Home is on the horizon

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The setting sun as we leave Denmark. On the ferry going home

August is here again, and so am I. The past five weeks I’ve spent only a few nights at home. I was planning to write an ‘I’m home’-post, but I’ve left again. I’m close to home though, and it’s good, it’s good to be (close to) home again.

We started with a few days with bestemor and bestefar, my husband’s parents in the south of Norway. Then early one morning we took the ferry to Denmark, over to Hirtshals and the same day drove to Hamburg. In Hamburg we took the train to Munich, the Autozug, before we drove via Austria to Italy.

We had four stays in Italy: first we spent two nights at Ai Casoni, an ‘agroturismo’ near Treviso; second, we spent a week in Cavallino, just north of Venice; third was a hotel in Tuscany along with mormor and morfar (my parents), two of my brothers and their girlfriends; fourth and last was a short week by the Lago sea. We had one more stop in the very south of Germany, before taking the train back to Hamburg and then the ferry from Denmark.

The journey has been amazing; memorable, fun, and exhausting. The children have been wonderful and they have seen and learned much. We spent just about four weeks abroad and we have and still are visiting family before and after our roadtrip. Pictures and more bragging to come. This summer has been absolutely wonderful!

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Italy – or thereabout

IMG_2244It was a dull and cloudy day the day we arrived in Lörrach. The train stopped just outside a Milka factory (chocolate producer – among the largest in Europe) so that at least brought a hint of purple to the grey morning. We got on the road and took off south. We had a small break in Emmetten before continuing towards Italy.

Husband asked whether we going through one of the longest tunnels in Switzerland that day. I had no idea, but we hadn’t travelled more than a few more minutes before traffic slowed down to narrow the two lanes down to one and allow plenty of space between each vehicle. Suddenly we were inside the 17km long Gotthard tunnel, indeed the longest tunnel in Switzerland.

IMG_3801The Gotthard pass and tunnel really functioned as a border between Southern and Northern Europe. The weather cleared, the temperature rose and signs were all of a sudden in Italian. Houses looked more Italian, the number of Ferraris on the road increased. Driving without a map, trusting Garmin to take us where we wanted to go, we found ourselves a little confused: had we entered Italy, or were we in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. Our plan was to have a proper break in Switzerland, but that was now too late. So we decided to instead have our first break in Italy and enjoy the summer’s very first Italian gelato. We stopped in Bellinzona.

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Bellinzona was gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. There was a castle smack down in the middle of the town with town walls stretching out on both sides of the castles dividing the town. The castle had wine ranks growing along the outer wall, like all castles should have. And it was sunny, the grass was green, we were surrounded by huge mountains and the town itself was old, charismatic and charming. I loved it. It screamed: welcome to Italy. Except, it didn’t!

We found our gelato. I had limone, Son had cioccolato. Daughter tasted her very first and loved it! We ordered in Italian, payed with euros, thanked them in Italian, and talked over and over about finally having reached Italy: except, we hadn’t!

 

We went to buy a postcard. I had received a few coins after paying for the gelato with a note and took them out of my pocket to see if I had enough for the postcard and a stamp. That’s when I noticed. The coins weren’t cents, they were centesimi, or Rappen, the denomination of the Swiss franc! And that’s when I noticed the red flags with the white crosses. A few minutes earlier they had been banners waving overhead, along with plenty other banners, now they were Swiss flags. God we felt stupid! I announced to the children (or, well the child who understood anything of it) that we weren’t in Italy yet, we were still in Switzerland. Then we laughed. Walked hand in hand through the gorgeous streets of the Swiss town of Bellinzona. Then we left, and drove towards Italy.

All in a good night’s sleep

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The view from the ferry where we woke up the first night on the road

Travelling with small children this year, we decided to keep the time in the car to a minimum and tried the ‘Autozug’ (car train) in Germany. This meant we put the car on the train, boarded the train and slept our way through Germany. We boarded in Hamburg and got off in Lörrach. Travelling like we did (from Hirtshals, Denmark in the morning) we reckon if not taking the train we would have had three more sleepovers on the way south and used a lot more petrol.

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The hurried and delayed drive through Denmark in pouring rain

We took a ferry from Norway to Hirtshals, Denmark and slept on the ferry. We had planned to have 13-14 hours to drive through Denmark down to Hamburg. This would include a long stop in some park where we could tire out the children and make it a memorable and fun day. Instead, the ferry was severely delayed. We were supposed to reach Hirtshals at 7, instead we left the ferry at 1.30pm (13.30) This meant we had to drive straight down to Hamburg, stopping only for food and the occasional diaper change. Not an ideal start, but we made the best of it.

