With the Smart through Europe - 7000 kilometres
We were up at 6 o'clock because we were working a half-day. It was busy on the ward, but of course that meant that the time went quickly and I left the hospital at 11.30. I met Koos at the car and on the way home we had lunch. Then we packed the car - which of course does not take long - and we were off just after 13.00 towards the German border and on to the E3. The traffic was very busy around Cologne because of two accidents. We called it a day at Limburg and found a lovely hotel not far from the motorway. Then we went into the centre to get our dinner. I had an early night because I had headache.
We were up at 8.30 after sleeping very well all night; the hotel was brand new and very nice. We had a good breakfast and then we were away again on the E3 to Wurzburg and then towards Augsburg and finally to Grainau (near the Zugspitze) for the night. We had lovely weather most of the day but with patches of thick mist. Today was really a travel day. It was a lovely hotel; we had booked it through the Internet.We wandered through the village after dinner to stretch our legs.
I woke up in the night to hear it pouring with rain! We woke up just after 8 o'clock to rain and heavy clouds. We had a lovely breakfast and then we were off. Back along part of the Romantische Strasse to Neuschwanstein Castle. The rain continued steadily the whole time but we walked up to the castle. We had a very welcome cup of coffee before we took the tour of the castle, Its strange for more than 20 years it had been on our list of places to visit and then suddenly we were there and the castle is much smaller than we imagined. Yes - it is smaller but it is much more beautiful inside than I realised. The guide was very good; the tour took 30 minutes and took us through all the finished rooms of the castle. It was in this castle that Ludwig II from Bayern heard from his ministers that the doctors had said that he was mad and unfit to rule. It was from the castle that he and his psychiatrist were taken to the lake near Munich where he and his doctor then drowned under strange circumstances. Ludwig was a strong swimmer and very tall and he drown in just three feet of water. It is also strange that the four doctors who signed the certificate saying he was mad had never examined him. Mind you he had emptied the state treasury building his castles so I suppose the government wanted to get rid of him. He was 40 years old when he died and had not married and had no children. Ludwig was a great admirer of the componist Richard Wagner and this is reflected in the castles interior. We walked the Maria Bridge, which is a 20-minute walk through the woods for a lovely view of the castle. Then because it was still raining we caught the bus back to the parking area where we had lunch before moving on. We took the little roads back towards Munich until we got to the motorway to Salzburg. We got to Salzburg just about 5.30 and found a lovely hotel for the night - I think we were the only guests. After dinner we walked into the old centre and wandered around and a cup of coffee. Then it was back to the hotel for a shower and bed.
I did not sleep too well last night and we were up around 8 o'clock. We had a lovely breakfast and then packed up and went to the old centre of Salzburg. We parked the car and went into the centre. We went to Mozart's birthplace first. We got combination tickets for the Mozart house across the river as well, that was not open the last time we visited the city. The house where Mozart was born was much more interesting than the last time we were there with more things on display in it than before and there is even a coffee shop in it. From there we crossed the river and visited the other house, which is also very interesting with very good audio-visual displays. Then we walked back to the centre and to the statue of Mozart in the Mozartplatz. Then it was time to go back to the car and leave the city. We headed to Steinbach a.d. Atterzee. It is there that Mahler stayed in the summer months for 4 years. He stayed in a hotel there and he had a tiny little house on the edge of the lake, but now the house is in a camping ground. We got the key from the hotel and looked in the one room house where there are photos and a piano. Gustav Mahler composed his Third Symphony in that house. Afterwards we got back onto the motorway heading towards Vienna. We stopped at Ansfelden to look at the house where Bruckner was born; it was closed though (only open Sunday and Wednesday this time of the year). Koos was not too bothered about going into the house because much of it is not original. We had booked a hotel in Traun for the night so we headed there. When we reached the hotel and rang the bell there was no one there and the hotel was closed. Actually it was good for us that it was so because we were a little early and it enabled us to go on a little. Booking though the Internet means that we ran no risk when the hotel was close and it cost us nothing. We stopped in St. Pölten for the night, where we found a good hotel in the centre for the night. I think that the hotel is only for business people usually because it is only open Monday to Friday.
