Week 15: Italy to France, in search of some sun.

Pole Position – Monaco

Having woken up to a spectacular view of the mountain in the Dolomites, it quickly disappeared into the cloud, reminding us how high we are – we have been aware of altitude changes as our water bottles and ears pop! Then, just as we’d given up all hope of seeing it again, there it loomed out of the cloud.

We had checked the map and realised exactly where we were, but didn’t really know where to head when http://www.theofficeisclosed.com/ Marcella and Julian, offered us some advice and suggested the Strada delle Dolomiti (https://www.guidedolomiti.com/en/great-dolomites-road/). We had another look at the map and we were a sneeze away so off we went. We missed it heading north, as we set off towards Cortina d’Ampezzo and then upwards to Dobbiacho, where we picked up the route. Before we reached the final part before the summit, we saw a road sign warning of helicopters, strange, we thought, but then we passed the helicopter landing pad at the side of the road!

The top of the Strada delle Dolomiti is 2233m above sea level and there was fresh snow at the top. The road up is a series of switchback turns as is the road back down. We had passed a number of cyclists on their way to the top! We had found somewhere to stay, but it was closed, as was the next one, but a third was open and it was a lovely stop over, in the village of Mazzin. There is also a cable car which goes up the mountain.

One thing we hadn’t realised was how high we still were – it as about 1400m above sea level and that night the temperature dropped to about freezing – there was a lot of frost when I walked the dog in the morning! Even at 08:00 the temperature outside was 4°C! The lovely Brazilian Cleaner couldn’t believe we were still wearing shorts but the sun was shining so it had to be done! We have to see the heating in the lovely Nortia had kept us toasty all night too, so it wasn’t too much of a shock until we opened the door!

We set off in search of a little sun and thought we’d tour the Italian Lakes. We’d found an Agricampeggio campsite in an olive grove with a distorted view of Lake Garda. It was a lovely place. On the route Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav had taken us over more mountains and then down into the towns of Trento and Affi, which are full of marble and granite distributors and warehouses. After this we were into wine country and the roads lined with vineyards.

Our plans to visit the rest of the lakes was put to one side when the weather decided to not play ball and cloud and rain threatened our views. The beauty of the motorhome is that we can just change our minds and we set off south, towards the Mediterranean Sea, where the weather forecast was looking a lot warmer.

Day 100 of our trip to Europe and we headed to Busana. Busana is in the Apennines and in the Apennine Tosco-Emilliano National Park. Our campsite was at the top of one of the peaks there. The campsite also plays host over a few weekends in October to a festival for the chestnut and it wasn’t hard to see why. The paths were lined with trees and the floor was full of ripened fruits. There were people collecting them, so I took a handful back for Ric, (I don’t actually like chestnuts)! We googled how to roast them and are still to do so, but the grocers in Italy sell them so they should still be good!

From the Apennines we headed to the Cinque Terre. This is a selection of villages along the coast and they are all beautiful. The plan was to go to one of the towns, which had a campsite near the beach and explore, only we think everyone had the same idea as the campsite was full, so we had to find another. We did and this time it was lovely, with a free shuttle bus to and from the village three kilometres away – you just call them and they’ll come and get you. Ideal for catching the train to visit the other villages. We have added it to our list for when we tour Italy properly.

After a lovely evening and a proper Italian pizza, we headed off for a little town we loved on one of our previous trips, in Finale Ligura. Just down from the campsite was a little bistro we’d found by chance and really wanted to return to. We booked a pitch and paid in advance, just to make sure.

On arrival the village was as we remembered, the sun was shining and the water blue and calm. The campsite looked exactly the same too! We were offered a pitch – it was the same one we’d struggled to get the VW onto, that can’t be right! It was (it wasn’t helped by our neighbours taking too much of another pitch making it difficult to manoeuvre. We returned to Reception and paid for an upgraded pitch – apparently when you check their measurements an 8m x 5m pitch is not the same as a 5m x 8m pitch! This was where things began to go wrong.

We went to the Bistro, but it was full, so headed back to the campsite and thought we’d give their restaurant a try. We were seated, and shown the menu, ordered food and drinks, all seemed great. We got our drinks and bread, then Ric’s main course arrived and both of our sides, but no main course for me. Despite asking it still took until Ric was almost halfway through the biggest steak, we’d seen for my meal to arrive (no it wasn’t worth the wait) and then the other half or Ric’s steak was raw – how can you manage that? We complained, got a little discount but were queried as to why he’d eaten it all – we showed them the bag for the dog! the next morning when we tried to check out, they also tried to charge us again for the pitch. Thankfully it hasn’t happened before and hopefully won’t again – we just need to add it to our list of experiences.

We left Italy and headed towards St Tropez. We drove along the coast road, through lots of pretty villages such as Loano, Andora and Sanremo. We stopped for lunch in a supermarket car park and then headed off towards Monaco and Monte Carlo. At the border to France, we were stopped by the Border Police, who came on board and checked for illegal passengers. All ok, we were clear to enter France. We drove through Menton and on to Monaco – another border crossing!

We had been to Monaco and Monte Carlo before in the VW, so knew roughly what to expect but were aware that we needed to pay a bit more attention to road signs due to the size of Nortia. We negotiated the roads down to Monte Carlo and drove around the Formula One circuit, through the chicane and the tunnel, up to Casino Square and onto the Pole Position – yes we did manage to stop the traffic and take a photo, but not for too long as there were a lot of Police moving cars, due to the big Yacht Festival in the Marina.

We headed off to our campsite in Villeneuve-Loubet. This is a lovely little town and the campsite is definitely on our list to return to. Villeneuve-Loubet is also the birthplace of Auguste Escoffier. We set off, again, for St Tropez – this time with me annoying Ric, singing “Do you know the way to St Tropez?” instead of St Jose! I don’t know whether it was the words or the fact I can’t sign that was annoying him more!

On the way there was an air show taking place over the beach, but there was no where to park, so we watched it while driving! We got to the campsite just outside St Tropez and settled in. While relaxing outside, we were surprised by a fighter jet overhead at full power, everything moved and we jumped! We started to plan our next day and saw there was bad weather heading our way and thought maybe we should move on, however we normally wait and see what happens the following day – being English you know that the weather can completely change overnight!

What did we do? We’ll let you know next week! As always, thank you for reading…..

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