26 November 2019

Continuation

Ian and Frances in the "etang" near Bitche in the Moselle region of France
Part Two

Waking in our tent in Friedrichshafen that Saturday morning in the summer of 1997, I was anxious about getting the car fixed and moving on with our holiday. It did not help that I could hardly speak a word of German. By eight thirty I had arrived at the Ford dealership on the edge of town - with a swish modern showroom up front and a service section behind.

Fortunately, they were open for business. I spoke to a glamour model at the main reception desk and explained my issue. She phoned the service section and after a couple of minutes a gentleman in neat grey overalls arrived. There was a "Ford" logo on his chest.

He lifted the bonnet, poked around with his screwdriver and concluded that a fuse had blown. That was why the fan had stopped working. He scurried off to find the right fuse and then announced that the problem was fixed. Back at the reception desk the efficient mechanic and the glamour model exchanged words in German before I asked them how much money I owed them.

"Nothing," she said. "Enjoy the rest of  your holiday!"

I shook hands with the mechanic, thanking him profusely and then headed back to our lakeside campsite with the good news. The kindness I experienced that Saturday morning far from home has stayed in my memory ever since.

The following morning - a Sunday - we set off on a long drive through The Alps, taking in a little of Austria before  driving through Liechtenstein and onward through Switzerland to the Italian border. It was a beautiful drive through snow capped mountains and high plateaus

We descended on the Italian side feeling tired and hungry. We pulled into a little mountain town - possibly Mandesimo. After parking the car, with its small trailer, Ian and I went off in search of food. We found a popular pizza shop where we queued with locals and returned to Shirley and Frances with a kilo of freshly baked pizza cut into squares and presented in a simple brown cardboard box. It was utterly delicious and so welcome.

And then we carried on down the hills. Ahead mist hung in a faraway valley. It marked the location of Lake Como where we camped for three nights before moving on to Pavia just south of Milan. And then it was on through tunnels and over lofty viaducts towards Genoa where the blue-green Mediterranean came into view.

Down the coast we at last came to Diano Marina - the Italian seaside resort I had randomly selected as our southern destination. The camp was busy with holidaymakers from Milan, Turin and southern Germany. Pitches were close together and there was little room left  for vehicles. It was a good job we had made a reservation weeks beforehand.

There were ice creams and sea swimming and evening promenades before we packed up once again and headed back inland to Turin then on through the mountains to a beautiful Alpine campsite on the French side of the border. It was dark by the time the tent was erected and as Shirley made our evening meal on the camping stove, I fell asleep on the soft grass with a zillion silver stars above me.
1997 rest stop in The Alps between Italy and France

34 comments:

  1. I wish all repair jobs ended that well.

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  2. You are so lucky!!! Wonderful family memories and Europe on your doorstep. We must fly for three hours to visit our nearest neighbours.
    I'm off on a 5 day road trip to Lake Te Anau with in laws visiting from Devon. So far they've been lucky enough to see the Endeavour arrive in Picton and shake hands with Camilla on her Royal walkabout in our Botanic Gardens this week.
    I'm not sure what surprise I will be able to come up with to match that.

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    1. Maybe you will run into the last moa - the elephant bird!

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  3. What an idyllic family vacation, YP. How did you remember all the details? Did you keep a record of some kind of your trip? I'm glad the repair was a quick one and easy on the wallet, leaving you with a very good memory of their kindness.

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    1. Some things leave our minds before the year has passed. Other things seem to stay in our minds forever and that is the case with our European road trip of 1997.

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  4. What special memories! This must have been one of your favorite family vacations and I bet the rest of the family feels the same way. Such memories are even more special when the kids are grown up and time has moved on.

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    1. I am going to ask them all separately what they remember of that trip.

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  5. This was a wonderful read for me on a Tuesday morning with my coffee and muesli before going to work - thank you!
    More often than not, I feel ashamed reading about Germany and/or Germans on other people's blog. For once, I had reason to be glad about the two Landsleute in Friedrichshafen.

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    1. For a brief moment I thought that Landsleute was a rude word! I had to look it up.

