Day 266 Jungfrau, Switzerland.

The Jungfrau region of Switzerland has to be one of the most spectacular places on earth! It is a narrow flat-bottomed valley, surrounded on both sides by towering mountains, including the Jungfrau mountain itself, as well as the Eiger and Monch mountains, all exceeding 13,000 feet. After long deliberations last night, and after speaking to several people who had implied that unless the weather is favourable, you could end up spending £150 on a journey to see nothing but clouds, we decided against doing the Jungfraujoch railway. When we woke up, it was cold and cloudy, but after breakfast, small patches of blue started appearing in the sky.

So we donned on our walking boots, and set off down the valley. Our walk took us through some of the most stunning alpine scenery that you can imagine, with the constant ringing of cow bells in our ears. The valley floor is flat and grassy, perfect pasture for cows and goats. Most of the cows here have bells around their necks, and the geography of the mountains is such that the sound reverberates around the valley, like a wonderful percussion orchestra. It was a magnificent sound, and when the distant church bells joined in for a while, it was better than a night out at the RSNO (well, almost!). As we walked further, we started to see parascenders jumping down from the towering cliffs, and catching the thermals, as they slowly zig-zagged down to earth. A couple, however, free fell for much longer, attired in strange ‘flying suits’ like bats, that clearly added air resistance, and slowed their fall. Then, at the very last moment, they triggered their parachutes to open, and came thundering down to the ground. Howard and myself did actually parascend last summer in the Swiss Alps with our god-daughter, looking out over Mont Blanc. On that occasion though, we were both firmly tethered to a professional, on a tandem jump, and we took off from gently sloping grass, rather than the top of a vertical cliff. It was indeed great fun, and I could see how these guys get addicted to the adrenaline rush.

Today though, we were happy just to watch, for we had other modes of transport in mind. At the far end of the valley, we came to the Cable car station that takes passengers up to the Schilthorn mountain, at 9,748 feet. It is the cable car famously used in one of the James Bond films, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’.

We opted to take this part of the way up, to the alpine village of Murren, since the web-cams were indicating that the cloud base was too low to have an visibility right at the top. 

We jumped into the Cable Car, and as it started it’s implausibly steep ascent up the side of the mountain, the tannoy started playing the James Bond theme tune. Rather corny, but quite fun!

At the top, we had a lovely wander around the pretty village, so typically Swiss – clean, tidy and organised, with a profusion of window boxes with colourful red geraniums. We opted for a late lunch in a restaurant with a terrace, with a panoramic view of the mountains – just brilliant.

After lunch, we wound our way back down the mountain, and re-traced our steps back along the valley floor. The cows and goats, by now, seemed ready for milking. One farmer’s wife came out and called her goats, which just like dogs, came running to her. A little further along, a young girl had clearly been instructed to take her goat for a walk, or at least to move it to other pastures. The goat, however, had other ideas, and seemed to be leading the girl up the hillside by it’s long tether. I guess you can get naughty goats, just like disobedient dogs!

By the time we arrived back at Oscar it was nearly five o’clock. Our Irish neighbours were just returning from their day out up the Jungfraujoch. They reported that it was absolutely teeming with tour groups following flags, and immediately Howard and I decided that our day out had been much more enjoyable. Maybe for another time, perhaps.

For now, though, I have just been challenged to a game of table tennis. Hopefully, this time I can reek my revenge after my previous humiliating defeat – wish me luck!

Post script – I won!! Still the reigning Marriage Family Table Tennis Champion!

Day 265 Malbun, Liechtenstein to Jungfrau, Switzerland.

It continued to snow overnight, and by this morning, there was a dusting of snow on all the surrounding mountains. When Howard went down to check on Oscar, he reported that ‘the boy’ was also covered in snow. Within an hour of first light, the clouds started to clear, and patches of blue appeared in the sky. The scenery looked magical – a real winter wonderland. 

Before breakfast, we had a quick wander around the village. Already a bus load of walkers had appeared, a family were out with their sledges, and the ski lift had commenced operation, although, as far as we could tell, there was no-one on it.

