Category: Landscapes/scenery

Bacares and Sanctuary

Finally a warm and sunny day – I did a load of laundry and hung it on the line, then we decided to take another day trip, this time west to the town of Seron.  One of the houses we were going to view was just outside the town and George had told us how lovely the town centre was.  As we’d bought the other house on the spot we didn’t need the viewing of the Seron house but we thought we’d like to see the town anyway.

The drive west wasn’t the most picturesque as there’s a lot of industry and gravel pits, etc but the further we went the nicer the countryside got.

You can see Seron from a distance as it’s clustered around a castle at the top of a hill.  We drove along the base of the hill but decided not to take the campervan up into the centre as we were concerned about how narrow the roads were likely to be.

Since it was still early we chose to drive south a ways and do a loop back before going home.  The road wasn’t too bad as it wound up and up to the summit, with an elevation gain of over 1400 meters.  There were quite a few cyclists making the effort and it couldn’t have been easy.

The views along the way were fantastic but there was nowhere to stop and take photos from – a couple of view points would have been great, or even just a pullout.

Stopping in the village of Bacares we had a walk around – it’s not a bad little place, but very isolated.

After our walk we sat down outside the cafe/bar and had a coffee.  There were a bunch of birds in cages on the windowsill – the cages are so small the birds can barely turn around in them and they make little noises at each other.

It seems very mean to me – I wondered what kind of bird they are, and if they’re perhaps on the menu of the restaurant, or what else their purpose might be.

The sparrows come and land near the cages – wonder if they’re communicating with them or just trying to steal their food.

After leaving Bacares we stopped partway along the road north and had a nice lunch on a flat wide spot with a great view.

Nearing the town of Olula del Rio I actually got a decent photo of a sculpture that’s outside a museum/art gallery.  She’s called ‘La Mujer de Almanzora’ (The Woman From Almanzora) by spanish artist Antonio Lopez.

When we returned to the campground it was sunny and warm enough to actually get the lawn chairs out and sit outside under the canopy.  We weren’t out there very long before the wind became too much and we had to wind-in the canopy and retreat inside again.  I’ve still been wearing my winter coat and the lighter black jacket hasn’t been out once yet – so much for warm southern Spain!

We’ve now signed some papers at a notary’s giving our solicitor power of attorney to get our tax numbers and other house-related things for us such as sorting out utilities, etc.  We also met him at a bank and he helped us open some accounts so we’ll be able to deal with a local spanish bank – things are moving along rather nicely.

Rain, rain and more rain – spending lots of time inside watching YouTube videos.  Finally sometime during the night the rain let up and there’s actually a bit of blue sky this morning.

A couple of nights ago Mo fell out of bed and seemed a bit out of it when I hauled her back up.  We think she’s injured something on her right side – if you pick her up in the wrong position she yelps.  Nothing seems broken or anything as she’s walking fine, but just a bit tender.  She now has pink marks on the back of her head as I’ve been kissing her more than usual.

This morning we took a drive up to the sanctuary – El Santuario del Saliente – a work crew was clearing some of the rock falls caused by the recent rains but the drive was worth it.

The sanctuary is on a promontory with fabulous views of the valley below to the south.

I went inside and it was lovely – a tiled inner courtyard and then the ‘church’ part.

I was all alone and it was a very peaceful feeling – as near a ‘religious’ experience as I’ve ever had.

We stopped at the local restaurant on the way back to the campground and had a lovely lunch of fried calamari.  Back at the campground we watched two races on GCN – the Scheldeprijs and then the third stage of Itzulia Basque Country.  

From El Berro to Albox – Narrowing down for the House Hunt

We were lucky to get a small break in the nearly constant rain and took a nice walk through part of the village.

We could imagine that in better weather the views would be spectacular, and the campground was excellent in so many ways.

We did manage to get our laundry done, but it wasn’t fast or easy.  It poured rain all night and all the next day, and after putting the first load in the washer I went down three times before it was finally done – getting soaked to the skin each time.

In all it took 5 ½ hours to do two loads, but it was free, and we actually didn’t have much else to do.

Leaving the next day under slightly clearer skies we took the other road in order to avoid snaking our way through the village again.  We’d decided to head as far west as we might want a house and work our way back, crossing just into Almeria to start the hunt.

