Sunday, 2nd July, 2017
A late morning. Didn’t get up until 8.00 am although that was Central European Time and equivalent to our normal 7.00 am. We drank orange juice followed by tea followed by coffee and downloaded the Sunday Times on each iPad then settled in to watch Andrew Marr. I hope you saw that duplicitous, oleaginous, obnoxious BASTARD Gove. He is the exemplar of the worst in politics.
At 11.00 am (CET), we checked out of our hotel and drove down to Cite Europe to fill our car’s fridge with nice things to eat for our meal later on. It is the easiest way to control our food intake rather than accept a restaurant menu. We bought prawns, humous with olives, taramasalata, tomatoes and cucumber.
We drove on down an empty and beautiful A26 motorway to Reims. The Best Western Hotel de la Paix is a pleasant stop that we have made a number of times. It has a gym, an indoor pool and reasonable if functional rooms. It is in the centre of the city but has a basement carpark which is secure and is one of our requirements when searching city hotels. I follow the speed limits in Europe, setting cruise control almost all the time. Although we had a couple of stops for coffee, we still arrived by 2.30 pm which was ‘Check-in’ time. Our room is pleasant and, after unpacking, we walk round the city centre – past the cathedral, the opera house and a multitude of restaurants – until we have the drive out of our legs.
Now we can read the papers, watch the BBC News and have some food. Tomorrow, we set off for Dijon where we will spend a couple of days.
Monday, 3rd July, 2017
Woke at 7.00 am (CET) to listen to BBC Today programme on Radio 4 at 6.00 am (BST). Orange juice, tea and coffee with a banana and we went out for a walk in Reims to start our day. By 11.00 am, we were packed up and checking out. We put our bags in the car and gingerly manoeuvred out of the underground carpark and on to the pedestrianised street/road. The day was fine, sunny and warm – 22C/70F – as we entered the A26 motorway heading for Dijon.
If you’ve ever done this sort of drive, you will know that the motorway is in fabulous condition and there are very few motorists on it. The fields stretch for miles/kilometres in an uninterrupted patchwork quilt of greens, yellows and browns. Actually, there were quite a few whites as the garlic was flowering but the biggest delight is the wide expanse of sunflowers. What you don’t see a great deal of is cattle or sheep. We were looking, in vain, for fields of mustard.
A couple of drinks/toilet stops as the temperature climbed to 25C/77F and we were soon on the outskirts of Dijon. Our hotel is a Holiday Inn at Toison d’or which is outside the centre but with a handy tram stop nearby. It is huge and delightful. What we have learnt since arriving here is that Dijon Mustard is not an official designation and little of it originates in Dijon. Most of it, including this popular Maille brand, comes from Canada.
We are here for two nights so we will take the tram to the centre of Dijon tomorrow morning and spend the day there. We are told there is plenty to see and the day will be hot and sunny. If we manage to catch the right tram back and get off at the correct stop, I will report back on our experience. If we don’t, send out a search party! We’ve got to be in Lyon on Wednesday.
Tuesday 4th July, 2017
Woke up to a gorgeous morning which led to a really enjoyable day. The sky was blue. The sun was strong and, at 7.00 am (CET), the temperature was 22C/70F. After a leisurely start with BBC Radio 4 and The Times, we ventured out into the inferno that was rapidly rising to 29C/85F and on to a tram bound for Dijon Centre. The ticket was just under €3.00 for two of us. The journey took about 10 minutes and immediately showed what a delightful city Dijon is. Old buildings have been proudly and carefully preserved by converting their uses to modern requirements. Living space blends seamlessly with commercial space and transport is cheap, available and green.
What Dijon does do is sell mustard strongly even if it isn’t really made here any more. All the tourists obviously expect it so they go all out. Shops are everywhere selling small jars (for tourist presents) of scores of differently flavoured examples of ‘Dijon Mustard’. We sat and drank frapuccinos across the street from this shop which is claimed to be the original site of the first Dijon Mustard shop. Your guess is as good as mine whether it is all commercial hype or not. Frankly, I’m happy to believe it and buy my Dijon Mustard in Sainsbury’s!
We walked round the huge, Food Hall / Market and agreed we could buy one of everything – and that was just the 15th fish counter never mind the vegetables, meat, preserves, jams, olives, etc.. We also agreed that we wouldn’t want to carry a lot of stuff around and back on the tram so, when we eventually returned by tram to our hotel, we went in to the wonderful Carrefour next door and bought a host of salad delights and fruit for our meal. This really is a terrible way to have to live one’s life. After our meal, we finished off the afternoon with a walk through the massive park across the road from the hotel. It was replete with a lake and trees full of mellifluous birds enjoying the sunshine just like us.
