it on the same bases as this, just pick locations and drive. So little point planning anything! Maybe 2 weeks to take a bit more in though.

Thanks for reading, I hope it inspires someone out there to do the same.

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Mate that's an epic read, I've skimmed through it, what's the name of the BMW museum or head quarters ?

I wanna go there next month

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It's the BMW museum in Munich, I believe to be called BMW Walt.

It was a hell of a trip, solo was a bit weird, but I imagine with 3-4 cars and a group of you, it'd be epic! I'm trying to rope some car mates into it next year, but they've all got kids. Makes it harder!

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Close, it's BMW Welt. I'm there on Friday.

Got an M3 for an hour, then the fully guided Premium Tour, then a bite to eat.

Then it'll be about 5-6pm, time for next hotel.

Awesome trip mate. I like to plan mine out, as i don't want to miss anything that maybe nearby.

But maybe we can get something sorted for next summer? I've had a guy PM me about next year's trip already!!

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MJN, I'd like to have planned it, but this is just how it worked out. The freedom to stop when I wanted was great, but on the flip side, I can see if you plan it, you get to see everything. I'm sure I drove past many things that'd be worth a stop!

Definitely, just get a topic started and I'll jump on board. maybe 3rd time lucky!

Good luck on your trip, really looking forward to the write up!

Edited by Sam

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4th time lucky ;)

2014, 2016, 2017 and finally 2018!

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This was a great read mate. Thanks for taking the time to do it and share the journey. I think when the kids are older I'm so doing this . Or should I just do it any way and leave them with the Mrs [emoji16]

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Really enjoyed this! Great photo`s too! BMW Museum is on my to do list ...one day lol

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Wow, Epic post Sam. The scenery there is just incredible. That's some load you crammed in the car too. Awesome trip. 

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Thanks guys. It really was an epic trip. Already pushing friends to jump on board the next one, would definitely be better with a few drunken nights thrown in!


Just go with the kids, tell them to be quite and enjoy!

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11 hours ago, Sam said:

Just go with the kids, tell them to be quite and enjoy!

My daughter's first proper roadtrip this year.......



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