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      08-18-2016, 02:26 AM   #1
dch37
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Drives: 2016 M3
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: United States

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Awesome ED trip - Germany, Austria, Italy, France

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Hey Folks,
This is going to be an obscenely long post. I have used this forum to learn so much, and I want to make sure that I give back in spades. I will try not to repeat the info found in other great ED posts, and will focus on new info. There will be plenty of details, but I will organize everything in sections, so if you want to skip ahead you can. I will post some pics directly here. NOTE: the crappy pics are from a cellphone. NOTE: pay special attention to the Pro Tips

First thing’s first... lets get a little bit of the car pom out of the way more in the details…







Intro – how I got to where I am now
I have been dreaming of an M3 since I got into cars as a teenage boy, and I remember thinking: “one day I will have an M3... maybe 15 years old, and broken up, but I will get one…”. Shortly after that I learned about the European Delivery program and thought that it will be an awesome thing to experience… so I thought to myself “one day I will do an ED… it can be for a 318i, but I will do one…” Fast forward more than 20 years later and we come to the end of 2015. At that time my wife, which must have been either high or mentally incapacitated, agreed that we can buy a brand spanking new M3. Of course it took some convincing.

Solid arguments were used to prove that we are really buying the car for the kids:
- M3 is safer on the road because it can stop faster, thus it can avoid an accident.
- M3 is safer on the road because it can accelerate faster, thus get out of a dangerous situation.
- M3 is safer on the road because it can change direction quicker, thus making accident avoidance more likely.
- M3 seats five... which is a defacto minivan for the family…

Unfortunately, the creative reasoning did not get much traction (see what I did there ) with my better-half. Fortunately, she is the best person that I know and truly my soulmate, and decided that yet again we will spend money on a car instead of new furniture… love her to death... and just the same way I did when we hooked up 14 years and two kids ago!

I still think she had an off day when she said yes, just like the day of our wedding, but one knows when not to ask questions. With a blank check in my hand I started shopping. A month later, January 2016, I had signed a deal for a new M3. The forum was absolutely crucial and gave me so much info that the total negotiation took less than 15 minutes!

I want to call out Karl Enmark from BMW Seattle! He was awesome and friendly and even though there was mix-up with the allocation, he did right by us. We even made good deal A night and day difference when compared to the other BMW dealership around here.


The build
It took me ages to figure out what I wanted. Especially when the Comp Pack came out… but here it is:
- Mineral Grey, I wanted Austin Yellow, but my wife vetoed it… just like before I avoided too many questions.
- Got the moonroof, I will track the car from time to time but I will also be going on long roadtrips with it, so a roof-box/ski rack was a must…
- 18” wheels, just like them more than the stock 19s... and I will be leaving them for my winter set anyways.
- DCT, money-shifts and traffic got the better of me… going through the mountain passes I was very happy with my choice
- Adaptive suspension
- Exec package, why wasn’t the HUD a separate option , but at least the kids get to warm their butts on the back seats
I opted out of the comp pack because:
- The kids will not be able to resist to poke me through the seat holes… I like my kidneys the way they are.
- The 20” rims are ridiculous and no good for much track work (or winter tires).
- The stiffer suspension will put a strain on the daily driving and long family trips.
- Didn’t care much for the power increase… JB4 seems to provide more bang for the buck… if/when I decide to crank it up.
- I will however miss the performance exhaust… although I am sure my neighbors are super happy They already voice concerns over my 335 with the perf exhaust… and that is quieter than a stock M3. Also the CAM tool seems like a great option


The Trip Planning
It took me two solid months of research and reading the forum to pick the destinations I wanted. It then took my wife about a minute and a half to make new ones eventually we got very close to my original plan.
Here is the itinerary:



The short version:
- We could have spent the whole vacation in any one of the places we visited, and would have loved it… it kept getting better and better (St Tropez was the exception).
- Munich (Germany), nice city but not much more. I grew up in an old European city, so it seemed… familiar. The highlight of course being the Welt and more specifically getting my car.
- Fussen (Germany), Stunning views, the lineups at the castles sucked, but everything else was awesome…
- Aqua Dome (Austria), I think the best part of the vacation for me. We’ll definitely go back there again.
- Lake Garda (Italy), great hotel, great views, but lack of good driving roads nearby. Probably the most relaxing part of our vacation.
- St Tropez (France), overhyped, although I still enjoyed it... however it was easily the low-point of our vacation… It’s like the Kardashians… sure looks nice, but it’s far from the best humanity has to offer.
- St Paul (France), a wonderful castle for a short stay. Definitely worth the visit (even it is a day-trip).

Quick recap of the hotels:
- Munich, Hotel Platzl: good rooms, good free breakfast, great location, no views to speak of.
- Fussen, Hotel Sommer: decent room, awful bed, we got the half-board (breakfast and dinner), which was worth it. Location was perfect. Views were decent.
- Austria, Aqua Dome: fantastic room/bed, fantastic food (we got the half board), great views/hikes/bike trails, etc…
- Lake Garda, Lafey: awesome room and bed, great food, amazing view. It forces you to relax.
- St Tropez, Villa Belrose, decent room, amazing food, great views.

The prep
Before we departed we had to prep a few things. The list in Jedi_M’s post (http://f80.bimmerpost.com/forums/sho....php?t=1175084) was very useful, so please give it a read.

We were taking only phones and laptops, which have power supplies that work with 240V. We only took a bunch of plug adapters from Amazon for $5, which did a wonderful job.
Just before the trip I switched my wife’s phone from ATT to Google’s Project FI. Having data at the same rate as in the states was wonderful. We used the phone to find restaurants, to navigate while walking, etc… It gave us the freedom to explore without the need to carry maps or feel like we can get lost . It also made life easier when the wifi was spotty at some of the hotels. She was even calling local phones for reservations and the whole thing was 20 bucks for the two weeks. Couldn’t be happier.

