After spending Friday night on a campsite in Puebla de Sanabria we crossed into Portugal through the Sierra de Cabrera which, although not quite as high as some of the mountains we’d already passed through, is remarkably large and remarkably empty. To experience this sort of remoteness in the UK you’d have to venture into the Scottish Highlands or perhaps parts of Northumberland. Again, we were surprised by just how empty the roads have been – sometimes travelling ten miles or more without seeing another vehicle. The villages on the other hand are always quiet, nobody wandering around and with all the window shutters closed you could imagine that the places are deserted.
We spent Saturday night in Braganza which would have been a great experience if, for the second year running, and in a virtual repeat of what happened in Italy, I hadn’t managed to crunch the van. Whilst manoeuvring into a slot in the Braganza camperstop I managed to reverse into a lamppost, smashing part of a rear light cluster – fortunately all the lights still work and we’re legal for the rest of the holiday. Still, at least I know where to buy the replacement parts when we get home. Bugger!
Braganza’s ‘old town’ is charming. A large medieval keep is surrounded by cottages and fortifications which the city has sensibly kept more or less intact to provide a good visitor experience. No doubt it gets crowded during the holiday season but we were able to wander about the place in relative peace and quiet before sitting down for a beer in a local bar whilst listening to local music and doing some people watching. It almost made up for my earlier faut pas. Almost.
Our route took us west from Die through the Hautes Alpes to Gap and then onwards, entering Italy just beyond Barcelonette and crossing over the Col del Larche, which at 1,991 metres is probably one of the highest routes in Europe. In the space of less than a hundred miles the scenery and architecture changes from typically French to typically Italian (surprise!) whilst at the same time the road surfaces deteriorate and the standard of driving goes for a ball of chalk.
We spent Wednesday night in the town of Borgo San Dalmazzo which generously provides a free space for campervans to overnight next to the municipal cemetery, which is an arrangement that seems to work quite well – at least the residents don’t complain. In the evening we walked into town and found a small bar where they kindly allowed us to watch England being outclassed by a very physical Croatia; our disappointment at the inevitable defeat must have been obvious as at the end of the evening the waitress made sympathetic but completely unintelligible comments (in Italian) and undercharged us for our beers.
The drive from Cuneo south and then along the coastline bordering the Bay of Genoa was a bit of a nightmare. Having initially attempted to stay off the autostradas we quickly realised that following the local roads was going to take an absolute age, so we joined the cast of Mad Max hurtling at what seemed like excessive speeds over countless bridges and through innumerable tunnels – a journey that I managed to make considerably worse by first getting a touch too close to a toll booth and then, when we stopped to survey the damage, by reversing into a fence and breaking a rear light cluster. By the way, sodomita is the Italian word for bugger!
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and a look at our family history