Day 2 – Liege to Bruchkobel

We reluctantly rose at 10 and journeyed on to Spa, a small Belgian town on the way to Germany. After a delicious breakfast of waffles and tea we bid fond ‘A bientôt!’ to Belgium.

French bakery in Spa

French bakery in Spa

Continuing on to Frankfurt, we were given a warm welcome by Sarah’s friend Marcus and his lovely parents. After a tour of the garden and a pleasant afternoon drinking Marcus’ favorite beer on the porch of the garden house, we headed into the historic town center with Marcus and Corinna for a traditional German meal: sausage, schnitzel, smoked fish, and a regional fresh herb sauce.

Coolest of all was the translucent cheese, which Anand mistook alternately for pineapple chunks and pieces of onion, and which tasted like nothing any of us had ever had before. It was smoky, waxy, pickled and tasted a bit musky, kind of like a mild gouda served with a spritz of cologne. Apparently just unwrapping the cheese is a difficult and failure-prone undertaking, and you still have to let it sit for a while before you can eat it.

Breakfast at Chez Doebrich

Breakfast at Chez Doebrich

In the morning, Sarah and Anand took an ill-fated jog around town early in the morning and wound up in a neighboring village. Marcus had to fetch them, but eventually everyone was delivered to the breakfast table where Marcus’s family had set a rich spread of bread rolls, homemade jam, apple cheesecake, and boiled eggs housed in little crocheted, hen-shaped egg cozies.

CBPG went off to pack its belongings and make some last minute weefee. Before leaving, we went back to say goodbye to Marcus’s parents who said, “Wait, we want to give you some things.” Marcus’s mom had prepared a list of all the counties of Germany and their capitals, so we could learn them on our trip. She gave us a nice bag with Hessen county’s seal on it and some chocolates and throat lozenges inside. Then, best of all, Marcus’s dad brought out a crazy looking quadromonica – like four 8-inch long harmonicas put together in a cross shape – and played us a traditional farewell tune. It was the perfect send-off from Germany, and with that, we were ready to head off to Klatovy, Czech Republic!

At Marcus's

At Marcus's

Day 1 – Oxford to Goodwood

Finally, after packing, vacuuming and moving the entirety of Anand’s house into storage, we dropped off all his remaining things (semi-frozen food, crock pot, microwave, damp towels and a dirty bathmat) with his unwitting friend Marianne. She was a very good sport about the unexpected bounty. Anand rushed between Marianne’s house and the car while attempting to both convince her of the joys of the crock pot and relay vague technical directions for its use. Who doesn’t love a nice warming stew in the summer months?

We then hit the road to Goodwood, a renowned car racing track in the South of England (though you wouldn’t know it from the lack of signage). We drove around the English countryside for about an hour asking directions, rolling into Goodwood in typical CBPG style around 2:30pm (the launch was only scheduled until 3). We went to the Media tent, picked up Anand’s passport, stickers for our car, and T-shirts, and headed back to the car to give it a cleaning and apply the decals.

Jessie and Anand are excited

Jessie and Anand are excited

Half-way through applying our stickers, the marshal came over and let us know we’d missed our chance to take a lap at the track. Unfazed, we headed on to Dover for the ferry to France. We rolled through lovely English seaside villages like Brighton and Rye, saw the white cliffs of Dover, ate some Burger King, and hopped aboard the ferry across the channel to Calais.

It rained steadily on the night drive to Brussels and our plan was to find either a cheap hotel outside of Brussels or a field that didn’t look too damp to set up our tent. As we drove and drove along the E40 past Brussels and Liége there didn’t appear to be any obvious opportunities for lodging. On we drove, stopping at gas stations and bars, turning on dirt roads looking for a camp site, and observing fake cows that turned out to be real. Eventually, all the way back in Liége, we found a hotel, booked a room, and promptly passed out on the smallest single beds ever seen (one of which was miraculously shared by Jessie and Sarah). It was 3 AM.

Group United! and Launch Live Online

Well the Group is now all united here in Oxford. Anand is finishing up packing his apartment (he’s moving) and tying off loose ends at work. The rest of the team is trying to get a couple last minute things for the car and we’re waiting for a delivery of a tent from Sierra Designs, one of our terrific sponsors. We also just had an excellent English breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, beans, and toast. Great food and great staff at The Excelsior in Oxford if you’re ever in that area.

