Europe with the roof down

23rd June to 9th July 2006


23 June - FRANCE
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Holidays started in Boulogne thanks to sister Sonia and www.SpeedFerries.com - £25 each way for car and passengers
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Not a good start - on a main road but TomTom Europe thinks we're in the middle of a field Overall verdict at end of hol is that TomTom is brilliant
BELGUIM
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Not quite a main road to Germany but at least we're on our way.
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... and so are they.
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GERMANY
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Went past Nurburgring so had to stop - not an open day so we watched some classic car racing.
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First night - stayed at the "Gutsschänke Sennerhof" hotel owned by Winfried und Karin Persch at Rieslingstrasse 1, 55430 Oberwesel on the Rhein.
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King size bed, large settee, marble en-suite, windows on three sides - €60 - incredible value. More details on their website www.hotel-weinproben-rhein.de
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Winfried and Karin's main business is wine growing and making. Their 10 acres surround the hotel
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PS - we meet a nice guy at the hotel who had Croatian descent but was living in Australia. Either way he was going to be a winner the next day.
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This 11% 2002 Oberweseler St Martinsberg Riesling at €5.80 was ...
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... one of a pair of perfect summer evening wines
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Evening tapas-like snacks included soft ewes cheese fried in honey - Wilfred called it 'Cheeps Scheeze'
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Up the road was the Schoenborg castle.
24 June
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However, woken up at 7am next morning by vine spraying!
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Views over the busy Rhein and pretty villages
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Managed to get to 200kph driving down the autobahn to Basel before I got a tap on the shoulder.
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SWITZERLAND
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Quick stop in Basel then off ...
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... for lunch in Laufenberg - a beautiful little village striding the Rhein border with Germany in the north west of Switzerland
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The Rhein is pretty big even this far up
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Erotic egg-cup sculptures
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I wouldn't mind this in my garden
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Spent the rest of the day meandering through middle Switzerland until we got to the east
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Tried a few hotels but all full - so we ended up at the Gasthaus Krone in Chur - OK but the most expensive hotel on the trip and not even en-suite.
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Bedroom view
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25 June
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A long day ahead going over the passes into Italy
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The first pass was the Strelapass (2350m) which took us towards Klosters and Davos
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Lake at Davos ...
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... and the very expensive Steigenberger Hotel Beldevere
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The Flüelapass was flooded with melting snow water so we had to use the ...
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... 19km Vereina Rail Tunnel between Selfranga and Susch.
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The cars were a couple of feet apart relying on handbrake and first gear on a rickety old cattle wagon travelling through the dark at 60 kph. I thought it was a single track tunnel until we managed to pass the opposite train in the middle without slowing! More frightening than an Alton Towers ride.
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Cyclists everywhere
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Up through the Ofenpass Pass dal Fuosa (2149m) to S. Maria im Münstertal towards ...
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... the Umbrail Pass (highest point at 3033m) towards Italy.
ITALY
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This joins the Passo di Stevio halfway up so we turned left to the top.
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Top of the pass
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Looking down the other side (towards the North East)
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Not on our route but had to go down the famous 48 hairpin bends towards Trafoi.
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This is a big 23Mb MOVIE file. Watch out for the bikers! It will take a while to load - you'll need QuickTime to view it.
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Tight bends ...
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... and tight tunnels as well
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End of the Stelvio
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Then back over the Stelvio, past this (cold) lake heading for the lovely foothill town of Bormio
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After Bormi, headed South East via the Passo Gavia.
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Got to the bottom of the Gavia Pass and then found we had to ...
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... go over the Passo di Tonale - it looked flat on the map.
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We were 'Pass'd' out after we'd done the six passes and couldn't wait to get to the hotel. We'd booked this one in the afternoon and TomTom took us straight to it - "You have reached your destination" was very welcome.
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Holiday Inn in Dimaro (in the Vale di Sole) - very pleasant stop, underground car park and not expensive.
26 June
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These lights were all over our Italian route - every time I approached then they turned red - maybe it's a cunning speed control system.
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Another pass, the Ballino, on our way via Pinzola towards Riva del Garda.
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The blue in this lake was incredible.
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There's Garda in the distance
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Another pass - the area of Parma is huge
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Mark lead us to the B&B in Sestri
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And here he is on his balcony
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My bump took longer to get than Cristina's
27 June
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It's hard work on their Luna Blu Beach resort.
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Just shift all those rocks, Bob!
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28 June
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Next day took David, Marilyn and Philip for a drive around the Ligurian hills.
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Stopped here and was helped to park legally by an English taxi driver who'd lived here 16 years, and then had lunch in this bar owned by a Welsh lady who'd been here 22 years. Need to work out where this village was ...
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... had a very interesting sculpture!
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Lovely drive back which included this straight sloping tunnel - we'd followed a little town bus the previous day which got up to about 70mph at the bottom - I was frightened following it let alone overtaking it.
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Marky said he would better the cocktails that he saw on the Helen page in August 2005 - these were tasty and alcoholic but could have looked better - he'll have to try better next time.
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This lady came round and I gave her a load of dosh to make me happy - I got a bit anxious when she started to pull my trunks down - that's the professore in the background - we had a discussion about how the scientific community would better understand how the laws of physics and chemistry would be seen as one within the next fifty years - that was without a drink!
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B&B in Dimora Della Torre, Vico Macelli, 35 16039 Sestri Levante, Tel +39 185 44618 (€80 a night) - fantastic room, another marble en-suite and ...
