June 2, 2010
It seems like a bright yellow golf cart or one of those electric cars that expert around airfields. You cant help smiling when you see it – and you dont stop smiling when you are in one. The Gocar Barcelona is a great new holiday idea set to take the worlds visitor hot-spots by force. Its atiny speaking auto that takes you on a personal led tour of a foreign town.
I went to Barcelona to try itout – but theyre also already available in Lisbon, Miami, San Francisco and San Diego. Next up is likely to be Amsterdam, Madrid, Rome, Paris and London. Suddenly open-top buses and coach tours look uninteresting.
I drove my miniscule two-seater round the Catalan capital being directed to the sights by its built-in satellite-navigation computer concealed under the dashboard. The car even gives you a chatty guide to attractions as you pass and tells you where to stop if youd like a more in-depth look.
Add in the indisputable fact that its a bright yellow, three-wheeler with no roof or doors – and your steered tour becomes hilarious fun. GoCar makes you the envy of all of the pavement plodders.
Even on the famous Ramblas – Europes liveliest street, packed with 24-hour performance artists, pavement cafes and travellers from every part of the globe – folk grinned, waved and pointed cameras my way.
Sadly , I knew it wasnt me they were admiring – it was my revolutionary car. When I paused for an instant outside Boqueria Market, a complete stranger – a pretty Spanish lady – jumped in the passengers seat. It was nada to do with my winning smile or new Primark shirt – she only wanted her hubby to snap her in her amazing automobile. As quickly as he probably did, she jumped out again without a word to me.
Any one over 21 with an auto or bike driving licence can lease from Gocar Barcelona town centre office. You were given a quick lesson and thankfully its a doddle because there arent any gears or pedals. You steer with a handlebar, accelerate and brake using hand-grips like a motorbike or scooter. The little 49cc gas moped engine behind you allows you to keep up with traffic but , with a top speed around 30mph, it is not quick enough to be deadly.
GoCar launched in San Francisco in 2004 where they were an immediate success. Now theyre spreading around the world. The idea is always the same. You choose you language you want and build your own tour by selecting alternative paths and stopping whenever you feel like it.
Its not quite the ideal wind-in-your-hair experience though. Barcelona authorities insist GoCar drivers and passengers wear helmets. Theyre provided free but I did feel a little bit of aloser driving along the beachfront with a big black helmet on.
The automobiles are becoming as favored by neighbors as visitors. And the Barcelona drivers are way more brazen about their use of the small holiday vehicles. One local driver had to be saved after he drove a GoCar right into a store.
GoCars are available in Barcelona, Lisbon, Miami, San Francisco and San Diego.