Lockdown in London ... The Road Trip Home

Finally after twenty two months, multiple flight cancellations and three cancelled road trips we are going home to Sicily this week by car with our dog Daisy. Woo hoo !!!!!

Little did we know when we turned the key to lock our Sicilian house for winter in November 2019 that we would not know when we would be able to return and that a deadly pandemic would sweep across the world within weeks. We made the decision for the safety of ourselves, our friends and family and the world to ride the pandemic out in London and to travel to Sicily once travel restrictions were loosened. 

It has been a tough twenty two months and not just because of Covid. During this time we have missed Sicily, our Sicilian house and our friends there very much. 

Earlier this month I was able to pop back for a couple of days after Italy dropped the five day quarantine to British visitors. It was very surreal and the moment I stepped through our door it seemed like I was only just there yesterday. 

During the pandemic I received many messages and emails asking me about how we drive to Sicily from the UK as people seemed apprehensive about travelling by plane and looked for alternative travel options. 

So this is how we do it .....

In March 2011 I was working in Primrose Hill in London and a local lady, who we knew fostered rescue dogs for a charity called All Dogs Matter, was walking past where I was working at that time with a tiny eight week old puppy that had just been rescued that day after being abandoned in Camden Town. The puppy was all wrapped up in a little orange blanket, she was gorgeous and she knew it.

I went home that evening and told my husband about her, we checked the All Dogs Matter website and found her listed for adoption. My husband made an appointment to meet this gorgeous puppy and as her foster-fur-mum said, it was love at first sight for both man and dog, we called her Daisy. 

We vowed that we would never leave her alone and so that meant taking Daisy to Sicily with us, we just needed to find a way how. 

Now twice a year we make the long journey to our Sicilian house by road and by ferry and this journey became known as "the puppy road trip".

The puppy road trip starts at the Eurotunnel in Folkestone followed by an overnight stay in Dijon in France, then we drive through the French Alps and the Mont Blanc tunnel down to Genova to board a ferry to Palermo which takes twenty hours in the comfort of a dog friendly cabin with a Fido Park on the top deck for walkies and toilet business.

On day one of the puppy road trip the alarm goes off at 5am and then my husband, Daisy and I embark on the first stage of our three day trip home to Sicily. 

We head to the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone where we board Le Shuttle to Calais. Eurotunnel is totally pet friendly and as we arrive the staff make such a fuss of Daisy, the fact that she is excitedly hanging out of the window probably helps. At the Eurotunnel terminal there is a generous fenced off area for her to stretch her paws and play. Daisy is in fact a poster girl for Eurotunnel and you will see her big Staffordshire bull terrier smile on the banner that surrounds the area. 

When we are boarding Le Shuttle the Eurotunnel staff directing us onboard always wave at her and she wags hello back. Then she settles down for the thirty five minute journey.

Once in Calais after a petrol refuel and adapting our headlights to European standards we embark on the next step of our road trip.

We always book a one night stay to break up the journey in the beautiful city of Dijon which is situated in the Burgundy region of France. The drive down is stunning passing through where battles were fought in the World Wars and in spring time as we get closer to Dijon the mustard fields are an eye popping bright yellow hue. We always book the Hotel Montchapet in Dijon as it is close to the city centre and Darcy Park which is perfect for Daisy to stretch her legs after her long drive. The hotel owners are amazing and always remember her and spoil her on arrival. 

Dijon is a beautiful city and it is always such a pleasure to be able to choose it as a stopover. I am a big fan of Paris and Dijon reminds me of a smaller version.

As the ancient capital of Burgundy, Dijon is an architecturally rich city offering far more than just mustard. Dijon is a most appealing place filled with elegant medieval and renaissance buildings, the lively town centre is wonderful for strolling through with a dog. We always plan a late afternoon arrival to head out for a meal at a dog friendly restaurant accompanied by a rich and intense bottle of Burgundy red wine.

The following morning starts with a shopping trip to the local market to buy mustard and to have a breakfast of coffee and croissants. Then we head off on the next part of the puppy road trip which continues by driving through the Alps and the Mont Blanc tunnel towards the Italian border then down to Genova to board our pet friendly ferry to Sicily. 

The views of the Alps are spectacular especially if the mountains are dusted with snow and we start to pass glamourous road signs with destinations like Chamonix, Geneva, Milan and Turin and in the distance Mont Blanc beckons to us like a huge iceberg in front of us becoming larger and larger as we get closer.

