Over the hills and far away

Had the best nights sleep last night and woke to the smell of fresh croissants again. This is the way to wake up.

Went downstairs and Rose had baked fresh croissants and bread and a wonderful breakfast. I asked for tea and she asked if I wanted builders tea! Gaye knows what I mean. It was delicious and very hot.

Had a wander around the town of Tignes before we left and would thoroughly recommend the little chalet we stayed in. Rose had the most beautiful cat which I wanted to put in my suitcase

We set off down the road and we still did quite a bit of climbing and descending but not as high as the last few days.

I must mention that in all the time we have been driving and crossing mountains and borders the majority of traffic on the road has been cyclists and motorbike riders.

Going up mountains and there are markers on the side of the road telling cyclists the degree of climb as well as how far to the top

There were a few more mountains to climb but at the top of these ones apart from there being a huge dam/lake there was a coffee shop open.

It was a lot warmer at the top of these mountains as well, probably because they were not as high.

We drove through Beaufort and Ugine which were both very pretty towns.

We then drove around this massive lake called Lac d’Annecy which was full of chalets and boats on the lake with people lying on the grass round the lake (hot day) and then got to the town of Annecy itself and how beautiful was that. Right on the lake with canals going through the town with swans and ducks and flowers everywhere and little bridges to cross. We could have been in Venice only there were no gondolas and the canals were a bit wider.

Parked the car and wandered. Max had to change a pair of shoes so found the shop and walked around the corner to the restaurant Brunet which we discovered had a 2019 Michelin star. Need I say the food was fantastic and 3 courses later we wandered out onto the street.

We had a lovely afternoon in Annecy and after quite a few hours headed back to the car to do a final leg before dark which at the moment is around 9.30-10pm.

We arrived in Macon at about 7pm having done some more fabulous scenery

And we are now fed and watered and lying down ready for another day tomorrow. This country just gets prettier and prettier and as I said before the photos don’t do it justice.

Buon nuei mes amis.

France/Italy I am 🤷‍♀️

Woke up this morning to the smell of fresh bread and croissants coming from the boulangerie across the cobblestone street.

The sun was shining and the alps were right there

After my first fabulous French croissant for breaky with a cup of tea we were off.

Heading out of town we were heading north through the French alps

Headed north through Savines-le-lac which was a huge lake, dam, resort at the bottom of the mountains. Of course the colour of the water was glacial green!! Can imagine how cold it was.

We saw someone being towed by a boat in a parachute but when it came time for him to land they landed him right into another large boat that was on the lake and took him back to shore in a speed boat.

On the way just past the lake I spotted a very unusual rock formation or formations and they were called ‘mademoiselles hairdos’

Unfortunately the photo doesn’t do it justice as they were amazing.

From there we headed north to Briancon and the start of the French alps. Quite a few of the towns we drove through today were Olympic villages for the winter Olympic Games

This guy was on one of the many hairpin bends we went around today. I think he represents the men who scaled the mountains to cross them. Of course I could be wrong but sounds good!

It was over the French alps then and the climb was amazing but confusion was rife as we would be driving along and I would get a message from Telstra saying welcome to France. Then half an hour later I would get another on from them saying Welcome to Italy. Hence my confusion but looking on the map we were crossing over from France to Italy and back again as we were very close to the border and the alps crossed both countries. We also started to see a lot of Swiss flags as well as we neared the Swiss border but no message from Telstra.

The climb was amazing and right back into the snow.

Stopped in Briancon for coffee which was a lovely old town and there was some sort of cycling event on. There were bikes everywhere

One thing I am loving about both Italy and France is the amount of cyclists on the road and how the cars, trucks and motorbikes all give way to them. Let them through give them a wide berth and are so polite about it.

I can’t believe that the mountains we have been driving up the last 2 days there have been heaps and heaps of cyclists cycling up the mountains as well.

We stopped in a little town called Oulx for lunch which was funny as we ordered a drink and the amount of goodies they bought out to have with the drinks, we didn’t need lunch

From here on the climbing and hairpin bends got quite scary. Very thin width roads and in some parts no barrier and a sheer mountain below. Max was amazing that he drove all that way but even admitted he was a little scared.

