Technology can take you to the most surprising places


Lady Ann and I have just returned from our annual road trip. Something we started a couple of years ago when we discovered we were not getting any younger and if we left it much longer it would be too late.

We decided the day after boxing day that this year’s adventure would be on the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland. So after months of planning and booking hotels and what we would like to see it was all planned with military precision (that is how deluded I am, it never goes to plan does it).

So early on a Sunday morning, we packed the car with enough clothes for a month, satchels containing ferry reservations, hotel confirmations, route plans, maps and even the iPad just in case we needed technology backup. I know I said it was going to be wild, but the Comfortable Atlantic Way doesn’t seem to sound quite like an attractive proposition.

We arrived in time for our ferry to Ireland, had a peaceful three hours eating and sleeping ready for our dash across to the west coast for our first nights stop in Galway.

Our next stop was the Cliffs of Moher and onto Lahinch for Pizza with some Surfer Dudes who looked at us as though we were in the wrong place but very pleasant all the same. After a quick trip on the Kilrush Ferry, it was onto Limerick for another overnight stop.

Beach 01
Inch Beach, Dingle Peninsula

Now the highlight of the trip for me was to explore the Dingle peninsula with all its incredible scenery and some great beaches. We even took a boat ride out to spot Dolphins which we did in Scotland last year which didn’t produce any significant sightings. This was very different. We spotted one so close you could have reached out and touched him.


So this is where the adventure really starts. After three days travelling Lady Ann was getting Cabin Fever so we decided to take a short cut to our final destination which when we looked on the map seems a rational decision to make. What could possibly go wrong?

To help us along the way I put our destination into the Sat Nat and pressed go and away we went following the instructions from the very annoying lady in the device.

Everything was going swimmingly well for the first 20 or so miles then she told us to turn left into a single track road which I duly did. I thought it must be a short cut through to another main road, how wrong was I then.

It took us through a mountain pass called the Priests Leap for 20 or so miles on a single track. The scenery was spectacular, we saw Rabbits and various birds which you only see in the wilderness.

Priests Leap
Priest’s Leap

Once you reach the top of the pass (350m) you get spectacular panoramic views of Bantry Bay. But this is not only a visual highlight, in this place, but there is also absolute silence. Only the bleating of some sheep could be heard from time to time.

In twenty miles we only saw two more cars and I had to reverse a couple of hundred yards so they could pass. The driver in the other car looked even more startled than us which made me feel less of a wimp.

Once we came down the other side which was equally terrifying and we reached civilisation and drew a sharp intake of breath and do what one does in these situations, find a cafe and have a brew and some cake (if more people did this the world would be a much nicer place).

When we reached Kinsale our destination I decided to check carefully the route back, I didn’t fancy another repeat performance and I checked the settings on the Sat Nav and I discovered what the issue was.

Every SatNav has settings that you should use to modify its operation to what you need it to do. One of these settings was the choice between the quickest route or the most economical. I set it to quickest and my issues evaporated.

Crossfire top

But it got me thinking. Firstly, my Crossfire was possibly the only Crossfire ever to visit the summit and two it was a journey that made me feel just a little scared and that is no bad thing at my age.

It will make a great tale to tell in the pub after a couple of pints.

We had a brilliant week in Ireland and one thing is certain, we will be back next year to do the other half of the route. We saw some great things, met some fantastic people, ate and drunk far too much and loved every minute of the trip.

Now that is the measure of a good road trip. As Douglas Adams once famously said. “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.

Here is the rest of the trip in a couple of minutes


The Wild Atlantic Way Roadtrip

Its that time of year at Eccles Hall that we get all excited. It is time for this years road trip and it’s going to be fantastic.

Last year we did the NC500 the tourist route around the highlands of Scotland, so how do you follow that I can hear you asking yourself.

After a little research and a little prompting for Lady Ann we have found this beauty of a trip, The Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland

This is no little expedition its a whopper as Dennis the Menace used to say. Its the longest signed coastal route in the world at 1,700 miles in length and plenty of side routes to keep us occupied.

Now 1,700 miles is a long way to travel and enjoy yourself so we are taking it easy staying a couple of nights in hotels along the route. Because of time constraints and the inevitable constriction of my wallet we have decided that this time we are only going to do the southern part of the route starting in Galway and following the route around to Cork. That’s still the best part of 750 miles so its not for the faint hearted.

We are visiting places with strange sounding names with scenery to die for and visiting pubs and restaurants that already have my mouth watering. We are visiting Dingle, watching a dolphin or two and even visiting the place they shot the latest Star Wars film. (the last location is mine, Lady Ann thinks I am a sad geek), I am not in a position to protest to much haha.

So the car is in for a service next week, Ann has started packing and I can’t wait to get started. So in three weeks off we go and hopefully if we have half the fun I am expecting it will be epic.

You can’t beat a Roadtrip for sorting out a relationship!


The rolling hills of Picardy, France

If you remember earlier this year I posted a blog about my bucket list. Not that I am terminally ill or anything but when you reach Sixty you start thinking about all the stuff you missed whilst you were young enough to enjoy it and start looking at stuff you can still do without ending your life prematurely.

Now some of my friends have taken to exercising and walking across hill and dale, now whilst that is a very worthy pastime and it keeps you fit I have an issue with it. I live in the hills and have to walk on hills on a fairly regular basis, that’s why I have a car.

Ann and myself had a sit down and a long chat about how we were going to arrive in our twilight years and we came to the conclusion that once your body lets you down the only thing you have left are your memories and the ones the make you smile will be the ones that make you happiest.

