Road Trip

Road Trip

October was amazing! Well, it was for us anyway, and I hope you had a good month too—though mine was particularly special as we ‘took a month out’ and went on a road trip. Husband is sort of between jobs (though they have overlapped a little) and we had two offspring briefly living at home (lucky them—they had the pleasure of house-sitting and caring for my menagerie!) so I arranged cover for my other responsibilities, and off we went.

We started in New Jersey. The plan was to fly to the US, hire a car, and drive down the east coast, booking hotels as we went. I was pretty sure that super-organised Husband would have every hotel/meal/rest-stop planned before we left, but he didn’t! (Actually, I think that he had planned to, but at the last minute, he needed to go abroad with his job, and so there was simply no time.)

I will share our trip with you over the next few months. As ever with my travel blogs, they are written in real time, while I am there, and posted on my blog later, when we’re home and I have more time to sort the photographs and delete the bits I decide are a bit dodgy. We flew to New York, then drove to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, to Nashville Tennessee, across to the Carolinas, down into Florida, and back to Atlanta Georgia. We covered about 3,500 miles, which is as far as if we had driven from London to New York! It was amazing!

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If you ever plan to do a road trip, especially a long one, then here are my top tips:

  • *Go with someone you like! We spent many hours together, in a car, chatting and laughing and passing comment on what we saw. If I had been with someone less fun or interesting, it would have been dire.
  • *If you’re not great at lots of change, book hotels that are all part of the same chain. We stayed in Marriot Hotels (because Husband has a loyalty card due to copious work trips) and they are all basically the same. We tended to stay in Fairfield Inn, or Springhill Suites, or Residence Inn. We would check in, go to the room, and the layout was usually identical. So, I would put my suitcase in the corner by the air-conditioning unit, put my washbag next to the sink, hide my valuables in the big drawer under the telly, plug my phone into the recharging port on the clock-radio…and so on. Everything had a place, which meant packing and unpacking was very routine. It also meant that when I woke in the night and needed the washroom, I didn’t have that horrid disorientated feeling of not knowing where to head in the dark (nothing worse than peeing in the wardrobe by mistake).
  • *Plan some laundry stops. Some hotels have coin operated washing machines, and this makes a huge difference to a long trip. We needed to take a mix of clothes, as October in the States can have very hot and very cold days. To avoid taking 27 suitcases each, we needed to do some laundry.
  • *Have a smaller bag to hold a couple of day’s worth of clothes. We didn’t want to take all our cases into every hotel if we were only staying for a night, so I used my hand-luggage pull-along for my washbag, and enough clothes for the next couple of days.
  • *Force yourself to do some exercise. We realised that most of the time we would be sitting in a car, or wandering around cities, whilst eating lots of delicious (but unhealthy) food. We decided that every morning, we would go for a run. I use the word ‘run’ loosely, as I run slower than most people walk, but I do get very hot and red and breathless, so I assume it’s good aerobic activity. I find I feel better if my body is working properly. It also means you see snippets of real life happening in the area—people collecting their take-out coffee on the way to work, street cleaners, people opening their shops, other people jogging. (I particularly enjoyed seeing ‘real joggers’—they would lift a hand in greeting as we passed, and it made me feel like a proper runner, rather than a middle-aged woman pretending!)
  • *Take some vitamins and probiotics. You never know what you might be eating on the road, but in the US, lots of it is wonderfully delicious and super-processed. I bought some dried apricots, to keep everything moving! I also took vitamins every day, so it didn’t matter if there wasn’t too much in the way of fresh fruit and veg, and probiotics so my stomach could cope with all the new bacteria it would be facing.

I will start telling you about some of the things we saw tomorrow. I’ll start with Atlanta, which is actually at the end, because that is freshest in my mind and I wrote fewer notes at the time. I hope you enjoy reading about our road trip. It was such fun!

I hope you have a good week. Take care.

