Setting off early we headed for Italy, just a little drive through a huge mountain range including Mont Blanc (yep that famous white mountain.) Poor ole Jenny took some strain and overheated 3 times due to the constant climbing. But there was loads of snow to keep us busy and the views where beyond my ability to describe, save to say we took many photos. We are planning to go back to Geneva next weekend so this will be a short trip to Italy. On the way we drove from Switzerland to France to Switzerland to Italy, many borders to cross, many strange expressions on border guard’s faces.
They have lakes in Northern Italy and that is where we headed, spending two nights in Arona on Lake Maggiore. Tuesday we decided to visit Milan, well unless you are a size 6 and under 5 foot, don’t bother going, as it is an amazingly ugly, dull city. If you don’t plan on shopping then don’t go. Italy has other towns that are better. The whole place looks like a post war, desolated town where no one is concerned with what it looks like to visitors, there is nothing of interest in Milan. Another important note is never drive in Milan; there idea of signposting is to place them sporadically skipping one of two. So yes, we got lost, took 1 hour to figure out how to leave, we were not happy. Then to make matters worse we had to go back to the same campsite. The previous night we had arrived late, camped on the shore of the lake and been quite happy about the site. We discovered in the morning the need for tokens to have a hot shower. So being unable to convey our need for tokens to the manager we gave up. On returning for a second night however, we were more determined. All I managed to get out of him was that there would be hot water in the morning. So after Milan, getting lost and no hot shower we retired early. The next morning armed with phrase book and a collection of words I managed to acquire two tokens. So 8 in the morning and having a much anticipated shower, but the water is running cold, never mind start soaping, I am sure it will warm up I told myself. And so my morning started with an ice cold shower and that is no exaggeration. We managed to get the money back for the tokens but were unable to convey just how miserable a ice cold shower, early on a winter morning in a unheated ablution block, can make one feel.
We headed straight to Arona for the day, hot cappuccino and a warm coffee shop was a great antidote. Arona is lovely and right by the lake, we had a lovely morning walking around, then we drove up the side of the lake and took a boat trip to two islands. One is called the fisherman’s village where we had fresh lake fish for lunch.
For our evening we met up with Antonio and Chiara for dinner (Antonio and Simon used to work together). They took us to Bergamo for dinner. The funniest thing was we could not find a restaurant to eat in, the town being unfamiliar to both parties. When we asked for directions, (Antonio and Carra being Italian helped) the people said there were many, but we could not find them. Finally when we had all worked up a good appetite, we found a place for a good dinner.
Now one would think that that is enough adventure for one day, but no, it goes on. Getting lost on our way out (recognise a theme to this week?) We found ourselves on a hill with small winding streets and thick fog that had both of us hanging out of the windows to see. One place Jenny managed to squeeze through with 2 inches on either side. Much praying and sweating later and we managed to get to the other side of the hill, it had taken us 90 min to get 7km from Bergamo and to make matters worse we had to go back into town to get out again.
End of the day you say? No, our day ended on the highway, in thick mist, where we gave up trying to reach camp due to the poor visibility. So finding an allocated lay-by at 01:30 we slept in the car for what I imagine is not the last time.
07:15 Thursday morning and we are off to Calico our original destination, arriving early everything is shut down. As we are planning to drive back to Geneva on Friday, we carry on to Angera and reach it early afternoon. Some trouble with Jenny and the clutch, Simon the clever boy fixed her. We set up camp properly with awning and all, and then had a leisurely lunch in the warm afternoon sun looking out onto the lake. We had found a gold mine of a camping site and could of stayed. Much sorting was done and hot showers were more appreciated than normal.
Friday and we drive back to Geneva taking a slightly different route, Jenny only overheats once, so while she cooled down we had coffee and tried to remember to stop speaking Italian and start on the French again. Sarah has arranged an apartment for us to stay the week in Geneva; it is a great little place in the heart of the old city of Geneva. We are within 2-5min walking distance of almost everything. Friday night and pizza for dinner in our little apartment feeling very fortunate.
Saturday morning and up early, we are going skiing. Not something Simon and I thought we would be doing this trip. So it is a nice surprise although we are both nervous. Simon skied 14 years ago for two days and me 4 years ago for five days and that is the sum total of our experience. We did okay and had great fun, Sarah took us on a blue run and we managed to do it although the first time down took ages. We did stop for some hot chocolate (compulsory when skiing) and a rest while Sarah and friend Fadi went for a quick run without us slowing them down. My thanks to both of them for their encouragement and utmost patience.
Sunday was a lazy day with time to recover, Simon has spent the whole day moaning, as he is very stiff, I am not and feel quite guilty as if I should be too. So Simon is being served hand and foot today. We attended a church service at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Geneva this morning; fortunately the service was in English. Then lazy afternoon and long walk to find an Internet café. Then late night dinner with Sarah cooked at the apartment. We had three courses: baked Camembert, snails and fish. There are amazing things to be bought in the supermarket over here. Yes the snails were all prepared and just needed placing in the oven. So for now we are staying in Geneva and using the time to update the website on Monday and to do some correspondence. We haven’t got concrete plans for the rest of the week, just some time off.