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Roman Roamin'

NB These notes are intended to satisfy a number of audiences: casual viewers,  and motorhomers considering visiting this lovely country. For this reason I have added information likely to be of interest to motorhomers only.  

"MSF" = "Miles So Far"

Sat 5th Sept

Since we returned from Bosnia in early July the weather has been dreadful. Rain, wind, cold. Now we're heading south again, hoping to catch the sun before an English winter.

Reaching Dover at 3 pm, we spent an hour so at the National Trust property on the white cliffs, overlooking the harbour, before heading down to check in with P&O ferries. Visibility was so good we could easily see Calais, and the French cliffs. There were 4 lines of campervans waiting to board - all us wrinklies heading off to the sun now the children have returned to school (and prices drop to a more sensible level.)

We normally travel Sea France, but there was a rumour that they were in financial trouble, so we opted for P&O. P&O does have more comfortable seats, I must say. Sun was shining, the state moderate (hardly any pitching or rolling). We were amused to see a German family all wearing life jackets - not even Rosemary is that neurotic!

Once ashore we made straight for our usual aire de camping car (ADC) at Gravelines. This is getting more popular -and was almost full.

Miles so far (MSF) 180. However, whilst setting the clock to French time I managed to reset the trip meter, so this time all distances will be from Calais

 Sun 6th Sept

Awoke early, so we had a reasonably early start. Sally (Satnav) wanted to take us via Brussels. Instead we took the road through Lille, Charleroi, Liege, to Luxembourg, then south via Metz, Nancy, Epinal - and this route was excellent (and avoided expensive French motorways). It seemed that half of Holland was towing a caravan the same way. The sun finally came out as we passed Nancy. As we started to get into the hills we stopped to look in the directory for an ADC, and found we had actually stopped only 50 yards from a nice little ADC, at Ste Nabord.

MSF 385 (From Calais)

 Mon 7th Sept

During the night another 2 vans arrived. The Belgian arrived quite  noisily, waking us up. We woke to a cold morning with a distinct autumnal smell about it, bought a baguette and croissants for breakfast in the nearby shop, ate, then got on our way before 8 am.

We were following Sally entirely, although we did follow her route on the map. She took us on a convoluted route, but very attractive indeed, along narrow country lanes in the Vosges and Alsace. Eventually we joined dual carriageways and, as we got towards Switzerland, motorways. At the border we paid €30 for a motorway vignette, then carried on via Basle, Berne and Interlaken to Grindelwald,in the heart of the Bernese Oberland.

We made our way to Camping Gletscherdorf, and took the last pitch available, only just ahead of another campervan. The sun is now shining, and it is HOT! (for non UK readers, the British summer has been dreadful!). After lunch, a walk into town - pleasant and nowhere near as touristy as we had imagined, and a circular walk back to the site.

 

The site has free wifi, but I could only connect by standing beside the office. I was not alone, a stream of other laptop bearing campers joined me.

MSF 560

 Tues 8th Sept

Awoke to a cold and fresh morning, which turned into a hot and sunny day. A fine day for walking. From the site we walked up to Baregg, a cafe overlooking the Grndelwald Galcier, a climb of 760 meters, then back via Pfingstegg and Milchbach, a total distance (plan view) of only 7 miles, but considerably more on the ground, with all the steep ups and downs - and we're now exhausted. Near the top we discovered what Father Xmas does on his holidays - he walks in Switzerland. Or if it wasn't FC, it was his absolute double.

 

Wed 9th Sept

Another cold and fresh morning turning into a lovely warm day. Our mistake yesterday was not taking the cable car half way, but doing it all ourselves. So today we caught the post bus to Grosse Scheidegg, a ridge overlooking Grindelwald. (£10 each, single). (Our last time in Switzerland we caught a bus to the same place, but from Meiringem.). From here we walked a 4 mile more or less level walk along a ridge to the First cable car station, spectacular views all the way. This is a popular walk, and the path was busy. From First we walked down tracks and metalled roads back to the site. Big mistake! These tracks and roads are STEEP! 30 - 40% almost all the way. It was really hard work, and muscles complained that have never complained before. Overall it was only 9 miles, but exhausting, and hardly any uphill work.

Thurs 10th Sept

The plan for today had been to take a cable car to Kleine Scheidegg, and walk back, but after yesterday's experience we decided against that, instead walking 9 miles at a reasonably low level around Grindelwald.

 Fri 11th Sept

Something underneath the bed clicked loudly at random intervals during the night - and we still haven't worked out what it is!

 Time to move on to Italy. We took the road through Meiringen and Inertkirchen - past our favourite site Camping Grund - over the Grimsell and Simplon passes. Sally tried to put us on the Simplon "ferry", a car transporting rail link under the Alps, but I dread to think how much that would cost. Instead we went over the top - and the Simplon pass is one of the easiest we have taken, and very attractive.

 Once in Italy we made for an ACSI site at Orta - Camping Orta, right beside one of the Italian lakes. The site is both sides of a fairly busy road, most of the site being inland from the lake. We chose to pitch close to the lake. In contrast to the last site where wifi was free, 2 hours of wifi here costs €8, and you have to have your passport photocopied before you can get access. But this is buffoon Berlosconi's Italy, stepping in Mussolini's footsteps. The electricity supply is just enough to power the fridge and charge the batteries - as I discovered when our small electric kettle tripped the overload.

 I found I was unable to connect to the Internet in the van, but had to walk though a tunnel under the road to the main site where there was a strong signal, and I sent the first of Rosemary's newsletters, and uploaded the first of my photos to http://pippins.fpic.co.uk. When we get home I'll transfer these to our website.

 Rosemary, meanwhile, walked into Orta town, and found it was a good deal further away than she had anticipated, returning exhausted.

 MSF 711

Sat 12th Sept

That was a hot night, despite all the windows being open. Time to put on the ultra lightweight duvet.

We spent the morning in Orta, a gem of a place, quite unspoilt. (But I expect the place is full to overflowing in August). There is an interesting "devotional centre: on the hilltop, 20 chapels all devoted to St Francis, built over the 17th century, and are a good example of the changes in artistic style over the period. At the last, which is still used as a church, we chanced upon an impending wedding, so we had to stay to watch. It seems the groom had a 4 year old son, and the bride a 3 year old daughter (give or take a year or two). The later chapels have elaborate carvings, and the models for the figures were all local people. As a result the figures all look lifelike and realistic, not the usual perfect but  imaginary figures usually seen.