Picking an aire/sosta in the village of Canjayar we went on a bit of a diversion, passing several small mud/rock slides and ending up with a blocked-off road, then realizing we’d gone too far.

We pulled into a place where we could turn around, right after I’d said “what the f*** is that in the middle of the road?”.  Well – it was a giant Smurf, very dirty but right in the road – he was smiling but was not budging.

I got out to take a photo of dirty Mr. Smurf when I noticed movement on the hill above me – several large dogs had seen me and were starting to make their way down.

I quickly went to get back in the campervan but the side door has a stupid automatic lock thing and I couldn’t get in.  I pounded on the door and screamed but Colin was using the loo and couldn’t let me in.  I ran around to the driver’s door and jumped in just before the dogs arrived.

Taking a different route we finally made it to the aire, but it looked very bleak so we turned around and drove further down the road hoping to find a better place.

Luckily Colin saw a campervan sign several miles along at winery/bodega Fuente Victoria so we pulled in to their very large, flat and almost empty parking area.

We got out and went to the bar, asking if we could stay there.  The very nice lady said yes so we sat down and asked for two glasses of their red.  When Colin tried to pay she said no, no charge and we drank them outside while looking at the excellent view across to the hills.  We could see not one, but two distant peaks with snow still on them.

We bought a nice bottle of red and then moved the campervan to a different part of the lot – we originally were very close to another campervan that had three small children and wanted nothing to do with the noise – two dogs are enough!

After a very nice night we took time to decide where we really wanted to house hunt.  

We took another look online and zeroed in on an area that seemed to have everything we wanted – lower elevation (ie:  warmer in the winter), with several properties with what we consider essentials.  We sent an email to a local agent and drove to the general area.

Taking, as we frequently do, the ‘scenic route’ we went past the area where many of the old ‘spaghetti westerns’ were filmed.  It was hilarious – ‘Mini Hollywood’ which was packed with cars, followed a few miles later by ‘Texas Hollywood/Fort Bravo’.

We arrived in Albox at a decent time and found a very large flat parking area walking distance to the centre of town.  After lunch we took a walk around, and to find the estate agent’s office just so we knew where it was.

There’s a sculpture/display near the centre that bothered me – I believe it depicts a quarreyman and his mule pulling a load up a hill.  The mule doesn’t look very happy and it looked very cruel – I know that’s the case today in many places and situations and it’s horrible.

We found the estate agents office and headed back to the campervan for a light dinner.  There was a certain amount of activity in the large parking area we were in, but nothing that was too loud or lasted too long, thankfully.

The local church bells chime all night long and are very tinny sounding – not lovely and melodical like some.

From Italy to France to Spain – Long Drives and Lots of Rain

Leaving Poggio early we headed to the peage and crossed into France – no border guards or anything so passports and covid certificates put away again.

While we thought it could take up to three days to cross southern France we just kept going.  We made it past Narbonne before stopping for the night at an aire/sosta in the marshy area at the western end of Carmargue, next to a salt-water lagoon.  

There were a lot a flamingoes but we only saw a few of the horses that are famous for running through the surf.

After a quiet night – despite the thunderous surf and storm, we got another early start.  We found a Lidls in Rivesaltes for a few groceries and then a pharmacy in Alenya so Colin could fill one of his prescriptions, then went south along the coast and into Spain.  

It was a very beautiful drive, winding around through lovely towns and up and over.

Crossing was, once again, not a problem – this was the border point between Cerbera, France and Portbou, Spain:

There’s a huge railway station and yards, including a hotel and other stuff in Portbou that the Spanish government spent millions and millions designing and building but somehow missed one crucial thing – the gauge on spanish and french railways are different so it’s a gigantic white elephant.

Taking the peage south we made good time and didn’t leave the main road until around Tarragona, finding a nice little aire/sosta in El Catllar.

There were already several campervans there so we pulled onto the car parking area which was empty.  Right then a local cop drove up and told us it was only for cars so we had to ask one of the other campervans to move over a bit so we could squeeze in.  By morning three more had arrived so the place was really packed – the car park was still empty.

There are quite a few hiking/biking trails marked, and also looks like some Roman ruins with an aqueduct in the distance.

