It would be ridiculous if I suggested that leaving the kids at home with their grandparents and taking off with my husband on a road trip across France and Italy was a bit of a drag.
I actually said that to a friend. I was boring even myself with my answer of, “It was awesome, perfect, life-changing, wonderful” and so I said, “It was a bit dull actually.”
She looked as if I’d slapped her.
Metaphorically, I had. It’s absolutely not allowed to go on an amazing trip to amazing places and not have an amazing time. Needless to say, it was awesome, perfect, life-changing, wonderful.
We spent five days in Paris, staying in Montparnasse and walking or riding the Vélib’ bikes from the Marais to Montmartre along the Seine – everywhere. We ate our way through bistros and cafes and restaurants. Paris is especially good for eating, you might have heard that somewhere before.
From Paris we drove to the Loire Valley via Troyes, which is not even remotely on the way to the Loire Valley, but we ended up there after a panic exit onto the E54. It didn’t matter, the gorgeous medieval wooden buildings of Troyes turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip, which only confirms that the less planning you do on a road trip, the better.
The Loire with its glorious scenery and mammoth chateaus didn’t disappoint. We wound our way along the A roads and went inside only one of the chateaus, preferring the gardens to the crowded interiors.
From there we had a lovely stint visiting the quaint villages of Provence before heading to Antibes on the French Riviera. The drive there along the D6085 (the “Route Napoleon”) was spectacular. We then crossed over into Italy, motoring through countless tunnels (mostly lit on the French side, mostly dark on the Italian).
Our first Italian destination was Gravedona in beautiful Lake Como. Managing our little Citroen through the cobbled towns around the lake made me realise how far my wrong-side driving had come since the panic-exit in Paris. I manoeuvred and zipped around like a half-crazed local.
After two days of luxurious lakeside relaxing we drove straight through to Venice and ditched the car. Venice was just as beautiful but even more exhausted than we remembered it. Too many day trippers, the locals all told us. Still, with her magnetic charisma and the pizza at Al Volo (Campo Santa Margherita), she will always be worth the trip, which is really the problem.
We took the high-speed Alta Velocità down to Rome through the stunning Tuscan countryside. Rome is the wild, creative cousin to the stylish, conservative Paris. There is no better town to finish a long journey in – Rome instantly revives even the tiredest soul. Every street is a picture, every scene a peek behind the curtain at the theatre that is living Italian-style. The buzz of mopeds, the warmth of heat rising off stone, the smell of ripe tomatoes with a hint of exhaust, Rome is the beginning of a journey, never the end.