Summer 2013 – Week 11 – Keyhaven party and journey to Florence

Sunday 25th August 2013

This was packing up day because tonight we were heading for home via Italy but first a trip to the shop in Milton to stock up on Crabbies ginger beer, some bread and some crisps for the trip.

Next meet some more rellies. There are dozens of them. By tonight there would be 48 blood relatives and quite a few non related friends, partners etc.

Sailing is a big part of life at Keyhaven. There were youngsters sailing solo and tiny tots squashed into scows and prams (a Keyhaven pram is slightly bigger than a scow) all keen to be out on the water. If boats were not available they would just swim. Groups of adults thronged the sea wall yelling encouragement and generally coaching the young ones whilst catching up on the family gossip of the previous year.

 Sailing has always been a big part of life at Keyhaven

Sailing has always been a big part of life at Keyhaven

The BBQ was lit together with a big fire in a huge steel tub. Chairs were drawn up round it and the banter continued whilst all the young girls disappeared round a corner. Beefburgers and bangers were consumed with relish together with salads and pickles.

The troops were brought to attention by the peels of bells from Humphrey junior and we were beckoned to watch a show to be put on by the young girls some of whom were dressed in clowns outfits. I’m not sure what it was all about (maybe I’m just too old) but it drew a tremendous round of applause. Another short show and then what they had all wanted. All the youngsters joined together in what has become a tradition… the hokey-cokey!

Jo disappeared indoors with her hands tight around her ears for the fireworks show and all that dry grass!

 Fireworks at Keyhaven 30/08/2013

Fireworks at Keyhaven 30/08/2013

We thanked the Douglas and Cecil-Wright clans for their wonderful hospitality, bade our farewells at nine-thirty and hit the road. We had to be at Dover at about 10am next morning but bank holiday Sunday night was quiet as we sped up the M3 and along the M25. We stopped at 1am when we hit the M2. Just about an hour’s drive if the traffic was no heavier than this down to Dover port.

Monday 26th August 2013

We had a very early start (My mobile was still on European time) and arrived at the port at 9am. We made a picnic to eat on board so we could drive all afternoon and drive we did. We are at a service station approaching Liege having driven across the top corner of France and most of the way diagonally across Belgium. We will hit the German border late tomorrow morning and hopefully smoother roads. We had forgotten how rough the roads are in Belgium.

Most of the motorway noise is muffled by the concrete fence but we are also next to the TGV line. Ray Moore used to call them rattlers but things have moved on since he did his early morning Radio 2 programme and the lines do not have joints in them any more, anyway, as nine o’clock approaches the trains seem to have gone to bed. We won’t be far behind them.

Tuesday 27th August 2013

Got to get an early start so quick shower and breakfast and we were away. Drove through Liege and Aachen. Hardly noticed we had moved into Germany, a small sign one metre square was all that separated two nations. German roads are also concrete and slightly better. German cars travel much faster although there were restrictions, 130kph here. I’m sure some must be doing 200kph. Daft buggers!

We continued to drive east as far as Cologne and then turned south east towards Mannheim and then directly south to Karlsruhe. Is that where the Ruhr dams were? I couldn’t find any reservoirs. Did they not rebuild them? South west again to Stuttgart. We’re never going to complain about roadworks in the UK. Every 20k there were long sections of roadworks. It was raining quite heavily an there were numerous signs warning of aquaplaning but still the fast cars came zooming past. There were three serious accidents within as many miles. Cars upside down in fields or hammered into barriers. The stretcher bearers were at full, well, stretch with ambulances and police cars whizzing to and fro. Still the drivers did not learn and continued to drive at breakneck speed. As I said, daft buggers.

We sat in a queue for more than eight kilometres. We passed the sign saying roadworks in 8km at 1kph! Three lanes down into one. An hour wasted.

South from Ulm we stopped at a motorway service point just north of Memmingen for the night.

Wednesday 28th August 2013

Not such a wonderful night. They chose one-thirty in the morning to empty the bins. There were lorries arriving and departing at all hours. Still we both slept reasonably well. Being very tired did help.

Jo started off at the wheel as we would be on the motorway to the border.

The border town of Füssen had been seen on sign posts all day and reminded us of Haparanda in Sweden last year. It was signposted from 500km away but for some time we did not know where it was.