Also if you have an android get Google Translate installed, and make sure that you also get the appropriate language packs installed on your phone as well. We used it mostly in restaurants that did not have menus in English (can you say France). It came very handy all the time, including when we’re trying to figure out if a sign said that we can or cannot park
Netflix doesn’t work quite so well, so I brought a whole bunch of movies/tv shows on USB sticks… made the flight even better. There are not that many TV stations in English, so if you plan on chilling in the hotel rooms, bring entertainment!

Pickpocketing is somewhat more common in Europe, so I got a RFID blocking wallet with a chain as well.

Make sure you call your banks and let them know you are travelling. We used the debit and credit cards from my credit union. Their fees were minimal – 1% for purchases and withdrawals with the debit card, no charges for use of the credit card. Chase on the other hand, stopped just short of asking for our first-born…

Make sure that you have enough money on each card and have backups. We had to keep refilling my credit card as most hotels were just booked and had to be paid in full when we were checking out.

It is a good idea to periodically check your card on-line for unintended transactions. I was not so worried about somebody draining the accounts, but more about the ruined vacation this may cause.

We had all the reservations (flights, hotels, ED letter from BMW) printed out. I also had everything as a soft-copy on my phone.

I booked the SIXT shuttle and the BMW factory tours as well. Both were well described in the ED welcome e-mail. You should get this mail about a week after the delivery date is confirmed.
I also booked tickets for the two castles in Fussen before we left. That decision saved us about two hours in the lineup there. You can book them from here: https://www.hohenschwangau.de/1307.0.html

Finally, we took some euros for incidentals and tips along the way. The rest of the trip we either used the cards to pay or we got money from the ATMs (exchange rate was really good).
I read a few articles on tipping. In general we stuck to 10%-15% for most places, and about $5 for the valet.


The flight
We live in Seattle but our families are in Toronto. We flew coach to T.O. and dropped the kids off with the grandmas… the next day we boarded a direct Toronto-to-Munich flight. We flew with Lufthansa.

When we were booking the tickets my wife decided to splurge a bit and we got the business class tickets. This was a good and a bad thing. It was good, because the experience was awesome. Being able to lay down and take a proper nap was splendid. Bad, because from now on every oversees flight will be a small financial crisis…

Booking the business class was by far one of the better decision we made on this vacation. It allowed us to be fully relaxed by the time we landed and to explore Munich on our first day there. It also made coming back home easier as well. Although the flight alone ate up any ED savings, it was definitely worth the price!

The food was excellent, and the service was great as well.
Pro Tip: If you are dressed casual and are wearing a cowboy hat, get ready to be told, by elderly people, that you are waiting in the business/first class lane… every f-in time…


Munich, Germany
We landed at 1pm local time. The SIXT driver was waiting for us and dropped us off directly at the hotel. He was very polite and friendly. The ride was serene and took about 40 minutes.
We stayed at the Platzl Hotel, which was recommended by others on the forum. We liked it as well. It was clean, the room was not too small and the location was is right smack in the middle of the Munich Old Town. I wanted to be close to the historical part just so that we can explore the area by foot right away.


Once we unpacked and took nice warm shower we went outside to explore the old city. We did the obligatory tourist attractions: eating at the Wirtshaus Ayingers (right at the back of the hotel), Marienplatz, Hofgarten, Englisher Garten, etc… it was nice 8-hour walk. When we came back to the hotel we hit the same restaurant again (I enjoyed the schnitzel).


The food was good and service was friendly. They had menus in English, so that made ordering easier


If that does not suit your taste, the area was full with little restaurants on literally every street.


Marienplatz: not sure why the firetruck and ambulances where there, but it seemed quiet enough.


The Munic Residenz, about 10 minutes walking distance from the hotel.


Bayerische Staatskanzlei: we did not go inside, but the building was nice. This is on the way to the gardens.


The Englischen Garten was serene, and well maintained. I wanted to see the famous surfers, and we did


The people were very polite and took turns. The ones that were not good just fell off… the better surfers gave way after a minute or two.

We then turned back to the hotel. Had a second dinner at the same restaurant and went back to the room. We went to bed at about 11pm local time and were wide awake at 4am not sure if it was the jetlag or the excitement, but at least we were able to enjoy the breakfast buffet, which was delightful.

We hopped on the subway, which was a short 4 min walk from the hotel and arrived at the Welt right on time for our 8:10am check-in.

Pro Tip: check with your hotel reception if they have subway tickets. You can get them directly from them. They also had a map for that subway. Also Use google-maps. It has a super detailed set of instructions even for the subway.

To be honest, 8:10am was too early as my delivery was scheduled for 10am, so we had to kill more than 1.5 hours. We strolled around the Welt, which was pleasantly empty at this time of the day (by 1pm it was packed). My wife got a nice hoodie and a key-chain from the gift-shop. I got a sore back from standing for so long .


Welcome to the Welt.


My wife loved the Isettas. One of the Rolls Royce buyers also liked them. He asked for a ride and got one inside the Welt… two-stroke motors and closed spaces do not mix well… the stench persisted for close to half an hour.


Shortly before the delivery, we fixed up the docs quickly and were informed that the license plates for the car are delayed… so no victory laps. This was kind-a OK, as it forced us to do more around the Welt, which was fun. We went for the factory tour, visited the museum and took nice long nap in the lounge .

