So I forgot I hadn’t posted this. Oops.

We left Todi and had a mammoth drive through Italy, Switzerland and France. It was slated to be 10 hours of driving, but things didn’t go to plan.

Leaving Todi, we hit Italian rush hour which was a bit interesting and I had to concentrate hard to avoid the other cars. It felt like the worst of London driving. We made it to Florence quite quickly though where we’d planned a quick stop to post some postcards that we’d not managed to get stamps for. Well, that was the plan. Our detour into Florence took an hour, going through some beautiful sights and via the main sorting office (that doesn’t sell stamps). Eventually, I dropped Sean off next to the main train station and kept running circles around the block until he came back. Turns out the train station sells stamps…

The weather closed in on us at this point, with heavy rain following us up all the way to Milan. Far from being an interesting and fun drive, this was a hard slog. It wasn’t until we started up into the mountains that the rain eased off a little, but we rapidly hit the clouds and so our progress was slowed down once more. We were aiming for the Gottard tunnel and after weaving my way around queues of lorries, we finally got there.

The tunnel is, I’m sure, a feat of engineering. I certainly appreciated it for that. The drive, though, is boring. It’s a tunnel. Think of the Limehouse link, only 15 miles long and you’re pretty much there. There is, however, a radio station broadcasting inside the tunnel with emergency information, which I thought was quite nifty, though it’s not signposted well enough for someone driving along the motorway.

We came out of the Gottard tunnel and started the journey towards France. It felt like we were past the crux now…which was the wrong feeling, since about 10 minutes north of the tunnel, we hit a traffic jam. There was traffic as far as the eye could see and it was all stationary. After sitting there for a few minutes I turned the engine off, as did everyone else. Within minutes, the road was packed solid in both directions and we settled down for a long wait, with no idea what was going on. Luckily, we’d packed some food for the journey, so we had somethign to eat. It was quite surreal – high in the Swiss mountains, in a picturesque valley with chalets all around us….and cows. Now, I though the Swiss cow bell was a cute little tourist trinket. Turns out, they actually use them. So we’re sat there with a herd of cows next to us, all of which wear bells. Who knew – after a while, that noise gets intensely irritating.

Eventually, after about two hours of delay we got going again – the road narrowed ahead due to roadworks and just at the entrance were some fresh skidmarks and broken glass by the side of the road – which answered the question of what was going on.

By this point the journey wasn’t so much fun as “let’s just get there”. We were both ready to go home and it was only necessity that made us stop in some services just inside Switzerland near the French border. We were starving and needed something, even if it was service-station sandwiches. What we got was just incredible.

We walked in and looked around, getting our bearings. To our right was the restaurant which, at ten o’clock local time, I was expecting to be closed – but it wasn’t. We shrugged and wandered over, before being assaulted by an incredible array of sights and aromas. They had a number of areas, each selling a different kind of freshly cooked food. We looked on in amazement and chose Chicken Cordon Bleu which they cooked in front of us. It wasn’t a five star restaurant, but it was certainly something that Little Chef and Moto could learn from. It sure as hell was not Burger King or McDonalds.

We set off again and got to the hotel just around midnight, having had to call them en route to find out why they weren’t where TomTom said they should be – turns out this is a common problem and her first question was “Do you have satellite navigation?”. She gave us directions from there to a village with the same name as the street we were on about 2 miles away. Reception had closed down for the night when we arrived – this was a small local hotel and our keys were waiting for us on a piece of paper with my name badly mis-spelt.

Thursday morning, a quick breakfast after not enough sleep and we set off again, determined to have a better day. The weather agreed and after some patchy showers, opened up into a beautiful if slightly windy day. We make great progress through the French motorways and hit Calais almost 2 hours earlier than our ferry. A quick stop in a supermarket to take advantage of the cheap diesel and we drove down to the terminal. Without blinking we got put on the next possible ferry leaving in about 30 minutes and we mooched around for a bit admiring the drugs dogs at work. We even managed to get BBC Kent on the radio. We both smiled – I think we were both glad to be going home at this point.

We had a lovely dinner on the ferry – we stood outside Langan’s Brasserie for a bit before threw caution to the wind and decided to end the holiday in style with steaks on the way home. Very nice indeed, as was the creme brulee and, by this time, it was nice to have English accents around us.

It was getting dark by the time we got to Dover and with a reminder from TomTom to drive on the left again, we were back on British soil. Not quite home yet though – we drove to Slough where I met up with some of my work colleagues for a conference the following day. I was far mroe tired than I expected and on Friday, by lunchtime, I was falling asleep in the comfort of the conference and decided that I wasn’t doing any good here. I took off, met up with Sean in Leicester Square for some lunch and we drove home.

We both had an absolutely awesome time and certainly clocked up some miles. I’d like to do something similar again, though in a more comfortable car and with more time to spend in each place. Brussels was lovely and we want to go back there. We never really saw Zurich, and Strasbourg was a lovely surprise. I’m not sure I’d want to drive in Italy again – the other drivers make it very stressful. We’re already putting ideas together as to our next one, suggestions so far include the UK, north or eastern Europe and the USA/Canada.

2 Responses to “Europe final update”

  1. Dora says:

    I vote for Canada! You guys need to come visit us. 🙂

  2. Dylan says:

    Hi Aled found your web site from another blog enjoyed it keep up the good work.