One of the great pleasures related to driving on holiday is stopping driving for a delicious hot cup of coffee. Or so you might think.
For the last month or so I have been taking a vacation. This means more than the usual amount of driving – none of it routine. What I dream of most is the chance to stop along the way and enjoy a chance for a really good cup of coffee. I envision a pleasant old way-side inn with a bunch of shade trees, a set of tables on a terrace. Nearby there ought to be a car park that isn’t a hideous expanse of asphalt. The other model is a café by the side of the road, set on the square of a small town. Finally, the coffee needs to be good. Not damn good but decent.
Isn’t this small moment not an intrinsic part of the touring package? It’s not all about 160 kmph motoring from Kenmare to Tralee or from Skagen to Falster. Along the way there need to be moments to take in the stuff between A and B. From time to time I have had such stops though the shocking thing is that they have been all too rare.
The wayside inn doesn’t exist, not where I live. Something in Ireland’s and also Britain’s urban structure prevents the café/square combo occurring. The French and Germans are better at this: I have actually stopped outside a café on a square with my car nearby and enjoyed a cup of good – not damn good but good – coffee. I know for a fact that somewhere in Chantilly there is a café on a corner with the tables and the trees. Nearby are the huge gates to the royal racecourse, which is a bonus.
My regret is that very little of the pitstops I have made in the last decade have really lived up to providing what I think is a small ask (in the jargon of today). Most usually the coffee has been very disappointing. The machine pictured here provided a very good – not great – cup of coffee this weekend on a tour between Silkeborg and Salling in Jutland.
Alas, the machine was in a petrol station appended to huge light industrial building set on one of those grim expanses of lawn and metal box the Danes now enthusiastically mar their land with. The pastry failed to live up to my already low expectations of Danish bakery (they are stingy with the butter). I drove off with the coffee cooling in the cup holder. That’s not as good as sitting in the sunshine of an early morning somewhere quiet and nice. Too many of my stops have been service stations hard by roaring motorways: bad coffee, a Rittersport and a hurried smoke of whatever dried stump the shop sells.
It seems to me that the mythical pit stop with the cup of decent coffee is another lifestyle lie. They don’t happen by chance at least. I suggest you plan your journey around likely pit-stops: use Google street view to scope the joint and even send an email asking what kind of coffee they provide. If you could string four of five such stops together on a two week break, some of that driving might be worth it.
In sharp contrast, long distance biking trips are full of great stops, usually three a day. And you can drink a beer as well.