Pro Tip: You can drop off your luggage at the Welt, and you can also get a locker at the Premium/Delivery lounge. Especially the latter was awesome because we could lock away our backpacks and walk around with nothing but a wallet in my pocket. Very liberating

The actual delivery has been described by many others so I will skip it. It was nice, but nothing new or informative popped up (thanks to all the research done prior to the trip).


The obligatory “hugging lovingly in front of the new car” photo.


Who drive my car for 3kms?


I was SUPER excited when I sat in for the 1st time, and I guess it shows

The factory tour was fun (although you can literally see the whole thing on youtube). The museum was ok, but neither of us were too impressed.

Once we wrapped up the tours, we had a nice duner kebab at a place right next to the Welt. It was at the back of the subway station. The food was tasty and cheap

We got all bodily functions out of the way, we picked up the car (the plates has arrived) and punched in the Fussen destination in the nav system.

Pro Tip: We used the on-line search in the nav, the whole trip and it worked VERY well. We could find all of our hotels by name, even across country borders.


Obligatory “in front of the Welt Huracane” pictures



The 1.5 hours to Fussen were… crap… by the time we left it was around 5pm, so we hit the afternoon traffic jams… taking your brand new M3 out for the 1st time and being able to go less than 10mph for the first 40 minutes was a cruel and unusual punishment . I was aching for the unlimited section of the autobahn… which was of course under construction, so close but no cigar…

Things got much better when we got off the main highway. We hit some nice winding roads going through small villages and beautiful scenery. My wife was super happy… so was I.

Pro Tip: The F80 M3 is wide… much wider than my e90 335. Getting adjusted to the new width took some time (more on that later). It is also longer. So take care when turning, you need to go further out.


Dat azz….. and if my wife is reading this I am definitely talking about her….


This is shortly after we got off the autobahn. About 30 minutes from Fussen.


Entering the Fussen area… Mountains… yay!

Fussen, Germany
We arrived at Hotel Sommer in the evening. The room was good, but the bed was absolutely awful. My back was hurting both days we were there. There were plenty of mosquitos, so if you plan on spending longer time in Fussen, don’t forget the bug spray.

As part of the room we got a Koning card, which gives access to a bunch of attractions for free (boat ride in the lake, luge rides on the hills, free parking, etc…). The hotel also had free bike rentals, which were great. The scenery is beautiful, and the trails are mostly flat, so you can relax and just soak it all in.

The restaurant at the hotel was decent and the food was OK, but nothing to write home about.

Pro Tip: depending on your taste you may not want to stay in a hotel directly inside of Fussen. Traffic was bad all the time and parking is non-existent. Hotel Sommer was just outside of Fussen (10 min walking distance) and it was much more relaxed. Plus you are right on the lake

The next day we went on to tour the castles. We had to pick up the tickets from the Hohenschwangau ticket center (the nav system found it easily with the on-line search). Around 1pm, the little village was packed full of tourists, and tourists busses. Traffic was heavy, but for a short distance. Parking was only 6 euro, just keep driving almost until the road ends and you will see the parking lot on your right, directly below the castle.



We did Hohenschwangau castle first. Then chilled for an hour and went to Neuschwanstein after that. The actual castles were OK, but nothing that would compare to the cathedrals in France or the other places we have been in. That being said it was definitely interesting. I enjoyed both castles more from the outside than from the inside. The views were breathtaking.


The little village has a few old building and makes for a great short walk.


Hohenschwangau Castle


More city views.


This is the lake just south of the Hohenschwangau castle. There were canoe rentals and paddle boats.


There were also swans, which are tightly linked with the region. Take the tour to learn more


Mountains, lake, canoes and swans… life is good.


The weather both days was awesome. Warn, but not hot and nicely sunny.


View of Neuschwanstein castle from the town.

Getting to Neuschwanstein was easy as we hopped on the horse carriage. It is definitely the lazy way of getting there, but we liked it. The lineup was not too long and the ride was enjoyable.



Pro Tip: If you care about a beautiful shot from the lookout point/balcony in Neuschwanstein you should go there in the morning. In the afternoon the sun is towards you, and both the mountains and the Hohenschwangau castle is washed out. I had to use grad filters to get a decent shot.


A panorama from the Neuschwanstein balcony (right after the gift shop).




Luckily, no First class queues were present, so nobody bugged us


The only picture of me that is worth showing

I am a bit of a photo nut, so I really wanted that classical shot of the Neuschwanstein castle. It is usually taken from a bridge just south of it. Unfortunately the bridge was closed due to construction. Being a proud PNW resident I was not afraid of some “unmarked hiking” up the hill next to the bridge, which gave me the shot I wanted . I may or may not have gone over some “do not cross” signs… I was jetlagged…



We spend the rest of the day biking around the lake. Then got eaten alive by mosquitos on the restaurant patio. Even the heavy smoking from the table next to us did not help much. Those mosquitos were determined!!

Pro Tip: if you plan on spending any time around the lakes in Germany bring repellant, or just buy some from a local store. Also for the wine lovers: I personally did not enjoy the German wines much. The ones in Italy were good, and the French ones were spot on. I still prefer the ones my neighbors make (Chateau St. Michelle). France also had the best porto… but more about that later

After waking up we decided to go to the top of the Tegelbergbahn lift, which is just north of the Neuschwanstein. The road to the cablecar is the classic photo op spot.


Obligatory “new car parked on side of road, with Neuschwanstein castle as a backdrop” picture. On a side note, I HATE the chrome grills… I wish I took some plastidip to get them blacked out.


View without a car


A nice panorama from the same spot.


The country side was full with small churches.

We went on a nice hike at the top and had lunch at the restaurant. I would not recommend it. The food was expensive and not tasty at all. The tickets for the lift were 20 euros per person, but the views were worth it. Also you get a discount if you have the Koning card.


Panorama from the top of the cablecar ride.