We crossed into Austria, bought a vignette to stick in the window, and then crossed back into Germany. Through Garmisch partenkirchen where we found a camp-site to empty tanks but no fill up. We met an English lady who, whilst very pleasant warned us of the danger of wild camping and generally leaving your van unattended. We listened attentively but it would not stop us campervanning the way we do. Back into Austria and a lunch stop near Innsbruck.

On southwards over the Brenner pass, only 1375 metres and most unspectacular and then into Italy. Austria is really beautiful. I went there forty odd years ago and walked in the hills around Salzberg. No, I didn’t sing! The scenery change from the other side of the Brenner Pass was easy to recognise. Emerald green fields and dark trees and wonderful mountains and valleys. The descent went on for miles, through Bolzano, Trento and Rovereto where we turned right and headed for Lake Garda. Jo hopped out for a few photos. We are now down by the lake in a very cramped and hot campsite but we need to fill up.

The first thing we noticed about Italy is the poor quality of the galvanising. The Armco and electric pylons are pretty rusty. Are these things essential?

The second thing; No birds. Jo has only seen a moorhen!

Thursday 29th August 2013

We slept well but Jo didn’t hear the Czech in the tent below us snoring away. What a motley crew all around us. The Dutch who took up four spaces, a car space, a caravan, an awning and an extension to that awning. The Czechs in two tents on a level below us and almost under our rear overhang, the Danes who slept in a minute tent which was covered over by a tarpaulin because their legs stuck out, the German couple who slept in an Opel Combo van like Jo’s. I did that once, never again.

It was windsurf day with dozens of windsurfers on the lake far out numbering conventional sailors. It was quite breezy and they really zip along. Sailing schools abound and novices were falling off left, right and centre. Part of the fun?

We drove south along Lake Garda and then towards Verona and then on side roads to Bologna. A ten lane motorway around Bologna and onto such a quiet road it is not shown on any map. We are up in the hills a bit and have a splendid view. A tractor is ploughing a field. It is so steep it has caterpillar tracks. I hope the farmer will be wanting his supper soon! We were a bit surprised to see that so much of the land was in production, a few olive trees, lots of vineyards, apples, kiwi fruit, cereals, corn, sorgam or millet etc.

Ploughed this way by chance or is it art?

Ploughed this way by chance or is it art?

The roads have generally been good in that they are wide enough, even in the country, for us, but some of the main roads could do with repair. Italy is pretty busy. Lots of traffic. The tifosi are out in force; cyclists everywhere especially on the hilly roads we have met this afternoon and evening. The road racing world championships take pace around Firenze (Florence) and Fiesole (where we are heading for the wedding). The roads will be steep.

Friday 30th August 2013

Only 85km to do today but we wanted to be at the campsite by midday-ish so just one cache on the way and this was a memorial wall to the great Italian racing cyclist Gastone Nencini who, I think, won both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia but as I cannot access the internet at the moment I cannot check. (Internet is three euros an hour here. No thanks!) There is also a plaque to Tazzio Nuvolari the Formula one driver and the Mille Miglia, the thousand mile race round Italy on public roads where the record will be held in perpetuity by Sterling Moss and Dennis Jenkinson as the race has now ceased to exist – killed too much livestock maybe?

We arrived at the campsite after an heroic effort by Miss Bus to get up the hill. It was a 135 degree turn and virtually perpendicular but after a few heart stopping seconds the turbo decided to wake up and we got up. Spectacular view. We only had time to settle in, connect the electricity, have a quick cuppa, dig out our wedding outfits and call a taxi for the half kilometre (as the crow flies) downhill trip to the Villa San Michele. A helter skelter trip and twenty two euros worse off we were ushered into five star splendour. Jo is godmother to the bridegroom, David, and we were offered a room for a couple of nights.

Time enough to meet a few other guests, have a swim and get organised for the evening. The hotel had recommended a restaurant in town so twelve hungry bodies (mainly older ones who were not going on the stag bash) crawled into two taxis and headed for town. We were dropped outside what looked like a small pizza place which was already choc a bloc. No matter, a waiter led the way through ever bigger rooms and the kitchen to an open quadrangle where a table had already been laid for twelve.

Five courses and as much as we could drink it said. The courses started small and just got bigger. Afterwards we were plied with various liqueurs.

It was nearing 1am and we were ready for bed.


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