A personal view by David Jobson-Scott.
Ten Jaguars and two Daimlers set off from the UK for an Austrian adventure at the end of August 2011. Five of the cars were V12s. The tour leaders were Simon and Ann Cronin from the JEC , on a scenic driving holiday planned & arranged by Travel Destinations. Cars ranged from a 1948 XK120 to a new XJ saloon and set off from all corners of the UK. Most used the Eurotunnel service on 31st August, with several using the Hull to Zeebrugge crossing. The main “tunnel” group met up outside the terminal building before boarding the shuttle for France. We caught occasional glimpses of some of the cars during the day, but only met up with everyone at the first hotel in Marche-en-Famenne, Southern Belgium. One factor very obvious from the start was that this trip was very well organised, with detailed daily itineraries from Travel Destinations. The “door to door” mileage for us over the entire trip was an impressive 2,546. We set off in our 1976 Daimler Double Six Avon-Stevens Convertible from North Devon on Tuesday 30th August, hood down all the way, for the 273 mile drive to Folkestone.
Day One, Wednesday 31st August.
We boarded the 08.50hrs Shuttle for France and immediately found ourselves separated from the rest of the group by the loading staff! There was ample time to put the hood down and prepare for the Continent. It was then a longish drive of 214 miles, much on motorway, to the first Hotel Quartier Latin at Marche-en-Famenne in the Ardenne region of Southern Belgium. This is a beautifully green and forested area. We did find a nice restaurant for our lunch, but the service was very strange to say the least. After a wait of about 30 minutes from ordering, the waiter came to tell us that the machine for slicing ham had broken down and would we like to choose something else! Consequently, our “brief” lunch stop extended to 75 minutes. We ended up being about the last to arrive at the hotel but there was one compensation in that we had underground parking and the car hood could be left down.
Marche-en-Famenne was a delightful old-fashioned town with lots of cobbled streets and an impressive central square: well worth walking around and enjoying the atmosphere. There was an extensive sitting out area in front of the hotel and many of the group congregated there after arrival. We were treated later to a typical Belgian dinner and were able to meet all the other participants for the first time.
Day Two, Thursday 1st September.
Our next destination was to be the Hotel Pfalzblick in Dahn, Germany and another drive of 191 miles. We followed the first part of the suggested route through Northern Luxembourg and along the river to Echternach. We then diverged by heading for Trier and then across miles of very narrow country roads to pick up the motorway later on. The hotel at Dahn was unusual in several respects: firstly the reception was being redecorated on our arrival so we entered via a back door and secondly, our room was several floors below the Reception area. The hotel is designed to be upside down in this respect. We were the second car to arrive and had a delightful lunch on the wonderful terrace at the rear of the hotel with the Kenworthys.
The hotel was of a very good standard and we had a most enjoyable dinner with the entire touring group later in the evening. As usual, the name badges were an invaluable help in stirring the old grey cells into action. Despite the large group we met on the Croatian trip last year, only Simon and Ann and the Lindsays were known to us. It was, however, immediately apparent that we had a very interesting and varied group of fellow JEC travellers to get to know during our extensive tour to Austria.
Day Three, Friday 2nd September.
A longish drive of 232 miles to the Hotel Hirsch at Füssen, almost on the Austrian border. We had already encountered some road works on our route down and sadly today was no exception. The weather was also very questionable at times, but we kept the hood down through quite heavy rain until it became just too wet. We didn’t have far to drive at this stage and eventually arrived at Füssen in glorious hot sunshine! The Old Town was an enchanting place to explore and we had coffee and wonderful apfelstrudel whilst we watched the world go by. The old church was spectacularly ornate, with superbly painted ceilings and rich gold encrusted decorations. One of the highlights of the old town was a huge shop displaying all the local clothes fashions. The lederhosen were resisted! Dinner was again provided by the Hotel.
Day Four, Saturday 3rd September.
The final 193 mile leg of our marathon drive across Europe was to the wonderful Grüner Baum Hotel at Bad Gastein in Austria. We left the Füssen Hotel for the Fernpass and immediately joined a traffic jam which persisted all over the pass. In fact our overriding memory of Austria is that it is a wonderful clean fresh country, but lots of traffic, road works and tractors! The weather was sunny and warm and the journey quite easy. We stopped for petrol just after coming off the Innsbruck motorway and found a very peaceful café behind the garage which was perfect for our lunch stop. The final part of the run climbed up into the foothills of the Alps and we wound our way around the valley to the very secluded Hotel complex. Sparkling wine was presented to us as we checked in: all very civilised. Our room was in the annex that houses the spa complex. The accommodation was spacious and very well appointed, with balcony looking up the valley towards the mountains.
We had arrived in good time to be able to have over an hour enjoying the outdoor swimming pool. This was a lovely relaxing reward for all the travelling. A champagne reception was held later beside the pool, hosted by the Blumschein family who own the Hotel. It was during this that we were handed our “route books” for all the activities taking place over the next few days. A huge amount of effort must have gone into the preparation and planning for these events. An excellent dinner was later served in the main Hotel restaurant. Our cars were resting in a specially reserved area behind the hotel.