Love, Anne x

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

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A Trip to Monk’s Island (near Cannes) and Cube-Throwing in Biot

Saturday August 24th

We all met for breakfast at 8.15. Some people are more awake than others, but buffets tend to get a little ‘picked over’ after a while, so although the AC Hotel does a good breakfast, I don’t like being late. I collected my freshly brewed coffee, some pancakes, banana and maple syrup, and tuned in to the conversations going on around me. Husband was discussing inherited advantage. Girlfriend stuck her finger into her eye—but I think the two were unconnected.

We decided to go to Monk’s Island: Ile Saint-Honorat. We could catch a train from Juans-les-Pins to Cannes, which avoids having to try and park, and then a ferry to the island. Emm had suggested that we hire kayaks and row there, but we were all ignoring that bit.

Catching the train was easy. Return tickets to Cannes were 5 euro. The train was air conditioned, double-decked, and quite full. Most of the journey we could see nothing but ugly concrete walls, with the occasional snatched view of sun shining on deep blue sea and boats.

We arrived in a very hot Cannes at 1.30pm. We walked through pretty streets, past restaurants smelling of steaks and garlic, and shops where cold air seeped onto the pathway, and hotels with sleepy guests on balconies. We followed signposts to the quay, and to the ticket office. We then sat, blasted by the sun, waiting for the boat. I wished I had carried my umbrella, so I could have created some shade.

The boat loaded, and we sailed out to sea. Cannes was laid out on the hills to our left, huge ships and pleasure boats were to our right. The wind swept across the deck, drying our sweaty tee-shirts while two men argued in French behind me. Actually, they were French, they might not have been arguing at all—to me, all French men sound as if they are either furious or trying to make love—there seems to be no middle ground.

Ile Saint-Honorat is a little island off the coast of Cannes, which is owned by a monastery. The monks allow people to visit, but ask that they dress appropriately and respect the silence of the island. I imagined a secluded island, rarely visited, practically cut-off from the rest of France. Instead, as we arrived at the quay, I saw about a million pleasure boats bobbing in the harbour—not so secluded then.

The monastery was lovely, with a very pretty church. We walked to it through vineyards, and attached to the monastery is a shop, where you can buy all things bee-related (beeswax candles, honey, soaps, alcohol) as well as wine made on the island, religious books, and saintly pendants (which always seem like lucky-charms to me). We saw a few monks, dressed in black and white robes (must have been incredibly hot to wear them all day) but most were hidden away in places not open to the public.

We caught the ferry back to the mainland. Cannes was still hot. We walked back to the station, staring at people we passed, trying to guess if they owned one of the multimillion-dollar boats in the harbour, or if they aspired to, of if they had no interest in the glitzy lifestyle at all. As we walked along one street, we were overtaken by soldiers, all in khaki, carrying machine guns. They fanned out, lining the road, looking in all directions. It was very unnerving. We kept walking, but I wondered if we were being stupid, and hiding under a table would have been better a response. Probably they were getting in place, ready for the motor cavalcade of someone important, but we’d have felt daft afterwards if we’d been shot. We weren’t.

Dinner at La Taille de Guepe (24, rue de Fersen, in the old part of Antibes). The food was delicious, and decorated with edible flowers. It was lovely.

After dinner we walked back via the main square, which was full of musicians and artists and people enjoying themselves. The sleepy old town wakes up at night.


Sunday August 25th

The last day of our holiday, so some people went to the beach, others to the pool.

After lunch we drove to Biot, a little village in the hills behind Cannes. There is a large town car park, which was surprisingly full. Then we learned that we had happened to visit on the afternoon of the boules carrees championship, and teams were playing it in every street, and square, and lane. The game appeared to be the same as boule—when you throw little balls towards a target, and the closest wins—but it is played with small coloured cubes (the kind you built towers with as a toddler). Teams were all ages, but the games were pretty intense, and there was a lot of pressure to not, by mistake, walk across the area where they were playing (which as they were playing everywhere was sometimes quite hard!)

Biot is a pretty town, and when not full of people throwing cubes around, it is famous for its blue glass. There were galleries and shops and art installations of blue glass. But mainly, there were people throwing cubes…

We ate an ice-cream, wandered (carefully) through some pretty squares, and sat for a while on a bench, enjoying the view. A sleepy end to our holiday.

