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|