Tuesday 23rd October
We were up earlier this morning, but I had slept very well, we had breakfast and we were on our way just before 8.30. We were heading towards Vienna to start with but then we turned off to go to Baden. We had been there some ten years ago but we wanted to go to the Beethoven house there. Beethoven stayed in Baden during the summer months of several years; he went there for his health. He thought that the spa water would help his deafness. It was in the house in Baden that he worked on his 9th symphony. Unfortunately the house is only open between 16.00 and 18.00 on weekdays. We decided that we would go back on Sunday when we leave Vienna and travel south. We had also planned to go for coffee in the "Beethoven coffee house" around the corner from the Beethoven House (we had had coffee there 10 years ago) BUT that house has been knocked down! So after coffee in another coffee shop we headed into Vienna. On the day before I am going to be 50 we got the bon for the coffee and on it was OMA coffee (oma being granny in Dutch - just to make me feel old!) Our first stop was the general graveyard and a visit to the graves of: Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert and the memorial to Mozart. We don't think its morbid going there, its like calling on friends for us. Koos stole a little bit of earth from around the Beethoven Grave. Then we went to the hotel, it’s the same one we had in July and it is in a good spot in Vienna. We parked the car in the guarded car park and it can stay there until Sunday morning. Then we went out for a walk. We decided that we would just wander along the Mariahilferstrasse this afternoon, as it was late and do some (window) shopping. We had dinner, wrote our postcards and then had a shower.
Wednesday 24th. October.
So it’s my birthday - 50 years old!! The man next door to us had woken me up several times in the night with his snoring! We had breakfast and were out and about just after 8.30. We went to the U-Bahn and got our 3-day tickets for the public transport. Then we went to the Kettenbruckegasse because we wanted to go to the house where Schubert died. When we got there we discovered it was only open between 14.00 and 16.30 daily, so we walked to the Laimgrubengasse to see a house Beethoven had lived in. The house is not a museum but there is a plaque on the wall. From there we walked, via the theatre an der Wien, to the Secession to see the Beethoven Fries by Gustav Klimt. The secession is a art gallery/museum built in Jugendstil but apart from the Beethoven Fries and the building itself I didn’t think much of the exhibits. The theatre an der Wien was where Beethoven's opera Fidelio went in premiere in 1805, Beethoven lived in the theatre some time while working on the opera. After that we walked to the Karlskirche and had a look around it, it is a really beautiful church. When we came out we bought tickets for a Mozart concert for the evening in the "Muziekverrein" that is the concert hall where the New Year concert is given. The man selling the tickets was dressed in costume, he was a singer and we talked to him for a while. He is going to sing in a Mozart opera in The Netherlands next year, we got his e-mail dress so we can hear exactly when he is in The Netherlands. We were nearby, so we went to have a look at the beautiful Beethoven statue. After lunch we got the tram to the Schubert park on the Wahringerstrasse, in the park are memorials where Beethoven and Schubert where first buried next to each other. They were later moved to the central graveyard. Schubert was a great admirer of Beethoven although they never met because Schubert was too much in awe of Beethoven for that. He used to cross the road to the other side if he saw the great man walking there. He helped carry Beethoven's coffin and the less than a year later he died. Then it was time to head back to the Kettenbruckegasse with the U-Bahn (part of the way) to see the house where Schubert died, it was so touching to see his glasses in the display cabinet there. It was interesting to see letters from his brother and father although Koos had to translate them for me as there was of course in German and there was no translation . E. Kleiber (the conductor) was born in the house opposite. By that time we had to head back to the hotel for dinner and a shower before going out again for the concert. The concert was in costumes of the 18th century. We went with the U-Bahn to the Muziekverrein, the concert was very good and it was great to actually be in the concert hall we had seen so often on television. It was nearly midnight by the time we got back to the hotel; we had a drink and went to bed.
