It's not often you hear 'shall we drive to Monaco for a road trip', so when presented with this opportunity we all jumped at the chance - whatever the cost. Plans started in early May and consisted of a 3 car road trip driving all the way down France in to Monte Carlo. The cars, an Audi A6, BMW Z4 and Nissan GT-R.
The Eurostar train announces our arrival to France, and Jonny offers to do the first French stint in the A6. Chris drives the Z4 with Shane while Ash drives the GT-R with Kunle. We leave the train and make headway on to the long journey through France with just under 800 miles to cover.
One thing we had learnt about the French motorways with the route we were taking are the tolls. They are costly yet somewhat worthwhile. Noone really wants to pay just to drive on motorways, however there is element of luxury that we were paying with these toll charges.
Each of our cars were fitted with the Sanef Liber-t tags so we wouldn't need to stop at every toll to pay - instead, trundling along at 30kph our transponders communicates with each toll booth and a simple beep confirms a transaction had taken place. Then the barrier lifts, the green light shows and it is a rolling launch at every opportunity.
Another element of luxury - 'aires' are situated at a maximum of 20 kilometres to each one, with each aire having a nice place to park up to have a picnic, make use of the toilet breaks, simply to rest your legs. And each aire is clean and tidy, really good for us to change drivers after so many stints.
The best part of these motorways - the road surface is like driving on a race track! Blissfully smooth, it's like the French had never heard of a pot hole in their lives, it was a joy to drive on. From this, we stopped every now and again to stretch our legs and change drivers.
At around 8:00pm we arrived in Monte Carlo. We parked up at the hotel and decided to walk down to the main area to get some late dinner and to explore the night time scenery before getting some well earned rest to prepare for the following day.
The next morning we went to find breakfast down by the marina. What a wonderful way to have breakfast, the Crock'in Monaco is a lovely place to chill out in the 30°C sun, the nearby water fountain providing a cool breeze whilst you have your morning tea/coffee and food. It felt amazing and perfectly encapsulated the Monaco life we always imagined.
After our breakfast, we admired the view of Monte Carlo before making our way back to the hotel. Later in the day (after a wonderfully relaxing ice cold shower and maximum use of the hotel air conditioning), we went out to book a few car spa appointments with Marc at Monaco Premium. He only had time to do the exteriors of each car, which was fine as we kept the interiors clean throughout the journey.
With all 3 cars looking superb, we made our way to the main streets of Monte Carlo, car spotting the lazy way (i.e. from our cars) and also visited a rather peculiar petrol station-cum-garage. It was an underground station with cleaning facilities as well as tyre changing services. We headed back to the hotel afterwards to park the cars and headed out for a spot of dinner.
The following day we fuelled with food for the day, and got ready for our planned photoshoot up in the mountains. As mountain passes go, this was top notch. An amazing drive up and we were rewarded with some jaw dropping views of Monte Carlo. We took the route that lead us to the Alpes-Maritimes area of France to Tête de Chien (translation: The Dog's Head). We couldn't help but to explore the area before arranging the cars for the cameras.
After this, we continued up to the top of the hill until we couldn't progress any further as the summit was the peak of a military base. This was a great area to turn the cars around and prepare the cameras.
The day was an absolute success: Another amazing 30°C day, beautiful views of Monte Carlo, a super fun photoshoot in the mountains. Driving back down the mountain and out of Monte Carlo we were back with the silky roads that led us out to the mountains. The roads they've built out there were simply incredible; sweeping turns, hairpins, chicanes, the lot.
We ended up back at the hotel to prepare for a final night out before getting ready to leave the next morning.
Checking out of the hotel, we embarked on our journey back up through France and back to the UK. The BMW Z4 wass surprisingly frugal, the GT-R unsurprisingly thirsty and the Audi unsurprisingly the best of the 3 in fuel economy. After a few hundred miles we pulled over for a short break and I went over to drive the Z4 so Chris could rest. It seemed everyone was looking to make their way to Calais, including this stunning Ford GT40.
We left Monte Carlo early mainly beat the traffic but it wasn't to be, there was no sign of identifying the cause of the traffic on the motorway. We needed to have reached Calais by 11:00pm that evening to have stood chance of making our Eurostar train home. Thankfully we made it back and our train journey gave us some much needed rest as well as the opporunity to look back on what we had completed over the past few days.
And with that, the journey came to an end. It was incredible, we had driven down with zero expectations and left with a bit of Monte Carlo close to our hearts. The cars were faultless, such fantastic machines with each car adopting a different personality to cater for any situation.
You have the smooth, calm and collected Audi A6 Avant S-Line, supremely economical even if it is a 3.0 litre turbocharged V6 diesel. It handled the long journeys with ease, but can easily take on the mountain roads while carrying the equivalent of a house in the boot.
The BMW Z4 has 2 sides to the car; you have the hard coupé roof protecting you from the elements, having quite a quiet drive and yet at the flick of the switch, it becomes the ultimate roadster, with the sun shining down onto you as you drive. Eith the backbox delete on this particular example, the exhaust gives you that straight six symphony wherever you go. It was an absolute gem of a sports car.
And you also have the bonkers Nissan GT-R. With its Candy Apple Red wheels, de-cat exhaust system and carbon fibre rear spoiler, it is certainly looks how it sounds. It is incredibly ferocious, barking through the tunnels as well waking up half of Monte Carlo. It eats up the miles in a demonic fashion and we simply could not get enough of it.