Euro-Roadtrip: Day 7-10 – Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam…and home.

Day 7
Despite a relatively heavy night the night before we still maintained the pace. It was clear that this trip had a huge focus on whistle stops in famous cities and sampling the famous culture and food of that famous place.

Our next stop was Prague. We had heard good things about Prague and anticipated a lively place. James had not slept the night before but still managed to drive us all the way to Prague from Munich.DSCF1381

I feel as though I am skipping over the car journeys despite them being a huge and memorable part of the trip. There was lots of singing involved and many entertaining conversaDSCF1398tions. Car journeys to random places will never be underestimated again.

When we did arrive we had the novelty of having an afternoon to spend in the city. We immediately headed towards the Beer museum (which turned out to be bar full of different beers). He decided to sample all of the beers on draught (of which there were 30). We ordered them 10 at a time and made our way through them quickly at first, and then quite slowly.

As if everything caught up on us wDSCF1387e ended up napping back in the hostel before preparing for dinner and drinks. We went to a restaurant we a Eastern European ambiance and ordered another Czech beer with some Goulash (even though it’s Hungarian I didn’t feel as though I was cheating).

Despite our clearly tired eyes we decided to proceed into the night as normal. We were confident that with Prague’s reputation for beer we would not struggle for somewhere to play. However, after a couple of stops in bars we were told that we were in Prague on the wrong night. We decided to head to a bar near the hostel for a couple of night caps and have a DSCF1393light one.

All was going to plan until we got back to our hostel. It turned out that we were sharing our room with 4 American girls heading out to celebrate their last night in Prague. they encouraged us to join them, so we did. We ended up in a nearby club which featured next to no one and the girls were slightly irritating (it appears beggars can be choosers). Had we been in a better state we may have stayed a while longer, but we didn’t even have the desire to finish our beers. Instead we were in bed before 1:30 and got a good 7 hour sleep before the next leg of our adventure.

Day 8
It was then time to leave Prague and the Czech Republic and begin our journey back west, once again via Germany. It was my job to steer us out of Prague which initially seemed a difficult task. However, as with many things on all of my travels, we luckily some how ended up on the right road towards Berlin and the journey quickly fell into place.

Some of the driving experiences on this trip have been fantastic, not least driving around the windy rods of the Alps. Yet, driving on an Autobahn is something else. I had the freedom to drive at a sped I felt fit. Since we wanted to get to Berlin quickly the pace was quite rapid, hindered only by the relentless rain. That said, I was still able to overtake a police car whilst travelling at over 100mph. This is not perhaps the most mature of accomplishments, but in a holiday where ‘box ticking’ has become synonymous I felt as though it was an opportunity not to be missed.

As we approached Berlin the efficient German signage disappeared and we didn’t know if we had totally missed the capital city or not yet approached it. As it turned out, and confirmed by a German woman in an Ikea car park, we were actually in Berlin. With a little bit of driving we found ourselves at the Reichstag. We drove towards the central station where we had decided to get the underground to a decent area of the city. We struck gold when we saw a construction site with the company name of Dean and James’ work. It’s gave us a car park for the night.

We got the train to Savignyplatz in Charlottenburg. We were told this was the place for ‘good timers’. We felt this was us. When we arrived we quickly found a nice hostel where we got given a room to share between us. We prepared to go out for dinner and ended up on a street famed for its bars and restaurants. We had some dodgy fajitas. Perhaps not eating the native food of the land had bad karma.

Still after dinner we went to a couple of bars where we made friends with 3 lovely Australian girls before ending our night in a German discotheque. In fact, it was more like morning by the time we got back. Dean got his currywurst fix on the way back.

We were all in agreement that the Germans seem to do everything well. their roads are good, their people are nice and their beer is fantastic.

