Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Sunday 9 January - beach ice rinks & shiny puffers

We arrived in Strasbourg in the dark, and so we left in the dark.  We drove out through deserted Sunday streets, damp, murky and misty.  We felt very sad not to have seen this beautiful city in the daylight.  One for another day, an ideal candidate for a weekend city break.

Our drive, hugging the German border all the way to Switzerland was pretty uneventful.  The beastie seemed none the worse for wear after her adventures and challenges of yesterday.  Apart from a slight vibration coming through the steering wheel where her front wheel took a bashing yesterday (seems such a long time ago now), she was driving pretty well, so far proving to be an excellent new addition to our family.

KP took the first two hour shift, which gave me the joy and anticipation of watching the Alps ominously appear as we drove ever closer.  The sun was starting to come up over the hills of Germany, illuminating the sky in beautiful vermillion streaks.

It wasn't long before we were stopping at the border and crossing into Switzerland with our cargo being thoroughly scrutinised by the guards peering through the beastie's windows.  I held my breathe. No questions this time about any grass we may be carrying.  I guess in our sensible family people carrier we presented a slightly different image to when we were travelling in Rosemary last year. We weren't scruffy beatnik hippies in a veedub this time.

And they didn't notice the big, full gas canister we had concealed under a blanket at the bottom.  As we pulled away, I let my breathe out with a great sigh and expressed my relief at getting away with smuggling our contraband into the country.  KP just roared with laughter.  When he finally composed himself enough to speak, he explained that we only needed to hide the canister from the border control at the Eurotunnel in the UK because of the obvious risk of explosion.  Ah. Of course. How silly. Oops. And there was I worrying myself all the way across France in case we got arrested and thrown into a foreign jail.  I don't think I'd make a very good smuggler.

I had the last laugh though.  As we headed out onto the autostrade a familiar light flashed on the gantry above the road.  Two minutes later we (or rather KP) set off another one.  I laughed my socks off. Within 10 minutes of being in Switzerland he'd managed to set off two speed cameras.  Classic. Now we really were fugitives from Interpol.  To be fair, however, the speed differences between the two countries were pretty dramatic (65mmph on a motorway?!) and the Swiss are clearly very anal about such matters. KP tried to reassure me, but I was convinced we were being followed and it was only a matter of time before we heard the sirens wailing behind us.

That, as it turned out, would have been a welcome relief from the monotony of the drive.  The Alps that had excited us so much the last time we drove over them proved to be a bit of a non-event.  The route from Basel to Milan was very dull indeed.  No terrifying switchbacks and pretty Swiss chalets.  Just a grey, foggy motorway cut through the valley.  We didn't even see that much of the mountains as most of the time our view was hidden by the endless tunnels we drove through.  And there was hardly any snow. Switzerland in January without any snow?  What exactly is happening to our climate?

And so we arrived in Italy, fugitives from the Swiss police driving cleanly through the border.

Sadly, the poor weather and dense fog didn't lift at all, so very little of Italy was seen as we trundled our way down the country.  We decided to pull in on the east coast at a little seaside resort, Riccione, just outside Rimini.

What a great move this was!  We searched around for ages trying to find a hotel that was open and eventually stumbled across a rather grand Great Western right on the sea front.

The town too was a great happy surprise.  Absolutely packed with very style conscious Italians all wearing identical shiny black puffer jackets.  And, once more, just like Strasbourg the night before, so many twinkly Christmas lights.  As far as you could see there was boulevard after boulevard of elaborate lights, decorations, and beautifully displayed designer shops with Italians strutting their stuff everywhere you looked.  There was even an ice rink on the beach!  We picked a large bar heaving with people and just watched the scenes and the antics unfold.  Great entertainment!

Once more, we had to sadly remind ourselves that this wasn't a holiday so we eventually moved on to a poorer part of town where we found a great little pizzeria. A couple of pizzas later, a bottle of wine and a few giggles about our adventures so far and we were wandering back to our stately hotel and much needed bed.

Not too far to go now.

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