After breakfast, we slowly descended from 1,600 metres back down the mountain, down a  seemingly never-ending series of hair pin bends. We made our way to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, a short distance away. I’m not sure what I expected, but was pleasantly surprised by this pristine little place. It had one wide pedestrianised street, full of public artworks in the form of sculptures, mostly contemporary. We visited the museum shop and purchased a flag, and then set of in search of a coffee shop. I can officially declare that, to date, Liechtenstein has set the record for the most expensive coffee on our tour of Europe. At £10 (yes, you heard correctly!) for two coffees, by far eclipsing Venice and even Norway, this tiny little place has managed to put itself top of the list. We had expected Monaco to win hands down, but having been unable to even park in the principality, we will never know if it could have claimed the prize.

No matter, it was a good coffee, and the loos were very clean, which is often our sole reason for stopping. To our surprise, walking back to Oscar, we came across two tour groups of Koreans, dutifully following their tour leaders flag. I don’t even need to tell you what Howard did next, but you will understand me, when I tell you that I followed the flag all the way back to the van. Such little things really seem to amuse him these days!

We headed off westwards, very shortly passing back into Switzerland. We joined the motorway, and drove for about two hours, before we came to yet more stunning scenery. First we passed lakes, with mountains as their backdrop, then the peaks started to become more and more impressive. Passing through frequent tunnels, we first came to Lucerne, then Interlaken, which as the name implies, sits between two impressive lakes. We then got into real wow factor scenery as we approached the Jungfrau. The mountain ranges here are truly spectacular, with perpendicular towering cliffs on either side of a narrow valley, following the course of a gushing river.

We had been recommended our campsite by a lovely couple who were on the pitch next to us in Tuscany. They live in Switzerland, and had suggested this campsite as one of their favourites. Taking tips from locals is always a good call, and indeed, the setting for this site has to one of the most stunning locations on our trip. That said, it also happens to be one of the most expensive sites, but I guess that we are in Switzerland, after all.

Within minutes of arriving, we seemed to be the centre of attraction. First, a lady from Ireland came over to chat, and admire all our flags. Then a man and his son from Liechtenstein, pitched next to us in another California, came over to take a look. He was immediately impressed that we were flying our new Liechtenstein flag, and seemed very intrigued by our topper, which we had put on for the first time in three months, to keep in the warmth. I must say, without even a front windscreen cover for insulation, the two of them must be absolutely freezing in these conditions.

Once set up, we went for a walk along the valley. The sound of cow bells rang out all around us, and we stopped at one farm and purchased some home made cheese, being sold from an honesty box outside. I am always a great fan of places with honesty boxes. It suggests a type of community that is trusting of people. They are commonplace in small villages around the West Country, and we have also come across them in the Channel Islands.

After our walk, we decided to try the campsite restaurant, given the thumbs up by our California neighbour. It was in fact so popular, that we had to sit outside, with blankets wrapped around us for warmth, since all the inside seats were taken. We opted for cheese fondu, a real blast from the past. We calculated that it was probably about thirty five years ago that we last had one. The were all the rage in the seventies and eighties, and we used to frequently have friends round for supper for a fondu. The first few mouthfuls were indeed very tasty, but after ten minutes or so, we both became rather underwhelmed by lumps of bread covered in melted cheese – and certainly not good for your cholesterol! Still, it is a Swiss national dish – so when in Rome, as they say!

We have been mulling over what to do tomorrow. Initially, we had considered going on the Jungfraujoch, the railway that takes you to ‘the top of the world’, well – to the top of the Jungfrau, in actual fact. The weather isn’t looking too promising though, and it is a huge expense to travel for three hours on a train, to see nothing but cloud. So instead, we have opted to just go walking at lower levels.

Tonight, we are tucked up inside Oscar, with the heater on, and Howard is wearing his Iceland socks to keep warm. I still can’t believe that only three days ago, we were sunning it up in Corsica! But all good things come to an end, I guess.

P.S. I have eventually managed to upload all the Corsica photos, if anyone interested.

Day 264 Lake Maggiori, Italy to Malbun, Liechtenstein.

What a difference a day makes! We awoke this morning on the shores of Lake Maggiore to light drizzle and low cloud over the mountains around the lake. It was so misty, in fact, that we could barely see across to the other side of the lake. I pootled off to the shower wearing my shorts and sandals, as I had done for the past three months, but on my return, quickly changed into my trousers and fleece – there was a definite nip in the air.