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Finally at the check-in in Hamburg

We reached Hamburg after dark. We did not have the exact address for the check-in-point for the ‘autozug’ but had an approximate address (which we left for the sat-nav to find) and a small printed street map to find the exact place. We managed to get there quite easily, but I have consider myself to have proper map reading skills and a good sense of direction. There was a small sign on one of the larger roads taking us into what seemed like a mix between a small alley and residential area. So if you’re every there trying to find the place, keep your eyes open!

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Waking up on the train – almost in Lörrach

When we got there we had a wee bit of time to kill. First all four of us, but then Husband had to leave us to get the car onto the train. The setting wasn’t ideal. Two kids who were tired, who had been in the car all day long with very few breaks at a train-station or the lobby of a hotel (the DB (Deutsche Bahn) has an agreement with a hotel connected to the train station) was not much fun. As soon as we got on the train things improved. Son thought it was fun being on a train (for the first time) and Daughter finally had some space where she could move about.

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A short break waiting to enter the station in Lörrach

We had a couchette compartment to ourselves. There were four seats on opposing walls (altogether eight) and above were three foldable beds. The seats also functioned as beds, but were slightly smaller than the foldable ones. Travelling with a baby then became a bit of a challenge. She’s at the age where she finds something to hold on the and stands up if she awakes during the night. The seats were to small to share with a baby all night, and the foldable beds were quite high up, and we were afraid she’d suddenly crawl over her bedmate and end up on the floor. Our solution was to build her a nest on the floor using the blankets and bed linen provided and our bag or suitcase to frame it. It wasn’t ideal, but it functioned well and we all managed to sleep (at least some).

We had breakfast served before reaching Lörrach, quite a good breakfast actually.

It was a good way to travel. We didn’t sleep much, but then again I rarely do in new, unfamiliar places. Economically, as well, the train was the better choice.

Travelling by car

IMG_3756I have spent many summer on the ‘autobahn’ in Germany, the ‘autostrada’ in Italy and the motorways of countries connecting these two countries to Norway. I was about a year old on my first roadtrip – with a caravan to the Netherlands. When I was three we drove to Spain in an old VW caravelle t3. At five I went to Italy for the first time, then again at seven, and since I’ve been at least ten times.

IMG_3891It’s all about the habit, I assume. But I do love driving to my summer holiday destination. I get to see more, experience more, and I get a sense of how far away I am from home. Life’s more than airports and duty free shops. And the languages change, you can’t go from Norwegian to Italian in a few hours, you have to go through at least Danish and German before reaching the latin languages.

I have tried my best having Husband adopt my preferences for travelling, and he’s been tolerant! We drove to Italy for our honeymoon in 2008. Norway, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy going south, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway on the way north. I loved it, and I think he really learned to like it.

IMG_3751Last year we went to Italy by plane. We rented a car to travel a bit and with that a car seat for Son, then three. After waiting in the heat for a car, then hoping for a good seat for Son, (about which a flirty Scot get my hopes up only to crush them to pieces) I was left with a seat that I would never trust his life with in Norway. Here I was left with no choice on roads on which people drive much faster and more aggressively than I’ve ever witnessed in Norway. Going back this year with two children I wanted a good car, safe seats, and I wanted to drive through Europe to reach my destination. I managed to convince Husband. Now he says he’d like to do it again.

IMG_2256I think my children might be able to get used to this type of travelling as well. Son already is, Daughter not so much. Give me a few more years and they won’t have it any other way.

 

Roadtripping “summer” 2013

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Roadtripping Denmark in the rain

This year’s summer vacation happened rather late. We left home in the middle of September and went away for about three weeks, not returning before the first days of October. Temperatures at home started to drop the days before we left and the air smelled of autumn. We packed our bathing gear, shorts, t-shirt, summerdresses and short skirts and headed south.

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Roadtripping the flatter parts of Switzerland

Leaving home late at night with only a short drive in front of us to catch a ferry to take us to Denmark over night. Drive through Denmark the next day, get on a train in Hamburg, Germany the next day which, during the night, would take us to the German-Swiss border and the city of Lörrach (still in Germany). We had a three-hour-drive to our first main stop: Cannobio, Italy. We would relax there for four nights before driving four hours to Nice, where we would be accompanied by MiL (Mother in Law) and OBiL (Oldest Brother in Law). France would be our home for a full week. Returning home we planned for two nights on the Italian-Swiss border in the town of Ponte Tresa before taking the same route home as we took going south. A perfect road trip with young children aboard.

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Reaching the Alps in Switzerland

It’s been the perfect summer holiday, and we are very likely to travel similarly in future summers. We do have room for improvement: family holidays have their ups and down and minor hiccups, but all in all we’ve had a wonderful time together. Stories and pictures will follow soon first I have an exam…