On the Road
Ellie and I left the house at 7am on Friday morning, aiming to be in Lyon for lunchtime the next day to meet Charleigh and Tyler at the airport. We figured it would be best to cut out a large part of the driving for Tyler, since it wouldn't be fair to him and would slow down the drive significantly since we'd have to stop every couple of hours for feeding and changing.
>> We got to drive on a train under the sea! Ellie was most excited.
There was plenty of food on the way down to Folkestone, starting off with a road-side Greggs.
After a 220 mile drive from home to Folkestone and the 30 minute train under the Channel to Calais, we still had another 160 miles before our overnight stop in Reims.
Ibis Budget Hotel - It would do for the night!
Saturday morning we hit the road early (06:30) to make sure we got to Lyon by lunchtime. It was a great drive, we listened to the Paddington Bear audiobook narrated by Stephen Fry and ate the miles down beautiful French toll roads.
All was going swimmingly until we suddenly drove in to what I can only imagine must have been quite an impressive snow storm!
The snow slowed down our driving a bit, but we eventually managed to get to the airport and meet Charleigh and Tyler.
Once we were all together we made our way in to the centre of Lyon for a stay in The Residhotel, an excellent self service set of apartments, it gave us chance to relax, cook some Chinese food in our own kitchenette and hit the hay before a long, very long, painfully long drive to Venice!
450 miles, 8 hours, 3 fuel stops, breakfast, lunch and plenty of coffee later, we arrived at The Hotel Mercure Venezia, just a short bus-ride accross the bridge from the centre of Venice.
The Hotel>> Spacious room and amazing food.
We spent the rest of our first day in Venice confined to the Hotel, after that much driving we were all exhausted and in dire need of real food.
Sunday morning we were up early again (It doesn't sound much like a holiday yet, but trust me, it was) and just about the first in to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Oh my god, the breakfast.
After getting a recommendation from the hotel staff on the best way to access Venice (it's essentially an Island with only one bridge in/out) we decided to take a local bus. Amazingly there are almost zero ATMs in Venice, so we had to find a shop somewhere near the hotel which sold bus tickets and also accepted card. This seemed to be almost impossible, and after a largely hand-gesture driven conversation with the owner of the only shop around, we determined it was actually impossible.
Incredibly, the woman we'd been trying to speak to gave us the bus tickets anyway! I was shocked, but we were so appreciative, as was she when we returned later that day to thank and pay her.
Once we got the bus in to Venice itself it was entirely on foot from there. We walked about 7 miles through the morning, up and down tiny alleyways, across bridges and around open squares. If we go back to Venice, it'll be without the pram - It was utterly exhausting carrying that thing over all those canals! Absolutely worth it though.
My beautiful girls on a bridge.
After a wondeful couple of days touring Venice, we were really looking forward to another new place. We'd picked Florence partially because it gave us a good route back to France via the coast, and also because we have both experienced a deep love affair with the writing of Dan Brown.
Robert Langdon's adventures brought him to Florence in 'Inferno' and we absolutely wanted to use that as our inspiration for touring the city.
The Hotel>> Master bedroom & view from the balcony.
As with Lyon, we stayed in a serviced apartment here in Florence, Villa Il Mosaico. It was a wonderful building, nestled in a small suburb just a few minutes walk from the Ponte Vecchio and centre of Florence.
A stark contrast from Venice, Florence was easy to walk around. We spent the late afternoon of our first day getting our bearings, headed in to town to take a few pictures and ending the day with (as you would imagine), Pizza!
The Boboli Gardens
Our second day in Florence was largely spent visiting the Boboli Gardens, where a large portion of the book 'Inferno' is based.
Map of The Boboli Gardens.
Family in the gardens and a view of Pitti Palace.
We made a special stop over in Pisa to see this amazing structure. Pictures don't do justice to how intricate it's design is, nor to how many zombies there are walking around here.
The Hotel>> The "Techno Corner".
This was the strangest hotel I think I've ever stayed in. Each of it's rooms was themed differently and none in the manor of a conventional hotel. Ours was the "Techno Corner", which had very little style to it aside from a lot of empty glass bowls and a huge projection screen instead of a TV. I loved the open layout of the room and it made a great change from the normal; Bed, Nightstand & TV arrangement.
We took a walk down to the waterfront for dinner before an early night falling asleep to 'Leon: The Professional' before our big push driving the length of France the next day.
We all had an amazing time in both France and Italy. The driving was great, the food was incredible and every coffee I'll drink from this point on in my life will pale in comparison to the espresso's I experience in Italy.
We're already beginning to plan our next trip to The Nordics!