Yesterday I started my European road trip with a dawn start and the Eurotunnel to Calais. The service is so quick, convenient and reliable I don’t know why anyone takes the ferry.

I was in Calais by 9am and through the grim Pas de Calais (all pylons and crumbling Autoroute) within half an hour. Crossing the border into Flanders the quality of the road improved and whilst the countryside was still flat it looked more prosperous. The Jaguar XKR performed faultlessly, cruising at the speed limit effortlessly, unchallenged by all but the odd Audi. Audi seems to be the brand favoured by plutocratic Belgians. It is rare to see BMWs or Merc’s let alone another Jag. What I did see a lot of in both Belgium and France were all sorts of Dacia, Europe’s newest austerity motor. Their success must, to some degree, have come at the expense of parent company Renault. I wonder what soon to be made redundant French Reggie workers feel about being displaced by their more cost effective Romanian colleagues?

Three hours after leaving Calais I had passed South of Ghent, round Brussels and north of Liege, crossed the mighty Meuse and started the climb through the pine forests of the Ardennes to that most celebrated of race circuits, Spa.

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