We did a daily diary of this trip which you can read on our Photo Blog here. I wanted to share our concluding thoughts though on our Mille Miglia thread here, as we break down each place we visited.
First it was far enough from Port Cogolin but not too far to drive. We loved it for a one night stop and thought we had enough time to explore the city and get a feel for it and enjoy an evening meal. It was perfect for our first stop as we were excited about the trip and while it did not disappoint it was not the highlight stop on our trip.
The Hotel - Albergo Orologio
This proved to be a lovely hotel full of character plump in the heart of the city and just off the main piazza where you see the Mille Miglia cars gather. Central locations are essential when you only have a limited amount of time in the city. Yep we would book this hotel again without doubt.
This is a stunning city perched on the top of a mountain and beautiful. Everything was just so with not a blade of grass out of place. In truth it is quite a small place and a one night stop is enough in our opinion. Yes you could see more than we did but a friend of ours -Andy Williams - coined a phrase "cappuccino tourism" light and frothy and this style suits us and we saw as much as we needed to. I can't stress enough though what a gorgeous place San Marino is and with a marvellous drive as you approach it. I would love to revisit and share this place with friends.
The Hotel - Hotel Rosa
Perfectly located just about as high as you could get in the town with fine facilities, again we would use this hotel if we were to come back.
This was a lunch stop on the way down to Rome. It was a beautiful place to visit, famous for being home to St Francis of Assisi and in truth warranted an overnight stop to allow you to see a little more and enjoy an evening meal in the town.
If we did this trip again we would add this in as an overnight stop. First the town is worth spending the extra time in and secondly, this would mean you could reach Rome the next day sooner than we did.
We made this a two night stop and rightly so. Each day we seemed to up the ante, San Marino trumped Brescia, then Assisi proved to be a surprise gem and now Rome!
Now I have made the point in my blog that I did not find Rome to be a beautiful city. It's not, it's full of cars and noise and chaos things that are non existent in car free places such as Venice or as on this trip, San Marino, Assisi, Siena and Portofino.
However, it is a city full of beautiful things and excuse the pun - monumental tourist attractions. I loved doing the whole city thing, moving around on the metro and enjoying the sites. Obviously it is well worth two nights to visit.
Doing it again I would be much more focused on doing the full tourist thing and plan exactly what we wanted to see etc. I think we meandered in our light and frothy way and Rome demanded more than this somewhat casual approach.
The Hotel - Hotel Roma Tiburtina
Located in the suburbs 800 yards from the metro. It was perfect for us arriving in the city by car. We drove to the hotel and parked up safely with ease and used the metro to quickly get into the centre. It was a lovely hotel and it really worked for us and yet again thumbs up to Peanut for finding yet another hotel we would happily use again.
This was a coffee break on the way to Siena. It doesn't warrant an overnight stop but it was nonetheless a lovely and very real Italian town and definitely doing the trip again, we would pause here for a break.
There was a trend developing with this trip with each place trumping the last. Ok Rome was different its beauty not an inherent part of the city itself but if Rome were a face then it was one with a lot of beauty spots. Siena was just a beautiful face and we loved it. Eating and drinking in the cafes that edge the Piazza del Compo is simply a wonderful thing to do in the bright Italian sunshine. Without doubt any tour of Italy should include a night in Siena. Yes you could spend longer there but to be honest a full afternoon and an evening sufficed for our cappuccino style tourism.
The Hotel - Albergo Moderno
The hotel was last modern about 20 years ago and is on the cusp of needing modernisation. However, there was a style to its faded grandeur and the room was nonetheless very nice with fine bathroom facilities.
For us arriving by car it was the perfect location. Siena is a walled hilltop town with very little car access inside its walls. The hotel was just outside the walls with a series of escalators just by the hotel which in minutes took you to the centre. The Piazza del Compo being a ten minute stroll - no more. A+ for location and B+ for ambience. And yet as I write that I feel mean as in truth I did love the hotel and we would definitely choose this one again.
