182 – Kay and Elsie’s 2014 Mega Road Trip to Italy

 A Guest Blog by Kay McRobbie and Elsie Phillips


Over a year ago (in 2013) Elsie and I had discussed what 2014 was going to be like for the 2 of us ………. it was going to be a Biggy !!!

Our birthdays !!!  Mine in July and Elsie’s in October………we had, somehow, managed to reach the ripe old age of 60 !!!

Road Trip To Italy

We decided then and there we would like to do something

before we reached that milestone age.

THE ROAD TRIP was born !!!

I started planning as soon as we knew how long we could be away from work/home etc. 3 weeks was all we could allow, so we got maps out and each decided what we really wanted to see. We knew straight away that the 2nd week of our trip would be spent re-charging our batteries at a place that both Elsie and I love, “Tre Cancelle”. Elsie worked out the route for us as I prepared the car, my trusty Clio. Sorting out the kit you have to have when you drive abroad, all insurances etc etc. To anyone reading this, Halfords do a check list which helps a lot. I hadn’t done anything like this before but Elsie had, back in the 70’s. Elsie neglected to tell me she had done a similar route back then and it had taken 3 MONTHS !!! We did it in 3 WEEKS !!!

Monday 26th May, 8am…ish – BARRY, SOUTH WALES TO CAEN, FRANCE

Left Barry to go to Penarth to pick Elsie up. From Elsie’s we go through the outskirts of Cardiff on to Newport Road up to St Mellons, to Kirsten’s house to say “ta-ra”. We drove to Portsmouth to get the 3pm ferry to Caen, France. After many hours on the ferry, which included an on board quiz, which Elsie and I won!!! we arrived at the F1 hotel, which was very basic but clean, the only thing we didn’t like was the fact we had to pad down the corridor in our PJ’s to the shower and toilet. Free wi-fi though – so we were able to plan our next day, which ended up not being as relaxing as we’d first thought.

Tuesday 27th May – TOULOUSE, FRANCE

We had arranged to meet my son Martyn in Toulouse for dinner. I think it was an 8 hour drive almost non stop. Elsie did take over the driving for a short distance, but she was better at sorting the route out so we changed back to me driving and Elsie telling me which road to take.  We arrived here later than planned at about 7pm…ish. Martyn had been delayed in a meeting anyway, so it was OK. So it had been a hectic 8 hour drive with not much sight-seeing, only as we drove past. Martyn came in a taxi to pick us up to take us into the town centre, where we had a beautiful dinner (very expensive) and we had a long walk around Toulouse centre, Martyn knows his way around as he comes here almost every week with work. Again we stayed in a F1 hotel.

Toulouse France

Wednesday 28th May -CARCASSONNE to FREJUS

We had booked a hotel in Frejus, not F1 but it was another cheap one.We only had a 2hr…ish drive to Carcassonne so that was good, although I was beginning to feel extra tired. We had a lazy walk around and had lunch and then Elsie wanted to go into the castle, which I ducked out of and stayed in the car to try and sleep. Then another long drive to Frejus, we got lost trying to find the hotel, my fear of going round roundabouts the wrong way was soon conquered !!!  I did get used to going round the same ones more than once !!!

Thursday 29th May – MONACO to SOVANA, ITALY

Fairly early start that day, I was so excited!  I knew one of my many dreams was going to come true this day, and it did BIG TIME!!  It was everything I had dreamed about and more!  Even seeing road signs with St Tropez and Nice made me tingle!  I was like a big kid!  When we got into Monte Carlo…..OMG!!!   To be able to drive the Grand Prix circuit, the grandstands were still up as the race had taken place the previous weekend. So I was Nigel Mansel, Damon Hill, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

Monte Carlo Monaco

Ferrari Monte Carlo Monaco

Harbour at Monte Carlo Monaco

Monte Carlo Monaco

Boat at Monte Carlo Monaco

Harbour Monte Carlo Monaco

We sat in a roadside cafe, people watching, my fave pastime!  We had a cup of tea and a piece of cake – 22 euros!!!  But I didn’t care!  The stuff dreams are made of !!!

We saw the memorial gardens where it was all about Princess Grace, there were footprints cast in the pavement of famous people.

Memorial to Princess Grace of Monte Carlo Monaco

We had booked into a bit more of an up-market hotel in Sovana – well just outside.  So by now we were just over the border into Italy! We arrived here early evening, settled into the hotel and on advise we walked down the road to a restaurant, quite a smallish place with a conservatory across the front. There was a couple with a child and another couple sat eating. We sat in the conservatory too. We discovered that there was one man running the whole show, he was barman, chef and waiter. Very jolly. Then we thought he had put a CD on, but as it turned out it was him singing!!  He did a good job of doing a Pavarotti !!!

Friday 30th May – LIVORNO, Italy

Early start again as we were supposed to be meeting friends in Livorno for lunch. It was very hot and we were up in the mountains. If we went through one tunnel through the mountains we went through ……. well I really cant remember how many, but it was a lot!   The scenery was amazing everywhere we went!  Due to some mix up with data on my phone we didn’t get the messages we were supposed to, so ended up not seeing our friends, so therefore we didn’t know exactly where we would be sleeping that night.  But it all became clear thanks to Elsie working out a route and judging how long it would take!  So a very long drive later, approx 12 HOURS, we arrived a night early to our “Secondi Casa” TRE CANCELLE!  We sat down to dinner at about 11pm.


