Europe - Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain

So I hope everyone has been having a great week. I sure have been. 

     So let me start from the beginning of the trip. I arrived in Rome and quickly realized how hard it is to rent a car without a credit card. I brought my ATM card and license, I have plenty of money so I didn't need to bring my credit card and also I haven't used it for a single thing in 2 years. Sixt car rental was able to help me out, I just had to lock up $2500 on my bank account. So a minor hiccup to the beginning of my trip.  The airport was absolutely mental, signs were hard to figure out and pointed to random places where there was nothing. Regardless I found my car which to my surprise was a diesel which gets 70mpg or some weird kph estimate, a Fiat 500L Diesel. 

     I left the airport and didn't care where I ended up, I just didn't want to be at the airport anymore. I started following signs for Roma and ended up in the center of Rome. Crazy traffic patterns and scooters zipping in and out among the cars as well on the other main roads leading into the city. The city itself is history married into a beautiful manicured painting. Old ruins mix with more modern buildings and ancient trees dot the area. I quickly found Vatican city and as you may have guessed thousands upon thousands of people and nowhere to park. I drove around for a bit and followed the blue signs for parking, P. These led to full parking lots or parking for Vespas. Eventually after an hour and a half I called it quits and headed out of the city. I really needed a good nap and decided on coming back and returning the car early and spending lots of time wandering. Part of my plan though is to have no plan at all.

     So now I'm heading up to Geneva which is a long ways away. I take the long drive up the Italian Coastline and stop at many different rest stops to get fuel for the car and myself. I did have some very italian food it just happened to be very packaged.

     So a very notable name popped up as I drove north, Pisa. I know that name and I know what it's all about. I headed for the leaning tower of Pisa. When I arrived I was ushered into a empty spot on an area of free parking by an African gentlemen selling umbrellas.  He stood by my window as I tried to ignore him. He tapped and offered an umbrella, it was raining. I declined and he then asked for money to watch my car. I declined again and he started mumbling under his breath and so I decided a Euro wouldn't hurt me in the long run so I didn't have my car keyed, peed on or cursed. I gave the man a Euro and he scoffed at me, only one euro. To which I replied yes, i'm giving you one euro for free; i'm going to be back in 20 minutes. So I walked to the tower and glanced back a few times to make sure that he wasn't on top of the car. The most exciting part of visiting the tower of Pisa was being able to use the bathroom. I paid .50 Euro and it was totally worth it. I took a few photos while dodging everyone else's photos as they mockingly held up the tower. There was no way to get a nice clean shot of the tower without a sea of tourists in the photo. When I got to my car I did a quick visual inspection and found nothing out of place. I threw my bag on the seat and drove down the road, a few second later my check engine light triggered!!! That guy from earlier did something and I know it. I had been driving my car now for 30 seconds so whatever damage was done, on top of that my seatbelt light was blinking and the car thinks my camera bag is heavy enough to be a person. I turned off the car and opened the hood to see any funny business and also checked the gas tank for any debris or random liquids outside of it that didn't belong. Turned the car back on and everything works again, no light. Damn crazy voodoo that man did scared me pretty badly.

     Driving up to the alps was pretty impressive, you could see the sun setting to the left of them from where I was and I eventually was able to snap a few photos. By the time the end of the day wrapped up I was at the Swiss border, I drove up to the pay station to go thru and only the commercial truck opening was open so I turned around and parked at a truck stop a few kilometers down the mountain. I pulled myself into the back of the seat and then attempted to go to bed. It was creepy that first night. I was at a small truck stop near the top of a mountain and the bathroom was a complete nightmare to begin with. It had those creepy places to stand and squat to go to the bathroom.  I went to bed and used my bath towel as a blanket. Keep in mind that there is snow on this mountain and it got pretty cold very quickly. I started the car a few times to warm me up. When I woke up I took a few things into the bathroom and took a handi-wipe shower with those tiny cleaning pads. I changed clothes, reorganized the car and played with photos for a few minutes. Now that I was all packed I could head out.

     Headed up to the mountain pass and paid the toll to go thru the mountain, I believe it was around thirty euro to enter.  For about thirty minutes I drove through an endlessly straight tunnel with yellow lights reflecting against the dash and irritating my eyes. Eventually I could see the tunnel ending and I emerged into mountain roads winding down, across the sides of the alps. 

     So every turn was more breathtaking than the last, some of the bridges that crossed the valley that opened up in front of me as waterfalls dotted the mountainside. Eventually I came to a much needed gas station. I purchased some cheese, chocolate, sandwich and a blanket as well as some coca cola light. My aim was Geneva and I seemed so close.  Eventually after what seemed forever I arrived and was able to find parking fairly quickly. I decided on a street photography approach to the city and shot around with my super telephoto and eventually switched to a few other lenses. I swear to you while walking around the main tourist area by Lake Geneva that two ladies walked by me and literally smelled like hot chocolate. I bought some chocolate and headed back to my car, rain was periodical and not good for my camera even though it's sealed.  I criss crossed through an older part of the city and bought some macaroons for my troubles. Made it to my car and eventually made it halfway out of the city when I saw my weakness, McDonalds. Now theres a reason I like McDonalds while I travel. I know what i'm going to get and it's like a little piece of home that happens to have WIFI. Did I mention that almost nowhere has free wifi.  I paid for four hours and literally sat there inside McDonalds and out in my car with my laptop using those four hours of WIFI usage. I said hello to everyone back at home and uploaded some photos. Eventually I decided to make a run for my next place which was suggested by the girl at McCafe "Mc'Donalds. A little village in France which was very close, only 30 minutes away. I drove to this special little village which has a beautiful lake and couldn't see anything because of the rain and fog and general miserableness that the weather seemed me due.  

     I started on my way to Barcelona now which was eight hours away.  I decide that I could make a serious run for it. It's actually easier to drive at night over here because no one is trying to pass you or vice versa. I made it a few hours into the trip and eventually caved and took a long nap at a rest stop. I decided I couldn't sleep and made another go at it. I kept making it thirty or forty minutes before I negotiated with myself to stop again for any other random reasons, bathroom, stretching or I was hungry and tired. I found an amazing rest stop and made my claim on it. When I pulled up there were people sleeping on the ground next to their vehicles and on the sidewalk with clothes bundled under their heads as a make shift pillow.  I quickly turned off my lights and cracked my window and slept in the most comfortable position that I come up with. I woke up at eight in the morning and most of my fellow hotel car patriots had left. I cleaned up my car and heading into the rest stop and had some breakfast.  

     I continued the day by stopped at many rest stops to break up the day as well as a picnic with my new blanket that I bought. The next notable rest stop was just over the border of Spain. There was a small grove of trees where people were parking and hanging out. I parked and took a nap under a tree for about an hour or so. Eventually I made my way to Barcelona and couldn't find affordable parking. I decided on a different route. So tonight I am staying in a hostel that has parking for fifteen euro. Had some local food and now i'm sitting in a room with thirty plus kids from other countries. I am staying in a room with a Chinese kid and a pair of guys from France, it's fair to say that i'm the toughest / coolest person in the room. So that's my trip so far.