We slept later today because we were in bed so late last night, the man in the next room had woken me again with his snoring. Thank goodness for earplugs! I had a bad head to start with so we decided to have a quieter day today. After breakfast we got the U-Bahn to Doblinghauptstrasse to visit the house where Beethoven stayed when he wrote the Eroica Symphony. The house is not completely original, as a floor has been added to it; still it was interesting to visit just because Beethoven had lived there! Then we went with the tram to the Nüssdorferstrasse to visit the house where Schubert was born. Then we went back to the centre where we went to the Aida conditorei for a very welcome cup of coffee and where we treated ourselves to the first cake of the holiday, and I must not have too many - I want to lose weight not gain it!! We got on the tram on the Ring and went to the Mozart memorial- when we were in Vienna in July the statue was in the scaffolding and we could not get photos of it. The rest of the afternoon we spent wandering around the centre window-shopping. Then we got our dinner and headed back to the hotel. There I had a very welcome bath and soaked my aching feet. We had a couple of cups of tea and an earlier night.
We were up just after 8.00 and had breakfast; we were the first into breakfast. We packed up all our things because we have to move into another room for the last two nights. When Koos phoned to book the five nights there was only a double room for three nights but they offered us a single room where they would put an extra bed in for us. They offered us that for the price of the single room and we decided to do that. We got the U-Bahn to Landstrasse and then on to Heiligenstadt. We made a lovely walk from Heiligenstadt to Grinzing. We first of all made a detour though to see the beautiful Beethoven statue in the Heiligenstadt Park, it had to be photographed of course! We have photos of it from other holidays but that is (for us) no excuse for not doing it again - Beethoven being our hero! Then after a cup of coffee we went to the graveyard in Grinzing and visited Gustav Mahler's and Alma Mahler's graves. They lie by chance not far from each other although they were divorced some years before they died. We walked though the main street of Grinzing and then got the tram back to the city for lunch. Refreshed, we went to the Beethoven House on the Mölker Bastei. Then we got the tram back to Grinzing and visited the Beethoven House on the Probusgasse, this is where he wrote the very beautiful, but deeply tragic "Heiligenstadt Testament". It was written in despair where he realised that he was becoming deaf and that it could not be helped but he did not dare to say to people he could not hear because he was a composer. The museums were free of charge today because it is a public holiday. By the time we came out of the museum and got the tram and U-Bahn back to the hotel it was starting to get dark and colder. The hotel room with the extra bed was ready for us but cold so we put on the heating and had a welcome cup of tea.
We were awake just before 8.00 and had breakfast. Then we were out again, it was sunny but a bit cooler again today. We got the U-Bahn to Landstrasse and then walked to the Hundertwasser Haus. Hundertwasser was a pupil of the architect Otto Wagner; the house was built between 1983-1985. They say you either love it or hate it but I love it, we looked in the little "market" opposite with little shops, which were all souvenir type shops. I went to the "toilet of modern art" there which is decorated like the Hundertwasser Haus! Then we got the tram back to the Stephansplatz and walked along the Tuchlauben looking for number 14, which is where Schubert wrote the Winterreise (which I just absolutely love). The original house has gone but we saw the place where it had been - just for the idea we ha been in the same place as Schubert!! Then it was time for coffee. After that we got the underground to Heitzing where we did a walk from my guide book through the former old village of Heitzing, it showed us the different architecture of the area. We walked through Schönbrunn Park and then got the metro back to the Stephansplatz where we wandered around and people watched for while before dinner. Then we got the tram back to the opera and walked back along Mariahilferstrasse to the hotel for the last time this holiday. It was good to get indoors and out of the cool evening air for a warm cup of tea and a shower. Then it was time to pack our things as we were moving on the next day.
Once again we were awake just before 08.00 and we had breakfast. Then we packed our things in and checked out. It was raining a bit when we left Vienna and that got heavier as we left the city and then got into the mountains. We got on to the motorway towards Graz easily, lucky that it was a quiet Sunday morning. We stopped at Baden once again to visit the Beethoven house, which had been closed when we were there before we went to Vienna. The house is lovely and a wonderful touch was the coat and top hat (just like Beethoven wore) hanging in the hall, it was just as though he was at home. Then, after a coffee we continued on to Klagenfurt where we got off the motorway and drove along the Wörthersee to visit another of Mahler's little composing houses. It was in the woods about 15 minutes from the parking lot and it overlooks a lake and the autumn colours were beautiful. A one-armed man looked after the house, he asked us if us wanted to hear some Mahler while we looked around - and then put on one of his symphonies ... very loud! It is lovely music but it was bit too hard for me. The weather had improved a lot by this time and we had sun and it was a lot warmer. Afterwards we headed towards Villach where we got petrol and then over the border. At the last petrol station we finished all our Austrian money on coffee, cake and a cold drink. We got on the Italian motorway as far as Udine for the night. We found a hotel, which was on the road to Venice, which we though would make things easier for the next day. We had dinner, a shower and after reading for a while we went to bed.
