You came, you saw, you ate

The results of our challenge to eat your way around the world, including the winning entry from the truly olympian John Davies
Click to follow
The Independent Travel
Reading the Food Olympics entries has been an uncomfortable experience, writes the travel editor. Tales of apple strudel before dawn, of indigestion at 35,000 feet, of sleepless overnight bus journeys punctuated by midnight kebabs. Eating round the world is not easy.

Nowhere has been neglected in the bid for glory. Tania Cameron from London ate large numbers of meals during a (very) cheap flight from London to Guatemala which involved stopovers in Spain, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras. John Beasant of Shrivenham claimed to have scoffed his way round all seven countries of the Arabian peninsular, while Brian Ventham of Middlesex munched in paradise, hopping around the islands of the south Pacific.

Judging the entries was not entirely free of political controversy either. Linda Calvey of Northampton recalled a 1982 trip around the "homelands" of South Africa. Could these have counted when they were not recognised by the UN? Likewise Adrian Hardwicke of London claims to have eaten in Israel and Palestine and "theoretically in Lebanon" while standing on Israel's northern border.

In addition to the hazards of technically incredible journeys (Jon Curtis of West Yorkshire asks us to believe that his 8pm ferry from the Hook of Holland had already docked in Harwich by midnight), we also had the problem of entries which ignored the rules altogether: Anne Winzer from West Sussex described a walk around the international stands at the 1967 Montreal Expo, while Andi Ipaktchi of Paris spent her day eating in ethnic restaurants around town.

Several entrants looked into the promising trans-European route from England or Holland, through Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Italy and Slovenia. Food Olympians with fast cars could have eaten this route in a 24-hour period and some entrants indeed claimed to have done all ten. John Davies of London (seven countries, including Wales) could not emulate this, but for entertainment value he was a clear winner.

His entry, winning him two first-class tickets to Brussels on Eurostar, appears below.

Going to Wales simply in order to eat breakfast in the middle of the night might see a bit pointless - particularly when you are going on to have breakfasts in England, France and Belgium the same day - but most sports look pretty pointless to those not actually involved in them. For 22 men chasing a little white pill around a park, substitute two men in a Lada chasing the hour hand across Europe in the Food Olympics. Their motto - farther, faster, fatter.

Ben and I knew we could do 12 meals in 12 countries in 24 hours - if the aptly-named car was up for it. Starting with a Welsh cake and a lamb sandwich at 3.30am in the land of my fathers meant we could fill up with petrol and Ginsters quintessentially English Scotch eggs en route for a 7am chunnel crossing. That saw us hitting France and some almond croissants by 7.40, and getting into Belgium and some gorgeous chocolates by 8.25. Four nil. Ben had once worked as a small administrative cog in the well- oiled Brussels machine, so the chocolates were washed down by some fantastic secret beer genuinely brewed by monks whose alcoholic monastery was yet to be closed down by the ministry for misery. As we sped through the dull countryside, past towns bereft of blue plaques, Ben kept humming that famously annoying Plastic Bertrand song. Flanders is really very depressing, and goes on too long.

We got to Holland, despite a traffic jam of other people also escaping Belgium, by 11.35, and immediately scoffed double portions of that uncappable dutch treat of roadside chips with mustard mayonnaise. Twenty minutes later we were in the land of the supreme food Olympian, Herr Kohl. I had wanted to go and eat something pan European in Maastricht, but made too many puns about European pans and Brussels sprouts. And it wasn't on the way. Instead, we crossed a river called the Inde wishing we were doing so on a Sunday, obviously - and then the Ruhr, where we ate our sauerkraut and Wienerschnitzel. When we crossed the border into Luxembourg and sat down to a proper meal, our first, it was seven nil.

We'd had absolutely no trouble with the car. We still had plenty of time to do the four-hour drive through France to Switzerland, then on to Lichtenstein, Austria, and Italy. We might even have got into Slovenia (13-nil - unlucky) before our 24 hours were up. But we didn't. We were full, in a lovely restaurant, and absolutely knackered. We gave up. Like so many British attempts at sporting success, ours failed in the end, because we simply didn't have the guts to see it through. It wasn't an easy decision, but what swung it - along with the second pudding - was the realisation that the prize for winning the Food Olympics was a first class Eurostar trip for two to Brussels. In Belgium.