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... this ceiling which is an Italian form of contraceptive - you wouldn't would you - with all those cherubs looking down on you!
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29 June
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Back of the B&B at 
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Breakfast before we leave.
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Hope they have another successful season and everything goes Ok with the little one.
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End of Ligurian holiday - start of one of my favourite runs along the Ligurian coast down into Provance - Alps cascading into the Mediterranean so the motorway has to ribbon its way through tunnels and over viaducts dozens of times - a great race track of a motorway.
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You can see the next tunnel at the end of this one.
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FRANCE
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France, and ...
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.... the language changes!
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Bienvenue sur l’autoroute Estérel Côte d’Azur
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Slow down! Menton.
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Les Appartements in Nice.
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Amazing Provence.
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Roof's up - it must have been hot!
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Over the Rhône.
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... and along the A9 'La Languedocienne' autoroute.
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Loads of wind generators - 'aeolians' in French.
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And then the A9 becomes 'La Catalane' past Rivesaltes and the airport towards our favourite French city.
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Then into Canet-en-Roussillon (like Skegness sur Méditerranée but v relaxing and great for kids)
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A modern sculpture - but something to do with wine surely.
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This is towards the centre of Canet - Canet Plage - the road doesn't extend into our part.
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View from our 'appartement' - garden, the footpath then a couple of hundred yards of sand (by 7 miles wide) to the sea - often too hot to walk on in bare feet!
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Germany were still in the World Cup - I think we were too!
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Made friends with a very nice French couple (Robert and Eliane) while we watched the harmonica orchestra.
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The owner - a really nice chap and great moules.
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And she could also sing as well.
30 June
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Train, first class, to Barçelona
SPAIN
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And here she is - the highlight of the holiday - 8 months old Moira
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The Mundial Bar, Plaça Sant Agustí Vell, is famous for its boxing past and the nice waitress who innocently caressed my shoulder!
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Tom and Jessica took us to Joanet where the food was good but the wine needed to be helped with gassy water which they supplied!
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All of a sudden you come across the beautiful Palau de la Mùsica Catalana. The tour round the symphony hall is amazing, but the Catalans couldn't keep quiet during a performance!
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View down Via Laietana - the opposite side to Las Ramblas.
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Beautiful architecture of this market roof - shines in bright sunlight.
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Back view of the market.
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Tom in the kitchen preparing the monkfish - notice the Globals, and I think I recognise the website.
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Starters.
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1 July
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Breakfast.
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Wandering around Barcelona, as you do.
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I'd remembered Vascelum in the Plaça de Santa Maria, but ...
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... the food was cold - a real disappointment.
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Main window of Sanata Maria and ...
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... the main door.
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Great finds - Cepas Viejas from the Bierzo regiion and it's upmarket cousin Bem di Bre - Cabernet Franc aka Mencía (Dominio de Tares )
2 July
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More wandering.
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This is our Saint George (belongs to a lot of other countries as well)
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One of our favourite restaurants from earlier visits - Cafe de L'Academia on Carrer dels Lledó.
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Another famous restaurant which we've tried - Senyor Parallada.
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And hotels near-by.
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3 July - FRANCE
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Back in Canet - and me cleaning the balcony - real boys stuff mucking around with water!
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Our flat's in the middle somewhere.
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That's me taking a photo of Jo standing in the middle of the beach and ...
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... her taking a photo of me, also standing in the middle!
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Pyrénées in the distance.
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Can't believe it - Jo, who can't even hold a putter, beat me by three shots!
7 July
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New shopping centre - FNAC, etc
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On our way home.
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Start of the Massif Centrale.
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Excellent driving on the southern A75 - twisting, climbing and fast.
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Back to the Millau Viaduct
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A moment before, this eagle had been flying straight towards me, black eyes, yellow beak, fluttering wing tips - and I had the camera turned off!
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Eagle still flying around.
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This says there are 140 walks of varying lengths and difficulties around Millau.
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A view down to the river Tarn.
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Architecturally interesting roof on the Péage toll station (€6.80 each way)
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This is the little river Tarn which over millions of years of eating away at the gorge has caused us motorists so many delays.
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The length of the viaduct from edge to edge is 2,460m (1.5 miles)
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The tallest of the seven supporting towers (pier #2) is 245m (803ft).
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The highest point is 343m (1125ft), For comparison the Eiffel Tower is 300m tall.
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The suspension towers above you are 90m tall (295ft)
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Going south.
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And then going North.
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Another older famous viaduct further north.
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Rain to clean the windscreen.
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Stayed in Orléans
8 July
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I think the speed-limit here was 50kph.
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Lunch in Abbeville - but should have gone to Amiens instead.
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Photos of Boulogne for our friend Eddie
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There's those cliffs ...
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... and there's the harbour
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Another lovely big meal at Sonia's ... and some wine.
9 July
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And then lunch with Uncle Reg, Richard and Hilary on our way home - end of a brilliant holiday
 


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