Tuesday, 10 June 2008

3 countries in one day

It had to be done; three countries in one day. We started in France, just outside Nice and after a quick swim in the gorgeous campsite swimming pool headed for Monaco.

It's a total curiosity the Principality of the Grimaldi family and I'd love to know more about how exactly they managed to preserve Monaco's independence for over 700 years. The other micro-states I can understand - Liechtenstein is geographically remote and a relic of both the Holy Roman Empire and the German Confederation; Andorra balances Spanish and French claims to sovereignty to preserve her own; San Marino is a fortified cliff and the Vatican City a religious oddity. But coastal Monaco, surrounded entirely by France has neither inaccessibility nor competing neighbours or religious primacy to protect itself. I'd love to know how they did it.

Back into France for 20 minutes, after a hair-raising climb back up to the motorway, and then, Italy.

The motorway from Nice to Genua (and beyond) plunges through tunnels and soars over viaducts as it takes a direct line through the foothills of the alps as they plunge into the sea, with tiny towns and villages hugging the terraced slopes or nestled into river valleys as they open out to the Mediterranean. Tunnels of nearly 2 kilometers in length weren't uncommon as Kate and I developed a tunnel classification system - BFT (Big Fucking Tunnel), FBFT (Fuck-off Big Fucking Tunnel), MFBFT, etc. The towering, forested slopes that loomed over the viaducts between tunnels meant the whole drive had a distinct claustrophobic feel to it.

We've found that when we first enter a country we're a bit on edge for the first day or so; we found as much in Spain and Portugal. (Equally when going back into Spain from Portugal, and back into France from Spain, was like welcoming an old friend.) Just getting used to the roadsigns, rules, opening hours, food, campsites, language and so on - it throws you off your stride for a bit. This new-country-edginess has been exacerbated by that lack of good news on the rear windscreen front and the heat. It's hot.

So, what with feeling a bit out of sorts (I was definitely at Defcon Snarky, pushing Defcon Tetchy) and it being very hot, we did the only sensible thing on our first day in Italy. We went to the beach.

We found a lovely little campsite right by the shore in Chiaveri, in Liguria. Well it didn't have much choice, as right behind the campsite ran the railway line and right behind that, mountains. We had the most spectacular view as we looked back towards the beach from the warm waters of the still lagoon. We both felt much better after that.

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