That is only a tiny bit of the road we drove up

By this stage we were so high up we started seeing ski lifts and gondolas everywhere as we had hit the ski fields. Massive ski lifts going across the road and looking up the mountains you could see at least 5-6 ski lifts

We drove on to Val d’Isere which is quite a famous French ski resort but to get there we had to climb up to 2770m. When we got there snow was everywhere so were cyclists and motorcycles who had all climbed the mountain

I got out of the car in my shorts, T-shirt and sandals and nearly froze to death.

Spectacular views and all in snow.

Apparently this is the highest peak that is accessible by road.

On the road coming down this is what we drove through

Yes that is snow on either side of us.

It was another hairy ride down the mountain and this was definitely the scariest

You can see the roads and hairpins.

We were very happy to get down into town which is still 1820m up

Stopped for a well earned refreshment at Val d’Isere and found some accommodation in the town of Tigne which was another 17kms down the road.

I have to let you all know that we came from Barcelonette this morning leaving at about 9 and got here around 5 having only travelled 174kms. That is the sort of roads we were travelling on. Most of the roads we weren’t going faster than 5-10kms.

On our way to Tignes we went through a few tunnels that were built on the side of the mountain but had reinforcements above it to stop everyone being killed by avalanches.

There was also a massive lake/dam with huge waterfalls coming down the mountains from the melting snow

We are now settled into a lovely chalet run by a British guy and his Dutch girlfriend which is perfect as they are going to cook up dinner tonight so we don’t have to go anywhere

This little chalet is so cute and just had the most delicious dinner.

It is now time for bed.

Bonne nuit

The hills are alive with snow capped mountains

OMG what a day.

Had the best nights sleep and after breakfast we wandered through the amazing castle that is above and around Vinadio.

We headed out of town towards Guillaumes which is on the French side of the alps.

Amazing drive. Hairpin bends, single road and lots of motor bikes and cyclists. We climbed up to 2235m and cyclists were cycling up those mountains.

There were amazing sites of looking back down the valleys and villages and monasteries built on the side of mountains.

Some of the most spectacular scenery and it only got better.

We got to the top at 2235m and there was the French border and we were right at the top of a ski slope with the top of ski lift right there.

While we were driving up the mountains we saw a lot of little furry animals that I thought looked like beavers. Thank you Mr Google They were Marmots which are common to alpine areas. When we got to the top there was a big statue of an Alpine Ibex which are also common to this area

Very flamboyant antlers but you still got the idea!

We crossed the border

Funny! They call France the cote d’zur.

Driving down the other side of the mountain you could see all the ski lifts and ski runs. It was huge.

On the way down a baby deer (bambi) ran out in front of us So by the time we reached the bottom of that mountain we had seen heaps of wild life.

The road just kept going up one mountain then down the other side and up the next one. All of it totally spectacular.

We only had 98kms to go from Vinadio to Guillaumes but it took all day due to only one car fitting at a time, hairpin bends, no barriers and speed limit of 20-30kms ph.

Villages on the side of mountains

Amazing bridges to cross

And of course all the mountains still had a bit of snow on them. We reached the snow line a few times and I got out of the car in my shorts, T-shirt and thongs.

We arrived at Guillaumes for lunch and what a pretty town it was set between the mountains. It was a medieval town as well. Had a little walk around

Found a lovely cafe for lunch and in walked 2 Australians from Melbourne. Had a chat and a lovely lunch with a very cheeky waitress who I think was the owner.

Off we headed for Barcelonette which was only 62kms away but we had to cross another mountain so took us an hour and a half to get there.

Again truly spectacular scenery and some amazing tunnels that they had cut into the side of the mountain to continue the road.

This time I got out of the car and put my feet in the snow

Wasnt cold at all. I have been taking photos of the beautiful alpine flowers

It was the most amazing day of incredible scenery that I have only seen in movies or on chocolate boxes. Absolutely beautiful.

Unfortunately the photos don’t do it justice.

