Planning a European Road Trip with a Ferrari 360 Modena
It's safe to say we spent a lot of time preparing for this trip. Armed with experience from a former road trip to Monaco in our Boxster, we knew that it'd be a good idea to choose the route carefully. On our last adventure we often ended up on roads that were, um… rustic to say the least. This time we wanted to be prepared and build a route that was a little more 'Ferrari-friendly' and offered overnight stops involving car parks in which we'd be happy to leave the car. We weren't overly concerned with security, more so the narrow spaces that can lead to knocks and scrapes when you consider tight car parking, ramps in and out and the ever present threat of flailing doors from other vehicles. We had some homework to do.
Starting from the middle of our planned holiday, we worked our way outwards in both directions until we reached our house. Now, this may seem a little strange but we had a hot date in Italy and everything else had to revolve around it. We'd booked a Ferrari factory tour via our local main dealer for early September, cleverly avoiding the factory shutdown in August and the worst of the European holiday season. Once we had the tour date firmly in the diary, we could start checking out hotels and route options. Our planning toolkit consisted primarily of Google Earth and booking.com, with the little Google streetview man putting in so much effort I almost thought he should be coming with us, at least until I realised he'd already been.
We tend to stay in reasonable mid-range hotels as we consider it a bit of a waste throwing money at extravagant establishments for the sake of a quick stopover. We planned to have a couple of nights in several locations in order to abandon ship and head off exploring on foot and this worked rather well. It was a holiday after all and we wanted to enjoy it.
We booked accommodation around the fringes of the towns we visited. Not because we're miserable but simply to find hotels with suitable car parks. It's often the case that with central hotels and certainly those situated in historic areas, that they'll generally be located in charming but narrow old town streets. Parking in these areas can be scarce and if it is available, it can pretty tight and not a healthy prospect for the nervous supercar owner. Our digital toolkit did us proud however and we found some nice hotels that would give us what we needed without compromising our holiday.
One point from the top of our requirements list: avoid northern France. Not because we don't like it but purely because the very easy and effective autoroute south from Calais until... let's say about Annecy, is pretty dull. Mind-numbingly dull in fact. We selected Belgium > Germany as a good option because a: we wondered how many countries we could fit into our holiday, b: we wanted to keep those boredom-induced suicidal thoughts at arms length and c: everybody likes chips and sausages.
So there you have it, the Belgium option. However, nobody told us about the roads.
Crossing the Channel
One last thing: we'd originally planned to use the Channel Tunnel but due to half of the Middle East storming the tunnel each night, combined with the French ferry workers striking, burning stuff and shutting down the port of Calais, we opted for Dover - Dunkerque on the ferry instead. We chose a slightly unusual midnight sailing, although that's not as daft as it may seem. With 250 miles to cover once we hit dry land, we wanted to reach Luxembourg and still have time to go for a walk and see the place. An afternoon sailing was therefore out, as was going in the morning as we'd have to brave the M25 during rush hour and we couldn't risk not making the boat.
When buying our ferry tickets we ensured our booking was for a 'low clearance' vehicle that meant we got waved on with the freight rather than run having to the gauntlet of ramps, tunnels and other limited visibility obstacles that normal cars face. If you're planning a ferry crossing with a Ferrari or anything similar, do this. It's an option you can select when booking online with DFDS. We didn't find the ramps getting on or off the ferry a problem although we do tend to approach them at a bit of an angle. No worries though, even though our car sits slightly lower than standard. On a previous trip in our Boxster we opted for the Eurotunnel and found that the loaders wave low sportscars onto the lower level making access pretty painless. So, either the ferry or tunnel is fine, just remember to specify 'low clearance car' on the ferry.