We decided to take a slow and leisurely drive back so gave ourselves five days, we normally do this in two or three but having had enough of Italy we wanted to introduce John & Diane to the fabulous French Aires that there are in France and also take the time to go into Switzerland from Italy over the Gottard Pass rather than through the tunnel.
We left Camping Partaccia in Massa and drove to our very first campsite that we stayed in on the way down in Switzerland, Camping Riarena just outside Locarno as we like the site and had also arranged to meet our friends Penny and Marc there as they had been travelling around the Italian Lakes and took the opportunity for us all to meet up.
It was an easy uneventful drive to the campsite and we had a lovely evening enjoying a BBQ together, seeing each other and swapping stories of our travels, even though we follow each other’s blogs!
The following morning we left Camping Riarena and then drove over the Gottard Pass. It really is a beautifully stunning drive, the weather was perfect and all the motor bikers were out enjoying the weather and the hairpin bends. At a lookout towards the top, one kindly biker even let Tony have a photo taken of him with his treasured Ducatti. It really is a trip worth doing if you have the time, so much more enjoyable than going through the 18km tunnel.
We stopped for lunch at our favourite picnic stop alongside Lake Lucerne, so beautiful and Tony decided that he was going to go for a swim in the lake as it always looked so inviting. He said it wasn’t too cold about the same temperature as the swimming pools we had been in in Italy.
We continued our drive northwards and stopped overnight in an Aire in the small town of Kaysersberg situated on the Route du Vins d’Alsace. I have written a separate post about this so won’t elaborate any more other than to say the Aire and town were very good.
The next day we drove slowly up through France to Camping Les Breuils in Verdun. Between 21 February and 18th December 1916, the biggest battle of WW1 took place in and around Verdun and during the last two years of WW1 more than 800,000 soldiers, some 400,000 French and almost as many Germans, along with thousands of Americans who arrived in 1918 lost their lives in this area. The battlefields, scarred with trenches and shells can be visited along with numerous cemeteries, one of which we passed on the way and stopped for a walk around, the St Mihiel American cemetery with 4,153 graves, a small chapel and a sundial topped by a white American eagle.
Verdun and the surrounding area is certainly worth a longer visit but this time we were just passing through. At camping Les Breuils we got talking to a lovely English couple, Tony and Rita, who invited us into their motorhome in the evening for drinks. We had a lovely time getting to know a bit about each other and finding out that Tony was brought up a road away from where Tony’s cousin Sue currently lives in Canterbury.
After Verdun we drove up to Cambrai, stopping off in the countryside on the way for a break and visiting the huge Auchan Hypermarket in Cambrai to stock up with the usual, Cheese, wine and beer. We stayed overnight in the Aire at Cambrai next to a small lake and a lovely evening sunset.
Our final leg was an hour and a half to two hour drive from Cambrai up to Eurotunnel at Calais and as we arrived early, were able to get on an earlier train and have now arrived back home, van unpacked, and ready for Grandparent duties tomorrow.
We have travelled 2,490 miles and it has been fun having the company of John and Diane along the way and we hope our hectic schedule, bike rides, numerous walks up hills and towers hasn’t put them off buying a motorhome themselves in the future. Now where to next?