After breakfast, sat inside Oscar, another change from our usual pattern of al fresco dining, we headed off along the lakeside. It was not long before we reached the Swiss border. The border guards just waived us on, without checking our passports, but we had to stop in any case, in order to buy a Swiss vignette to allow us to drive on the motorways.

A little further along the lake, we stopped at the pretty town of Locarno for a coffee and to pick up some Swiss Francs. Howard had a bit of a scare when he went to buy some more diesel, and the machine gobbled up his card. The petrol station was unmanned, as is quite common throughout Europe, but fortunately another customer managed to help him retrieve it. Once bitten, he then opted to buy the fuel with cash.

By now, the rain had really set in, so it really wasn’t a day for photography, which was a shame, since the mountain scenery should have been exceptional. Instead, we continued on our way, deciding to make a slight diversion north-westwards to visit the principality of Liechtenstein.

Our journey involved driving over the San Bernadino Pass, high up in the clouds. At this point on our trip, the temperature dropped to 2 degrees centigrade, and it started to snow. The visibility was poor, which was such a shame, since peering through the murk, the mountains looked stunning.

What a contrast from just two and three days ago! We left Corsica in temperatures of 34 degrees or more. It was 27 degrees when we arrived in Nice on the Cote D’Azur, and now it was only just barely above freezing. The one and only campsite in Liechtenstein still hadn’t returned our email, to confirm if they were in fact open or not, and at this point, we made an executive decision. We opted not to camp in these conditions, and quickly searched out a room on the internet. Howard chose a hotel up in the mountains of Liechtenstein, in their only ski resort of Malbun. It sounded more rustic than the other standard rooms on offer.

By the time we had climbed up to 1,600 metres, the snow was coming down so fast, it was almost a white-out. We quickly scrambled inside the hotel, which thankfully is warm and cosy. Our room has a balcony, with what promises to be spectacular views of the mountains, if, and when, we can see them!

Hopefully, by the morning, the sky will clear, and we can take a proper look at this tiny country. We have read that it is the 6th smallest country in the world, but per capita, the richest. It has been a mini-state since 1806, and has a constitutional monarchy, with a democratic government, like the UK and the Netherlands. It is land-locked between Austria and Switzerland, and is only 62 square miles, with a population of 37,000. Although not in the EU, it is a member of the UN and the European Free Trade Association. It has been known in the past for being a billionaire tax haven. Indeed, despite it’s limited natural resources, it is one of the few countries in the world to have more registered companies than citizens!

Tonight, we ate out in a pleasant restaurant across the square. Howard had traditional Liechtenstein cuisine, which as far as I could gather turned out to be a glorified version of macaroni cheese, with battered onions and a venison frankfurter on the top. He ended up stealing most of my grilled vegetables, which seemed to be the only healthy thing on the menu. We probably should have opted for the cheese fondue, which we only rejected because we thought it sounded too fatty. The staff were dressed in what appeared to be Tyrollean costumes, and spoke in German. For once, Howard was able to show off his language skills, since unlike me, he speaks a little German. 

Tomorrow we travel back into Switzerland, but not before exploring a little more of this tiny country. Hopeful, fingers crossed, it will have stopped snowing by then!

Day 263 Sospel, Alpes Maritime, France to Lake Maggiori, Italy.

This morning, we were awoken by the revving of motorbikes, as they all headed off up ‘Le Route Des Grandes Alpes’. We stood chatting with the pleasant lady who ran the campsite. The told us that the route was very popular with bikers and vintage car drivers, since this route is part of the Monte Carlo rally. She also asked us a ‘special favour’. The campsite was literally closing this morning, so we were her last customers for the year. She asked if she could video us driving off, so that she could put it on Instagram and Facebook. We happily agreed – Oscar would be a star! Just as we were about to leave, Howard asked me if I had seen his glasses. He then remembered where he had left them – on the ledge of the pop up, when he went to bed. Consequently, he raised the roof a little to retrieve them, and then put the roof back down, or so he thought.

