Holland Figaro Rally 2014

Figaros go Dutch

What an amazing holiday.  It was with some trepidation that we booked onto the Nissan Figaro Owners Club rally to Holland, yet it turned out to be a fantastic experience albeit very much like taking part in the Wacky Races!

Blog by Jane Ellison-Bates

Having not even ventured on a motorway before with my own little ‘Figgy’ Suzanna, just getting to Hull on the M62 in the rain was a test of endurance for my nerve and her little cleverly disguised Micra engine with added turbo.   Despite the trauma of being boxed in by intimidating articulated lorries, we made it safely to the ferry in good time, which was more than could be said for poor Mary Kelly and Marian who broke down on the way.  While ‘Millie’ never made it, Mary and her friend Marian borrowed a normal car and travelled a day later to join us in Holland, doubling up with the lovely ‘Jersey Boys’ in their little black Figaro for the rest of the tour.

We met up with Southport Scousers Ian and Lisa on the overnight ferry out, forging a friendship that would stick for the rest of the tour and beyond.

Mark and I enjoyed a brief spell leading three Figaros out of the ferryport, only to be met round the corner by some of our wonderful Dutch hosts Tania and Edwin in theirs.  We then had our first taste of convoy driving as we followed them along a frenetic, busy motorway away from Rotterdam and to the outskirts of Delft.

Pulling off the motorway and into a car park full of more Figaros was unexpected and very exciting; these were the owners who had travelled from Harwich to the Hook of Holland.

Owners club leader Kevin Fagan gave us all a quick pep talk on the etiquette of convoy driving and advised it is more important to keep the car behind in sight than the car in front; a challenge I endeavoured to master and a skill that was stretched to the maximum many times over the following days.

What larks we had. There were people breaking down, people running into each other, reversing into bollards, getting locked out of their cars, missing boats and countless people getting lost and/or left behind during the convoys and  while venturing out alone in the dawn seeking petrol.

I was fortunate to have probably the best co-driver of the whole rally.  While all my effort was concentrated on managing to stay on the right (and I mean right) side of the road, follow the Figaro in front and not lose the one behind behind whilst also avoiding the copious cyclists, Mark had set himself his own challenge.  Armed with 1) our satnav 2) his i-pad 3) the pre-trip route book and 4) each morning’s itinerary route sheet, he managed to actually know where we were!  This was evidently more than could be said for anyone else as they all attempted to manage without the full suite of mapping assistance.

There was often a fair deal of confusion. What fun we had passing other Figaros going in the wrong direction up and down stretches of road between roundabouts as people grappled with the instructions and tried to decide whether to follow the car in front, or go with the rebels who were going the other way, or sometimes – to my surprise and usually shortlived pride – us!

As we drove past windmills, over magnificent dykes, past gothic castles, tranquil canals and picturesque bosky woods I desperately tried to take photographs as Mark was evidently far too busy to do so.

The days passed in a frantic but fabulously fun blur, driving for around four hours a day, for what felt like miles and miles but which, he tells me, was never actually a great radius at any point from our lovely lakeside hotel The Golden Tulip at Loosdrecht. We would arrive at wonderful towns with just enough time for everyone to park, grab a meal or drink before rushing back to our lovely Figgys to hit the road before we got left behind.

There was a boat trip, a cheese market, castles, a shopping outlet, bike riding (except for yours truly who couldn’t reach the pedals) and evenings were spent carousing and dancing.  The first and last nights were spent at the hotel with everyone together.  Peter and Andria from Portugal had brought cases of ‘Figaro’ wine from Moulin de Gassac and gave each ‘car’ their own bottle; a magnanimous start to the holiday which set the trend for generosity and camaraderie on the trip.  I was even given a pair of lemon knickers to match Suzanna from Sue from Northamptonshire who also kept me going with eyedrops throughout the trip when my contact lenses struggled from the long hours of top-down driving!

On Sunday, the 27 cars and their owners staying at the Golden Tulip were joined for the day by more Figgy fanatics from Holland and all over Europe, swelling our numbers to an incredible 43 as we set off in convoy again on a mystery tour. What an incredible sight, so many funny little cute cars looking like dolly mixtures.  Suzanna was the only yellow one of them all, so she’s easy to spot.

Yes, OK, she looks like a Noddy car; so naturally, when we all had to wear a ‘Mad Hat’ for the final dinner, I wore a pointy blue hat with a bell on it and Mark a red one, with Big Ears. Unanimously voted winners were Belinda and James for their amazing twin 3D road map recreations of the tour, which I was thrilled to see featured a yellow Figaro.

Figaroteam Holland led by the lovely Brigitte gave us all a fabulous holiday that we will always remember. From her superb goody bags including ‘Autogem’ sweets and tins of Figaro shaped biscuits to stunning daily itineries taking in beautiful scenery, she did a fantastic job and has set the bar very, very high for whoever organises next year’s European rally.  She even managed four whole days of wonderful sunshine so that we could all go topless.

The CARS, people, this wasn’t Calendar Girls again.  Beep beep beep Brigitte!