You might have noticed that yesterday was a little quiet on the blog. This was because I spent the entire day driving from Paris to Milan. Why? It is not cheaper than flying in cattle class with a low cost airline, but it is a great deal nicer. I was gone from Paris at five o’clock in the morning, when one can traverse the entire conurbation in half an hour and I was well into Burgundy (as opposed to being well into the Burgundy) by the time dawn broke. There was a quick pit stop in Beaune, for a croissant and a coffee and then I saw a sign that said “Memorial de L’Avenir”. A memorial to the future? I was curious and stopped. It was a sobering moment to discover that this was not some eccentric avant-garde idea but rather a monument to the 44 school children who were killed in a coach accident on the motorway in the summer of 1982, all of then from Crépy-en-Valois, which is my local town when I get home. The accident remains the worst in French history… I headed onward towards Geneva with the autoroute radio telling me that the A40 was closed between Bourg-en-Bresse and Bellegarde but would be open at 6.30, then 7.30, then 9.30. It was still closed when I arrived and went into a monster traffic jam, which is what happens when you funnel all the traffic off a major international road into a small village. Not wishing to spent the day looking at cows and trucks, I did a U-turn and headed for the hills and completed a neat rally stage to arrive in Bellegarde, having lost only about half an hour.
The traffic jam behind me continued to grow as I hustled on to Geneva but the radio had it in for me and began reporting a lengthening tail-back at the Mont Blanc tunnel, which has restricted access these days, following another monster accident in 1999 when 39 people died in a fire inside the tunnel. It was getting to lunch time and so I stopped to pick up a sandwich in a place called Bonneville, where they don’t have any kind of Speedweek and then it was once more unto the breach, having decided not to try going over the top, after a similar situation 12 months ago resulted in hours of delightful Alpine driving. So I sat in a jam under a glacier an chomped on my sandwich and was able to marvel at the brilliant engineering, and the fact that it still does not work properly…
Finally at 2pm I popped out of the tunnel on the Italian side and enjoyed a delightful run down the Val d’Aosta, past an incongruous place called Derby, which simply must have an interesting history, probably involving a man in a tweed hat. If you ever win a lot of money and feel the need to buy a castle, this is the place to be. There are ruined castles everywhere. The driving had become more colourful as the Italians always drive as though they are on their mobile phones (and usually they are) but I finally got down to the plains near Turin and then hurtled on towards Milan, passing Balocco, the testing ground where Alfa Romeo used to run its F1 cars in the 1970s but from there until Monza they were digging up every road and so it was early evening before I finally arrived and too late to get to the track.
Still, there are worse ways to spend days… usually in airports.
In real news terms there was little to report.