Back to Italy!

We got on the way from Mansle at a decent time in the morning, heading east through pouring rain.  The sky cleared a bit from time to time but it was generally a grey day.

We arrived in Chambery after a fairly long drive and checked into the hotel before taking the dogs for a short walk.  They are such good little travellers, and we make sure we stop regularly so they can have a little walk (ie:  pee).  

Since we’re in the car this time the seats in the back are down and Henry has his bed behind my seat so he can see Colin because then he doesn’t bark.  We tried putting Mo in the back also but she didn’t look comfortable perched on her blanket atop some luggage so she now lays on my lap on the blanket with her harness clipped to my seatbelt.

The next morning we continued east – it was still a bit grey out but not as much rain.

Passing through Bramans Val Cenis I finally realized we’d been through this pass before – albeit from the other direction – when we saw one of the Hannibal statues.

I’m not sure it’s been proven that Hannibal took this route over and through the Alps but it’s certainly possible.

We stopped just before noon at a cafe at the top of the pass – it was fiercely windy and had actually started snowing!

The proprietor of the cafe was a very old lady – when she spoke it sounded like every second word was Italian, although when I tried to converse with her she said in French that she didn’t speak it.

A few miles down the road we stopped again so I could take some photos – Lac du Mont-Cenis was looking spectacular with a bit of mist rising and whitecaps from the wind making the water look extra dark.  The place is half-way between Paris and Rome.

Only a few miles later and we were in Italy – again, just as passing from Spain to France, there was no border stop or covid check.  We only knew we were in Italy by the road signs and potholes.

A few miles outside Susa we saw a large message on the side of a mountain – ‘TAV = MAFIE’.

I googled it later to find out what it meant – there is/was a lot of opposition to the plans to build a long tunnel to accommodate a new high speed rail line.  Apparently there’s a lot of mafia infiltration in the construction industry, as well as many corrupt politicians – well, it is Italy!

We checked into a nice hotel in the village of Fornaci, not too far from Bergamo – we’re spending a few days on a little vacation before the race on Saturday.  The hotel has a nice restaurant and we enjoyed a lovely, although quite late dinner.

The next day we took a drive to re-con the race route, planning to pick a spot somewhere on the last climb of the day – the Passo di Ganda.

As we followed the route up through Orezzo, over the top and down into Selvino we remarked more than once how fortunate it was that we were in the BMW rather than the campervan.  The road was extremely narrow in spots and very winding and it’s possible the campervan wouldn’t have been able to negotiate parts of it.

Since we hadn’t passed many likely spots to park on race day we decided to watch from somewhere in the town of Selvino.  Another consideration was access to a cafe – and toilets, which is one of many perks of having a campervan that weren’t available in a car.

The drive down to Nembro was interesting, including twenty hairpin turns, each with a sign showing the name of an Italian cyclist.  Also included was the usual last-minute road works on the race route.

The next day we took a lovely drive up to the north end of Lago d’Iseo and down the east side, stopping along the way in the town of Marone.

It’s a nice little place, and being right on the lake it has lovely views, as well as some interesting architecture.

We left Marone and continued south along the lake to the town of Iseo, where we stopped for lunch.

Iseo is a beautiful place – we’ve used the campground more than once before, including on my first trip four years ago.

Returning to the hotel we were both so full from our excellent lunch that we didn’t bother with dinner, planning to get up nice and early so we could get to Selvino before the roads were closed in the morning.

Mellowing in Mansle

Since our return from Spain things have been pretty quiet for us and we haven’t done a whole lot, with a few exceptions.

First, and quite important – we went to a clinic so Colin could get his ‘vaccine passport’ and I could arrange for my second shot.  They weren’t sure what to do with me – they don’t vaccinate ‘tourists’ but we managed to convey that I wasn’t really just a tourist, and they really wanted to help me so they gave in.

The very nice lady doctor (that spoke pretty good english) told me that since my first shot was about four months ago it was too old and I’d have to get two more from them.  Disappointing as it would mean delaying our return to Italy, but I made an appointment for the first one two days from then.

When we arrived for my appointment the first thing the same doctor said was ‘why don’t we do an antibody test just in case – if you have antibodies then we may only have to give you one shot’.  They took a bit of blood from a finger prick, then gave me a shot.  While I waited my 15 minutes the test result came in and I did have enough antibodies – they presented me with a vaccine certificate!!  They still didn’t know what to do about billing me so just let me go.

The first thing we did when we got back to Mansle was go to the bar, but Edith had to break the news to me that I had to wait a week before I was ‘legal’ – oh well, back home we went.

The second, and very enjoyable thing was that we had Tony and Joyce over for dinner.  It was a lovely evening so we sat outside for the appetizers before coming inside for the main meal.  There was good wine, and excellent conversation, and the food seemed to go over well – an extremely nice evening.

We had lunch one day near Luxe at the ‘lake’ – they’d stocked it with 300 kilos of live trout and there were dozens of fishermen and women sitting in the rain along the shore.

One old fellow caught two good sized ones while we ate.

We had several nice bike rides, with the last one being over 40 km – we stopped in Aigre for lunch then managed to make it home before the rain hit.

Colin took the campervan to the place he bought it from in Ruffec to get all of the small things sorted out – we’re going to Italy in the car so won’t be needing the campervan again for a while.

I’ve learned to make a proper pie crust and have made a couple of very tasty quiches – next up steak and mushroom pie.

There’s been a couple of very important races that we watched on tv this year rather than being there.  First the world championships in Belgium, which would have been awesome to see live – a thrilling race won for the second year in a row by Julian Alaphilippe.

