Friday, 29 August 2008

All roads lead to Rome...

We did see some sunshine this year during our Grand Tour of Europe. From North Shields we got the exceedingly nice ferry overnight over to Ijmuiden near Amsterdam in Holland. Relying on good old fashioned maps we only got slightly lost as we came out of the Ijmuiden terminal. Luckily my husband had picked up a map from the Dutch lady on the Information Desk (on the ferry). He was wondering if there was anything his wife and children could do (entertainmentwise) whilst he went to a meeting at Schipol airport and asked her what we could do. "What kind of a husband leaves his family like that?!" was her barbed retort. So he left the very helpful information desk none the wiser! Luckily that map guided us onto the right road for Schipol airport.

(We then drove to North Germany, near Bremerhaven, that same day to see some good friends.) Over the next few days, whilst it got blisteringly hot, we drove through Germany. My self taught German just about passed muster. (I hadn't realised just how polite the Germans are. For the first time in my life someone said to me "bitte wiedersehen"...which I think means..."hope to see you again"...does it mean literally..."pleased to see you again!" maybe someone can put me straight on this one and what does one say in return?)

We stopped and had cake and coffee at the wonderfully medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber (see photo above). We stayed in a few places in Germany. We went through a bit of Austria. We were doing well, just replying on maps, unfortunately we got onto the motorway going North instead of heading South and seemed to go round bits of lakes in Switzerland for what seemed like an eternity. We stayed a night in the Italian Swiss city of Locarno and the noise level at night was upped 1000% as there was a rock and jazz festival taking place in the square outside our hotel. I didn't mind...it just seemed a true reflection of national characters. The Dutch, Germans, Austrians had been quiet and here in the Italian bit of Switzerland all hell had broken loose! At least it wasn't just our children being noisy for a change...

We did really well with the roads (viz. maps and map reading) and we didn't have one of those husband/wife map reading arguments until we came off the motorway in Italy. I had just wrestled with the automatic speaking toll machine and was still examining the euro change when hubbie said "Which way? Which way?" It turns out that the Italian road planners like to stick every conceivable village and hamlet known to man on road traffic signs (see below). Upon examination of the signs (all 40 of them) I declared that I hadn't got a @#**@*' clue!
So unless you are 100% sure of your destination then it is 100% pot luck...which direction you take. We spent about two hours driving around the main town of Nizza Monferrato desperately trying each sign (and direction) and we must have gone around the main square about 20 times. I kept trying to phone the place where we were staying but I think they were having their siesta! We went up hills and down valleys in search of our ultimate destination in sweltering heat. Does anyone remember a scene in the 1963 Pink Panther film where an old guy is trying to cross a town square and cars keep zipping past him. (Inspector Closeau is trying to catch the Pink Panther dressed in a gorilla costume and there are several gorilla dressed guys in several sports cars zooming around.) They then reappear from another direction to cross the square again. Eventually the old guy gives up and goes back to his chair to watch the cars zip up down, down up, across, zig zag, back up down, reverse, down, up, across....believe you me...we were repeating this version singlehandedly! On our way home from La Mussia agriturismo (where we'd had a great time incidentally and the family there is fantastic)...we followed a sign for the motorway out of the opposite end of town from whence we came (we were leaving towards France this time). It took us another hour to get out of the town and when we had found the right road (which was the one incidentally where La Mussia was)...some joker had moved the motorway sign so that it pointed in a completely different direction. Luckily we realised this just in time and whilst we were turning the car around we saw several foreign cars follow the sign and head for the hills...who said the Italians do not have a sense of humour! (Maybe we will be investing in a SatNav after all...)

21 comments:

Mom/Mum said...

Found your blog via expat mum. Glad I did. I'll keep reading!

Lakeland Jo said...

I loved reading about your trip other than the fact it made me really jealous!
Put me in the mood for my next holidays...........

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi Mom/Mum...thanks for dropping by. I'll pay a visit to your site soon.