Brescia, San Marino, Rome and Siena had gone before so clearly Modena was never going to be up there with such evocative destinations. However, in its favour, we were here to visit the Ferrari museum and our evening did end up with us having our nicest meal out on the whole trip in a restaurant on a piazza in the old town centre. It would still be on the agenda if we repeated the trip but what we would change is this... If the weather was fine we would drive there as we did on the back roads as it would be a beautiful drive. If the weather was bad as it turned out for us, we would go there the fastest way and use the extra time to visit the Lamborghini museum as well!
The Hotel - The Castello
This is where the genius of Peanut comes in, as she compensated for Modena's ordinariness by going the extra mile and finding a wonderful out of town hotel set in its own grounds for our overnight stop. The room was huge and lovely, the grounds were beautiful and nicely manicured - perfect for an afternoon drink in and the breakfast here was the best of all of them. Yes this is the hotel to choose without doubt.
From Modena we headed home to Port Cogolin, 5 km from St Tropez and we broke the drive up with a long lunch stop in Portofino. This worked out well for us because it did not matter what time we got back to Port Cogolin, as we had a few days there before heading home.
We got the whole afternoon to see this delightful port which surely epitomises Italian chic at its best. It was so picturesque that we would always make this a lunch stop coming back to the French Riviera from Italy. If we could change anything we would spoil ourselves with a stopover here but we think the hotels might be too pricey for our pocket. If so and we got the chance, then we would settle for a stopover in the town you pass through to get there. It was just lovely and to enjoy an evening meal in one of the restaurants that surround this tiny port would be a delightful treat.
So there you have it - our road trip discovering Italy, by following the route of the famous Italian road race, the Mille Miglia. Follow our route, use the hotels we used, add in overnight stops in Asissi and Portofino, top and tail the trip with your own route to Brescia and home from Portofino and quite simply you have the perfect Italian road trip, with the right balance between driving adventure and having enough time in the places you stop to feel their beauty.
Our pal Aston organised a day out at the Welsh National History Museum via NewMiniseverns and a good turn out of MINIs ensured a good day out for all. Also recent events we have been on have been hampered by the weather - rain at Himley hall and freezing cold temperatures at Brooklands. This day out though was blessed with some lovely sunshine which really did make the day a lot of fun.
The day began with a drive from Malvern to Cardiff West Services on the M4 and for us this takes us through some stunning countryside as we pass through Ledbury and Monmouth to get to the services just an hour away. On the way we stopped at this lovely garage at Much Marcle and cursed that someone thought the large blue sign on the left of the photo was a good idea!
At the services we had a coffee and met old friends and new before the making short drive to the Museum. I had never been to this museum but I have to say it really is worth the trip. Basically various period houses, cottages and churches have been uprouted from different parts of Wales and rehoused at this site, giving you a great opportunity to look back at how we lived in different centuries. It was fascinating and the whole site is just a joy to walk through.
The Military Police were on show the day we went and they looked very authentic with their vehicles and uniforms. One church we went into was decorated inside by wonderful bright wall paintings which were only discovered when the church was dismantled to be rebuilt at the museum. It was like no other church I have ever been in, it was so bright and vivid and of course many of the church goers of the time would not have been able to read so these paintings were a great way of spreading the word of the church.
Examples of Welsh industry over the centuries could also be found and the machinery in an old woollen mill was fascinating to see.
Finally, just when we thought we had seen it all we encountered the original St Fagan's Castle and gardens which were just beautiful.
It all added up to a simply wonderful day and at the end of it as we were chatting, our pal Jaffa mentioned that he was off for a meal with a pal he had brought along, so deciding that the day had been too much fun to end, we decided to do the same and went for a meal with Aston and Debbie at the rather lovely Penarth Marina in Cardiff. All in all a smashing day out and so lovely to once more renew old friendships and make some new friends too. It's what the MINI social life is all about! Cheers Aston and Debs for organising this!
It has been a few years since we last went to the Himley Hall MINI meet and as we have always enjoyed the show it was time we went again. We went with YAM MINI, which gave us a chance to catch up again with some old friends from the MINI community whom we had not seen for a while, the Gidfather, SMonster, Tweedbean, Supermario, to name but a few. As always it is this opportunity to renew old friendships that makes these MINI events such fun.
