Friday, 3 September 2010

1250km's in two days

Seeing as we were going 1250KM’s we decided that we would split the travel into two days.  Once day to get to Switzerland, and one to cross Switzerland and get to Camogli; meaning that we could leave at a normal hour of the day instead of getting up at a stupid time of the morning we could get up and leave at leisure. And as we were travelling on a Sunday we thought that the roads would be easier.  Hahahahahahaha…

Holland was a breeze; we managed to get to the border with no issues at all.  Then came Germany.  Big Smile.  Really Big Smile. In Germany you can put your foot down and see where the needle stops moving (last trip to Venice that was at 225kmph – and then it broke down).  But there was a huge amount of traffic and I whilst I love speed, it does have to be a little safe – and when it’s busy you do pretty much Dutch motorway speeds in order to maintain that.  There were a few places where it cleared out and I could set the cruise control at 180 to keep up with the other traffic, but most of the time it was too busy to really enjoy it.  In fact it was really stressful, not a good first day of a vacation.  Mrs Stace took over after a few hours and had as much fun as me with the traffic.  Especially when the big boys in the S class Audi’s, BMW M class and AMG Merc’s started to bully the other traffic (not us so much, but they were doing a good 50+ kmph more than the rest of the heavy traffic, tailgating and weaving behind cars to try and intimidate them into moving – when someone was in their way).  Considering how good the German drivers were two years ago I was shocked at how bad it was that day – quality of driving was just nonexistent.

With road works and traffic we were on the road for a long time.  After a while we gave up trying to get to Basel with enough time to eat and stopped on the motorway to get a Burger King meal to keep us going.

About an hour later we arrived in Switzerland and found the hotel (difficult as it was too new for the Satnav to find – even though we brought new maps before we left) and checked in.  The hotel was great, a 3 star business hotel that was, as I said, brand new.  The room was pristine (or so we thought) with an amazing bathroom made out of frosted glass and a huge, comfortable bed.  Oh, they also had BBC – good to relax to when you’ve been on the road for 11 hours.

The next morning we got up, had a nice breakfast and left for the final part of the journey.  On getting up though we noticed that the curtains had a patch of blood on them in the folds.  Not the nicest thing to find.

On the road again we got lost getting onto the motorway (there were so many corners leading up to the motorway, and after getting on that the Satnav could not keep up with the ‘Turn left, then stay right, then turn left etc’ and the road signs didn’t help at all.

The Swiss motorways were great, almost empty, with polite drivers and it was a really enjoyable journey from the hotel to the border.  About half way you come to a famous Swiss tunnel.  The Gotthard Road Tunnel is very impressive.  You have a big lead up to it, they only allow a certain amount of traffic in at any time, limiting the amount of lorries more than cars, and you realise the length of the tunnel when you see the first KM marker (16 to go IIRC).  You leave a very German Switzerland behind, complete with German language road signs and picture book Swiss cottages and arrive in Italian Switzerland, with Italian signs and very Italian building styles on the other side.

Switzerland felt really quick, and before we knew it we were driving through the border and onto Italian roads.  Also very empty, though the quality of the tunnels was immediately visible – pristine white tunnels in Switzerland, dirty tunnels in Italy.  After driving for an hour or so we stopped to give the car another drink, and get some lunch.

First test of the vacation (Mrs Stace can speak German so there was no problem in Basel).  We had no idea how to order, what to order, how Italians queue etc.  Eventually I got served, tried my hardest to pronounce the name of the hot sandwich we eventually decided we wanted and ordered my first Italian cappuccino.  I must have got it wrong, but can’t fault the service.  Even though it was very busy the guy (manager I think from the way he flitted between serving places) did his best to understand what I wanted in broken English on his side and poor Italian on mine.  He even managed an up-sell of fresh fruit salad into the order ;p  the food was great, the coffee fantastic.