Deciding to get away from the coast we took slightly smaller roads and headed west, travelling through varied terrain and changing vegetation – all beautiful in different ways.

Just before noon we saw our first Camino sign while passing through a town – in Spain for over a day before spotting one!  After a long day of driving we ended up at a lovely aire/sosta on the edge of the village of Benageber.  

It was a bit off the main road that had been very steep with many hairpin turns – as well there’d been a small rockslide that we stopped and cleared a bit so we could get by.

Once again it poured rain all night long, but otherwise was a peaceful place.  We got turned around a bit when leaving, looking for a different road than we came in on.  Eventually finding it we were glad to not be going down the hairpin road as this one was much straighter and less steep.

There are signs now and then warning of short fat cows from Canada – and they don’t mean me!  I know that’s not what the signs mean but they struck me as very funny – I wish I had a sticker of the maple leaf to put on one.  We never saw any cows though, short, fat or otherwise.

After a small diversion near Utiel we got going south and on to the village of Ricota that had another nice, but empty aire/sosta.  

Another night of unending rain, but again a very quiet area so slept well.  It’s a good thing we go to bed early as Henry is a very early riser – 6:00 is a late sleep-in for him, or if we’re very lucky perhaps 6:30.

With not far to go for the day we reached a campground in mid-morning, after passing workmen clearing a mud/rock slide and splashing through several small washouts, then winding our way along very narrow roads through the village of El Berra.  We get to have showers and do laundry – luxury!

Milano-San Remo – La Primavera…from Poggio!

After a nice shower and a bit of breakfast we continued on south.  Since we weren’t in a rush we took the ‘scenic route’ rather than the peage/motorway.

Part of the drive was quite nice but part was a bit drab – narrow winding valleys and not much greenery on the trees yet.  Also the gravel works on the river weren’t that attractive.

Making it to Imperia right at noon we took the coast road west along the Sea until turning off to go up to Poggio.

The car park at the top was pretty full but we managed to find the perfect spot – right near the fence and overlooking the Sea.

It was very windy so we didn’t spend much time outside, although I did take Mo for a short walk after lunch.  We also went to the cafe/bar a little later for a quick drink.

The bar is right at the corner where the riders will come from the crest of the climb, make a sharp left and start the descent to San Remo – we’ve watched the race from near that spot twice now, staying in the same car park overlooking it.

Race day was overcast but somewhat less windy.  There are only a few other campervans in the car park with us but it’s almost full – most of the cars were there yesterday so we assume the owners must live nearby and just leave their cars all the time.

Going early to the cafe we had a nice cappuccino, then a stroll through the town.

A couple of hours later another cappuccino, this time followed by a walk across the road to the wine store – the one with the taps coming out of the walls.  I opted for a ‘bag-in-box’ red that the lady said was dry and a bit rich but very good.

Partway through the morning many of the barriers were already up and the officious fellow with the whistle was already directing people here, there and everywhere.  Many amateur riders have been coming up, and there are definitely more folks around than the last time we were here – the 2020 race that was delayed to August because of the covid.

Since crowds were gathering we walked down to stake our spots fairly early, knowing we’d have an hour and a half or more wait.  I stopped at the very same spot as I did in 2020, and Colin continued down just past the next corner.

I saw a Bianchi bike above me and wondered if it belonged to a former Jumbo team rider as it had Jumbo Visma on the cross-bar.

I made friends with both the ‘official’ guy and the policeman that was nearest me.  Lots of folks were still coming up from places below and they eventually tied a rope across the opening I was sitting at.

The policeman made sure no one got in front of me, and ended up standing just down from my right shoulder.

I kept asking the official guy how long until the racers arrived and he gave me updates – they were way ahead of schedule because of a fierce tailwind.

The first rider passed at 4:37, followed closely by Pogacar, van der Poel, van Aert and Mohoric, with the peloton right behind.

Because it’s a sharp corner the riders lean into it and swing very wide to my side of the road.

By the time the last racer passed about 20 minutes later the race was long over in San Remo.  It was a sprint to the finish with Matej Mohoric coming out on top.

We tried to get into the bar to see any replays but it was so packed we didn’t bother until later when we were almost the only ones there enjoying a refreshing beverage.

Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 6 – Carpegna

Having driven so far the previous evening it was less than an hour to where we wanted to watch stage 6 from.  We passed very close by to San Marino – we could see the city itself perched on it’s hillside just to the north.  Going in error to the centre of the town of Carpegna we were very nicely asked to turn around by a local cop.

Eventually on the race route we only got to the base of the real climb where we were stopped by a barrier – they’re not letting any vehicles up the best part!  There were several campervans already parked on the wide verge but it felt a bit soft to us so we followed the other small road down a short distance – driving over a large patch of solid ice on the way – it’s still very cold up here.

We parked on the side of the road behind three other campervans and had another cup of tea.  I took a couple of short walks – it’s another very beautiful area.  At the foot of the steep part of the climb are several homages to Marco Pantani – he didn’t grow up in Carpegna, but he trained on the climb many times.

A farmer across the road has put up a ‘parking’ sign and over the next few hours his field became packed – at least sixty or more vehicles so I hope he has a good day.

We watched as hundreds of people trecked up the road towards the top – seeing so many fans making the effort was great.  Around 2:45 we grabbed our lawn chairs and cameras and made our own trek, although not to the top.  We stopped just after the barrier as it’s the first of 22 hairpins and the riders should slow at least a bit as they go by.

A breakaway of five, including Alaphilippe arrived at 3:17…

…and the peloton arrived just a minute later with Pogacar in blue right near the front.

The sprinters arrived in a large bunch only eight minutes later, then I decided to cross the road to shoot the second time around.

A half hour after the first arrival they made their second pass – this time a slightly larger breakaway, including, of course, Pogacar.

It took over twenty minutes for the last rider to pass us, and one of them dropped his chain rounding the corner – he was not happy!  Luckily he managed to get it back on, and with a push from a spectator got back going up the hill.

I must say a word about some of the ‘fans’ – I find many of them very disrespectful.  The riders are on the last few miles of a very long race, and the hundreds of spectators that had taken the time and energy to walk to the top of the climb were coming down in droves as the later riders were still coming up.

At one point the people walking down were taking up the entire road as riders were trying to dodge between them.  I shouted and swore a couple of times at the f’ing idiots, especially when they walked right in front of me when I was trying to get a shot.  I’ve now been to dozens and dozens of races, and can hardly remember a time when I haven’t stayed where I was and clapped and cheered until the very last rider had passed – just wish more people showed more respect.

Back at the campervan we had a little surprise, and I couldn’t stop laughing.  Henry had managed to drag the garbage bag out of it’s door-side container and had strewn the contents all over the floor – he’d chewed the crap out of the lid and yanked it off, then grabbed the bag and pulled until it came up and out.  And we had no doubt it was Henry and not Mo that did it, although she may have egged him on from her perch on the bench.

We made the drive back to Papiano in time to shower and head down to the bar where Antonio was having another festa.  John and Janet were just about to leave but we did have a quick chat.  Then we went inside for one drink while talking with Afka and Janpietro before getting our pork-in-a-bun to take home.

Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 5 – Monte Urano

Having spent another quiet night in the church parking area we left early in the morning to find a spot to watch stage 5 from.  It wasn’t too far – just back to the coastal peage and north a bit then west near Fermo.

Along the way we stopped at an Autogrill where they had full campervan facilities such as water, etc. which was very convenient.  Also nice clean washrooms and, of course, delicious cappuccino.

We chose our spot in a nice wide flat area at the edge of Monte Urano just near the top of one of the three climbs of the day.  There was a great view of a nearby town on the top of the next hill.

The farmer whose garage we’re in front of had to move his tractor, but was ok with us being there – he maneuvered past us with no problem.  After a nice lunch of spaghetti in cream sauce with salmon we waited a few hours for the race.

A truck pulled up at one point and erected small banners – we’re at the ‘500 meters to go’ to the top of the climb mark.  One other campervan joined us and wanted us to move a bit so they could pull in but we didn’t want to block the farmer’s access to his own garage.  No problem, though, as they just backed in behind us and were happy enough.

I lay down for a half hour rest and when I got up we had many new neighbours.  In addition to the other campervan there were now dozens of cars, including several team cars with folks preparing bidons, etc. for their riders.