We had of course forgotten that wintertime started Saturday night! We only realised it about 11 o'clock this morning that was when we thought it was strange that some of the shops were not open so late in the morning! So when we thought that we had gotten up at 08.00 this morning and had started away from Udine just after 09.00 we had in fact been on the road an hour earlier (and it was the same story yesterday) Still it does mean you get more from your holiday!! It was lovely weather this morning but as we approached Venice it got a bit misty. We found a hotel in Mestre and booked for two nights. We bought bus tickets at the desk. Line 4 leaves just around the corner from the hotel and takes you into the bus station in Venice. That makes it far easier than trying to get there by car and parking in Venice is very expensive. The bus goes every 10 minutes so that is no problem at all. We were in Venice just after 13.00 (thanks to our earlier than planned start this morning). We got the waterbus line 1 to St. Marco and we had lunch there. Taking the water bus, although slow, is a wonderful way to get a first impression of Venice. We looked around the Basilica St Marco which is so beautiful but dark. We then walked around the square and after that then walked back through the narrow streets back to the bus station. We spent some time around the Rialto Bridge where you can take the most beautiful photos - and the misty soft light was lovely. You can really see how Canneletto made his wonderful paintings of Venice with the light. We had a coffee on the way back to keep us going. It was just after 17.00 when we got back to the bus station and there was a bus in. It was very busy but we could sit luckily.
We were up just after 08.00 and had breakfast, which was not really much - the coffee was awful. Then we took the bus into Venice again and then the boat bus to Murano where we walked round for a while and had a cup of coffee. Murano was much quieter than Venice, it is where the beautiful glass comes from and I bought a Christmas present there. Afterwards we got the boat bus back St. Mark's square and went through the Doge Palace and of course across the Bridge of Sighs. There was a queue to go into the palace but the wait was certainly worth it. After that we went up the Campanile, luckily it was with a lift!! - the views from the top are so beautiful. We were surprised that there were not queues for the tower, but while we were there we thought we knew the reason why - the bells rang out 14.00 and your ears really tremble with the noise. Then we walked around the square before walking along the Great Canal towards the Arsenal before turning back for a refreshing coffee. Then it was time to wander back to the Rialto Bridge for a last look from there, and back to the bus station. We did take a couple of wrong turns, which probably added a kilometre to the walk. There was a number 4 bus in when we got to the stop but it was so full that we decided to let that one go and wait for the next one. The bus run every 10 minutes and it meant that we could sit for the half hour journey back to the hotel and dinner. Then it was time for a shower - you could almost hear the hiss of steam from my hot tired feet. Boy it was good to sit on the bed and write my diary with a lovely cup of tea.
We were up just after 08.00 and after breakfast with an awful cup of "coffee" we were on our way again, This time we were heading south towards Rimini an then onto our sightseeing for today the first "new country" for this holiday - the Republic of San Marino. The way along the coast was misty and that got much worse while we were climbing up the mountain to San Marino - we couldn't see anything of the surroundings and at times very little of what was ahead! Then when we had taken the lift 9 floors up from the parking lot and the second lift a further two floors we were above the clouds in brilliant sunshine! The town is full of tourist shops, which line the streets that climb up to the castle. I bought a lovely leather bag pack. It was strange to be looking down on the clouds and at one spot see only the top of the mountain pointing out of the clouds. Then we continued on through the mountains and through the mist to our stop for the night - Arezzo - where we found a lovely hotel and had dinner. We were away just after 08.00 today as the hotel was without breakfast. We drove to Sienna; the roads this morning were quieter as it was a public holiday today. We parked the car and got the bus into the historical old centre. There we wandered around for a while before we thought "should we have bought a ticket in the parking area for the car" So we were going to go back and check but Koos asked a policeman and a parking ticket was not necessary. We had a lovely cup of coffee in a coffee shop with a wonderful view of the square. It was worth going there for coffee just for the view. We looked in the cathedral - which is beautiful - but there was a service going on so we could not wander around to get a closer look. We went into the baptistery to see the Donatello bronzes and then walked through the centre again back to the bus stop and back to the car. Then we were on our way to our next stop, which was San Gimignano. On the way there we got some lovely views of the typical Tuscany landscape and today we were very lucky with the weather as there was no mist only sun. San Gimignano is on the Unesco list of world heritage sites and it really is beautiful. It was very busy though as it was a public holiday. Of course there are lots of tourist shops etc but the old centre is really beautiful. Then after a drink we headed off towards Florence. The roads just kept getting busier and busier as it got towards evening and we got nearer Florence. On the outskirts of the city Koos asked at a few hotels but everything was fully booked. The traffic situation was not helped by a couple of accidents, which blocked roads. We had to head away from Florence and about 18 kilometres from the city we found a hotel that had one vacancy for one night, we took it of course.
