Thursday, July 29, 2010

Italian Road

June 18-27, 2010

Out of our 9 days vacationing, we spent 1 entire day (at least) on the road. We started out with our dinner on the way.  We used to get McDonalds, because it is open at 5pm when we want to leave – but I hate that – so we went Greek this time.  This little restaurant is walking distance from our house, and so amazingly good.. So what if we had to wait until 6?

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My most loyal fans might remember the agony of the Irish roads.  Well, I’m here to tell you Italy is an improvement, but not by much.  The great thing about Italy is that they do highways well, they are fast, modern, smooth and have lots of tunnels to go through – and I mean lots and lots and lots!  Usually they were modern and sometimes they were just hacked out of the solid rock mountain like the one below.

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So the highways and signage were, in general, good.  But then there were the smaller mountain roads.  These roads provided amazing views but were ribbon thin- winding their way so torturously through the mountains we felt like every road was one way.  In fact, the only way to make progress on these roads was to drive as if they were one way, and just get to the side quickly if you saw a fellow traveler.  Luckily the roads were not busy and we were very grateful for Mr. Liberty’s strong engine and stick shift!  The roads are very steep and they often have no guard rail on the edges.   The turns are sharp, and often completely blind.  There are many places where loose rocks scatter across the road, fallen from on high.  Sometimes the edge of the road is visibly crumbling and has flimsy plastic tied up to warn people – along with the helpful “car might fall off cliff” sign.  At places, the mountain itself hadn’t been fully blasted away – and we had to drive sort of under it.

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It was an adventure, to say the least.  But look at the sights we saw from the road….  Now I have seen French mountains, Swiss mountains, German mountains, Austrian mountains and green and gorgeous Italian mountains – often with little villages perched atop of them.

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As we headed back to France, we drove along the Riviera.  It gave me a better appreciation of how special Cinque Terre was.  It is so very heavily populated and overcrowded anywhere else we saw near the ocean – no space for special hiking trails and views – just boats and houses and cities, from the edge of the sea crawling right up the cliffs.

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We saw tons of motorcyclists in Italy – must be fun on those winding roads – and lots and lots of olive groves.  I was disappointed that there was none open to the public (that we found) for a tour or maybe a demonstration on how they make olive oil.  We also saw this incredible example of art nouveau architecture outside of a city we visited – I want it!

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The twists and turns were so severe, Callie kept getting carsick.  We had to pull over to let her rest a few times.  Then we had her ‘drive’ the car with us – and of course the boys played along.  This worked OK – enough to keep her from puking, at least.  We soldiered on – past an amazing marble quarry that looked like a church to me.  Mr. Liberty, at 17, does not have the luxury of AC, so you can see André needed to use my little spray bottle to keep cool in the car – as we all did!

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The final challenge of the Italian road didn’t happen until we were less than an hour from home.  I was driving along at 140 km/hr when BOOM!  my tire blew.  Someone called roadside assistance (provided free in France) and he met us at the nearest rest station.  We were able to change the flat, but something was wrong with the way the car was driving – we limped home slowly and it turned out Mr. Liberty needed a whole new rear axle!  Luckily enough our garagist was able to replace it for less than 500 Euros.   So Mr. L continues on as our car – ready for the next twisty, turny adventure!

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