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Big Bough’s drive from the UK to Gozo

Part One: Hertfordshire-Dijon-Parma-Naples

Thursday 6 May

Left Hertfordshire at midnight on Wednesday 5/Thursday 6 May to drive to Folkestone to travel via the Eurotunnel… Arrived at Folkestone and caught the 03:27 shuttle to Calais arriving 35 minutes later. A lovely drive, hardly any traffic on the M25, which really made a change!

After arriving in Calais we drove down to Dijon, which took us around nine hours, using the A26 – A5 – E21. Rain all the way, which was quite galling as when we spoke to our son in the UK, he said it was nice and sunny there!! We stopped at various service stations and picnic areas to give our dogs a run, which they really appreciated after spending so much time in the car. (Hence the time taken. If you are travelling without dogs you could probably knock off a couple of hours, if you keep to the maximum speed limit.) Petrol prices seem to be on a par with the UK. Our car is a 1.8 Mazda5, so we are expecting quite large fuel bills for our journey.

We had booked a hotel in Dijon via the internet before we left the UK… the hotel is situated in a little village called Is-sur-Tille. It is lovely, very, very French, the room was not very big but clean and decorated nicely. We had a large corner bath in our en-suite bathroom whilst some of the other rooms had just a shower. We had a meal in the restaurant which was one of the best meals we have had in a long time. The cost of the room was €85, which included €8 for the dogs. The hotel had WiFi access which we made use of to access the RAC Route planner for the next leg of our journey, into Italy.

Other costs so far have been for the tolls. The last time we drove through Europe we took the scenic route, but as this time we have our dogs with us we have taken the toll roads for speed. Today the toll charges came to €41.30. Bit pricey, but what you lose in cost you do make up in time. We plan to leave early tomorrow morning as we are going to drive down to Parma in Italy for our next stop. Hopefully this will take us around seven to eight hours.

Friday 7 May

We had accessed the internet to book our next hotel stop in Parma. The hotel is situated in a village called Caserta just outside Parma. We try to book hotels which are outside the centre of towns, where there are plenty of fields or parks so we can give our dogs a good run to stretch their legs.

We input the hotel address into Mabel (SatNav). It helps to know how many miles we need to travel and how long roughly it is going to take us to get there. The toll roads are really useful to use. Barry, who was doing all the driving (I am not brave enough to attempt driving abroad), says the Italians drive really fast but use the lanes really well. Weather still cloudy with some showers. We took the A39 – A40 through the Mont Blanc tunnel, which cost €35.10. We then emerged from the tunnel onto the A5 which goes into the A4 heading towards the Milan by-pass, looking for signs to “Bologna A1”. Toll charges for today amounted to €48.40, excluding the tunnel fee. Our hotel was in Tabiano Bagni (Fidenza).

Saturday 8 May

We left Tabiano around 09:30, got onto the autostrada following the A1 and drove on it all day, 460 miles… toll cost for the day was €34.70. We stopped off at a couple of service stations along the way.

Thanks to Mabel we arrived at the hotel without any mishaps, if we didn’t have her I think we might have missed it completely as it was up in the mountains and the road signs are nothing like Britain’s.

The hotel is about 10 miles from the autostrada but felt a much safer place to stay than Naples. Once again this hotel was very clean, set in lovely surroundings, it had WiFi access but the signal was not very good in our room. The cost for one night was €70 including breakfast, no charge for our dogs either.

We walked for about five minutes to a place that contained quite a few restaurants with views overlooking the Bay of Naples including Mount Vesuvius and the Isle of Capri in the distance. It really was quite stunning. We had pizza and a couple of beers in one of the restaurants which cost €21.

Read Part Two: Naples-Catania-Pozzallo-Gozo

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