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  6. Diano Marina was the seaside resort we always stayed at on all our trips via Italy! We stayed for a fortnight or so, in an apartment, part of a small complex built on a peninsular. Just below us was a camp site. Even though it was many years later, I wonder if this was the same one you stayed in YP? Unlikely, I suppose, given the intervening years.
    Thank you for reviving my memories of holidays long past.

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    1. I believe that it would have been the same long-established campsite CG.

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  7. Glad it all ended well. If you should ever be short of something to blog about, you could invite your readers to share their holiday or travel tales. I've got one that's bursting to be told........

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    1. You need to launch your own blog Christina - "I'm A Lassie From Lancashire" or "Lancashire Hotpot" - then you can tell your raunchy holiday tale to all and sundry.

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    2. I'm far too delicate a flower to bloom in blog land......

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    3. A lonely little petunia in an onion patch?

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  8. Sounds wonderful. A memorable trip indeed. Thank you for letting us share it.

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  9. Your trip reminded me of the many camping trips my family took across Europe when I was young. We had one of those huge French canvas tents--the big orange ones with blue tops that weighed at least 60 lbs. First you had to set up the frame which involved at least 40 poles, then you'd throw the canvas up and roll it over-top the framework. Eventually, once you tugged it into shape, all the loops at the bottom had to be fitted with stakes and hammered into the ground. It took the whole family at least two or more hours to construct. Not for idle campers and no fun in the sun. I ended up with heat exhaustion when we were setting up that tent on a blazing hot day at Lake Garda. But mostly, I ended up with wonderful memories--of days when campers of all nationalities would gather around evening campfires playing games, listening to music and laughing at our attempts to overcome language barriers. Good times. Good memories.

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    1. I am glad that my story has triggered such happy memories Mary.

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  10. What a small world. I was born in Baden-Baden, not far from Friedrichshafen. My dad was in the Canadian Air Forces.

    Kindness like that is always such a wonderful gift. It restores my faith I humanity.

    My family was camping in Italy in 1962, a month before I was born. I credit that in utero experience for my love of Italian food.

    It sounds like a wonderful holiday.

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    1. Does that mean that you qualify for a German passport Lily? You parents were pretty daring to go camping a month before you were born! What if you had decided to emerge early? Then you could have had an Italian passport!

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    2. No, no German passport. I have no idea why my mum would have agreed to go camping. My sisters where teenagers at the time, maybe that had something to do with it. Poor woman. I can't imagine camping at 8 months.

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  11. On my one trip to Europe in 1972, it was part camping and part staying in hotels. And one hostel, as I recall. Many beautiful memories. We did not make it to the Mediterranean though. What a beautiful trip for your family.

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    1. 1972? Hell - that means you were maybe 17 years old? Of course there are millions of Americans who have never left The States but you are not one of them.

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  12. I love the story about the German mechanic fixing your car for free. Things like that happen so rarely, especially these days, when everyone is scrambling for profits.

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    1. Even today, I think it can happen and does happen. Kindness is written in the DNA of most human beings.

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  13. Commenting on your comment on Bonnie's comment, it can be unsettling when others remember different or contradictory versions of events when everyone is certain theirs is the correct version.

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    1. The way brains work with regard to memory never ceases to amaze me.

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    2. Fear not, Tasker Dunham, the phenonomen you describe is only too familiar to me. My mother, the older she gets, is re-writing family history to an extent that I sometimes wonder whether I actually exist, other than in her dreams. It's pretty disconcerting - not least when she corrects me on my childhood memories of times and events she wasn't even present at.

      U

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  14. Kindness...means so much. It's something that should be freely, easily, and willingly given....and gratefully received.

    No enticements or rewards required...just a pure gesture from the heart.

    Lovely memories, Yorkie.

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    1. When you are on the receiving end of kindness like that it makes you ready to commit acts of kindness yourself.

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  15. What a great trip. You certainly covered some territory ! You are so lucky to be so close to all these lovely places.

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    1. I doubt that I will ever undertake such a trip again.

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