Day Five, Sunday 4th September.
An early start for a trip to the Austrian Lake District and lunch at the Hotel Weisses Rössl (White Horse) in St. Wolfgang on Lake Wolfgangsee. Our initial instructions were to follow the “maniac Rolls Royce driver”. The Blumscheins have a delectable 1936 Rolls Royce 20/25 (GBJ 29 for RR aficionados) which was to lead us on our local travels. An eccentric Austrian in a Rolls Royce is quite a sight, particularly as we were summoned to proceed by Mr Blumstein with an Austrian hunting horn! A delightful day followed, including parking the cars right in the centre of St. Wolfgang. Our little convoy behind the majestic 20/25 must have created quite a stir. We had an excellent lunch at the White Horse and were then able to explore the town afterwards. We made our own way home and were surprised to find that quite a few of the group chose the toll pass over the mountains: very spectacular scenery and great fun for our cars. We clocked up a surprising 164 miles. Dinner was again in the main restaurant.
Day Six, Monday 5th September.
Our first “rest day”, or to be more precise, rest morning as plans had been made for our party to be transported by horse drawn carriages to the “Prossau”. The Prossau was a restaurant at the head of the valley behind the hotel and just over an hour ride up the valley (all owned by the Blumscheins). Many of the group set off to explore the town during the morning: we had a very lazy day around the hotel, including leisurely coffee in the “Apotheke”. This is the bar which is fitted out just like an old chemist’s dispensary, complete with masses of pull-out drawers.
The weather wasn’t at all pleasant, with mist and light rain. We set off in our carriages with the hoods raised. This was a great shame because the views were impressive, but visibility out of the carriage was very restricted. We climbed to a height of 1278 metres. Some stretches of the track were very steep and the horses had quite a struggle. It certainly made a change from driving the cars up mountains, as progress was very much more stately and sedate.
On arrival at the Prossau, we were ushered in to the restaurant area and treated to a magnificent spread of cold meats and other delicacies. Also included was a small glass of the local “fire water” (Sambuca): very potent. It was a delightful and unexpectedly large meal, with a view looking down the rather misty valley. During lunch, the clouds started to lift a little and we were able to descend back to the hotel with the carriages open, thus enjoying the view rather more.
Dinner was a specially themed event in the main restaurant, with lots of Austrian folk music, including some yodelling and an excellent Austrian farmer style buffet. There was a superb range of different dishes to try. Many of the group certainly entered into the spirit of the evening!
Day Seven, Tuesday 6th September.
One of the main highlights of the holiday, the climb over the Grossglockner and an unexpectedly early start for a holiday at 08.30 hrs! We were marshalled into a convoy, behind the 1936 20/25 Rolls, to head for the train at Bockstein, just south of Bad Gastein, for the trip through the Alps to Mallnitz. On the way, we had a conducted tour all through Bad Gastein and this gave us an excellent view of most parts of the town. At the terminal, we drove the cars onto the train and then went to sit in the passenger carriages for the trip through the mountains.
After leaving the train, we stopped to put the car hood down. The next stage of the journey took us to Winklern and the start of the 107 Grossglockner road. The drive up the pass was a delight, with very gentle curves and wonderfully wide road. Our first halt was a “comfort” stop not far from the top of the pass. The final ascent to the viewing point at Edelweissspitze (2,571 metres) was unusual in that we became stuck in a traffic jam. It was unbelievably busy and parking was quite a problem. However, it was all worth the effort for the Champagne reception that the Blumscheins had organised for us at the top. This included delicious snacks as well! The view was spectacular, especially so because we had bright sunshine but also clouds “flowing” over the mountains: all very dramatic. I remember as a child being driven over this pass with my parents on the way to Venice in about 1958. It was every bit as impressive this time round.
Having experienced the wonders of the Grossglockner pass, one might have expected that the events for the day were almost over. Not so, as we then headed for Zell am See and to the impressive Schloss Kammer at Maishofen for an excellent lunch outside in the gloriously hot sunny weather. We were then treated to a shooting match on the resident range behind the Schloss. Suffice to say that the ladies of our group seemed to do rather better than the men! We had clocked up 122 miles by the time we arrived back at Bad Gastein.
The final chapter of the day was a Gala dinner in one of the magnificent special function rooms at the Hotel Grüner Baum. We met up for drinks in the Apotheke beforehand and then had a very special final meal at this impressive Hotel. Various presentations were made afterwards, particularly the shooting award which went to Ann Cronin. We had a wonderful time and will be eternally grateful for all the hard work put in by the Blumschein family to make our stay at the Grüner Baum so special.
Day Eight, Wednesday 7th September.