We came down and are now in a bar in Barcelonette as when we arrived it started pouring with rain so checked into our little hotel and found a bar out of the rain.

Every time I come to France it is overcast and raining. At least it is warm.

Hopefully the sun will come out tomorrow. This is the first rain I have seen since being in Europe.

Have been sitting in the bar for a while and it is full of English cyclists who have all been cycling the mountains today. Huge effort.

The rain has stopped, we have got our bags out of the car and had a shower. I have my leggings and my French striped jumper on, to fit in with the French as well as my Flanders poppy scarf so feeling very French.

It is a tad chilly here in France but I am sure, being the eternal optimist and am sure tomorrow will go back to the hot Italian weather.

We have had a wonderful dinner in Barcelonette and it is now time for bed

Buon nuit mes amis

Over the alps to France

Woke to another stunning day in Italy and very warm.

Our accommodation included breakfast which was perfect with a good old cup of tea.

Said our goodbye s to the proprietress, packed the car and headed off fo a little drive around town.

There were some amazing houses and a lot of the houses are now changing in looks and design and reminding me of Swiss chalets.

Unfortunately a lot of the old huge houses were either derelict or closed up.

The views from the top of the hill were fantastic

We set off on the road heading west towards France. We are getting closer to the north west of Italy.

Today was quite different countryside from yesterday. It was very flat and a bit boring as the northern part of Italy we drove through today was very industrial. Each town we drove through had a large industrial area that unfortunately we had to drive through.

There was Decathlon, ikea, and other huge stores and then we came around into another town and it was all the outlets for Prada, dolce & Gabbana etc. luckily we didn’t stop!

As we drove through and got further west we started to move into hills planted with grape vines

These were obviously wealthy farmers as they had a lot more growing on their land other than grapes. There was corn, wheat, fruit trees, everything all there on the land with no space wasted.

At the top of the hill was a huge house overlooking all you could see and there were a few of them.

We started to look for somewhere to stop for lunch but it was Sunday and would you believe absolutely nothing was open. Not even a petrol station. Here you can just drive in put in your credit card fill up and drive out.

So we kept driving. Today we came from Salsomaggiore Terme through around the outskirts of Piacenta, Stradella, Voghera, Tortona, around Alessandria through Alba and into Cuneo which is at the base of the alps that go over into France.

Cuneo was conquered by France only during the Napoleonic Wars, when it was made the capital of the Stura department. After the restoration of the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the unification of Italy, Cuneo became the capital of its namesake province in 1859.

We eventually found something open in Cuneo to have a very late lunch but as you can see in the photo above we were at the base of the alps and even though it was 30 degrees in town there was still a lot of snow on the mountains and they looked spectacular.

We decided to push on another 40 minutes down the road, actually up the mountain and stay at a little town called Vinadio.

This is our view from our room

We are now sitting on our verandah having a glass of wine and enjoying the evening and the mountains

Have had dinner overlooking the alps and off to bed.

Ciao ciao.

Slow road to France

Feeling very sad this morning that our fabulous week is over and we all split up to go our separate ways.

It was a sad farewell to everyone, packed the cars and headed out of town.

Max and I are heading back to his place in Brittany but taking our time to get there.

Headed off this morning towards Sienna and beyond but stayed on the back roads nearly all the way.

Came up through Monte San Sorvino and stopped at Loro Ciuffenna for lunch which was a gorgeous old medieval town dating back to the 1400’s.

The countryside was quite different as we headed north. Very mountainous and lots of climbing mountains and coming down the other side. Hairpin bends and mad Italian drivers.

A bit hairy but so beautiful and yet another perfect day.

We made our way across Italy bypassing Sienna, Florence and Bologna and going through little towns away from the tourists.

Came through Borgia San Lorenzo, Barbarino, Maranello which is where the Ferrari factory is and from then on virtually every 4th car we passed was a Ferrari. All red of course!

Ended up in Salsomaggiore Terme which is where we are staying the night. The owners of our Hotel Gloria had been to Australia back in the 1990’s and loved it.