Hello Lakeland Jo. Yes we had a wonderful time. All that sunshine seems a very long time ago!!

The Good Woman said...

Sounds like a great trip well, if circuitously navigated! By the way, 'bitte wiedersehen' could mean 'please come again' or, if you had just said thank you for something, 'Bitte. Wiedersehen' would mean ' my pleasure. Goodbye.' Very pleasant either way!

Really enjoy your blog and will be back.

kari and kijsa said...

What a great trip! We enjoyed Italy this past May! Thank you for all your prayers and blessings!
Have a wonderful Labor Day,
kari & kijsa

Gill - That British Woman said...

great post........I would think twice about that sat/nav thing.....I had a post about those silly GPS systems: http://thatbritishwoman.blogspot.com/2008/08/toys-for-boys-and-how-i-really-need-to.html

Gill from Canada

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Greetings "Good Woman"...you've been very good in explaining that to me. I think the German guy was saying "please come again" because we hadn't entered into much conversation...they were the family on the table next to us at the hotel. Just wasn't sure what to reply...there always seems to be a very polite reply in German.
Maybe "gerne"..."willingly"??

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Dear K&K...Thank you very much. I'll be over to read your Italian exploits too! Dear Gill I will read your SatNav post...I'm a bit mystified by them to be honest and Dear Good Woman be over to yours soon to have a nose around...(if that's OK)!

DulwichDivorcee said...

OOf! I so know where you're at with the ghastly foreign roadsigns. After an entire summer doing simultaneous driving/map reading with the treasures shrieking in the back, I'm never leaving Dulwich again.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hello there DD...know what you mean, however, the treasure (in the front i.e. me) was the one doing the shrieking!!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Am away for a few days so it may take me a while to get back to your comment...

rosiero said...

Hi. Have only just read your latest post. I studied German at uni and lived there for four years. I cannot say I have ever heard "bitte wiedersehen" together in the same sentence.

Could it have been "Bitte. (STOP) Wiedersehen." If so, was the person saying "bitte" in reply to your "danke". In that instance after someone has said thank you, "bitte" means "don't mention it" or "my pleasure" or "you are welcome" . The "wiedersehen" would have been a separate sentence just to say goodbye. Hope that helps. :-)

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Thank you Rosiero...I think that clarifies things for me a bit! I think I am going to have to learn some more German...

Cee said...

Hi, just got here via her on the hill. Love the sound of your roadtrip - down here we can drive that distance and not leave the country - so just the one foreign language to contend with but similar issues with road signs ...

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Cee...I've just been over to your blog so completely understand what you are saying re: Argentina. When I travelled across Costa Rica in a van...what worried me most was the state of the roads...I suppose the signs were the next consideration! I'd love to go to Argentina some time (quite a bit of Italian influence there I've heard)! Costa Rica (if you've not been there) is one of THE most gorgeous places on earth after Hadrian's Wall of course!

Cee said...

Thanks for visiting me! They say that spanish from the rio de la plata region is spanish with an italian accent!

Would love to go to Costa Rica, got the guidebook on my shelf already.

As you say, Britain has her own treasures. At the moment they are too, too far away!
x

tartetartan said...

And now it's is time for me to give a little something to you. You'll find it chez moi. TTx

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Thank you very much Tartetartan. I feel very cheered up by this award. We've come back from a few days in London and as usual the heavens have opened! Conversely the purse has sprang shut as we've spent all our pennies...maybe we now need pennies from heaven not rain!!!

(Very) Lost in France said...

Just as well you didn't have me reading the map. You'd have ended up in Croatia! VLiF

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hello VLiF...your name sort of gives that away! But thank you for being so direct (or not so direct)...if you catch my drift...

mrsnesbitt said...

I know this ferry crossing really well. We are about 1 hour drive away, us living just near Whitby! We were on the ferry only a matter of months ago. A great crossing!

Nice to meet you.
Will pop back again!