Thank you for sharing the holiday with me. If you have enjoyed the blogs, look out for my travel book—I think you will enjoy it.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Old Town Antibes, Are the French Rude? And David David (so good they named him twice…)

Thursday August 22nd

I walked with Husband to the old town of Antibes (it takes about 15 minutes to walk from the bustling beach of Juan-les-Pins to the ancient town of Antibes on the other side of the peninsula).

There is a public beach area, dotted with rugs and towels, where families had set up camp for the day. Most of the beach is reserved as ‘private’ by the hotels and restaurants, and are crammed full with loungers practically touching under parasols. I much prefer the public areas. The beach has sand, and has a long shallow strip into the sea, which makes a nice place to swim (if you like swimming, which I don’t).

We wandered along the quay area, looking at boats and sculptures, and the little fort on the hill, before walking through one of the old city gates and to the area full of narrow cobbled streets. There are lots of art shops and galleries and interesting things to look at. On Thursdays, there is a market, full of bright spices and smelly meats and fresh fruit, and French people doing their shopping.

We had an espresso next to a fountain, listening to an old man playing an accordion. This is what I love about France.

We ate warm baguettes and humus for lunch, then Husband and son set off to Nice airport to collect Girlfriend, and the rest of us went into Juans-les-Pins. We strolled along the front, then decided to stop for a drink. The place we chose basically ignored us, and even though we eventually managed to order drinks, they never actually arrived, so we left. I left a bad review on Google Reviews, and when they replied, they basically said it wasn’t worth their effort for “two lousy sodas”! I felt that summed up our experience rather well. The trouble is, when we are visiting a different country, the people who we meet tend to colour our view of the whole nation. People often tell me that “the French are very rude” and undoubtedly, some of them are (like the people in the over-priced cafe by the beach). But some of them are not, some French people are kind, and polite, and help us with our bad French speaking, and make our trip special. It’s important to remember the nice people.


Friday August 23rd

Today we went back to the old town of Antibes, as I wanted to show the family some of the sculptures. They are by an artist called David David. (I really hope that his mother was called Mrs David, and she decided to name her son David. It’s an easy name to remember!) There was an exhibition of his work, which I rather like. He makes fibreglass people in poses that make a statement about society, and they are rather like those people you find in tourist areas, who pretend to be a statue and then move when you’re not expecting it. These did not move. I’m not sure about his paintings, but the statues I loved. I took lots of photographs, some with people posing next to them (and then felt bad about commenting on Husband’s many photographs of fish).

We ate dinner at La Storia, Boulevard Dugommier. It was a lovely meal, and the first restaurant in Antibes where I felt they cared whether or not we enjoyed our meal (many restaurants are rather off-hand, even though quite expensive). The pasta was freshly cooked, the salads were arranged to look pretty (rather than simply plonked into a bowl) and the puddings were all delicious. We were given lemoncello shots when we paid. I wish we had found them earlier in the holiday, we would have eaten there again.

I hope you have some good food today.
Take care and thank you for reading.
Love, Anne x

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Antibes, Family Holiday Diary 2019

Monday August 19th

Today we left Genoa, which was not easy, as the SatNav was still trying to take us via the bridge that collapsed last year, and Bea told us that the map on her phone looked like a cat had been sick on it, and it was impossible to identify individual roads. But we escaped eventually.

We arrived at the AC Ambassador Hotel in Juans-les-Pins, France. The hotel has a carpark, with a very narrow ramp down, which was probably the most stressful part of the whole journey. We checked in, and had a quick look around the hotel. The lobby and public areas are very nice, with several alcoves for chatting, and a bar and restaurant, a gym and pool, plus a bigger pool outside. Our rooms were okay—probably less nice than our previous hotels, but everything worked, and we were given plenty of towels, and each room had a balcony and air-con that worked (which will really matter here, as it’s hot!)

