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 !!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
BUT WE HAD DONE IT !!!
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.
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 !!!
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.
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