Well, all back home and shivering a bit once the sun fades, which it does about 4:30pm and currently, rather wet too!
This was really a two part trip, with a mix of the group stuff with the McLaren trust and therefore a motoring slant for one part. The second part was more personal and included the family time in the UK.
When we first agreed to hook up with the Monaco tour, Paula accepted that it was far more likely to be to my liking than hers and we only really knew a few of the others, vaguely. Initially limited to just 40 people, the popularity was such that the final number was 50 – and that created one or two hiccups and niggles. Promoted as “including factory tours of Maserati, Ferrari and Lamborghini”, this aspect didn’t live up to expectations on a couple of counts.
Rather than getting any reductions due to the increased numbers sharing a coach or getting better discounts, we ended up paying a surcharge for the rail trip to Paris (we still don’t know why!) and the number allowed to go around Ferrari was limited to just 32, so we volunteered to stand down. Both Lamborghini and Maserati tours were a disappointment. Lamborghini because by the time we got there, it was knocking off time and Maserati, as there were sandal wearers in each group, it ensured a drastically truncated tour.
Never mind, we had a great time, lots of laughs and we made several new friends. The Planet Hotel in Maranello was a great place to stay and the whole Maranello/Ferrari experience was worth doing, even if we did miss out on the factory visit .
Monaco itself, though a charismatic venue with a spectacular backdrop, was disappointing from a spectator race perspective on two counts. The first was the rather limited movement allowed once at the track; the second was the amount of totally wasted time between bouts of track action. So would we go again? No... The Goodwood Revival beats it hands down, though it has to be said, this meeting was more about single seaters up to 1985 and Goodwood has a cut off date of 1966, when the 3 litre formula came in. Where Goodwood really scores is not only the access to the track edge and being able to walk around the whole track, but it is the off track experience that makes it so special.
Venice was great, but not a place we’d want to spend too much time in but it was a highlight for Paula. Fortunately, we are there again next year.
Paris? H’mmm. The weather overall has not been kind to us on either visit, but we loved Montmartre, as this was as close as we got to the real Paris. I suspect we haven’t really seen or experienced the best of it, as so many people just love the place and we have yet to be charmed. The patisseries looked fantastic, yet in the few places where we ate, the meals were less than spectacular, but again, I am sure that a better knowledge of the place might show it in a better light.
The downside for me in both Italy and France was the sheer numbers of people smoking everywhere. I just couldn’t escape from it and suffered as a consequence, just as I did for the Christmas cruise last year. I did expect better food options though, as both are well known for their basic cuisine.
England started off with dodgy weather and finished with dodgy weather, but just about everything in between was most enjoyable. Highlights? Well, family of course! Second highlight and possibly the greatest surprise of all was that food options were generally more extensive, cheaper and tastier than the continent. The English have a somewhat jaded reputation for food but quite frankly, they have much to be proud of.
The other area where the UK scored over Italy (including Venice old town) and Paris, was the limited extent of graffiti on city buildings and landmarks. The London underground stations were almost totally graffiti free, yet even inside the carriages on the south of France railway, were defaced – badly.
Nottingham particularly, scored well for an almost total lack of graffiti around the city centre and that really is something to be proud of.
Maybe it is my perception, but driving standards in the UK seem to have slipped with less courtesy being shown these days and the spread of average speed cameras now seems to have hit the lower section of the M1 motorway, previously an area where the traffic police were more than capable of separating dangerous speeders from those simply driving faster than the 70mph speed limit.
The USA continues to get more expensive and the people there seem to get fatter, but sadly, there were also increased numbers of young fatties in the UK.
As for airlines, Air NZ (admittedly, Premium economy) was just brilliant and yet Singapore airlines economy class wasn’t what it was years ago. Emirates? Somewhere in between. Only Air NZ’s entertainment system was live and available from the minute you sat down until you left the aircraft.
So, a great trip with lots of photographs and memories.
This finalises this blog and now it is on to the next – back to the Dawn Princess...