Day 9DSCF1410
The end of this fabulous trip was now in sight. But spirits still hadn’t dropped. We now had a huge drive from Berlin to Amsterdam for the final big night of our trip. Despite the distance we managed to cut our trip to 6 hours, which meant we shared the drive to 2 hours each. We had been quite good at keeping to this (unless we had a mission in our head, such as my desire to get to Berlin from Prague). It seemed that we prepared less and less for every journey. It’s is perhaps stupidity, but could also show our developing skills foe European road maps since we always found our destination.

When we arrived in Amsterdam I was surprised to realise how vivid my memories were of my previous visit. I really love Amsterdam.

Once we had booked into our room, which happened to smell of weed, we got ourselves freshened up like many of the nights beforehand. What was different about this time was that we knew we were heading into our last night. Thus, we quite nostalgically played some poignant tunes which we all sang along to. It wasDSCF1413 at this point of reflection that I think we all realised how well we had played the last 10 days and how it was a shame that it was coming to an end. We had ticked a few boxes.

This time we headed out for a celebratory steak (which was a massive meat feast) before walking around the Red Light District. Dean was initially horrified by the women seeking themselves from the shop windows, but that changed after a few pints. Naturally we headed to a peep show and went in experienced a few of Amsterdam’s selling points. Eventually we all ended up in a good bar just outside of the centre. Here, being more jolly that ever we enjoyed ourselves until the early ours of the morning. At one point a Lithuanian girl showed an interest in us. However, we decided to dance the night away to the cheese that was playing through the speakers. It appeared that by paying her no attention she became more intrigued by us. Perhaps this is a tactic we can use in future.

Despite losing James to his bed at about 6am, myself and Dean still felt we had one more box to tick. We, quite irresponsibly, got into an illegal taxi where the man turned up some drum and bass. We ended up cruising around the streets of Amsterdam whilst raving with a Dutchman in his car. In truth, it was a great decision to take the dodgy taxi. In fact, I’ve had a few good taxi rides in recent trips.

We ended up walking around the Red Light District looking at the ladies of the night and even chatting with some of them. It wasn’t until 8am that we realised the prostitutes were probably a box that doesn’t need to be ticked. This was especially true when I realised I would be registering my children in 24 hours. We slept for a few hours before it was time to make our final leg home.

Day 10
Despite only a couple of hours sleep it was Deans turn to drive. It quickly became apparent that he wasn’t quite ready to drive. He soon got over it.

Our journey back to Calais was going to be tight time-wise so we set off with the intent of arriving just in time for our scheduled ferry. It seemed as though we had just about enough time to make it.

All was looking good until we were running low on petrol. It seems that Belgium enjoys putting scores of garages together but 100s of kilometres away from each other. We just about made it to a garage just outside of Brugge. We took the opportunity to grab some food from the ironically named fast-food restaurant ‘Quick’. Here we waited about 10 minutes for our take-away and paid an additional price for mayonnaise that we hadn’t asked for. What made the place most comical was the amount of paper bags we were given. It was a strange place, and it cost us valuable time.

It was now my task to get us to the ferry on time. Despite driving at uncomfortable speeds I was only able to get us to the port 2 minutes after we were supposed to depart. This meant we had to hope that we could jump on the next one. The next one happened to be in 3 hours. Since we all had work in the morning, this was a hammer blow to our desire to have a mince evenings rest.

Still, we managed to kill the time listening to the Arsenal game on the radio before we eventually boarded the ferry.

As soon as we got on the ferry, armed with pillows, we found a lovely spot and slept. I think I slept the whole journey. It was only now that we could see the toll the trip had taken on our bodies. Had we been running on pure adrenaline until now?

James was to complete our final drive once we docked in England. We had regained our spirits and once again reflected on everything we had done. We confirmed that we have had an unforgettable experience together over the last 10 days.

Strangely we passed James’s parents on the motorway as we approached Crawley. At this point We had to say goodbye to James and drew the curtains shut on our trip. He had certainly brought a lot of fun and enthusiasm to the trip. I had enjoyed his company and it was strange to say goodbye to him. this meant that it remained just me and Dean in the car….not quite the same.

