Bear with me
folks. I have got more photos to post, but not very sure of what I’m doing. It’s a slow learning curve!
It’s been a while, sorry. I’m not sure anyone will still be interested in our journey, when we’re already back! But at least for my own record, & for the sake of completing the task, I’ll continue.
After disembarking from the ferry at 3.30 am we somehow found our way out of the port in the dark & hit the right road without getting lost in the process. Not an easy task normally. Good job we filled up with fuel on the Italian side. We drove for a very long time before seeing a gas station.
We didn’t see much in the dark, but the roads were smooth & traffic free, & once again we encountered tunnel after tunnel cutting through the mountains.
A hint of light in the sky started around 4.30 am & grew & grew until suddenly the sun popped up from behind the mountain & literally hit us in the eyes! We drove on hoping to find a picnic area or similar, but unlike France, there was nothing. In fact we’d found this to be the case throughout Italy also, so eventually we pulled into a large service area & parked in a quiet part to cook breakfast. First time we’d given the cooker & kettle an airing & it felt great. Our internal fridge had kept the sausage in reasonable condition, & cooked up just fine! Ah! Nice cup of Tesco tea by the roadside, Can’t beat it.
From here we have a long way to go. North East through Greece, passing through or by, Kozani, Thessaloniki, & heading for the Turkish border. A lovely drive with stunning scenery on the way. Mountainous mostly, & sneak peeks of beaches down below us along the coast.
We arrived at the border with some trepidation. UK insurance companies don’t insure your car for certain countries, Turkey being one of them, so we knew we would have to buy insurance at the border. You read about it, & see others have done it, but you can’t help wondering how it works!
First kiosk, cursory glance at the passports & waved us through! Hey, I texted Mike! ‘We’re in! Easy!’ Stopped in the duty free shop feeling over excited & bought some booze. As you do.
Not quite so easy. Drive a little further through to 3 lanes of check points. Fortunately we know the Turkish word for Insurance. Sigorta. There was a shabby table set to one side with a guy in jeans & t shirt in front of his hand made sign ‘Sigorta’. We pulled up next to him & asked (with hand gestures) ‘Insurance? Sigorta? here? . Yes yes, so out Rick gets with the folder. This is a ring binder with photocopies of every document you could possibly think of, from Uk car insurance, to car registration, to tax numbers ,last Tesco shop, blah blah blah. Rick had everything required & there we go. Car insured for Turkey.
Drove on, last kiosk on the way out. Handed him the passports & insurance document. ‘Where is your car registration paper’? ( actually not quite so articulate) ‘Huh’? ‘car registration, you have to register vehicle over there’ (pointing behind us). Oh right . ‘we didn’t know that sorry. Not done this before. ‘ I can see’, he said. We turn around , park up & find ‘car registration’ kiosk where Rick had a fine time with giggling girls trying to decide what Benny was. A car,? a bus? Call it family car, Rick told them. Just as we are about to get back in & head off we are approached by a customs officer to search the vehicle! He asked a few questions ,was clearly bemused by our journey, but after a quick look at the tip in the back didn’t try to do a proper search. The poor guy next to us was having his wash bag pulled apart & his suit on a hanger thoroughly checked in every pocket. Our guy ended quite smiley & we had the usual conversation about Manchester United. Back to last kiosk again, present completed paperwork to implacable officer, & yea! This time we really, are, IN. It feels like we’re coming home!
PS It would be REALLY helpful if there was a board right at the beginning listing in several languages where you had to go, what you needed & in what order. It was all pretty easy going & didn’t take too long, but try it at night & in long queues & it would have been a different story.
We departed Rimini early morning. ( Rick’s getting quicker at dropping the tent!) It was the first day of sunshine we’d seen, & the fields of sunflowers looked happy in the morning light.
We needed to be in Brindisi on the south coast by 4 pm for a booked ferry at 6, which would take us to Igoumenitsa on the Greek mainland. A good 8 hour drive at least, not counting road works, delays, getting lost etc. But we made good time. The roads good & not overly busy. The scenery changed throughout, from flat planes of freshly harvested fields, to the undulating backdrop of Puglia.
For our entertainment today we started with John Bishops Sunshine Tour. (Audio book) The last night of his tour at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. Hilarious, & highly recommended especially to those with kids or grandchildren. Eventually though, the soaring harmonies of Il Divo just seemed right. The scenery became more beautiful I thought as we traveled south. Thousands of Orleanda shrubs mixed withe pink & red, lining the roads, & pretty houses painted white, pink, or lemon.
