Our first taste of Europe was arriving in Zurich and getting the car organised..that was fun..not, but then driving on the other side of the road was insane..but we got there, lucky it was Good Friday. Drove through to Bern without too much trouble and arrived at Paul and Valerie’s place in one piece. getting a little lost we just happened to see Valerie out for a walk and she guided us in . it was great to see them after a few years over there and Theodore had grown so much it was great to reconnect.
after a cuppa and settling in we went for a wander along the river and around the town visiting all the sights on the Saturday afternoon, such a nice old town, built in the 1500’s and very decorative and colourful. Ate in and off to bed.
We visited Paul at the radio station studio and checked out all the technology , very interesting. went back into town on a busy market day and saw things more normal and then after lunch we hiked up the local mountain through the forests and then to the Zoo along the river before a nice Pasta dinner and a late night in. we had a big day planned in the Alps and set off to Luzern which was really lovely right on the lake with its timber bridge and market town square. the mountains are all snow topped and we were surrounded by some serious looking peaks. we had our first ever Hagen Das ice-cream and wow what a taste. we also had a great laugh with our first Ausgang sign…
It was time to hit the mountains and we were able to go up the Stanishorn at 1,900m in a cog railway up the easy part and then a cable car to the summit.
We had a great time playing and building snowmen on the peak and had a nice cuppa in the cafe. the views over the valleys were spectacular and as our first mountain experience it was amazing.
We drove back through the valleys and onto Interlarken past the two lakes and the Tiger mountain and up over a mountain pass in a full loop before arriving back in Bern. We had a lovely roast dinner and stayed up too late talking and drinking.. we were off to Italy in the morning so hoping for clear heads. we had a lovely time in Switzerland and thanks to Paul & Valerie for the great hosting.
We headed off from Bern and said our farewells and onto the motorway to the Kanderstag Rail Tunnel which was pitch black but quick and we studies our Italian along the way. We then headed for Brig hoping for another Railride but could not find it so went up the Simple Pass. The mountains were amazing 4,000m peaks and plenty of snow and stopped at the top of the pass and had lunch where Beth put sugar on her chips by mistake which was interesting and made her very grumpy. We headed over the boarder and met the Italian Guards who were very amused by Kangaroos!. The road out of the Alps was a shocker and then the big mistake was taking the short route to Locarno which ran along g the side of a mountain with sheer cliffs and missing railings everywhere, it was so scary especially with crazy Italian drivers honking us from behind and charging at us from the other direction. We were all stressed to the max when we finally found our way from Locarno and then had trouble finding the right road to Lugarno as everything was confusing. We finally made it to Tesserette and our Hotel The Gran Villa Capriasco which was delightful with seperate space for the girls. We changed our whole approach after the experiences we have had and will now slow it down a bit and stayed an extra night in Tesserette to get well as we all had something amiss. A relaxing day enjoying the sunshine looking at the mountains around us was just what we needed to get ready for the next part.
We posted off our excess baggage to home which was very expensive and learnt our big lessons on what you need to travel with. Headed to the Autostrade and flew by Milan and then Bologna and stopped at a roadside park to destress from the crazy truck drivers and to eat our lunch. Made it to San Gimignano in one piece but still a bit stressed when we arrived at the Pescille Hotel which was very nice and rustic but clean and very authentic styling. The room was huge and the view back to the town was lovely but the restaurant was closed as was the pool and the toilet was traditional so we just stayed one night. We headed off to town and wow we are in Italy and what a place with the Piazzas and the towers it is just so old and fascinating. We checked out the hotels and chose the Hotel Leon Bianco right in the centre of town
Staying in San Gimignano was a great idea and the hotel was fantastic with vaulted brick ceilings and tiled floors and in every modern condition with great views over the town and alleyways. There were markets right out front and we wandered around to get our bearings before heading off to Sienna. We found our way and then found a car park just outside the city walls and then followed a group of students into town to San Domenico where we had lunch in a cafe. It started to rain so we bought some umbrellas and also a few jumpers and ties for some reason. we then found our way to the Piazza Del Compo where the Palio Horse race is held. The Square is in the shape of an ampitheatre surrounded along the curve by Palazzos with the stunning Palazzo Pubblico (Town Hall) set across the straight edge like a stage.