We completed the last 5 minutes of our journey together. At around 9pm on the Sunday night before work we had made it. A sense of achievement was felt by us both. We really had succeeded in a 10 day tour around Europe and we had done it well.

Despite our tiredness we were more than happy to stay up and share some stories with our fantastic housemates and others who had gathered in the living room. It was great to see everyone again and felt comfort in being home with everyone.

So that was it. We had arrived home. The last 10 days have been fantastic. We have so many people to thank, not least those that put us up in their fantastic chalet in France. We also have to thank luck for guiding us to some brilliant places with little preparation. I do, however, think that the amazing time that we’ve had is mostly due to the continued high spirits and positivity of the 3 of us. I have to be quite soppy and thank both Dean and James for being such great company and making the whole experience unforgettable. That’s enough of that. Back to work.20130101-170407.jpg

Euro-Roadtrip: Day 4-6 – Milan, Venice and Munich.

Day 4
An early start to New Year’s Eve ensured we were on the road swiftly. It was my turn to drive and I was originally slightly apprehensive about the icy conditions. However, I have definitely DSCF1218never had a more magical drive. Both Dean and James fell asleep as I drove round the windy roads of the Alps. I did not feel entirely safe, particularly as I was continuously advised to attach chains to the wheels because of the ice. The roads became thinner and the edges steeper. Despite the danger it all made for a better view, and I was thoroughly enjoying the drive with a smile on my face. The sight of Mont Blanc was enough to bring out a smirk.

Eventually we arrived at the Mont Blanc tunnel where we entered Italy. At this point Dean took over the driving which gave me a chance to catch up on some sleep.

It took us a while to find our hostel in Milan but once we had we were told that we had arrived in the correct area for a New Year celebration. We had a quick freshen up before heading to the sights of the city, including the spectacular Milan cathedral. Around the central square the locals were alreadDSCF1225y celebrating with street firecrackers which they were clearly aiming at unsuspecting tourists. We were a little bit jumpy.

We had set a target of finding a pizzeria in the centre of Milan. Once we found one we were all a bit excited about what we were going to taste. We ordered a pizza each alongside a Montepulciano. I can safely say that I have never tasted such a beautiful wine. The food was good, but this meal was all about the wine. We concluded that it would be quite pretentious to tell people that the best wine we ever tasted was a Montepulciano in Milan.

It was now approaching time to begin our New YDSCF1223ear Celebrations. We returned to the area where our hostel owner suggested was good. However, it seemed that he was either lying or knew as much as we did. Struggling to find anywhere decent to celebrate I saw an opportunity to ask a Chinese person for a bar, using my limited Mandarin. They, as many Chinese famously have (even in this blog), told us that a bar would be forward and on the right. In the end we decided to jump in a taxi. The taxi driver proudly flew the LGBT flag but we didn’t think anything of it until she dropped us off as a gay bar. She must’ve made a presumption that may have been justified…had we been homosexual.

Eventually we arrived at an area with atmosphere. In typically British fashion we found ourselves desperate to get drunk before midnight. It appears that the Italians begin their celebrations at midnight as oppose to our pre-drinking. As a result we found ourselves in a bar (following a stint in a club offering us a 8 shot cocktail destined to destroy us). We ordered a few drinks alongside some family diners. For some reaDSCF1229sons we ended up celebrating our new year with a Portuguese family who also had the 1am celebration. It was a really nice was to celebrate, but I’m not sure the other diners were all that impressed.

We spent the rest of the night in an extortionately expensive club, but it was New Year. We all had a great night and found it home in one piece and, more importantly, together.

Day 5
It is now 2013 and we found ourselves waking up in Milan. It was a long way from waking up in a McDSCF1258Donald’s in Macao 2 years ago, but it had the same ‘right’ feeling about it.

Once again we couldn’t hang about because we had a journey to make. It was quickly becoming a significant part of our journey to spend a lot of our time driving (as we knew it would be). However, what was surprising was that we were all very keen to drive and enjoying it. A 6 hour journey was not a chore but more of a pleasure.

