Now that we’ve given up spontaneous travelling and plan our itinerary practically down to the last detail, we spend a lot of time pouring over guide books. Or rather, Relationnel does, because I do the bookings (much more productive in English because you have a greater choice) and then once the holiday has begun, I do the talking because Relationnel’s capacity in this respect is somewhat limited. He keeps reading the guide books. And we both write up our (French) travel diary over our daily apéritif, one of the best moments of the day!
Once I had convinced him into going to Croatia and Slovenia, we bought an enormous map of Europe to determine how to get there and back by car. There was no really obvious route, so in the end, we decided to go across Italy and take the ferry at Ancona on the Adriatic Coast across to Split in Croatia then come back overland via Germany. The next step was to see how we would divide up our 28 days. We have discovered that, on the whole, it’s very tiring to change places too often so we usually alternate 2 and 3-day stays. We also try to keep the journey time to a maximum of 3 hours after a 2-night stay and 5 hours after a 3-night stay. Relationnel does most of the driving.
The most important booking was the ferry, because that would determine everything else. Another thing we like to do is to start the trip with 3 days somewhere in France where we can wind down and get plenty of rest and exercise before moving onto the more serious stuff. Annecy looked like a good choice, after an overnight stay in Dijon to see family. The photos of the lake in our cycling book looked very enticing. As we’d never been to Milan, we decided that would be our second stop for 2 nights before going to Ancona.
So I found a B&B about a half an hour from Annecy at a short distance from Thones. It was a cosy little wooden chalet, the owners were very friendly and helpful, we had a little kitchen to cook meals in if we wanted to and a small dining room to eat them in. There was free WIFI and the breakfast was excellent. The B&B is up on top of a hill with some lovely forest walks and views. Unfortunately, despite the fact it was mid-July the weather was cold and rainy and we were somewhat restricted in our cycling excursions as a result. But I can definitely recommend both the area and the accommodation. We had visited Annecy before, but we enjoyed going back again.
We then took the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy. A word of warning – make sure you get there early – not like us – or you’ll find yourself in a long queue, particularly in the summer. It took us an hour of stopping and starting before we were finally able to take the extravagantly expensive 11.6 km long tunnel (38 euros one way, 49 return). It was 10°C when we left Thones and 31°C when we came out the other side of the tunnel. A rude shock!
We looked for somewhere to picnic. I personally think the food on the Italian motorways is awful. They have a funny system for buying things as well. First, you have to line up at a cash desk to pay for what you want to eat and drink, then you take your tickets over to the bar and line up again. You obviously have to know exactly what you want (and know how to say it, which is worse) or someone else will push in front of you. That’s why I had cleverly packed a picnic. They also have toilets with an automatic chain which I haven’t quite mastered yet. The cappuccino‘s good!
Just as we came out of Aosta, which we’ve visited several times in the past and is definitely worth a detour, I saw a beautiful castle high up on the hill on the left and decided we’d have lunch there. We followed the signs to Castello de la Sarre and parked at the bottom. We staggered out in the heat, planting our hats firmly on our heads and walked up the path, oohing and aahing at the view on the way up. We found a lovely shady spot at one end with the most spectacular panorama in front of us. We practically had the place to ourselves.
We left reluctantly, but Milan and further adventures were awaiting us!Patricia et Rémi, Chalet Les Lupins, La Clossette Glapigny, F – 74230 THONES
Tel: +33 (0) 450 63 19 96, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.francealpes.com (65 curos / night for 2)
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