Pro Tip: If you care about pictures of the castles, there is one more photo op as you go up the hill. Make sure you are right next to the window on the cablecar. And bring a long lens. The pic below was done with 200mm lens.


The window has a film to tint it, so the quality is a bit murky, but with some creative post-processing it’s not just good… it’s good enough!


After lunch, we went on a little hike on one of the many trail at the top. The wild flowers were blooming and the air smelled delightful. My wife was less impressed as her allergies started acting up.


We hiked for about an hour.



When we came down we jumped on the car, punched in Aqua Dome in the nav and took off for Austria. We got a vignette in one of the gas-stations on the way to the border. My wife was driving most of the way and I got to take some pics.

The strength of our marriage was put to the test when she accidently switched the gearbox to manual just before the on-ramp to the highway… and when she gunned it the revs went up to 5K… a sharp scream later we discussed the priority of a proper break-in vs a happy relationship… I think we both thought that we won the argument.

The road was beautiful, small villages were sprinkled across the Alps. We arrived at the Aqua Dome at dusk/dark, which was a running theme for the whole vacation.


Tunnels, windows down, sport+ throttle and 4500 RPM = fun times!






Bays of hay…


And a tractor, moving at the blistering speed of 30mph, fully loaded with… bays of hay. This lasted for about 30 minutes. We could not overtake due to constant oncoming traffic.


Aqua Dome, Austria
Aqua Dome is a hot springs resort. It is nested in one of the valleys and the surroundings were very beautiful. This was supposed to be out “relaxation” part of the vacation. There are eight pools, 12 saunas and a nice spa.



The weather was crappy the first day we were there, so we hit the spa and pools and saunas. I literally fell asleep on the massage table.

We got the half-board for a very good price. We got to the breakfast only once, but even just the dinner was worth it. The restaurant was really good. The food was tasty the service excellent and you always get the same table.



The second day I went to the Hahntennjoch pass. I used the Ultimate Drives site for guidance and they were not wrong: http://www.ultimatedrives.net/top-10...route_ID=40005



The pass is from Imst to Elmen. I almost went out of the road on the first hairpin. This is at the very beginning. I was going too fast and the road was wet. I usually look at the Nav screen to know how sharp the upcoming turn is, but with all the excitement I forgot to check. Luckily it was a right turn, there was no oncoming traffic and I managed to save it. The experience reminded me that physics is still king, regardless of what car you drive.

The total round-trip was about 2-3 hours, and totally worth it. The pass was full of enthusiasts and the occasional local driver, but there wasn’t too much traffic, so I had plenty of fun. On my first go I met a column of about 20 Porsches, being let by a GT3 RS. I went back forth for a while. The first round was slow. As I mentioned before the F80 is wider than what I am used to and the pass was tight. Not as tight as Italy, but you have to be careful if there is oncoming traffic. It took me a few minutes to get accustomed to the width of the car and the road. I learned to trust my judgement, and by the second round I was not even thinking about it. When I started running out of fuel I drove back to the hotel.

Pro Tip: the pass has many blind corners and most of them are quite tight. Most people just cut through, which can be dangerous. Also there were plenty of bikers around, and they tend to lean heavily into the turns, often putting their beautiful heads right where my left fender goes. To avoid a costly repair and rearranging the grey-matter of an unfortunate biker, you can hit the horn just before entering the turn (even of you are doing it at a safe speed, the person coming towards you may not be so considerate). This practice saved my ass at least three times. I also kept the throttle at sport+ to make sure the car is as loud as possible… this was obviously only for safety reasons

In addition of the ultimatedrives website, I used google maps to explore the area and found a few twisties up a hill right next to the hotel. It was a much shorter drive than Hahntennjoch, but it was only a minute away, so it made a wonderful afternoon drive.



The first 2 minutes go through the town, but it then opens up. The locals were not too happy with me and of them called the cops. I was moving safely, but loudly…


This is just in front of the Aqua Dome.


The road to Gries.


A farm on top of a mountain… Most of the Austrian Alps are well populated, so any flat surface, no matter how inaccessible is farmed.




My wife also enjoyed the shot trip, albeit at a slower pace.

The next day I went to Hahntennjoch again and then chilled at the pools. We wrapped up the day with a great bike ride. Bikes are available for free from the hotel and there are many bike trails around.


The trails go through farms and little villages. Quite picturesque.




There were waterfalls everywhere. During our 1-hour bike ride we went past a dozen.

Like all good things, our stay at the Aqua Dome had to end as well. We got a late checkout and visited the pools and bike trails again. We also checked out a local tournament for whip-cracking, which was loud enough to echo across the valley.





Then we headed towards Lake Guarda (via the Timmelsjoch pass). My wife was driving because she gets car-sick very quickly. Especially if I am in the driver’s seat via mountain passes. She took it easy, so not much excitement, but the views were beautiful.

Pro Tip: to enter the pass you have to pay a toll. It was 16 euro one way, and they take only cash. So bring cash . Also right at the top there is a visitor’s center. When we were there it was empty due to the fog/clouds. I can only assume that the views are great.

The weather was crappy and at one point there was so much fog that you could not see the nose of the car. As soon as we descended a bit, things cleared up.


This is on the Italian side of the pass.



I have read that roads in Italy are bad. Yes, they were worse than Germany/Austria, but were not bad in any stretch of the imagination. Also thanks to the liberal understanding of speed limits in Italy I was able to let the car loose on the highways. This was a good substitute for Germany. Although the speed limit was 130km/h, I can tell you that I was one of the slower cars… crawling along with 150.

We stopped in a small town along the way for dinner. I can’t remember the name but the pizza was decent. We used google maps to find a place with good reviews that was open that late . We arrived at the Lefay hotel after 1am. The road up to the hotel was winding with plenty of turns, but it was a high-traffic area, so no shenanigans.

