We had been away for over five weeks and were looking forward to seeing the family again. We set off from Le Crotoy and drove the 65K to the Eurotunnel Terminal. We really appreciated the unmanned but simple checking in process, as compared with our Sicilian ferry at Genova. Here the software recognised our registration number, offered us a choice of travel times at no extra cost and we were soon on our way to England.We called in on Kate and Neil, little Violet was now three months old and had nearly doubled her birth weight. We left Folkestone the following morning and arrived at West Wittering early in the afternoon. End of blog!
We were sorry to leave San Remo but it was time to head home. We drove west towards France along the Cote d’Azure, passing Menton, Monte Carlo and Antibes before turning north towards Lyon. That evening we found a good campsite just outside Lyon in a wooded park area. We sat in the evening sunshine enjoying a drink before dinner.
Bread and croissants were ordered from Reception for breakfast and then we were on the road again. The tolls on the autoroute seemed expensive but the miles flew by and fuel consumption was much better than if we were driving on smaller windy roads. Our route was to take us through Dijon, Troyes and then on to Reims – unfortunately our satnav had other ideas and we found ourselves hurtling towards Paris. Quelle horror! We have more than once been reduced to gibbering wrecks by the Paris Periphique. As soon as a good alternative presented itself we left the Paris-bound autoroute and drove sedately along the D671 from Dijon to Troyes. It turned out to be a beautiful drive through champagne country (no, we didn’t). We rejoined the motorway at Troyes to continue our journey at a more sprightly pace. We passed through St. Quentin and Amiens and on to the coast.
We were heading towards Le Crotoy, a small fishing town on the Channel coast just up from Dieppe. This friendly little town, in common with so many French towns, had a municipal campsite for camper vans – no tents or caravans. There were about 60 vans on the site that evening, each paying an overnight parking fee of €5. It was a short walk along the quay to the town centre where there were fresh fish stalls and a variety of shops and restaurants. We ate oysters, followed by sole and skate with chips and salad, washed down with a bottle of the palest rose wine. We spotted several of our fellow campers enjoying a meal in the restaurant and guessed that the people of Le Crotoy were well rewarded for their generosity in allowing camper vans to stop in their town overnight.
We had found a beautiful campsite at San Remo, a seaside town very close to the French border; our pitch overlooked the sea
The weather was warm (20 degrees) and sunny with just a few clouds topping the highest hills surrounding the town. San Remo town was about 4k away from the campsite along a wide cycle path that must have been a coastal railway at some time. The path travelled on for 25k. Saturday was market day and we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the stalls, mostly selling the usual market rubbish but there was a covered marked selling fresh produce – fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, meat and cheeses as well as olives, bread , pasta and so on. We stopped for a beer at a sunny cafe in one of the lovely squares and then went on to the port for lunch at a fish restaurant close to where the fishing boats unloaded.
We planned to stay in San Remo for a few days before heading north towards home.
We were very sad to have to say goodbye to our dear friends who had looked after us so well in Tivoli – Jacqui and Sergio, their daughter, Tamara and her husband, Roberto and their son, Valerio – and the dog Flora.
We headed west to the coast, stopping at the Laika factory near Florence, where we got a warm welcome from their Sales Manager and were shown the production line. We spent the night near Luca and then headed along the coast, past Genoa and down to San Remo in Liguria.
A restaurant had been booked at a popular fish restaurant on the east coast for Sunday lunch. We drove from Tivoli towards Pescara on the Adriatic coast. The drive took more than two hours each way, the scenery was spectacular as we climbed up to the mountains. We travelled through a series of tunnels, one of them was 12 km long. There were eight of us in two cars – Jacqui and Sergio, Sergio’s brother, Bruno and Teresa and their neighbours, Guilio and Irma. We stopped off to at Teramo in the mountains to visit the shrine of St Gabriele.
We wanted to take back some olive oil, so Jacqui and Sergio contacted friends of theirs, Pepe and Adele, who had a large olive grove and had oil to spare. On our way to their house, in a village near Rieta which was the exact centre of Italy, we visited the Abbazia di Santa Maria di Farfar.
Pepe and Adele had invited us to supper. Close to their house was the largest olive tree in Europe, which was thousands of years old. We tried to go and see it but there was a man blocking the entrance asking us to pay €2.50 each for the pleasure of viewing it. We declined to pay but managed to take a photo of the top of the tree from the road.
We had a delicious supper with Pepe and Adele, mostly made from his own produce, finishing with their own chestnuts roasted on the open fire. We came away with 5 litres of Pepe’s olive oil.
We drove to the Lakes, where the Pope had his summer palace at Castel Gandolfo. Pope Emeritus Benedict, who had recently stood down, was living in the summer palace, waiting for his new residence to be completed at the Vatican.
We stopped for lunch at a lakeside restaurant – pork and bread, olives and a mature sheep’s cheese. Porchetta is a famous delicacy from the area and is often sold from stalls along the roadside.
We drove down the Appian Way, an ancient Roman road that runs from the Colosseum in Rome to Brindisi in the heel of Italy.
We visited the catacombs at Fosse Ardeatine where we visited a beautiful memorial to 334 men shot by the Nazis in 1944 in retribution for an attack on the Germans by partisans. There were 334 tombs, carefully kept with fresh flowers on the graves.
Jacqui gave weekly English lessons to local pensioners at the Tivoli Old People’s Centre. Tony and Marion went along to meet the “students”, some of the pensioners were younger Jacqui was – but you would never have guessed it when you watched Jacqui leading her classin a medley of Beatles’ songs. They also did a fine rendition of “You Are My Sunshine”.
We visited the beautiful Villa d’Este in Tivoli, a 16th century palace built by Cardinal Ippolito, the husband of that naughty Lucrezia Borgia, who was daughter of Pope Alexander VI – Graham, are you reading this? The Cardinal made himself very unpopular with the people of Tivoli by demolishing homes and diverting a major river to create his villa with its sloping gardens, full of beautiful fountains and grottos. The fountains flow naturally fed only by the force of the water, no pumps are involved. You can imagine how the gardens would be lovely and cool in the heat of the summer surrounded by so many sources of rushing water.
We parked the car by the river Tiber and walked along the river . . .
. . . . to the Jewish Quarter where we had lunch – deep fried globe artichokes followed by spaghetti with cheese and black pepper and then oxtail in a rich tomato sauce.
We sauntered through the streets of shops, enjoying Rome’s piazzas and basilicas. There was so much to see and enjoy including the Pantheon, where the roof is open to the elements but no rain ever comes in. We stopped for coffee but didn’t accept the outside tables offered, where all the tourists go, we went inside, drank our coffee standing at the bar before moving on. Later we stopped for an ice cream, again not using the tables but doing it Roman style and taking our ice creams outside to eat sitting on the steps.
The Trevi Fountain was packed with tourists so we soon moved on to the Parliament Square, where we saw politicians being interviewed by the press, before finally reaching the magnificent Colosseum, constructed between 70 and 80 AD which was the largest amphitheatre in the world and could seat 50,000 spectators. On Good Fridays the Pope leads a torchlit “Way Of The Cross” procession starting at the Colosseum.