I've finally dragged myself out of my post holiday blues/torpor (with a twist of pre-school bumming-out) into some blogging activity. The holiday was great and did me the power of good - a fabulous mix of relaxation and adventure, with barely a thought of UC.
A brief summary then. Drove to Dover and got ferry to Calais. From there popped up into Belgium to visit some WW1 cemetaries around Ypres (an odd but poignant start to the holiday). This brief stop-over was somewhat lengthened by: a) the Belgians slightly haphazard approach to road signage; and b) the utter failure of my fellow drivers satnav to work in Belgium (I myself as a self-respecting geography teacher bloody-mindedly refuse to have a satnav in my car - its maps or nothing!) (apropos of that: I am also the worlds worst travelled geography teacher, hence this being something of an adventure)(but I do have good knowledge and a keen sense of direction. Promise.). Eventually, with a large slice of luck, we stumbled onto the road we were after and we were OFF! Drove on through Luxembourg (most of which was obscured by the most insanely heavy rain I have ever experienced in my life - I had to glue my self to the back of a lorry in order to stay on the road), back into France (long, empty toll roads), through Strasbourg, across the Rhine and south along the edge of the Black Forest to a little place called Sulzburg. Here we camped, although arrived with moments to spare before they shut the campsite. Early rise and onward south into Switzerland. Switzerland is the most fantastically beautiful country... with some hilariously serious people. Although I could have happily stayed in the swiss alps forever, we stopped only for a few hours and a fondue (mmmmm) in a place called Andermat. From here we drove over the Alps on the windy St Gottard pass, stopping to stare goggle-eyed into a huge glacial valley leading down into Italy. Then on past Lakes Lugano and Como and into Italy. Here the land flattened out onto the N. Italian plain, which was just that: plain. Around Milan and down to Parma, where we camped again. Up and out early again next morning and south-east past Modena (home of balsamic vinegar...mmmm) and Bologna (home of... ok we all know that) and then south down to Florence - from Bologna south Italy is beautiful. In Florence we spent a few hours wandering, experiencing a flavour of this lovely renaissence city. Then off again into the mountains to Florence's east and another campsite. Next morning we visited a monastry where apparently St Francis experienced the stigmata. Which was nice. Then on for the final leg south, past Perugia, finally stopping in a little farmhouse (on an organic honey farm) situated high on the slopes of the Tiber valley, under a little town called Giove, about an hour north of Rome.
Due to the nature of the trip down we felt under no pressure to do loads of sightseeing - just lots of relaxing around the pool (see pic above). We did get the train down to Rome one day, which was amazing (and stunningly cheap - less than 10euros per adult) and wandered into Giove regularly, frequenting all the superb local food shops.
A week later we came home. A different way. And slightly quicker. First we hammered up to Florence and then across toward Pisa and the coast. Here we encountered only the second traffic jam of the whole trip. Then I took a slight wrong turn so our car detoured through the city of Genoa (looked nice), and then up, up, up through the Val d'Aosta until we reached Mt Blanc. Awesome. Through the tunnel (expensive and dull) and then into Chamonix Mt Blanc, where we camped again - right on the foot of Mt Blanc herself. Hilariously somewhere between Genoa and Chamonix the bottom fell off the car and I dragged it along, haha. So that precipitated a visit to a french garage, where the mechanic was superb. Camping under Mt Blanc was spell-binding. It would appear I have developed a deep love for staring at mountains... After a morning of taboggining down the summer run on the mountain we hit the road again and slowly wound our way through the foothills of the alps and past Geneva and eventually back onto the french toll roads. Thus we sped up into the Champagne region and camped in Epernay. From here a short hop accross to Calais, ferry and home to cloudy Brighton.
So, what of the UC? Apart from a little hiccup (overindulging on tomatoes methinks) pretty much nothing. Which, sadly, hasn't been the case since I got home...