Day 15 — July 15, 1996 (Monday)
15.07.1996 - 16.07.1996
No fireworks last night — or we slept through them. I guess they were all Saturday night in Jausiers.
Ed got our baguettes du jour and we had breakfast in our little dining area. Headed north toward Larche and the Italian border with the idea of lunch in Cuneo, Italy. It was a beautiful drive with lots of little “torrents” creating waterfalls in the mountains. In France all the torrents have names. I like that. We got higher and higher, and the road was winding and narrow. I don’t know how Ed drives these roads, but he does.
We arrived in Italy and in about the second town some gentlemen in uniform had a customs stop. We slowed, but they waved us through. Our first sight in Italy was a flock of sheep by the roadside with their solitary shepherd. We also discovered, to our delight, that Italian cows wear bells. When you pass a herd, it is a very pastoral sound.
As we approached Vinadio, I spotted a “Roman” ruin so we stopped to photograph and explore. It was actually a mid-1800s fortress — complete with moat. Someone had put a playground in the moat and there was a little bar/restaurant in part of the fortress. We walked around town admiring things Italian, hopped in the car and headed to Cuneo. Drove out of the mountains into flatter countryside, went through seven tunnels — six with windows, and as we got closer to Cuneo, it got more and more industrial. By the time we arrived at Cuneo, we decided we hated Italian drivers and weren’t terribly impressed with Italy. We were hungry by this time and looking for a restaurant. All we passed looked pretty bad. We finally got to an older part of town where the buildings were attractive, and found parking on a large square. The restaurant looked pretty tacky, so we took a few pictures of the square and left. The pedestrian arcade goes completely around the square and almost got me killed because I didn’t realize cars go right through it. Ed grabbed me just as a typical Italian driver was lining me up and taking aim.
Ed remembered a restaurant back in Vinadio, so we left Cuneo — hopefully never to return. We parked in Vinadio and walked back through the castle and the town to the Hotel Ligure. When we walked in — speaking no Italian — the waitress greeted us in French. My immediate reaction was absolute elation that she was speaking French and not Italian. It took a couple seconds before I remembered my French wasn’t much better than my five-word Italian vocabulary — yes, no, hello and goodbye two ways. She also spoke a little English, so in three languages we managed to communicate. At nearly 2:00 PM, she asked the cook if it was too late for lunch and got a frown but a go-ahead. We ordered the 22,000 lira menu. It was the cheapest meal! It was very good; our waitress was a gem and the bathroom was immaculate. Since we had no lira, Ed put it on MasterCard and we still don’t know how much our lunch cost, but we did have lunch in Italy! (later discovered it was about $12) [Now that everyone is using the euro, there are no such problems.]
Fort Albertino in Vinadio web site
Hotel-Restaurant Ligure web site
We drove back through the Alps — facing huge trucks on the tiny hairpin roads. When we arrived back at the Italian customs men, they stopped the car ahead of us — a pleasant looking middle-aged couple, and went through their car. This time we were prepared for a going over, but as we pulled up, they waved us through . . . . who can explain?
It rained most of the way back, but we were so happy to be back in France, we didn’t care about the rain. We drove down to Barcelonette to the supermarché and on the way back, stopped at a tourist place and at St. Nicholas Church to take pictures.
P.S. Forgot to mention we went to La Poste this morning to get stamps and mail postcards and a letter to Mom. We had to zip over to the tabac to get envelopes. The La Poste lady was very nice. I really like French Post Offices!