Sunday, 21 August 2016

And breathe

It's been a long summer. My father died. We knew he was ill but expected a few more years. We were then told a few weeks. It turned out to be days.



I'll be back to normal posts soon.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

May

Finally it was May, a month we had been looking forward to for a long time- we were going on holiday! Our five (now six) year plan doesn't include long breaks so we just grab the odd long week end but this 2016 was a little special as we were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. Planning had started last August when we had booked an apartment in Bellagio, Lake Como and a leisurely car journey to get there.

Our holiday started the day before we left when Andrew's uncle/godfather sent us a case of prosecco, a lovely gesture. Andrew's brother and his wife had generously volunteered been rail roaded into looking after Mortimer for us. We stayed overnight and Jude experienced a new alarm call - a big, black hairy dog staring at you from the side of the bed.

Epernay (champagne capital of France) was our first stop and we had booked a night at Les Epicuriens


Laure and Eric have two guest suites on the ground floor of their lovely townhouse, very comfortable and with everything thought of. Laure speaks excellent English and could not have been a more welcoming host, offering us a glass of champagne and home baked cheese biscuits on arrival. She loves to cook and the guest book was full of praise for her meals. Sadly we only had breakfast but with a range of home made jams, freshly squeezed orange juice and lovely croissants we really wished we were staying longer, it would be great for a relaxing weekend.


The next day was a leisurely drive to Lucerne, the sat nav took us through some glorious French countryside.


As we approached Switzerland the heavens opened and we got caught in traffic for the first time, we hadn't realised that Monday was a Swiss bank holiday so hitting Bern on a Friday night wasn't a brilliant idea. We had read that we needed to purchase a vignette for travelling on Swiss motorways which we did at the border crossing, and that the Swiss have very strict driving laws. Speeding really is a no no and if you have a sat nav that shows where speed cameras are you have to turn this function off. But what was really irritating is that there didn't seem to be any information fed through to the sat nav. We're used to being told that the delay ahead is 5/10/45 minutes but this just didn't happen. Lucern was gorgeous but as it was raining heavily the camera didn't come out.

The Swiss escape to Italy, and the rain, continued as we made our slow way to and through the San Gotthard tunnel but popping out the other side was a different country. The industrial landscape ended, the buildings started to look more Mediterranean and the sun came out. Despite the morning's delay we caught the planned 2.15 car ferry and crossed the lake to Bellagio. This was my first view of the town - it was love at first sight!



Approaching Bellagio by ferry
Looking north

I'm afraid this account does not include any high culture or historical references, we were just there to enjoy the scenery and relax. Although we had the car we only used it on one rainy day to go to a supermarket (sadly I like foreign supermarkets) as the ferry is the best way to travel. You can buy a daily mid lake pass for about €15 which allows you to visit at least half a dozen towns.

Lake Como ferries
 By far and away my favourite was Varenna, I even started to plot how we could live there. Like Bellagio it is full of tiny, steep lanes.
Varenna from the ferry
Varenna ferry terminal
 
Lunch for two

A pretty corner

Ancient steps
Just gorgeous - Varenna
Our base for the week was the San Giacomo apartment in the heart of Bellagio. On the third floor we had views of mountains, lake and the church square. It was a perfect place for people watching and I spent several late afternoons on the balcony with a book, a glass of something and being seduced by the sounds of the town.

People watching from the balcony

People at work

Italian life

When we arrived we were met by Tania, a charming Italian lady who looks after the occupants of the apartment. She was a mine of information, it was she who told us about the lake pass and took us on a walking tour of Bellagio. She told us the best way to visit Como, slow boat there (2 hours), hydrofoil back (45 minutes). Como was much nicer than I imagined and well worth the trip.

Somewhere on Lake Como

Watching the watcher

Como balconies

Outside the cathedral

Cathedral chairs

Quiet Como street

Shopping in Como

I think that's enough for now - if you're really lucky I may post a few more photographs later!