Follow our intrepid overland travellers Ann and Don who drove to Fethiye on the tourist route in Autumn 2005…….
Arrived at Bruges around 7pm and Don had booked us into a dubious youth hostel (he didn’t know) still it was only 10 mins from old town square and all the tourist sites. Lovely restaurants nearby full of locals, really gorgeous food. Tried mussels, their lovely waffles, crispy chips, chocolate – not all at once. Walked 8hours next day, saw Michaelangelo’s ‘Madonna and child’ and the beautiful Belfrey, lovely city and easy to find your way round, felt very safe and friendly, bought chocs for ISIL in Turkey and also sent some to our hosts in Lowestoft – not sorry to leave the hostel though.
Amazing drive to Rheims, very flat landscape, miles and miles of vine fields and of course Champagne houses. Yet another surprise with the accommodation – couldn’t find our hotel for ages –guess why- it was a ‘pod’ in the University, glad he hadn’t booked anything further. Felt really weird having breakfast with the ‘faculty’. On the bright side however, we were 10 mins from the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral which we were in time to visit that evening. Had a good walk around the city and finished with a bottle of champagne in a street cafe, watching the world go by, very nice. Set off early next day for Switzerland.
SWITZERLAND 21. 09
Had intended to use ‘A’ roads rather than motorways but gave up on that one in France, we’d have still been travelling. Worth paying the tolls as the motorways were very good and pretty clear most of the time. Had to pay 30 euros to cross border into Switzerland and LOTS of tunnels, but beautiful scenery, mountains like lush green velvet – took over the accommodation!!! And found a gorgeous little hotel in ‘Eike’, a tiny village on Lake Sursee, a small lake just above Lake Lucerne, a teensy bit out of our way, but so lovely. We had a room overlooking the lake and dinner was to die for – steak in black cherry sauce, with pasta and home grown veg, pears stuffed with cream sauce and a side dish of chestnuts marinated in honey and spices (this is with the dinner, not pud). Up and away next day, right through Switzerland into Italy.
ITALY 22 TO 29/9
FINALLY got off the horrendous spaghetti junction at Lake Garda and drove on the small road around the lake for about 40 miles (huge lake) beautiful and really quiet. Stayed at the hotel Cassone, Malcesine, very pretty and friendly and had a good walk around the lake edge – really beautiful place, water is so clear and everything reflects. Next day 23/9 we set off to find the panoramic cableway which goes up Monte Baldo. This was superb, we were so lucky as other passengers told us that all week it had been too misty to go up, but the day was perfect and the views are fabulous, right over the lake and across the mountains, we were glad we had made the effort to get there. Set off early afternoon for VERONA, which was nearby, although it took a while to drive right around the beautiful lake Garda. Very impressed with Verona, the Doumo was beautiful with frescoes and statues, visited museum of Castelvecchio, which has beautiful paintings and superb views of the river from different rooms – gorgeous ceilings. Went on to Basilica to see the concert on at night (except the night we were there – would have liked that).
Set off a bit late from there as Don didn’t really want to drive at night but we didn’t want to stay in Verona overnight – too big. Ended up pulling into a village called Roberta only about 40 miles on, but on the A road this took a couple of hours, absolutely shattered.
24/9 Early start for Florence and we were there before lunch, car was SMOKING after going through traffic – OK on motorways but heated up badly when crawling. Parked up near the river and set off to find a hotel!! 4 hours later no luck, everywhere was full and also they were charging over 200 euros per night. Getting desperate and knocked on what we thought was a hostel, but it was only a caf窠thankfully, he knew a hotel and rang them for us. A woman spoke to me and mentioned something about a leetle French bed, OK anything, drove away from Florence, but the road curved right back through green forests to the Villa Carlotta – gorgeous 4* hotel and what she meant was the annexe – lovely apartments overlooking the quadrangle. Double bed (usual must be King size) and small room but en-suite – perfect for 70 euros total b&b, and half hours walk away from the famous Ponte Vecchio. Loved Florence and walked for 14 hours 1st day, never seen so many beautiful (whole) statues – Palazzo Vecchio was stunning. Visited loads of churches as we were walking as well as the famous ones – we were all churched out. Even found some lovely little untouristy restaurants. Only disappointment was the Uffizi Gallery – queued for hours and some of the rooms were closed, also Flemish painters were so famous for other art besides Maddona and child and crucifixions – guides were rushing groups just to Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leornardo da Vinci and standing in front of everyone else.
28/9 Set off for Ancona, intended to have a couple of days in Rimini but the weather looked very cloudy and iffy so we checked at the terminal if we could take the ferry a couple of days earlier. Glad we checked as it was horrendous to find and we would have been panicking if we hadn’t sorted out where ANEK line went from etc. Rebooked tickets and drove out of Ancona to find a nice little village for the night. Stayed in Chiaravalle, only one hotel and when he looked at my passport, he said RAMSEY?, you mean that place there? And pointed to a map of the Island where he had been for the June races. Had a superb meal in the village and they made lovely Campari’s (Campari, fruit juice and draught champagne).
29/9 4pm ferry over to IGOUMENITSA in Greece, had a lovely cabin as it took about 15 hours, cost £262, pulled into Greece about 8am 30/9 and took the wrong road for Thessaloniki. Climbed 10,000 ft, fabulous scenery at top near ski slopes at Grevena, cows, horses, goats in middle of road and took about 4 hours to do 100 miles (SO LUCKY to be ahead of the storm while we were up here!!), got caught up at IOANNINA as motorway had not been completed and we were sent round and round the town till the car was steaming. Drove for 11 hours to get to KAVALA but stopped about 50 miles short at a lovely hotel overlooking the sea and just crashed.
1/10 Woken up by an almighty explosion, which sounded like a bomb, but was thunder and an horrific storm, which killed all thoughts of any sightseeing in Greece, so we drove on through the border at IPSALA (very weird – flat nothingness for miles either side). Good place to cross as it took less than an hour and had a fab duty free. Pat, who had done this journey earlier, but straight through without sightseeing, was held up for over 3 hours at CESME. Drove through Gallipoli, VERY thought – provoking – nowhere to hide!!, on to the CANAKKALE bridge – this turned out to be half an hour ferry trip and not a bridge at all. Quite an experience as they pack coaches, lorries and cars onto this small ferry, which just has a small lift up front and tail to hold them all in. Again, a very long day’s drive and we were driving in rain and dark before we reached a small village in AYVACIK. We were going to explore this area as it is full of wetlands where the flamingos come to in June, plus there are many historical sites and an unspoilt seaside resort at AYVALIK but the storm had followed us here. Hotel cost £10 for both of us – perfect and very nice, except the ground floor was flooded out in the morning. Got chatting to a lovely Turkish family, (whose room was also flooded that night) and had a really lovely fish meal, before crashing into bed.
2/10 Rain followed us to IZMIR where it started to brighten up and we enjoyed our last lap home in the sunshine, arriving at the house about 6.30 pm. PERRRFECT. We had a great time and a fabulous experience!!
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