We enjoyed our first road trip so much that we decided to do it again. Our destination this time was going to be Italy. We wanted to see more of France too, to we decided it would be a nice to travel via the Millau bridge. It is a bridge that my husband had wanted to visit for quite a while because of its height. It spans the valley of the river Tarn and is a truly magnificent piece of architecture.
Well, we were all loaded up and ready to go. We set off reasonably early for Eurotunnel, we like to miss all the traffic. We really were feeling excited and enthusiastic about going on another journey like this. Little did we know what was ahead. We reached Eurotunnel about 6am. The train was practically ready for us so we made our way to the boarding lane. We drove eagerly onto the train when ordered to do so by the lovely staff at the tunnel. When we had almost reached the French side, my husband said "you do have my driving license don't you"? This was drama number one. "no, I thought you had picked it up"...then there was the usual bickering that married couples have about who was to blame; you know, he thought I would remember the license and I thought he would, it was his after all! So, now what do we do; go back home and get it, or carry on and hope for the best? We decided to contact the DVLC by mobile phone to ask what would be the best thing to do. They were really very helpful and gave us our License number and other details we may need if stopped by the Gendarmerie. As long as we have that we should be OK was there advice to us. Thank goodness for that. We thought we may have to get back on the tunnel and go home.
What glorious weather we were having too. Sunny, calm and amazingly serene. We passed through some stunning places, quiet, quaint villages in the middle of nowhere. If we came across a little coffee shop or cafe we stopped to stretch out legs. Everyone always seems so friendly in France. We did not book anywhere to stay except our destination in Italy where we booked a lovely villa in the Tuscan countryside. As usual if we came across a hotel that looked decent we would stop off and ask if they had a room. They always have done, and mostly they are lovely too.
We reached Millau in good time, the roof down and the sunshine blazing, absolutely beautiful. We decided we would get out for a look around before heading for the Bridge. We found some nice little shops and took a stroll around. Always a pleasure to do this. The sun still shining made it even better. After about an hour we returned to the car and headed off towards the bridge. All of a sudden it came over very dark and cloudy. "hmm, maybe we should pull over and put the roof up, it looks like it is going to rain" I said. My husband agreed and we stopped at a lay-by and put up the roof. Just as we got back into the car and shut the door we heard a loud bang. we looked at each other curiously 'what was that'? then there was another bang...then another and before we knew what was happening huge hailstones the size of golf balls (I kid you not) were belting down on the car. This was drama number two. We were in the middle of a terrific hailstorm. "Oh my god, the car is going to be severely damaged by this". The storm continued for about 5 minutes, then the clouds disappeared and the sun popped out. It was once again a beautiful sunny day. We got out of the car to check out the damage to the car. It was very wet as you can imagine, so it was quite difficult to see all the the dents. At least the car was drivable and looked ok. We carried on the journey and over the bridge. Amazing that man can build such a magnificent feature. About 7pm we found a sweet little hotel that overlooked a lake. So we pulled in and got ourselves room. Next morning we headed for the car, it was sunny and dry. This is when the true extent of the damage by the storm hit us. As we approached the car we could see small dents all over it. It looked as though it had been attacked by a hammer all over. I called our insurance company who were very good. They told us to contact them when we returned home and they would deal with it then. It was disheartening, but we decided that we had just as well carry on with the trip and sort it all out later.
What a beautiful country Italy is. The countryside is truly wonderful. We drove alongside so many sunflower fields. Unfortunately we had missed the flowers and they were now beginning to look a little sorry for themselves with their drooping heads. We will have to visit again, next time make sure we come when the flowers are in bloom. I bet it looks stunning. We drove through country lanes, steep valleys and many lovely villages. Were looking for the villa we had rented called 'Pogio Llandi', I caught a glimpse of a sign showing the direction we needed to take, so off we tootled up another country lane. After about five minutes, the road getting narrower and narrower there was the sign for 'Pogio Llandi'. We left as directed to be confronted with a VERY long and twisting track. Bearing in mind we are driving a small, low profile car where the underside of the vehicle and the bumper are almost on the ground anyway! We had to try to reach the villa, so we carried on....This was drama number three. Slowly and carefully we drove. We had to try to avoid the high turf and small rocks in the middle of the track. This was not easy as there was a steep drop on one side of the track. My husband was driving the car along at a crawling pace from one side of the track to the other, trying to avoid rocks and pot holes. The track must have been about half a mile long, it seemed to go on forever. We heard a crunch. The car was now stuck in first gear so at least we could drive long enough to reach the property. Along we drove in first gear. We could not use any other gear at all; it was stuck. We finally reached the property. The owners greeted us with a smile and a warm welcome. We explained to them about the gearbox. The owner advised us that is was 'holiday in village...no mechanic!'. That was all we needed. "you use my car' he offered. "I take you to get food, and you use my car until yours is fixed" What a lovely man. He really was a delight.
The next day my husband took a look under the car and could see the problem. The ball had come out of the socket. After about 15 mins he had it fixed. Bless him. Just as he fixed it the owner came rushing out to say "I call mechanic, he on his way". Oh No! "No, no, that is ok. We have fixed it now. All done" we told him. Off he rushed indoors to call the mechanic back and cancel. Luckily he caught him before he left.
We were relaxing by the pool one afternoon at the villa, when we heard a bell. It chimed a little, then stopped, then chimed again. This continued on and off for three days. We thought that maybe it was a goat with a bell collar. When we saw the owner next we decided to ask him if he knew where it was coming from. "Oh yes. That is our little dog. he is deaf; so when we call, he no hear us. So we put bell on his collar. Now we can hear where he is; so we can go and fetch him" We thought this was delightful; then owner went on to tell us about his pet duck. We had noticed the duck a few time following him around the grounds. The owner explained " He is called Beano. I have him since he was an egg. I keep the egg warm and it hatch. Beano grew and began to follow me. He thinks I am his mother. He follow me everywhere; in the house, garden...everywhere. Beano is mute....has no quack. He is strange duck, but we love him". What a charming family they are; deaf dog and quackless duck included.
We returned home via Switzerland, Austria, Germany and back through France. We experienced sunshine, Hail, rain and snow all on one journey. We had a terrific holiday despite our little dramas. We met lovely people, ate good food, drank good wine and chilled out. This is a trip I will always remember. I loved the excitement of not knowing what was going to happen, where we were going to stay and would we return in one piece!
Oh! by the way. The insurance company had the car picked up from our home, and returned it to us fully repaired and dent free. Amazing. I thought they were going to write it off. I am so glad they didn't. Our little car has been through alot and done clocked up some miles.