Launch Gallery
Besides jet lag, horrible foreign language pronunciation and an infinite number of slow drivers to get in the way, the last 48 hours have been an absolute whirlwind of culture, food, countries, and of course, cars. To be specific, a little brand that goes by the name of MINI.

Since arriving on the red-eye from North America Wednesday morning, we’ve been taking part in the press lead-up to the largest festival gathering of MINI fans and owners in the world: MINI United, which starts today, Friday, here in Le Castellet, France. This weekend will see thousands converge with their cars from all points of the globe, including a few who decided to fly theirs from overseas just for the event.

Festivalgoers will have the ability to take their car on the Circuit Paul Ricard race track, see from the pros how stunts such as those in The Italian Job and The Bourne Identity were pulled off, and rock out with artists including Iggy Pop, The Ting Tings, Gossip and Martin Solveig. To top it all off, will be on hand at an exclusive press conference tomorrow unveiling a brand new MINI! Check back for the hot information!

To get you pumped, we’ve put together some photos from our epic first leg of the trip to the festival. Along with journalists from as far as Korea and Indonesia, we’ve checked out BMW’s (MINI’s parent company) Corporate Headquarters in Munich, Germany and got a sneak peek into their museum and archives. Some joyrides we found include James Bond’s 007 Z8, the complete lineup of the BMW 3 Series, crazy concepts like the 1999 Z9, Roadster, and a personal favorite of ours, the 2008 homage to one of the most legendary bimmers of all time: the M1.

From Munich we grabbed a MINI from the BMW corporate fleet and began our journey south. Check out the photos to see our MINI Clubman John Cooper Works edition in action as we test out the speedometer on the zero-speed-limit Autobahn; play catch-up with the other journalists, including Playboy Hungary’s Deputy Editor; and wind our way through the mountains of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy, ending last night with Lake Como and Milano. Not to be forgotten, we may have gone off course for a bit and ended up and commandeering the space outside their parliament. Enjoy!

Photos shot with Panasonic’s hot new active camcorder, the full HD HX-DC2!