1. Ferry from Dun Laoghaire at 13:15 - packed with returning English holidaymakers. As ugly an agglomeration of humankind as I’ve ever encountered. They gather at the fast food queues as the ferry casts off .
2. I run for cover to the upgrade lounge but a snooty factotum tells me it’s full. I buy a coffee and endure. It’s a two hour trip.
3. Road out of Holyhead much improved these days – get a flying start. I’ve my GPS set for the fastest route to Dover but I’m not sure about my subsequent traipsing across north eastern Wales. Maybe it’s avoiding traffic – another feature. And it does warn me of speed cameras. A feature that will be useful back in Ireland.
4. I’ve given myself a tight 6 hours for the journey and my GPS ETA suggest I’ll need every minute of it – presuming no stopping.
5. Yawn yawn M1 for miles and then get caught in the M25 debacle as I circumnavigate London in fits and starts.
6. Things loosen up after the Deptford tunnel and I hurtle towards Dover.
7. Make the ferry with 30 minutes to spare.
8. It’s a French vessel. All restaurants are shut but I butch my way into the truckers canteen (full of burly men in shorts!) and enjoy a cheap and serviceable meal. No wine.
9. In Calais at midnight and head diagonally across France – bound for Nice.
10. Get as far as the Arras turn off at 2:00 and decide that sleep is necessary. Find a dodgy hotel in an industrial estate and get 5 or 6 hours and an adequate breakfast.
11. On the road again at 9:30. Heading for Lyons and points south. Using the toll roads is expensive. I spend around €100 traversing France. Nice addition to the French GNP when you think of the volume of tourist traffic these routes attract.
12. Reach St. Raphael by 18:00 but monstrous traffic jams suggest I go elsewhere for a hotel. Nice itself is out but I reckon that Sophia Antipolis would be a good bet.
13. Find a perfectly adequate Novotel and settle down for my first decent meal in 2 days. There’s a live French version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire going on in restaurant. I’m impressed with the literary nature of a lot of the questions: Zola, Baudelaire and the films of Stanley Kubrick amongst others. Plus Greek myth.
14. Pick D. up at Nice airport – Terminal 1 for Aer Lingus a good guess.
15. Then a hairy, scary switchback ride through the tunnels and winding dual carriageways connecting southern France and Northern Italy. Not for the faint hearted.
16. We fetch up in the beautiful Tuscan town of Lucca – its old walls in perfect condition after all these centuries – suggesting amiable alliances through the ages. We dine in the old town and sip sambuca by the marvelous Gothic cathedral.
17. Stay in the outskirts in a Best Western which makes up for giving us an unmade up room by presenting us with a fine bottle of mine. Class.
18. Head towards Arezzo past the ravaged mountains of Carrara. What looks like snow is in fact the exposed white marble treasured around the world.
19. And then the green hills and golden fields of Tuscany. Through Arezzo and a winding mountain to our eyrie overlooking Caprese di Michelangelo.
20. Let the idyll begin.