We walked to the beach. Juans-les-Pins is on a narrow spit of land, with Antibes the old town on the other side. It feels like being on an island. The beach area in Juans-les-Pins is very touristy, with beach areas full of hot tanned bodies lying side-by-side on loungers. The town is full of young people, wandering and drinking cocktails, and everything is bright and loud. The old part of town, across the spit of land, is very different. The old town is full of cobbled streets and painted houses with shutters and olive trees.

We ate in La Tours Antique (eating anywhere on Sundays and Mondays in France takes some effort, as many places are closed). Our table was outside, and we sat looking at ancient houses and potted plants while we sipped wine and ate delicious food. We were given tiny glasses of cold soup and freshly baked bread, followed by fish with a pistachio crust and cubes of fried potato. But it was quite expensive, and the menu was fairly limited (and they did not have tiramisu!)

Later, we sat in the hotel bar, playing cards and waiting a very long time while the bar staff tried to work out to make the cocktails we had ordered. (Eventually, they came and asked us for the recipe.) There is a piano, so Jay played it and some other guests stopped and sang, which is always fun.


Tuesday August 20th


Breakfast was just about perfect for me. There were lots of fruit tarts, and pastries, and fruit and pancakes, and a very good coffee machine.

We all went swimming. I pretty much hate swimming, but occasionally I pretend to be sociable and join the rest of the family. It was awful—very wet. After compulsory swim, I looked for a spare sun lounger. The hotel has a sign saying that after 15 minutes, any unoccupied seats will have their towels removed. However, there was one lady who had several unoccupied seats, reserved with towels, for over an hour. I therefore went over, and removed one of the towels. The lady flew from her seat, snatched the towel from my hand, and screamed death threats at me. (It was all in French, so am improvising a little). She was small enough to pick up and throw into pool, but my family get cross when I do things like that, so instead I went to ask the towel-distributing man if he had any more chairs. Towel-man then went and tackled angry seat-hoarding woman. There then followed a long, loud argument in French, with lots of fist-shaking and hand waving. I was given a seat by towel-man, who dumped the reserving towels in a heap on the floor. I took lounger, returned to family, and read for an hour.

After an hour, I was too hot and sticky, so decided to go inside. Chair-hoarding woman was still alone. I figured that her family might, at some point, join her, and I no longer needed the chair, so I carried it back to her and said (in bad French) that I no longer needed it. She thanked me very prettily, as if the preceding argument had never occurred. Perhaps this is normal behaviour in France.

We bought lunch in a patisserie. I had the most perfect strawberry tarte. We ate in the hotel garden (it’s not much of a garden, just a few chairs and some young olive trees on a patio).

We walked to the old town of Antibes, wandering along narrow cobbled streets. We saw a painted church, and the Picasso museum, and a big town square with a bandstand.

We bought drinks in the empty market place at Le Championnet. This was a mistake, as the prices were inflated, and the man dumped ice in the glasses with his dirty fingers.

We ate dinner in Mamma Mia in Juans-les-Pins. It is next to a busy road, but we could see the sea beyond it, and the restaurant was friendly and cheap. I drank wine again by mistake (there is something about a cold glass of wine on a hot summer’s evening that is hard to resist, even when all your clothes are too tight and you’re trying to lose weight).

Thank you for reading. Have a nice day.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Genoa, Family Holiday Diary 2019

Saturday August 17th

Our first breakfast in Melia Hotel was in a rather sombre room next to the bar. There was an urn dispensing unappetising coffee and a variety of food-stations tucked into various corners, so collecting breakfast involved lots of walking, and the crockery provided did not necessarily correspond to the food it was next to. There was a good selection of food though, and if you ignored the fruit flies hovering above the watermelon, it was all very nice.

Emm had failed to find a walking tour (our plan for the morning) so I looked online. I was distracted by a review of Giavanni, one of the tour-guides. The review said he spent too much of the tour looking for English words in his dictionary, tended to speak while walking along narrow lanes so no one could hear him, and did not appear to actually know anything about Genova anyway. In his defence, Giavanni said that he had never claimed to have any knowledge! I didn’t feel he was the guide for us, though Bea was quite keen.