There are strict rules for driving through Mont Blanc after a fire in the tunnel in 1999. Speed restrictions are strictly kept at a minimum 50km/h and maximum 70km/h at a distance between vehicles of 150 metres. You can feel the 126 surveillance cameras that line the tunnel watching your every move.

On entering the tunnel we say "Au revoir" to France and a BIG “Buon giorno" to Italy on the other side. 

Once through the tunnel we arrive in the stunning Italian region of Val d'Aosta, with its dramatic green mountains and natural waterfalls, driving by alpine villages with beautiful chalet houses in the valleys and medieval fortresses in the mountains high above.

We drive onwards through the region of Piedmont into Liguria toward the port of Genoa. 

We book a ferry with Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV) which translates to "Big Fast Ship". Certain routes and ships allow pets on board and we are lucky to be able to travel on one of these to the port of Palermo.

The ship usually departs at 11pm and boarding usually starts around 9pm. We book a pet friendly cabin which is located on the ships deck aptly named "Fido Road". On the top deck there is "Fido Park" an area for dogs to exercise, do their toilet business and socialise with other four legged friends who are bound for Sicily too. The ship has all the amenities you need however there are only certain areas that dogs are allowed to go and so we have to follow "Fido's Route". There are also kennels onboard for dogs that are not as spoilt as Daisy. 

Daisy gets so excited whilst we are waiting to board the ship in our car and once parked safely in the lower deck garage she knows exactly which way it is to her cabin. Once inside she unpacks her blanket and a favourite toy, eats her supper then settles down for the night. Pets are not allowed to be left alone in the cabin.

After a comfortable nights sleep we wake up and take Daisy up to the top deck for a walk and toilet then she makes friends with the other canine passengers. Myself and Daisy wait outside the top deck restaurant whilst my husband pops in to buy a takeaway breakfast and coffee. Being on the Tyrrhenian Sea we are often blessed with warm sun and we can sit on a bench in Fido Park to enjoy our breakfast. Having a cabin is beneficial if the weather is not so wonderful, we can relax whilst Daisy rests.

The voyage takes 20 hours to the port of Palermo, but in all honesty the time does pass by very quickly.

The ship usually docks in Palermo at around 7pm and all pet owners are requested to wait on the top deck until it is time to return to your car, it is then when we are amazed how many dogs have actually travelled on board. 

We all watch excitedly as our beloved Sicily comes finally into view in the distance. 

We book priority dis-embarkment which means we are last to board the ferry in Genoa and first to disembark when we dock in Palermo. The quicker we get home to our Sicilian house the better.

Once we disembark and navigate through the crazy evening traffic of Palermo we take the Palermo highway towards Catania then north east past Mount Etna to our home in Giardini Naxos. This final leg takes around three hours. 

Once we get home an excited Daisy runs inside and makes sure that everything is exactly how it was when she last left and by this time it is late so she goes to sleep in her Sicilian home ready to start a new Sicilian adventure the next day, dreaming of beaches, digging holes and visiting her favourite bars and restaurants. 

I would love to take this opportunity to thank all my loyal followers and contacts in Sicily for the support that you have given my Blog during this awful pandemic. I hope that my Blog has helped to keep Sicily in your hearts ❤️

Keep posted for a spooky Halloween post coming soon !!!

Now enjoy some of our photos of our previous road trips home.

If you have any questions about driving to Sicily from UK or Pet Travel please do not hesitate to ask. 

See you soon in Sicily !!!!!!!

Daisy’s Adoption Photo

Day One - London to Dijon

Day Two - Dijon to Genoa

Day Two/Three - Port of Genoa to Palermo

Day Three - Palermo to Giardini Naxos

Day Four - Home Sweet Home in Giardini Naxos

If you enjoyed this post then you might enjoy these ones from my Blog archive:

All Dogs Matter 
have many wonderful dogs looking for their forever home just like Daisy found, 
visit their website on www.alldogsmatter.co.uk

For Pet Friendly ferries visit GNV on www.gnv.it

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White Almond Sicily Blog

As seen in

The Essential Guide to Sicily by Essential Italy

Sicily Weddings & Honeymoons by Wedaways©


My Lemon Grove Summer by Jo Thomas

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Love Sarah & Daisy

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