The SLCenic Route – Episode 11

Graham Laing decided to retire 10 years earlier than planned to enjoy an epic driving tour with his SLC. The plan, inspired by conversations with his Father, was to drive the SLC from the southern most tip of mainland Europe in Spain to the northernmost tip of mainland Europe in Norway.

When he told his children, they said ‘you should write a blog about it’… So that’s exactly what Graham is doing. Graham approached the SLSHOP and asked whether we would be interested in hosting his work, and we were only too happy to share his story. The SLCenic Route was born!

In this episode Graham shares his misfortune of being scammed on the way to Monaco

The SLCenic Route

Episode 11 – Good days, Bad Days…

Day 13 Grasse to Lake Maggiore via Monaco

Before I tell you about today’s journey, I can now tell you about the real big disaster on my run from Andorra to Grasse yesterday.

I was scammed.

Anybody that worked will probably be surprised; as part of my role as an IT manager I wrote test scam emails, both testing and educating staff on how to spot dodgy emails. In one test I fooled the CEO of a large company to give out her password. Happy days. I should know better and to try and stop it happening to you, here is what happened.

On Sunday, I stopped at a busy service station on the A9 in south of France. A normal looking Irish man with a couple of decent kids came up to me and asked if I spoke English. He explained that he had been robbed somewhere between Barcelona and France and had no money to get back to Ireland. After chatting for a bit, he gave me his phone number and email address; I gave him more cash than I should.

I knew it didn’t feel quite right, but thought why would an Irishman be in south of France trying to scam people. The main thing now is the same as I taught staff at my work, use it as a learning experience, tell others so they don’t get scammed and understand why you got caught out and finally, don’t put yourself in that position again. For me, I was tired, hungry and thirsty; I had just had a few marvellous days meeting new friendly generous people, simple really and something we all experience on holiday. Many of you will say, “That wouldn’t happen to me”, but that is exactly what staff would say before I caught them out on test scam emails.

We all have weaknesses, understand them and don’t let yourself be put in a dangerous position. I now have closure on the incident; the one good thing I did was take his picture and a picture of his car number plate which have been sent to the Irish Police (Garda).

Hopefully they can stop him when he gets back into Ireland. He was of course using false plates, but I can do no more, just enjoy the rest of my trip and be more careful in future.

One of my aims on this trip was to drive round Monaco. Setting off from Grasse, I stopped first at Cannes to see what all the fuss is about the place. I’ll not be back. Next stop, purgatory. A drive along the coast, through Antibes and Nice. Other than the line of expensive private jets at Nice airport, it was similar to a long drive on a hot summer’s day through the grubby parts of London. At this point I’m thinking, I need something to cheer me up.

Once you get out of Nice, the road improves, the scenery improves and my mood improves. As you get close to Monaco you enter tunnel Albert II. What an amazing piece of work a full 360 bend (I was starting to get dizzy) dropping down and coming out into Monaco. Monaco as I’m sure you are aware is tax haven, but unlike Gibraltar and Andorra it plays the game differently. First thing you notice is unlike the other two, there is no border control and also unlike the other two, prices are through the roof. It is similar to Gibraltar in one way though, land is very limited, so like Gibraltar, tunnelling is used a lot. So much so, that one tunnel has a roundabout in it!

Above ground it is a fascinating and beautiful place but it’s not because of the prices (it was really) that I didn’t stop; parking is impossible, and don’t make a mistake with the satnav, you can’t do a U-turn and little Miss Google SatNav must think my car is only 40 inches wide. The streets I went along, round, up and down were scary and I’m glad my clutch has, or at least had, plenty of life in it. I also eventually get to drive round most of the F1 circuit, not all was open as they were still dismantling things, but still nice to see it first-hand. Will I go again? Only by boat, and only if it is a quiet time of year.

Now at last out into some good country roads, telling the SatNav to avoid toll roads (not doing that again), I set off for Italy and the fabulous Lake Maggiore.

Climbing out of Monaco, the D2566 took me up though and over the first mountain pass. What a road and lifted the spirits ever higher, empty apart from a few mad Italians in Fiats, it was a joy, there is a tunnel, which is more like a small medieval arch way, only just wide enough for one car. Only difference is that the arch way is about ½ mile long and has a mile of mountain above it.

Then onto the D2204 and D6204, winding, climbing and tunnelling there way though the beautiful southern part of the Alps and into Italy. I drove more hairpin bends today, real hairpin bends where you use both sides of the road, than I have in all the rest of my life. Google the route up from Menton to Panice Soprana and see the road tie itself in knots.

We stopped at the top of the D6204 for some traffic lights, nothing special, I thought. After a few minutes, I realised everyone else had switched off their engines and got out for a stretch of their legs. Do as the locals do, so I joined them, chatted to a couple from Italy and France who spoke no English but we had a lovely chat for 20 minutes and I found out this was normal, the roadworks are so long, the traffic lights take 20 to 30 minutes to change. Anyway, I learned some Italian words for normal, relax and take it easy. Normale, rilassare and calmati.

Click here to read Episode 12