Over lunch we got into conversation with a group of Brits sitting at the adjacent table. We were amused to find they were from Warminster U3A, only 14 miles fromhome, and the son-in-law of two of them runs the complementary medicine centre at Shaftesbury. A small world indeed. Two more were retired Barclays staff (as I am).

 We returned to the site after lunch planning a leisurely afternoon by the lake, but a sudden thunderstorm beat us to it.

Sun 13th Sept

We left this pleasant little site by 9.15, and headed for a site by Lake Maggiore, Camping Orchidea, only 12 miles away. This is a much larger site, and much more regulated. And unlike Camping Orta, with a lovely old town within walking distance, the town here (Feriolo) is completely uninteresting

 MSF 724

Mon 14th Sept

We woke to rain! We didn't come to Italy for rain! As we packed up to leave the site there were occasional showers, but as we drove out and on to the motorway the heavens opened. Torrential rain. As we drove south and out of the mountains we expected the rain to desist - but no such luck. It was with us, on and off, the entire 27- miles to Rimini. Lonely Planet's description of Rimini is decidedly unflattering, but we have only come to see the motorhome show, and that because we were in the area at the time. The expo hall is near the centre, and the "how to get here" map we printed off the Internet was pretty poor. There was no GPS position, so Sally was unable to help. Luckily we chanced on upon it fairly quickly, and parked alongside hundreds of other motorhomes. I enquired at the ticket office whether I could buy tickets today for use tomorrow, but apparently Italian rules don't allow this. The lady said it would take too long to explain why this was the case. (I blame Berlusconi!) She ("Christina" said there were lots of discount tickers about that gave half price  entrance (€6.50 instead of €13), but that if I couldn't find any by tomorrow to ask for her. Needless to say we didn't find any discount vouchers.

Sitting here watching Italian motorhomes arrive and depart, and use the nearby motorhome dump, has been a real entertainment.

I've decided that using wifi connections on campsites is too restrictive, too intrusive, and too expensive (€8 for 2 hours), Instead I'll use the Vodafone mobile Internet, £10 for 24 hours. Here in Rimini I'm getting a 3.4Mbs connection, although it is still slow, so there must be lots of other users in the same cell (all these Italian motorhomers, probably)

MSF 972

 Tues 15th Sept

Another grey day, but the sun came out later (and also later very heavy rain showers). We got to the ticket office 20 mins before opening, and joined quite a short queue. As we reached the front Christina recognised us, and had a word in the cashier's ear. I was asked to fill in 2 forms, (name, address, email) and war handed 2 tickets. I asked how much, and was told "no charge". Thank you Christina, you saved us €26! It seems that this what Italians do - help each other to buck the system.

 It is evident that the Rimini Fiare is far superior to the NEC, which has always seemed a shoddy and squalid embarrassment. The Fiare is designed as a showcase, and it was all so much easier and more relaxing than our visits to the NEC. There were many more motorhomes on display than we've seen elsewhere, and quite a few had monocoque bodies. (Auto-sleeper in the UK has stopped doing these.) We were pleased to find that we still preferred Rapido and Wingamms, despite looking in lots of vans. We especially liked a small Wingamms Oasi 540N that had far more sitting space than our larger Rapido.

 We spent a fair bit of cash on accessories and non motorhome items, (e.g a large silcone sheet for rolling pastry on, electronic bathroom scales (only €10) electronic kitchen scales, €7), and then had to find somewhere to stow it all for the next 6 weeks.

 We spent a second night in the car park, and again it rained.

 Wed 16th Sept

More rain. At least we didn't come to Rimini for its famous beaches. The 2 nights cost €20 - the same as 2 days parking. Left the show site by 9.15, but got rather tied up in Rimini's roads, as we tried to avoid the peage motorway. Eventually we reached Perugia at 1 pm, having followed the E45 for most of its length. We were aiming for the ADC there, listed, in Italian, in an Italian book with no Lat & Long co-ordinates. Our guesses at what the Italian directions meant proved to be correct, and we found ourselves on a car park at the base of the hill on which Perugia stands.

After lunch we headed up this old Etruscan town. The clouds looked a bit threatening, so we packed waterproofs, closed the Heki roof vent, and for the first time ever spread a waterproof over the bed under the rear roof vent. Just as well, because while were in town the heavens opened, and we returned to a puddle on the waterproof - but luckily, not on the bed.

The town is a serious climb! There are some fantastic views from the top, and some really old buildings, but it wasn't much fun walking around in the heavy rain shower.

MSF 1105

 Thurs 17th Sept

Awoken by VERY heavy rain at 2 am, followed by a mad dash to close the roof vents. We were awake again at 5, so decided on an early start.

 We were quickly back on the E45. After a while we joined the A1, a peage, and the road surface improved dramatically, from roads that were as bad as anything was experienced in Romania (BAD!) to a really good smooth 3 lane highway. The journey past Rome was especially easy, to our surprise. Total motorway cost was €17.60, about £16, for about 200 miles of motorway.

As we got close to Naples, driving standards deteriorated greatly. You needed to be quick on the brakes as the latest Fangio snuck across your bows without warning.

The motorway past Naples towards Sorrento is especially hairy. Most of it seems under long term repair (i.e nothing has happened for several years, judging by the weeds). Speed limits are ignored. Every road works (and there were many) had a 40Kph limit. Without exception we had to do 100 Kph (60 mph) to keep up with the traffic, going slower would have been to invite a rear end shunt.

The site we were aiming for, Camping Seiano Piaggia, was recommended by Sue & Ian, the couple we met in Croatia. It's an ACSI site so only costs €13 per night. Access is via a steep, narrow, twisty road that has not been maintained for years. We did wonder what we were letting ourselves in for. However, the site is obviously in a large garden. The owner is a lovely chap with excellent English, and cares for the welfare of his visitors. He is a mine of information about how to get to the local sights by public transport. For instance: tomorrow we plan to visit Pompeii. We need to buy train tickets at the bar/tobacconist in the square, where the bus stop is. He opens late in the mornings so get them the night before. The bus to the station (up a VERY long hill)goes at 0800, and the train at 0834.Train tickets cost €2.80 each, return, and includes the bus fare. The station at Pompeii is right opposite the ruins. (So that's the theory, let's see how well it works!)

This afternoon we walked into the town of which Maria Acquea is the fishing port, Vico Equense. This meant walking up 215 steps. Just over half way up we saw a pregnant woman, 2 children and a push chair come out of house to go to town. The only way to town was up 85 steps! The steps weren't pushchair friendly steps, either. (Yes, I did do the gentlemanly thing and help her get the push chair up the steps, before you ask!)

 MSF 1349

Fri 18th Sept.

