"So why have you brought a Lamborghini to the Faroe Islands?" asks the man in the sober grey suit.
"I wanted to go somewhere with dramatic scenery and great roads," I explain. "To a place where there are no speed cameras and no petty bureaucracy."
The man looks a little concerned and photographer Salt intervenes. "Alistair," he says, "let me introduce you to the Faroes' Minister for Transport."
It's an inauspicious start. My new-found friend, Bjarni Djurholm, also turns out to be the Minister for Trade and Industry and, for the moment at least, the acting Prime Minister. I arrived in the Faroe Islands less than two hours ago and I've already embarrassed myself in front of a local dignitary.
Djurholm admits to being a Lamborghini fan and wants a ride in the car, a Gallardo Spyder. We trundle out of town as I wonder whether to break the modest 80 kph speed limit. At 50 mph, in fourth gear, the machine burbles away contentedly, but it feels no more exciting than a Buick.
"I think you should overtake the car in front," says Djurholm, proving that laws are there to be broken, even if you've made them yourself. I shift to second and flex my right foot as the V10 takes a lug of fuel. At full throttle, the Gallardo makes a noise that's devilishly naughty. While Ferrari's F430 proffers a high-pitched, F1-mimicking scream, the Lambo plays a symphony of trumpets. "It's even better than I imagined," says Djurholm. We make a U-turn at the top of a hill and then sprint back to Trshavn, the Faroes' biggest town. "I used to have a picture of a Lamborghini as a boy," he says between spurts of acceleration. "This is like a dream." His childish enthusiasm is shared by his electorate-a crowd has gathered to greet our return and a dozen camera phones are thrust into action.
No one can ever remember a Lamborghini visiting these shores before, which is why we've achieved celebrity status. The local newspaper got so excited about our imminent arrival that they made it headline news.
Situated in the middle of the North Atlantic, halfway between the UK and Iceland, the Faroe Islands are as far north as Anchorage, Alaska. They're home to just 48,000 people, but have their own language and banknotes. Officially, the islands are part of the kingdom of Denmark, but their parliament has autonomy over local issues. And although the islanders are far from poor, sky-high car tax excludes the exotic.
To get here, we've had to drive almost 1000 miles from London, England, and take two overnight ferries. We've been on the road for three days and by now I've settled into Lambo 'ownership.' As a long-distance tool, the Gallardo is surprisingly capable. Gone are the days when Lamborghinis were the automotive equivalent of a poster-boy dunderhead: pretty but useless.
The purists might bemoan the company's German ownership, but there can be no denying that a large injection of cash, coupled with some Teutonic attention to detail, has resulted in a much better Lamborghini-everything works. There's also something satisfying about driving a car that's not the default choice. Old man Ferrucio might have been a tractor maker and not a racer, but a Gallardo is more exclusive than an F430.
Eventually we escape our groupies and explore the colorful Trshavn. Quaint wooden buildings are dotted around the harbor and many have roofs made of turf. "When we want to cut the grass, we just throw up a couple of sheep," says a local, half-joking. The vibe is laid-back and surprisingly cool-very Scandinavian.
The local jet wash is run by Jakup Borg, who plays for the Faroes' soccer team. His is a simple life, but he seems happy. "There's no crime," he says. "Trshavn is a good place to be-there are eight bars and four nightclubs-but some of the other communities feel like they're stuck in the '60s or '70s."
Borg casts a longing eye over the Gallardo. Sitting soaking on the garage floor, it rekindles memories of the original Countach, before it was polluted by wings and scoops. It's a refreshingly pure design that that works well from every angle, hood up or down.
But such beauty is not achieved without compromise and Borg laughs out loud when I open the boot. The cubby in the nose is so small that my luggage for a week's trip has been reduced to two plastic bags. From day three onwards, I'll be forced to wear my underpants inside out. nielK nivlaC reads considerably less seductively than Calvin Klein.
