French Castle and Wine Porsche Tour
Since this blog was originally started to document travel trips, I’ll interrupt the flow of race reports and mountain adventures with a write up of an epic trip that my wife and I and 12 friends just completed. The trip was with a company called Fast Lane Travel and was their fall Porsche, Castle and Wine tour. We were asked months ago if we wanted to join the other couples that were going. “Porsches + Wine !??” I thought to myself….we’re in. I didn’t look into the details but my assumption of this being off the charts proved correct.
The hotel arranged for a ride for the 4 of us to Stuttgart to meet up with the rest of the crew. I needed to get my running game on to avoid gaining 20 lbs so it was off to a quick 5k before dinner. There we met the rest of our crew and the other 10 couples that would make up the tour for the next 10 days.
|New models are introduced on this enormous outdoor display|
|Dr. Porsche’s 1st car was the VW Beatle|
|The 1st Porsche|
|One of my favorites|
|Less than a thousand made. Can be yours for a bit over $1m|
Within an hour of getting in to the cars we were barreling down the A8 at 240 KPH (150 mph). There was no practice leading up to the no speed limit section. All of a sudden we just hear “No more speed limit, gas pedal is on the right!” from Peter, our lead guide, and owner. I must admit I had a stiff neck from the stress of holding on to the steering wheel as tight as I did. I’m not sure that I actually hit 240 like others did because I couldn’t look down after 220 but since I was right behind them, I probably did. It got a lot easier to go this fast later. Unfortunately there were too many slow pokes driving about 100 MPH so we couldn’t stay at that speed for too long. We still go to cruise at about 110-120 MPH for most of the time.
|The left side of this carriage house was actually our room.|
|Our crew plus Peter the tour owner on the left|
The 21 cars were divided into 3 groups. Each car had a walkie-talkie for constant communications with the group, a lead car (guide) and a designated Wing Man (last car). The Wing Man was responsible for letting the guide know if all cars in the group made the light, got off the exit, changed lanes, etc… If not we would figure out a way to get the group together again. In addition to leading the group the lead car would let everyone else know about incoming traffic. Priceless info while flying on winding mountain roads or attempting to pass a truck on a winding 2 lane country road. Only 1 close call for yours truly of course. More on that later.
|The view in the mirror was priceless all week|
|Getting gas, super fast, pitstop style|
The French Autoroute proved to be a lot of fun to drive. Though we didn’t approach anywhere near German Autobann speeds we got to cruise at close to and often just over 100 MPH. You do not feel the speed in these incredibly engineered machines. The weather was simply perfect all days. Chilly starts but in the 70’s past noon. Topless was the preferred mode of operation most afternoons.
On our last night at this Chateau we were taken by coach bus to a private charter dinner cruise on the Marne river. The food I must say was ehhh but the sunset views, Champaign, wine, and general ambiance was up there. You can’t go wrong when you have lounge singers like this bellowing out greatest hits for your dancing pleasure.
It’s a good thing there was no driving on the schedule the next day. A coach bus took us to a multi vineyard tour given by a wine aficionado and author. We now know everything about 1er Cru, Premiere Cru and Grand Cru category of wines. The tour culminated with a lunch at the Boisset Winery where we were treated to what they called a “picnic lunch” and tasting of 3 whites followed by 3 reds followed by try as much of the left over bottles as you like, followed by an order form of course. A case consisting of most of the above should be arriving in NJ soon.
Dinner that night was a Michelin Star restaurant named Loiseau de Vignes in the historic center of Beaune, France. We debated if this was truly Michelin star worthy, but non the less it was really good. Sorry, no food pics.
Leaving the Abbey was bitter sweat. We had more road to cover and places to see but we would have loved to spend more time here. We can’t wait to return one day and to see the progress. This is a pic of the owner and his wife watching the Carrera procession departing his property.