A very early start! Caught the 0800 bus from the village to the station at Vico Equense, from where we caught the 0837 train to Pompeii.

The station at Pompeii is no more than 50 yards from the main entrance to the ruins, and we went in about 9 am. Cost €11 each. Included was an excellent guide book and map - if only National Trust guidebooks were as good. An audio guide is available, and quite a few licensed guides touting for business. However we reckoned the map and guidebook more than adequate to go it alone. We chose the 6 hour itinerary, and 7 1/2 hours later we still hadn't finished. I was disappointed not to get into the famous brothel (maybe that's just the old sailor in me?) because  of the crowds, but other buildings made up for that. There is a lot of restoration going on - and I'd be concerned that it is being over restored. We did dip into the numerous guided parties going around - many were in English. Some guides were quite good - I particularly enjoyed the guide talking to his party at the Villa de Misteri, which some particularly lascivious frescoes. He obviously enjoyed the gasps of shock from his female clients as he described what was happening in the scene. Another guide was not so good - she just spouted her lines regardless of the fact she wasn't facing her group, or that were not anywhere near her.

Back home, and I was so exhausted I was in bed asleep by 9 pm.

Sat 19th Sept

After yesterday's exertions we planned a quieter day - climbing Mt Vesuvius.

While waiting for the 0920 bus, with a group of French, a British fifth wheeler, (Celtic Rambler?) with a Welsh emblem on the side left the other campsite in the village (Sant Antonio), stopped near our campsite, and opened its grey water taps to let it run full bore on to the village street. If I'd have been quicker off the mark I would have taken a photo. As it was, we all (Brits and French) shouted at him. He shut the tap and drove off, hopefully embarrassed, and hopefully never to do such a disgraceful thing again. He appeared to be in convoy with a large silver Hymer A line with a personalised number plate.

Again we caught the train to Pompeii - I had some hassle at the ticket barrier as it wouldn't accept my ticket. Eventually an official let me through anyway. We were following the campsite owners instructions on getting to Vesuvius, avoiding touts and such like. However we came a cross a military looking bus that said "free shuttle bus to Vesuvius". It seemed this would take us to  a place where we would pay €18.50 each for a ride to the top, entrance to the national park, and a guide. We were slightly dubious, but it did look faintly official, so went for it.

After rattling through suburbs, rising all the time, we pulled into what seemed like an army camp, but was in fact part of the national park authority. Here we transferred to a bus built like a Tonka toy - huge wheels, big and soft suspension, obviously 4 wheel drive, and very comfortable. It would have made a great motorhome! After waiting for another bus load of passengers, we set off. Quite fast, up a very steep, very narrow, and very twisty road, that at places gave way to dirt track. Potholes and ruts abounded, but the suspension seemed to soak them up.

After 20 minutes of this we stopped again, and we had to walk up a dirt track path - volcano cinders presumably - to the top. It was only 10 minutes walking, but I wish I'd worn boots instead of sandals - I kept having to empty out the grit.

An interesting talk by the Italian guide - sufficient information to be interesting, and not so much as to become boring. It seems experts are worried about another eruption - 800,000 people live in the red zone, defined as 15Km radius of the volcano. And before the 1944 eruption there was no crater, only a flat table of lava.

Then back the way we came, and back in time for a cup of tea at 3 pm. Ideal!

Sun 20th Sept

Last night was not a good night! Woken by fireworks at midnight, and again at 2 a.m. The campsite owner said there had been a wedding. Perhaps the 2 firework sessions marked the start and end of the nuptials?

A longer train ride today, to Naples, then a metro ride to the archaeological museum. As it was almost mid-day we decided to eat first - which turned out easier than done. Being Sunday - when everyone is supposed to eat with mama, almost all the cafes and restaurants we came across were closed. Eventually we found one, advertising itself as a pizza restaurant. We chose our pizzas - different so we could share, only to be told the pizza oven was cold and there would be a wait of 20 minutes. So we then selected a pasta dish - and waited, and waited, and waited. Meanwhile a couple arrived at the table next to us, ordered a pizza, ate it, paid and left before our pasta had arrived. The waiter chose not to understand our query, and we chose not to press the point. However, we didn't get into the museum until 1.30 pm.

The museum has many of the treasures - statues, mosaics, frescoes, etc - from Pompeii and Herculaneum. These are very well laid out, all given "room to breath". The mosaics were especially excellent - I wouldn't have believed such subtle nuances of light, shade and hue could be achieved using small pieces of stone. Many of the stones were tiny, about 1 mm square.

Finally, we had to visit the rude room, the small area that contained all the famous pornographic frescoes & statues. The room used to be available only to the Bourbon king, and his "friends", and it is only comparatively recently that it has become available to the general public. Apparently one of the reasons it was made secret was that visiting Englishmen on their Grand Tour used to make ribald comments. Some things never change, then!

What I ESPECIALLY liked about the museum was that the only restriction on photography was "no flash, no tripods", the same as Pompeii. (And that included the rude section - see photos)

Leaving the museum at 4.40, we walked back through the old part of Naples to the central station at Piazza Garibaldi. Naples is pretty much as I imagined it - very narrow streets, washing hanging across the streets, rubbish, no pavements, buildings looking derelict. But on a Sunday afternoon at least, did not feel unsafe.

We passed the cathedral, where4 the phial of dried saint's blood that had just turned liquid (so we are told) was on display. Standing outside I watched more nuns than I've seen in my life going in, in a variety of habits. Some looked like extras from the Lord of the Rings!

Returned to the van to discover we had a major ant problem. A stream of ants to and from the kitchen area. 10 minutes of furious smiting, and the area looked like the aftermath of Waterloo, bodies every where. But still they came. Luckily the campsite owner could sell us a spray that seemed to sort them out pdq. Good stuff, I dread to think what's in it.

Mon 21st Sept

Very heavy rain overnight, and an overcast morning. Caught the train into Sorrento (only 10 minutes), and there decided to catch a bus along the Amalfi coast. Then we were accosted by 2 elderly demure English sisters, who explained they were off a cruise ship, had bought these tickets to Amalfi. They now worried they wouldn't get back in time to catch their ship, and would we like to buy the tickets half price? We would, and did. Then we found the queue was enormous, and we couldn't get on the first bus. As we waited the heavens opened, and we waited in the queue for 80 minutes. Eventually the bus came, and we were first on, and got prime position in the front beside the driver. We had a really good view of the hairy coast road - narrow, very twisty, cars parked in stupid places, some outrageous driving, and I have to say, excellent driving by our bus driver. How he maneuvered out of some of the situations I really don't know!

