Sunday, September 25, 2011

From Summer to Winter in One Easy Border Crossing

Our days exploring San Gimignano and Siena were bookended by two days at the pool. It’s really hard to express just how incredible this campsite was. Minigolf, Tennis, Soccer, Archery, Kids Concerts at night, Aqua Aerobics in the morning, a pool bar, three restaurants, a lagoon an river ride at one end, 3 pools and a water slide at the other. A night club, an arcade, a hairdresser, a gym, a spa, saunas. All free, except the hairdresser and the mini golf. And the food of course.

We swam a lot, and lazed on the loungers that crowded around the pools. Courtney finally got his hair cut, something he’s wanted since before we left home, and I got my hair coloured. 40 Euros for both of us – cheaper than home but still a splurge. I’m growing out black hair dye and had very faded auburn and very apparent blond roots all in the mix so I was very happy to have my hair sorted out. We used the 10 foot spa in the gym a lot – there was hardly ever anyone else in there, so we could laze around in the luke-warm water, floating on our backs and being pushed around by the jets. I gave the sauna a go, the first time I’d been in one in my life. I couldn’t decide whether it was the most luxurious or the most uncomfortable thing I’d ever experienced.

On our final day in Tuscany, we went back to Greve, because Courtney still hadn’t been inside his Salami shop, the one he saw on TV. He wasn’t disappointed. The 300 year old shop was more like 5 shops with doors between them and every meat product you could imagine. We were down to the last 5 or so Euros we had budgeted for the Tuscan leg of our trip, so he got a couple of packs of Salami and was in heaven.

We had 400-odd Euros left for the last week before we went back to England and then home, and we attempted to get it all out at an ATM in Greve. Of course, being the very last of our money, the ATM decided to pull it’s little rejection trick again. Once again, the transaction didn’t go through and once again, the money got deducted from our account. Good old Kiwibank. Luckily, we had the forethought to have coming-home funds in our New Zealand (non-Kiwibank) accounts, enough money to pay the bond on a new house and keep us afloat until our first paydays. It was rather painful when the travel card rejected the next morning, checking out of camp, and I had to put 160 Euros on my debit card from home. Seeing over $NZ300 go in one foul swoop sucked the big one.

We headed off on the bike and, squashed between Courtney and our ever increasing tower of luggage, I texted Mum to get onto Kiwibank as quickly as possible.

The ride that day was long, from Tuscany to Cannes, France via Monaco. We rode out of crisp, warm, sun drenched Tuscany and felt summer speed away behind us as we rode into horrible fog and occasional rain. Most of the ride was along highways not far in from the ocean so the views were amazing when we could actually see them.

It felt good riding back into France. France is the country we best picked up the language in and the country we most enjoyed riding through. We didn’t spend any longer in France than any other country, 3 weeks, same as Spain and Italy, but because those three weeks were broken up into three separate visits to the country, returning felt almost like going home. I always thought of Tuscany as our last real stop on the trip anyway, so  it really felt like we were speeding towards home and we both got quite excited at the prospect.

Our lunchtime stop in Monaco was awesome. Such a tiny country, such a rich country. We rode down to the marina and saw the huge cruise ship in the harbour, surrounded by the sails of hundreds of yachts. The buildings were ornate, almost Victorian looking, and crowned by the castle. Our actual lunch wasn’t so great – the Croque Monsieur was just a ham toasted sandwich with so little cheese I had to add mayonnaise so it wouldn’t be so dry. The coffee cup was so dirty Courts refused to pay for his drink, and our requests for help with the wifi were met by extremely rude customer non-service. Overall though, there was a certain air of magic around Monaco. When I win the lottery one day, I’ll go back on one of those yachts.

We eventually made it to Cannes. Well, not quite Cannes - Auribeau sur-Saigne, 10 minutes away. The campsite backed onto a river with overhanging trees and an old aqueduct-looking bridge. The pool looked promising, and it was nice to pitch the tent on grass, not dust for a change. We had been reminded 6 times we were definitely in France by all the toll booths along the way, and we were reminded once again of the fact when we realized toilet paper was BYO.

A trip to find a supermarket about 7.30pm produced no results. Everything was closed and we returned to camp toilet paperless, with food from a patisserie for dinner. Who cares though right? Cause we were on our way home.