I've done a fair bit of driving the last couple of weeks (about 1400km). Here's a list of lessons learnt, mostly for your amusement...
1. It doesn't matter how early you leave, you are not driving fast enough to get to the airport on time if there's a car keeping up with you.
2. The collision damage excess waiver on an Audi A4 Avant is 300€, and is a waste of money.
3. Hire car companies will remove the navigation CD from a navigation equipped car just so they can charge you to rent a navigation off them.
4. It costs the same amount to rent snow chains for a week as it does to buy them from a random motorway service station.
5. Snow chains are recommended in certain circumstances if driving to a ski resort on all-season tyres, however with a bit of forethought (usually spurred on by hindsight) they aren't necessary. In fact I'd go as far as saying people are mad going on about having to get winter tyres and being stuck in the snow.
6. The highest rated navigation software on the iTunes store has no concept of mountain passes being closed in the winter and turned into skiing pistes.
7. Neither does the Garmin navigation system my friend brought along.
8. At 39€ the Frejus tunnel is pretty expensive.
9. Whilst the French will build scary roads that follow the curvature of the mountains, the Italians just build viaducts and dig tunnels resulting in a straight motorway that goes through everything in its path.
10. Italians are mad drivers, especially on the motorway.
11. An Audi A4 loaded with 5 passengers and their luggage handles like a boat and steers only slightly better than the Titanic.
12. The cruise control on Audis is really confusing.
13. The Audi A4 is rubbish and I am soooo glad I bought a BMW instead of an A5 convertible.
14. Although the Audi A4 is crap, it does have a much smoother ride and lighter steering than my BMW, which I only really noticed upon my return to London.
15. Watch out for speed cameras in France, especially when you reset your navigation to default settings in a futile attempt to get it to direct you through the Frejus tunnel instead of over a ski piste. Twice.
16. There is an admin fee for changing your flight on easyjet.
17. If you purchased speedy boarding, you lose it when your flight is changed, and you only find out when you're at the front of the speedy boarding queue and the guy has a go at you for not having speedy boarding.
18. Don't forget you bought speedy boarding when arriving at the airport and queuing with the plebs.
19. There is a bit of road between Turin and Milan where you're driving pretty fast and a train passes you as if you're standing still.
20. Don't go shopping with girls in Milan during the sales.
21. It costs £15 per day extra when you're late for picking up your car from Gatwick airport valet parking.
22. Don't forget the mess you made at home in your rush to pack for your ski trip at the last minute.
23. Although O2 text you telling you that for £1.99 per day you can use your phone abroad as you would at home, the next day they will text you a warning telling you that yesterday you used 70MB and your limit was 25MB and if you do it again they will put you back on the standard tariff. This is more annoying than not having data at all.
24. There is absolutely nothing to do at Milan Malpensa Terminal 1 when waiting 8 hours for a delayed flight from Moscow to arrive, apart from marvel at the variety of taxis waiting at the taxi rank outside. Everything from a Dacia Duster to a Citroen C6 to a BMW 1-series.
25. The French don't know how to make coffee, especially in fancy looking motorway service stops.
26. The Italians do know how to make coffee, even in really dodgy looking motorway service stops.
27. The flat fare from anywhere in Milan to Malpensa airport is 90 euros. Whilst this may seem excessive, it is a 45-60 minute drive, depending on traffic conditions.
28. The closest petrol station to Malpensa is a dodgy and super expensive automated place that has a machine which accepts only cash pre-payment for fuel. It's still cheaper than returning the car without a full tank.
29. The GPS on the iPhone is not fast or accurate enough to give good driving directions in complicated junctions, due to the 2 second sampling interval. Only a fool forgets the two second rule!
30. The french for breathalyser is ethylotest. Don't forget that from next spring if you're not carrying a reusable one (or two disposable ones) while driving in France you can get an on the spot fine.
This New Years Eve was a bazillion times better than last year, and 2012 was really awesome for me. Let's hope 2013 is even better. It's got off to a fabulous start anyway :)