We met in a nearby pub car park at 8 am, collected our tickets from the Gidfather, who had kindly organised the club stand and tickets and convoyed in together. We all got parked up then it was coffee and an exorbitantly expensive coffee and bacon sarnie for us. The cooker is coming with us to these events in future that's for sure! the weather held good till about twelve, which gave us a chance toi look around take some photographs and spend some money.
The highlights for us were the Park Lane MINI shop, an ingenious umbrella shelter, the abundance of MINI Coupés on show and the visual spectacle of a row of MINI GPs on the MINI UK GP stand.
We spotted this umbrella, which is probably designed for fishermen and thought it was superb for these car events. We spoke with the owner who was pleased we liked it and told us that Argos was our friend! It's on the list!
Next off we saw the Park Lane MINI stand which resembled a jumble sale as they cleared out old stock. It was a bargain place and Peanut bagged some Beat The Street sneakers which were just sat there waiting for her and I got a JCW Works lightweight jacket. The bargains compensated for the cost of the coffee and bacon butty!
The GPs arrived after us but by 9.30 they were all set up and looking resplendent. Yes I know they all look much the same but they do make a spectacle. This itch for one of these never goes away!
Finally, we were not the only Coupé there this time. SMonster had brought his wife's Cooper Coupé, which looked very handsome in red with a black roof and there was also a fine looking back and red Coupé Works to drool over.
An hour or so chatting under a tree sheltering from the rain and another tour of inspection of the show and it wss job done and we headed home, getting back a little after 3.30. It was a great day out made all the more fun by seeing old friends and actually grabbing a few bargains at the event. Cheers Yam MINI see you soon!
PS Click the photographs for a slideshow from the day!
We last did the Soft Top Sunday Breakfast Club at Goodwood back in June 2010 and you can see our blog on that here. May the 5th 2013 saw us back there for only our second visit to the Soft Top Sunday Breakfast Club. It was very poignant for me, as the first time we went here was just before I was diagnosed with the Big C in my Bowel and liver, so to be back there again 3 years later felt really good.
We left Malvern in glorious sunshine, sometime before 7 in the morning and arrived just after 9, at a dry but overcast Goodwood that was just buzzing with cars and people. We were ushered in with our Opel GT and got parked up just past the main stand. Then - there is no other way of putting it - we were mobbed by people asking about the car, all curious about it as it is just not a familiar sight on UK roads and frankly it was flattering to receive so much instant attention. Then we were filmed and interviewed for a website, which we will speak more of, should that amount to anything before finally after about an hour being able to move off and have a look around ourselves.
My first stop was at a gorgeous bright yellow Corvette, which was a joy to behold, followed a little further down the track by a delightful red Ferrari. The cars that you get to see at this event are simply out of this world and while it is a long drive there, it is well worth the effort and by the way it is a free event too!
Next it was time for a Goodwood breakfast but this did involve a queue. Peanut stoically joined the queue and sent me off to take a few photos whilst she waited. A gorgeous piece of British Motoring history caught my eye and I duly photographed this gloriously shiny Triumph. Peanut meanwhile was making friends of and entertaining other petrolheads in the breakfast queue.
With a satisfying breakfast refuelling us we explored along the track some more. The cars on show are just unbelievable, but often it is the affordable, or should I say almost affordable dream cars that call to me. This Morgan 4/4 Sport looked wonderful and coming from Malvern we do see these quite a lot but familiarity has not bred contempt and we just love the look of them. One day Mr Beastie, one day...
Of course you would expect one of the new Morgan three wheelers to be there but what amazes me is how different each one is. This is the first white one I have seen and it looked a beauty.
Bit by bit the event wound down and we set off for home in the afternoon and went topless for the whole drive home. What a truly great day out the Goodwood Breakfast club events are!
As always click any photo for a small slideshow of pictures from our day there.
This was a static MINI get together with some traders and other MINIs to admire and an opportunity to pick up tips and get ideas for future mods that we might fancy. We stayed over at my Mum's in Buckley the night before and with an early start, we planned to be at the meet before 9.00am. We knew there were a number of other groups travelling to the show but we had made no definite plans to meet up with any of them to convoy to the show, we just hoped that we would find them on the way.