I wrote down all the places listed by the walking tours, and we decided to visit them on our own (because one of the main advantages of walking tours is that they show you places you would otherwise miss). Jay plugged the places into his phone, and we set off. We saw lots of interesting buildings, many of them rebuilt in the 18th century, including the apparent birth place of Christopher Columbus.

We went into the cathedral, which stands tall and proud in the centre of the city. It claims to hold the ashes of John the Baptist, which were taken there during the crusades (I am making no comment here). The church was very ornate, with lots of gilt and statues and paintings. It didn’t feel very holy to me, and I thought it was a sad place—so much had been spent on decorations when the city was full of slaves.

We wandered along narrow lanes, past old houses, through tiny squares—each one with a church. We ate ice-creams before walking up Via Roma, which had coloured windmills strung above it and was lined with expensive shops.

We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant. It was quite a long walk from the hotel, through an area which did not feel especially crime-free, but it meant we saw more of the city. There were many massive staircases, Genova is built between and on the hills, and your legs get lots of exercise. We passed beautiful flower beds, and the huge arch of Arco della Vittoria, inscribed with the names of the war dead.


Sunday August 18th

Jay and I found an English-speaking church within walking distance and set off after breakfast. The rest of the family went to the aquarium to see the poor trapped dolphins and other fish (no judgement here).

We went to Le Chiesa di Santo, The Church of the Holy Ghost, which is an Anglican church, and I was unsure what to expect. It is the most welcoming church I have ever attended. As we walked in, we were given books, and a brief explanation of how to use them throughout the service. It was a communion service, and we were told that if we wanted to take part we were welcome to, whatever our usual church. The congregation was a whole mix of people, a variety of ages and colours and dress-styles. There was a sermon, by an enthusiastic black preacher, who I couldn’t understand because his accent was very strong, but what I heard I think I probably disagreed with—but somehow, the sermon wasn’t what mattered. What defined this church was how welcoming, how loving, it felt. There was a time when people offered ‘the peace’ to each other, and I think everyone in the church, from the toddlers to the vicars, offered the peace to everyone else. People seemed genuinely pleased to see each other, and genuinely pleased to have visitors amongst them. The singing was almost non-existent (us and the vicar sang, while an excellent musician played the violin, but everyone else sort of mumbled their way through the hymns). The children took the offering, and forgot to go to several pews, and had a minor disagreement half-way round. The building was big, old, and falling down in places. But again, none of this mattered—there was just something holy and loving and attractive about the place. When the service ended, we were offered wine and crisps—but we are English and unfriendly, so we left (and afterwards, as we were walking back to the hotel, we wished we had stayed). If ever you are in Genoa, visit this church. I hope to go again one day.

We ate a picnic lunch on our balcony. Husband and Emm ate Italian bread and olives and cheese and tomatoes (though I think the cheese was Swiss, but they tried). Emm said there were more people than fish at the aquarium, but the dolphins looked very happy in a big tank. Bea said she had needed to set a time-limit on the interesting facts offered by Emm about every fish they saw—and I think Husband had photographed every single fish…they will be looked at many times in the future, I’m sure.

We walked to the Galata museum. This is a museum all about boats, but it’s surprisingly interesting, with a reconstructed galley, complete with slaves rowing, and various interactive displays. One floor was dedicated to emigres, and you could walk through their living quarters on a boat, where they lived during their voyage to America. The museum staff helped with the atmosphere by offering passports to all the children, and we didn’t tease Bea at all when she was given one too…

We then walked, in the scorching heat, to the lighthouse. We passed a massive cruise ship leaving the harbour, and a lot of rubbish bins, and we walked under a huge flyover as that was the only shade—so it wasn’t the prettiest walk I have ever been on, though it might have been the hottest. I had thought the lighthouse would be next to the sea, and I could sit outside and read while the family climbed it. However, it wasn’t near the sea at all, so I decided, foolishly, to go inside too. The steps were an open stairwell, so you could see right down to the bottom. It was very scary, especially when passing people on the way down, when you had to cling to the rail and hope you didn’t plummet to your death (there was, to be fair, a metal screen protecting you, but it looked very flimsy to me). However, you will be glad to know that I survived, helped no end by the boys singing to me on the way down, to take my mind off the near-death experience.

