Before I go any further I must say all the roads we took today we’re special. Every single one.
The view from the top of The Stelvio Pass was unreal, especially in 6 foot deep snow with skiers coming down the hill behind us! I would highly recommend getting a sausage from the stall on the right as you first come up the east side of the pass, it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, and that is no understatement! I’d go back again just for that.
After Livigno we headed south back towards the Swiss border and along route 29 to St Moritz. Down pass St Moritz and all the way to the Italian border was another great road. For the best part of an hour we were going down and down towards Italy past beautiful lakes and forests. It felt like we were heading to the centre of the earth. The wierd thing is you have these massive lakes probably a few km in length and up to a km in width, you’re driving around them then you drive 500m further along the road and your heading down again, below the water level of the lake. It blew my mind a little bit!
Across the Italian border we actually had our passports checked for the first time since entering the Euro-tunnel, and this was only because we were looking at him like he should do something, he probably felt obliged to check them.
Reaching our campsite on Lake Como was a well needed break, a lovely little family run campsite called Camping Le Vele. This is definitely recommendation from me, the shower and toilet block weren’t quite as good as Interlaken, but the staff were very friendly and offered for us to squeeze onto 1 pitch to save money, not forgetting the swimming pool! We set up camp in the warm heat of the evening sun, then wandered down the street and watched the sunset over the mountains around Lake Como, whilst eating an authentic Italian pizza and sipping a beautiful cold beer. We were halfway through the week and life couldn’t get much better than this day.
Its Friday now and another early start again, a sad look back at our campsite before setting off down towards the Italian coast, the stress of Italian roads still playing on our minds.
The first part of the journey was as expected really – being tail-gated, cut up, mopeds and bikes everywhere and as we got closer to Milan it got worse. Luckily sticking to the motorways this time meant that it didn’t take long to get around Milan and onto the toll roads down to the coast where the standard of driving was much better, and a lot less congested. We reached the coast and Southern France by late morning, travelled along some more motorways (avoiding the coast road for stress free driving) and headed to Monaco for lunch.
After gawping at some stunning cars, like little kids at Christmas, we made our way to the marina, had some lunch and looked at the size of the yachts. Seriously, these people have outrageous amounts of wealth! We walked the Monaco F1 circuit back up the other side of Monaco, and then more through luck than judgement found our way back to the car park and headed off to our campsite for the night in Antibes.
I’m going to throw this out there now – I hated the south coast of France. It’s noisy, dirty, overpopulated and just not that nice! Our campsite didn’t help this either. The staff were nice enough but in general it was just like a seedy, sunny British holiday camp. To make matters worse the Polo’s clutch was apparently getting heavier by the moment. We went to bed early, a bit deflated but knowing that tomorrow we were going to hit the Col de Turini and Col de Bonnette (Europe’s highest road).
We’d paid our bill the night before and set off about 6.30am along the coast, then headed inland at Nice and things started to look up. We were heading up in the mountains when a muffled garble came over the walkie talkie – something about a clutch cable. Before I go any further I need to stress the importance of decent ‘walkie talkies’ for a trip like this. It would have been impossible to navigate and communicate between both cars without them. At about £50 from Amazon they were perfect.
We bodged together a repair on the Polo with some cable ties holding the cable in the grommet. It seemed to work pretty well. For about 5 miles. Then it was game over, the cable had cut through the cable ties in a few depresses of the clutch and without any proper gear there was nothing we could do at the roadside.
The RAC were called and sent a very nice French gentlemen out from Nice to pick up the Polo. He spoke great English, had a sense of humour and was interested in the car. Good start. He loaded the Polo up and headed back to Nice, while we carried on to the mountains, a bit quiet, missing half of our special little group.
With half our group in a garage we were finding some incredible routes and soon realised, by pure luck, that we were climbing the Col De Bonnette, at exactly the same time a classic car rally was coming down it. The highest road in Europe was soon filled with noise as all kinds of amazing vehicles came past us, down these mountain roads. Now there were plenty of awesome 911’s but soon we had a Lancia Stratos, Ferrari Dino’s, Ferrari 275’s, Shelby Cobra’s, another Stratos, old Alfas all over the place, renault 5 Turbo 2 and about 20 Porsche Speedsters.
It was truly mind blowing and just the kind of luck that turned this trip from a great trip to a once-in-a-lifetime trip. As we carried on up to the top we passed more and more, they nodded and waved at us. It truly was petrol-head heaven.
We enjoyed a nice lie in on the last day, a slightly less exciting trundle up the motorway to Calais, but it was a nice time to reflect on the week and all the adventure. After stopping at the last services for a couple of hours we headed onwards for the last 150 miles to Calais, and again by pure luck we were on the motorway at exactly the same time as a local VW festival was kicking out. There were Golfs, Beetles and all types of vehicles surrounding us. We had a VW car show en route to the Euro-tunnel and then in the car park of the Euro-tunnel itself.
Back into the UK almost an hour later, and where the journey had begun, at Clacket Lane Services nine days ago, we said our farewells and headed home. Needless to say that our next trip was already being planned…