Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Stranded in Genoa


After dropping off Wife and Daughter at Pisa airport for their flight home, I was making steady progress on my drive home.  My target for the first night was somewhere north of Genoa, with a view of having an early start the next day and diverting to Chamonix for a few hours the next morning.

But around 5:30, just north of Genoa, the car seems to be losing power going up hill.  This got progressively worse and then thick white smoke starts to pour out of the exhaust.  I was lucky to be able to limp into a service station.  A few exploratory phone calls later, and I have managed to arrange for someone from the Italian equivalent of the AA to come and collect the car and take it to a garage back in Genoa.  By 8:00, I have even found a hotel just up the road from the garage and am booked in for a night - but I won't find out until tomorrow what the problem is - I hope it is just a blown exhaust.


Back to the garage late morning for some bad news.  It is not the exhaust but the "turbo compressor" that has broken.  They can get the part but not until tomorrow, and then it might take them well into Friday to fit it.  Not good

So I have changed my ferry to early Saturday morning and have booked two more nights at the hotel. 

My actual location is the tiny town of Voltri just up the coast from Genoa.  My hotel actually backs onto rather a nice beach.  But I have decided to try and get something positive out of the forced stop by doing some planning for the winter renovation of Petits Chats.  So I stayed in most of the day and ate dinner at the hotel's restaurant - actually quite nice.

I also have Wife's laptop which has a few movies on it and there is broadband in the hotel so I can download some radio shows to listen to.  So quite a productive day in some sense.


Back to the garage early afternoon for some better news.  The part has arrived earlier than expected and has been fitted.  But the exhaust system is full of oil and needs to be cleaned out.  This takes a few hours but I am on my way again by around 5:00, 18 hours earlier than expected. 

Total cost of the breakdown - about £2000!!

I make it to Chamonix around 9:00 but there are no rooms available in any of the cheap hotels as it is the Mont Blanc marathons this week.  So I slept in the car


I have time this morning to do some exercise - the last before my triathlon on Sunday.  My preparation has been terrible for this event.  Two long days driving and two nights when I will probably be sleeping in the car.  This will not leave me in the peak of condition for the race!

So today I take a walk for a couple of hours up the Chamonix valley through the forest.  I also have time to buy a few cheap pairs of trousers from one of the outdoor stores

I left Chamonix around 11:00am and drove all day to Calais arriving around 11:00pm to find a huge traffic jam at the ferry port.  Any hope of perhaps getting an earlier ferry had gone, so I slept five hours in Calais town centre in the car and got the 5:45 ferry.

Home two days late in the end

Holiday 2 - 8 days in Trasimeno

Day 1

Travel from C

Wife not well

Day 2

Running first thing - triathlon

Pool day in the sun - remember how tired we both are - no "proper" holiday all year

Trattoria Del Pescatore

Day 3

Meet D at Chiusi - il molo

Day 4-5

Thursday - Perugia

Friday - Del P

Saturday - Il Molo

Sunday to Firenze - Pizzeria - thunder storm

Monday to Cortona - Frances Mayes

Tuesday - departure

Holiday 1 - a few days in Chamonix


A long journey down to Chamonix in the land rover today.  Depart from home at 2:00am, and drive to Dover.  Catch the 6:45am ferry, and in Calais by just after 9:00.  Arrived in Chamonix at 7:00pm.

Nice meal out at a pasta place and a new plan for the next couple of days - we will buy a cable-car pass and go up to a couple of the ski stations and to see Mont Blanc up close


So Wife is being brave and is willing to go up to the high point nearest the summit of Mont Blanc

It is actually quite chilly at the top as you would expect and we are totally unprepared for this having not planned to go up so high

Quite a few climbers have died on Mont Blanc in the last few weeks. It does look very exciting walking. 

At the mid-point of the way up, we discovered that there is a walk we could probably do up the valley to one of the glacier sites.  We were only marginally prepared for this too, having little in the way of food or drink with us.  But we decide to do it anyway

Wife strides off in the distance

Looking towards the Dru, a famous site in alpine mountaineering history

Slogging up one steep bit - I am actually feeling pretty good during the walk.  All that triathlon training is working

I imagine that the glacier ha been bigger in the past - a sign of global warming no doubt

We finally crashed out at the café above the glacier for two large drinks and a plate of charcuterie

Back to Chamonix on the pinion railway


Today's trip up in the cable car is to the north side of Chamonix.  There are quite a few possible walks marked from the mid-way station

Just above this station is where many of the paragliders take off.  Some of these are dual flights and Wife is very keen for me to have a go at one of these.  It does look good fun - some of the flights go really high above the valley.

A two-person flight departing

Wife with Mont Blanc behind her

The high point of our walk - a small snow field near the top

Coming back to the cable car station, we are amazed to see a paraglider dangling from the cables that connect the mid-way station to the summit above.  Not clear how they got there or how they have managed to secure themselves to the cable, but they are in some peril I would say.

While we have our lunch, a mountain rescue helicopter appears

And lowers someone down who attaches themselves to the top cable and then lowers another tether down to the two paragliders

This shot gives some idea of how high they were - perhaps 200m above the valley

A second rescuer is lowered down

He has a large kit back which contains a long rope

Which they attach to the two paragliders

and use to lower them down to the valley below

Then the two rescuers make their way down the cables

and get a lot of applause as they leave the cable station

Back in the safety of Chamonix and time for another large drink

A one-month absence from blogging

It has been a strange month.  The main issue was that the partnerships we had entered into in respect of the painting holidays in France and the brocante business have both been terminated after serious disagreements related to various aspects of the arrangements.  This has been a very messy process and is still not close to completion - it will drag on at least till the end of September it would seem.

There are also various complex issues related to the father of the partner.  He and I have had a few conversations over the last few months and this has rather opened my eyes to a few things.

So I have a garage full of brocante stock and a re-designed painting holiday business based around bringing in external tutors. 

Oddly enough, these changes to the business do increase the potential profitability of them from my point of view. 

As stress relief, I have entered a triathlon in September held at my gym in Faringdon and am now training hard.  Six mornings a week I go swimming at the gym, and then two or three times a week I extend this by either running on the treadmill or doing some biking.  This does take my mind off things a bit.