We then walked a very long way to a restaurant which was shut (I didn’t make these plans). We then walked even further to a restaurant which was open. I was unsure what to expect, as we walked along a street lined with strip-bars and massage parlours, but actually, the restaurant was lovely. We sat down, and I felt very old because my legs were aching so much. Then I checked my phone app, and saw that I had walked, in the hot sun, for 18.5km and I had climbed 40 floors. I felt that my legs were allowed to ache.

We ate at L’Ostetrattoria, on Via Alessandro Rimassa. It was an Italian restaurant, with deep red walls and tablecloths, and decorated with a clutter of interesting things. The waiter was friendly and helpful, and the food was delicious. I ate pasta, then balls of cod which had been deep-fried, and I drank wine and an ocean of water. It was wonderful.

I slept very well.

I hope you have a lovely day. Thank you for reading.

Take care.
Love, Anne x

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La Thuile to Genova…Family Holiday 2019 continued

Thursday August 15th

Our last day in La Thuile, and we wanted to see more of the mountains—discussed a plan over breakfast while waiting for coffee to arrive. There is plenty of time to make several plans while waiting for coffee to arrive.

I walked into town and bought a fridge magnet while family went on scary ski-lift up the mountain we can see from our balcony. I sat in the sunshine and waited for them. We then went into town to buy a picnic. I used my best Italian to ask baker for a small round loaf of soft bread. He gave me a crunchy stick-loaf, but I couldn’t face trying to explain what I wanted, so thanked him and paid.

We drove to a lake. Parking was a challenge, so we abandoned car with all the other cars, parked partly on the side of the road and partly hanging off the side of the mountain. We found the footpath, and saw lots of walkers wearing hiking gear—but I think I was more comfortable in my cardigan.

We walked, for about an hour, up the mountain. The path was wide and well-used, and there were many glimpses of the glacier on the adjacent mountain. We were surrounded by trees (possibly spruce) and passed tiny brooks racing down the hillside. Jay said his ankle hurt, so we abandoned him in a bar (he fared better than the car).

Eventually, we arrived at a mountain lake. It was very pretty, but the best view was across to the glacier on the other mountain. We sat for a while next to the lake. It is really high—2 km above sea level, and we had fuzzy ears. Husband decided he wanted to paddle—so did several dogs, but no other human thought that going into the icy water was a good idea, so we sat and watched him and wondered if he would fall over (he didn’t, which is good, isn’t it?)

We walked back down the mountain, briefly joined abandoned son in the bar, then found abandoned car and drove back to the hotel.

The males went swimming, Bea and I walked to the chocolate shop in town. We had passed it yesterday, and it offered hot chocolates and delicious pastries and seats at little round tables with gorgeous views. Today, it was stuffed full with tourists and motorbike people and harassed-looking staff, and rather resembled a station during rush-hour than somewhere you would choose to be. We queued for several hours and bought tiny paper cups of delicious ice-cream, then walked down the road to an empty bench and ate it looking at the view. Then we walked back to the hotel and had drinks on our balcony in the sunshine.

We had dinner at La Maison again. I had the thick vegetable soup followed by tiramisu, and wondered if I would ever again eat anything as nice. Jay somehow managed to eat three different main-courses, and was then reprimanded by Emm, who told him that it was excessive and showed a severe lack of parental guidance in the past. I drank wine and ignored them. We leave La Thuile tomorrow, I really hope we will visit again one day, it is the most beautiful town in the world (I think).


