As we began week 4 of our month travelling in Europe, there was no denying that we were on our way home. We were heading north through Italy having driven in a big (slightly wonky) horseshoe through the continent.
We had mixed feelings. We were looking forward to getting our baby son home to his own house and bed (and not having to share a room with him!): we hoped being home would help him sleep as some nights while we were away he woke up almost every hour. (He finally started sleeping through a couple of nights after we got back, at almost six months old *air punch*).
But I felt quite overwhelmed with how good the experience of us travelling together as a family had been. It had been good, as in fun, and we’d seen fascinating places, and it had been good for all of our relationships with each other.
It had made us look at things, and plan changes for the better and I didn’t want us to forget these resolutions as we returned to normal life. So I was sad about our month away coming to an end, because I didn’t want the memory-making to stop and I didn’t want us to go back to old habits when all the distractions of home life were to hand.
Lanzo d’Intelvi, northern Italy
We used AirBnB again to book our accommodation in this mountain town just at the Swiss border, between Lake Lugano and Lake Como.
The drive to it was hair-raising: the sharpest and steepest hairpin turns either of us had ever experienced and streets so narrow we had to tuck in our car’s wing mirrors to get through.
But the views were remarkable. We had the top floor of a large family home, with a balcony looking onto layers of mountains. Our host hardly spoke any English, and us hardly any Italian, but we got by using gestures, an iPhone and ready smiles.
We needed to go to the shop for a few essentials (= wine) but had found the drive there so stressful we were reluctant to get back in the car again. After a few deep breaths we plucked up the courage, and when we knew what to expect it didn’t seem quite as bad. By the end of our three nights there we’d actually grown quite used to the roads and very fond of our temporary home.
Lake Como, Italy
One of our two days in Lanzo d’Intelvi was taken up with trying to buy a new car tyre (don’t ask why it took a full day…). But on the second day we drove down the mountainside to the iconic Lake Como.
As we’d found elsewhere in Europe, lakes don’t seem as accessible as they usually are in Britain. At Lake Como, we found parking sparse and the lakeside road mostly terrifying. There were few points you could just walk along the side of the lake and where you could it was usually on the road without a pavement. No one else seemed to be walking and it certainly wasn’t something we were prepared to do with a baby.
We eventually found a place to park at Lenno, and despite there being no signposts for the billions of tourists who must come to these shores (this seemed par for the course in Italy) found the port from which you could catch a boat to Lake Como’s main sights.
Most people at least want to see Villa del Balbianello, Villa Carlotta and Bellagio. We didn’t have much time so just took a return trip to Bellagio. It was quite disappointing, though I don’t know why I didn’t expect it to be like it was: some remarkable architecture but busy and commercial. We enjoyed the boat ride though :)
The next day we left Italy and passed through more incredible scenery, crossing the Alps again and even driving through the famous tunnel under Mont Blanc (which they charge you €44 to do, by the way).
For a while now we’ve harboured a dream of living in France, probably when we’re a few years older.
It’s a country we love and feel very comfortable in; we’re not sure why, though my being able to speak at least some of the language helps. We were interested to see whether any of the other countries we visited on our month in Europe made us feel the same. They didn’t.
As we neared France we were excited to get back. When we crossed the border, it felt like we’d come home.
I didn’t know too much about Annecy, but I’d read this post on World of Wanderlust that described it as the “cutest” town in France.
Honestly, Annecy was probably my favourite place of the whole trip, and if you think about all the places we’ve been that’s quite an achievement. Strasbourg in France, Salzburg in Austria, Ljubljana in Slovenia, Croatia’s national parks, Rome and Florence in Italy. I loved them all but Annecy beat them, for me.
Why? There’s its stunning glacier-green lake, just on the edge of the town centre but with a dramatic mountainous backdrop. Its centre is extremely pretty, with the Thiou River running through and a medieval castle. It was alive with an antiques, vintage and flea market on the first day we were there, and stalls selling local food and fresh-from-the-field produce on the second day. It has good shops and plenty of nice-looking places to eat. It’s a hub for artists and has a slightly bohemian vibe.
It was also about how the city felt and how it made me feel. There is a big expanse of grass by the lake, where families and friends sat in the sun with picnics. Snaking between the grass, wide paths were used by cyclists, rollerbladers and people out for a stroll. On the water, people dived from hired boats and went swimming. A man paddled along the Canal du Vassé, and out onto Lake Annecy, on his surfboard. The city is cool. It may be that most people were on holiday, but it looked like a city that makes people happy, free and fulfilled.
I want to live there.
Let me know what you think to our trip!