After posing for an inevitable picture, we leave the affable Borg to his labor and head for the hills. The scenery is aggressive, with steep gradients and jagged coastlines. It's as if some other-worldly being has nibbled at giant chunks of earth and left the rest to rot.
In the early '90s, the Faroes' government invested heavily in building the tunnels that link most of the eighteen islands. Most traffic now takes the underground route, which has left some of the more dramatic roads deserted. The one that runs northwest from Trshavn is seminal. Stretching for over 12 miles, it criss-crosses the hillside before plunging down the valley. Wide and beautifully surfaced, it's supercar nirvana.
With the roof down, the sonorous cry of the 520-hp, 5.0-liter V10 is much more accessible. I slot-shift to second and give it the beans. The Gallardo scoops itself up and flings itself at the horizon. The bar-bore stats-zero to 60 mph takes just 4.3 seconds and it's good for 195 mph-tell only a fraction. The throttle response is angry and immediate and the manual 'box hops from cog to cog with a metallic ping that's hugely emotive.
At high speed, the Alcantara steering wheel chats like an adolescent on a first date, while the suspension flatters the bumpy surface. My fears that the chop-top Gallardo would be no more than a boulevard playboy are dispatched in an instant. So much of the coupe's poise and agility has been retained, but now it's been given a more earthy quality.
I charge back and forth across the same stretch of road, time and again. My face wears the stupid grin of a kid who's been given an exceptional toy. The noise this car makes is nothing less than sensational, especially when it can be heard reverberating inside a mile-long tunnel. These are moments to be logged in the mind, ready to be summoned on a dark day.
We head north to the tiny communities that litter the coastline. Most possess a church and nothing else. "We have to travel half an hour for milk," explains a resident of Gjgv. Parked beside these houses, the Lamborghini has never looked more incongruous.
Given the paucity of entertainment and the relative affluence of the population, it's no surprise to discover a buoyant car culture. "A car in the Faroe Islands is either transport from A to B or a flat in which you socialize," Djurholm says. "In small communities, there is nowhere to meet." At night, local youths lap the streets of Trshavn in a steady procession.
The cruisers are magnetically drawn to the Lamborghini. Word has spread of where we're staying and each night our hotel is besieged by groups of young people, desperate to pose by our toy. Even the local police turn up to gawp.
For some locals, this passion for all things automotive has become an obsession. On our third day, we're introduced to Sofus Hansen, nicknamed Fuzzy. The Faroes' only car builder operates out of a tiny garage beneath his house. A custom Harley sits beside a restyled Porsche 928. The results may not be to all tastes, but there's no doubting the craftsmanship. "People think I'm a crazy playboy," he says.
Fuzzy also has a niece. Ever since we arrived, we've been noticing the strength of the Faroean gene pool and Barbara Carlsen is its crowning glory. Carlsen is a gospel singer and has just returned from a tour of the southern United States where, one suspects, she provoked some ungodly thoughts. "The Faroes are boring," she complains as she inspects the Gallardo. "There's nothing here to do." I nod pathetically. Faced with exceptional beauty, I've forgotten how to speak.
Our meeting proves a fitting climax to what has been a fascinating few days. Like Barbara, the Faroes is small but beautifully formed. The Scandinavian instinct for understated good taste is combined with a spectacular natural landscape. And thanks to the friendly Gulf Stream, the climate is temperate.
We left London a week ago, not sure what we'd find. There was a danger we'd be bored by the Faroes and irritated by the Gallardo's impracticality, but both have exceeded our expectations. The Faroe Islands probably aren't the most exciting place in which to grow up, but they're a great place to visit and the roads are terrific.
The baby Lamborghini has also sustained my interest. A peculiar fusion of Italian passion and German engineering has conjured a car of rare quality, one that doesn't rely on its supermodel looks to seduce.
I agree with the Prime Minister, the Gallardo Spyder really is "even better than I imagined."