Archive for the ‘Flash’ Category

Plan B, Pretentious Clothes, Plane Ride, Precarious Driving and Princess’ Pictures

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Plan B, Pretentious Clothes, Plane Ride, Precarious Driving and Princess’ Pictures

Cernobbio

Location – Italy

We are using our iPad for our alarm and the chime is set to “church bells”. Well, this morning we woke to the constant sound of church bells ringing and thought it would reset to a sleep mode. However, the bells kept ringing. Eventually I opened the iPad to turn off the alarm only to find that it wasn’t chiming at all. The culprit was the chapel’s bells in the street next to our hotel. We learned later that they were sounding “market day” here in Cernobbio. A beautiful way to wake to another day here in Italy!

Unfortunately, for those selling their wares at the market, today is rather inclement and we gather that this will keep the crowds down. The Princess and I are up for the challenge though so we are about to don our rain jackets and borrow the hotel “brollies” and go in search of some local produce. When in Rome ( or in this case Cernobbio) do as the Romans would do – attend the local markets.

Retail Therapy

Happy to report that we ended up about as wet as the ducks that call Lake Como home. All the hotel umbrellas were gone when we went downstairs so we braved the heavy downpour with our rain jackets. Our top part stayed dry but our feet and pants were not so lucky. However, it was nice to support the local farmers and to see some of their wonderful produce.

The rain seemed like it was going to set in for the day so we decided to bring Plan B into action (we didn’t actually have a Plan A) and spend some time indoors at the Fox Town outlet stores just over the border in Switzerland. We packed our passports and brushed off the wallet and headed back out into the rain.

I left The Princess in the hotel whilst I found the chivalry in me and walked to the parking spot and picked up the car. 1 x happy Princess!

I typed the Fox Town address into the GPS and pushed “drive to” and before long we were on our way to Switzerland – our first visit to this country.

The short drive took about 20 minutes and we didn’t get asked for our passports as we crossed the border. We arrived in Fox Town just after it opened and spent a couple of hours wandering around the cavernous interior of this “high end” outlet store on steroids.

The Princess did purchase a beautiful top in one of the stores but we both agreed that whilst the colors were quite spectacular neither of us were taken by the “Euro” look. However, we did have a lot of fun picking out some outfits and shoes that we would be proud to wear to an swinging 60′s party!

Lakeside Luncheon

The weather had lifted quite a bit by the time we exited the mall so we decided to head back toward Como and find a place to have lunch. As we approached the now familiar western shoreline of Lake Como we remembered a place that we walked past on the day we arrived. It is called N’Joy and is located right on the waterfront near Como. It seemed like we were the only people that were eating at this time of the day so we selected a waterfront table for two and settled in for a delightful mid afternoon meal.

Italian Delight

We shared a sumptuous saffron cream sauce gnocchi and some excellent bruschetta and complimented it with another delightfully refreshing white Italian wine. We both agree that this is a lifestyle we could very easily become accustomed to.

On leaving the restaurant we learned how to ask for the bill in Italian (but have now forgotten) and set off in the direction of the Como seaplane base.

While sitting at lunch I decided that the weather was perfect for taking a flight in a seaplane. Cool temperatures, light winds, smooth water and not many people meant that today was the day to go flying.

Scenery From A Seaplane

Our trusty “surfer dude” GPS guy negotiated the tight backstreets perfectly and before long we were talking to the friendly aero club staff about taking a flight. As predicted, there was no line up so we confirmed a “slot time” and returned to the hotel to pick up the video camera.

We didn’t have to wait too long for the plane to arrive back at the dock from the previous flight. Pietro, our pilot, introduced himself and escorted us to the Cessna 172 floating at the dock and “saddled” us up for our first seaplane ride.

Pietro, an experienced seaplane pilot, fired up the engine and taxied out to the takeoff area just off the shores of Como. He made sure the other planes were clear of the departure path, made his ATC call (in Italian) then opened up the throttle. It took a while for the little plane to “get up on the step” but when it did the ride became very smooth. We lifted clear of the water and into the afternoon sky and started a smooth climb over the lake and north toward Bellagio.