Half way along our journey we stopped at a service stations for lunch. The Italians don’t seem to do bad food and the paninis we ate at the station out-did anything I had eaten in British services.

When we did arrive in Venice it was early afternoon. We had to park up and get a train the Venice island. We had been told that there was no use buying tickets for the train to Venice as no one checks in the 10 minute journey. Naturally, we got checked and fined by the ticket inspector, albeit only £6.DSCF1265

Upon leaving the train we were greeted with the sight of the Grand Canal in Venice. It seemed very surreal that we were actually in Venice. In fact, I felt at the time that it would DSCF1267only seem real when we left.

We walked through the streets aiming for our bed. The cobbled streets were beautifully disordered and appeared untouched for centuries. Dean accurately pointed out that it felt like a film set, yet it was real. We all appeared to fall in love with Venice immediately (quite ironic considering that the city is associated with romance).DSCF1342

In fact, we ended up heading out along the canals as night began to arrive. We strived to find a gondola and eventually found one along the Grand Canal. We decided to buy a bottle of red wine to drink whilst we glided through the slim canals of Venice. The three of us were amazed at how incredibly romantic the whole experience would certainly be with a lady. We agreed that Venice’s repDSCF1283utation was justified. Once again, we had to blink every time we thought about how we had driven from Crawley to Venice. I.e. one extreme to the other.

Following our romantic gondola ride (featuring a blanket) we had built up an appetite. Sticking with our philosophy of eating the food of our region we decided upon the raw ham as a starter and pasta as a main. It was exactly the atmosphere we were looking for, including our moustached waiter. In true Italian style we added a couple of bottles of red wine DSCF1310to our meal. Lovely.

A quick stop off at a nice bar on our way back to the room ended a lovely afternoon and evening in one of the most fantastic places. We went to bed satisfied and exhausted, with Germany waiting for us in the morning.DSCF1318

Day 6  
We had become more familiar with the unpredictable Venice streets over night and found it back to the train station in quicker time. We had little problem getting a train back (despite me forgetting the name of our destination station).

Once we were on the road it was a case of getting to Germany via Austria (ft. Innsbruck). With Dean at the wheel we were making steady progress until, rather casually, Dean revealed “I think I’m being pulled over”. Indeed he was. We had not quite reached the Autobahn so the 100 mph+ speeds remained a criminal offence. In the next layby the police took all of our passportDSCF1352s and car details before returning to their car. We had no idea why we had been pulled over but presumed the worst. We made a pact to split the fine 3 ways since any of us could have been pulled. After about 5 minutes one policeman reemerged to tell us that we should stick to km instead of miles but offered us no fine. In comparison to the occasionally arrogant police officers we are used to her (mum excluded) the German authorities appeared level headed.

When we arrived in Munich we were given some advise about what to do by a very helpful lady named Miriam. We headed to the Hofbrauhaus which was apparently the law if you visit Munich. In reflection, it probably should be. We arrived to the sound of hundreds of Bavarian drinkers clinking their beer and a band playing in the background. We found a seat amongst the revellers and were joiDSCF1363ned by a racist Russian, brothers from Oman and a young German couple. ToDSCF1367gether we drank some brilliant Bavarian beers and noshed on fabulous pork knuckle. We all loved forcefully smashing our glasses together like true Germans.

After the Hofbrauhaus we headed to a couple more bars before heading back home satisfied with our night’s work.

Euro-Roadtrip: Day 3 – Saint Foy Tarentaise

Day 3

Today began, much like yesterday, with us all in fits of laughter. We woke up

and realised how ridiculous our situation must look. James summarised it well when he asked “why are we sleeping in a car? We’ve all got jobs”. He was right, but the discomfort and lack of sleep made the experience genuinely worthwhile.