We just got an email from the Adventurists, who run the Rally, telling us that you’ll be able to watch the launch live online!  Here’s the information from them:

The Festival of Slow The Mongol Rally Festival of Slow LIVE online…
Saturday 18th July 11.30 – 15.30 BST
The Mongol Rally launch will simultaneously fart in the face of boredom from Barcelona, Milan and Goodwood in the UK. The English launch of just over 300 teams from all over the world will be broadcast live for your amusement so bookmark for the broadcast. We’ll even have a highlights show posted on Saturday evening…

This Saturday Goodwood Motor Circuit will be temporarily declared the ‘Independent Republic of Adventurism’ complete with menacing border guards, maurauding entertainers, live music, cossack dancers, Russian strongmen, real ale, properly made lamonade, and more than 300 Mongol Rally teams from more than 20 countries.

A fire engine completely covered in fur, London Taxis and a tiny car with a 15 foot Viking long boat on top feature among the ‘Vehicles of Significant Comedy Value Category’. Before they depart for a gargantuan party in a Czech castle on Monday each team will enjoy a parade lap of Goodwood Motor Circuit and they will be flagged off by former rallier and all round top chap Nick Hewer, who you may have seen on the tellybox in The Apprentice.

There are also 100 teams heading out from Barcelona and another 50 leaving from Milan simultaneously this Saturday, check the website for updates.

Festival of Slow website.

Carte Grise! England!

Ah so much! No time!

Spent 3 hours waiting in the prefecture in Bordeaux. They call your number and then print you a carte grise in 30 seconds. No questions asked about my US address or my Australian passport or why Anand’s name was on the bill of sale or anything. 30 euro and I was out of there. All thanks to Camille for figuring that one out!

So then I quickly booked some insurance over the phone to cover the car in Europe, then hit the road. Made it to Calais about 3am for a 4:15 ferry. UK passport control almost made it seem like they weren’t going to let me in after I explained why I was in England and why I had a French car. One of those “please wait here a moment” things that sets my stomach churning.

Grabbed an hour or so of sleep on the ferry. Now it’s 6:15am and I’m god-knows-where along the M20 motorway on my way to Oxford. I’m really hungry but there’s nothing open yet. I am filled with stomach growlie rage!

Bastille Day

Bastille day was pretty lazy. I went for a walk. Everything in Libourne was closed.

That night I had another amazing meal with Camille’s family. Yes, apparently I’ve been spelling her name wrong the whole time. Anyway, the L’s are silent as far as I can tell. Then she, her cousin Marianne, and I went down to the river to watch the fireworks. Fun! Pretty impressive fireworks for a small town. Pics or video later maybe.

Word of the day – Shwmae? Sut mae?

Shwmae? Sut mae? (shwe-my? soot my?)

Language: Welsh

Meaning: Hello, How are you?

It’s still questionable as to whether Jessie and I will be driving over to Cardiff today to visit the parts recycler (rather leaning towards no, since they don’t actually appear to have any parts we need, but still, I’ve never been to Wales, so might be a nice trip anyway), but thought I’d throw in some Welsh vocab anyway.  Welsh appears to be yet another incredibly bizarre and difficult language.  Maybe not quite as bad as Georgian, but still pretty bad.  We’re talking about a place that has city names like Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and Bryngwran and Rhydyclafdy.  The guys at the parts recycler shop were about that easy to understand, as well.  Once at my aunt’s fourth of July party a Welsh woman told me I could look Welsh if only I was shorter and squatter.  Since then I’ve always been curious to check it out, maybe I should sieze this opportunity!

CBPG team now completely European!

With Jessie touching down at this very moment, all members of the Creeping Blandness Prevention Group are now in Europe!  In a little bit I will head to the bus stop on Queens Ln in Oxford to meet her and the original plan from there was to rent a car and go parts shopping.  After a disappointing morning of phone calls, however, it looks like there’s not a single salvage yard from Kent to Cardiff that has any of the parts we are looking for for the Felicia (those being bigger wheels, firmer shocks, etc.).  So I guess Jessie and I may be reduced to wandering aimlessly around Oxford waiting for Anand to get out of work.

