- 5 Oct 07, 11:28 AM
Marseille, Friday morning - England probably think they’ve got a tough task on their hands, trying to beat the Australians in the World Cup quarter-finals this weekend.
They have. But I can tell them now that it won’t be as hard as driving Le Bloggernaut around a lap of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit.
That’s right. On Thursday afternoon, fired up on baguette and an over-ripe piece of goat’s cheese, we took our stinking campervan into one of the world’s richest countries, put pedal to metal and let rip.
It was probably the most ridiculous driving manoeuvre anyone has attempted since Penelope Pitstop pipped the Ant Hill Mob and Dastardly and Mutley to the line with a hand-brake slide while simultaneously shampooing her hair.
Monaco is so soaked in money that the tramps wear fur coats and drink themselves into oblivion on Moet. You think I’m joking, but I saw one of them busking with James Galway’s gold flute.
Nelson Piquet famously described the Monaco GP as “like trying to cycle round your living room”.
He should have tried doing it in a vehicle so large that the front end was leaving the principality before the rear had got through Customs.
Our initial attempts to pick up speed were stymied by the school-run traffic jam, not something the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have to worry about.
It was when the kerb suddenly changed from pavement into thick red and white stripes that we knew we were in business.
“Rascasse! Piscine! Tabac!” I shouted at Dirs, who was trying to juggle three different maps at the same time as making detailed notes and leaning out of the window with his camera-phone.
“Ouch!” replied Ben, as a rapid left-right swerve through the chicane threw Le Bloggernaut about like an elephant on a rollercoaster and caused him to bang his head on the windscreen.
We hammered towards the famous tunnel at an eye-watering 28mph.
“It’s the tunnel!” we both yelled.
No matter that, once inside, the tunnel was so similar to every other one in the world that we might as well have been in Thurrock. There were strange white markings on the road, and that was good enough for us.
Unfortunately, we missed the turn at Portier the first time around, mainly because both of us were singing the old BBC TV Formula One theme music at the tops of our voices.
And the magic of going round the Grand Hotel hairpin was slightly spoiled by the fact that we did it in first gear and had to stop to let an old man with a dog cross the road in front of us.
Still, Casino Square was impossible to miss. “It’s the Casino!” we both shouted, like fame-struck monkeys, before Dirsy dropped all three maps in excitement.
It was an unfortunate piece of timing. Faced with a tricky T-junction on the approach to Beau Rivage, I gambled on a right turn and found myself about to enter an underground car park.
I had been wrong to think that a 20-foot campervan was the least popular vehicle ever seen on the roads of Monaco. In actual fact, it was a reversing 20-foot campervan.
Let it also not be said that the principality is a circuit ruined by the impossibility of overtaking.
In our brief time there, we were passed by 14 mopeds, 10 open-top sports cars, two buses and one well-dressed pedestrian.
Four hours later, back in Marseille, some of the Monaco magic seemed to have rubbed off on us.
As we stood outside a bar in the Vieux Port, regaling all and sundry with our De Cesaris chat, an England supporter strolled over and invited us to a party on his yacht.
Exotic visions filled our heads of the pair of us as espadrille-wearing extras in a Duran Duran video. I thought Ben was going to swoon into his arms.
Unbelievably, we failed to go.
I had this blog to write, and Ben says his mum told him before coming away not to talk to strange men in expensive loafers.
I fear we may regret the decision until the end of our days.
The mood in town, meanwhile, is tremendous. The hordes of England, Australia and South Africa fans swell by the minute. There are even Welshmen who have made the trip, for which I salute them.
If you’re in this neck of the woods this weekend, get yourself down to La Plage and join us for a spot of touch rugby. You’ll recognise us by the smell of our board-shorts and our ritual chanting: “Ubogu Ubogu Ubogu Ubogu Ubogu…”
Tom Fordyce is a BBC Sport journalist travelling around France in a camper van with Ben Dirs. Click here to search for all of Tom and Ben's blog videos.