Wednesday, 3 October 2007

North by Northwest

This post covers our 4 day drive from Rome through the St Gothard Tunnel in Switzerland to France - without a crop duster or Cary Grant in sight.

On Wednesday afternoon we drove north from Rome along the SS1 towards Bibbona. We enjoyed our last stay at the campsite there and it was only €14 a night. It was pretty hot as the sun was beating down, I could just imagine lying beside the pool in a couple of hours! We arrived at the campsite and set up Ace just as a few clouds were passing overhead. No problem, we could go to the pool in 10 minutes or so… wrong! First of all the rain started, then the thunder and lightning, then later on into the night, hail! We bought 2 pizzas from the restaurant at the campsite then headed back to Ace to devour them.

Above and below: Railway cars, Switzerland

The next morning (Thursday) it was still raining as we drove northwards. We stopped in the industrial city of Livorno to get some groceries and then continued north-east towards Parma. We stayed at a campsite in the middle of nowhere which was recommended in one of our guides. We don’t know why they recommended it though as it was horrible. The pitches were uneven and muddy and the facilities were very badly looked after.

On Friday we drove north-west towards Milan, driving through town after town. These 3 days of driving were pretty boring – the weather wasn’t the best and neither was the scenery. Near Milan we decided to play our new game of “count the roadside hoes”. I guessed there would be 5 prostitutes plying their trade along the way and Sarah guessed 3. There were 9!

We drove on past the airport and up to a campsite on the shores of Lago Maggiore. This campsite only had a few touring pitches, the rest were permanent caravans belonging to families for their holidays. Only a handful of them were occupied this time of year. The rest were locked up for the winter - many with covered boats, garden gnomes, bicycles, tables and chairs. I thought I had discovered a bargain – the washing machines and dryers had a sign on saying “Price 1.00”. I quickly discovered though this meant 1 token (available at reception for €4) and not €1! Oh well, our washing will have to wait until we get home!

On Saturday morning we set off at 9.30am for our drive through Switzerland. There was a bit of a queue at the border crossing as the guards were scrutinising the cars and occasionally pulling some over. They took one look at our GB number plate and waved us through. The scenery in this Italian speaking part of Italy was very pretty - green hills dotted with towns, cities hugging the shore of large lakes, emerald green rivers flowing alongside the motorway. The weather still hadn’t improved, the rain was coming down and clouds loomed overhead.

There was a large queue to get into the St Gothard Tunnel. The motorway leading up to the tunnel is a dual carriageway but the tunnel is a single carriageway so you have to merge lanes then there are a set of traffic lights which only allow in 10 or so vehicles at a time. The tunnel was about 17km long in total with several other tunnels following the main one. As soon as we came out the other side into German-speaking Switzerland the weather improved instlantly – blue skies and sun!

We stopped for lunch at a motorway services where I took the opportunity to take some photos of some brightly coloured railway carriages on display while Sarah lay on the bed uttering “you’re such a nerd” under her breath. (By the way, Sarah contests the fact she ever said this…) We continued north past beautiful Lake Lucerne and once again admired the beautiful lakeside towns and villages as we whizzed past at 120 km / hour. With so many kilometres to go to Calais there was no stopping this time unfortunately. We eventually got to Basel where we then took the autoroute west – a big smile came across my face as we drove past the France signs, I looked over to my companion but she was fast asleep.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Hello both,

Hope you are having fun. I've worked how to put a message on your blog at long last. It's to say well done at the quality of the pictures and your dedication at keeping it up.

Mind. It was also to say "HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE'SSSS GORRRRRRRIIIMMM!" to Matt in recognition of the stunning triumph in the Rugby World Cup.

I hope Sarah has made you do the washing up as pennance.

I felt it the decent thing to wait a respectable distance before wondering what the excuses would be.

Imagine. The entire French AND Australian nations whacked in seven days.


Even better than your Norwegian pictures.

Pip, pip.

Your former colleague,