Thursday 11 September 2014

Road trip

When the journey is at least as much the point as the destination, when you can see three countries in one day, isn't a road trip just the best?

France: misty dawn at 6.30 am on the road from Épernay, leaving the capitale du champagne's vineyards behind and heading north-east into Alsace-Lorraine.

Via Nancy and Metz, the road climbs into the mountains of the Vosges, before we turn south before Strasbourg, through historically German territory, hugging the German border.

Crossing the border at Basel, we're in Switzerland and suddenly it's a different territory altogether: neat A-framed houses and the cleanest cows you'll ever see, dotted against the greenest meadows. They seem to polish the grass here and line up the trees in tidy rows. Ordnung muss sein.

Spotless, efficient motorways bisect picture postcard scenes of mountains and lakes.

No winding detours here - wide, well-lit tunnels cut straight under the mountains. (A road tax demanded at the Swiss border ensures you pay for the privilege of using, and maintaining, these beautiful roads). 
The Gotthard tunnel is 17 kms long, making it the third longest in the world. Boring directly through the Gotthard mountain, it gets you from central Switzerland to within a whisker of Milan in 15 minutes.
And before you know it, you're in Italy ...

... and marvelling again at how striking the difference can be from the moment of crossing a border - from the gently chaotic infrastructure to the faded romantic houses clustered haphazardly on winding roads.

Late afternoon there's a haze on Lake Como and the day's driving is over.

Time for a campari maybe, with a view over the lake 

Resident kitten, lake views and Italian design at Villa Nina B&B, Carate Urio, Lago di Como

Ristorante La Baia, Moltrasio, Lago di Como

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