After Avignon, France, it was another fairly long day of motorway driving down to the French Riviera and along the coast to my hotel in Arma di Taggia, just past the famous resort town of San Remo, Italy. I had driven this coastal route before (along this freeway) which passes above Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo and the other less famous resort towns). I had forgotten what a spectacular feat of engineering it is. The highway clings to the side of the cliffs for more than 100 kilometers, mainly passing over bridges and through enumerable tunnels.
This is a fast road (usually 110 kph, about 70 miles an hour), and demands your full attention all the while offering spectacular sights of the Mediterranean Sea and the coastal resorts on one side and impossible cliff hanging villages on the other. Very distracting.
I found I needed a strategy for tunnels. It was a sunny day, so sunglasses were required in the open, but when entering tunnels, resulted in an instant blackout. Thankfully the tunnels all have a sign going in which states their length. So, for tunnels of 1km or more, sunglasses off on entry and back on when the exit was in sight. For tunnels greater that 500m, but less than 1km, shove the sunglasses up on the forehead, and for shorter tunnels, leave them on! I am sure I looked stupid to passing cars! Some shots of the scenery below.
The shots below are of Monaco harbor taken from a gas station rest stop!
On arriving in Arma de Taggia, I found my beach front hotel in a pedestrian zone. Undeterred I drove in and parked in front (having already been told there was no parking). They took one look at the Jag and said, “it will be OK, leave it there, we will call the police and tell them you are a guest!”. The beach was right across the street (see pix) and I had a couple of hours to enjoy it before a walk through the village and a couple of happy hour beers that came with three plates if munchies. I hardly needed dinner. However, the al fresco ravioli followed by veal scaloppini did not go to waste. Another place I could have spent two days.
Above two pix from my hotel window.
Next morning it was off the Firenze (Florence), Italy, and my meet up with a group of XK Jag Drivers for an 8-day tour of Tuscany. This was my last great extravagance. These tours are first class, as you will see. The welcome email came with instructions NOT to follow your GPS to the hotel, but to use an alternate route, “in case you might find some small roads”. What an understatement. Of course, Ms. Garman wanted to go the small roads At one point I nosed the Jag into a lane, got out, and realized that the car was 2” wider than the road! So around we go to find the indirect, but much easier way in to our hotel, an old manor house high in the hills above Florence with a commanding view of the town. Quaint but serviceable room. Great old building. Over the top dinner.
We met up for drinks at the most Italian time of 8:30, followed by a three-hour dinner of five courses with an uncountable number of bottles of wine. Nice people, very eccentric group, as usual, including one guy I now know is MI-6. He wouldn’t tell me more or he would have to kill me.
We have 8 XKs on the tour, mostly nice drivers. As usual, we are all older except for one gal who is a twenty something from Kiev.
Today we shifted hotels and drove through the Chianti region, stopping at Brolio Castle, the oldest winery in Italy (documented to the 1100’s and in continuous ownership for 35 generations!) Very cool old castle surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. We learned more about Chianti Classico (vs. regular Chianti) then we needed to know, tasted some good wines, and then had a three-hour, five course lunch! After lunch, I commented to our tour guides that we had now spent 1.5 hours driving and 7.0 hours eating. They said that this was probably the correct ratio for the rest of the trip. Let out one more notch on the belt.
Pix from the castle walls of their vineyards
Our private tasting room
Our tour guides, from Spain.
We got to our hotel after 3.5km of hiking every inch of the near vertical winery and another hour’s drive though beautiful countryside. A very upscale “Thermae” resort also historically used by the Romans. This one has a great bathhouse with four separate temperature pools, plus steam and sauna. The 190-degree mineral water felt great after all the hiking and eating. Of course, this was followed by another (thankfully only) three course dinner and more wine. We are now at 3.0 hours driving and 9.5 hours eating! My room is palatial, with inside and outside patios, marble floors, huge bathroom with a shower I can actually turn around in, and a walk-in closet. We’ll be here for five nights, so I am really happy about that!
Tomorrow, off for more Tuscany touring.