Pro Tip: Italy has tolls on the big highways. Most of the tollbooths took cards, but we paid with cash. It wasn’t expensive, but make sure to have at least 15 euro in coins. It makes going through the toll faster.


Lefay Resort, Italy
The hotel is high up on the hill overlooking Lake Garda. The views were breathtaking and the whole place had a really nice relaxing vibe. There were three pools and a bunch of saunas.


View from the main terrace.


Across the road.


One of the three restaurants. They had Basil and other herbs as centerpieces. Self-serve taken to a new level


The village of Bogliaco just below us.


The hotel grounds. Notice the olive trees on the right.




Infinity pool.

Pro Tip: Most saunas in Europe do not allow clothes. There is some EU law that requires you to be in your birthday suit. You can of course carry a towel. I personally don’t care, but if you are shy, you may want to stay away from the saunas . Austrian’s were much more anal (see what I did there ) about it than the Italians. The French were like Janis from Accounting. (I’ll let the John Oliver fans laugh it out).

The service was exceptional and the room was a step up from Aqua Dome. It was so nice that my wife decided to skip the planned trip to Venice and Milan. I was happy to oblige and instead went exploring the local mountain roads.

I was somewhat disappointed. The roads were super narrow and often only wide enough for one car a time… and one time the road was narrower than the M3, so part of my rear right tire was hanging out. Honking before you proceed through a narrow section is a must! Usually there is a slight widening just before a narrow section, so you can wait out a car coming your way (listen for the honks). There was more debris on the roads and it was frequently wet. So spirited driving gave way to my desire to keep the car in the same shape it was in.



We ate at the hotel restaurants with only one exception. We went to a small restaurant nearby. The prices were very reasonable, sadly the food not so much.

On the way back I had to do almost a u-turn on a steep incline joining the main road. At one point one of the rear tires was completely in the air. The locking diff came in handy and we were able to power through… so yeah... you can “off-road” in a M3

Overall Lefay was a luxurious relaxing place that did not offer many activities, aside from melting by the pool, getting pampered at the spa, or walking around the grounds (mostly olive trees and wineries). I managed to catch up on a whole season of the Walking Dead while we were there . It was the most lavish stop of our trip.


I guess a lot of other guests like grey cars… either that or the valet was playing Tetris We used the valet services only the 1st day. After that I was doing my own parking. The spots were large and the access to the garage was convenient.

On our last day in Italy we got up earlier (10am… yes that as early for us), soaked up in the pool again and headed on the longest drive of our vacation. Because we skipped the trip to Milan, we went past an outlet mall along the way (Fidenza Village, south of Milan). The place was decent, albeit not as outlety as I expected. There were plenty of other tourists, and I was a bit freaked out, as we read some reviews of another mall that had frequent break-ins of parked vehicles… and those German tourist plates are easy to spot. My wife got a bunch of shoes and clothes… I got a sore back from standing around , but I am not complaining of the final results .

Since we were going to spend full five days in St Tropes and I never really got a decent pizza in Lefay, we decided to stop for dinner close to the French border. We found a pizzeria on google (that data plan definitely paid for itself). The restaurant was on the shore in the city of Bordighera. It was called Ristorante Da Andrea, and the pizza was great . Not only that, but the people were super friendly. They barely spoke any English but took great care of us. While we were eating there was a huge thunderstorm, which luckily passed by the time we finished dinner.

Pro Tip: Smoking is still very much alive in Europe. If you sit outside you should expect people around you to smoke… a lot… Depending on your tolerance level you may be better off inside. This was true for every place that we visited.

With bellies full of good pizza we continued on the final leg of the drive. Two hours on highways, tolls, more tolls, a freaking speed camera (I was going with 100kph on a 90 limit), more tolls, and did I mention the tolls? Driving on the French highways was frustrating. The speed limit was lower than Italy, even at face value, and also there were tolls on different sections of the same highway. We hit a toll booth every 6-8 kilometers, which really messed up the rhythm. On the bright side I had more opportunities to do 0-60 runs .

Pro Tip: The tollbooths have misleading signs. Eventhough the sign leading to the booth may say that this particular lane is for Visa/MC, once you get to the machine it clearly refuses to accept Visa/MC. To make things even more fun it takes your toll ticket before it refuses to accept your card… and does not give it back!! Compounding the problem is the line-up of cars behind you that really don’t like it if you need to back out. Given this and the frequency of the toll stations I ended up carrying 20-30 euro in coins in the car at all times. Tolls in France were much more expensive than Italy, so plan accordingly! Also make sure you have coins, not bills… not all machines accept bills, but all accepted coins.

The rest of the way was your typical night-time driving, nothing interesting. Also it got quite congested when we got near St. Tropez. Originally we planned to do some sightseeing in Nice, but due to the prolonged shopping in Italy, we just went through. I guess that was lucky for us. This was the day the ass-hat drove a truck through the crowd. As we were passing Nice, we saw a lot of police and ambulances. I knew something bad had happened but had no idea how much of a bullet we dodged until we got to the hotel in St Tropez. We arrived past 1am (again) and hit the bed as quickly as we could. The events in Nice put a bad spin on the next few days. I was deeply affected by it.


St Tropez, France
We stayed at Villa Belrose. It was a swanky hotel just outside of St Tropez proper. It had the best service we have seen to date, and was priced accordingly. Strangely, the room was not that amazing. It was good, but not amazing (Lafey was much fancier).


The view from the main terrace. The level below is the restaurant, and right below that is the pool.


St Tropez up-close. Shot from the hotel.