So this year we decided to embark on a road trip to the continent in our belated midlife crisis, our sports car Mr Gray. Now if you are like us we need a bit of sorting out on the travel front because although we like travelling, I hate research (I do that for a living). So we decided to embark on a motoring adventure along with 500 other people from across Europe and enter the Laon Historique, one of the largest classic car rallies in Europe.

Now the main consideration we had before entering the event is not the event itself but the 450 miles and a ferry crossing that makes it a road trip even before we start the event. But by far the biggest challenge was nothing to do with the journey but convincing Ann that we do not need four cases full of clothes for a four-day journey.

So we decided that since we were in no great hurry to get to the event we would take our time down to the ferry and we would have regular coffee stops and arrange lunch with friends who don’t live to far off the route. So after a couple of coffee stops on the motorway we eventually stopped at Towcester, for lunch with some friends who like ourselves like nothing better than a good meal.

After a fantastic meal it was then down to Dover for an overnight stay before catching the first ferry or the day the morning after. Now how hard can it be to book a hotel online? Apparently according to Ann even a chimp could do it, so how did I manage to book us into the wrong hotel!

So rather than an entertaining evening with our Car club, we found ourselves in the company of some serious classic car fanatics. Poor Mr Gray looked very out of place amongst the Aston Martins, E type Jaguars and various other exotic pieces of motoring history, but the company was good as was the evening meal.

The wrong Hotel at Dover with some rather nice cars
The wrong Hotel at Dover with some rather nice cars

The next morning it was up nice and early a quick breakfast then down to the Hotel which we should have stayed in and meet up with the rest of our gang then onto the ferry for a quick trip across the channel.

The rest of the Roadtrip guys from the Crossfire Club
The rest of the Roadtrip guys from the Crossfire Club

Now if you live in the UK driving on the continent is always a daunting prospect because the French drive on the wrong side of the road (a typical British superior notion that everyone else must be wrong). That makes for the first few miles of driving very stressful. However I did try to reassure Ann by telling her I had been practicing on my grandsons Xbox playing Grand Theft Auto but that didn’t seem to re assure her at all.

Driving in France is how driving in the UK would have been like in the nineteen sixties. Long straight empty roads punctuated by small villages and brilliant restaurants that serve fresh food to die for. After a very pleasant high speed jaunt down a very clear Toll Road be eventually arrived in Laon which is a beautiful walled city that stood out high above the rolling hills of the area. It looked very majestic in the afternoon sunshine.

By the end of the journey all we really needed was a shower and a quick nap and then we would be ready for the start of the festivities. Now we arrived at the Hotel I had booked and it looked fantastic, we walked into the Hotel reception handed over my reservation documentation smiled nicely to the polite gentleman behind the reception desk who duly and may I say a little curtly Non!

Non! Even with my limited French I knew this wasn’t good, Ann was sat outside in the car waiting to be taken into a romantic French hotel room with chocolates on the pillow and fresh fruit on the table. He explained that I had actually booked the budget hotel next door which allowed us to use the facilities of this hotel but we would be in what was the equivalent of a French Youth Hostel!

To try and save face with Ann I asked if it would be possible to book a room at this hotel. He looked at me with an expression of disbelief that only French can give and told me there wasn’t a room to be had in a sixty mile radius. I thanked him as best I could turned slowly and headed out to the car. All I can say it was a long walk back to the car, how can I as a man admit that I had yet again managed to cock up my second hotel booking in two days and still have a marriage at the end of it?

Considering the magnitude of the information I gave to Ann the response was very measured and shall I say a little quiet even quietly menacing. I tried my reassuring best let’s make the best of this situation voice and heard these words come out of my mouth. It might not be as bad I we think and after all we won’t be spending much time in the room anyway.

How wrong can one man be, it was a cross between a ferry cabin and a set in Ikea, it was clean and the green and cream wood-chip set the laminate floor off beautifully. Ann pointed out there was little chance of any romance because of the Bunk Beds in the room but other than that in her words it was ok.

Our Bijou Hotel Room
Our Bijou Hotel Room

After a goodnights sleep Saturday arrived and we embarked on what is the Rally day of the event which consisted of us following a set of instructions to find our way to lunch and back to the Town for a Concourse competition. Now that sounds simple but in practice it is quite stressful.

Ann did a sterling job in navigating but now and again when we caught up with a group of cars it gave us chance to stop arguing. In theory that would be a great strategy but after following a couple of Porsches for a few miles we came unstuck when at a tee junction one went left and one went right.

Eventually we arrived at the venue for lunch, a beautiful oasis of calm, food and sunbathing. So after an hour or so we hit the road again taking in the scenery and stopping off now and again for a drink and a break. The rolling hills and fantastic deserted roads made for a brilliant afternoon.

our lunch stop, an oasis of calm in the middle of a storm.
our lunch stop, an oasis of calm in the middle of a storm.

At the end of the rally we then attended the concourse competition were we discovered that what I thought was cleaning a car was if fact nowhere near good enough to compete with these guys. I have never seen so much polish applied to so many exotic cars, it was a petrol heads dream come true.

Mr Grey at a comfort stop in the beautiful rolling hills in France

We had a fantastic experience and we even managed to come out of it unscathed and in true french style, we celebrated at yet another Champagne reception. We had a great weekend, met some fabulous people and experienced some incredibly scary moments but would not have missed it for the world.

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