granted two days off work this week, Dan and I decided to take
off south in search of sanity and relaxation. Yearning for freedom,
we hired a car from Bruno, a local taxi driver, and took the highway
towards the Italian region of Switzerland. For the first few kilometres
I struggled to remember how to drive, frequently riding the kerb
and attempting to change gear with the door handle on my left.
However, by the time we began to climb the first of two mountain
passes I felt fairly competant, and even managed to carry out
an emergency stop when suddenly out of the thick fog traffic cones
appeared across the carriageway in the entrance to a narrow tunnel.
I think Dan was a bit freaked out - but not as much as me when
earlier I simply couldn't remember which was the brake and which
was the accelerator. Thankfully Dan's driving wasn't half as bad
as mine - we both then had the opportunity to relax.
everything fell into place. A rare space for the car appeared
right beside the tourist information office on the lakefront,
and not 50 metres from there a cheap hotel where we got their
last room which apparantly sported "lake views". Hhhmm,
yes, we couldn't deny it - we could see a thin slice of water
at the end of the narrow alleyway that lay between the buildings
a great surprise for us in that it was Italian in every way. It
was difficult to remember that we were actually in Switzerland
when all around people were speaking a language neither of us
understood, Pizzas topped every restaurant menu card and the architecture
was undeniably Italian with the cobbled squares and arched walkways.
The local population were sophisticated in their dress, looking
appeallingly sexy in an unmistakingly Meditteranean fashion. Ice
cream carts stood on every corner and there was the relaxed disorganised
atmosphere that I have not experienced since my February trip
a look around town and admired the local sights... (such as the
children's circus that had pitched itself just down the street
from our hotel) we decided to do a little tour of the local area
by car. Our goal was to find a big shop where we could spend lots
of money that we didn't have, but all we could find was a tiny
Co-op in a petrol station. Loaded up with beer to drink in town
we headed back across the lake, getting lost for the 8th time
in 10 hours and ending up in the parking lot of a Ferrari Showroom.
Realising that neither of us knew how to hotwire a car we soon
gave up on the idea of ram-raiding the place, and instead moved
on to the nearby Ikea store where we walked around in circles
for what seemed liked forever in a bid to escape the notorious
1-way system that they employ to get you to spend more money.
Depressingly, neither of us was able to spend a single Swiss Franc
in a neighbouring huge electrical store, although on my part that
was purely because I knew that whatever I did buy I'd have to
cart back to the UK (where I'd only be able to use it for three
weeks in any case).
that all films were in Italian at the local cinema we ventured
back into the main square for a meal. From under the big canvas
umbrellas of the Tango bar we scoffed our way through pizzas,
downed our beers and admired the torrential thunderstorm around
us. Although initially amused by the fact that we were so close
to the downpour and yet still dry, we soon found ourselves being
laughed at as the splashes of rain on the bricked ground soon
ensured that we were pretty much soaked through. Next, it was
onto a club which was quite a treat as the most action we'd seen
was in Tiffanys in Wengen - those of you who've been there will
know what I'm saying... it was 4.00am by the time I staggered
home. I can usually tell when it's time for bed - I start making
international calls with my cellphone.
later we were up once more, cruising in the beautiful Italian
sun, head out of the sunroof with Fat Boy Slim blasting out. Boy
was I happy... it just felt great to be free. Returning home we
stopped off in Locarno where my parents had been for their honeymoon
over 35 (?) years ago. A spot of bull-riding
and a milkshake provided amusement there, but hangovers always
win and so home it was over the Gotthard Pass where we witnessed
a motorcyclists hopping around in agony having wiped out not far
ahead of us on the twisty wet roads. Back in Interlaken I bought
a new camera (Canon 300 EOS - 1-year-old model but a bargain at
sfr500 and half the weight of the Nikon F50 I've had for the past
5 years and have now sold to Dan), filled up with fuel and fell
asleep on the train back up the mountain.
It's so good
to get out of this place sometimes. It's vital to remeber that
life is about living for the moment and a lot more fun if you
refuse to follow routine for the sake of laziness and a lack of
August 2001 was sponsered by Fiat.