Friday August 16th

Our last breakfast at Montana Lodge Hotel. Jay had recovered from excessive eating of yesterday and managed to eat a whole butcher’s shop worth of meat. Vegetarians remained silent. Bea ate pancakes, and stole the strawberries from the garnish. The waiters still failed to fill cups with coffee, though did fill saucers, so perhaps they are trying and failing. Actually, to be fair, the hotel breakfast is very good, with an excellent variety of freshly cooked food, and if the waiters were not inept and unfriendly, it would be perfect. I would happily stay here again.

Staying somewhere with such high altitude has been interesting. When I opened my hair conditioner, it all oozed out, in one long sausage, all over me and the shower until I managed to shut the slippery lid. Although it looks as if it’s at the bottom of the mountain, La Thuile is actually higher than Ben Nevis.

We checked out, and drove to Genova, shedding layers of clothes as we drove south. The journey into the city was a challenge, as the SatNav tried to take us over the bridge which collapsed a year ago, and we had to use Google to find an alternative route. There were lots of massive bridges, hanging onto the side of the mountain and sweeping down to the city. The disaster last year must have been terrible.

We checked into Melia Hotel, which we booked through Citalia. They had messed up our booking (and blamed Citalia for not informing them, which I found irritating—why do people never simply apologise any more?) Husband, of course, had all the information, clearly itemised with names and dates, so they had no choice but to move us to better rooms, but it was a hassle, especially for the boys, who had to move rooms after a day. Our room was very nice, with a big balcony/roof garden.

We walked into the city centre, looking at the interesting buildings. We stopped in Ferrari Square and had an espresso, watching the tourists and the massive fountain and the pretty architecture. Italy does squares really well. The weather is warm, but not excessively so, and I felt pleasantly fuzzily tired.

We went to an indoor market, and I sat and rested while the family wandered around. It was very bright and filled with the rudely bright colours of peaches and oranges and blood-red apples under neon lights, while trolleys rattled past and flies tickled; all underpinned by the metallic tang of death—great heads of swordfish, pink-fleshed skinned rabbits, fat-encased hams hanging overhead. I sat, absorbing it all and waiting.

Family returned and we walked to Il Genovisi, an Italian restaurant, for dinner. It was very nice, with lots of traditional Italian dishes and some rather lovely wine.

I hope you have a good day too. Take care.

Love, Anne x

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The Alps in the Summer

Tuesday August 13th

We checked out of the Intercontinental Hotel, which has been a brilliant place to stay in Geneva. Emm raved about a pear he had eaten for breakfast. Apparently pears are a thing in Geneva. We had a taxi to the airport, where we were collecting a hire car on the French side. (It’s worth noting that although you can take hire cars into several different countries in Europe, you have to pay a premium if you plan to collect and leave it in different countries, and as we are eventually leaving from France, we wanted to collect it in France.)

The taxi to the airport cost even more than the one we used when we arrived—44CHF. But by now, we are used to everything in Geneva being hideously expensive, partly due to the rubbish exchange rate with the pound.

The hire car is a Renault Megan and confusingly automatic. We have an accountant, a law graduate, a scientist and a general computer nerd in the car, but it defeated us. We managed to turn on the SatNav, but the radio seemed to be permanently on, and we never worked out how to turn it off. We listened to classical music as we drove through the Alps, until is became rather irritating harpsicord music, at which point we muted it. But turning it off, I am pretty sure, is impossible. It was a fun drive (I wasn’t driving) and at one point there was one country on one side of the road, and a different country on the other (not exactly hard borders here).

We drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel—there was a long slow queue to pay, and it cost us 45CHF—even leaving Switzerland is expensive. (Actually, to be fair, the tunnel is in France, not Switzerland, but it felt like it was!)

There were the most wonderful views as we drove through the mountains. There was snow, so my family sang Christmas carols (they are never silent, so carols was quite pleasant). There is something exciting about snow on mountains (like there is something exciting about palm trees. Not that there were any palm trees.)

We arrived in La Thuile, and checked into Montana Lodge. Our rooms were nice, and we had a balcony, over-looking the mountains and soaking up the sunshine—it was actually too hot to sit there in the afternoon, as the sun was incredibly warm.

