Italy, Switzerland, France and Belgium

The final travel blog post for this summer holiday is here. The last leg of our journey took us through 4 European countries before we finally came home to The Netherlands.

The last post ended with Pozzuoli and I thought I’d also open this post with Pozzuoli. We found out which house had been the house that actress Sophia Loren had lived in as a youngster (from a video of Sophia Loren driving by the house a few years ago and pointing to it herself) and we stopped to take a picture as well. I’m not a real La Loren fan, but it was still nice to see her house…

The house is not far down the road from a volcanic crater called Solfatara (the house is on the Via Solfatara, pretty much next to the amphitheatre) so we took a look there as well. You can still see some yellowish colouring on the ground from the sulfur.

We drove around the whole area that day and ended up visiting an old Roman bathhouse and villa in Baia, with an upside down tree (with roots in a roof) and a huge dome which still (or again) housed water.

The next day we went to Napels. We had driven there one day before but traffic was chaotic, we even got caught in a little street where a wedding party was assembling…

We didn’t know where to park (nothing we saw looked that trustworthy to us as tourists with a Dutch numberplate), so left again that day, researched public transport and found a garage with P+R facilities so we could take a tram into the city. That first day in Napels we visited the archaelolgical museum with so much beautiful Pompei art (murals and mosaics and such) and also beautiful old statues. We could publish a book with all the beautiful things we saw, but here are just a few quick examples (as usual, click on images to enlarge)…

We walked into the city of Napels after our museum visit and the next day returned to just walk around and take it all in some more, which was very nice. It’s quite a chaotic and not so very clean city, but there’s a life and a charm to it that made me really enjoy it. We ate pizza Napoli (Mr E) and pizza Nuovo Napoli (me) in Naples and did not regret it. Pizza is sooo good there, which is nice to know as it’s the birthplace of the modern pizza now eaten everywhere around the world.

An evening and dinner in the nearby Pozzuoli was also charming…

After our few days in that area we took to the road again and drove north to Assisi. Boy, is Assisi beautiful! Very hilly with steep climbs but so beautiful. It was almost too much to take in. We were there for an evening and a morning and even happened upon a lovely free concert with an Italian singer infront of one of the many churches of Assisi.

We went on to Turin where we stayed for two nights which was fine but turned out not to be a fave. There were certainly pretty parts and we think it has a lot to offer culturally, but the city itself just didn’t do so much for us (although, those evening pictures sure are pretty). We also saw the long box in which the Turin shroud is kept and a replica image.

We then drove further north and took the St. Bernard Pass into Switzerland. The Alpine views were quite stunning. We took a little break, just so we could take it all in…

… then drove to Lake Geneva…

… and stopped in Vevey, the village Charlie Chaplin had lived in for the last 25 years of his life. His old house is now a Charlie Chaplin museum and as a film fan I just had to visit it. It was very nicely done, with actual Chaplin furniture, documents and a lot of info. Afterwards we drove by the graveyard to also visit his and his wife Oona’s grave.

Switzerland is quite expensive, so we went on to our hotel outside of Lausanne (which was only slightly cheaper) and then took a metro into town with the free metrocard we had been given. Lausanne didn’t quite impress us either, but maybe we weren’t looking in the right place and finding a dinner spot was a little challenging too, which didn’t help. Still, a little impression…

The next morning we drove a little to the west of Lausanne to the village of Tolochenaz. This is the village in which Audrey Hepburn lived in from 1963 until her passing in 1993. It’s also the village in which she was buried. I’d visited her grave before in a flyby visit back in the late 1990s but this time we took our time to walk around the village and also pass by her house which is closed to the public. I loved getting a better sense of the village and there’s even a little square now called “Place Audrey Hepburn” which features her bust.

We drove to France after and as we had some time left, we stopped to look around and eat something in a town called Besançon, which turned out to be the birthplace of French author Victor Hugo.

We ended in St. Dizier, a small town where we had booked a hotel for the night. Nothing special really, but nice for an evening.

On our almost last day, we drove on north in the direction of Belgium, where we had booked a hotel for the night in the city of Gent (Ghent). Junior and his friend were also heading up north after a two week holiday in the south of France. As we were texting each other during the journey we found out in the afternoon that we were only 60 km apart on the same highway! So, we arranged to meet up for a coffee at a stop along the highway. We got there half an hour before the boys, but it was fun to see them!

