Tuesday, 19 August 2014
TRAVEL ADVENTURE PART 1 - ENGLAND TO AOSTA
Home for six weeks as we travelled around Italy and France.
I can only apologise for the neglect during the last eight months in updating new posts. I haven't had much free time due to an extremely busy year involving teaching, writing and journalism and from September my working life will be even more packed. It will also involve a new and exciting project, that I can't talk about yet, so I'll hardly get a minute to breathe as autumn and winter set in. This long summer was my chance to do something different so I grabbed the opportunity to make time to travel.
Readers still here, after such a long absence from the blog, may recall that last year I only managed a virtual trip to my favourite country. I saved hard and worked hard to make the dream become reality and enjoyed six long weeks under the sun travelling along the west side, around the foot and heel, and up along the east side of Italy's boot.
My husband was impressed that he could just drive the car from our home in England, packed with tent and essentials, onto a train at the Eurotunnel in Folkestone and 35 minutes later we were driving off again and through France. We had a map but no idea of where to find camp sites which proved quite difficult without some sort of guidebook. As dusk fell after a very long day, we pulled off the motorway and by sheer chance found a lovely little site at Bourget Et Comin. Blue motorways in France are awful because of the cost involved in paying to use them. We eventually got wise and found the green roads were better because they were direct, well signed to towns, villages and camp sites, infinitely more scenic and of course they were free to use. We estimated that we spent about 100 euros driving along ugly French tarmac so it was a tough lesson learned on a relatively small budget.
The camp site was surrounded by an area where WW1 trenches were dug and battles fought. A single poppy pushed up beneath the fence near to our pitch was a solemn reminder of the horrors faced by men of many countries. We saw endless rows of English, French and Canadian wargraves but I couldn't help thinking how different history could have been if at least one of the fallen German Jews had been Corporal Adolf Hitler instead.
These graves were particularly poignant for me given what came later and what is happening now in Isreal and Gaza. The Muslim graves in the French cemetery made me lament why people who once stood shoulder to shoulder in battle during the first and second world wars are now enemies across Europe and in danger of fighting each other in a third world war.
Whether Muslim, Jew, Christian or Atheist, they were all mostly boys and young men. It was impossible not to shed a few tears looking down at that vast waste of life lost in "the war to end all wars." You hear about it, watch documentaries, remember all you were taught at school, but nothing prepares you for the reality of the numerous graves, each containing the lost soul of a person starting out in life, with a future, hopes, dreams, family, loved ones, all stolen by the machinations of global war, hatred, and the belief that Governments owned them to use as they would and their belief they were there to be used and "do their bit."
Anger hung over both of us as we headed out of the region and onwards towards the Italian border. We didn't speak very much on the way but snapped out of it as we got to Dijon where we stayed in a hotel due to it being dark and not wanting to drive for hours in search of another campsite when we had no idea where to find one. We left early and headed for the Mont Blanc.
The view was incredible as we got closer. We had to pay 42 Euros to go through five and a half km of tunnel, which was a bit much, but we marvelled at the amazing feat of engineering. Then we were in Italy and our first port of call there was Aosta, a lovely historic town in the Valle d'Aosta which seemed to be more French than Italian.
My husband fell in love with the place and it remained his favourite after the trip ended and we had seen the contrasting Italian regions from north to south and back again. We stayed at Camping International Sarre which is about four km from the centre of Aosta, and we chose to stay there at the end of the trip as we returned home.
I had intended to write a travel blog each day but getting wifi for the laptop wasn't always easy or available although the above camp site had excellent facilities. I began to keep an old fashioned journal but then it got packed in a bag that got buried beneath other stuff in the car so I lapsed quite a lot. Instead, I decided to write about it all after we got home about 10 days ago but now realise that's quite a lot to write and read so perhaps serialisation is a better way to approach it. So, for now, dear reader, if you stay with the blog and check back, I'll update and feature the next stage of our journey in a new post tomorrow and explain how we headed for Turin and Genoa after Aosta but ended up in the seaside town of Savona instead.
We didn't always get to see the places we had on our wish list, and we often found places that we would never have thought of visiting, but it was a great trip and we have many interesting stories still to tell from our travel adventure.