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