The day went from strength to strength from that point onwards. We had a short drive to Saint Foy Tarentaise where we were met by another lad called James who had very kindly invited u

s to spent the day skiing with his friends and family. Both mysDSCF1117elf and original James had never skied before so the challenge ahead was a little daunting as well as incredibly exciting. We hired our gear before heading to the chalet to meet the people we were to spend the day with

The chalet was incredible and we learnt that there were 16 people staying there. We had presumed that we would be spending another night in the car but the people of the chalet offered us a floor to stay on in exchange for potatoes (which was also an invite to dinner). The hospitality of these people was heart-warming. They were genuine and fantastic, every person.

We then prepared for our skiing day. I had already slipped over before I put on the skis, an indication of what was to come. Dean and James found my previous revelation that i want to fall over “at least once” quite humorous now.Our new friends suggested that we gave the ‘nursery’ hill a go first. Both of us began sliding down the hill and maintained our balance for about 2 seconds in total. I spent most of my time rolling on the floor whilst small children whizzed past me. My patheticness was spotted by

a camera man who began filming me. He got the money shot when I fell over right in front of him. James also had a speaking part in the filming as he nearly knocked the camera man ovDSCF1119er in his lack of control over his own body. This, quite shockingly ended up on the French national news in the evening. Thus, I fell over on TV on the French equivalent of the BBC news. Claim to fame?

Despite not being able to stand up on the skis the others decided it was time for us to ‘hit the slopes’. I was convinced that I wouldn’t be making it all the way down the mountain with all of my bones in the right place, but I went along with the idea. We all grabbed a spot on the chair lift and got off at the station in the mountain. It was then a case of trying to ski down the mountain with no kno

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wledge of how to turn or stop. What was handy was the kindness of 3 lovely girls from the chalet who were very patient in teaching me the basics and helping me up every time I fell over (which was a hell of a lot). I began to master stopping and had a few turns. However, as soon as my skis pointed down the mountain I was gone. More that just a couple of times I flew down the mountain at uncontrollable speeds and was certain it was going to result in death. However, I quickly learnt that if I wanted to stop I could just jump on the snow. On several occasions this resulted in nasty collisions with the snow and falls that must’ve looked very dramatic and funny to the girls helping me. They later admitted that I was lucky not to break anything.

DSCF1400Having made it to the bottom of the first run, and enjoyed it, Dean and James2 suggested we try a harder run. Again putting my life and the lives of others on the slope at risk. We both attempted it and the girls continued to help us at the detriment to their own skiing experience. The first part of the new run was considered a ‘red’ run. I associated this colour with danger, and rightly so. A red run is no place for a novice with 1 hour of skiing experience. Still we attempted it since it was only a short distance until we were back in the blue. Initially I succeeded in creating the ‘snow plough’ to slow me down, but as the slope got steeper I once again lost control and threw myself to the snow. What was different about this fall was it was incredibly steep and I ended up tumbling uncontrollably down. I left clouds of snow behind me as I fell and had left my sticks up the hill as a marker of where I fell from. Strangely, I loved the fall despite the ice burn it gave me. Dean was annoyed to find out that we had attempted part of a red, as it meant he lost a bet. James1 was as proud of himself as I was to make it down, albeit spending most of our time rolling.

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When we had made it down a couple more runs we were notably improving and managing to succeed in staying on our feet for greater lengths of time. The others were taking it in turns to help us down and back to our feet. These were truly great people.

After lunch in the middle of the mountain, which was again provided by these lovely people, we went back to redo a blue run. We suggested that myself and James1 would attempt to make it to the bottom together and allow the others, including Dean, to enjoy themselves. I felt guilty as people like James2 we being so kind to ensure we were safe. I fell out of the ski lift on th

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is run to the amusement of many. We made it to the bottom eventually by taking it cautiously. We announced our pride in each other and celebrated with a beer in a mid mountain chalet. Perfect.

We arrived back before Dean so peeled the potatoes and onions in preparation for a 19 person dinner. I.e. we were trying to earn our keep.

Once we were washed and showered we were invited to a pea and ham soup party by a Dutchman and had a few beers there before returning the the chalet for dinner.

