Sunday, 16th July, 2017
A lazy morning of newspapers and breakfast in Bologna and then an enjoyable drive into Switzerland. The Milan ring road which is normally a violent beast of a road was lovely while all those vile Italians were still at mass worshipping false idols. We reached our hotel in Bellinzona just in time to watch the start of the rather one-sided Wimbledon Men’s final. I was also able to watch a re-run of Hamilton’s brilliant win in the British Grand Prix.
Tomorrow, we are on to a lovely hotel in Mulhouse at the start of the Alsace Wine Route although we won’t be following it. Just one night there and then on to Reims.
Monday, 17th July, 2017
Up early this morning in our least favourite hotel on the trip. It is anonymous and has virtually no upfront staff. Check-in was by computer screen. Room was allocated and payment taken via the computer screen. A room barcode was printed out like a sales receipt and then used to access the lift and the room door. Checkout was by computer screen. Only breakfast was provided by people. We won’t use that again.
By 10.30 am, we are on the road out of Switzerland and into Alsace. This journey takes us round Lake Lucerne and through Basel. We are staying in The Holiday Inn, Mulhouse. We have stayed there many times over the past 20 years and really like it. The drive was in beautiful sunshine apart from going through the Ghotthard and the Seelisberg Tunnels. After the San Gotthard (17 km) Tunnel, we stop at our regular service station for a ‘comfort break’. The temperature started off as 25C/77F, fell to 19C/66F in the peak alps and then rose up to 31C/88F in Alsace.
We check-in an hour early and unpack. After a cup of tea, we go down to the pool and swim for 45 mins. It is a lovely and really liberating. We will read the paper and then go down to the renowned fish restaurant for Dinner.
Tuesday, 18th July, 2017
We have a 4.5 hr drive today out of Alsace, through Champagne country and in to Reims. It is incredibly hot from the outset and gets hotter. At 8.00 am, it reads 25C and 33C by mid-afternoon. The sky is clear blue and the sun strong. The drive, which is an 130 kph/80 mph cruise most of the time, is quiet and enjoyable. Much of it is on long stretches of perfect tarmac without a vehicle in sight.
After 4.5 hrs driving along the A35 through Colmar and Strasbourg and the A4 through Metz and Epernay in Champagne country, we have arrived in Reims at the Hotel de la Paix on this, beautiful street of Rue Buirette, Reims Centre. The hotel is lovely with a pool and a gym. Our room is gorgeous and very relaxing. The internet is strong and useful. The garage is spacious and safe. We have stayed here many times in the past and, because of that get an upgraded room for loyalty.
We have a dining table in our suite and our meal for today is tomato & cucumber salad (made by Pauline) with couscous & French Stick (for Pauline), Taramasalata (for me), large prawns in their shells and some Époisses de Bourgogne cheese. Now we are listening to the 5.00 pm news programme on BBC Radio 4 at 6.00 pm (CET) and reading The Times. It will be an early night before we do the last European leg to Coquelles tomorrow.
Wednesday, 19th July, 2017
Up fairly early and the temperature at 7.00 pm was just 19C/66F. By the time we left our hotel at 9.30 pm, it was 25C/77F. As we drove through Saint Quentin, Arras, Bethune, St Omer, the temperature hit 30C/86F but had crashed to 24C/75F by the time we parked up at our hotel in Coquelles around 1.00 pm.
After checking in, we drove over to the Calais Wine Store that we use and found the area swarming with illegal migrants looking for lorries to stow away on. The French police were touring the area to deter them but not detain or arrest them. This allows a lawless atmosphere in which economic adventurers roam free and without fear of reprisals. They are clearly emboldened and take more and more risks in their obvious intent which is to live on the golden streets of Britain. Every one out this morning is black, male and aged 18 – 25 years. The summer months are building a new migrant wave from Libya, Turkey through Italy and Greece and on to the rest of Europe. The port of Bari in southern Italy received 1500 migrants on boats from Libya last weekend.
This cannot go on. Hardly any – around 20 – were from Syria. So many were young men from Nigeria, Pakistan and Bangladesh and Ivory Coast. One is inclined to ascribe economic rather refugee status to the majority. Whatever the past sins of colonial European countries, allowing bands of lawless and marauding young men from the African and Asian continents to roam the continent of Europe cannot be permitted nor can the charities be given free reign, over the heads of national governments, to make it easy for them to arrive.
Thursday, 20th July, 2017
Up early – 6.00 am CET/5.00 am GMT and had a couple of hours reading the papers and watching Sky News. Check-out and re-pack the car and then off to Cite Europe for some final shopping before driving down to the Tunnel. We are a couple of hours early and request an earlier train. There is one in 30 mins which will cost us an extra €90.00/£80.00 in 40 mins which will be a ‘free’ transfer. We go for the latter only to find we are on the former train anyway thus saving €90.00/£80.00.
Back in UK, we drive off the train but are soon in a jam on the M20 which has 5 mile queues because of a lorry fire. Out of that, the drive home is familiar and lovely. As we approach our ‘home’ village, we noticeably relax and breathe out. We have completed 2065 miles. There is no contradiction that it is nice to go travelling but it is oh so nice to come home even if we have only lived there for twelve months.
The post of three weeks was piled up in the Hallway as we opened the front door and turned off the burglar alarm. The cases and bags of dirty clothing were unloaded. Cases of wine were moved into the garage, We got back into the car and drove to Sainsburys to buy milk and salad for our meal.
Friday, 21st July, 2017
To all the workers across the country, it is that Friday feeling. To us it is enjoying our home with fresh eyes of returnees. The weather is warm and sunny. We did a Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda shop. I mowed the lawns front and back, strimmed the edges, fed and watered the pot plants – all the herbs are really bushy and full. The day was so delightful that we cooked outside – griddled tuna steaks with salad in the sunshine. Lovely!
In the 1990s, we became rather disenchanted with Sifnos and Hotel Kamari. We started to travel to leave the Cyclades and try out the Dodecanese instead. We went to Symi, to Kos, Rhodes, Nysiros and hoped to move on to Tilos. Today, they have been hit by an earthquake of 6.6 Richter Scale and many, many unsettling aftershocks. Tourists are dead, seriously injured, sleeping outside on the grass for fear of falling buildings. Large numbers of tourists grabbed their belongings and headed straight for the airport in a desperate bid to get out of Greece before another quake hits them. As they move to peak tourist weeks, this is not what the country needed.
Saturday, 22nd July, 2017
We are still living in CET. Getting up at 7.00 am felt incredibly late. The sun was streaming through the bedroom blinds and the house was feeling hot. Our herbs were automatically watered while we were away and responded very well. This weekend, Pauline will harvest and freeze most. The basil will be turned straight into pesto. Most of the tarragon will frozen but some will be mixed with Dijon Mustard. I’d never done this before but were served it in Bologna and loved it. It goes beautifully with fish and chicken. I’m currently obsessed with pesto and I feel a tarragon-mustard obsession arriving to rival it.
Having spent the past few weeks driving, our next and imminent trip is flying to Greece. Although I prefer to be under my own steam with our own car, it is good to soften the inconvenience of flying with extra comfort at the airport. We have airport lounge membership with Priority Pass through our bank account. The benefits include food and alcohol and good wi-fi which, whenever free, should not be sneezed at but, mainly, it is a comfortable and civilised place to sit in relative peace and quiet. Our new membership cards arrived while we were away. They take us up until July 2020. I will be 69 when the new ones arrive. I can’t believe it!