This was definitely the hardest part of the journey for me; we set off from Nice at 4am so the kids would be able to sleep for the first few hours. Exhaustion was already beginning to set in for me by then and I didn’t do much driving because I just didn’t feel safe. Although I hate flying, I now thoroughly appreciate why people fly, and I think even with the coronavirus risk it’s still safer than driving across Europe when desperately tired. The main priority on this day was to arrive safely.
We followed the coast as far as Genoa, watching the sun rise over Monaco and Sanremo. Crossing into Italy was simple. There was a border policeman at the side of the road, and I think he’d have just let us carry on but my husband wanted to check we were ok to enter. Looking slightly irritated that he had to take any action at all, the policeman radioed a colleague to explain that he had a family in transit to Slovenia. He asked us if we were going to stop anywhere, we said no and he simply replied ‘Vai!’ (‘Go!’) and waved us off. He didn’t even ask to see our papers.
From Genoa we drove inland across the top of the ‘boot’ of Italy, skirting Verona and Venice to arrive at the Slovenian border in Gorizia/Nova Gorica in time for lunch.
A Welcome Breakout
Crossing into Slovenia was a pleasant experience. My husband told the policeman on the border that he was returning home and he said ‘So what do you plan to do now, uzivat (live a bit?)’ and saying that, he laughed and waved us through.
The first thing that hits you about Slovenia is the green. Everything is green, lush, verdant. There are trees and forests all around. It is a fairytale landscape.
Close to the border is one of Slovenia’s best restaurants, Dvorec Zemono, located within an old mansion house in the Vipava valley. We decided to eat here to celebrate our arrival. It was a great choice because there were large wooded gardens where the kids were able to run free while we enjoyed the meal, and after 3 days on the road they really needed that.
There is no set menu; we had a nine-course tasting menu featuring the best of Slovenian cuisine done with a modern twist. The chef came out to talk to us between courses; it wasn’t just a meal but a fine dining experience. It wasn’t cheap, of course, coming in at €280 for the four of us, but to do something comparable in the UK would cost more than double this amount. If you are looking for somewhere special to eat while in Slovenia I would recommend it. The staff were friendly and attentive and all spoke English so you would surely be made welcome.
After lunch, we headed to our final destination at Lake Bled, where we would be staying a few days to do some house hunting. You can see photos of the area on Instagram @Experimentsinfiction.
There was a lot less traffic on the roads in Italy than in France. This could have been partially due to its being Sunday, but I think on the whole the situation was being treated more seriously here, perhaps the North of Italy was still reeling from the shock of the first few weeks of the crisis when they were overwhelmed with new cases.
In Slovenia, there is no longer any lockdown. Neither are there any tourists, which is very noticeable in the North; normally at this time Bled would be a bustling tourist hub, but at present it is a ghost town. Most people don’t even bother wearing masks, but there is hand gel at the doors of every shop and public building. There were a few suspicious looks from the locals when we arrived in a Spanish car speaking English. But we took all the precautions we could on the journey, and I’m happy to say we don’t have any symptoms of infection as yet.
So ends ‘The Quarantine Diaries.’ Going forward, I intend to bring you some ‘Postcards from Slovenia’ (thanks to Nick Reeves for the name) with details of places and experiences which may be of interest.
Wishing you all a very happy weekend!