15. Apr, 2016

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TUESDAY  26-5-15

Oh dear what a bl***y day. Today was the kind of day which should have been videoed real-time, then shown to all those people who feel sorry for themselves, and how cruel the world is, and how unloved they are. Had they watched our day unfold I am confident they would have fallen on their knees, praised the Lord for the blessings they have, and swum to Africa to become missionaries.

At around 07:00 some poor great Alsatian (and I'm sorry to say there are several on this campground, most chained to stakes in the ground within their pitch area, looking extremely sad and bored) starts barking very loudly. Now we're in a canyon, a bit like a cove but with no water in it, and any loud sound echoes like mad. So this morning, for the second morning on the trot, we are to be woken by Rufus in fine vocal form plus his echoes.

On the road then at about 09:30 heading for Venice, being taken the long way round via Ljubljana by the Satnav, which was fine as it meant we did the whole journey on motorways, well toll roads actually, which meant that we got value for money using our vignette in Slovenia, before paying through the nose once we entered Italy.

I was a little sad to be leaving Slovenia, I think these folk have got things about right, and the scenery is beautiful. This is a country which would be particularly appreciated by those who like outdoor sports and adventures.

In to Italy then. Our destination was Camping Miramare at Punta Sabbioni on the eastern edge of Venice's lagoon. Since we were approaching from the east I expected to leave the East-West E55 toll road some way before the Venice area, then drop down on to the eastern peninsular of Venice, then travel along it to Punta Sabbioni.

As the miles ticked by and the directions given by the Satnav became even stranger it became obvious that something had gone wrong, but since I had been careful to punch in the co-ordinates correctly I thought we should just stick with it. We were now passing around Venice on the mainland and heading south. It was then that we spotted signs for 'Camping Fusina', which I was familiar with as I had it listed as one of my 'Plan B' campgrounds. Onward then, the air was blue. Eventually I decided enough was enough. I'd have turned around and gone back, but we were on a dead straight piece of road and there was just nowhere to turn round, so I just had to stick with it, heading towards somewhere called Chioggia, or  Sottomarina, or both. The journey was made more challenging by Spik drivers who just love to overtake when it just isn't safe to do so, they're not clever, or skilful, just reckless, and are only kept alive by better drivers who see that they're about to kill themselves, or more importantly others, and make allowances, and brake to let them in. We had a near miss ourselves and I hope I may have saved the recording on the dashcam.

The scenery was nothing like I'd expected. To my right was vast flat agricultural land, just like the Lincolnshire Fens, complete with irrigation channels controlled by small sluice gates,  and on my left it was more like the Louisiana swamplands, and somewhere out there beyond it, the Venice Lagoon, or maybe that was the lagoon. I bet they even have their own version of Hillbillies around these parts, the Spikbillies maybe, marrying their sisters and drinking Moonshine.

As we approached Sottomarina/Chioggia the swamp bit disappeared and on both sides of the road was smooth-as-glass water, and the sight of Venice far off in the distance to our left. We had one hell of a job finding the campgrounds here, most of them seemed to be off a very touristy stretch of beach, a bit like Great Yarmouth, in Norfolk, only with sunshine and a bit of class. The satnav was really messing us about. On arrival at camping Miramare my heart was not bounding with joy, and I asked The Chef to pop in and see if they had availability, but more importantly that we could get to Venice from there. Back she comes - we can get to Venice, it's a five minute walk to a bus stop, then a ten minute bus ride, followed by a TWO HOUR trip on a boat across the lagoon to Venice.

There was no way I was doing that (I should point out that The Chef has already been to Venice, this visit was mainly for my benefit).  "Right" says I, "That's it, we'll go back to that Camping Fusina, it's much closer to Venice, and we saw the signs for the ferry boats nearby". Back through moonshine country with the sight of Venice in the distance across the lagoon, probably about eight miles away. Our problem seems to have been that there are two Camping Miramare's, one on each peninsula and I had got them mixed up with the co-ordinates. As we got closer to Fusina's location The Chef calls out "Over there", so I quickly swung the vehicle down a side road which had a sign to the campground displayed. This didn't seem quite right somehow but they should know what they're doing. No they don't, and we finished up in a narrow dead-end road which I then had to back out of, complicated by the fact that a stupid Spik coach driver had just parked his coach right at the exit on to the wider road, and was walking about having a fag.

Back on track we followed the directions to Camping Fusina which the satnav was giving us, until we ended up in .............  a huge construction development. It looked as if it was a massive expansion of the port of Venice, which is actually on the mainland at Mestre. We turned lefts and rights, where we were eventually confronted by a pile of earth and a huge concrete support for the new flyover above. "THAT'S IT" I announced "SOD THEM, I'm done with Venice, we're off". So I found somewhere to pull over once we'd found our way out of the building site and fed in our next campground which was in the south of France.

It's true I could have driven all the way back up the toll road and then dropped back down to pick up the eastern peninsula, but that was a very long way, and I'd had enough. True, I'll probably never get to see Venice, but hey, I've visited the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, and that will have to do, and there were no Spiks, cruise ship tour groups following somebody with a number on a stick, or mosquitoes there. I'm now waiting for Las Vegas to build the 'Blue Mosque Hotel & Casino' complex, then I'll fly back there to have a look at what I missed in Istanbul.

Back on the toll road heading west, the sky was starting to look very threatening. We knew there was rain due here today, that's why we decided to make today a travel day rather than sit back in Slovenia, where it's also forecast to rain, and do nothing.

We could see very heavy rain falling from the clouds ahead of us as well as flashes of lightening. As we approached each torrential downpour I would make sure we were in a safe position in the nearside lane doing a nice steady speed with no Spiks ahead or behind us for some distance. The most amazing thing was that every time there was a torrential downpour loads of drivers just parked under bridges on both sides of the roads. Motorcyclists were also doing it, but for them it's by far the most sensible and safe thing to do given the risk to themselves, but car drivers? Come on. Not only were they parked under the bridges but there were also lines of them parked all along the hard shoulder. Back home they would quite rightly have been nicked for that, because it's dangerous. It meant that those of us that kept moving at a safe speed had nowhere to dive to should we have a breakdown or avoiding action be required.

We were getting low on fuel; our golden rule is to fill up when the tank is on half, so that we always have a safety margin in the tank. We couldn't believe the rise in the fuel price since arriving in Italy this morning. Throughout the journey we've never paid more than the equivalent of £1 a litre. Here it is €1.60, and at about €1.40 to the pound, to us that is expensive. We were looking for a TruckStop to spend the night but were struggling to find somewhere suitable. I know The Chef had plans for an 'on the road' evening meal, but I wanted pizza. I was in Italy, and I wanted a slice of pizza at least. Tomorrow would be too late, as we would then be in France. Eventually we pulled over at a very small TruckStop facility only really big enough to hold about six Lorries and those spots were filled, so we parked across car parking spaces instead.

In to the restaurant/cafe we went. There it was on the board - pizza, I was a happy boy. We went to place an order - to be told the restaurant is closed. Can you believe it? It was only 7pm for heaven's sake, surely that's when a lot of people would be looking to eat, but no, the restaurant is closed. We'd have to order something from the cafe selection. I was knackered and there was no way I was  moving on looking for anywhere else, it was pouring with rain outside, the road was very busy, probably due to the fact that we were travelling through the Milan suburbs. In the end we settled for filled bread things, The Chef had a round bap with something in it and I had a long one with ham and cheese, then the next thing they're stuck on a grill and heated up. It seems that everything here in Italy is served warm with black lines all over it.

We spent the evening indoors listening to the rain and watching the flashes of lightening, all very impressive.