Qashqaing from Paris to Holland and back
"The framework of my scheme fell apart almost immediately when I encountered a toll road that accepted only cash."
I was in Europe at the end of September for the 2012 Paris Motor Show (that was the official reason for taking my act overseas), but I concealed from my powerful and cruel editors my true intentions: to attend a whisky festival in the happiest place in the world – Holland!
It was never my intention to do a lot of driving in Paris, my friends, as I am afraid of Paris traffic, so my plan was to pick up the Nissan Qashqai and bolt from the city of lights to my destination in The Netherlands: Vlissingen.
My test model, a “Qashqai +2”, is basically the small ute we know here as Rogue, but with a longer wheelbase and a third row of seats.
A very nice professional named James from Nissan France had hooked me up with a Qashqai with a navigation system (with an English-language option), so I figured it would all be good when I picked up the car on the outskirts of town.
The framework of my scheme fell apart almost immediately when I encountered a toll road that accepted only cash, and they don’t accept Canadian cash, so I was turned back and had to follow the navigation system back into Paris to look for a bank.
You know those enormous spiderweb-like traffic roundabouts you see on TV and in movies, with anywhere from four to eight lanes and multiple exits jutting out in all directions? Those are real. I went through about six of them in a white-knuckled terror-trance, as I cruised the narrow streets looking for an ATM to get some euros for the tolls.
Long story short, I made it in and out with the Qashqai un-dented, and the whole trip took on a much more relaxed air when I got onto the highways leading to the Netherlands.
You can drive from Paris to Vlissingen in about four hours, it turns out (but only if you use the toll roads), through tunnels that pass under the seaway into the southern Dutch province of Zeeland.
My Qashqai’s navigation system was spot-on, and took me unerringly to the Hotel de Leugenaar, where I made camp for several days. The Leugenaar sits right on the seaway, and all the rooms have a sea-view where you can watch big ships ply the waterway day and night.
Vlissingen offers many opportunities for a laid-back good time in addition to the Whisky by the Sea festival. The countryside in all directions is awe-inspiring (I’ve been to the Netherlands a few times, but never stayed right on the coast), lined with wind farms and rugged seaside scenery.
The Hotel de Leugenaar provided a hearty breakfast every morning of the typical European style - cold cut meats, fresh baked croissants and breads, fruit, eggs and bacon; you could go the whole day just off a good Dutch breakfast.
The highlight of the entire operation, though, was the Whisky Dinner held at the Arsenaal Theatre in the heart of the city, an eight-course meal with each accompanied by a shot of select scotches.
Now, I’ll admit that I pick my destinations pretty much at random when I do these things and I chose Vlissingen for no other reason than I hadn’t been there before, and found the hotel from the city’s tourism website. It doesn’t have the nightlife of, say Amsterdam or Leeuwarden, but neither does it have the traffic and noise.
Nissan’s Qashqai also turned out to be the right vehicle for the trip. While distinctly Rogue-like in its appearance, the 1.6 litre diesel engine under the hood got the most out of Europe’s expensive fuel; and I made it from Paris to Holland and back on a tank. The engine-stop feature of the Qashqai helps with this, and also helps keep unnecessary emissions to a minimum, and I have to wonder if the technology would help manufacturers bring more diesel vehicles to North America.
I encourage anyone looking for an unusual but pleasant offbeat excursion to consider Vlissingen; a good starting point for researching it is http://vlissingen.com/en/
The Hotel de Leugenaar is a nice, budget-priced option for accommodations that put you right on the coast, and their food is good. They can be contacted at http://www.hoteldeleugenaar.com/ and to learn more about the Whisky by the Sea festival, check out http://www.whiskybythesea.nl/ (you’ll need to run it through Google Translate).
And remember to bring cash for toll roads.