Wednesday 5th July, 2017
Up at 7.00 am with the temperature at 22C/70F. Thank goodness for air conditioning in the hotel and our car! A liquid breakfast and then a trip to Carrefour next door to buy our food for the day before setting off on the A31 and, eventually, the A6 – the wonderful l’autoroute du soleil to Lyon. We are driving through wine country. So many of the wine labels of one’s past flash by on the road signs – Chambertin, Musigny, Nuits-St-Georges, Beaune, Mersault, Montrachet, Macon. As we drove, the temperature rose to 27C/81F by 11.00 am and 30C/86F by 1.00 pm.
We arrived by 2.00 pm and the temperature had hit 33C/92F by the time we got out of the car and unloaded our bags. After a drink, we went out for a walk in the vicinity but, with only one night here, this was never intended as an in-depth explore – more a taster. Any way, it soon proved too hot to do much pavement walking. We returned to the hotel to watch Wimbledon. We saw Konta win, Murray win and are currently watching Nadal winning while we read our newspapers.
Tomorrow we drive to Italy and spend a couple of days exploring Turin. Looking forward to that. Hope the sun controls itself a little.
Thursday, 6th July, 2017
It is hot! We have set off for Torino (Turin) at 9.30 am CET on the A43 through Chambery and past Grenoble, through Susa Piedmont and Rivoli. The motorway is quiet and beautiful but Turin town is busy, chaotic and stressful. Eventually, in 32C/90F of heat we find our hotel. We have to drive through an archway that makes me breathe in. When I’m through, I breathe out with successful pride and see a huge tram sail straight through without hesitation.
Our hotel is on Via Assietta 3, Torino. It is in the heart of the city and very near the train station. Tomorrow, we will do some exploring. Tonight, we are going to eat in the hotel restaurant and then relax and build up our strength for tomorrow.
Our car is in the hotel’s underground carpark and will stay there until we leave for Genoa. This is not a city in which to relax and drive. You have to do one or the other. On our 7th day of travel, we will choose relaxation and exploration on foot.
Friday, 7th July, 2017
Up at 7.00 am in a freezing cold, air conditioned room. Opened the shutters on to Via Assietta – the street our hotel fronts on to – and the heat hit me. It is a surprisingly quiet street for a city centre hotel. After a perfunctory breakfast, we set out to explore. Before we have been out 30 mins, my feet are aching and my shirt is soaking. We pressed on.
The city is just quite beautiful at every turn. Every other outlet is a food provider and every food provider is for panini, pizza, sandwiches, pasta, risotto, etc.. It looks impossible to eat non-carbohydrate food in this city/country. I think I’m going to be drinking a lot!
As well as my Blog, I’m keeping a rolling Faceache page going, Tweeting and writing a series of postcards to my old friend, Caroline, who doesn’t have a computer. It isn’t so easy to find postcards now and particularly not post boxes.
….It’s evening – 9.00 pm – and we have just eaten the most delightful meal of tomato salad, olive tapenade, roast ham with herb crust slices and smoked tuna slices. We drank a bottle of ice cold Savoie Blanc which has gone down well in a temperature that still reads 29C/84F. We are satisfied, tired and very happy after a lovely day well spent. What more can one ask of retirement or life in general? Looking forward to what tomorrow will bring as we drive to Genoa Port.
Saturday, 8th July, 2017
Very hot and humid this morning. We turned the air conditioning off last night because of the noise and the room was uncomfortable when we woke at 6.00 am CET. After breakfast, we went outside for a walk to stretch our legs and buy something for our meal this afternoon. Cheese, ham, tomatoes and cucumber with a bottle of wine will do nicely. Packed the car up, settled the bill and left around 11.30 am.
It is Saturday and the roads of Torino were quieter although still manic. Having negotiated the city centre, we were soon on the E70 motorway (speed limit 81 mph ignored by Italians) driving for two hours to the port of Genoa. At this point, when we most relied on our sat.nav., we were led a merry dance right through the centre of one of the busiest ports in Europe just as all the ferries were docking/leaving. Our blood pressure rose but we took a deep breath and worked our way through a mish-mash of small roads until we found our way out and to our hotel – Holiday Inn City Centre Genoa. It is lovely – very modern, very swish and very comfortable.
We drove into the underground parking which is an important facility for foreigners in Italy. It is some of the best garaging we have used and will make life comfortable for the next two days. Into the hotel and we are on the top – the 7th floor – which is great for our view over the port. My IHG Gold Card membership gives us free, hi-speed wi-fi. That is important to me. We go up to our Executive Room and check out the facilities – wi-fi works, TV works, wall-safe works, air con works. The view across the harbour is lovely. Just across in the ferry check-in, there is a huge food market. We buy pesto-verde to eat with our salad and slices of porchetta. Our meal is put together by Pauline and I open the wine which has been chilling in our in-room fridge. A bottle of Montefalco Sagrantino 2011 – absolutely delicious.
BBC News Channel is featuring wall to wall G20 plus the Test Match and the wonderful efforts of the British Lions. We also have some English language film channels but, unfortunately, no Wimbledon. We settle down to our newspapers and watching the world go by. Tomorrow, we will step out to explore Genoa. We will miss Andrew Marr but we will enjoy a hot and sweaty walk through magnificent buildings of Genoa port.