La Thuile feels like a small town at the bottom of the mountains, but actually we climbed quite high before we reached the town. The air is clean and cold and whichever direction you look, there are amazing views. Mountains stretch up on one side, their peak in the clouds, behind you is a mountain with white snow icing the top, on the other side is a mountain pasture dotted with flowers, in front of you is a house made of wood and looking exactly like a musical-box so you feel you could almost lift the roof to hear the music playing. It is, I think, the most beautiful place I have ever visited.

We walked into town. The town has a lot of dogs (which is lovely) and owners who do not clean up after them (not lovely) so, as we walked, we had to be careful not to stare too hard at the beautiful views or we would step in something nasty. When I am king, I shall make a law about this. The centre of town has a river which bubbles and splashes as it tumbles down the mountain, and the hills are covered in trees (possibly spruce) and meadows. The town is full of cafes and tourist shops and places to buy ski clothes. Lots of people walking around were wearing very smart walking clothes (always bring your best clothes when visiting Italy, and it’s against the law to wear wellies…even if letting your dog poop in the street is, apparently, okay).

We ate in La Maison de Laurent. This didn’t look great from the outside, but don’t be fooled. We were seated at a long table down in the wine cellar. It was dimly lit, with a low ceiling  and bottles of wine surrounded us. The menu was full of hearty food, intended to fill up hungry skiers after a day on the slopes. It was completely delicious. I ate polenta (which is a little like mashed potato in taste) and a stew, followed by a salad, and finished with tiramisu. It was all perfect. Emm ate a vegetable soup, which was more like a stew as it was thick with vegetables and was served with lumps of crusty bread. I shall order that tomorrow.

Wednesday August 14th

We met for breakfast at 8:15 (well, most of us did). The breakfast was okay, but it didn’t feel very friendly. The coffee was served by waiters, who only half-filled the cups and then were unavailable for top-ups. There was a good variety of food, but it wasn’t as luxurious as the Intercontinental in Geneva—or maybe I’m just tired. Once the person who always loses his room key had collected it from the breakfast room, we met on balcony to plan the day (always a delight and an apparently essential activity when married to my husband).

We (using term loosely) decided to walk up a mountain (del Rutor). I agreed to come if it did not involve any narrow pathways with a sheer drop on one side. Even though my head knows that fear of heights is completely silly, I know from past experience that my head cannot force my body to behave likewise, and when faced with sheer drop my legs go all quivery and absolutely refuse to move and my lungs stop breathing and heart threatens to stop beating, so I tend to avoid sheer drops when possible to avoid embarrassing situation where I am clinging onto a rock completely unable to move feeling like a total wombat. Family promised no sheer drops.

We visited the supermarket and bought food for a picnic lunch, and chocolate for after the climb, when we would need a sugar-fix.

Drove to carpark and parked car (11.30). Walked towards mountain. Jay was eating his chocolate (11.35). Some things never change in life.

Walked through pine trees, past waterfalls, over little stone bridges, up the mountain. Every so often, we glimpsed snowy peaks above us. There were lots of other people walking, most of them wearing proper hiking gear complete with poles—but I’m sure the people wearing flip-flops were just as comfortable.

After walking up for about an hour, we sat and ate our picnics. I suggested we could walk back to the car. I was ignored.

Continued walking up. Views on all sides completely perfect whenever we emerged from the trees.

The pathway became narrow, and we rounded a corner to find a sheer drop on one side. I said that I needed to go back. The family suggested that I found a rock to sit on, and they would collect me on the way down.

That’s the thing with my family, you have to be quite resilient to be part of it—you can opt out of things, but no one is going to sit out with you. I suppose this is my fault, it’s how I raised them—they could decide to not eat what I cooked, but there were no alternatives offered.

So, I sat, and waited. It felt like a long time, especially when random men spoke to me on their way up the mountain. But the view was perfect, and I wasn’t murdered, and eventually family returned and we all walked down the mountain together.

Dinner at La Maison again. Perfect end to a nearly perfect day. Our next stop is Genova.

Hope your day is almost perfect too. Thank you for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

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