Driving this day proved the most exhilarating of the trip. Many car lovers would say hitting a buck 50 on the Autobann is their dream but I would challenge that desire with driving the road to a restaurant called Ferme Auberge du Treh in what is unequivocally the best handling sports car in existence. The twists and turns and 180* switch backs in the mountains of Parc naturel des Ballons des Vosges can not be described without a GoPro. What added tremendously to this experience was 7 Porches in a row following the same routine like a synchronized dance. The sites and better yet sounds of redline and downshifting were awesome. We don’t have any pics because both my hands were glued to the steering wheel and Larisa was was too busy yelling at me to slow down.
|You can get an idea of the road from this map.|
Our car was a Porsche Carrera 4, which means it had 4 wheel drive. Many would argue it is hard to make a 4 wheel drive automobile fish tail around a turn but without actually attempting it to do so, mine did. Hats off to the engineers of this machine that my rear end came back as quickly as it went out. I know at least two people that would need that little bag you find in airplane seats for this ride. I hit the walkie-talkie radio and thanked the guide for a the best video game ever and was told by my friend that that is the only way to describe this route.
After some more of the same roads this day’s destination was Chateau d’lsenbourg in Rouffach, France. I’m not sure they were expecting us, nor did they have 21 parking spots so we improvised on their lawn.
After check-in we quickly took over the outdoor lounge area and celebrated our arrival with about 6 bottles of local wine. This was the first night our crew split up with half opting to join the rest for a bus ride and dinner in a very cool medieval town called Riquewhir and the other staying put and dining in the Chateau’s beautiful restaurant. I must admit, it was a pleasant change by now to be able to order from the menu. Not complaining at all. The food so far was excellent for the most part but we thought it was great to choose our own dish and wine. Both half’s had a lovely evening and we re-joined each other in the outdoor lounge for the usual evening festivities.
Alex and I found our selves a bit lost and knee deep in vineyards during the next morning’s 5 mile run but we managed to make it back in time for the day’s excursion to the Bugatti Museum. Actually it is called the Schlumpf museum or Cotie de l’Automobile. It just happens to contain more Bugatti’s under one roof then anyplace else along with an incredible collection of old Benzes, Alfa Romeos, Ferrari’s, Rolls-Royce’s as well as forgotten brands like Delahaye and Panhard.
One very odd exhibit here was a roll-experience where two of us gave it a go. We got to see what its like inside a car that is rolling over (twice). It wasn’t as nauseating as it looks.
Outside the museum there was a small track where you can rent these classics cars or a classic BMW Motorcycle for 7 laps around. Some you can drive, others you can only be a passenger in.
Then it was time for the Photo Rally. No need to describe it, the pics below will do.
This afternoon the itinerary allowed for some free time so we headed to the “Venice of France” called Annecy to walk around a bit and enjoy some refreshments.
We returned to our Chateau by which time the parking situation on the lawn became a bit more organized and prepared for our last French Dinner. Peter hosted a very nice award ceremony where everyone got recognized for their unique contributions to the trip. I don’t understand why my award was a flask. Makes no sense.
The next morning it was time to roll and return to Germany. We hit some awesome country roads. We maybe hit 100 MPH but the scenery of driving through the Black Forest was just breathtaking. This is where we had the only real close call of the trip. These are one lane roads, each way, and I was surprised that passing was allowed because visibility around the bends was poor at best. Our lead guide did a great job of relaying incoming traffic as in “all clear, sill clear, still clear, incoming car…” etc so we can all make it around slower moving traffic. Mostly trucks, that actually hindered visibly around the bend even more.
My buddy in the car behind me gets on the radio with “Bro, that was close”. But hey, that’s why we had radio’s. All is well that ends well. The braking power in these cars is second to none. The brief drama became a distant memory when we arrived at a 3 Star Michelin restaurant called Traube in Tonbach, Germany. This was just an incredible treat. The delicious lunch, the synchronized serving and beautiful ambience made for a nice exclamation point. But it wasn’t over just yet….
We parked our cars back in the garage where we first received them and headed back to the same hotel in Stuttgart to get ready for our Oktoberfest experience. I had low expectations because this was not Munich but once we got in to the tent the experience was identical. We had VIP seats above the floor and simply had a fantastic German beer festival experience. I can’t believe I fogot my lederhosen.
Thats all folks! Epic driving, epic hotels and restaurants, epic stops, epic people and epic memories.