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LUXURY TRAVEL: Highway to the danger zone

I am in love with an Italian; sleek, suave, sophisticated and very, very fast. We spent one weekend together and my life will never be the same again. The worrying thing is my husband is in love too - with the same Italian. This could end in tears.

The love-object in question is a 2010 Ferrari California and the weekend a decadent two-day guided trip down the NSW coast from Sydney to Gerringong organised by a company called Prancing Horse. The weekend combines gourmet food, luxury accommodation, spa treatments and the chance to drive a selection of faster-than-light Ferraris. As well as the California the selection includes the F430, 360F1 and F355 Spider.
I'm not the only one to have fallen hard for an Italian Stallion: David Beckham, Steve McQueen, Brigitte Bardot and many more of the rich and famous have been proud owners. Of course you have to be a certain kind of rich because there is a reason the words "Flash' and 'Ferrari' start with the same letter: Think film stars, financiers, formula one racing drivers. If you're shy and retiring get a Volvo.
ferrari california
ferrari california
ferrari line up
ferrari girl
prancing horse
Mind you, even movie actors might have to fight for lens time because the cars are the real superstars here. We begin our weekend at Sydney's Star City hotel and casino, now reborn as The Star, which is a suitably high rollin' kind of place. There is already a crowd around the cars which pose indolently by the curb lapping it up like the true Italians they are. "Have a nice flight" jokes the doorman, saluting as we pull away from the curb.

The cockpit of a Ferrari (this is not a mere car interior) reminds me of an ultra-stylish bachelor pad, all beige leather, state of the art technology - and a tendency to have you half horizontal before you know it. I almost expect the car to ask me to slip into something more comfortable as I lay back in the required driving position in the Ferrari F430 coupe.

Once you forget the badge on the steering wheel - the sight of which can make novices break out in a cold sweat - a Ferrari is a surprisingly easy car to drive; it is just the other drivers on the road you have to watch out for. Nothing makes heads turn or concentration to falter more than a fleet of Ferraris. I get a first-hand experience of this as a truck comes up behind me, far too close for comfort ,while the driver leans his elbows on the wheel to take a picture of us with his iPhone.

However the city and the traffic soon slip away and the cars chew up the open road with abandon. It is a perfect blue sky day as we snake through the green undulating hills of the Royal National Park.
this car invites you to put your foot down, it begs for it in a sexy Italian accent, it purrs for pure acceleration

Ahead of me the other cars pick up speed, a ribbon of red on the open road. I am beginning to understand why you never see an ad for 'Ferrari for sale -one careful owner' - this car invites you to put your foot down, it begs for it in a sexy Italian accent, it purrs for pure acceleration. I always knew i was meant for life in the fast lane. No wonder the Prancing horse mantra is 'never over take the lead car'. It would be oh, so tempting.

Along the cliff-hugging Grand Pacific Drive, the ocean sparkles sapphire bright beside us as we race towards the spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge, its space-age curves just made for fast car photo opportunities (see Insider Secret box). In my book this route should be up there with great drives of the world because it is as least as beautiful as the more famous Great Ocean Road in Australia's Victoria and or Highway 1 in California.

Our lunch stop is In Kiama and as we slow through town kids wave, two adolescents on skateboards give us the thumbs up and a gaggle of old ladies shriek as if they've seen The Queen - we're superstars, automobile royalty. I toss my hair like Kate Middleton and give a royal wave but it's the car they're swooning over.

In the afternoon I drive the California and I'm in heaven - it is love at first gear change. This is the real meaning of Californication. We cut through the kilometres like a knife through butter, my smooth Californian and I.
I almost expect the car to ask me to slip into something more comfortable as I lay back in the required semi-horizontal driving position.

I've definitely got scarlet fever. Red is the only colour that counts darling. If you see someone driving a blue Ferrari it probably means they have more than one. "But you always remember your first" laughs Matt Thio from Prancing Horse. The first day is over all too soon and the Ferraris are lined up like trophies in the hotel car park. We drivers hover finding it hard to leave them.

The next morning when it is time to leave the mechanic has already been down to the car park to wake his babies gently, letting the cars idle themselves awake. "God they really are Italian,' says a fellow driver . 'they need a croissant and a coffee and a cigarette before they'll get up". But doesn't any superstar?

Apparently after taking part in a drive experience with Prancing Horse about ten people a year end up buying a Ferrari - I'm saving up.


Luxury Lowdown: Prancing Horse Ferrari Drive Days Australia is an overnight drive package along Grand Pacific Drive, from Sydney to Gerringong, for AUD$2,980 a couple, including the chance to drive four different Ferraris, all meals and an overnight stay at what was previously Bellachara Boutique Hotel, now the newly named Mercure Resort Gerringong. The ultimate Christmas present? Prancing Horse 'open-dated' gift vouchers. www.prancinghorse.com.au , www.mercurehotels.com

For more international Ferrari tours click here


The Luxury Travel Bible Insider Secret

The Sea Cliff Bridge, south of Wollongong achieved fleeting international fame when it featured alongside Rome, New York, London, Rio, Hong Kong and Monte Carlo in a worldwide television advertisement marking 60 years of collaboration between Shell and Ferrari. In the ad there is a shot of a 1967 Formula 1 Ferrari 312 roaring across the bridge.
Hilary Doling 15/10/11
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