Category: France

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.

Finally Spain!

I forgot to mention the adorable hedgehog we saw in Ruffec on our way to the lab for my swab test.  We were going down the main road thru town and saw something shuffling across the road – it was a small hedgehog!  We were very worried that it might get run over so Colin quickly pulled to the side to stop the traffic, but everyone else also seemed aware of it and the little fellow made it safely across.  It was very nice to see that we weren’t the only ones that cared about a little animal.

The men’s time trial at the Olympics was awesome – much more exciting than time trials usually are.  Primoz Roglic won the gold and Tom Dumoulin got the silver – so happy for both of them.  Hugo Houle came a very respectable 11th.

I made an excellent lasagna (if I do say so myself!) for our final dinner in France, although the pasta making machine is a bit different from the one I have in Papiano and the one I have back home.  In any case it turned out pretty good and was well received.

Much to my relief we got the results of my swab test back before we left the house and were able to download and print it – I passed!  Or maybe I failed – in any case it was ‘negative’ which is good!

We got away at the decent time of 9:15 and were cruising – until we reached Bordeaux.  I know it’s always a bit of a pain getting past the city, even on the ring-road but it’s still frustrating.  It took us at least an hour to get by before we were once again cruising south.

We reached one of our favourite campgrounds mid-afternoon – just north of the village of Souraide, near the Spanish border.  We’ve stayed here at least three times before but for the first time noticed the ‘no dogs’ sign at the entrance – he let us in anyway.

Waking before seven the next morning we had a nice cup of tea – or two – before heading on to Spain.  There’s a border crossing about 20 km away thru a small town that’s mostly duty-free shops just across on the Spanish side.

We kept waiting to hit the ‘border police’ that would ask for our vaccine certificates or test results, but there was no one.  I got my brain poked for nothing!

We stopped for some groceries along the way – I’d forgotten to pack the potatoes, onions and frozen salmon before leaving so we did need to replenish some staples. We arrived near our destination right around noon and pulled into a large gravelled area where we stopped and had a light lunch.

Since we’d been here before we knew we weren’t yet at the summit of the climb so after eating we drove just a little further where we found the spot we’d watched the race from three years ago (where I got bowled over by the barrier because of the wind from the cars).

It’s a small pullout on gravel with room for about 3 campervans, right on the edge of the hill, with horses grazing below and the ocean in the near distance.  When I was walking Mo she stayed pretty close to me – the vultures above us were hunting in threes and she’d be a plump little meal for them.

Some of the riders taking part in tomorrow’s race were doing a re-con of the route.

While Colin and the doggies had a little lie-down I took a walk along the side of the hill that the horses are grazing on.

The views are fantastic!

The horses remind me a bit of the ones we saw at the horse fair in San Emiliano two years ago – very beautiful.

As evening fell the sun coming thru the clouds over the ocean was quite stunning.

We had a lovely dinner of salmon, mashed potatoes and green beans – such is ‘wild camping’ for us!

Dinner Out, and Brain Piercing

On Friday evening we went out for dinner – we had an outside table and it was lovely – luckily almost the whole area was covered by large umbrellas as it rained off and on almost the whole time.

I made a very nice choice – duck breast with goat cheese sauce and roast potatoes.  It was just delicious and I didn’t even have anything leftover for breakfast – highly unusual!

The next afternoon we went and had a very nice visit with Colin’s friend Jane.  She has a beautiful house a short walk away right on the river and we had a lovely time sitting outside overlooking the large garden and swimming pool.

The neighbour’s cat likes to spend time here – a very cute calico.

Another bike ride on Sunday took us over 41 km in all, including a stop in Aigre for a fairly good cafe creme.

We also popped in for a quick visit with Joyce in Fontenille – Tony was out at the time.  It had just started to rain when we arrived and during our short visit it just poured out.

Luckily there was a break and we made a run for it, arriving home without getting drenched.

We’ve started getting organized for our next trip, including me getting another covid test swab.  I thought – ok, I’ve had one before, this shouldn’t be anything different – wrong!!  I had to stand in the parking lot of the lab/testing place and the swab that approached me was huge.  I went to take out my nose stud and the doctor kind of laughed and said ‘no – not necessary’.  What I think he was really thinking was ‘no – it doesn’t matter at all – we’re going way further in than that’!

It was awful!  I tried to pull away a bit but couldn’t.  I had read a couple of months ago that people described the ‘swabs’ as almost piercing their brains, but after the one I had before I left Canada I thought they were exaggerating, but now I don’t think they were.  I’ve never had anything that far up my nose in my life – it was horrible, but I did survive, and I better pass the test!