Looking back to the main lobby from the pool. Our room was on this level and was conveniently close to the pool.


More yachts… it gets really “congested” during the day, then clears up around sunset.

As I mentioned previously this was the low point of the vacation. It was not bad by any stretch of the imagination, just not as good as the other places. Not because of the hotel or the place, but the crowds in St Tropez. I am generalizing a lot, but we saw three main types of people:
- The overwhelming majority waned to be close to the rich and famous, and bask in the glory of their yachts. Then tweet about it and gloat of where they are. Most these folks were mostly sitting outside of the clubs/restaurants and keeping theirs phones out as if that controlled their breathing.
- The rich and famous were there like peacocks during mating season… a lot of showing off, a lot of needless, in-your-face displays. A lot of nouveau-riche panache.
- The ones that thought this is the best Cote d’Azure had to offer, and don’t care much about movie starts or being around rich people. Felt like these were a minority.

Also there was an abundance of 50-60 year old dudes walking around with 2-3 20-something year olds with large….. eyes… the thing felt like a cheap adult movie at times. Especially when one of the yachts docked on the main street had a nightly party where half-naked girls were dancing for 3-4 middle-aged guys, while a crowd of 50-60 people were taking pictures of the show…

We checked out the famous Pampelonne beach, and were not impressed. It was nice, but could not hold a candle to any of the Hawaiian beaches or Caribbean destinations we have been to. We also lucked out with the Mediterranean Sea. There was a strong storm the night before we got to St Tropez (remember that thunderstorm that got us in Italy) and it blew in icy-cold water. At that time the pool at the hotel was a better/warmer choice.


There were plenty of fish right next to the beach, so snorkeling is a good idea.

We thought of going to the famous Le Club 55 an Nikki Beach, but the cold water and required tipping for absolutely everything was too much (50 euro to tip the bouncer to let you in, 20-50 euro to tip the hostess to give you a good chair, 50-150 euro to tip the waiter to get you a table, 250-400 euro for lunch…) and all for the pleasure to sit next to Bono… just did not seem enough bang for the buck. I don’t mind paying for good service, but there was nothing there for us. We decided to just explore as much as we could.


We found a quiet little cove near the south end of Panpelonne that was perfect... almost no people and no music blasting from the bars/yachts. Still the water was quite cold.

On a more positive note, there was a plethora of small restaurant that had great food. The town had a great vibe once you go outside of the bling-and-flash of the dock. We went out almost every night and hit a different spot.


Pro Tip: Even if you have a reservation be prepared to wait for your table… on average we waited about 20 minutes. So go to the restaurant a little before you actually get hungry.


We walked for hours in the narrow streets. They were full with little stores, selling mostly clothes.


The feel of the place was great. It was common to find a restaurant that had only a few tables. Literary somebody’s kitchen with tables outside. St Tropez is crisscrossed with little streets. We used google maps to navigate our way around.


Parts of the town are enveloped with a skirt-wall, which is a remnant of medieval fortifications.


The town center is home to a large park where locals gather to play pentaque into the wee-hours of the morning.

A special callout was for the L'Esquinade restaurant, which was right on the Panpelonne beach. It had an abundance of seafood, no English menu, but a nice and friendly staff. The food was very good!! Google Translate came in handy!


We had a table on the “deck” and enjoyed a nice romantic dinner, surrounded by the occasional cloud of cigarette smoke

We also went to a couple of wineries, but were dissapointed. I always had problems with the “regular working hours” in France… but kept hoping that on a Saturday in a mostly tourist area things will be open outside of the M-F 9-5 range… they were… kinda… the wineries were open, but no tours were available. We could do some tasting and that’s about it.

The second last day I decided to risk it, and went for a nice long drive along the Route Napoleon. It was the best part of our time in France!!! 6.5 hours of glorious mountain roads with wide sweeping curves!! I used the nav to get me to Grasse and then to Digne. Once I got there I picked a no-highway route and went on beautiful twisty roads hugging the mountains. It was an awesome drive!!!

Pro Tip: Before I went on the drive I asked around to see which way the traffic is worse (St Tropez to Nice or the other way around) and at what time. This allowed me to go against the traffic and really enjoy my drive. This includes the Route Napoleon. There were barely any cars going my way, but in the other direction there were long columns of cars.

I left St Tropez at around 1pm and left my wife at a nearby town (Port Grimaud) to get her hair and pedicure done. Then headed towards Grasse via the highway. Once you enter Grasse, traffic is a bit cumbersome and the streets are narrow. However once you get out of the town you hit the hills and road opens up. Route Napoleon was flatter, and not as twisty as the other passes. You have nice long curves. To give you a sense, while in Austria I was mostly in 2nd-3rd gear max before having to slow down and turn. On Route napoleon I was mostly in 4-5-6th often hitting sustained highway speeds. The scenery was not as pretty but the experience was great.


My wife had a nice lunch at one of the many restaurant in the port, while waiting for her appointment.


The beginning of Route Napoleon, just north of Grasse. It was hot!!! This was one of the few times when I closed the windows and had the AC on.


Grasse is at the bottom.

Shortly before I got to Digne, I set the nav for the hotel, but it insisted on taking me back the same way. Knowing how much traffic was going that way I refused and pushed on. About 10 miles from Digne the GPS decided to take an alternate route and took me back via smaller country roads. I got to see the famous lavender fields. Sadly the plants were still small so I did not get the full-bush experience (see what I did there ). Even sadder, I hate the smell of lavender… even sadder still my wife loves it, but was not with me.


The little town next to the lake is called Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, use that one to get you back from Digne.


The Lavender fields


Aside from the smell, the countryside was beautiful.


The roads here were narrow, so slowing down for incoming traffic was a good idea.


