I haven't given up on the blog, I just got distracted. My wife and I finally got around to planning our honeymoon a few months ago, which was more of a time consumer than I had anticipated. It wasn't that it consumed my life, it's just that I could only spend so much time on my laptop after getting home from work, scanning, digging, researching the lowest airfares to Europe, hotels, restaurants, all that jazz. If anyone is interested, here's the result of those many hours.
Three days in Barcelona, fly to Rome and train to Florence for three days, rent a car and drive to Vicchio for three days, drive back to Florence and train to Rome for a final three days.
Here are just a few automotive observations:
Automatic transmissions are not available in rental cars. Drive stick or don't drive. We had a Lancia Ypsilon 1.1 for our three days in the Tuscan countryside, and it was a hoot. I wanted a Panda, but c'est la vie. I still dug the little Lancia, which was a surprisingly good little car for what it was. And I only got honked at one, which I consider a triumph.
Scooters. I witnessed a Vespa rider lean his ride into a corner on one of those bonkers backroads through the mountains. Lean it. Like a sportbike. Is that even possible? His knee was on the ground.
Italians still love their cars. After living in England for a while a few years ago, I'd developed the impression Europeans pulled out the torches and pitchforks whenever someone bought a new car. From what I saw, Italian car culture is alive and well, at least in the cities we visited.
A Lancia Delta HF Integrale draws more of a crowd than a new Ferrari 458, even in Italy.
Not many old cars on the road, the result of draconian emissions policies. The only cool, older cars I saw, aside from beater Minis, a few Fiat 500s and tired 1-litre Pandas were a pair of Lancia Betas. Not a single old Alfa. Le sigh...
Driving in cities is the most harrowing experience in this country's repertoire, shaming even the single track mountain roads with two-way traffic and a simmering, impatient and possibly drunk guy in a Civic Type R behind you. The road design makes no sense whatsoever, and if you don't read Italian (holding up my hand here), you are taking your savings account out and putting it on the roulette table.
My wife wants a Fiat 500 cabrio. I want a Fiat 500 Abarth Esseesse. Waiting patiently for 2012...
ANYWAY, the long and short of it is this - we had an absolutely amazing time, ate everything put in our path, and are planning an eventual return. Oh, if only...
So back to the bloggy blog. It's been a slow few months for car related news. On a personal note, my brother is in the market for something cool. He's been driving a 2005 Mazda 6 for the past couple of years and is frankly tired it. Suggestions? I think he'd do well to look into the Hyundai Genesis Coupe. I personally have a semi for this car, but without a hatch or even a fastback, I just can't give it serious consideration. It seems like the perfect successor to the Nissan 240 in almost every way. But the trunk is essentially unusable and the back seat is punishment for bestiality in many Orthodox countries.
Why the aversion to utility? Honda had it so very right with the Acura Integra/RSX. Even if it's wasn't as voluminous as the Fit, you could at least stash some suitcases in the back, or in my case a Yorkville half-stack and a Fender Jazz Bass. I was trying to imagine what a Genesis Coupe with a tapering fastback-style hatch, a la the Integra, might look like, and came to the conclusion that it would be slick. Maybe not pretty (the Genesis' nose precludes pretty in any configuration anyway), but slick. So whataboutit, Hyundai?
I think he's also considering a Mustang, since his boss owns a Ford dealership. Therein is another weighty decision - high-tech V6 with 30+ MPG and the performance of a WRX STi for less than $30k, or the noise of a V8? Blerg. Another car I'd happily drive if for but a wee bit more utility. You can guess what I'm getting at... I'm dying over here for a hot hatch. A Renaultsport 200 or a Scirocco or an Abarth anything. Just give me something here, before I decide to turbo my Fit. That's never a good solution, is it?