At the house across the road from us was a lab that seemed quite excited by all of the extra people – he barked from time to time but not in an aggressive way – more like he wished someone would come over and pat him on the head.

Just ahead of the predicted schedule a breakaway of 12 or so riders arrived at 3:44, with the peloton in one large bunch 3 or 4 minutes back.

Even though we’re on a climb they passed at a very high speed and were gone in no time.

Because we hadn’t put the flags up we were able to leave almost as soon as the race had passed.  Heading again for the coast peage we drove north for a couple of hours, then west almost to San Marino.  We stopped before dark and pulled into a large parking area at the edge of a town along the road – not sure exactly which town but we’d made good progress towards our chosen area for stage 6.

Tirreno Adriatico stage 4 – Camera

Another chilly night, and having to ration water.  We spent a very frustrating few hours trying to find the nearest campervan dump and went up and down and around and around following signs – no dump, although we did see a bit of the local sites.

We finally got help from a couple of folks at an aire – an aire (or Sosta as they call them here) without water or dump facilities.  I think the couple work for the municipal recycling company, and they looked up on their phone and gave very clear directions on how to find the nearest place.

Finally we were able to empty water (etc. !) and take on water.  We then headed to a campervan place not far from Pisa to have the heating checked out so we don’t keep losing water at night.  The fellow said he’d be out in five minutes to have a look, but as soon as we returned to the campervan and did a final check the heating worked!  We did wait about fifteen minutes for the guy to come have a look over, but when he didn’t appear we left, and relocated a bit down the road to have lunch.

Refreshed, and with a bit of a drive ahead we were on our way again – southeast towards the Adriatic coast, going right past Perugia – so close to home, but we kept going on our way.

With night closing in we stopped at the town of Caldarola, in a very nice parking area just off the motorway.  It was nice and quiet and once again (becoming a habit!) had another early night.  I did read for a bit – Julia Child’s book ‘My Life in France’ – my sister gave it to me a few months ago and I’m really enjoying it.  And having the heat working meant no more freezing in the morning, or losing the water, and also – I get to do dishes with hot water – what a treat!

Another early start and we were on our way via the motorway/peage south towards the small town of Bellante, near Teramo.  After doing a loop of the next day’s race route we settled on a churchyard near the outskirts of the even smaller town of Camera.

It’s a quite beautiful area with small villages on every hillside, and overlooked by large mountains topped with snow.

We had a lovely roast chicken for lunch, with plenty left over for a cold meal as well as soup, which is after all, the best part of roasting a chicken.

A short walk down a nearby lane introduced us to many of the local dogs, and a couple of cats.

Also on the next hill a local flock of sheep…or should it be a flock of local sheep?

The morning of stage 4 was again beautiful and sunny, although the breeze was a bit chilly.

The race passed our spot twice, and in the first pass there was one leader, followed within a minute by a small chase group, then another small group containing Evenepoel, Pogacar and Ganna just behind.

The sprinters, including Cavendish, were another five minutes back.

Right on the predicted time schedule the race reappeared 29 minutes later, still with the lone breakaway rider but with the peloton back together and within sight of him.

We read later that Pogacar had won again, and in very convincing fashion too.

To Italy and Strade Bianche

Flights over weren’t too bad and passing security in Munich wasn’t a problem.  Both at my initial checkin at home and the guy at Munich airport were initially a little perplexed by my having two covid vaccine certificates – one from home last May and the other from France/EU in September.  In the end, perhaps because I had a swab test prior to leaving home it was all ok.

The only slight hitch was after I’d arrived in Rome as I waited an hour and a half for Colin to pick me up – I was starting to wonder if all was ok when I checked my ipad and saw I’d missed a facetime call from him.

Apparently I’d arrived at a different terminal than any of my previous trips – I was waiting outside terminal 1 while Colin was parked outside terminal 3.  The difference, I believe, is because my final flight from Munich was on Air Dolomitie, rather than Lufthansa, thus a different terminal.  In any case we finally connected and I was transported to Papiano.

The next morning we drove up to Pila, where our hair cutter now is – we found his new place no problem and both got cuts.  His space is brand new and looks very nice – we hope he does well.  Pila is larger than I expected, and looks like a lovely and prosperous town.