We had driven to Italy, where Elsie could sleep in and not have me shaking her to get the show on the road !!!

A week of rest and relaxation.

Meal at Tre Cancelle 
Having fun in the pool !!!
Annette, Elsie and Kay
Swimming Pool at Tre Cancelle
We had a fabulous, relaxing week at Tre Cancelle, where Louise’s Australian cousins turned up and made our week more relaxing and it was very enjoyable to meet other guests staying too, who were very friendly couple from south of England.
Louise, Paul Annette, Steve, Elsie, Jeff and Cathy
Family and Friends at Tre Cancelle
Friends at Tre Cancelle

Family and Friends at Tre Cancelle

Ready for the drive back home.
Friends at Tre Cancelle
My trusty Clio.
Friends at Tre Cancelle
All systems go !!!
Saturday 7th June  – SIENA, Italy
We set off on our travels early…ish, with the intention of getting to our hotel in Siena at a reasonable time. Elsie had had a week off from looking at and reading maps so as we got higher up the road we took a slight wrong turn!!!  But Wow!  Are we pleased we did – Tuscany is so beautiful, the countryside, everything is just fab! I would defo love to go back there.
We still did get to Siena quite early, so we were able to have a good old wander round. There was a sports themed event going on, so lots to see. A very pleasant meal we had too. The hotel was very nice and our room did have an en suite!
Square in Sienna Italy.
Sienna Italy.

Sunday June 8th and Monday 9th June – VENICE, Italy

Early start, this was going to be one of those days for me!  Eyes wide, mouth open days in wonder of the most amazing places that I had only dreamed about / read about /seen on TV!  Another place to cross off the bucket list – The wonder of VENICE !!!  I wasn’t disappointed. The hotel was just outside Venice and they did a shuttle bus to the waters edge.  We had only booked one night’s stay here but when we arrived at the hotel we asked if we could stay the next night too and we did.  So next morning we got the 9.30 shuttle bus and arrived in the centre of Venice about 20 minutes later. WOW !!!

St Marks Square Venice Italy.

St Marks Square Venice Italy.
St Marks Square took my breath away, the fancy restaurants and shops all around the edge, come lunch time an orchestra appeared and serenaded the diners.It was all I had expected and more!
Venice Italy.
Venice Italy.
We jumped on and off the river boat buses.  We saw places I had only seen in pictures etc.
.Venice Italy.
Venice Italy.
Venice Italy.
Gondolas in Venice Italy.

Tuesday 10th June – KEMPTEN, Germany.

One whole day in Venice wasn’t really long enough, but we had to think quick as to when we would eventually get the ferry home and where from ……. 😦  It was going to be a problem getting the ferry on a Friday or Saturday, so it had to be on the Thursday and it looked like Dunkirk was the place to head for.  So Elsie concentrated on the route and I drove.  We drove through tunnels, over mountains and saw some amazing houses and castles.


19 .
I can’t remember what order but we drove through Innsbrook, we didn’t go into Switzerland, up to Germany where we treated ourselves to a really nice hotel in Kempten.  The room was fab and posh, very modern although it didn’t look like it from the outside.  This is where I’ve pinched some of the ideas for my garden at home, silver balls, solar lights etc.  We had a lovely meal in the hotel, in fact we didn’t go out of the hotel at all.

Wednesday 11th June – DUNKIRK

Early start so as to get to Dunkirk that night for early ferry on Thursday morning 😦 .    We hadn’t booked the ferry so we decided we would just turn up and hope for the best.  Anyway again we drove through some amazing countryside but this is the problem we had, because we were on such a tight schedule, that’s all we did was drive through places.  We did stop to take pics of the cuckoo clock houses but not for long.


We drove through Belgium but we did a longish stop in Luxembourg because we knew that everything here was mega cheap!  Diesel for the car was something like 70p a gallon!!!  We had timed it right to fill up the car!   Then we arrived in Dunkirk, OMG!  It was deserted and very grotty!  It took us ages to find where we were staying, and it was a bit of a shock!  It could only be described as “student accommodation”!  A room in a shared house!  Still it served a purpose.  We went for a walk to try and find something to eat, bearing in mind this was about 10pm !!!  We found a back street pub that very kindly made us a sandwich. we were the only customers in the pub!!!  We were straight on the wi-fi to book a ferry when we got back to our room.  We decided to get the ferry from  Calais to Dover at 10am…ish because we really didn’t like Dunkirk.

Thursday 12th June – CALAIS to CARDIFF

Well this was it!  The end was nigh!  A very early start to join the queue for the ferry at Calais, we sat watching men trying to climb into the back of lorries and when police started arriving they all tried escaping but some didn’t quite make it!

Then the hour long trip on the ferry.


Next the very long drive to Cardiff, South Wales,  arriving at Elsie’s about 4pm.

Finally me taking myself home to Barry.

I enjoyed the trip very much, I’d never done anything like it before

and I would do it again,

but I think Elsie would disagree.

We are still great friends though – so that says something in itself  !!!



Kay celebrating her 60th Birthday in July



Some birthday flowers for “Aunty Kay” from Emma and Aneurin.


#RoadTripToItaly #itri #italy




6 thoughts on “182 – Kay and Elsie’s 2014 Mega Road Trip to Italy

    • Thank you Dee, It was an amazing trip and one I will treasure forever. I have a different car now so I think I will have to do it all again, 😉

  1. Love your blog Kay. As your friend said a very brave trip but obviously very rewarding and so many wonderful memories to look back on.

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