Athens (Gr)– Patras (GR) – Ancona (It) – Lake Como (It) – Berne (Switz) – Stauffen (Ger) – Saulzais le Portier (Fr)

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind these last few days, but we are currently in Saulzais, geographic centre of France, and feeling pretty knackered.

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Yet another supermarket carpark: Ancona

In order to meet our commitment to the company buying our van (for much less than it’s worth, let me add, emotional attachments aside, we needed to race to get a lot of stuff done in a very few days. Leaving Bari, our Italian port of arrival, we headed north, doing some 600km on Italian roads that were good / mediocre and expensive. I’d like to propose that toll roads undergoing major renovations don’t charge you, accepting that the driving experience is less than promised. Surely these guys can’t get you to pay in advance for roads not yet built …?

So it’s been around 500km a day, apart from Monday which we spent closing bank accounts etc followed by a short trip to Niki’s niece, Susi, in Stauffen. I feel we have spent so much time there already that I’m waiting to be greeted by locals wondering why they haven’t seen me for the past few days!

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Van – packed to the gills
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With Niki doing something useful…

Another long drive brought us down to Saulzais – thanks to Scott, Marthe-Sophie & family for giving us the run of the house while they are still away working. We’ve made real use of the space, designating our household stuff (23 cubic metres, Help!) as ‘New Zealand’, or ‘Angola via New Zealand in December’, or ‘Angola to New Zealand in July’. The ‘throw away’ pile is remarkably small, no doubt the consequence of Niki having the power to veto any of my decisions…

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The circular route also allowed us to catch up with some friends in Berne, although not nearly as many as we would have liked. Thanks to Dave, Regi & Maya for dinner. Dave also collected all our post this past year and kept scanning required documents that would reach us a) too late b) at a time we had too much wine or were too relaxed to care c) when we had no printer access, and so didn’t care. None of that takes anything away from the constant effort Dave made – very much appreciated.

Also – if you have to travel in a 22,000km circle, to begin and end in Switzerland is simply amazing. We recognise just how much we loved the country, quirks and all, and driving through some of the world’s most stunning scenery just brought home to us how we will miss the country.

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So, one day’s packing behind us, 4 more to go. Our last packers, bless them, were all from South America, and used their three word professional English vocabulary to great effect, labelling everything either ‘Books / Clotes / Kitchen’ so it’s been interesting to find tennis racquets, bike pump and sleeping bags in a box with no clothing at all. It makes each box like a little Christmas present!

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Two rooms packed to the rafters with a household of goods …

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