Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Road trip : Devon to Gibraltar to Arctic Circle

i am acutely aware this started as a travel blog not tv nerd-land - so as a reminder of the days when i was interesting here is something summarised (for the first time) and sent off this week

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Chris Hodgson <>
Date: 1 October 2013 14:25
Subject: Road trip : Devon to Gibraltar to Arctic Circle

Dear EVO.

Thought you'd be interested. If not can you suggest someone who might be?

Road Trip
Devon to Gibraltar via Le Mans, Andorra
Gibraltar to Arctic Circle (Narvik) via Barcelona, Millau, Alps, Grossglockner High Road, Austria, Bavaria, Berlin, Sweden, Ice Hotel, Finland.. and back to Harwich via Copenhagen
2001 Audi TT coupe (225 bhp version)

I'm still compiling and finding material from two road trips in my 2001 Audi TT Mark 1, to and from Devon to Gibraltar, on the return leg coming back via Finland and the Arctic Circle. I'd got a contract for Victor Chandler in Gib and the possible road trip over there had been at the back of my mind all along.

Trip down to Gib was a burn through France and Spain (stopping at Murcia motel to get the the incredible N-342) with a hairy but amusing drive across the top of Andorra in snowy February (thank god for Haldex 4WD drive). Arrived in Gib to amazement from workmates, who had all said the road trip from UK to Gib was routine but when pushed actually couldn't remember knowing anyone who had done it..
Googlemap Exmoor to Gibraltar

For a month or so the TT sat basking in African skies as the only UK registered vehicle I could see on the Rock. Then as my contract with Victor Chandler came to an end I packed all my belongings from my flat into it's copious interior and headed back, with a vague idea to head back to UK via Switzerland. (Luckily I had become accustomed to running around the car to pay at every toolbooth on the journey on the way down). After Easter in Barca, staying in a frightening modern, deserted Gerry Anderson esque hotel (5 * Hesperia Tower hotel Barcelona, thanks to a desperate deal from I entered France and stopped off at the Milau viaduct.

Throughout I kept a steady routine of driving all day, sticking to scenic routes where possible, then stopping at the first hotel I saw after 4pm. Navigation was all me, while driving, by map (Iphone was being used for video, photos and audio) so there were plenty of unplanned detours.

Losing myself in France and classic era Rolling Stones for a few days  I arrived dazed in Switzerland the day of the Royal wedding so confused I mistook Swiss francs for drink tokens. Following day took St Bernard Pass instead of San Bernadino Pass and spent two days in Italy by mistake. Navigating and driving in the Alps turned out to be a problem. Scenery and changes of gradient are more than distracting. Had a near religious experience listening to Goldfrapp's Felt Mountain while driving almost vertically through incredible Klausenstrasse Pass.  Increasingly pushed for time I had nightmare final eight hour stint through Alps, climaxing in getting lost in Munich one way system to collapse in my cheapo scifi city centre hotel, to collapse turn on CNN find Bin Laden had been killed 

I allowed myself a days rest watching the Bin Laden news including dinner in the fantastically conservative Bavarian hotel (muzak strangely inculded a version of Rocky Horror Show's The Time Warp).  Next day drove through Berchtesgaden to the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, 
ending at the top of GrossGlocker itself, in a vast empty sky resort overlooking a glacier that could have been mistaken for a Bond villian's HQ.

Finding rest again in a tiny forgotten village in the Austrian alps I then headed up through Ingolstat and Bayreauth to rest for a week with friend in Berlin. The Berliners convinced me to push onto my original target, Narvik, even though it was in the Arctic Circle. After finding the ferry from Sassnitz to Trelleborg and working out how to read the local road signs (my 3 or 4th set of different road signs in as many weeks) I then began a blissfull week long drive up Sweden's Baltic east coast.  Half way up Sweden, with a week to go realised I was at same latitude as Iceland..

Plans to stay at the Ice hotel at Jukkasjärvi,
 were thwarted by finding it half melted on arrival, but later, by the time I was running on fumes past frozen fjords on the way to Narvik I was very glad of the onset of spring. (That and the fact that most of of my Gib clothes were t-shirts and shorts)  After Kiruna I chilled in a hostel in Lulea for a few days and had a day trip to Finland, where I found Santa Claus's Post Office in a blinding bright and blue Arctic spring is more Lovecraftian than Xmassy. By now I had completely fallen in love with Lapland.

Arrival in Narvik was inevitably an anti-climax, though the fact that it was Norwegian national day made it special. I was looking pretty sketchy by this time so a beautiful Norwegian gave me a hair cut. The military museum covering the two naval battles is well worth a visit. For those who don't know the German destroyers which would otherwise have been crucial in Operation Sealion, the invasion of the UK, where destroyed in two large naval battles in Narvik Fjord in 1940. The 2nd battle featured a veteran Royal Navy dreadnought from WW1 that had no business being in a fjord.
With money running out fast I headed down through Sweden to Denmark across the vast Oreseund Bridge bridges to eventually get the ferry home. After an incredibly rough crossing with Danes having Heineken for breakfast I found myself ashore at Harwich. Essex roads seemed Hell in comparison to the previous couple of weeks. A good friend in sleepy Bury St Edmund leant me her sofa and I slept .. until her cat woke me up. I didn't mind, he's a great cat.

Iphone allowed me to take endless photos and make constant audio notes which still pop up randomly now when music selection is on shuffle.

Despite being a habitual  writer (see blog)
I've hesitated writing any of it down before now because I don't know how or where to start - I have enough audio/visual detail for several documentaries!

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