October 26 – Thursday

Had a nice shower followed by a complimentary breakfast downstairs. There was no butter out so I used orange jam on the bread with the ham – if it rhymes it must mean they go together (ha ha).

Left for Papiano at 10:00 so Colin could meet the real estate agent and see the inside of the house. We got there a bit early so went into Poppy Bar for a cappuccino (and it was delicious). Colin met the agent in the main square – she was driving a different car than she’d said but he knew who she was right away anyway.

F835F1F4-1CEC-454F-BD01-9283ABEDEC1BWe followed her up the winding road to the parking area then walked the rest of the way to the house. It was even better inside than outside – tile on the main floor with nice counter-tops and a washing machine, really great fireplace too. The windows seem much larger from the inside than they did from the outside.

The bathroom was fully tiled and seemed fairly new, and the two bedrooms that were upstairs were lovely. Again no carpet, but wood laminate, and a couple of the windows had decent views. There’s a nice little terrace out on the side – space enough for a table and chairs and a couple of planters – perfect for sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee or perhaps a glass of wine.

641FE467-C15C-4FE5-BFB3-B8C82E1C5E83I took a bunch of photos so Colin can show Neil the general state of the house and what work might need to be done if the purchase is completed.

I left with the doggies so Colin could talk numbers with Danila and went back down to the main square for a glass. Colin arrived awhile later and while he was inside the bar a small cat tried to sneak by our table – but of course not much gets by the ever-alert little ones. They took off so quickly they almost knocked the table over – I had their leash wrapped around my leg but when I lunged to grab the glass-topped table and glasses the leash slipped off me and away they went after the poor cat at full speed and volume.

I saved the table and glasses, as well as my camera, and took off after them – running down the middle of the road and calling them, waving my arms like a madwoman at an oncoming car while the dogs completely ignored me. The cat made a dash thru some garbage cans and up the side of a hill while the dogs got caught up on the cans – being that they were still tethered together. I finally caught up to them and grabbed the leash – a car that had been behind me as I made my mad dash after them stopped and had a good laugh at me as I walked the doggies back up the street to the bar.

In the meantime Colin had come out of the bar and wondered where we had gone. My heart was racing and I was shaking, but the doggies were just fine, if a bit disappointed.

209B1245-46DA-443F-9BEC-B597D931DF02We went back up to the house so I could take some photos of the outside, which needs a little plaster-patching at the bottom, then left the village. It was still early in the afternoon and we weren’t ready to go back to the hotel, so we went for a drive over the hill towards Bevagna.

I had always wished to return to Pian di Boccio, the first campground I stayed at (for 10 days!) and where I had met Colin in May, and we had talked about popping in for a visit. The GPS guided us up a small side road, and I said that the road looked familiar and I thought I’d ridden on it before, and then lo-and-behold we were beside the lower part of the campground. We pulled in and the gate-arm was down so I got out and went onto the terrace and there at a table was Maeke with her kids, and grandpa Vincenzo nearby.
She recognized me right away and got Luisa on the phone to come say hi. The two little boys opened up the gate so Colin could drive in and we sat on the terrace and had a really nice visit. Luisa made tea and served us a local dessert roll with fruit in it that a friend had made for her. It was so good to see them and they were so friendly and seemed happy to see us and hear what we’d been up to, and that I hope to come back next year – maybe I’ll see them again! And there was good news about Maeke’s husband (Luisa’s brother) – his leg is on the mend and he just needs a bit more physio – at least he’s not going to lose it, which was a possibility back in May.

After our visit we drove as far as Bevagna, then turned around and made our way back to the hotel.

262C4339-3003-463B-B169-AD02FAD10C1EHad a nice salad for dinner in the room, and actually found an english-speaking program to watch out of the 187 channels – cheerleaders vs couch-potatoes on a silly obstacle course.


October 25 – Wednesday

Ate a small breakfast in the room, then left the Hotel Brianza around 9:00. Stopped for coffee at an ‘AutoGrill’ along the motorway, then continued on southeast until we turned onto another highway heading southwest thru the mountains. Found out by reading the local news that the smoke we saw yesterday near Susa was from a new forest fire in the valley and many people have already been evacuated – I hope they get control of it.

A760576B-ACDF-4448-9336-35668DC79146After a bit Colin mentioned that the area looked familiar and we wondered if it was the same highway that we’d taken north when we left Pian di Boccio back in May. I looked up the photos I’d taken that day and thought it could be the same route, then saw one I’d taken of a tunnel and the accompanying sign – all of the tunnels have names and the sign also shows how long they are. The photo I was looking at was of the Quarto tunnel and it was 2600 metres long. No sooner had I said that than we came upon that very tunnel – same sign, but from the other direction – we were on the same highway.