The hotel was lovely but it was very noisy thanks to two families with children! It was also quite cold and there were only two thin blankets for the bed. We set the alarm for 07.00 thinking we would get an early start for a day in Florence. We were ready for breakfast at 07.30 but there was no one around and there was no breakfast until 08.00. Still we were away just after 08.30 and in Florence just after 09.30. There we quite quickly found a good hotel and booked in for two nights. We left our luggage in the room and headed for the historical centre. Our first stop was the Duomo, which is beautiful, then Koos climbed the 414 steps of the campanile but I sat in the sun. Then we headed for the Piazza Della Signoria and the Palazzo Vecchio and saw the copy of the David. We spent some time there before heading for the Ponte Vecchio; it was so busy there. Then we wandered over to the Santa Croce to see the tomb of Michelangelo. That church is absolutely beautiful there are also the tombs of Dante and Rossini. There are also some lovely frescoes by Giotto. From there it was time to head to the Galleria Dell' Accademia to see the REAL David. I have waited a long time to see it but it was worth the wait. It is just so beautiful and it is so beautifully placed in the gallery with a soft filtered light on it. It is so unbelievable that Michelangelo made this wonderful powerful yet innocent figure from a piece of marble that had been lying around discarded because no one knew what to carve out of it. It had been started on and then left. Then along comes a young Michelangelo (he was 29) and says something like " I know what figure lives in that piece of marble" and makes such a perfect piece of art. As you look at it you can feel the strength and purity of the young David. The cold marble seems to radiate warmth and life. Vasari said that the statue was so perfect you did not need to look at another piece of art ever. That would be a pity though because Michelangelo made other wonderful things!! The only thing is you are not allowed to take photos of it because of "copyright". One American lady did say to the security man, who was checking that no one took photos that she thought that was crazy as Michelangelo had been dead for years!! It did not help though she still could not take a photo! Koos did, as many others, manage to smuggle a photo of the real thing for me. Several years ago Koos bought me a lovely small copy f the David, knowing how I loved it. It stood proudly on our coffee table. Everytime that my parents visited us my mum would turn him around so that his back was towards her. As I entered the gallery and this beautiful huge statue faced me I thought first "how beautiful it really is"...... and then ...."How would mum turn him around!!" From there we walked back to the Duomo and slowly back to the hotel for a cup of tea and a rest. Then it was out again to get our dinner, it was so busy then, we walked around for a while before heading back to the hotel for the night. A bath and a drink were very welcome. Florence was on our list for a long long time but the wait was well worthwhile... its so beautiful and so unique. We were also very lucky with the weather as well.