Well we did find them, sadly as we shot past Charnock Richard Services we saw a whole gang of MINIs parked up. But it was too late for us by then, so we slowed right down and waited for them to catch up. It is impossible to explain to anyone who hasn't been there, but driving slowly waiting for 20-30 minis to catch you up always takes a lot longer then you think it will. We were looking and waiting for them for what seemed like ages and even though we knew they were coming, there was such a sense of exhilaration when, suddenly in the distance behind us was a swarm of cars and lights. They soon caught us up, some passed us and we found a spot in the middle of the convoy to follow them the rest of the way. To those who understand such things, it was just like the old days, when being out and about with a gaggle of MINIs was such great fun!
Once we were in and parked up we had a chance to meet and chat with old friends and new. First with Elliot who we hadn't seen for ages, and who is one of the few who are brave enough to have specced Satellite Grey leather in his new Roadster. As our Bum warmers are also Satellite grey we took our hats off to him! Seriously, though it's always a pleasure when our paths cross even if I don't fancy him quite as much as Lady P does!
We soon indulged ourselves in a bacon and egg bap to charge up the energy reserves and then we wandered off to investigate all the MINIs at the show.
We also found the tea shop and had a hot drink and some cakes, and afterwards bumped into Dave and Becky, old friends from our European touring trips and who we haven't seen for ages! Interestingly, they had seen us long before we saw them, which of course made me instantly paranoid as I began to wonder what prattish or outlandish thing had I gone and done this time to make my presence so obvious!
By lunchtime the dry weather gave up on us and it started to drizzle so we dived into our car for a sandwich. Spookily we were reminiscing about the old days, no doubt because we were enjoying the show so much, when a blast from the past materialised in front of our rain covered windscreen. The one and only Michelle Farrington no less. Now honestly, I promise you it's not just because she is pretty that I have a lot of time for this gal oh no, it goes back to her very first MINI Run in the lakes and her obvious and infectious excitement at one of the tea stops on the run as she described changing gear, "First gear - rev limiter, second gear - rev limiter, third gear... " and so on. She was one of the rare breed championed by Lady P, a girl who drives her MINI well! Great to see you looking so well and happy Michelle!
There was a craft fair in the outbuildings of the Hall too which amused us and kept us dry for a while and Peanut bought a pair of vintage leather gloves with crochet backs. Ooh now then I have to say I do like these - very sexy!
The rain though, was not going to let up and we gathered under the domed gazebo of the FullOn MINI Club where they had a magnificent birthday cake to celebrate their first birthday. At this point I followed a lead to track down a diffuser and the purchase of said diffuser will now be completed later this week! Oh my God it really is getting like the Vintage Days of MINI ownership, as I am so excited about doing this latest mod to SilverBeast! Last week's mod - the new red Joseph Ducts went down well by the way, receiving much admiration from all quarters.
The day was drawing to an end by now and we still had a three hour journey home, so we said our goodbyes and left the show in a three MINI convoy which held all the way to the Stoke exit. This certainly made the journey home a bit more fun too!
A great day in all ways except the weather, with a good turnout of MINIs and more coupés than we have seen anywhere, which was very inspiring and pleasing for us. Seeing the silver white Coupé SD with a rear diffuser was in truth the deal sealer for us! Although we never got chance to get our chairs out, Peanut did get to wear her new red Hunters, not quite a match to our Joseph Ducts, but as close as Hunters can get and it did mean I could spot her in a crowd as easily as I can spot SilverBeast in a gaggle of MINIs! A massive thank you to the organisers and fingers crossed that we are all there again next year!
Quite by chance we discovered that our mates Aston and Deb were going to the Peaks MINI Run organised by the Midland Mini League and as the weather looked glorious at last, we could enjoy an afternoon in Buxton the day before book a hotel for the saturday night and make a full weekend of it. Poignantly was 10 years ago in May 2003 that we did our first MINI run, which happened to be the Peaks Run, so it seemed apt that we should go back to the Peak District ten years later to do another Peaks MINI run!