We met Janet and John in the bar later in the afternoon for a quick drink – so nice to see them again and get caught up.  The scaffolding has come down on both the bell tower and the apartment building below us.  For some reason the bell in the tower isn’t ringing yet, and the scaffolding has now been moved to the house right next to us.  We’re kind of happy we’re not going to be around while the rest of the construction is happening.

We got going early enough on Friday morning to stop for a quick cappuccino at the bar before hitting the road towards Siena.  We stopped at the same spot we’d watched the Strade Bianche from in 2020 – although that year it was held in August rather than early March because of the covid.

This time rather than sweltering in the heat we were near freezing.  We lost the water in the early morning because of the cold so had to do dishes, etc. with our bottled water.

No matter – we were in a beautiful place and awaiting our first race of the year – nothing to complain about.

Race day was mostly sunny, but very windy and cold.  I put on a double layer of pants, merino wool sweater, Icelandic wool hat, gloves – the whole shebang.  

We had a delicious chicken stir-fry with mushrooms and green beans for lunch while we waited for the race to arrive.

Several fans congregated at the side of our campervan as it cut the wind for them – I did the same until we saw the helis in the near distance and I finally relocated just a bit down the hill.

We had heard on the live feed that there had been some crashes but Alaphilippe and Pogacar were both at the front of the first bunch to pass.

We watched the end of the race on Colin’s phone – Pogacar won in very convincing fashion – he’s so amazing!

Shortly after the race had passed we returned to Asciano and the nice aire they have.  We partially filled up with water and had a very early night.  Once again it got very cold and we lost all of the water in the early morning.

Back to the Pap

Since returning to Papiano we’ve had a pretty quiet time.  We went on a bike ride a few days after getting here, but it’s the last one we’ll do together as Colin’s road bike – with the skinny tires – doesn’t do well at all on the terrible roads.

I’ve gone on several solo rides to some of my favourite places – Olmeto, Spina, Compignano, Mercatello, etc.  The weather’s been generally nice and sunny, but at times the wind has been rather fierce.

I’ve also gone a little further up the road to the east and into the hills that way – as far as the small town of Castelleone that I haven’t been to before.

There was a festa at the bar a few days after we arrived and it was very well attended.  We couldn’t believe how much food there was – 4 or 5 courses, including pasta al ragu, and more than one meat dish.  It was so nice to see everyone again, and we had some good conversation with John and Janet, as well as Afka (the Dutch lady).

Last Friday we finally took a short drive to Spello where we had lunch.

It’s a lovely little town with very scenic lanes, lots of artisanal shops, and many restaurants to choose from.

It looks like it might be a bit touristy at another time of year but wasn’t too bad at the end of October.

There is still work being done on both the bell tower and the ‘apartment’ building below us.  They’ve begun removing the scaffolding from the bell tower but it isn’t likely to be in use again until near Christmas.  The apartment will take a lot longer – the government is spending almost 1 million euros to fix the damage from the 2016 earthquake, and they’ve completely gutted it.

I’ve been practising making pies – not dessert ones, but meat ones.  Colin had seen a recipe in a magazine when we were still in France and the first one I tried was steak and mushroom.  It turned out pretty well, so I moved on to chicken pie – I roasted a whole chicken first, then peeled the meat off and made the pie – another success.  The last experiment was salmon and leek – I’m rather pleased with the results!

There was another festa at the bar this past Sunday – Monday was a holiday here so no problem to have a slightly late evening.  This one was more low-key, with pork buns rather than a sit-down dinner, but again nice to mingle with the locals.

I’ve spent hours in the last few days trying to sort out paperwork, etc for my journey home.  Air Canada sent some info on Friday and since then I’ve been very busy.  First I had to schedule a ‘molecular covid test’, which I had this morning.  It was the one involving a very long swab poked way up the nose, although I must say it wasn’t quite as bad as the one I had in France in the summer.

Then I had to fill out a very long thing online for entry to Canada and it failed time after time.  I finally gave up today and downloaded an app that actually worked.  Hopefully they’ll let me pass with no problem – I would hate to be stuck in Toronto for 14 days!

We had our neighbour Angelo over for lunch today – he’s a very nice person and we had a lovely visit.  Chairman Meow is his cat…

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.