When we got to Amalfi (3 pm, having had no lunch) we decided to sit tight, and make the journey back immediately. It was the journey we were after, not a trek round yet another Mediterranean town in the rain. So we arrived home at 5.30, having had no lunch at all. We decided that Sorrento is equivalent to Bournemouth.

Tues 22nd Sept

More culture. This time Herculaneum. Herculaneum is much smaller than Pompeii, and is more complete, as it was overwhelmed by slow moving lava rather than several metres of hot cinders. This crept into the houses etc, and quite a few ceilings are still intact. Being smaller, it took a good deal less time to see, and we were back enjoying a cup of tea by 4pm.

Wed 23rd Sept

We had considered catching the ferry to Amalfi and spending the day there, but €12 each each way (about £42 total) seemed a bit steep. Also, after 6 days in one place we're getting itchy feet, and the van could do with a blow through to get rid of the damp after the recent heavy rain. So we said goodbye to our host, an absolutely charming couple, bought a couple of postcards of the rudest frescos and statues in Pompeii, and headed off. Learning a trick from the bus driver, we sounded the horn furiously before every bend of the ascent. Near the top we met a large cement lorry coming down. After some tricky reversing, and pulling in the mirrors, we squeezed past each other.

Sally took us back to the A3 motorway, then via Salerno, to Battipaglia, then the S18 to Agropoli. Here we took the coast road, which started off very well. At Santa Maria di Castellabate Sally took us down some tiny streets to the centre. At one point we couldn't get past a delivery van, but luckily he soon came and moved on. After that we resolved to keep out of the villages unless we knew where we were going. The road got more tricky as we progressed, and although not difficult, was hard work. Bends and hills every few yards meant constant concentration and many gear changes. Eventually we reached an ACSI site at Palinuro, where it appeared no one spoke English, but they did say "Samstag fini", mixing 2 languages to say they close in 3 days. Quite a pleasant site, though, and we have a pitch right on the beach.

MSF 1459

Thurs 24th Sept

Yesterday's fine weather turned to light rain, and it's forecast for the next 5 days too! We did the washing anyway, and hung it under a tent type of thing. Meanwhile, all around us the more temporary elements of the site are being dismantled.

Fri 25th Sept

The dismantling continued around us as we left the site. We headed inland to the main road, the intention to follow this south until our next stop. However when we got to Sapri  the coast road was closed, and we were diverted up a very twisty road into the mountains. However it was wide, not very steep, and was no problem. Eventually we joined  the S585, a fine road that took us back to the coast atCastrocucco di  Maratea. As Rosemary particularly wanted to drive along that bit of coast road we took it as far as Maratea - it is narrow, very windy, squeezed close into a wall on the seaward side and rock face on the landward side - very difficult driving! We retreated, looking for an ADC to overnight near Praia a Mare. On the map the road is simply a straight road by the sea. In practice, it swings wildly left and right and up and down. Our Italian aires book (Guido Camper Aree di Sosta) showed an ADC at Sosta. When we reached it it was just a rather seedy campsite costing €10 per night. We declined that and returned to the free ADC at Praia a Mare, listed in the Camperstop book, and overlooking the sea.

MSF 1557

Sat 26th Sept

A very strong offshore wind blew up during the night, and we had to batten down the hatches.

In the morning we set a course for Matera. As we drove north east the terrain changed quite suddenly from steep tree clothed hills to rolling hills covered with low scrub. We arrived at Matera at lunchtime - not a good time to arrive because that is a rush hour. The traffic was seriously awful! We tried to find the free ADC listed in the Italian Sosta directory, but found ourselves hopelessly lost. It seems this aire no longer exists, and we were directed to another near the central railway station. Unfortunately we set Sally for the wrong station, and spent an hour battling across the city in the wrong direction. After lunch, the traffic had almost disappeared, and finding the aire became quite easy.

It costs €5 for 24 hours, and is only a 5 minute walk from the centre of the city. There is the "Sassi" area, comprising caves set into the limestone gorge with more conventional stone fronts. Many of these have been gentrified into hotels, restaurants, gift shops etc, but were regarded as squalid slums right through until 1960, with thousands of people living in the caves, with their animals. Tomorrow is a saint's day, so there are all sorts of celebrations going on tonight.

We spent several hours wandering round the Sassi area - an area easy to get lost in because there's a myriad of little paths and steps, all looking very similar.

A number of French and Italian vans arrived, all parking in a tight little bunch, leaving is well out on a limb on our own. We wondered if they knew something that we didn't, but nothing changed overnight so we assumed they were just nervous little rabbits!

Sun 28th Sept

Leaving Matera, we looked for the viewpoint on the other side of the deep ravine. This is where Mel Gibson filmed "The Life of Christ", and I can see why he chose the location. Looking across the ravine one the hillside is full of cave dwellings, and it is easy to imagine you are  looking at ancient Jerusalem (well, modern Jerusalem too, with arabs in the slums and Jews in the posh high rise apartments behind).

Then on to Taranto. I was keen to visit because this is where the Fleet Air Arm, flying Swordfish biplanes, took out the Italian fleet in WWII. We hadn't intended to stop - Lonely Planet is quite rude about it, but we found it lovely, rather like a combination of Plymouth and Portsmouth, with sailors in uniform. As we drove through a motorhome sized parking space appeared, so we stopped for a few hours and had a good look around. Very interesting. A mile or so up the coast we could see a number of warships, but didn't follow up to get closer. We did have a meal her, but we found it expensive and not very nice.

So having battled with a cash machine to draw some more euros, we headed off to our planned site at Lamandia, Camping Atlantico. This is one of the few all year sites in the area. As we drove in we were surprised to meet Tony & Jenny, a couple from Sevenoaks we had met at Vico Equense.

MSF 1763

Mon 28th Sept.

Nice weather, and we had a quiet day relaxing on site, recuperating after recent exertions and hectic drives. This area comprises a very large flat limestone shelf butting into the Adriatic, and we had a very pleasant walk along the shore on the limestone. There were a couple of tiny sandy coves, and one we would have liked to linger in, but it was occupied by a young couple wearing not very much who seemed surprised to see us.

Tues 29th Sept

Today we drove out to Alberobello and Locorotondo, both about 12 miles away. Alberobello is a UNESCO world heritage site on account of its 1500 trulli. Trulli are strange little dwellings that look quite suitable for Hobbits, made from limestone slabs without mortar (including the roof). Originally built as farm buildings, many are now lived in, and the tourist industry thrives around them. We were rather put off Alberobello because the large and empty car parks had "No Motorhomes" signs. So we parked in the street.