The second one two days ago was Paris-Roubaix, which normally takes place in April, and is the first time it’s been held since we saw it live in 2019.  This year it was rain and mud all the way, and was won with a thrilling sprint to the finish by three riders – the winner by a few inches was Italian Sonny Colbrelli.

Having missed both of those races we’re really looking forward to going to the last big one of the year – il Lombardia – on our way back to Papiano.

Roast Lamb, Friends in Logrono, back to France

The campground’s pit-roasted lamb dinner was every bit as delicious as we remembered – a joint of lamb brought sizzling in a pan and carved by the chef at our table, accompanied by green olives, lovely crusty bread, fries and salad.

I ate as much as I could and still had plenty to take away for tomorrow’s meals – a really excellent birthday dinner.

The next morning we weren’t in any great hurry to leave so took a nice long walk along the main street of the town.

As usual in this area it’s all about the Camino, with auberges all over the place, as well as a nice plaza and some cafe/bars.

We did get away right around noon, stopping to say goodbye to the owners and letting them know how much we enjoyed staying there – and the dinner last night – and promising to return.

The drive to Logrono didn’t take that long, and we found the aire no problem – we’d been there two years ago.  It’s just on the north edge of the city in an area chock-full of sports fields and activities.  Nice and flat with lots of trees, very near the river.

In the morning we took a walk to the river, then east along the lovely pathway to the large pedestrian bridge, passing a skateboard park along the way.

We only came to the town to see Ricardo (Richard) and to pick up three cases of Rioja to take back to France – he was able to meet with us a bit early, along with his daughter Lucy.  

It was so nice to see them again, especially as we’d not been able to come to Spain last year.  We took another walk with them, this time to a cafe where we sat outside and chatted for a bit.

Lucy has grown up so much – she was only 12 or so when we first met her, and now she’s in her final year of school before entering university next year – a very lovely and beautiful young lady.

When we told them where we’d been the last couple of days they were so surprised – it’s the place that Richard’s father was born and grew up in – he still has cousins and other family there.  I showed them the photos I’d taken and they recognized almost every place.

Right after Richard and Lucy left we also got under way, deciding to go all the way back to Mansle rather than stopping partway.  We made a stop very near the French border to pickup a couple more things and once again crossed over without even a question, only knowing we’d crossed the border when we passed the sign saying ‘France’. 

Back to Camping a Vuoga, Riding the Bear Trail, Carrion de Los Condes

It rained off and on all night, and we awoke to the renewal of a problem – the electrics that had miraculously fixed themselves after our visit to the mechanic in Lugo have once again gone on the fritz.  The fridge is off, as well as everything else – we couldn’t even get the stove going to make a cup of tea.

Since our neighbours had left very early – around 5:30 or so – we did something we don’t normally do, and ran the motor for awhile to charge up the battery.

After making a nice cup of tea and having some breakfast we returned to Camping A Vouga back on the coast.  Within an hour we’d both showered and had a large load of laundry in.

We opted for lunch at the campground’s restaurant and both got the ‘plate of the day’ – avocado stuffed with shrimp, followed by garlic chicken with fries, although the fries turned out to be mashed potatoes – luckily I like both, and had plenty leftover for dinner.

Retrieving the laundry to hang it to dry I noticed that some of it was dripping wet and some of it didn’t look like water had even hit it – faulty machine I guess, so we had to do some of it over in a different machine.

This time our camping spot was overlooking the beach and we spent a pleasant afternoon watching the tide coming in and just relaxing.

I took a nice walk on the beach around sunset – it was beautiful.

The rainstorm in the night was torrential, accompanied by frequent bright flashes of lightening and tremendous thunder.  I spent quite awhile trying to calm Mo down – she needed many pats and cuddles.

From the coast the next morning we had a long day of travel east to get back to the ‘bear trail’ just southwest of Oviedo.  We’d stopped by there a couple of weeks ago but the crowds were too much for us, although we still wanted to go for a ride.

We spent the night in the large parking area near a bike rental/cafe and put the bikes and chariot together the next morning.

The ride was very nice – not as many people as there would have been in August, and even the dogs were a bit less barky.

We stopped in Proaza for coffee, then continued up the trail a few more km. before turning back.

We saw two of the bears – I think there are three in total, all behind fences and unable to roam as they should – kind of sad, really.

By the time we got back to the parking lot it was chock-full, and we were glad we’d gone riding when we did.  After a nice tuna salad with feta cheese for lunch we were on our way again.

We backtracked a bit to Oviedo to take the motorway south to Leon where we turned east and stopped at an aire on the edge of the town of Carrion de los Condes.

The aire is quite small but does have water drop, etc.  It’s right next to a sports complex with a very nice soccer field, and there’s a pedestrian bridge crossing the river to the town.

Since we weren’t in any special hurry we explored the town a bit the next morning – it’s larger than we expected, and is another fairly important stop on the Camino trail. We spent a bit of time exploring and quite liked the place.

The town is either 401 km or 405 km from Santiago – depending on which sign you look at – most people’s final destination when they walk the Camino.

There are some really nice lamps and lampposts…

…churches and statues…

As in most Camino towns almost all of the businesses have something to do with the ‘pilgrims’.

There’s a mosaic on the ground on some stairs, but it has degraded over the years – it must have been fantastic when first completed.

Leaving the aire before noon we went on to the town of Castrojeriz, another campground we’ve been to before.

I remember three things about it from our first visit:  the ruined castle on the hill above the town;  a nice ride I took along the Camino to the town of Hontanas;  and the delicious roast lamb dinner we had at the campground’s restaurant.