While the boys drove home, Mr E and I drove on to Ghent. We decided on a last minute boat ride there, had dinner and later in the evening Belgian beer (for Mr E) and wine for me. Ghent is such a beautiful town. The next morning we visited the famous Ghent Altarpiece, painted by the Van Eyck brothers in the 15th century. It has been recently restored and was absolutely beautiful!

We got home again yesterday at around 2 pm (Ghent is only a two hour drive away from where we live) but it already feels much longer as I immediately got roped into helping my dear aunt, who is not feeling well and is staying at my mom’s house for now, get a specific prescription filled which had its complications.

Still, this was a beautiful holiday with so much we have seen! Also, Mr E and I haven’t had that amount of time alone together since before we had kids and we really enjoyed it. We’re great together, with or without kids, and that’s a nice thing to acknowledge once again. It’s been beautiful but also quite busy so we’re glad that we don’t start back to work until next week…

19 thoughts on “Italy, Switzerland, France and Belgium

  1. That’s a lovely holiday! I do miss having a car and the freedom it gives you, been looking into train travel around Europe and will definitely plan for that, but in truth it is much more complicated than jumping on a plane… But needs must and i am committed to try that out, even though the Eurostar is an effective bottleneck and so expensive.
    I’ve heard great things about Napoli from so many people, must try it sometime..
    Besancon is where Dinu Lipatti, the pianist, played his last recital… i’ve always hoped to visit his grave ones in Geneve.. I’ve been to Switzerland but never made it to Geneve. It’s pretty, but even more than 12 years ago even more expensive than the UK, suspect it may be even more now.
    But glad your holiday went well and you had a lovely route.. almost envious of how green some paces looked! Haven’t seen green grass in months! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was about 12 years ago (and pre-Brexit) but my sister, son and I went to France, Switzerland and Italy by train using a Europass and I think a Eurailpass, with seats booked in advance. It was really straightforward, with little mishap. it was great.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Les inconvénients étaient peu nombreux. Nous n’étions pas nombreux à porter un masque (le Covid n’a que faire de la canicule, il sévit toujours).
        A noter que la canicule a retardé de 3/4 d’heure le train de retour. Les correspondances étaient assurées.
        Prenons le temps de vivre!

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Hari, you can now also book Interrail as an adult! They have changed the rules and nowadays anyone can book, and you can even choose how many rail days you need, so it is not necessarily a monthly pass anymore. Sounds to me like a cheap and easy way to travel Europe. The other option is travelling by bus. Apparently Flixbus goes all over Europe. (My kids have used it extensively.)

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Cette année en juin, nous avions choisi de partir en vacances en train pour le sud de la France. Ne plus conduire est libérateur et indéniablement reposant. Le slogan de la SNCF est ” Laissez-vous rêver”. Sur place, nous avions loué une voiture mais il s’est avéré que le bus ou le bateau desservait nos lieux de promenades. A méditer pour une prochaine fois.

      Liked by 2 people

    4. We didn’t get to Geneva this time, only the lake and Lausanne. But yeah, Switzerland is expensive. I know The Netherlands is too, but not quite as bad as Switzerland, I thought.
      I hope you will be able to make that trip. Doing it by train sounds lovely! If we ever have money again (this trip did deplete us somewhat, financially) we are thinking of taking a night train to Vienna. I’ve never been to Vienna before and would love to see it.
      Napoli – I think it can be a love-hate thing. I really liked it but have also heard of people hating it.
      Is the heat and drought still so terrible in the UK? I hope it eases up soon!


  2. Esther what a visually stunning tour of Europe and fantastic to visit Audrey Hepburn’s final home as well as Charlie Chaplin. I’ve been to Naples when I went to Pompeii and it was ok. But I definitely want to travel through St Bernard’s Pass that looks idyllic as I love mountains!
    Welcome home too😁

    Liked by 2 people

  3. That looks like an epic tour of Southern Europe, Esther. So many places you have seen. Wonderful. It is giving me ideas where I would like to travel to. Sorry that you had to jump straight back into the routine upon return. At least you only have a short week this week 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, not that much routine yet. Work doesn’t start until next week. 🙂 But the thing with my aunt is a little worrisome, so that does take the holiday feeling away somewhat. Still, we look back on a wonderful holiday and loved the time away with just the two of us as well. 🙂


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