In our haste to leave, as the owner stood armed with her phone, ready to film us, the van made an odd beeping noise. No matter, we thought – the lady is waiting. So we proudly drover past her, waving happily out of the window. But as we turned the corner out of the campsite, the odd beeping noise started up again. I suddenly realised hat it was – Howard hadn’t put the roof down properly. I was mortified! Our first chance at camper van fame, and we had driven off, being filmed, with the roof half up! What wallies!!

Red faced, we drove back down into Sospel, and couldn’t resist a last coffee in our charming little cafe. It really is the most charming town, surrounded by stunning scenery, and barely a visitor in sight, just lots of chattering locals. Just brilliant.

The morning then got even better. Our drive northwards was an utter feast for the eyes. I cannot put into words just how beautiful this drive was, through a piece of France that we are both unfamiliar with. It was totally unexpected. We struggled to know which way to look, as we twisted our way up through the mountains, with 360 degree views. Utterly stunning! Once we had climbed up high, and then down again, we came to a spectacular gorge, carving through the rocks. We came to the ancient town of Tende, in the Mercanteur National Park, close to the border with Italy. Around the town are more than 20 summits, all exceeding 2,000 metres. It was just wow, wow, wow all the way!

We came to the Col de Tende, a strategic route through the Alps to Piedmont, used in medieval times to transport salt between France and Italy. We then drove through the single lane 3km tunnel, controlled by traffic lights, into Italy. At some point in the tunnel, our satnav told us we had crossed the border. This is our third foray into Italy on this trip, but we had only ventured this way in order to cut off a corner into Switzerland. The alternative route, through France, along the Grande Route des Alps would have meant a twelve hour hair raising drive, which we reluctantly decided against.

Once back in Italy, the scenery rapidly changed from breath-taking mountains, to a very flat plain, winding it’s way past Cuneo and Turin. We took the autoroute towards Switzerland, and the drive became dull and tedious, the only excitement being trying to understand the automatic toll machine, which refused to speak to me in anything other than Italian. Eventually, an Italian lady came over on the intercom, who likewise, could only speak Italian, so no more helpful. In the end, I just stuck Howard’s credit card in, and it charged us a whopping 30 euros. I’m still thinking we were overcharged, but no way of checking, since it offered me no receipt either. A stark contrast from Greece, where they don’t put up the barrier up until you have taken your receipt – no doubt part of their anti-corruption measures.

Eventually, we tired of driving, and opted to stop at an Italian campsite on the shores of Lake Maggiore, just short of the Swiss border. I suspect that we may well be the only ones on this site tonight – everything seems to be closing down for the winter! But, as the name suggests, it is indeed very tranquil here, with a distant view of the lake. Somewhere though, between France and Italy, we have lost the sunshine, and there is a definite chill in the air. I think we have just waved goodbye to summer.

Day 262 Bastia, Corsica to Sospel, Alpes Maritime, France.

As we boarded the ferry in Bastia this morning, I had the words of Simon and Garfunkel singing in my brain, ‘Homeward Bound’. This really feels like the last leg of a very long journey around Europe. 

We don’t seem to be having much luck with ferries of late. We were pulled up by a ‘job’s worth’ check in man, clipboard and tape measure in hand, saying that our van was 6cm higher than we had paid for. When we had boarded the Iceland ferry, we had been told that we had declared ourselves to be too tall, and that Californias were in the lowest category. So, since then, all over Europe, that is what we have entered on our booking form, without a single question. Catching the same Corsica ferry company from Italy, we were just waved on. But this guy was on a mission. I challenged him to actually measure Oscar, and informed him that for 10 months we had been entering car parks with his height limit. We even showed him the handbook. But no, he was having none of it. He, the little Frenchman, knew best. I did mutter to Howard that this is exactly the reason that Britain had voted to leave the EU! For fear of not being allowed on the ferry, we paid up the extra – but I am still kicking myself for giving into the man. Just as we drove on, he pulled up another van – clearly this is what makes him feel important. Of course, when we drove onto the ferry, we could have stacked 2 Oscars on top of each other, the ceiling height was so tall. We explained to the lady who came to check that our gas was turned off, and she just rolled her eyes, as if to say, ‘Oh! He’s off on that one again!’ She implied that we should have just driven on without paying, but we’re both too cowardly to do so.

