It has all been a bit odd over the past week, we have moseyed around the north of Italy, Piedmont to be precise, and it added to the food and wine heaven that is Italy. Our plan was, to head back up to Champagne to meet up with Karen’s brother and celebrate his 70th birthday. This would have retraced our journey to the very start of what was to be a Champagne to Caviar trip. Again Covid-19 has stepped in and with the UK now only allowing essential travel only to France they can no longer come, and we will have rethink what we do next. Since our lockdown in Turkey, we have linked up with virtually everyone we saw on the way out in the same places. Val and Harry in Marmaris, Phil and Sandy in Bodrum, Mark in Florence, we will now meet up with my cousin in Geneva as it is only over the alps! The odd thing is that every one of these people were in the exact same place as they were when we met up with them in January and February and have been unable to move due to Covid.
We have been lucky to have been able to carry on, in the main because we live in our lovely Elddis Encore 250 motorhome, is probably the safest ways of traveling around currently. We have everything we need in the van, so the ability to get to see our friends and relatives is made so much easier in a motorhome. While being able to stay safe at the same time and social distance without any issues. Even with a forced 3 month stop for lockdown, since we left 7 months ago we have covered just over 8000 miles. One thing I would say is that I will never drive a manual car or van again. The automatic option in the Encore range is a ‘Must Have’ in our opinion. We have done some massive mountain drives and ‘Buster’ just eats them up, even if we have been terrified by the sheer drops!
So where and what has our beloved ‘Buster’ got us to this week? When we left you last time we were near Barolo and drinking some of the new dry ‘Asti’s’ from the area. They are starting to try and hit back at Prosecco and they are incredibly good.
Our next stop after that was an organic farm where we could overnight for nothing, you just paid for electricity and or waste disposal if you required them. The owner had wonderful shop selling the produce from the farm, various sauces jams and compotes plus wines from local organic producers all at fair prices.
That was not all, if you wanted, they would cook dinner, the night we were there it was, ‘all we could eat’ pizza fresh out of his wood burning oven and a bottle of wine, so tasty and after Karen and I had shared 4 we had to quit! He was growing lots of different types of pepper and I was curious as the Italians did not seem to do very hot, he explained that they were more flavour orientated rather than hot and he used them in his sauces. But he did have some very hot chillies, but no one could eat one he grew them as a flower. He showed me this red chilli no bigger than a pea, the idiot in me was out of the box in a flash, an explosion of heat in my mouth, pain lots of pain. Anyway, he provided some free beer to calm my mouth, plus sweet pizza made with fruits from the garden. A great evening with new friends, do go if you are near.
Continuing, the next day we had been looking forward to visiting the La Venaria Reale the Italian Versailles. With not many people around what could go wrong! We found a lovely clean campsite nearby and cycled off to see the palace. Well we had not allowed for Italian bureaucracy, it turns out you must book online 24 hours ahead to get an entry time, and though they had no visitors we could not book any time before 5 pm. We had to give it a miss as it was 11.00 am, plus €20 each for the ticket. More than a bit annoying as the place was all but empty, but that is the way it works out sometimes. On the other hand, it is located in a huge park with lots and lots of shaded cycle paths, so we were able to take a relaxing 10 km cycle around it. The temperature however kept rising and we after a few hours headed back to the campsite to melt there! It was coming to the end of this our latest Italian adventure but there was one more stop left.
We came through the Mont Blanc tunnel when we arrived in Italy in January, but the weather was appalling, and you could not see the top of the mountain, so we moved on. I however really wanted that perfect view of Mont Blanc, so we booked the cable car up, a €52 each investment for the next day, reserving our time slot in advance online, having learnt from our Palace failure, praying for a clear day.
As many of you know we are not the most budget conscious motorhome people, but we were staying at a free Sosta (stopping place for motorhomes) near the village of Courmayeur. We decided to walk into the village of and enjoy a last ‘Aperitivo’ before departing Italy. Despite what you may think we do try to keep an eye on the finances, but we missed a beat here and forgot it is a skiing village and fancies itself as one of the originals. Our two drinks arrive and a lovely platter of food, all for €25 we really don’t get sometimes! But at least the waiter took a picture!
The weather did improve a bit the next day and we took our cable car up the mountain all the way to 3,466 metres or 11,371 feet, Smirnoff may leave you breathless but so does 11,371 feet! Though it was still cloudy the views were amazing and you could see ‘Buster’ parked happily at the bottom waiting for us. So it looks like we won’t ever get the magical view of Mont Blanc, the gods are against us. Or will we???
By now we had heard about the UK changing the rules on travel to France and our mood was a bit sombre, as we had been really looking forward to seeing Karen’s brother and celebrating his 70th we will just have to do it another time. We set off though the Mont Blanc tunnel another €62.30 and headed to an Aire in a place called Passy I had spotted on our go to App for finding places to stay Park4Night. As soon as we arrived in France the heavens opened and the rain poured down, then our navigation app took us up a one track road with more than healthy sprinkling of switch backs, the local drivers we amazingly tolerant reversing out of the way going into ditches to allow us through. Tired and emotional we pulled up and the rain that had greeted us stopped and we set up camp. The Aire charges €9.90 including electricity a bargain, and………………..
Did I mention the view what a view. ‘Buster’ is king of the hills.
Around the location were some of the loveliest walks we have seen anywhere on the rip so far magical. Also, the site is a paragliding master site with a sort of runway on the edge of the cliff, I would love to try this Karen is not so sure.
We had already arranged to drop in and spend some socially distanced time with my cousin Steve in Geneva, so back on budget we took the correct road down the mountain set off on a toll-free journey. The D roads were awfully slow and lots of speed cameras, we were not in a rush and the views were amazing.
When we arrived we had a great welcome, aided by having his stash of Barolo, Extra Virgin Olive oil and Balsamic vinegar onboard and we parked up in the garden. We could then think through a new plan for this Coronavirus tour, and new route for ‘Buster’ to explore, after all we are in a motorhome so what is it to be, left or right?