We were up at 07.00 and had a lovely breakfast before going out for the day. We headed towards the Uffizi museum. That opens at 08.30 and we knew there it was always busy there. We were there just after 08.30 and already there was a queue and the waiting time to the entrance was at least an hour and then once you got inside you still had a wait of at least 45 minutes! It is possible to phone for reserved time tickets but of course you then have to know before you arrived the exact date you want a ticket for and we did not know exactly when we would be here. So we decided to give the Uffizi a miss for this visit. We walked to the San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapel, which is absolutely beautiful. Michelangelo made plans for the front of the San Lorenzo but never completed the work. The tomb for Lorenzo the Magnificent and his son was also not completed. Then we had a cup of coffee before walking to the Casa Buonarroti. That was not mentioned in my guidebook and I had only seen one sign for it, but it really is worth visiting. In the Casa Buonarroti are two youth works of Michelangelo, which are absolutely beautiful. One relief was done when he was 15 years old and even then you can see the strength that he gives his figures. Even in that work you can see how he knew how to make his sculptured fingers real. We then headed back to the square in front of the San Croce and had our lunch there in the sun. Afterwards we went back to the Ponte Vecchio - it was unbelievably busy there - well everywhere - this afternoon. Then we walked along the David (the copy) again and through the shopping street. We went into the Baptistery and spent some time looking at the beautiful ceiling. After wandering through the shopping streets again we headed back to the hotel for dinner and a well earned rest The city centre was so busy this afternoon and the streets were deadlocked with traffic.
I had an awful migraine in the night, I really thought at times that I would not be able to travel further today. Still late in the night/ early morning I fell deep in sleep and by breakfast time I was not feeling too bad. We left straight after breakfast and thank goodness it was Sunday for leaving Florence. At least the traffic was not too bad. We were heading towards Pisa for our first stop but signs for Pisa were difficult to find around Florence. Still we managed and arrived in Pisa just after 11.00. There the signs for the leaning tower were not frequent and the one we found pointed the wrong way. We parked the car along the riverside and walked to the Tower, cathedral and baptistery. The tower is lovely but smaller than we thought it would be. The weather was beautiful, we spent some time taking photos and then went back to the car and were on our way again. We gave the tourist stalls around the Campo dei Miracoli a miss. The next stop was Lucca and there the traffic was heavier. We parked the car in a nearly full car park and walked to the old centre. We found the Puccini house but it was closed until 15.00 - so we had an hour to wait. We had a cup of coffee and then walked to the old Roman amphitheatre, which is now a housing project. It is very well done because the houses - built in 1830 are around the old shape of the theatre and the gates where the animals and gladiators came into the arena are still visible. The 15th century Puccini house is very interesting and very well worth visiting. It is where Puccini was born in 1858, in the house are letters he wrote when he could no longer speak after he had surgery for throat cancer. There is also the piano he used while composing his opera Turandot. While we were looking around they played La Boheme. Then we moved on to Viareggio for the night, its on the sea shore and very busy with shops along the boulevard. The shops were all open even though it was Sunday evening and we walked a while before having dinner. All the restaurants do not open before 20.00 so, because I needed an early night, we contented ourselves with pizza from a fast food bar which was eaten on the sea front while people-watching - it was very tasty. We went back to the hotel for a cup of tea, a shower and BED.
I think the hotel we had last night was the worst one this holiday. It looked nice from the outside and the room was good BUT it was cold and very noisy.... all night. To add to the problem of noise from guests an owners we were next to the lift and that made a "house music" noise when the doors were open. I got very little sleep, which did not help my head. We were up just after 08.00 and had breakfast and then we were on our way again. First of all we headed back to Torre del Lago Puccini to see the house that Puccini and his wife had lived in there, He and his wife are buried in the grounds there. The guidebook said that the house was open daily but we had our doubts about that. Everywhere in the world we have been the museums have been closed on a Monday and sure enough this one was as well. So we headed off to visit the marble caves in Carrera, it was there that Michelangelo got his marble. He said that the marble from Carrera was the whitest and best to work with. It was a steep climb on very twisty narrow roads high into the hills but it was worth it to see the huge quarries and how white it is. Then we got our lunch and things for dinner and headed onto the motorway towards, and passed Genoa. When we were passed Genoa we got off the motorway and took the coastal road half way to the border with France where we called it a day and got a hotel hoping that it would be quieter than last nights.
