Three thousand miles later, me and J arrived home from our road trip across Europe. It was so nice to drive and see France and Italy, instead of whizzing above in the clouds. We drove along winding coastal roads hugging the mountains, past the ski resorts in the Alps, across farming country and around tiny villages, and through endless tunnels under imposing rock. Our route to the Amalfi coast stayed on the western side of Italy, so thankfully we missed the terrible earthquake that happened on the eastern side. We watched the news later that day and our thoughts were with those people that lost lives and homes, such a fragile world we live upon.
The roads in France were endless. We left the paying motorways behind, and as soon as we did that was the last time we saw British number plates. I was navigator, J turned into Jenson Button somewhere in the midst of France. We got to Lyon just as darkness fell and lights reflected off the river as we drove up (and down) alongside it to find our hotel. Praise be for sat-nav!
In the morning I practised my French. You wouldn’t think a lot would remain from a few years j’mappelling in a comprehensive school where the language teachers would frequently flee the room in tears, but my gosh, some things remain. Shame about the dodgy north London accent though. I had my first breakfast consisting mainly of Nutella (choc spread for the uninitiated) and smudge of pastry, and reawakened a dormant Nutella habit. Oh lordie – like I need another choc addiction.
Over the border into Italy, and me and J were frantically trying to recall our limited Italian. Pooled together, our sum knowledge was good day, please, thank you and bye. This seemed to work, mixed with French and occasional English. And mime – although trying to gesture that I needed a travel adaptor plug was probably a bad move – it looked more like I was describing some sort of bizarre sexual practice. Still, I got the travel adaptor. And a smile!
The Amalfi coast has curling roads high above the sea, and small towns defying gravity by clinging to the sides. Cars are concealed in the most ingenious garages I have ever seen, and scooters rule the coast. Crumbling stone steps lead to cobbled streets winding high or low to the sea shore. Purple wisteria clings to buildings, whip-thin cats doze on hot stone, and lemon trees grow in tiny orchards in ever increasing tiers up the mountain. Old men proudly promenade the sea front with their hands clasped behind their backs, old ladies negotiate the many steps with walking stick and food basket. Young men stand next to their scooters and smoke as young women walk past, everyone’s eyes hidden behind expensive sunglasses. It was bliss.
Fittingly for a family orientated place such as Italy, we were there for a family wedding, and it was lovely. Sunshine, petal blossom, the radiant bride and groom, frocks and suits, champagne by the pool, laughter and dancing under the stars. Perfect!
Coming home, and it strikes me how small England is. In France there is barely traffic, and the fields stretch for miles in all directions, rarely broken by a house. In England everything is there, but in miniature – and so many cars in all directions. It really is a country swamped with its people, yet the beauty of it is we don’t really feel it, and there are still pockets where you can go to escape. There must be magic in these hills, is all I can say.
I will try and upload a few pictures for you this week – most were snapped holding the camera high out of the car window, so expect road signs, barriers, and blurred mountains! What joy awaits you!
When I left London it was winter, I now have arrived home to a definite spring. The view from my window is lush with green – trees sprouting leaves, blossom heavy in the air. Just eight days have made such a difference! We are just a step away from the promise of summer.