They told us that there was a festival on in town tonight so we had a shower, got changed and walked around the corner to the main part of town and OMG what a surprise. It was a very beautiful town and there were markets and bars with bands playing and at the other end there was a blues festival. So much happening.

We wandered around the streets

We sat in the piazza and had a drink and then wandered around more of the old part of town. On our way there were posters everywhere for my festival (Celeste being my middle name)

Salsomaggiore Terme is a spa town and you should have seen the spa building. Absolutely spectacular

All marble and gold!

We walked back around the corner and here was the band parading up the street playing music until they got to the stage

There was so much atmosphere it was fantastic and a really hot balmy night so everyone was out.

Max and I found a lovely little Italian restaurant on the side of the street that we could hear the band from and had a wonderful dinner

It was then once more around the block and strolled up the street where there were street markets selling handbags, shoes, clothes, jewellery etc.

By the time we had walked the streets and checked everything out it was well past midnight so it was home to Hotel Gloria and into bed. Very warm tonight. I have the fan on.

How am I going to go back to Sydney and winter???

Buona notte

Ciao ciao

The last day

The last day in paradise and another stunning day it is. The temperature has been constantly in the high 20s with it reaching over 30 today and for the next week. Definitely don’t want to go home.

After a leisurely breakfast and some washing we said our fond farewells to Julie and Joe as they were leaving today to head down to the Amalfi coast. Very sad to see them go.

After they had left we set off for Pienza. Of course we went down the dirt roads behind our villa and the views yet again were beautiful

Pienza was a papal town built by Pope Pius II in the 14th century. This meant that everyone that lived there had to pay taxes to The Pope.

Another very beautiful town and after our morning coffee we wandered the streets.

Pienza was also the town Franco Zeffirelli filmed Romeo and Juliette back in the 60s. I remember seeing that film and coming out of the theatre hysterical from crying it was so sad. Even though I knew the story and the end!

There were some lovely shops in Pienza so of course did a little shopping!

Ran into Chienza our chef from Ro’s birthday celebrations.

Nicci, Steven and myself decided to go home via Multepulchiano so we left and popped off to MonteP as we now call it.

Nicci wanted to do a tiny bit more shopping so we wandered up the street, she got what she needed and we then ran into Stu sitting in a cafe having some peace and quiet. We disturbed him had an Aperol and headed off via the supermarket and home to laze by the pool for the last time.

We had made arrangements to have a final dinner at our favourite restaurant in Monticello so we got dressed and walked into town.

A beautiful night and quite warm. Summer is definitely here.

The specialty of the restaurant was boars stew which was popular with everyone but I had the beef which was delicious with Tuscan beans. Naturally we finished it all off with Gelato.

Have had such busy fun days I have not had time to blog but will sort myself out as tomorrow we leave and Max and I start the drive back to France

Caio from Tuscany.

The day after

Very slow day today and another beautiful hot day.

We all got up in dribs and drabs today and Meaghan and Lubby left this morning to head to London.

A few of the people went off and did a cooking class and 5 of us stayed behind and went for a walk into Monticello for coffee and walked back and lay by the pool.

It was such a clear day today as there had, over the last few days, been a lot of burning off so it was hazy, but today was perfect

We went for a drive through the countryside below the villa along the winding dirt roads looking a villas as we decided we all wanted to live here so looked on the internet for villas for sale. Saw the one we wanted but it was 7 bedrooms but only 2 bathrooms plus it was 1,495,000 Euro and probably a bit out of our price range.

Interesting looking though and seeing amazing, beautiful villas with 12 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms which were stunning but outrageously expensive. We can dream.

Decided we would be better off renting for a few months a year which would mean no maintenance and we could change our destinations.

The others all arrived home from their cooking class and it was straight into the pool and we had drinks and nibbles by the pool and then I went and cooked dinner for us who hadn’t been to the cooking class and used up all the leftovers.

Another stunning sunset over our valley.

So as our week draws to a close. With the girls leaving this morning and Jo and Julie leaving tomorrow we had a bottle of Veuve around the pool in farewell and it was an early night for us all.

Buona Notte