MMM publisher Rasa Dregva spent six glorious days on a Top Gear-style adventure through breathtaking Portugal and Spain in the company of a motorsport legend.
The thought of spending six days driving around the UK’s congested, pot-hole infested roads may not sound appealing to many.
But what about hitting the open road in sun-drenched Portugal and Spain – powering along broad, open, well-maintained deserted roads drinking in incredible scenery and stopping each night in five-star hotels?
Oh, and every car taking part would be something to behold – the latest low-slung sports cars or classics from the past.
Sounds a bit more like it.
So, in September, I jetted down to Lisbon to start a remarkable six-day tour organised by motor racing legend Derek Bell and V Events.
For the last few years, the former Formula One and five-times winner of the Le Mans 24 Hour race, has organised tours through Provence.
This was to be his first time on this route.
His Iberia tour would see us leave Portugal’s west coast and trek towards Madrid in the very heart of Spain. Around 400 miles as the crow flies.
Each leg of the journey was designed to allow us to soak in the atmosphere of this remarkable region of Europe. We would meander through picturesque villages, weave through mountain passes and, just occasionally, get to put our foot down on stretches of open road.
We’d pass pine forests, arid plains and lush farmland. We’d enjoy Michelin-star restaurants and, best of all, great company. It was an exhilarating adventure from start to finish.
We started at a hotel on the banks of the Tagus River in Lisbon. Around 48 people were taking part and it was a pleasure to get to know everyone and, of course, admire the machines they were getting behind the wheels of.
Each day we would get a briefing – outlining our route and places of interest to keep an eye out for. We’d all meet up at a little café for lunch and then reconvene at a luxury hotel in the evening for cocktails, a delicious meal and the chance to reflect on our travels.
Day one saw us traverse the remarkable Vasco de Gama Bridge which straddles the Tagus. At more than seven miles long, it is the longest road bridge in Europe. It was a breath-taking start to an eye-opening journey.
The following day we crossed the border into Spain – cutting through Extremadura, a region rarely on the tourist trail but a beautiful area full of historic buildings to marvel at.
Days three and four saw us raise a glass to the Castile and Leon region – famed worldwide for its vineyards and wine. In fact, we stayed overnight in a hotel which had been a 12th century Roman villa – now fully restored. Set in a 700-acre estate, it was surrounded by lush vines in every direction.
It would have been rude not to have sampled what the region is so famous for once we’d parked up for the night!
Back on the road, we’d passed beautiful orange buildings, horizons dotted by churches. Children at local schools greeted us and were thrilled when engines were revved, or they got to have their pictures taken alongside these magnificent beasts of the road.
Everywhere we met, we were greeted with smiles and waves.
Of course, there were challenges too. Cobble streets proved something of a test of nerve for those cars sat so close to the ground…it was a case of mere millimetres clearance in some cases which, given the value of the cars involved, saw the heart rate rise a little at times of those behind the wheel!
And, on more than one occasion, we were reduced to crawling past cows and horses in the road. I wonder what those creatures must have made of it all?
By the time we’d reached Madrid and celebrated on the roof-top bar of the Four Seasons Hotel, watching the sunset on this magnificent city and our road trip, the only question left to ask was when can we do it again?