Date:Saturday July 12 2014
Two Leeds United supporters from the Thames Valley Whites RMC had an eventful trip as they set off on a road trip through France, Belgium and Germany before arriving in Italy to watch the two pre-season friendlies arranged by the club.
With the club leaving fans little time to plan a proper trip to Italy, some members of the TVW decided to take the easy option of a flight into Italy but Simon Hyam and Perry Chance decided on making the trip by car, leaving on the Wednesday morning and arriving in time for the first game on Thursday.
This is all well and good but Perry would be doing the driving having only past his test this year and fellow TVW supporters know Simon as Mr Magoo due to his poor vision. His sight is that bad that I once sent him into a Tattoo parlour at a pub stop on the way to Bournemouth and told him it was a fish and chip shop. I was worried he was going to come out with FISH and CHIP across his knuckles.
I have often stood next to him at games and once the ball goes over the halfway line, I have to provide commentary and he is the only person I know who can get Matt Smith and Lee Peltier mixed up when the defender scored at Blackpool last season.
Therefore, we had an inexperienced driver travelling across Europe with a co-pilot who could not see as far as the windscreen.
It was a recipe for disaster but all seemed to be going well until they stopped to watch the Netherlands and Argentina World Cup semi-final in Germany.
Here, Simon tells the story of their road trip:
Wednesday - 8.30am
Perry and I left my house in High Wycombe en route for Dover and the ferry. The plan for day 1 was to drive through France, Belgium and get as far south in Germany as possible before stopping overnight. Then a few hours drive to Italy on day 2. Those who know Perry will understand that it wasn't long before we made our first McDonalds stop at the M25 services.
Arrive in Dover and queue for the ferry. Fit out the car will European legal requirements for lights and GB sticker under the guidance of the lady BMW driver in front of us.
Ferry under way. We spot a restaurant and collect our food only to find at the till that it is for truckers only. We are frog marched to the correct passenger area.
3pm (European time)
We dock. Perry decides to have a quick comfort break, which causes us to be last to the car deck, and we arrive as other cars swerve around his car to get out.
Perry who has only been driving 5 months is a little nervous about driving on the right but my words of experience 'just follow everyone else' seem to do the trick.
We head north out of France and into Belgium. The nice weather turns to heavy rain but we still make good time until an accident ahead slows us down to a crawl that lasts for 2 hours.
We are nearing Brussels and I know we have to take the ring road around it. In this area, they speak various languages and the town names on the signs change frequently (Liege becomes Luik). Perry shouts one out which is not on my route map and we sail past the ring road turning and straight into Brussels. A complete lack of direction signs means we decide to head straight through the city. The traffic is bad. I manage to shout to a van driver who laughs and says we need to head in a totally different direction. He is heading the right way to get us back to the ring road so we follow him. What a great person as he got us out safely when we would not have had a clue...but another 1-hour lost.
We have already decided to stop at Aachen just over the border and into Germany. We find a hotel on the outskirts and by the time we check in and drop off our bags football time is approaching, the World Cup semi-final between Argentina and Holland, so we head into the centre.
Parking is at a premium but we eventually find a spot in a line of other cars. We check they have no permits and in a nearby shop, the person says it is ok to park. We head off and find a small bar where we watch the first half. We then go for a really bad kebab and watch the second half there, 15 minutes from the end we are bored so we leave.
We head back to the car and are dumbfounded to find an empty space. We find the shop person who remembers us but he has no info about our car. We go to a nearby hotel where the receptionist looks and says the car should have been ok. He rings the only possible tow company but they haven't taken it.
Thursday - 12.30am
A taxi takes us to the police station. The taxi driver speaks reasonable English. He is amused that anyone would take a RHD Renault Megane. Perry says it is worth 30k Euros. Any CCTV?
This is not Big Brother England we don't need it. However, we wish you had it now. He seemed to think we had mislaid the car and never even asked what we were going to do next.
We get a Taxi back to the hotel at least with a crime report for insurance purposes. Perry starts looking at how we can still get to Italy. By either flying or train, it would be complicated and expensive and then we would have to get home on Monday.
Hotel reception helps me see that it is fairly easy to get a train to Brussels and then the Eurostar to London.
Perry speaks to his boss and then a few exchanges as we wait to see if the insurance need us to do anything else before we leave. All the time we wait for that call from the police that never comes. The hotel even ring them for an update before we leave but nothing.
At Aachen station sorting out our return trip, which now means leaving at 4.20pm. We spend a few hours looking around the shops. During this time Perry is telling everyone he has had his car stolen to blag free or reduced 'anything' from train rides to clothes...all to no avail.
Another McDonalds at Aachen.
We get the first train and Perry is still telling everyone our story.
*By now, Leeds were getting ready to kick-off their pre-season campaign, something that seemed a million miles away now for our two adventurers.
To make matters worse, by the time they get off the train, Leeds are celebrating a club record 16-0 win.
We catch the Eurostar, which I think is a great way to travel. Perry tells people in the queue our story. I top up Perry with more food while I have a couple of beers. Perry tells all on board our story.
8pm (UK time)
Back in London. We split up and both get home around 10pm.
I have to say I am grateful to Perry for taking this OAP on a European adventure and he did not whinge at all despite the issues.
Therefore, whilst it was not good and we spent over £500 between us, for a day trip to Germany, we did have some good laughs and survive for the next Thames Valley Whites adventure.
*I wonder if they have any plans to make the trip to Northern Ireland at the end of the month. They might be better sticking to the trip to Swindon.
Two Leeds United supporters from the Thames Valley Whites RMC had an eventful trip as they set off on a road trip through France, Belgium and Germany before arriving in Italy
Date:Saturday July 12 2014
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