Any suggestions of things to see here would be welcome!

Fan club!?

In the comments to my St Emilion post, I was alerted to the existence of a Creeping Blandness Prevention Group Fan Club. This is somewhat amazing to me. The CBPG has been talking behind closed doors about it and we would like to say that we are extremely flattered. Thank you CBPGFC!

Technique Contrôlled!

Contrôle Technique

Awesome day today! I don’t know where to start so we’ll just go chronologically. No, I can’t! The car passed the Contrôl Technique inspection! I’m so thrilled. It’s the first time I’m feeling like I’ve made some progress with the car.

So actually she didn’t pass the first time through. Camie and I took her in at about 10 in the morning and went for a coffee for an hour and a half while they did the inspection. It seems pretty thorough– there are about 100 “points of inspection” listed on the report.

So after our coffee we headed back and there was one main thing blocking our passing– the muffler had a hole in it, which in addition to being a failure on its own means that they also can’t do the emissions test. The guys at the Contrôle Technique place said that we would have to get a new muffler. So, back to Garage Nhevoit, my favorite place in Libourne!

At Garage Nhevoit I was told that, no, of course they don’t have the part and it would have to be ordered. But it seems Camie was able to soften his heart a little and he let us know that the big MaxAuto garage and auto parts store could probably take care of us. Off we went (this was straight back in the direction of the Contrôle Technique center– it and MaxAuto are in the same complex).

MaxAuto was closed now for lunch (2 hours, naturally). Now a brief interlude.

I must say that Camie’s family is comprised of some of the most welcoming and hospitable people I have had the fortune to meet, including not only Camie herself but her mother and father, her young cousin visiting from Paris, and even her dog (a Boxer who, at 6 months old, is already rather large and muscular).

They live in a beautiful home close to the Garage Nhevoit, with a perfectly-sized back yard for a dog, and a pool fenced in with grape vines. It was here we went while MaxAuto had lunch so we could do the same. Camie’s father, an opthomologist, was home from the hospital for lunch as it seems is normal. Her mother had set the table outside, where I learned at the conclusion of the pizza and salad courses that there would be an additional 3 courses. It was all washed down with a nice local wine from Fronsac, on the other side of Libourne from Pomerol and Saint Emilion where I was yesterday. Unforgettable.

Contrôle Technique This is getting too long so I will abbreviate. After lunch back to the garage MaxAuto. They sent us away for another couple hours so they could look at it and give us a quote. Went back to Camie’s to go swimming. At 4:30 returned to MaxAuto where they had decided they could just put some putty in the leaks and strap the exhaust pipe down and everything would be fine, no new muffler needed! And it was already done! Cheap! Awesome! Returned to the Contrôle Technique center just before closing time where they were able to run the smog check and pass us!

By the way, the reason we did all this Contrôle Technique today instead of going to the prefecture is because the prefecture was closed. As we found out when we showed up at 9, all the prefectures in all of Gironde were closed today, presumably because the employees wanted to make a 4-day weekend out of the 14th.

One good thing we learned from the Nhevoit guy is that the sous-prefecture they have here in Libourne can’t issue a carte grise (registration document) the same day– only the main prefecture in Bordeaux can do that. Good to know. So tomorrow we celebrate the storming of the Bastille, and then on Wednesday we head in to Bordeaux!

Word of the Day – Приятно пътуване!

Приятно пътуване! (pree-yaht-no  pah-too-vah-neh)

Language: Bulgarian

Meaning: Bon Voyage!

As I’m about to get on a plane to head to London, I figured “bon voyage” would be a good word for today.  Once again, as with bon appetit, we are at the mercy of the French to be able to say things succinctly.  In English we say “have a good trip” which is twice as many words as is necessary (though only a third more syllables).  Although we are currently planning to go through Bulgaria, I met a man at David Mann and Ronalee Lo’s wedding this weekend that suggested we go through his hometown of Thessaloniki instead.  He was a very nice man, so I can only assume Thessaloniki is a very nice place.  It looks a teensy bit out of the way, but maybe we’ll see how we’re doing on time.  Word of the Day may be more like word of the week from now on, but hope everyone is enjoying the feature!