Thursday, 20 October 2011

London Taxi in Italy

Wedding in Tuscany
I do have a bit of  soft spot for old cars, ever since my father came home with a bright red MG midget my love for cute soft tops sports cars  began.  I never in a billion years thought I would end up the proud owner of a vintage London taxi! 

So how did it happen? A bet! Yes you did read correctly, a simple bet. I had to buy a car for a set amount of money and drive the car from London to Venice, then use her for the summer without using any other car. Then there were the other conditions attached. Suddenly my daydream of a wee two seater convertible Alfa spider went out the window as my friend smugly said it must have a minimum of SIX  seats! 

Now let it be said that I don't like to shy away from a challenge, especially my very own Top Gear challenge! I once organised 30 red fiat 500's for a wedding near Rome, this was a walk in the park.

I went on to exchange and mart and to my delight, after brain numbing hours of looking at people carriers I came across the ultimate people carrier!   I phoned the dealer and was told she was out of my budget, but after explaining to them the reason I wanted this car, they agreed to reduce the price as long as I sent them updates and photos. 

We agreed the sale on the telephone and I spent the morning getting insurance for a Fairway 2.7 and then a good friend came and picked me up and off we went to collect my previously loved car! 
On the drive away from the dealers, loving my cars shadow! 
We arrived and I was smitten, there she sat waiting for me to take her home. The men at the dealers were wonderful and gave my taxi a final check before her long trip.

I planned to leave the very next day giving me ample time to go shopping for vases and candle holders to add to my stock of props.   With the cab fully loaded I waved good bye to my friends, (who were laughing and having their own bets I would not make it to France!) driving off in to the night feeling very proud of myself.
2200hrs at passport control as I boarded the ferry to France! 

I have to say THANK YOU to the French, they encouraged me with beeps and waves as I crossed their country towards Germany. The Germans were not fussed and mostly ignored my London taxi, which was a good thing. The outside temperature had risen to 36oc throughout the day and inside the taxi, hot air was blowing in by my legs making the inside temperature closer to 50oc, I was turning in to a hot red faced sweaty tired mess as I sat in traffic outside of Munich. 

Sitting out the rain in Germany

Then thankfully it started to rain and my taxi and I cooled down, that is until we hit the hills and my speed dial started to go backwards and the temperature gage started to creep up. 

Eventually the rain started to affect my moral, the darkness was hiding any support I was getting from other drivers on the road and the motorway had given way to a two way road over the Austrian alps.  My windscreen wipers were not much use and this road trip was swiftly turning in to the most scary drive I have ever driven to date. 
Driving through a storm as I arrived in Austria

As my hands griped the steering wheel and trucks bravely over took me going down hill and around hair raising bends with sheer drops down the mountainside I decided it was time to pull over and rest. I had been on the go for 23 hours and adrenalin and tiredness were on over load. 

There were no hotels around so in a service station car park , I rearranged the boxes and grabbed a few broken hours of sleep on the back seat. What a glamourise life I live! 

In the morning I woke to more rain and a freezing cold taxi. Climbing over the boxes I jumped in the cab and tried to start her, only to discover my battery was dead. 

After the lovely Austrian AA man jump started my Taxi with his 200 euro jump leads I was back on the road. 

A few hours later I arrived in Italy, the sun came out and my supporters on Facebook cheered me on. As for my fellow drivers that day, they were amazing! Horns were beeping and people were leaning out of car windows taking photos. Really was an incredible experience. 
After 28 hours of driving I had made it home! 

I often wonder what the old owner of this taxi, who drove her through the streets of London for nearly 20 years would think if he knew 'Sparkles' is now bumping along on the cobbled streets of Italy! 
Driving the bride to the town hall in Treviso. 
My London Taxi being washed till she sparkles by Neil Walker, a very nice photographer from the UK. 

Helping the bride out of my remarkably clean taxi in Tuscany. (Thank you Neil!) 

Penny,  getting the  taxi  home the day after a wedding. 
PS If you were wondering if I won the bet, yes I did. Was it worth the bottle of champagne I won? Absolutely! 

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