Once on board, the crossing was uneventful. Apart, that is, from the mosquitos. Howard and I couldn’t believe that where we were sitting by the window, we were being buzzed by the pesky things. A couple of times we clapped our hands together, to try to catch them. The whole ferry seemed to turn round to stare at us. By an hour in, I already had three new bites on my legs. We have decided that we are positively the tastiest beings ever, since no-one else ever seems to be bothered by them. If I had known that it would be a problem, I would have taken ‘zappy bat’ onboard with us.

We arrived back on the French Mainland in Nice just after lunchtime. We were swiftly off the ferry, and away. Since it was only 11 miles along the coast from Nice, we decided to take the corniche road to Monaco. It had seemed a good plan, and we had hoped to stop for a drink or late lunch. However, we hadn’t factored in on it being the weekend of the Monaco Boat Show. The drive along the corniche was lovely, if a little frantic for poor Howard, with the turquoise blue mediterranean below us, and a profusion of palms and pines along the route. When we arrived in Monaco, however, the whole of the waterfront was cordoned off for people with boat show tickets.  Consequently, all I could do was to hop out of the van quickly and grab a couple of snaps, before being swept along by the traffic. There was absolutely nowhere to park, with all the waterfront parking taken with tents, so in the end, we just gave up, and continued on along the coast. At Menton, we headed inland, and within minutes were climbing up steep roads into the mountains. We passed a road sign saying ‘Route des Grandes Alps’, and then we were suddenly in the most stunning alpine scenery.

The campsite we had chosen for the night was not far as the crow flies, but it took at least forty minutes to get there. We stopped off just before the campsite at the gorgeous little town of Sospel, with it’s 13th century stone arched bridge across the river, and picturesque buildings. There has been a settlement here since the 5th century, and the old toll bridge used to serve as an important staging post on the royal road between Nice and Turin. We picked up a few groceries, and then sat in the cafe by the bridge and de-fused after our stressful drive through the Cote d’Azur. We recounted the huge yachts we had seen and the profusion of high end cars like Maseratis. Fine, if that’s what rocks your boat – but give us Oscar anyday!

We eventually arrived at our very rural campsite, due to close tomorrow for the season. On arrival, it was just ourselves and a couple camping at the far corner. All very quiet – until half an hour ago, when a group of ten motorcyclists arrived. Now lots of loud revving and chatter. As Howard says, ‘Even Hell’s Angels need a day out in the countryside!”

Day 261 Ghissonaccia to Bastia, Corsica.

I eventually managed to extricate the washing out of the tumble drier. Howard has been instructed, yet again, not to open the door until it makes a clicking noise. It’s a bit like ‘a watched pot never boils’. Had the thing been left to finish on its own, he could have saved himself a lot of aggravation. Next time, I am collecting the washing!

Washing drama behind us, and adorned in clean clothes, we set off for our last full day in Corsica. By shear chance, we had managed to save the best til last. There is something I have heard that implies that the joy is in the journey, not necessarily the destination. That is exactly what happened to us today.

Our plan had been to divert inland to the centre of Corsica to a town called Corte, in the Parc Naturel Regional de Corse, on our way back to Bastia. We set Boris, our stupid satnav for Corte, and he gave us two options, the main road, and what we assumed was a ‘B’ road. In fact, he had offered the main road, or this tiny winding unclassified road up into the mountains. We picked the latter, thinking that this was the ‘B’ road. It was only after half an hour or so, that we realised the error. We almost turned back to the other road, but thankfully, we persisted. The drive was sublime. It led us higher and higher up into stunning scenery, with fragrant pine woods and views across the mountains. We came to the gorgeous little village of Vezzani, with its population of only 300. I stopped to take a photo of the church, then spotted a lovely little cafe in the town square. Howard needed no persuasion to stop there for our morning coffee. Sat outside, deep in conversation, no doubt putting the world to rights, were three local men, elderly gentlemen, drinking aniseed liqueur at 11am in the morning! Howard tried to order two coffees in French, but I could tell that he was having problems making himself understood. I left my seat, and in my best schoolgirl French, had a go. The lady still looked perplexed. At this point, a cyclist who had just walked in, took over, and ordered for us – in Corsican. It is the first time, since we have been in Corsica, that French or Italian has not been understood at all.