Well the hotel certainly was not quieter than the night before! The traffic raced past the hotel the whole night.... it was awful! It was like sleeping in the middle of the motorway. We were the only guests in the hotel - in the restaurant there was only one table set for breakfast. We were away by 08.45 on the SS 1 again towards the French border. I had the start or restart of a migraine and felt awful. It had rained in the night and it continued raining until about 11.00 when the sun broke through. We went into a supermarket and got things for a picnic lunch and then a little later stopped to get petrol and to get rid of the lire we had left. We stopped for coffee just before the border and that used the last of the few lire we had. We decided to get a hotel as soon as possible after the border and to check that it would be quieter. We stopped in Menton and got a hotel with a room at the back of the hotel and not on the road even though it would have been looking out to sea. I went to bed and slept for 3 hours while Koos went out walking through the lovely old town and along the sea front. When he came back I got up and we had a cup of tea before we both wet out for a walk around the centre. It really is an enchanting little place. Then it was time for dinner and a shower. I had an early night and Koos had another walk. He has the other problem - he is awake during the night because he has been going to bed earlier than he normally does. The thing is he can sleep almost everywhere and through noise and I sleep very lightly so that everything wakes me up. That plus the fact that Koos needs less sleep than I do.I slept well and we were up at 08.00 and had breakfast and then we were way again. We took the coastal road to Monaco where we parked the car and had a little walk around. It is really amazing how they have managed to build up the cliffs and how much use they have got from such a little amount of ground, but it not my kind of place. Then we headed towards Nice again taking the coastal route, which is really lovely, and we were again very lucky with the weather. Just before Nice we headed inland and towards Carros and then Vence and the Grand Canyon du Verdon. The Canyon is even deeper than the Grand Canyon is Arizona, and it is just as breathtaking but far less touristy - well at least at this time of year. The scenery through the mountains was beautiful. We went through Grasse but did not stop there, we have put in on our list of places to visit the next time we are here, and I don't think that will be so long. We took the left road around the Canyon but it was closed after about 12 kilometres, we could only get to two viewpoints - but they were lovely views and the gorgeous autumn colours made it even more lovely. When I walked back from the viewpoint I met three young American men who were posing for photos in front of the Smart! Then because we could go no further around the canyon we headed back to Draguinon for the night. We had dinner and then planned out the route for tomorrow.
We were up just after 08.00, having slept very well. We had breakfast and checked out and we were on our way just after 08.30. We got on the peage (the toll roads) to Aix-en-Provence where we had planned to stop a while. The traffic jams into the town were awful and then we saw one parking garage after the other "compleet" and there was absolutely no chance of parking along the streets. So we gave that idea up and decided to head towards Spain and see how far we got. We kept on the peages and by 16.30 we were on the Costa Brava we were planned to stop for the next three nights. We did not want to be in Barcelona with the car. We found a hotel (half board for three nights - 180 gulden!!) They were perhaps not too pleased to have us as they are closing on Sunday and we have to be out by 10.00 but we are always on our way by that time. The hotel is just opposite the station and the trains go every half hour. We had a walk along the nearly empty front before dinner. Today was really just a travel day but pleasant.We were awake just before 07.30 and had breakfast. Then we caught the train into Barcelona - it takes an hour to get to Plaça de Catalunya, which is the centre of the city. We had a cup of coffee before we started to explore the city. We walked along the Ramblas as far as the Columbus Monument. We went through the market where it is really amazing the different the varieties of vegetables, nuts, fruits and fish and seafood there is on offer. Then we wandered back to the fountain on the square at the Plaça de Catalunya where we had our lunch in the sun. Then we set off to go to the cathedral of Gaudi - Temple de la Sagrada Familia. It is an amazing building but it is so crowded in between apartment buildings, which is a pity. Then we walked to the Arc de Triomf and from there back to the Plaça de Catalunya and spent a little while there before getting the train back to Santa Susanna and the hotel for dinner and a shower. Again there was a noisy night and it started to storm in the night. The wind blew down some of the things in the building site next to our hotel.