On the road again the satnav gave an ominous warning.  4 hours of queuing traffic due to an accident in a tunnel near Genoa.  We took its advice on a reroute.  With the same warning 5 minutes later.  So we took another reroute.  Mistake.  After coming down the mountain pass (80kmph section of motorway that curves around the mountain in a wonderful way) we left the motorway and went through the centre of Genoa, I hate driving in Italian cities and this was no exception.  I kept getting ’I’m glad you’re doing this and not me’ from Mrs Stace and getting a little anxious we finally wound our way through to the motorway again.  It was nice to see the town, though with a little less stress next time...

Getting back onto the motorway was also a bit disconcerting.  You got to see the concrete pillars holding up the bridges.  Very high bridges they are too.  You get to see the steel reinforcement rusting and sticking out of the concrete as well.  Gulp.

A quick blast down the last section, some more twisting local roads and we were at the hotel.  A struggle to find a parking space – before we found that you just give the keys to the valet parking guy to fit it in somewhere, checking in and watching someone else carry our luggage and we were in.  Once we had unpacked we headed sown to the bar and had a nice drink watching the sea.  We’d got there :) 

Views from the bar terrace at the Camogli hotel

The Swiss Hotel Room


  1. Love the pictures.
    That picture showing the hotels, sea and steet lights is so beautiful. I wish I was there.

  2. I love Italy, I lived there for a year and I sooooo miss the food.

    I like travelling, for me it's an enjoyable part of the holiday so I envy your 1250 km drive :-)

    Rachel X

  3. I could never drive 180 KPH. I would be an abolute nervous wreck! 120 KPH is the fastest I ever, and usually more like 105.

    The pictures of Italy are beautiful. I spent a week in Lignano on the Adriatic side a very long time ago, and loved it. I was living in Germany with my parents at the time, and we drove down through Austria to get there. Beautiful country, but I might as well have been deaf and dumb, because I couldn't understand a word anyone said! So glad you had a god time.

    Melissa XX

  4. I've probably hit around 130 km/h at most. The Subaru is good, but it's no Audi or Mercedes or Beamer! And only in deserted stretches of Idaho and Utah. Hard to imagine doing 180 km/h on an actual highway with traffic.

    That middle photo is wonderful! Glad you didn't have too many adventures getting there.

  5. Lisa: Thanks I tried to get the shots all week, but it was always too dark when we got back from eating. It was beautiful to look across the bay at night. Very peaceful and relaxing.

    Rachel: You lived there for a year? I'm jealous!

    The driving there was supposed to be fun (the driving back was) but the traffic was just too much. ..

    Melissa: Providing you choose to do it at the same time as eveyone else it feels amazingly slow. Espcially in a modern car - the Spitfire feels faster at much lower speeds.

    I we adore Italy. In fact except for going to the UK to visit my folks we have not been anywhere else for a real vacation :)


  6. Sorry Vernica I guess we posted at about the same time :)

    We had all the adventures we wanted on the previous trip when the engine started making strange (and expensive noises) after that it wouldn't do more than 130, and we ended up having a 17 hour drive home. That wasn't fun...

    130 in Holland would probably put you in about the normal traffic (maybe a little slower... doing 120 everyone passes me). In France 130 is much slower than most of the other traffic...


  7. Fascinating! I just loved this post because I just love to travel. I have never been to mainland Europe.

    The highest speed limit - as far as I know - in the States is 75 MPH but California is limited to 70 MPH (113 KmPH). One can generally exceed the speed limit by about 10 MPH (that makes it 129 KmPH). Driving in a foreign country, other than Canada, which is pretty much just like the US (unless you drive in Quebec) just terrifies me.

    Used to be that there was no speed limit in the state of Nevada because of the long, straight roads in the desert. No longer the case.

    Loved the pictures and I'd love to have someone drive me through that tunnel!

    Calie xxx

  8. California sounds similar to the UK with the speed limit.

    I was scared of driving in Holland the first time I did it - but it turned out to be quite simple. Driving a left hand drive car on the other hand was really hard for the first week or so. Your eyes tell you that there is a car on one side, your head is telling you that there is a car on the other side and you end up driving with a cars width on either side of you to make sure that you don't remove the door mirrors on other cars or trees :)

    After a decade of doing it it's not too bad though.

    I love long exposure night shots - I think that you get a really warm shot that is sometimes missing from a daylight or flash picture.