At the dinner table sat 19 people who were all very lovely and welcomed us with open arms. It was everything I had imagined about the alps and the food was cooked by a great woman who used to DSCF1153be a professional chef. We had struck gold when we had original imagined ourselves back in the car.

Following dinner we headed to a bar for a few drinks before retiring to the cosy chalet for brilliant sleep.

The whole day had been incredible and we could not be more thankful to James2 and his family and friends for putting us up for the night and being so hospitable during the day. There are gDSCF1165enuinely nice people in the world. Lovely.

Link:Making a fool of myself on French national news.

Euro-Roadtrip: Day 1 & 2 – Luxembourg and France.

Day 1

I have to admit that I was a little too excited last night in anticipation of this road-trip. In fact, I resorted to watching ‘a bit of Stephen Fry’ to knock me out. Thankfully I did manage to get some sleep andImage wake up in time for some last minute packing and our 6am departure for Dover.

The 3 of us (myself, Dean and James) thought we had arrived in Dover in good time, but were promptly told that our gate had closed and that we subsequently had a substantial wait for the next available ferry. Thus, it had the potential to put a big dent in our ambitions for the day. However, in what has already become a philosophy on the trip, we decided ‘pleading ignorance’ will be the way to succeed. For that reason we decided to join a queue for another ferry and hoped we would be allowed on without any questions. Luckily no-one noticed us which meant we were one of the first 4 cars on the first ferry departing (it turned out that our new queue was the ‘rapide’ one). This meant we had boarded a ferry that wasn’t ours and we had no idea where we were heading. It seemed a good judge of my company that none of us were that bothered, but we instead embracing a bit of naughtiness.

During our 90 minute journey we enjoyed a cheeky game of Family Scrabble and used the resources to take it in turns to play ‘Carol’ in Countdown. It passed the time.

Once we arrived in Calais we were among the first cars to depart (given we were considered VIP’s as one of the ‘rapide’ customers). Dean enjoyed racing the French to the motorway but was denied victory by a lack of signposting.

All was looking good and we were on course for our aim: lunch in Brussels. However, after to driving into Belgium we hit our second obstacle of the day. The right side of the car started to make an unhealthy noise that forced us off the motorway and down a side road. It was then that the front right tyre blew and forced the wheel to slide onto its rim and the remains of the smoking tire to scatter over the road. This is where we all got a little too excited at a time when other, normal people, would panic.

As we Imagewere blocking access to the roundabout we positioned a high visibility jacket by the entrance to the turning. As this didn’t seem to work we took turns wearing the high-viz and directing the lorries before they got close enough to hit us. In the mean time we jacked the car and changed to wheel. Naturally I took some time to photograph it in all the excitement.

Eventually we were roadworthy again. However, since the wheel was a space saver we had to find somewhere to buy a new wheel. As if it were meant to be it was only 2 minutes before we passed a garage. It was a Belgian garage containing a vending machine full of waffles. The mechanic informed us that they would change our wheel, providing we give them the rim that we left on the side of the road. They then said that they were going to have lunch before they would work on our car. This meant waiting an hour so we decided to risk it and stick to our original plan. We got back on the E40 and head for lunch in Brussels.

When we arrived in Brussels we immediately came across a lovely little bar selling local beer. We were also excited by the Belgian stereotypes drinking out of goblets in the corner. After trying the local beers we all agreed that the Belgians know how to make a good beer. I and Dean then had a Duval with lunch which knocked us out as James took the afternoon shift to Luxemburg.

It was not long until we arrived in Luxembourg City. However, since we had not done our research, it took us a very long time to find our hostel. It resulted in us asking numerous pretty Luxemburgers for directions before we eventually arrived at our destination.

Our approach to the hostel was everything we imagined Luxemburg to be like. It was surrounded that unique European architecture, cobbled streets and a fresh feeling in the air. We all immediately forgot about the difficuImagelty finding it and enjoyed actually being there.

