When my friend and I talked about going on a little road trip, we debated for over 2 hours about which country to go to. Then we realised that by heading into Europe, we could a number of the countries we wanted to visit – and have lots of good meals on the way!
A starting point
Our trip started with a budget air flight out to Milan, north Italy. Milan is an incredible place for shopping, often being referred to as “the fashion capital of the world”. Sadly we had spent a fair chunk of our budget on the hire of a somewhat chunky looking Honda, so there would be no impulsive shoe shopping for us. However Milan is great for the popular sport known as “people watching”. If you can’t get to a fashion show, the next best thing is to sit in the Piazza del Duomo with a glass of wine and watch the parade pass by!
Visiting George Clooney
A night in Milan, and then on to Lake Como – one of the beautiful Northern Italian lakes. This is where the chunky hire car came unstuck. Around the lakes, you realise why the Smart Car is such a popular choice. The roads are incredibly narrow, windy and not well maintained. The locals also have a tendency to drive like they have stolen their Smart Cars after drinking 3 bottles of Prosecco and robbing a bank. I lost count of the number of times I clipped the curb, resulting from true fear at the terrifying speed of the oncoming traffic.
We headed along the coast to Villa Oleandro in Laglio – the home of George Clooney. Sadly he wasn’t accepting visitors that day (even visitors armed with 3 bottles of Prosecco and a prospective script for Oceans 15). However a superb meal in La Locando del Cantiere, a traditional restaurant in the town made me feel better. Possibly the best cooked steak I’ve ever eaten.
After a couple of peaceful nights staying in a lovely little self-catering flat up in the hills. The road trip plan was clear – Switzerland.
A change of climate
Rather than take the main toll roads into Switzerland, I chose a more scenic route from Lake Como – north to Gravedona, then along the SS36 to Chiavenna. From there we travelled along the SS37 to St Moritz – the whole journey taking less than an hour and a half. But what a journey! It was sunny, around 20 degrees in Italy. But as we travelled further into the mountains, the temperature dropped drastically. Within 20 minutes we were surrounded by snow. Not ugly, British, sludgy snow. Pure white, glorious sunshine snow. The roads were pristine. It was the kind of drive that Jeremy Clarkson would have given up his Mercedes SLK55 for.
Eating out in St Moritz is expensive. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the Hauser Restaurant that served sort-of reasonably priced Swiss food. I won’t dare to mention how much a toasted sandwich will set you back, but the potato rosti with sausage were delicious and perfect for the freezing temperatures.
The final leg of the road trip was from St Moritz to Strasbourg in France. A word of warning, the border staff have little sense of humour. Just nod and smile. The route through Switzerland on the A3 is as picturesque as a main road could ever be, but the toll charges are heavy. What makes up for this however is the fact that service station bathrooms are the cleanest you would ever see. Kim and Aggie should take notes.
Dinner was courtesy of Tibits in Basel. This is a vegetarian restaurant. Now I like bacon more than anyone, but I have to say the food was well worth the 2 hour drive from St Moritz. The restaurant has oddest buffet set up I’ve ever known – you take what you would like to eat and then have your plate weighed. The price depends on the weight of dinner, but the food is fresh and delicious.
The last leg
Finally over the border into France. The journey from Basel to Strasbourg takes about an hour and a half along the A35. I would love to say that my last road trip meal was at Umami, but sadly even George Clooney would struggle to get a table. However L’Epicerie were open and serving delicious Tartines (basically cheese on toast). It cost a little less than a Swiss toasted sandwich, but made me feel happy, especially after getting the final bill for the chunky Honda.