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A road trip hack from Calais into Italy


I crossed the border in the middle of the night, like a burglar. There was no traffic; the lorries were all huddled in the service areas like sheep asleep.

The stars were bright, like aeroplanes. Perhaps they were aeroplanes. The moonlight lay hard and cynical on the side of the mountains .

I had left calais in the afternoon and the french autoroute system swallowed me up like a credit card. Soon the lorries were having their supper and i flew down france like a bird.i felt tired and asked at some hotels but they were all full. Then a rather surreal thing happened..someone was playing a guitar behind my seat!!

I thought at first bertie had planted a device but the quality was very poor, more of a strum, and it only happened at exactly 85 mph. I stopped at once and investigated but only found an old french clock in a wooden case with a painted glass front which i had bought at auction and restored. But it had nothing inside it.

The rest of the load was rugs and mirrors and paintings and things.

Which made me think that the car, despite being German, was humming to me!!!!

But can a car talk to you?

Remember i was a bit tired….

I tried again to stop but by then the car was driving itself.The car was old but powerful .Rheims, Troyes, Beaune, Geneve, the names were familiar enough not to need the map. The phone had died and my glasses had gone somewhere to provide backing.

Soon Chamonix was signposted and the Mont Blanc Tunnel.

Mont Blanc tunnel seemed longer than before.

In Aosta i pulled into a service stop and collapsed like a dead man. A few hours later, feeling a bit gritty i woke to find myself outside a shop i last visited in 1999 and where i bought two rather smart salomon jackets, one of which was in the car!!

After some coffee i carried on. The signs said i had to choose between Torino and Milano. I wanted to go and find the building in Turin where they shot the roof scene in The Italian Job. I chose Milan.

By then the lorries were awake and playing grandmothers’ footsteps in two of the lanes of traffic, leaving one for cars…who had their own game: touch me if you can!! Luckily i rather like that game and had the right car to play it; the adrenalin rush lasted as far as Ancona and then i planed down the last few kilometres, trying to anticipate the camber where the motorway has slipped towards the sea and the repair crew were so frightened of being run over they dropped the stuff and ran…splash and dash….the road now feels like wind against tide.

Since arriving i had a kip, unpacked and had a walk in the mountains

… i will miss the guitar though.

I found an old spring in the clock…..

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