We then decided to have a few beers local to Luxemburg before walking into the old town of Clausen to experience the night: Luxemburg style. The Christmas lights were still up and the quaint little town certainly looked good at night.  After a few different bars we ended up in a very surreal situation. The club we found ourselves in clearly featured under 18’s, affectionately named ‘The Micky Mouse club’. It made us all feel very old. It will definitely be a lasting image of Luxemburg though, particularly as the night ended with me buying a 16 year old a milkshake before retiring home slightly confused about the whole thing.

Day 2.

What is the last thing you expect to wake you up in Luxemburg? Today we were woken by a Japanese man acting like a cat in our dorm. He quickly vanished and we were up with a smile.

Originally we had planned to hit Lyon today, about a 7 hour drive. However, we have been offered a night at a sky resort in the South of France tomorrow evening, so we changed our plans and headed for the mountains.

I was the first driver of the day and began heading south along a great strImageetch of road. The European roads don’t seem as heavily policed as the roads in the UK, yet they seem safer.

After about 4 hours we drove through Dijon. I knew that we had to find some mustard, and we did.

At this point we thought we would be hitting the Alps in no time. Yet, we hadn’t predicted the forthcoming traffic. 4 hours turned into 8 veryImage quickly but I was very happy that spirits never dropped. Instead we opened a couple of cans of beer and created our own sing-a-long to Disney tunes and power ballads. Dean has done well to recruit James for this trip as he also has a high tolerance for things that could potentially dampen spirits. We are a good threesome.

When the temperature began to drop and snow started to appear we knew we were approaching. After a gruelling 10 hour drive we arrived in Bourg Mourise at around 9pm. We weren’t prepared enough to have a hotel reservation so we walked one in the hope of finding a spare bed. An attractive woman with a wonderful French voice greeted us but informed us that there was no room at the inn…or any inn in the town. Fortunately we had considered this before leaving England and equipped the car with sufficient bedding to keep us warm. I volunteered to give the other two the car so I would sleep in the Train station in a sleeping bag.

As that was agreed we then needed to eat. We were recommended a restaurant close to the train station as the food was supposedly of a high quality. It looked very pleasant when we walked in and were seated by a waiter. After 5 minutes we had not received our menus so I went to find some. After another 10 minutes the waiter had not come to our table despite not being particularly busy. At this point we were really feeling the tiredness and hunger. We make a collective decision to abandon ship and find somewhere with speedier service.

We quickly came across a dodgy looking Vietnamese restaurant with a buffet. I.e. quick and easy food. We ordered ourselves a bottle of red with ourImageImage beer and then loaded our plates with food. It soon became clear that the food had been out for a while and tasted a bit like it was going to make us a little ill. Despite the risks myself and Dean still tackled the snails. The snails had clearly been on display for a few hours and looked like they had come straight out of the garden. We quickly ate one each and then reflected on it. In retrospect it was probably a mistake as the snails didn’t seem like they had been cooked at all. In fact, they probably were straight from the garden. Aside from the risky food and awful wine, the service was great and they offered us sympathy for the freezing night ahead of us by providing us with Chinese wine shots before we left (Not in China).

We returned to the station to find it closed and locked. That meant we were all going to be in the car, albeit lying on the front seats with a hand brake up my bum. Each of us got into our thermals in a manner that indicated we have become a little too close.

Dressed in my long johns and Chinese thermals I was given the request to move the car into a place that doesn’t have light. Looking quite ridiculous as I drove I braved the icey roads and parked the car downImage a dark street outside a house and on top of a pile of snow. Here we tried to get to sleep, not aided by my knee being closely positioned to the sensitive car horn. It’s probably fair to say that the sleep wasn’t great, but the experience was. At around 4am Dean quirped “is anyone else struggling to breathe?” to which myself and James conImagefirmed that we were. It had turned out that the 3 of us had spent a couple of hours struggling to stay alive because we had used all the air and moisture in the car. We were basically killing ourselves in a very humorous way. All it took was a slight gap in the window to allow oxygen to flow back into our lungs and get a couple of hours of ‘decent’, healthy, sleep.