 Locorotondo is about 6 miles away, and had a nicer atmosphere. The old part of the town is a mass of tiny streets and alleys, most not wide enough for cars. These look very nice now they've all been done up, but I can imagine that the area would have been squalid and overcrowded half a century ago. The area is like a maze, which is how we got lost when we headed back to the van.

 Back at the site we paid up ready to leave tomorrow, and ordered more bread. Every evening we order bread in our name, and every morning they sell it to someone else who hasn't ordered any. Will we do better tomorrow?

Wed 30th Sept

Yes we did get our bread! But only because we were there when it as delivered. I wasn't asked if I had any ordered, they just sold it to me.

Time to move on, so having emptied what needed emptying, and filled what needed filing, we set off. The idea had been to follow the coast road to Barri before taking motorways, but after battling through Monopoli we decided that perhaps the autostrada was a good bet after all. We took the A14, then A16, coming off at Grottaminarda to find the ADC at Mirabello Eclano, listed in the Italian aires book, It was well signed for several miles and we found it with no problem- but it was closed! I have to say this is typical of what we've found in Italy - lots of great intentions, but not very good at delivery.

Instead, we set Sally to take us to the ACSI campsite at Opi. "Il Vecchio Mulino". The route took us along the S17, which seems to be a single track motorway, with an 80 kph speed limit and almost no overtaking possible. There are also no lab-bys, so in desperation for lunch, took a turning off and stopped outside a village graveyard. At some point we left the S17 and took off into the mountains, where it got quite interesting. Quite steep, many hairpin bends, lots of up followed by lots of down then more up, and we were in the Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo. The sun was getting close to setting by the time we found the site. It looked closed, but we found we were the only people there apart from the owner. He told us there were sometimes visits from deer, wild boar, and bears - but we should be so lucky!

We intended to pick up the Internet tonight - there was a strong signal available, but on 2 occasions it refused to connect. I must check I haven't been charged for these!

MSF 2044

Thurs 1st Oct

The site is at a height of 1100 metres, so we shouldn't have been surprised how cold it gets at night. This morning we've had the heater on. The owner  says snow arrives at the end of November and stays until March.

It's a glorious morning - clean and fresh (i.e.cold!).We packed a lunch, and walked up into the National Park, where autumn was just beginning. Just gorgeous! There are bears and lynx in the park. We didn't expect to see any and we weren't disappointed. We didn't see many other visitors, either. We walked 9 1/2 miles and climbed 400 metres.

Fri 2nd Oct

Awoke to a dismal morning- light rain. Time to move on. We took the S479 through Scanno, up into the mountains. Sally showed the route as very twisty indeed, so I had some concerns. In the event I needn't have worried, the road was wide, not at all steep, and the hairpin bends were easy. In fact, so far none of the mountain roads have been half as difficult as Swiss mountain roads. Towns, however, are another matter! Every town we enter I'm concerned Sally will take us down a street wi9de enough for a mule cart, but not wide enough for a motor caravan, especally when Italians just abandon their cars almost anywhere. We have had some pretty sticky situations in towns and villages - but mountain roads (so far) are fine.

So after Scanno we continued to Sulmona, stopping briefly at  Anversa d'Abruzzi, and interesting old town. There is supposed to be an ADC at Sulmona, but could we find it? (NO!) We walked around the town which is famous for its "confetti" which are in fact sugared almonds. Wedding guests at home would be surprised if we threw this confetti on the happy couple (and it would hurt!).

So on the road again, heading for an aire that is supposed to be at Gagliano Alterno, on old village in the hills. Again we couldn't find it, but stopped anyway  in a square in the centre. Will we get moved on in the night? We'll see.

MSF 2107

Sat 3rd Oct

Well no one took any notice of us. However the church bell rang every hour and quarter hour. So at 11.45 there were 11 clangs from the hour bell (which sounded like someone hitting a bucket with a hammer) followed by 3 clangs from the quarter bell (which were marginally more tuneful). We woke to a fine and sunny morning, and Rosemary went to find bread.  Problem - there appears to be no shop! Eventually one was tracked down by the smell of fresh bread, masquerading as a house.

From here it was but a short hop to L'aquila, where there was an earthquake 13 months ago, and we turned up at the free aire near the centre at midday. Here everything seemed normal and there was the usual bustle and appalling parking. However when Rosemary went to walk into the historic centre she found it fenced off, and guarded by armed soldiers. Eventually she found a gate where she could enter, but only walk along one street to the cathedral, which was itself fenced off, the dome having collapsed. It seems that various fire brigades from around Italy were still working to make buildings safe.

MSF 2130

Sun 4th Oct

Awoke to a fine morning. We decided on another trip into the old city - the gates opened at 11.00. There were more people visiting today. Bizarrely, one shop still had its window stocked, and lit by spotlights, despite being behind scaffolding and protective barriers.

A walk back to the van, and after a delay while we emptied tanks and refilled others, we took the autostrada to Rome. 50 miles of good motorway cost €8. We were heading for "Happy Camping Village", a cringeworthy name, but seems to be an excellent site. Excellent swimming pool, brilliant showers, wifi (€6 for 24 hours), free bus to the station for Rome.

MSF 2190  

Mon 5th Oct

An early bus, for an early train, and we joined the queue for the Vatican museum by 9 am, and reached the front by 10 am. Guides were touting for business, saying that the queue was 2 hours, and for 40 euros per person they would take us straight in. (As we left the museum at 2 PM there was no queue at all).

Being a born again atheist, I had not expected to enjoy the Vatican, but I have to say I found it fascinating, and very enjoyable. (One might ask what a man heading a church worshipping a baby born in a stable is doing with such wealth and treasure, but the treasures are undoubtedly beautiful and fascinating). The paintings and sculptures were stunning. Perhaps the most impressive was the enormously long map room, with lavishly decorated ceilings and maps. There is also a Reynolds painting of King George IV, which seemed a tad bizarre! Personally, I was less impressed with the Sistine Chapel, but this may have been due to the crush of people, and the guards continually calling out “no flash”. Then after I had taken lots of photos (no flash) the cry turned to “no photographs”.

We lunched in the museum’s tiny cafeteria, very reasonably priced, then moved on to St Peter’s Basilica. And writing as an atheist, I have to say I was impressed. We walked the 500 steps to the top of the dome Not surprisingly, the view from the top is brilliant. (don’t bother with the lift. It costs 2 euros, has a long queue,  and doesn’t take you far.) To my total surprise, these two visits were the highlights of our visit to Rome.

