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.


Before meeting the group in Stuttgart for the official start, my wife and I flew in two days earlier and met another couple in Heidelberg Germany. We stayed in a very cozy boutique hotel right across the old city on the other side of the Neckar River called Heidelberg Suites. Great hotel, gorgeous city and a really nice time adjusting to the time zone and to the new cuisine ahead of us.


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.




Dinner at Zeppelino’s spilled over to the bar where we got to know each other a bit more. Our new buddy John (aka Bernie from the movie Weekend at Bernies) would be by our side for libations from this night forward. Great guy!
The organizer doesn’t want anyone driving on the Autobann jet lagged so we didn’t get our cars until day 3. Day 1 was spent acclimatizing, being briefed on driving in Germany and France, paperwork for the cars and a guided tour of Ludwigsburg Castle. No pics allowed inside.


Dinner that night was in a very cool typical German restaurant called Stuttgarter Staffele, where our crew pretty much took over the place. The acoustics in the place where horrible and I felt bad for the other 12 couples that had to put up with the noise coming from our table of 14 for 2 hours. We learned later that the 4 guides got quite nervous about how the following days would unfold with these rambunctious Russians. We only broke 1 glass and caused one migraine so all in all I think we were off to a great start.


The next day we were taken by coach bus to the Porsche Museum and Factory. Address: 1 Porscheplatz.  Both were incredible. A tour guide took us through Porsche’s storied history where we got to take a ton of pics. We learned that Dr. Porsche actually invented the first hybrid. Who knew?
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


After the tour we had a gourmet steak and wine lunch at the restaurant inside the museum called Christophorus. This would be the first of many phenomenal meals. The wife’s in our group decided to skip the factory tour to go shopping but the boys couldn’t wait to see the factory. We were asked to leave our cell phones and cameras in lockers so I don’t have any pics from this incredible facility.  We spent about an hour and a half watching all flavors of 911’s including the race car version being assembled. We gained a whole new appreciation for the work of art that is a Porsche that rolls off the line.
That evening we went to a medieval dinner at the Castle Beilstein which started with champagne being served on the ramparts. It was pretty special with live music. These two did a great job performing and even got two of us into the show which proved hysterical.






The next morning we were finally taken to the lovely machines that we would be spending over 1,000 miles on over the coming days through German Autobanns, French Autoroutes, insane twisty mountain passes and awesome country roads. The inventory consisted of 2017 Carrera S’s, Carrera 4’s and Carrera 4S’s.  All cabriolets (convertibles) for our group.  Shhhwinnng!! Game on.

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.


After about 300 miles we arrived at our 1st destination, Chateau de Courcelles right outside Reims, France.  21 Porsche’s pulling into the grounds was something to be seen and heard. This is something we would experience at every pit stop and destination. Simply unreal. Our luggage was waiting for us in our rooms where we had some time to freshen up prior to Champagne tasting which preceded another gourmet meal.








The left side of this carriage house was actually our room.


Our crew plus Peter the tour owner on the left
There was no formal bar at this Chateau so we commandeered one of the lounges, got out a portable speaker, found a bar man for service and partied for a bit before retiring. 
The next morning Alex and I went for a nice 5 mile run exploring beautiful back country roads and the Chateau grounds. It would have been really nice if we had more time to explore this incredible property but the agenda was pretty packed. Our first day there we were taken by coach to Mercier Champaign for a tour of this incredible facility and home to the world’s largest Champaign barrel and an unbelievable 18km of underground cellars. The Champaign tasting was quite nice. We were asked to only drink what we felt was a “reasonable” amount.



Our Porsche procession left at 9:00 am for the next destination. 10 minutes into the journey our leader informed us that someone in the other group had a flat so we needed to wait up to take on a few of their cars for the day. The first available place to pull over was a McDonalds parking lot. I dropped my roof, cranked up the tunes and voila, we got a 9:30 AM dance party going in the middle of no where.  Peter was blown away. He told us that in 164 Porsche trips he’s never seen anything like it and video taped most of it.



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. 




After a lunch stop at Brasserie de Courcelles in Dijon where we enjoyed our mustard of course, our next stop was Abbaye de la Bussier in Ouche, France. Words fail to describe this place and pictures don’t do it complete justice. During yet another Champaign and wine happy hour the owner shared the history of how he and his family purchased and restored this 12th century authentic Cistercian abbey. For many years it has been and continues to be a labor of love for them. The immaculate attention to detail over each square meter of this majestic place is evidence to this.













Dinner here on September 22nd proved very special. We celebrated one of our friend’s birthday, it was the start of Shabbat and it was also the 2nd night of Rosh Hashanah. We had a perfect trifecta, with the customary candles to boot. After another incredible dinner we had quite a selection of lounges to choose from. We commandeered the largest one for our after party. Pattern developing?? Hmmm.











This concludes what was labeled as Part 1 in our itinerary. Part 2, starts now….

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.


Just when we thought we had the best adrenaline rushing going we were amazed to see dozens of para gliders all over the sky above us. Now thats a rush! We settled in to this very warm, authentic, family run mountain bistro where all the food is derived from their on premise breeding. We convinced our guide that we could handle 1 beer each to celebrate this breathtaking ride and very unique stop. He obliged.








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.


We concluded our tour with what was considered an “American Lunch” of cheeseburgers and fries. I think we all appreciated the change of pace from the French cuisine but lets just say that a kitchen in the middle of France should stick to what they’re good at. Nuff said.

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.


At the time I was car number 4 in our Porsche motorcade when we came upon a really large, slow truck. 18 wheeler would be the closest US equivalent. Our lead guide floors it and starts with “All clear, still clear, still clear, keep coming…” on the radio. The next 3 make it around the truck. My pedal is floored and I’m loving the roar of the engine while doing the same. When I’m about a third of the way passing the truck while in the opposite lane I hear “INCOMING TRUCK, INCOMING TRUCK, INCOMING TRUCK” as loud as Peter can scream. By his third time, the truck is in my field of vision. I slam on the brakes, wait for the truck on my right to get ahead of me again and swoosh back into the right lane.

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….













Getting back to Stuttgart afforded us some more time on the Autobann but the heavy rush hour traffic made it almost impossible to stick together. Some hit 150 MPH for a bit, but I was more than happy to cruse at 110 when conditions permitted.

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.

1 comment

  1. Steve,
    I just re lived The Whole experience again. Awesome wright up man!!!! Thank you for meticulously documenting what turned out to be a trip of our life!!!!
    Great job man

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