|The Ballards - Syndicate|
In Easter 1998 we went camping
in the Italian Lakes.
We started in France, as you do when arriving through the Channel Tunnel (the finest piece of civil and railway engineering I've ever witnessed).
Northern France is boring to drive through: even the
French thnk the Pas de Calais is dull: they call it the "grey country"
because the weather is so like Britain. It's a place to travel through,
not to stop.
The following morning we headed further South for Switzerland.
A swingeing contribution to the Swiss road system later,
we returned to the road, now reduced to a two-lane highway.
Finally leaving Basel, we made a startling discovery: a lot of Switzerland is like France, not mountainous at all but with rolling hills, gentle inclines and many flat areas. It's only in the South of the country that the mountains dominate, and it takes a few hours to climb in to the increasingly vertiginous and interesting scenery.
Switzerland does not disappoint: the Alps are huge, snowy even in summer and thoroughly penetrated by the efficient Swiss road system (Zurich apart, obviously...). The autoroutes are akin to a child's drawings: swirly and with huge bridges and tunnels constantly dancing with the landscape.
Switzerland is also an anally organised country: lawns are mown, roads are swept, railways run on time and order prevails. It's a bit antiseptic, actually.
We left Switzerland via the Simplon Pass to Italy and
the contrast could not have been greater: leaving Switzerland via an organised,
beautifully-maintained border post you drive downhill through several
miles of no mans land before reaching the Italian border.
We reached Lake Orta, set up the tent and it rained in the night, water roiling past our tent. In a tent you are so very close to nature it is occasionally uncomfortable.
We spent a week exploring the Lakes before returning,
spending the last rain-soaked night in a surprisingly-comfortable hotel