So much for the Magic Weather Box (AKA the weather app on my iPhone.)  It PROMISED us sunshine from Friday onwards so we gave skiing one last shot on Friday morning.  It looked hopeful for a while, despite the low cloud, so we went up the lift and YEH! it was beautiful up there, despite blowing a hooley.  (You could almost hear the heavenly voices going ‘Aaaaahhh!’ as we reached the top of the lift.) 

2Sunshine 1

Yes, it is Tim!

Yes, it is Tim!

We had a lovely time for a couple of hours, even with the large number of French school children snow ploughing their way down the slopes.  It was interesting to watch kids of about 12 learning to ski.  I thought it was illegal for French kids not to be able ski brilliantly,(they always put me to shame)(in between trying to wipe me out) so it was a bit of a shock to see remedial skiing going on.  Then all of a sudden, the fog just appeared to produce yet another whiteout and it was me snow ploughing down the easy blue.  Oh well, back to the bar then with all the other timid types.

4 meh! 1

5 Meh 2

We decided to spend Saturday getting ready for the next stage of our trip, feeling a bit put out at missing the last chance to ski in the sunshine, but thick fog was with us yet again.  There seems to be a microclimate here, probably due to Lake Geneva (Or that’s what I thought was called, but it says Lac Léman on the map) (I spent ages looking for this village on the map, asking questions along the lines of, ‘are you sure Lake Geneva is next to Geneva?’)

1 Thollons 1

On our last evening in Les Memises we went into the best local restaurant, not wanting to cook.  It was yet again a great evening.  We met a delightful group of young people who had actually driven down to Thollen in…. Discovery 2’s.  They were from our local area and good grief, one of them knew several of our friends.  How weird is that…?

6 the boys

These young men were scarily competent.  At least two of them have done all sorts of impressive (and effective) mechanics on their Discos, although I promised not to tell who fitted his clutch back to front.

The restaurant was a true reflection of the village.  About 80% of the clientele were Brits.  A true middle class home from home!

7 90% Brits

On Sunday we were up early because we wanted to get to Genoa in time to pitch the Tentipi.  The weather was predictably perfect, just to rub salt into our wounds.  I really can’t remember a ski trip that has provided such bad weather.  The upside was that it was dead easy to get down the mountain and the scenery was outstandingly beautiful (at the start). 

8 Leaving Thollon 1

9 Leaving Thollon 2

10 Leaving Thollon 3

As we drove towards the Mont Blanc tunnel the fog closed in, which is a shame, as the view must be fabulous.

11 road to Mont Blanc

12 Mont Blanc road 2

Driving into Italy through the tunnel is something of an experience.  You approach it via a series of hairpin bends, and you can tell it’s not much fun during busy times. 

13 queues ahead

There was a sign at 2km that warned that you had to wait a whole hour!

It costs about €40  to go through the tunnel and the instructions are very strict.  You must stay at least 150m from the next driver and drive between 50 and 80 km/h.  You have to keep your radio and they give you detailed instructions in Italian, French and English and they give you a card with all the same instructions and emergency instructions as well.  There is even a fire station half way through.  OK, it’s 11.8 km long, but we have been through tunnels that are twice that length for free in Iceland with much less fuss.

14 tunnel

When we emerged on the Italian side, the sun was out and there were glimpses of the most fabulous, snow covered scenery in between the long stream of tunnels. 

15 into Italy 1

16 into Italy 2

The motorway from Mont Blanc towards Turin is an outstanding piece of engineering, that seems to plough in an endlessly straight line through the Italian Alps via non stop bridges and tunnels.  Great for driving, but, by the time we came out into open countryside all you could see was more fog. Dang!  It was quite disturbing to witness the driving habits of some of the locals in the fog.  An awful lot of them did not slow down and a sizeable proportion did not even have their lights on, let alone their fog lights.

17 idiot in the fog 

The motorway itself was great until we reached Genoa, where the density of traffic and the twists and turns as it threaded its way through the city made it a bit more stressful. 

The coastline south of Genoa is beautiful, with little towns clinging precariously to mountainsides or squeezed in to tiny valleys.  We were wondering where on earth they would find anywhere flat enough to put a campsite and our ACSI app seemed to put Camping Fossa Lupara square onto the carriageway.  We found it with no trouble, however, although we were a bit nervous about going under this particular bridge.  It did explain why there was a warning about following sat nag with an RV.

25 low bridge

Although the sun had come out, the temperature started at 11 degrees C and you could feel it dropping straight away.  The campsite only opened a couple of weeks ago and the nice owner opened up a shower and a couple of toilets for us, as well as turning on the ‘hot’ (for that read tepid) water.  The restaurant won’t open for at least a couple of months so we ate outside,

19 Brrrrrr

20 sunset

we read for a bit with our new super duper outside lamp and then hid in the tent for the rest of the evening huddled up in the duvet and blankets.

The night felt blooming cold and when we finally got out of the tent at 9 o’clock, the temperature had just reached 0 degrees C.  I didn’t think we would end up eating porridge in Italy, but I was glad we brought some!

On Monday we went for a walk around the town

21 pheonix

and were mightily taken with the place.  The views were well worth the effort

24 view Sestri Levante

and we had an excellent meal at la Calanca, which had sea food to die for and a very friendly couple running the place

23 owners  La Calanca restaurant

It has been a shock to be camping in such low temperatures, especially as we left all kinds of things at home like my lovely purple fleece P.J.s and our spare sleeping bag. I sure hope that Rome and Tunisia will be a bit warmer….