“Please be careful,” says the manager as she hands over the keys to our suite for the night.
To be fair, we don’t look much like the traditional guests to this particular property. For a start, we pulled up in our trusty MINI Clubman, rather than a horse drawn carriage or the middle of a royal motorcade.
It seems ridiculous to even contemplate, but paying guests are now able to rent out the Imperial Suite at one of Vienna’s Hapsburg Palaces and live like Emperors for the night.
This evening - just 12 hours after waking up in wooden barrels at the bottom of a Moravian field - we’re the latest guests to receive the royal treatment.
As our host points out while leading us through a series of ever grander locked doors, and finally up the royal ‘Geheimstiege’, or ‘secret staircase’, staying in this suite is like “booking bed and breakfast at Buckingham Palace.”
And what a suite it is. Situated in the east wing of the UNESCO-listed Schönbrunn Palace, it was home to Emperor Franz Joseph in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, boasting two cavernous bedrooms and a warren of supporting parlours, bathrooms and salons over 167 square metres.
And that’s not all: once the main gates are locked at 9pm, we have 400 acres of landscaped grounds to ourselves too. Needless to say, parking the MINI not an issue.
We’re 5,000 miles and 15 days into our MINI Grand Tour now - exactly half way through our epic European road trip - and this is the perfect way to mark the occasion.
From here, our route - designed by London-based adventure travel specialists The Flash Pack - takes us through Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria to the outer edge of the EU: Cyprus. From here, the most southerly point of our challenge, the long road home begins…