The town of Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon


The lake is man-made with a hydro-electric dam at the end, but it had a beautiful emerald color. I have seen this only in high-mountain lakes.


I got inspired by the emerald color, so here is a cross-processed M3


I saw a column of large tanker planes skimming the lake and taking off. I thought it was a drill for the firefighters…


Until I saw the large forest fire that I had to drive through. Luckily it just smelled and the air was not too smoky.

We had to drop off the car in Nice and I had a hard time finding a car-wash close to the airport. I decided to play it safe and just paid the valet $95 to wash and detail it inside and out. We also used that as an excuse to eat at the Villa Belrose restaurant. I can honestly say that this was the best restaurant I have ever been to! It was an amazing 10 course meal that took almost four hours to complete (9pm to 1am). I am just happy that we did not go there the 1st night… we would have been there every evening… and that would have been a second financial crash . My wife felt it was a bit too long and there was no music/entertainment to accompany the meal. I personally felt that the quiet atmosphere allowed us to talk more, and as for music… one of the yachts in the bay was blasting the latest pop songs loud enough to provide some ambient noise…


We were at the table on the left.

We also had a really nice and smooth 10-year-old Tawny Porto. At 20 euro a glass is was good… but them we were offered a “tasting” of a 40-year-old porto. We were happy to oblige and were even happier that the tasting was a full glass of Porto per person… that thing was SMOOTH!!! Sadly at 1000 euro per bottle it will be a while before we try it again.

Pro Tip: Tipping… unlike Austria and Italy, tips in St Tropez were expected. We stuck to our usual 10%-20% and gave the valet $5 per trip. They kept our car right in front along-side with a couple of Ferraris and an S-class, so service was always quick. We also got a personalized greeting every time we pulled into the hotel. If you have the DCT you NEED to teach them how to put the car in park…

The last day we did our regular routine. Got up early-ish soaked at the pool and left for our next destination… the car drop-off point in Nice  We decided to drop the car the day before we flew back, as we did not want to feel rushed. Also we knew that our last destination (St. Paul) had super narrow streets… more about that later.
We decided to take the coastal road instead of the highway. It took about twice as long, but we really enjoyed it. Traffic was not too bad and the views were nice.

Pro Tip: ****ing bikes… When driving in France you need to expect suicidal people on all kinds of motorized two-wheeled vehicles to be coming at you in your lane. They take the notion of “lane splitting” to a whole new level. Furthermore, there is expectation that you move to the right to allow them to pass. If you don’t, you are guaranteed to see their heads coming in for a closer look through your windshield. On a positive side, I got to prove my original arguments about the inherent safety of a sports car a few times.

The drop off location was easy to find (TT Car Rental, just off the side of Terminal 2). We took our goodbyes and headed to the shuttle that was waiting to take us to St Paul. The shuttle was a nice Mercedes minivan and was operated by the best looking cabby I have ever seen. Julie was in her early forties, dressed up like she is going out to a club in high-heels and all that… I felt weird watching her load up the bags while wearing stilettos .


We drove a total of 2022km and loved every centimeter of it!!! I managed to get things just right so that the VPC can do the break-in service … the only thing that bugs me is that I still don’t know why the car had 3km on it… the factory test-track is only 1km


While getting the documents ready, another ED-brotha-from-anada-motha pulled in to drop his car off. Interestingly enough it was the exact specs that I was originally thinking of… Austin Yellow, with a CF roof and the comp package… the only thing I would miss is the exhaust and the black grills… hopefully both will be remedied shortly after re-delivery.

The ride to St Paul was about 40 minutes. There was quite a bit of traffic, but since I was not driving it didn’t bug me.


St Paul, France
St Paul is a small medieval castle with narrow streets, some not much wider than my shoulders. Getting a car through it takes some balls. Julie had to fold in the side mirrors in order to squeeze through some of the streets. I was very happy that the car was safely parked in Nice


The St Paul hotel is the second highest building there. The town is completely walled off.

Once we arrived we had to wait for bellboy to come and help with the bags. There was quite a few stairs. We checked in and got refreshed in the hotel room. Hen we went out for a walk around the fortress and did some shopping. We had a nice dinner at Restaurant le Tilleul. Of course eventhough we had reservations we had to wait on the wall (literally) until our table was ready. Still, no complaints. After dinner we walked around some more (it’s a small but beautiful place), bought some candy and went to bed.


The room was very large and spiffier than Villa Belrose. My wife was not too thrilled by the glass doors for the toilet The bed was awesome


The view from the room was nice. We were on the 3rd floor and there was only one room per floor. Things were quiet


The entrance to the hotel.


The little courtyard right next to it. There were many water-fountains around St Paul. The water was drinkable, but a bit too warm.


We enjoyed a beautiful sunset just before dinner.


The town was littered with art studios. This was a notable example of local art.


St Paul was very romantic, but one would get bored after a couple of days. The streets are tiny and cute, but there are only so many of them. It is definitely worth the visit thought!!


The restaurant is on right. We had to wait at the wall right in front of it… felt like elementary school when I got in trouble.


My wife loved the sweets store We got presents for everybody here.


Some of the narrower streets


Some of the fortifications. This is the “back entrance”.


The town was beautifully lit and made for a great late-night walk.


We had to drive on this road to get to the hotel… I am happy we rented a shuttle.


Julie the next day... she was more casually dressed this time around.

The next day we got up early-ish and went back to the airport with Julie. There were armed soldiers everywhere and one very tanned lady.


The flight back
The flight was uneventful. We had a nice long nap in the plane, courtesy of the business class chairs and landed in Toronto nicely refreshed. We picked up the kids, and got home in Seattle. This was the very end of an amazing trip that was 20 years in the making.


