The French Connection - Living with a 90s Twingo (#4)

I can't help but wonder that, if cars had feelings, what would be going through the mind of the Twingo at the moment.

After 24 years of pootling about to the shops at around 34mph, it ended up with me. I can't think of a worse life for a car than having to withstand my regular abuse, it must be horrid. But, then again, you wouldn't really know it - because this little shopping car, which as I write this now sits at a touch over 300,000 kilometres, absolutely lapped up last week's 1200km romp around continental Europe.

Now, I could write about the trip in great detail, but the last time I checked this is an automotive blog, not the travel writings of a young adult refusing to let their gap year end. The long and short of it is that, a few months ago, I decided I wanted to spend a week wild camping in the Scottish Highlands with the Twingo, on my own. Now, this is a fantastic idea, and I still maintain that this will happen - however a few weeks ago it occurred to me that I'm not exactly Bear Grylls when it comes to wild pursuits, so I decided that I'd be best served trying some wild camping in slightly less harsh environments before trying to tackle the freezing temperatures of upper-Scotland in the peak of Winter.

So, I began to wonder about alternative trips. I love a road trip, and having already got the idea that taking a small city car on a long distance trek would be fantastic fun, decided to make plans for a hop across to Europe to make the most of some unimpeded continental driving while the EU situation allowed it. Some research on Christmas markets, as well as a consultation with the helpfully bilingual friend of whom had agreed to accompany me on the trip, led us to a planned itineraryof Monday in Amiens, Tuesday in Lille, Wednesday in Bruges and home on Thursday. Crossings and hotels were booked and, last Monday, we set off.

But this isn't a travel blog. Realistically all you need to know is that on the continent at the moment, beer is 8€ a pint, petrol has too much bioethanol content to be considered petrol, the tolls in France are outrageously expensive and the French drive like maniacs. Nothing has really changed since I started driving in Europe back in 2015.

Thus, the focus turns to the car, and what an absolutely fantastic job it continues to do. Honestly, at the age this car is at, and the mileage it's accumulated over those years, it has absolutely no right to gently sip fuel over a four day 1200km rag across the lands of cheese, strong beer and clogs. But it did. Not once did we feel like taking the fastest route from point to point, instead we were quite happy to let the Twingo meander around the small hamlets of Northern France, the towns of Belgium and the vast flats of West Holland. A lot of this was helped by being able to have left-hand drive in a left-hand drive country, but driving the Twingo around these parts just felt so right. It managed a trip average of 45mpg which would put a lot of modern petrol hatchbacks to shame, and coped surprisingly well with the higher-paced autoroutes with their maniacal drivers and heightened speed limits. And unlike other cars I've been abroad in, the British number plates stop being a red rag to a bull - because as much as there's a seeming hatred for us on the roads of Europe - well mainly France - being in a bright yellow Twingo almost completely rids them of their anger towards you. Some laugh, some point, and some are indifferent. But I'd challenge any single one of them to not be just a little bit impressed as they watch a classic car, arguably welded into their national histories, thrash its way past them at a mighty 130kph on its out-of-place British plates.

It's just so wrong, it's right.

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