Seeing the lake and the lakeside villages from the air was beautiful. Having a bird’s eye view of some of the incredible villas and stunning mountains gave us a new appreciation of just how spectacular this place is. I took a lot of video while The Princess snapped away from the back seat. However, we took plenty of time to get out from behind the cameras and take in the views from the cockpit. What a great experience.

Over The Lake

Our return flight to Bellagio took around 30 minutes and fortunately, the prevailing winds meant that we had to approach over the city of Como before lining up for a landing to the north. Seeing the city from the air was a real bonus.

Our first water landing was very smooth and our smiles said it all – a fantastic flight over one of the world’s most beautiful places on a smooth and clear afternoon. “Bravo” Pietro!

Mountain Driving – Craziness

While were were dining at N’Joy we looked up to a mountaintop on the eastern shore of the lake directly opposite where we were dining and saw a tower/lookout. We asked the waiter the name of the place and he told us it was St Maurizo. We decided that we would pay a visit to this place if we could find our way up there.

The GPS map didn’t show us the exact location however we saved a place that looked close and “asked” surfer dude to take us there. Well, what an experience. In the manually geared Ford we negotiated our way up the precarious one-way roads and avoided banging car bits with the expert local drivers that seem to be in training for the Monaco F1! We now completely understand why they drive around in tiny little cars of all makes and models – because you can’t get past anything else!

I am happy to report that we found St Maurizo despite having reservations about our sanity. In reality, we couldn’t turn around anywhere so we just had to keep going.

The view from the lookout at St Maurizo was spectacular. This “lighthouse” tower is named after A. Volta – the renowned Italian inventor of the battery. We looked down over the lake and all the way to the west and north west into Switzerland and right down to our hotel. We watched the seaplanes take off and land way below us and enjoyed the late afternoon sun rays piercing the clouds and illuminating the rolling hills that define the landscape to the south of Como. Another “wow” moment or two.

The trip back down the mountain was no less exciting however, we knew what to expect this time around so we were not so surprised when we had to back up at some of the impossible U turns and let other traffic through.

Shopping For Dinner

When we arrived back in Como we decided to pick up a bottle of wine to enjoy on our hotel balcony. We settled on a Carrefour supermarket and had fun working out the names of things to buy. Of course we couldn’t just buy some wine, so we circumnavigated the store in search of a variety of food and other items before being asked to hurry up because the store was closing!

To make matters more interesting, when we arrived at the check out, we hadn’t weighed our fruit so we had to get the assistance of another customer to weigh and mark our groceries. The store manager was not happy with us – his look said it all! The Princess did her best to cheer him up but his face seemed incapable of smiling.

Day’s End Balcony Style

We are now settled on our balcony in our room. It has just gone 10.00pm and the church bells reminded us with their beautiful sounding chimes. We have reviewed some of the photos that we took today and laughed at some of the experiences we had on this fantastic third day in Italy. What a Plan B it turned out to be.

Ciao!

Market Day and Retail Therapy
[Map]
Water Cub
[Map]
Lago Di Como From The Air
[Map]
Smooth As Silk
[Map]
On Finals To Splashdown
[Map]
Volta’s Monument
[Map]

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Seattle – Day 2

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

We intentionally woke up early this morning because we wanted to make the most of our only full day in Seattle.

Breakfast was included in our room rate so after showering we headed down to the atrium and dined in “Palm Court” – aptly named given the number of live palm trees in the restaurant.

Buffet breakfasts in the US are always fun to watch.  Some of the people here just have not worked out the concept of “eating in moderation”.  Indeed, it appears that buffets bring out the worst in people.  (more…)
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Leg 5 – Europe – Rome – Day 3

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Castel Sant' Angelo

Well, what a difference a 9 hour sleep makes.  Ah……….  it felt like we had slept for weeks after we woke up this morning!!