The coffee was good, and the local lady who served us was prolific in her goodbyes as we left. We continued on up the mountain, but started to confront all manner of wildlife, mostly domestic. First we came across a herd of goats, roaming wild, and in no hurry at all the move along the road. Then there were the pigs, also left to wander. Lastly we came across sheep, happily following the lead sheep with a large bell round its neck, but again very reluctant to move out of the way of Oscar. Sadly, we didn’t come across wild boar, which our motorbiking friends had seen when they had ventured into the Park, but no matter. Yet again, the red kites were everywhere, and we also saw plenty of jays flitting into there forests.

We stopped several times on our drive. Words are totally inadequate to describe this wonderful scenery, and photos cannot convey the heady scent of pine, wild flowers and shrubs that we experienced every time we got out of the van. It was just sublime, and definitely one of the highlights of our trip.

Eventually, we joined the main road again, and made our way to Corte. This citadelle town in the heart of Corsica was at one time the capital of this island. It has been ruled intermittently between the French and the Genoese. In 1735 the constitution for an independent state were drafted here, and Corte became the centre of Corsican nationalism. It was the site of Corsica’s first university, and maintains a sense of cultural distinctiveness. Many of the students here speak only Corsican, and situated as it is in the centre of the island, it is surrounded by a spectacular wilderness.

We walked up the hill to the Citadelle. The old town has a wonderful atmosphere – charming medieval streets winding their way up the hill. Many of the buildings seem to be painted various shades of pink, as is the pretty church. We sat in the Place Gaffori, named after Jean-Pierre Gaffori, hero of the Corsican independence movement, Howard with a coffee, and myself with an ice-cream. I wondered how many more days it would be warm enough to be wandering around in shorts and T-shirts and eating ice-creams. Not many, I suspect.

We meandered our way back to Oscar, and headed on our way. The drive into to Bastia was much less exciting than our drive to Corte.

Tomorrow we have an early ferry out of Bastia to Nice, and so have opted to stay in a hotel close to the port. Sadly, the hotel’s WiFi doesn’t seem much better than the feeble campsite coverage, and so I am still struggling with photos. Hopefully, once in mainland France, our reception will improve, and I can put the rest up later.

Corsica has been an absolute revelation. It is a gem of a place – completely unexpected, but a real treat. We have enjoyed our visit here immensely. There is something about islands that I can’t put my finger on. Corsica is a strange mixture between Italian and French, neither one nor the other – a unique blend of magnificent scenery, wonderful cuisine and stunning towns. I am so pleased that we took the time to come here, and see for ourselves this amazing island.

It is with great sadness that we are leaving, and returning to the mainland. If you haven’t been here – come and see for yourselves. Simple as!

Since we are on a ferry most of the day tomorrow, there is unlikely to be a blog.

Day260 Propriano to Ghisonaccia, Corsica.

Eventually, our strange hooting noise faded into the night, but it must have been going strong for at least four hours before it stopped. We have been impressed with the birdlife in Corsica. Within thirty seconds of leaving our campsite this morning, we had spotted two red kites circling overhead. By the end of the day, we had spotted at least ten more. In fact, ridiculously, red kites and eagles have been the predominant birds here, much like robins and blackbirds in the UK!

After consulting our guide book, we decided to back-track a little way, and pay a visit to an ancient prehistoric site called Filitosa. The drive here, in itself, was spectacular, through gorgeous Corsican scenery, with barely another vehicle on the road – a stark contrast to yesterday. At one point we passed an olive grove, with strange coloured orange and green ‘baubles’ hanging from the tress. On closer inspection, I realised that it was balls of fine plastic netting, rolled into balls and hung below the branches. I am guessing that they lay the netting down, and shake the trees to collect the olives, but that is just surmising.

The site dates back to 1,800 BC, and is famed for it’s menhirs, or standing stones. Perhaps compared with Easter Island or even Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis, they are not quite so impressive, since they are smaller in size and fewer in numbers. Nevertheless, they still make a sight worth seeing. What is characteristic of these menhirs, is that they are anthropomorphic, resembling human forms, so it has been speculated that they may have been used to worship the dead. Some also have weapons engraved on them, thought to have been carved in times of war. In this way, the weapons were thought to provide a form of protection.