Tues 6th Oct

Today we bought  a Rome card, which gives you free travel for 3 days and admittance to 2 museums. We caught the 9oclock bus and were standing by the Coliseum by 10. There are masses of old Roman stuff around here, including the Palatine,  which was where the emperors and aristocrats used to live, the forum, Trajan’s column (there is a cast of this in the British Museum)and more (much, much more! If I never see another Roman ruin it will be too soon!)

We walked to the Trevi fountain and were really impressed by it. It is situated on the side of a building, and seems to grow out of it, the building stones becoming rough pieces of stone with water tumbling over them. Thence on to the Spanish Steps. These seemed to more use for sitting on than walking on. Keats died in the house beside the steps (moral, steps can be dangerous!).

 At one busy junction we were waiting to cross the road, and watching an impressive looking traffic policeman blowing a whistle and waving his arms. As I filmed this spectacle, sirens sounded round the corner, and a convoy of official vehicles swept round the corner, with police outriders, bearing the miniscule and oversexed Italian prime minister Berlusconi .

Wed 7th Oct

Most of today was spent in the Capitoline – the first ever museum anywhere. The layout is very confusing -  we got lost  several times, but the exhibits are very well displayed and unlike the UK, you’re quite at liberty to take photos. A refreshing change.

Thurs 8th Oct

A wandering day. We got off the metro at the Cavour station, and went firstly to St Pietro in Vincoli, where the chains that held St Peter are displayed under the altar, and there is Michelangelo’s statue of  Moses.  We then made our way to the vast white marble Vittorano, memorial to King Victor Emmanuel, a unified Italy and the tomb of the unknown soldier.

We went into the Chiesa del Gesu, a vastly decorated baroque church with the most amazing nave ceiling, showing heaven and hell, the figures look so life like it is difficult  to tell if they are 3D. 

We then wandered back through the city, unsuccessfully trying to visit a church whose opening times had changed, along with other people clutching ‘Lonely Planet’.  (we had 3 attempts at getting in, and never achieved it. There are 3 Caravaggios within.) We passed the Parliament building and marvelled at how low key it was with no visible security, we could have walked up to the front door. The prime minister’s official residence was similarly low key, the only sign being a few policemen and demonstrators about Iraq.

Fri 9th Oct

Left the site, used the excellent motorhome service point, then headed north to Ovieto. There is an ADC here, costs even more than the last campsite, at €18 per night. But it is completely flat, tarmacked, includes electricity, showers etc, and is right beside the funicular into the town.

After lunch we took the funicular into town - and it's a lovely little town, full of character, narrow interesting streets, views, - the lot, and with a superb cathedral. There is also a famous well, commissioned in 1527, very wide and deep with 2 wide staircases set in a double helix. These are wide enough for donkeys to bring water from the bottom. The well is open to visitors, and being eligible for on OAP rate, I visited. So having paid €1 to come up to the town by funicular, I then paid €3.50 to walk down 248 stairs, and then back up again! Actually there wasn't a lot to see because it was very dark, but I got some exercise that I hadn't expected.

There is a small supermarket in the town, so I carried a big and heavy bag of shopping back to the van (mostly beer).

We enjoyed our visit here - a quaint mediaeval town catering for, but not spoilt by, tourism. You get the feeling that it is a living community, and that tourism is an add on. I did not get this feeling later in Tuscany. There is an English photographer based here, who runs photography courses. This could be worth a return visit. (www.cameraetrusca.com )

MSF 2288

Sat 10th Oct

Today we moved on to Montepuliciano, in Tuscany. Sally gave us a direct route, but we insisted on taking a tortuous route through the mountains, Very scenic (for the passenger, anyway), but very slow. There is an ADC here, below the town and effectively part of the bus station. Cost is €10per day, and facilities are limited. It did have a grand view, and it was easy walking into town, which zigzagged its way to the top of the hill. Whereas Ovieto felt like a locals town, Montepuliciano was almost entirely a tourist town. Pretty well every shop was a tourist shop.

In the cathedral square half a dozen people had set up easels, and were starting to use oil paints and palette knives and trowels. It was obviously a beginners course, because many had no idea what they were doing. It seems remarkably unfair to place beginners in a public situation like that and tell them to get on with it.

MSF 2335

Sun 11th Oct

There were of the order of 15 vans here as we left, including one Brit. We set Sally for Camping Fontemaffio at Assisi, back into Umbria. This is the first non ACSI site we've used, as it's within walking distance of the town, and is reasonasbly priced (€17.50 per night).

We got there in time for an early lunch, and headed off into the town (15 minute walk downhill, but a 25 minute walk back uphill!). Assisi is a very pleasant place, and has been in the tourist industry for 800 years. Even in mid October there are masses of tourists, but not unpleasantly so. Almost all the shops are tourist shops, but are nowhere near as tacky as I had expected.

St Francis is buried in the Basilica di San Francesco, quite an impressive building. There are signs forbidding photography, and demanding silence. Every so often their is a loud "Shoosh" over the Tannoy. They would be better off just quietly playing Gregorian chant. This also occurs at the Basilica di Santa Chiara, where St Clare, a follower of St Francis and founder of the "Poor Clares" is buried.

Back at the site, as we prepared dinner, a cyclist circled the van then stopped. It was Malcolm, a Brit cycling back from Egypt. (We seem to collect long distance cyclists!) He  came back after we'd eaten (he refused our offer of food) and we had a very interesting chat about travel. He's the first person we've met who really liked Albania, everyone else we've met has found it threatening and unfriendly. Perhaps we should visit, after all?

MSF 2389

Mon 12th Oct

We went our separate ways today. Rosemary walked into Assisi with all her sketching kit, including a light stool (bought at the Rimini show), and I made use of the free wifi (only available in the hotel lobby, and with the most difficult WPA key I've ever come across), and caught up on processing photos. It's quite time consuming, but makes a massive difference to the result.

The weather forecast at the camp reception said this afternoon would be wet, with thunder. And it was exactly right. About 2 pm the rain swept up the valley (we have a grandstand view from our pitch), followed by lightning right overhead. Sudden squalls tore doors off electricity boxes, and tops off dustbins. Rosemary spent this time inside the Basilica di San Francesco, sketching. Luckily the storm had passed by 5 pm when she walked back.

We had planned to visit the restaurant this evening, but discovered it was closed on Mondays.

Tues 13th Oct

Weather completely different today. Very cold, and very bright. Rosemary went sketching in town again, and I joined her for lunch. The sunset was spectacular. We ate in the restaurant - probably nearer to authentic Italian than most restaurants - long tables, and you find yourself cosying up to your neighbours (ours was a Swiss couple). We had a good meal for €27, inc 1/2 litre of house wine.

