I’ll fess up now: the last time I drove a Lamborghini I took a corner at more than 140mph, rear ended a Ferrari 599XX and spun off the track into a wild cheering crowd.
I walked away unharmed.
Of course this stop-the-race black-flag incident actually took place in a video game – I’m a journalist not a billionaire. And why is a 30-year-old hussy like me sitting inside playing video games, I hear you ask? Well, it’s fun isn’t it? Beats going for a run. And secondly, for a long time I thought my chances of driving a real Lamborghini were slim to none.
Well, now all that’s changed. Because Waldorf Astoria – the luxury hotel group that is home to some of the plushest hotels on the planet, scattered across some of the most dazzling destinations – has introduced a new Lambo driving experience for its guests. Yes you, the average punter, instead of dropping thousands on your own Italian supercar, can now take one for a spin on your holiday, and save your hard-earned cash for that sensible Volvo estate (it’s had decent reviews, to be fair).
My session takes place on the sun-dappled back lanes of Versailles, that historic, Palace-boasting city located just 30 minutes outside of Paris. And don’t worry if you simply can’t stand the French; over the next year, a pristine Pantone palette of Lamborghinis will be shipped to a selection of the group’s hotels, allowing you to speed along the sun-scorched, desert-fringed roads of Utah or rev around the ancient cobbles of Rome.
Today is a roof-down kinda day. The warm spring sunshine glints off the Skittle-red paint, catching the golden bull on the car’s badge. Tawny leaves swirl in the gentle wind, and the V10 engine of my Huracan LP 610-4 Spyder growls at the vaguest touch of the accelerator. Beside me, thrown back into his soft leather seat, sits Patric, my baby-skinned instructor. Here’s a man who started his professional driving career spinning go-karts around tracks. There’s hope for us yet.
The famous Italian marque may have made its name back in 1948 as a tractor manufacturer, but according to Patric, it’s come on a long way since then (no shit). “Lamborghinis aren’t just a racing car, but they’re great for on the streets, and driving to the shops, too,” he tells me as I drive. Guests are free to cruise solo and follow another car in the fleet, or an instructor-cum-pro driver can jump in for the ride. I choose the latter, because when else will I have 30 minutes to hear about the career highlights of a professional Lamborghini racing driver?
A throaty growl roars out across the cobbles. A man stares, scowls, swears. Then he immediately gestures for me to do it again.
In fact, Patric’s easy conversation is a welcome distraction. There’s €230,000-worth of supercar in my hands and the locals of Versailles aren’t afraid to remind me. People screech to a halt on roundabouts desperate for a picture, others pause mid zebra crossing for a look, and mesmerised bus drivers slow down to give way. When you can’t see us you can hear us. Tapping the Spyder into sports mode I speed away at a green light. The engine screams in pleasure. I whoop in delight. Patric laughs and tells me to slow the hell down.
Of course, it’s not all split-second accelerations at traffic lights – these are functioning roads, after all. During slower stretches we have a chance to appreciate the sites, from the intricately designed off-white façade of the huge Palace of Versailles to the golden-hued fields that line our 15km route. We crawl through the pretty tree-lined backstreets of the city to an exhilarating exhaust soundtrack. Patric encourages me to dip the throttle and rev the engine so that a throaty growl roars out across the cobbles. A man stares, scowls, swears. Then he immediately gestures for me to do it again.
With the sights behind us, I’m soon back at the hotel. With a sweat-inducing, reverse-park manoeuvre, I squeeze into a parking space, take some obligatory pictures, thank Patric for his guidance, and collapse into a velvet armchair to compose myself.
If the Lamborghini Spyder is a spectacular drive, the Trianon Versailles is a fitting partner. The opulent hotel is located inside the Versailles gardens, a UNESCO-certified site of more than 20,000 trees and flowers, and, of course, the famous Versailles palace.
My bedroom is an elegant ensemble of high ceilings, huge glass windows and a bed big enough for ten, with lilac flourishes complementing the luxurious drapes and lamp-lit corners. Elsewhere, the hotel is bathed in natural light – from the long marble entrance corridor, where arm chairs and sofas sit beneath glittering white stone and chandeliers, to the two world-acclaimed Gordon Ramsay restaurants.
Ornate lights line the ceilings of the vast room of restaurant Le Veranda, which is thoughtfully adorned with monochrome floors and a collection of large bay trees. Any table would be a winner, but mine sits close to the floor-to-ceiling window, allowing me to take in the most calming views and frolicking baby goats of the Parc de Versailles.
The menu is extensive – from delicate and soft lamb to light, fresh slow-roasted tomato gazpacho. I opt for a burrata salad, and am soon presented with a plump, soft-white mound of creamy soft cheese, which is paired with a crunchy, delicately dressed salad.
A chocolate-coated dessert is tempting, but the sun-drenched gardens beckon. I settle into a garden chair and sip a frothy macchiato, but the quiet calm is soon punctured by a loud and an unmistakable sound.
In the distance, a V10 engine erupts. Despite how comfortable I am, I know exactly which seat I’d rather be sat in.
The Lamborghini and Waldorf Astoria Driving Experience is available at the below hotels in 2017
May 12-14 – Waldorf Astoria Chicago
July 14-16 – Trianon Palace Versailles
July 28-30 – Rome Cavalieri
August 25-27 – Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh
November 3-5 – Boca Raton Resort & Club
November 16-18 – Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm
See waldorfastoria3.hilton.com for details.