B54C0AA0-99F4-40C0-A068-03058DA8914AThey were doing some road-work so we had to take a small diversion thru the town of Bagno di Romagna, which was very pretty. It was where the Giro started the day after we’d seen the ITT on May 17, and there were still pink ribbons and decorations up all over the place. When the Giro comes thru a place they celebrate it for a long time!

We passed by Perugia and kept going south to Marsciano, where we stopped for a bit of a walkabout then sat down for a drink and some pizza – which was very good, with a nice thin crust and delicious cheese.

Next we drove to the village of San Venanzo where Colin had pre-booked the hotel – it was all locked up and no one answered the bell, so we decided to go to Papiano and see the house he was interested in.

We parked the car and walked up a couple of roads but they weren’t the right ones. We asked a lady that was sitting outside her house if she knew where Linda the english woman lived – she said oh yes – in the rose coloured house with the green shutters – you go back down to the square and up the hill on the other side.

We followed her directions and found the house – up a hill with fairly steep small winding roads for cars and lot of stairs for walking. We had a look around the outside – it’s on one end of a block of 4 or 5 connected houses. There’s a church bell-tower very close by and I’m trying to learn to like the bells. This one is on time (not 3 minutes late, like some) and tolls the hour with one bell and has a second chime with another bell with a different tone if it’s 15, 30 or 45 minutes after the hour.

Back down in the square we had a drink (coffee for Colin, red wine – surprise surprise – for me). Took a different road back to Marsciano, then San Venanzo, where the hotel was now open. Colin confirmed with the manager that the room had two beds, and he said no, it was one large bed but if we gave him 10 minutes he would re-make it. He did show us the room – more like a suite – and we went for a walk while he re-made the bed.

We are almost at the top of a hill and there’s a large park that used to be the grounds of a count’s chateau, which is still there. There are several art-works and sculptures in the park and we walked around a bit before going back to the hotel.

The one large bed was now made into two – with about 1 1/2 inches between them, but with separate bedding so all was good. Again there was a small fridge so we stowed the food from the cooler (that was no longer cool) and had a light dinner.

Early night.

October 24 – Tuesday

Slept really well up in my bunk, and woke to a beautiful sunny day. Had a large breakfast in the hotel’s ‘restaurant’ and hit the highway before 10:00. This day’s drive is about the same distance as yesterday’s but will take a few hours less to cover as we’re going on toll-motorways rather than lesser highways.

We went through the longest tunnel yet – the Tunnel de Frejus – 13 km and not cheap! When we came out the other side we were in Italy. Stopped at a rest-stop and had lunch – I had spaghetti carbonara and it was fairly good – the cheese on top was excellent.

As we drove east we saw smoke billowing into the air several miles ahead somewhere around Susa – it was so thick by the time we got there we could barely see the mountains, and the smell of fire was very strong.

BAA241A9-8B4F-424A-BAFC-0A3E12A0790EWe continued east, skirting Torino and went east a little north of Alessandria and on to Piacenza where we veered more southeast past Parma, then around Modena to our destination of Calderara di Reno, just a few km northwest of Bologna.

A0C5619E-7A28-428E-AFD7-D35A9997EDEAWe checked in to the hotel, that luckily had a fridge for the food we’d brought, then went for a little drive northwest. Back at the hotel we had a bite to eat and didn’t stay up late.4C908309-22EC-4EC8-8B77-78586891EFB1


October 23 – Monday

Got all packed up and ready yesterday so I wouldn’t be rushed to go this morning. We managed to get on the road by 8:45 under a grey, but not raining sky.

774E7569-4A72-4248-864E-346A57716F76The drive was long, but much easier (for Colin) in the BMW instead of the campervan. We headed east (north of Limoges), skirted around Bellac, then past Gueret before stopping for a coffee at Montlucon.

121B5D79-3519-4D2E-BC61-8C2F439033A8Next we went to Bourge en Bresse where we stopped mid-afternoon for another coffee. We passed beautiful fields and farms and went thru many lovely villages.

At one point Colin had mentioned that we might see some deer around the area, and literally just around the next bend we looked to our left and saw a whole field of them! Not kidding – dozens of deer munching grass right there – didn’t see them anywhere else but only in that one field.