Because the weather was so cold (it was bitter!) we added an extra duvet to the bed.

Wed 14th Oct

Obviously the second duvet was too much, we woke up feeling far too hot! But it's still a bright and cold day, with a bitter  wind that cuts right through. Leaving the site by 9.30, we drove up a steep and windy hill to St Francis's cave.  Most people were walking, but they probably didn't realise how far it was.

Thence on to Cortona, another Umbrian hilltop town, for a couple of  hours.

At the Rimini show we saw an awning we wanted to buy. We emailed the supplier, who told us they only dealt with dealers, and gave us a list of outlets. So today we spent a while searching for one near Arezzo. When we found it they had never heard of the item. Also, the ADC which was supposed to be on the same site, wasn't. So back on the road again.

By now it was 5 pm, and shadows were lengthening. We asked Sally to give us a route to Raddo in Chianti, where there is another ADC. She took us along a seriously gorgeous route, many hairpin bends, steep hills, first gear on occasion, but worth it for the Tuscan scenery. I've heard people rave about Tuscany, now I know why.

At Raddo it took us a while to find the ADC, but it does exist - and it is excellent! (So many we have looked for have been non existent!) Set just below the little walled town on 2 terraces, with steps into the town.

MSF 2499

Thurs 15th Oct

Another cold night breaking to a fine and fresh morning. We spent the morning exploring the town - unpretentious but very pleasant. There are several seriously good and well stocked little grocers here and, because it's Tuscany, a branch of a large UK estate agency- this is prime ex-pat territory.

After lunch, Rosemary again took her stool and sketch pad into town, and I went to the local cafe, with free wifi. 4 hours free wifi for the price of a cappucino isn't bad, but again I had to have my passport photocopied before I could use it. The signal just reaches the van, so I could continue there.

About 10 pm I noticed the lights were getting dim. A voltage check showed we were down to 12.0 volts, well below the full 12.7 volts. The computer takes 4 amps (via an inverter) and the heater running full blast takes another 4, each light takes 1 amp - we've obviously been overdoing it! The low sun and the dappled shade meant the solar panel hadn't been giving us much juice, and besides it was dark by 6.30.

At midnight I woke with a sneeze, and developed an instant and heavy head cold - I've never known one come on as quickly as that, but by morning it had largely disappeared. This was cold night all round, and we struggled to keep warm.

Fri 16th Oct

Another cold and bright morning. We're sure the leaves have gone more golden overnight. We had planned to drive only a few miles to an ADC at Castellina in Chianti, but our low battery problem forced a rethink, and we took a detour to Greve in Chianti just to charge the batteries. There is an excellent ADC at Greve - but it's a pity the town doesn't match - eminently missable! So on to our original destination, Castellina. The views on the way were  stupendous, the ADC at Castellina superb, and the town itself small and charming - another opportunity for Rosemary to spend the afternoon sketching.

MSF 2525

Fri 16th Oct

Awoke to a grey morning (well actually it is still pitch black at 7 a.m!), and drove to the ADC in Sienna, about 12 miles away. This is just part of a coach park, beside a busy road, and costs €20! Already I have gone off Sienna -  and to cap it all there's a mile walk along a road with no pavement. The historic centre is supposedly traffic free, the city having been the first in Europe to ban traffic, but if so, why were we continually dodging cars and motorbikes? It was so cold we wore our heavy waterproofs - and were still cold, although the sun came out at midday. There is an interesting cathedral, the first we've come across outside of the UK to charge for entry.

Although the €20 included an overnight stay, it was not particularly pleasant so we drove back to the ADC at Castellino. I quite like Castellino, it has a nice friendly feel to it.

MSF 2556

Sun 18th Oct

An even colder morning! We had ba very scenic drive through lovely Tuscan countryside to San Gimignano, a walled hilltop town. However it was aggressively anti campervan, being directed to an aire at least a mile away along a road with no pavement, and campervans prohibited in local car parks, so we gave SG a miss, moving instead to another walled hilltop town, Volterra. This has a free ADC at the foot of the walls.

It transpired that today was Volterra's annual cheese rolling competition, where competitors steer circular cheeses down a hill past various bales of hay. The competition was preceded by drums and trumpets, and an impressive flag waving display. But by golly, was it cold!

MSF 2595

Mon 19th Oct

And so to Pisa. On the way we topped up with autogas - that's 30 litres we've used since we left UK, leaving 14 still in the bottle. hat should have got us home, but we are using the heater a lot now, so maybe not.

The ADC at Pisa is enormous, and well organised. Cost €12 per night, but it is close to the city centre, only 800m from the world's best known architectural cock-up. I hadn't realised (or had forgotten) that the tower was intended to be the bell tower of Pisa cathedral, and it stands in a large grassed area with the cathedral and the baptistry, giving a magnificent view in the autumn sun. It seemed to us the baptistry was also leaning, but in the opposite direction. We enquired, and this is indeed the case. Also, the nave of the cathedral has a horizontal bend in it - would you buy a house from these craftsmen? (And by the river Arne there is another house that is decidedly skewiff!).

The town itself is fairly unimpressive, and we were surprised by the large number of Africans selling (mostly) handbags and fake (probably) Rolexes. We were amused to find that in Italy it is a crime to buy fake goods, and there are signs in 4 languages telling us so. It is obviously easier to target the victims of bogus salesmen than it is to target the bogus salesmen themselves (who could be Mafia and perhaps your uncle) who are standing there as bold as brass selling the stuff!

Tues 20th Oct

Another bright and cold morning, and by 9 am we were on the road to Lucca, only 12 miles away. Lucca also has a well organised aire, €10 per night, and within easy walking distance of the town.

Lucca is completely encircled by a thick wall, complete with several bastions,  with a 4 Km pedestrian precinct all the way round  The wall is completely encircled by grass, giving the appearance of a complete mediaeval town. Inside the walls is a lovely "lived in" town, touristy, but not spoiled by tourism. We LIKED Lucca. (but we didn't like Pisa, the town.)

Wed 21st Oct (Trafalgar Day)

Awoke to rain - we didn't come to Italy for rain! We now have 3 days in Florence, so we need to make sure the leisure batteries are fully charged, especially as the solar panel won't do much charging in the rain. So instead of driving directly to Florence along the motorway, about 40 miles, we took a scenic drive into the mountains (in the mist & rain) before dropping down to a camping shop in the Florence suburbs. This our 3rd attempt at finding a "Tarp" shelter. and it was 3rd time lucky. They had several in stock, and telescopic poles. (We have an ongoing and everlasting project to find an awning that is effective, but is not too heavy and cumbersome.)

