Yes, that’s what we were: a marauding, caterwauling horde of over-prepared, sunsuit wearing worry-worts teleported from their hermetically clean, alpine play-park that is Switzerland to the dusty, casual, whatever land that is Italia and it was great.
This time – aping my late father – I completed the drive from Vaud to Tuscany (near Piombino) in one go with only one short stop outside Aosta to ‘mark our territory.’ My Dad always used to do that; drive – seemingly without blinking – epic distances, across entire countries, leaving at ever earlier times of the day. Stopping was for wimps and my father only ever stopped if he ran someone over or the car broke. The last time I remember my father ever really shouting at me was when we drove to Dundee in a oner and as we approached the Scotch Corner (which is a lie as it ain’t a corner and ain’t in Scotland) my brother and I demanded that we stop for a pee break as we were contorting ourselves like Pan’s People in the back trying to stop the flow. Scotch Corner appeared and whoosh! past it went, the Granada Ghia flexing it’s un-catalytically converted muscles, and I turned to my father and said: ‘Jeez Dad, you didn’t even give us a chance to wind down the window…’ He tore me a new one for that and threw us back an empty Lemon Barley bottle (the most disgusting drink ever invented: after instant tea, Sunny Delight and Grappa), ‘fill that,’ he said. I think we improved the taste.
It was a bit easier this time because, basically, the kids were a bit older – which doesn’t mean that one had a job of map reader and one was in charge of snacks and beverages, but more that they could actually watch a film without wailing and consume ‘travel food’ without mentally combusting with the novelty of not eating their lunch at a table. (‘In a car? Eat lunch in a car? A Car? Lunch? Lunch in car? I’m not ‘avin’ it Daddy, I just don’t geddit…lunch? In a car? Have you been on’t sauce, Daddy?’)
- Nosh If you travel by car then I consider anything that can be smeared, spread or eaten with a spoon NOT travel food. Anything with rice, soft berries, milkshakes, ice-creams, cream cheese, the potential to crumble into dust or honey are NOT travel foods. Any substance that can be permanently mated to the cars upholsterery or interior fittings is a BAD IDEA and NOT travel food. If it can be consumed without spoons, or another human being or spontaneous eruptions of fluids then that is travel food. Sandwiches, crisps, drinks with straws, popcorn – these are all good. Last time we undertook a road trip of this majesty we provided a veritable banquet: chicken wings, sandwiches (with the crusts cut off), crisps (with dips), yogurts. I should have saved us the trouble and just ground the ham sandwiches into the carpet with a Croc liberally smeared with a mix of yoghurt and houmous.
- DVD Player Also, we have the most annoying DVD player in the world. The biggest button on the machine is the eject button (like, duh!) and the hold switch is half a click and the next is…off. What moron thought this was a good idea? Also, if you want to put the car on the back of a seat then you have to take the battery off which is okay unless you stop the car – say, to fuel it – and then it stops the DVD. FFS. Sony are a bunch of whoreing felch-farters. But. We cunningly wedged the player in between the two front seats so it can keep the battery and no child has a superior view just killing two birds with one stone. But, alas, it didn’t last and the kids found something else to moan about: the sun. After explaining to them that although we knew many things, could heal most small cuts and bruises and make cakes we didn’t, unfortunately, have the power to move a large, dying star so as to not interfere with their viewing pleasure. So, t’missus decided to use a large, paper tablecloth (don’t ask) to shroud the side windows and created their own, mini cinema. Next time they’ll ask us to don uniforms and sell them choc-ices.
- Bomboloni I mentioned these in last year’s Italian post. But this time we actually took the plunge and ate one. They are doughnuts but instead of being filled with jam are filled with a kind of custard. They’re okay, but jam doughnuts are way, way better. Don’t mess with a classic, I say.
- Coffee I thought Italy was famous for coffee with their Lavazza this and Grande Lattes and all that malarky hijacked by the corporate godzillas Starbucks and Costa. I thought Italians had one part chianti and one part espresso running through their veins. I was wrong. I really struggled to find a great coffee. They were either amphetamine strength espressos or overly milky cappucinos or lattes. I just wanted a large, strong coffee with a shot of milk. I tried explaining (admittedly, with all the italian I have learnt off various Cornetto adverts), roping in an bilingual Italian and finally drawing a bloody picture. I kept getting machiatos. Oh well.
- Sand We discovered that talcum powder instantly removes sand when you are on the beach. No more gritty sandwiches or exfoliating sunscreen sessions. The only problem was that our kids became obsessed with it and finding a grain on their skin would have them reaching for the talc faster than a gymnastic (actually, I think they use chalk). It got to the point when our son was rubbing his nads with talc like some super-dry porn star. It was kinda odd. Our daughter preferred to use the nearby shower but on the walk back to the loungers would realise that she had sand on her feet and then flop, wet, into the sand and then weep at her sandyness. I repeated this process a couple of times. It was trying.