On the move again and a pleasant drive to the Hotel Bayerischerhof on the Island at Lindau on Lake Constance (Bodensee). The weather wasn’t particularly inspiring and this was to be the first full day with the hood up. The early part of the drive was very busy, via Zell am See, Saalfelden and St. Johann. Once on the motorway to skirt around Innsbruck, the progress was faster, but it was only when we headed for the Alberg Pass that the traffic really thinned out. We then continued over the Hochtannberg Pass towards Bregenz. This was a lovely drive. We had our first picnic of the trip going over the Arlberg, although it was far too windy to sit outside the car. We clocked up 261 miles by the time we reached Lindau and the glorious view out over the lake.
Dinner was at our leisure, so we explored lots of restaurants and eventually ended up having an excellent meal at our own hotel in the terrace bar/brasserie. It was sheer delight to be able to sit out on our balcony overlooking the harbour and watch the world go by.
Day Nine, Thursday 8th September.
A real “rest day” and an improvement in the weather. We explored most of the island part of Lindau and joined some of the group for coffee. Lunch was again at the hotel’s excellent terrace bar. The view over the harbour and the lake is well worth any additional cost. Frequent arrivals of the ferry boats meant that there was lots to watch. The view from our room at the front of the hotel included the old lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour. I had decided that this must be climbed! After a suitable interval from lunch we set off towards the tower. The climb was much more arduous than I had expected (Marilyn stayed at the bottom), but well well worth the effort. The view from the top was spectacular. We had dinner at an excellent restaurant in the main street and were joined by David and Ann Render.
Day Ten, Friday 9th September.
The day of our 9th Wedding Anniversary and 202 mile drive to Le Parc Hotel, Obernai, Alsace, France. The Bayerischerhof Hotel was excellent and our cars were parked in the underground car park. This allowed us to put the car hood down before we set off. Our route was along the north side of Lake Constance towards Titisee. After Titisee we then climbed up into the mountains, through cloud and rain over the Feld pass. We were fortunate that the garage we found to replenish our fuel had a small café attached and we were able to leave the car under the canopy while we had lunch. The journey through the southern Black Forest towards Mullheim was delightful.
We then followed the Rhine for many miles but, very unfortunately, didn’t actually see much of the river until closer to Obernai, because the road was lower than the bank. There was almost no traffic on this road and it was a very relaxing drive. We arrived at Le Parc in brilliant sunshine just before 15.00 hrs and were able to enjoy our anniversary exploring the hotel and grounds. An excellent dinner followed, preceded by an anniversary Kirsch Royal aperitif out on the terrace. This was to be our last dinner as a group and the final chance to see everyone together. A small presentation was made to Simon and Ann.
Day Eleven, Saturday 10th September.
A 246 mile drive to the Hotel Continental in the centre of Reims. Virtually no traffic on the road through the Vosges mountains and lots of very twisty narrow sections. The weather was very hot and we were lucky to find a roadside café for refreshments. It was interesting to see the change in the scenery as the landscape became flatter and flatter. The final section of the suggested route was across mile after mile of traffic-free gently undulating countryside. It was a shock hitting the motorway again for the final entry into Reims. It was extremely hot when we finally checked in at 16.35hrs and it took me ages to find the aircon controls in our room (actually behind the open bedroom door!). The cars were parked in a huge underground car park on the fifth floor down. Once cooled off after all the unloading, etc., it was a pleasure to be able to walk around the town. The place was heaving with people and all the eating places were very busy. The last time we were here was on one of our Alvis trips in 1997 and 2002. I can’t ever remember it being so full of people. We had a very good dinner at a lovely Piano bar restaurant not far from the hotel and indulged ourselves in two Planters Punches each: very refreshing on such a hot and humid night.
Day Twelve, Sunday 11th September.
A completely free day to recharge our batteries, check the car and generally recover from all the travelling before the final phase of our run home. After a leisurely breakfast, we set off to explore the surrounding area. The weather had completely broken, with very heavy rain overnight and the temperature had dropped drastically. We had coffee and lunch, explored the cathedral again and dodged the rain drops all day. We found a nice restaurant for dinner just across from the Hotel, because I wasn’t feeling quite so good.
Day Thirteen, Monday 12th September.
The first part of the final leg home, was 174 miles from Reims to the Channel Tunnel. We set off with the hood down and in reasonable weather. It was windy and became progressively blustery. By some extraordinary chance we happened to stop at the same motorway service station on the A26 as the main group travelling with Simon and Ann. Marilyn got talking to some bikers who were all from Devon! The journey became progressively more interesting as the wind and then rain hit us. It became so unpleasant after we had checked in at the tunnel that we had to pull over and put the hood up. The weather was now so awful that we decided to go directly to join the shuttle queues, rather than try to meet up with the others: sorry about that folks but all I wanted to do was get home.
Once back in England, the weather wasn’t too bad apart from the wind. We did, however, keep the hood up for the 274 mile drive home to North Devon and arrived home at 17.25 hrs. A good fast and easy run without too much traffic. The end of a most enjoyable holiday in excellent company, and 2,546 more miles on the clock.
Thanks to group leaders Simon and Ann Cronin, Holiday organisers Travel Destinations, our hosts in Austria the Blumschein Family and all the other hotels that made this such a special holiday. Finally, special thanks to Scarlet our wonderful Daimler for transporting us in such grand style and comfort.