From here it was but a 7 mile hop to the ADC in Florence. We arrived at 1.30, in the middle of the Italian long lunch break, and could find no way of opening the barrier. Our guess is that there is normally somebody around tooperate it, but they were away at lunch. As we sat there blocking theentrance and wondering what to do, a car arrived behind us, produced a swipe card, and let us in. It seems this is also a private car park. Later we returned to the office to see if there was anyone around. There was, and he was very helpful, giving us a plan of the city and directing us to the bus stop to the centre.

The bus stop is only 100 yards away, and the no. 4 bus takes 15 minutes to get to the centre, running every 8 minutes or so - very convenient. Although it was now 4.15, and raining, we went in to the city for a few hours to get our bearings.

MSF 2730

Thurs 22nd Oct

Back into the centre. We joined the queue for the Uffizi gallery, which houses a number of famous paintings, but as the queue didn't seem to move I abandoned it, leaving Rosemary to continue. 13th century art doesn't do much for me, no matter how famous, and I've spent enough time in queues this trip. By  lunchtime the rain had given way to sunshine, so that should put some charge into the batteries.

Fri 23rd Oct

Our 48 hours parking runs out at 3.45 pm today. We have decided to go into the city this morning, then leave Florence at 3.30 or so, rather than pay another €12 for another 24 hours. So this morning we were in the city by 0830, to get an early start. As usual, it is raining. We took a (free) guided tour of the Palazzo Davantazi, (entrance free, too!). PD is one of only two mediaeval houses available for visiting, and is low key but very interesting. The female guide gave a delightful commentary - and her voice "smiled". We had to leave are umbrellas by the door, and when we came to leave Rosemary's had been stolen. It had only cost £2, but we were emotionally attached to it because it came from Sarajevo. We bought another from a guy hawking umbrellas, knocking him down from €10 to €5 for quite a well built umbrella.

Next on the list was San Cruce church. Buried here are Rossini, Michaelangelo, Galileo, and Niccolo Machiavelli, amongst others, and I was keen to see these. Indeed, they were all I wanted to see. Having paid €5 to go in we found most of the inside of the church behind tarpaulins, ropes, or scaffolding. I felt this was a complete rip-off, although we could see all the tombs from a distance, except Machiavelli's which was behind tarpaulin. The reason for the scaffolding etc was that the frescoes were being restored, and we could see 2 of the restorers at work. We were surprised to discover (but perhaps we shouldn't have been) that restoration involves repainting the fresco as the restorer believes it should look like. This is rather like the road sweeper's brush (same brush, but has had 12 new heads and 3 new handles).

After a brief visit to the cathedral (the inside is really quite a disappointment) and lunch it was back to the van, and off. Negotiating Florentine traffic was exciting! And it would have been almost impossible without Sally telling us "in 100 yards, turn left", "ahead, keep right". The biggest problem is the number of motorbikes and motor scooters, often ridden by quite young teenagers and mostly ignoring all the rules of the road and common sense as well. At least 50% of drivers are using mobile phones, and many of the motor cyclists and pedal cyclists too.

For our last few days in Italy we're heading back to the Tuscan hills. Sun is forecast for the weekend, and so we have returned to Castellino, where we have already spent 2 nights earlier this month.

MSF 2762

Sat 24th Oct

The clocks go back tonight, so dark evenings will be even longer. Overnight there was heavy rain and we were buffeted by strong gusts of wind - the ADC is on the top of a ridge. The BBC website promised a sunny day today, but I'm not sure they're going to be right. Sunny periods is the best we can hope for - and we need the sun to get some charge into the battery.

Later - they were right! It did come out sunny, and quite warm. Rosemary went into town to do some more sketching, and returned with another umbrella, similar to the one we bought in Florence, found on the market for only €5. I strolled up to a nearby Etruscan (pre Roman) tomb. A sort of cross between Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long barrow in Wiltshire.

Sunday 25th Oct

Moved on to the ADC at Radda in Chianti - a distance of 7 miles, so not much battery charging there. Another lovely day, but the ADC here is under trees - welcome in the summer but not when want the sun on your solar panel. This is the town with free wifi in the cafe, very useful.

MSF 2769

Mon 26th Oct

A lovely bright and crisp morning. A last shop in the best grocers shop we've ever seen - tiny, but stocks as many lines as Waitrose, all served with a cheery smile. Then heading homeward by 0845. We have planned to cross the Alps via the Gottard Pass - we've done it before (many times) and is better than all the others we've tried, and if it's closed there is a free tunnel.

We came across Switzerland earlier than we expected - we had forgotten that here it stretches out into the Italian lowland. Also as expected, the Gottard Pass was indeed closed, so we used the tunnel for the first time. It's 10.3 miles long, and was well lit. I was concerned it might be like some of the tunnels we've used  in Norway, unlit and very few white markers to show where the tunnel wall is - light from headlights just gets absorbed by the bare rock. On the Italian side there was a cloudless blue sky, so we were amazed to find the Swiss side under very heavy low cloud.

Once out of the tunnel we looked for a place to wild camp. On the way back from Turkey last year we stopped beside the road to the Furka Pass. This year we have stopped by the road to the Susten Pass (also closed). From/the lay-by there is an fascinating view over the mouth of the tunnel, the motorway, and several railway lines. The whole scene was like one of those model railway scenarios.

MSF 3097 (335  miles today)

Tues 27th Oct

We drove straight through Switzerland and the most spectacular colours- I think it is because they have so many trees and such a mixture together looks so good. We then went north on our new route which takes us through the Vosges, ( and avoids boring German autobahns!) Here the trees were amazing too. This is probably the most attractive part of France we have seen – absolutely glorious – we must pencil ina proper trip here some time. We stopped for the night at an excellent ADC  beside the Meuse canal at Charmes, north of Epinal,

MSF 3299

Wed 28th Oct

More hard driving, up to the Channel and the spend the night as usual at the ADC at Gravelines. Here the flowers around the town and especially the war memorial had been changed to spectacular displays of chrysanthemums.

MSF 3640

Thurs 29th Oct

The final leg. An  uneventful crossing and journey home (except for getting in the wrong lane as we came out of the port, and found ourselves heading towards the M2 instead of the M20). As it was mostly dual carriageway we had no difficulty remembering to drive on the left. and we were pleased to come home to a warm house- this time we had arranged for the heating to be put on a day or 2 before we arrived, and the general weather was so mild- much easier to come home to!

MSF 3840

 

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