We wandered around the site for over an hour, taking in the quarry where they were carved, and a thousand year old olive tree, that formed the centrepiece of one of the arcs of stones. I think what I liked most about this place, is that it wasn’t heaving with people, like some of the attractions we have visited previously, and it was certainly very interesting to see.

After a quick lunch, we headed on our way southwards. Initially the road headed inland, before veering back down to the coast again. We drove through the pretty hillside town of Sartene. I stopped to take some photos whilst Howard filled Oscar up with diesel. In one of the photographs, I noted a line of washing, that was hung from a building at least fifty feet up, strung between two windows. It is still a mystery to me, how the person had managed to hang his or her washing up there. A real puzzle!

Once the road hit the southern coast, the views became sublime. At one point, we stopped at a viewpoint, and the water below us was the most vibrant turquoise that you can imagine, with the water as clear as crystal.

Eventually, we reached our destination for the day – Bonifacio. This stunning fortified city sits at the very southern tip of Corsica, sat high up on a rocky promontory, overlooking a fjord-like harbour. It’s massive ramparts dominate the skyline, and give the place a real wow factor. Sitting within the citadel is the Old Town, with it’s narrow streets and tall medieval buildings, perched precariously on the hill. Bonifacio was first developed in 828, and then for three centuries lived under the rule of Pisa. In 1195, it became a Genoese colony, and became a republic, able to mint it’s own money. It was at this time, that the impressive fortification took place. In 1553, it was conquered by the French, regained by the Genoese, before eventually coming under French control again in the 18th century. An influx of immigrants from Liguria early in it’s history, meant that Bonifacio developed a very definite Italian feel about the place, and many of the buildings would sit happily in any town in northern Italy.

We parked up by the picturesque harbour front, lined with cafes, and the marina full of expensive yachts. It was early afternoon when we arrived, and the heat was at it’s strongest. I tell you this, to explain what we did next. I am almost too ashamed to tell you, for fear of ridicule, but I suppose I should be honest. We decided that it was too hot to walk up the steep hill to the citadel, so for five euros, we caught the little tourist train. I know, I can hear you laughing from here, but we were short on time, and wanted to get there as soon as possible! Excuses over – it was quite fun!

We were joined on our row of seats by a mother and small daughter. The father and toddler son squeezed in the row in front. As the train started to move, Howard, in his enthusiasm, raised his right hand, and pretending to blow the train’s whistle, shouted quite loudly, ‘Toot! Toot!” (I should explain that having brought up three boys, train rides were part of our family tradition, and this is something he always did with them!) Well, the look on the little girl’s face was utterly priceless. It was a mixture of disgust and contempt, and she was probably only three years old. Clearly, a child who hadn’t been brought up to toot at trains!

Once in the ‘Haut Ville’, we had a wonderful couple of hours meandering around, taking in the atmosphere of the place. At one point, we came to a building just below one of the huge bastions. It turned out it was the local primary school, emblazoned with the French flag and the words ‘Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite’. We took a look in the cathedral, and walked around the seaward side of ramparts to look at the stunning white limestone cliffs, that run the length of the long concave bay beyond.

By now, time was marching on, so we walked – yes, walked, back down into the town, grabbed a quick coffee, and then headed back to Oscar. We had opted to drive a little way up the eastern coast to our campsite for the night. In this way, it puts us in a better position for our last full day in Corsica. Tomorrow, we hope to divert inland, to the mountain town of Corte on our way back to Bastia.

Our campsite tonight has the added bonus of a tumble drier, as well as washing machines. In need of some washing doing, we quickly put a couple of loads on. Howard then transferred them to the tumble drier, where they have now been for the past two and a half hours. Every five minutes or so, even though indicating that the drying has finished, the tumbler makes a couple of turns. Despite all Howard’s efforts to open the door, we cannot retrieve our washing. Sadly, this had happened before. In his impatience, Howard tugs at the door too early, which then seems to set in motion some sort of endless slow tumbling! I am moderately cross with him, but not as cross as he is with himself, since he realises that he is a repeat offender!

So whether or not we ever get away from this campsite in any good time tomorrow will depend on whether we can retrieve our washing. I am smiling as I type this, since Howard just left the van to check on progress, saying, ‘I’m not holding out much hope’. Nor am I!

Hopefully photos on way soon – still downloading!