Vines trees in their perfect rows, mixed with olive trees, whose leaves glinted like silver in the sun. (Poetic or what?) Monasteries high on the hills, goats & sheep in the fields with a single farmer & his dog. As we approached the coast Rick was depressed at the flock of kites surfers in large numbers, on the obviously fabulous beaches nearby.
I really need to come back to Italy, it’s in my blood somehow.
We arrived at the ferry port around 3.30 pm & had eaten our picnic on the way. Didn’t really have time to stop which was a shame. We collected our tickets . They pretty much leave you guessing where to go or what to do, but we managed, & found ourselves wondering, not for the first time why everyone was looking at us as if we were aliens! Is it Benny? the GB sticker, or maybe we just look weird. Answers on a postcard please. We drove on the boat too much enthusiastic Italian gesticulating which we couldn’t understand.
We expected the boat to be like the cross channel ferries, with shops, decent eating areas & room to walk around. Wrong. It was much smaller, with no shops, & just one cafeteria area where most people started queueing as soon as they got on board. We hadn’t booked a cabin because they were only for 4 people which means you have to share, so we’d booked pullman seats. To our surprise , they were in the cinema! Yup. The cinema, where most families had booked so the kids could watch moving pictures ( there was no sound) & run around all night.
We put some stuff on our seats & went to sit in the main area at a dining table. Others had brought picnics, & I was fascinated at the groaning tables of food. Sausage, cheese, bread & salads, wine, Raki, you name it. I kept having to walk by for another look. We ate a distinctly average meal of spag bol pie & potato salad when the queue had died down & a couple of G& T’s to knock me out.
It was heaving! There were certainly not enough seats, & scuffles over chairs were breaking out. Some had come well prepared. Blankets, sleeping bags, lilos, & they were lying everywhere. On the floors, stairs, window sills. One young pregnant girl under a table. We settled into our rock hard hardly reclining seats. Donned my Ethiad eyemask , plugged in the headphones & tried to ignore the kids behind kicking the seat in & grabbing hair over the top, & the nagging back pain. I did a small walk round in the early hours & it was like a scene from a disaster movie. I felt like a minor disaster myself as we disembarked in Greece at 3.30 am.
Unfortunately I’m running behind with updates as I just can’t get Wifi. We’ve had very few stops, & those we had, had no connection.
But to continue where I left off-
We left Annecy & headed for Mont Blanc in pouring rain. You can’t detract from the stunning scenery , but when your head is in the clouds, literally, you can’t actually see much. The climb up the mountain is awesome. Waterfalls in full flow gushing down the walls, heavy with water after the torrential rains. The clouds swirl around so low, you feel you could touch them.
We had to join a queue to enter Mont Blanc tunnel. 41 euros for the privilege ! The view should have been stunning from the top, but we were shrouded in thick wet cloud.
20 mins later we entered. 12 km long, carved out of the rock, that is- the mountain. How did they DO it? What a feat of engineering ! Thousands of tons of rock above you. Scary thought.
The whole trip down & through The Alps is studded with tunnels. Like a rabbit warren of huge Hobbit homes cut into the grassy sides. You do in fact come out blinking like a rabbit in the headlights!
We kept hoping we would emerge from each one in sunlight, but not until we were well into Italy towards Turin did the weather improve. Had a bit of a misunderstanding with Mr Sat Nav, & made a detour that took some precious time , but gave us a tour of villages we would never have seen.
Quiet music wise today. Rick needed to concentrate , & I started to listen to The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard.
Had lunch by the road, & please don’t let the farmer in his tractor be damaged for life by the sight of me, well, you can guess!
We had been slower than expected & was 8.30 when we approached Rimini needing to stop before dark.
The first camp site Sat Nav found looked & sounded fine. Huge site, & only 2 places left. We were in no mood to trundle on.
Got everything set for the night then went for pizza ( what else?) & a look at the beach in the dark. Yes. sea, soft sand, & row after row after row of sunbeds set out with immaculate precision. Wouldn’t suit us, but the town itself needs more exploration.
The night, was Horrendous! Unaware, we were pitched just in front of a busy road , a train line, & an aeroplane taking off at 3 am felt as if it was coming through the fecking tent! AND my air bed deflated! We changed sides. By 5 am we’d had enough & decided to get the hell out it there.
More later. It gets better. .
Just one of many tunnels.