I was fortunate enough to be taken on a tour of one of my favourite cruise ships at the weekend.
P&O Cruises’ Azura was in Southampton readying for a two-week Baltics cruise so I took up an invitation to take a tour ahead of the busy summer sailing season.
While on board I couldn’t miss a walk through The Glass House, the ship’s fabulous food and wine bar overseen by TV wine expert Olly Smith.
As we were in port in Southampton on a turnaround day there wasn’t the opportunity to indulge in any tastings but it served as a reminder of a long conversation I had more than a year ago with Glass House sommelier Al Clinton.
Liverpudlian Al told me all about his passion for the series of Disney comedy films featuring the ‘Love Bug’ VW Beetle Herbie and its many adventures.
He went on to explain an amazingly ambitious plan to get hold of an original Beetle from the US and attempt to recreate the Herbie goes to Monte Carlo run in aid of charity.
Al, who has spent three years planning for the challenge, managed to source an original 1963 Beetle and had it meticulously restored by experts in the US.
The car’s features are identical to the one used in the Herbie films from the 1960s and 1970s.
The racy VW also features Herbie’s original race number, 53, on its bonnet, which provided the inspiration for Al’s £53,000 fundraising target.
Al’s ambition is to raise funds for Liverpool-based children’s hospice Claire House.
Monte Carlo or bust
He is appealing for support for his 1,100 mile drive which will see the all new Love Bug arrive just ahead of the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix.
Al said: “To start off the funding, my dear friend and regular P&O Cruises passenger Mrs Elly Clough very kindly donated £10,000 to start me off. I have spent around £19,000 on top of that.
“My aim is to raise a minimum of £53,000 and up to £530,000. I will drive my Herbie from Liverpool to Monte Carlo, taking the original route from the film Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.
“We will travel via London, Paris and the Route de Napoleon to arrive in Monte Carlo the day before the start of the Monaco Grand Prix.
“We are looking to have Herbie parked prominently for the duration of the Grand Prix. We believe Herbie will possibly be the most photographed and talked about vehicle that week.”
Al added: “The opportunity to drive Herbie back to Monte Carlo is something I have wanted to do since I was a child. As a Liverpudlian I chose Claire House to be the recipient of our fund-raising.
“Claire House is a remarkable place and this challenge has provided a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness and much needed funds for the hospice so that it can continue to provide invaluable care and support for the 160 children and their families who visit the hospice each year.”
At the time I first met Al on board Azura, it seemed like a hugely ambitious project but one that he convinced me he was going to be a success.
Wind forward 12 months and Al’s poised for the starting grid, having had the Beetle shipped over to the UK from the US after a painstaking restoration project to create an exact replica of the original Herbie, complete with a powerful Porsche engine.
On the starting grid
Setting off on Saturday (May 26) from Merseyside, the ten-day round trip will see Al, a co-driver and a technical back-up team travel via London before crossing the English Channel to Paris and then on through France to Monte Carlo.
The challenge, which is being filmed for a TV documentary, involves fund-raising events en-route and Herbie arriving on the Mediterranean coast the day before the start of the Monaco Grand Prix.
Al’s been lucky enough through is P&O Cruises’ connections to get Olly Smith on board to host a London fund-raising auction at the Classic Car Club on May 27.
Additionally, a dinner is to be held at Benares restaurant in London’s Mayfair on June 4 hosted by Michelin-star chef Atul Kochhar, who has a restaurant on Azura.
Finally, P&O Cruises’ partner Marco Pierre White will open his restaurant in Liverpool to host a welcome home fund-raising dinner on June 7.
*To make a donation please visit http://www.justgiving.com/al-clinton0
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