Summary
As I write this the car is on the boat and is scheduled to arrive in CA on 9/2… I hope that everything gets done fast and it is back with me shortly thereafter.

I had very high expectations of this vacation, and part of me was afraid that it will not live up to them. I am happy to say that it was exactly as amazing as I had hoped!! In fact it was so good that my wife is thinking is doing an ED for her next car in a year and half

We were also very lucky with the weather and other things. We picked up the car just before the delivery stop was issued, we were out of Munich when the shooting happened and missed the Nice debacle. I could not have wished for more!

Again, I owe all of this to my smart, beautiful, strong and caring wife, without whom my life would be an empty shell of what it is today! I am happy that I had my best friend with me to share this journey with!!!

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      08-18-2016, 10:41 AM   #2
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Your not kidding: "Awesome Trip". Looks like you two had a GREAT time. Your photos are dazzling. Thanks for sharing!!!
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      08-18-2016, 11:30 AM   #3
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Great photos and looks like an awesome trip!
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      08-18-2016, 11:40 AM   #4
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Wow, great read and wonderful pictures! Thanks for sharing!
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      08-18-2016, 12:14 PM   #5
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Thank you for the kinds words
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      08-18-2016, 12:58 PM   #6
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Great write-up, thanks for posting! That picture you got of the castle after crossing some barriers was worth it, gorgeous!
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      08-18-2016, 01:18 PM   #7
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Very nicely done, you captured the trip so well and awesome pictures. Oh and I'm the brotha-from-anada-motha in Nice!
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      08-18-2016, 01:48 PM   #8
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Great write up and pics!! My family is also in Toronto
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      08-18-2016, 02:27 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozzilla View Post
Very nicely done, you captured the trip so well and awesome pictures. Oh and I'm the brotha-from-anada-motha in Nice!
Hey!!! Is your car on Morning Calypso as well?

It is about to land in Baltimore... I still have another two weeks of sea voyage to go.. then God knows how long for the diff!!!

I am still a bit envious of the CF roof and Yellow paint though
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      08-18-2016, 02:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F80Dreamer View Post
Great write up and pics!! My family is also in Toronto
It is a convenient stop to Europe... and an even better child-care drop-off location

I also get reminded why I love the weather here so much
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      08-18-2016, 02:51 PM   #11
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Great write-up and pictures! Congratulations!
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      08-18-2016, 03:45 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dch37 View Post
Hey Folks,
This is going to be an obscenely long post. I have used this forum to learn so much, and I want to make sure that I give back in spades. I will try not to repeat the info found in other great ED posts, and will focus on new info. There will be plenty of details, but I will organize everything in sections, so if you want to skip ahead you can. I will post some pics directly here. NOTE: the crappy pics are from a cellphone. NOTE: pay special attention to the Pro Tips

First thing’s first... lets get a little bit of the car pom out of the way more in the details…
Agree with the others, awesome post. Great eye for photography even with the cell phone lol

Welcome to the family
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      08-18-2016, 05:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dch37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozzilla View Post
Very nicely done, you captured the trip so well and awesome pictures. Oh and I'm the brotha-from-anada-motha in Nice!
Hey!!! Is your car on Morning Calypso as well?

It is about to land in Baltimore... I still have another two weeks of sea voyage to go.. then God knows how long for the diff!!!

I am still a bit envious of the CF roof and Yellow paint though
No my car is on Porgy, scheduled to be in NY on 8/24 but like everyone else I have no idea how long the differential is going to take to replace. Luckily we both got to drive our cars as others weren't as lucky!
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      08-18-2016, 05:14 PM   #14
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yes, I am happy that I got mine before the delivery stop. Dogged many bullets during this vacation...
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      08-18-2016, 06:10 PM   #15
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Thanks for taking the time to write this up! Enjoyed your story!

Enjoy the car!
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      08-19-2016, 01:41 PM   #16
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Question for the more experienced posters.. is this post for the ED section or Pics section??
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      08-19-2016, 02:14 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dch37 View Post
Question for the more experienced posters.. is this post for the ED section or Pics section??
You can post ED journals in either section. Overall I saw more here so posted mine here, but there are a number in the Pics section. The moderators won't move an ED journal from either section...
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      08-19-2016, 04:00 PM   #18
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good to know maybe I;ll dump the car pics on a separate thread
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      08-22-2016, 09:25 AM   #19
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Wow great write up and read!
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      08-22-2016, 10:02 AM   #20
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Awesome pictures Brings back great memories from last year. My only regret was that I forgot to take the picture in front of the Welt Other than that missed opportunity, the rest of the trip was amazing.

You can see my ED thread using the link in my signature.
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      08-22-2016, 12:53 PM   #21
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I was angry that I forgot to borrow a gopro... I had to resort to tying my cell to the sun visor with cable of my earplugs... quite scrappy, and did not work well, but still got some video...

Going on a drive in Lake Garda (the rumble in the garage was nice... once I opened the valves):
[u2b]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-9V5OH3kYs[/u2b]

This is the a nice drive around lake Garda -
[u2b]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtucPjfRlqY[/u2b]

And the full on Austrian pass:
[u2b]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjEHq89Sc74[/u2b]

Bonus: the 2016 stock exhaust sounds quite decent: [u2b]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZoFls49XeY[/u2b]
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      08-22-2016, 04:28 PM   #22
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Nice, sounds like you were unlucky on your way to Fussen. We had clear sailing and had no issues topping out at 100-105mph on the autobahn portions (first week of June). Of course, we had to slow it down in the towns but opened it up in sections between towns. We went into Fussen a couple times to eat, but didn't find it hard to park along the sides of the main road and then walked a couple blocks into town. I guess double lucky for us. Nice journal!
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