Billy the Bus's Blog

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Big Billy Trip 4, Annecy to Italy

ROUTE - Annecy, France to Chatillon, Italy via Mont Blanc Tunnel
Distance - 179km (1,218km total)

Day four, and we knew today would be the day we left France and drove into Italy. We didn't know it would be as beautiful as it turned out to be; both the drive there and the place we found to park up for the night.

IMG_1505The drive to Mont Blanc was as picturesque as the preceding drive up to Annecy. Glorious alpine terrain of steep climbing motorways, with a backdrop of snow tipped mountains and lush green foothills dotted with villages. Hopefully the many pictures Freya took from the passenger seat will do it justice.

As we approached the famous Mont Blanc tunnel we paid the latest of our motorway tolls – so far I think we must have spent nearly 100 EURO on tolls alone – and made our usual qualification to ourselves that 'at least we were getting there quickly, and what we're losing in money we're gaining in saved petrol' etc etc.

IMG_1551And then the Mont Blanc tunnel cost 33 EURO to go through! Anyone that complains about paying £4 to enter Wales, should think again! It was expensive and boring – about 8km long, and obviously just dull tunnel walls all the way to the other side.

There was a dedicate Mont Blanc Tunnel FM radio station though, which was quite amusing – it played naff soft rock, which it interrupted every 3 minutes with pre-recorded safety announcements in French, Italian and English. The signs on the way up to the tunnel said we MUST listen to this radio station, so we obediently did. It were shite though, so we turned it off just towards the end, like the rebels we are.

IMG_1557On the other side of the tunnel, we stopped for a wee and to take a few photographs. We hopped back in hoping for more lush driving views on the way down the mountains, but those crafty Italians had buried all of their motorways inside tunnels. The first 20 km was almost entirely tunnel, with brief breaks for fresh air – the longest must have been about 3.5 km long, and the shortest about 500m.

Every single tunnel and bridge in Italy has a name. As we proceeded to our destination (the Aosta region, where we'd earmarked the intriguingly named Dalai Lama Campsite) we obviously went through quite a lot of hilly terrain. This include quite a lot of little archways cut in cliffs, and quite a few little bridges over brooks and streams. Every one of them as a name, and a little sign tells you the name and distance before you cross it. The shortest I noted was just 30m long. Hardly worth it I thought. Especially when it got to the point where bridges were just called Placename I, Placename II, Placename III, etc. Funny.

And so we arrived in Aosta and headed for the Dalai Lama. The book warned us it involved a fairly steep climb up a mountain, but we weren't prepared for this; the last couple of km was almost entirely 2nd gear all the way. We knew we were in for something pretty special just by the amount that we'd climbed up into the gods, but Dalai Lama Campsite was out of this world.

IMG_1570Perched pretty much as high as you can get (we noticed no buildings higher than us, in sight), this campsite looked down upon creation from amongst the clouds. For an extra 14 EURO each, we gained access to their swimming pool / health spa, with jacuzzi and sauna. From our vantage point in 35 degree bubbling water, we watched the sun set on the French Alps, as the clouds play games with the snowy peaks. Bliss.

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