It was another very noisy night; there were six busloads of people in for the night. The music from the disco did not stop until 01.30. We were up at 07.30 and had breakfast and left. The storm had been very bad in the night and the wind was still very hard. We headed along the little roads towards Andorra; the trip would have been beautiful if the weather had been good. Unfortunately it was rainy and cloudy and the views were limited. By the time we reached Andorra it was absolutely p... it down. We stopped at a huge shopping centre where we got things for our dinner and then headed to the capital, but we were very disappointed in it really. The weather didn't help but really it is all shops and shopping centres. We decided to head out the other side of Andorra towards Perpginan but as we climbed a little out of the town the show started to come down. We saw cars heading in the opposite direction to us (coming from where we were going) covered in snow, and then the road was slippery and there was one car that had slipped into the railing. So we decided to turn back. We crept down out of Andorra and turned towards Perpginan from the French side of Andorra but there to we ran quickly into very icy roads and snow. By this time it was beginning to get dark and we saw that petrol stations were closed. So we decided to get off the road for the night and then to head back towards Barcelona the next day. The first hotel we found that was open had a room and we took it. It was actually pretty awful and bitterly cold but we were glad to be off the road. There had been no mention of possible snow on the weather reports. The restaurant in the hotel was closed so we were very glad we had bought things in the afternoon. The room was just impossible to warm so we were soon in bed, but even then it was not very warm.
We were awake just after 07.30 and because we could not get breakfast in the hotel we were soon on our way. We decided not to try the route through the mountains but to head back to Spain and then towards Perpignan and the around the base of the mountains. We saw several huge castles built high and impressively on peaks by the Cathares during the 11th to 13th century, they must have been impossible for enemy to take. The autumn colours were lovely. The route was absolutely beautiful, so that although it was really a travel day we enjoyed the trip. We stopped at Foix for the night, and this time we had a good hotel warm and quiet.
We were awake at 07.30 and we had a good breakfast before leaving for a long travel day as we had planned to add the standing stones of Carnac in Brittany to our holiday plans. The only way to do that was to have one day on the Peages to get up north. The weather was awful with low mist and rain to start with, it did clear up a little during the day although we never got any sun. We thought about stopping in Nantes for the night but it was only about 15.30 when we got there. So we decided to head a little further and stop at Vannes, which is much closer to Carnac. We found a good hotel for the night and had dinner. Then to stretch our legs we had a little walk through the centre, which is lovely, before having a warming shower. It was very cold this evening.
We were up just after 07.30 but left without breakfast because all the tables were in use and there was nowhere to sit. It was so busy in the hotel. We stopped and had breakfast at McDonalds for the first time this holiday. Then we headed for Carnac and we were very lucky with the weather, although it was cool we had sun this morning. What an amazing place Carnac is and it is so big. 3000 standing stones placed in lines more than 6000 years ago. It was very quiet at the site, I think there were about six of us at the information centre/shop but at the first part of the site we were alone and that only adds to the mystery of the place. Then we headed to Finistere and the Cap there. It is a lovely drive to it and although it was then quite cold the weather was good but just after we left there and were driving towards Brest it rained heavily for a little while. We found a hotel near Brest for the night and had dinner. It’s strange to think that, this holiday, we have only one more night in a hotel after this one. When we left home four weeks seemed so long and now it seems to have gone by so quickly.
We were up at 07.30 and had breakfast an then we were for our last day (of this holiday) of sightseeing. We did not have far to go for our first stop the cairn at Barnenez. It is a beautifully situated large cairn - it overlooks an inlet of the sea, which was at low tide, when we were there. We were the only visitors an it was lovely to walk around with only the company of two friendly little dogs, they appeared from nowhere really. After they had followed us around the site and jumped up against us with their muddy paws they disappeared into nowhere again. From there we headed north again and stopped at Mont St Michel. The weather was beautiful and we managed to get some lovely photos of the isle. The last time we were there it was misty and we did not get such good views. Then it was really time to start on the journey home. We headed towards Rouen where we stopped for the night.
It was hard to believe that the last day of the trip had arrived, four weeks seemed so long. I had slept well even though the hotel was along the main road. We were up just after 07.30 and had breakfast. There was a thin layer of ice on the car and it was very cold. We stopped at Amiens and did some shopping to finish up the French francs – that was the last foreign mainland European money we will handle – the next time we take such a trip we will be using Euros! Then we headed straight home – when you are travelling home, you get to a point when you want to be home and the journey is too long. You seem to accept that the trip is over and we really felt that we had done just everything and more than we had planned. We were home about 17.00 and unpacked. Luckily we had a weekend to relax and get ready for work.
Vt seem to have muddled up my photos in the change over to new VT so i will sort them out as soon as possible!