3B5980F4-283F-4B01-9394-CDF93DC63B6BB337B8B8-2FBD-4C75-99FB-ED2E9CDE9F7AThe ‘tunnel de chat’ that goes through the mountains to the Lac de Bourget was closed for maintenance so all traffic was diverted over the very steep, narrow and twisting old road over the Col de Chat. Traffic was very heavy and there were several asshole-drivers coming toward us that tried to cut the corners and thus crept into our lane – there wasn’t room for that kind of crap and I was very impressed by the restraint Colin showed – I would have been blaring the horn full blast at some of them.

The drive down the other side afforded some beautiful vistas of the lake and the valley below with the Alps in the distance, but I didn’t get any good photos as there were always trees in the way or we were manoeuvring around another hairpin turn.

We found the town of Chambery alright but the GPS didn’t have the address of the motel in her database so we drove around a bit – almost thru the centre of the town, which looked ok but it was rush hour and the traffic was pretty heavy. We stopped at a Dominos Pizza (yes – they have them here too – it isn’t just McDonald’s everywhere) to ask for directions. The guy gave Colin very good directions (in French) and we had no problem finding our way to the motel.

I must say – it was pretty small, but clean enough. There was a double bed for Colin and the two doggies, and a single bunk-bed for me above them. The bathroom was so small one person could barely turn around in it, but it had everything you need, and there was a tv in the ‘main’ room but it didn’t work. It’s getting chillier as we approach the Alps.



October 21 – Saturday

Didn’t get much sleep – the crossing was rougher than when we came over but not as bad as I’d expected considering the storm that was forecast. We got a free breakfast because of the 3-hour delay in leaving. You get tokens for coffee or tea water and serve yourself from one of two machines. One machine had a short line-up so I went to the other that only had one fellow at it. He filled one cup, then another, then another – he was on his fifth one when the machine paused for a moment to re-heat and another fellow came up and gave the first guy 10 or 12 more tokens! I looked at him and said ‘you’re not serious!!’ He asked (with a heavy french accent) what I wanted and I told him just some hot water for tea so when the machine had restarted and he got his next hot drink he let me in so I could get my hot water.

We’d just finished eating when the ferry pulled into Dieppe around 6:45 (France time). It was still dark out, of course, so I still didn’t get a really good view of the place.

The drive home seemed very long, although the countryside was very pretty. I’m glad I wasn’t driving because I almost fell asleep several times with my head on the table in front of me. We stopped at Alencon for a very quick break – I was thinking of getting a pizza-type thing but couldn’t stand the thought of eating more white flour so settled for an iced-latte and some cut fresh veggies in the campervan.

83FF84F0-D086-41AE-B33F-56E33DAF03E8We arrived back at Mansle just before 3:00 – a very long and tiring trip. Despite being so tired I didn’t want to have a nap in case I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night then not be able to get back to sleep, so I had a nice greek salad, then a shower to freshen up and revive myself.


October 20 – Friday

Got up fairly early so I’d have lots of time to pack. The weather was a little better, but I decided not to go for a ride – took the pedals off the bike so I can take them with me.

The maintenance fellow came over in the late morning to trim up the bushes and get the garden ready for the winter. He did some pretty severe trimming, but I know it’ll come back even better in the spring. Took a couple of ‘after’ photos to compare with the ‘before’ ones I took in the summer.

Little Benny is a bit nervous – he knows something’s happening and is sticking like glue to Colin to make sure he doesn’t get forgotten or left behind.

Got all packed up, had a quick lunch and were on the highway south by 3:00. The roads were really busy – between the road-work being done in places, rush hour, and extra Friday traffic because next week is a school holiday it was just crawling in some places.

Even so we made it to the ferry terminal at Newhaven in plenty of time and parked in the McDonald’s parking lot to make use of their WC and free wi-fi. Colin checked with the ferry terminal and found out that the 11 pm ferry was delayed by 3 hours due to rough seas and heavy winds.

Didn’t get on the way until almost 2 am – got a couple of the comfy lounge chairs and tried to get a bit of sleep.

October 19 – Thursday

Pretty quiet few days – took some nice long walks with doggies on Tuesday and Wednesday and one short ride around the local trails, but didn’t do much else.

I wanted to go for a final canal ride today but it drizzled or poured rain all day long. Even the doggies didn’t want to go out – I could barely get little Benny out the door and they both dug their heels in and refused to go further than about 50 yards. They’re so small and don’t have long fur so they get chilly pretty quick if it’s wet out, so back we went to the nice warm and dry house.

Colin had taken the train back up to Birmingham again to fetch the campervan – they hadn’t been able to locate any short in the electric so we’re just going to have to hope that it’s finished blowing fuses.

Colin took me out to the pub for dinner – I had the grilled chicken with mushrooms and asiago, and it was pretty tasty. Had an early night as we’re going to be traveling a lot in the next two days.