We made an early start on Saturday morning and met up with Aston and Deb in Strensham services for breakfast and made a brisk start to our day, arriving at Buxton about 11.30. We had booked a B&B which was superbly placed overlooking the Pavillion Park and only 5 minutes walk from the centre of the town. We parked at the hotel and after a brief but concise history of the town and an overview of what we should see, kindly provided by our host, we strolled into town for lunch. I should menton at this point that Aston was concerned that his tyre pressure light had come on, but was convinced it was a jolt from a pothole we had encountered so he reset it and we all thought no more about it.
Almost the first shop we saw had me reeling in delight as it displayed a jacket that I had only mentioned the night before to Pea as being something she would like, a jacket one of the girls at work had bought and I had admired. With no hesitation we rushed in and found not only the blue and cream one, but also a grey and pink job which was a great deal more wacky, and much more P-like. It fitted like a glove. Job done. First purchase and only 10 minutes in.
We mooched a bit further, to the end of the town and then returned and found a small cafe for our lunch. After lunch we looked for the sights our host had mentioned to us, and soon found what had been the original stable block for The Crescent in Buxton. It is now part of the University of Derby, but what a magnificant building! Subsequent to the bulding being stables, it was for a long time Buxton hospital, for which purpose they built a dome over the central area. The acoustics in this dome are phenomenal and everything you said or even whispered, echoed back from all corners. It is a tremendous space and is sometimes used for functions, which must be quite an event.
Next we found ourselves outside Buxton Opera House, another gem of architecture well preserved by the town, and then on to the Pavillion and the park. After such a long spell of freezing gloomy weather, the sun today made us feel wonderful and so obviously we needed to treat ourselves to an ice-cream as we walked.
We then gave some thought to our meal for the evening and armed with a map and some recommendations from our host, we tried without success to book somewhere to eat later. If you are ever in Buxton, be warned, book early for an evening meal! We walked much further than we needed to and at last found a place to eat in the Old Hall Hotel Wine Bar, which was probably the nearest place to our hotel!
A quick snooze and freshen up from five untill seven and we were off again for our evening meal. The wine bar at the hotel had in truth been a bit of a last resort booking but in fact we all enjoyed a delicious meal and as it was a Wine Bar we could stay put and spend the evening there. Bit of a result in the end and you can find my meal - melted cheese over chorizo and chicken on a bed of tagliatelle in a tomato and chilli sauce - in our Food Bar.
Next morning we had a full English breakfast in the dining room overlooking the park. We had plenty of time as the start point of the run was only 10 miles away and the meeting time was 10.30. What we hadn't anticipated was that Aston's runflat light was not a jolt from a pothole, but a screw of some size, and his runflat was by now as flat as a runflat could be. We tried ringing a few tyre services but they were all still asleep, so as Aston was nearly 200 miles from home he made the decision to miss the run, try to get his tyre fixed and go home, which was a very sad way to end what had been a great weekend with him. We agonized over what to do, but as no real purpose would be achieved by us both missing the run, we set off to the start point, met everyone else there, and let them know Aston's problem.
There was a surprising amount of snow still about on the sides of the roads, and some unfortunately blocked the road to the Goyt Valley, which was to have been our first stopping point. This resulted in a mass turn round on a narrow road, but what is a mini run without such things!
The run finished at about 2.15 but unfortunately the pub it ended at seemed to have closed down and lunch had hastily been rearranged at a nearby pub for 3.30. We decided that this would mean us leaving at gone 5 so we elected to head home there and then, as we still had a two hour drive down the M6 and that is never a pleasant prospect on a Sunday at that time, but as it turned out we were home by 5ish even stopping for a quick bite to eat.
It was a really lovely weekend and made all the more so by having some good company. It was also great to re-live the days of MINI runs, which we have missed of late. Hopefully, we will be able to get some more MINI Runs under our belt now we have our new Coupé, and they really are an excellent way of getting about the country, going to places you might not go to and of course making new friends.
A big Thank You to Midlands MINI League for organising this run, making us feel so welcome and thus causing us to have a smashing weekend in the Peak District! As always click the images for slideshows from Buxton and the MINI Run