Breakfast this morning was again delightful however, The Princess had an allergic reaction to something and her cheeks and throat swelled up after breakfast.  Not a good start to the day after a nice sleep!!

We paced ourselves again today because we were only intending to tour the Vatican (Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s).  With this in mind we left the hotel around 11 am and caught the bus to the Termini.

We had a quick “heart-starter” cup of coffee (no Starbucks in Rome!!) in the Termini  before boarding the Metro (underground) to the station near the Vatican.

We decided to see the Sistine Chapel first.  I thought this was going to be a short tour through a small chapel.  Well, how mistaken can one be.  Indeed, the Chapel is located inside the Vatican Museum and the museum is an incredible place that is as interesting (if not more so) than the Louvre.  We toured the Louvre just over a year ago and we found it to be staggeringly overwhelming.  The Vatican Museum is substantially smaller but truly fascinating.

It is full of “apartments” and Chapels and they are all too incredible for words to describe.  And what does one say about the Sistine Chapel?  “Go and see it”!!  It is awe inspiring and I cannot do it justice.

From the Vatican Museum we braced ourselves for the walk through St Peter’s Basilica. We had walked into and out of several basilicas over the past two days but nothing (I mean nothing) can prepare you for the sheer size of St Peter’s.  This structure is a testimony to man’s ability to dream, design, construct and maintain the most staggering building that has been put on this earth.  The “WOW” factor is beyond the scale when you walk into St Peter’s.  Please do yourself a huge favour and visit Rome and St Peter’s basilica – regardless of your religious persuasion.  You will be inspired.

After walking through/around St Peter’s we entered to “Tombs of The Popes”.  This was very special too.  To be able to walk past the resting place of each of the Popes and St Peter is an incredible experience too.  The history is hard to comprehend.  Again – a must visit place.

From St Peter’s we walked back toward the Tevere River and past St Angelo’s Castle then off in search of Piazza Navone and the Pantheon.  Enroute we entered a few more basilicas (some of them are literally metres apart!!) listened to masses in German and Italian and said some prayers before continuing our walking tour.

Walking through the streets of Rome at night is a truly special experience so we soaked up the atmosphere as we navigated our way toward the Pantheon – another incredible structure that makes one wonder how such a building could be constructed and still stand intact for over 2000 years!!

From the Pantheon we caught a bus back to the Colosseum in search of some presents.  Unfortunately the shops were closed.  However, we were able to take some night photo’s of the Colosseum- another special experience!!

The express bus back to our hotel ran past the Colosseum so we boarded it and returned to the restaurant that we dined in on the first night we arrived in Rome.

We tried something different tonight and, again, we were not disappointed.  The food and the service were great.

We arrived back in the hotel around 10pm and took some time to pack our bags ready for our return trip to Hong Kong tomorrow.

Into bed at a reasonable hour tonight although we will need to get up around 7am.

Until tomorrow!!

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Leg 5 – Europe – Rome – Day 4

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

We rose a bit earlier this morning because we needed to leave the hotel around 9.15am.  This meant getting up at around 7am in order to finish packing the bags and getting down to breakfast with enough time to enjoy the wonderful “spread” that was put before us each morning in our hotel.

With our stomachs full we returned to the room and confirmed that we had all of our belongings before commencing the “bag drag” to reception.  Whilst the fourth floor was serviced by a lift our room was up a flight of stairs above the fourth floor.  This meant that we had to get the bags back down a steepish flight of stairs before getting to the lift – not a real challenge after the thigh and calf workout of the previous days!!

We opted to avoid the challenge of the bus/train option to the airport this morning.  Instead we arranged for a “shuttle” to pick us up.  We thought it was going to be a van with driver but it turned out that the “shuttle” was in fact a lovely Mercedes complete with chauffeur!!  The cost of this was not substantially more than the bus/train option – LESSON LEARNT!!.  The return trip to the airport was wonderful.  Ah……. what a difference a chauffeur makes.  The Princess was very impressed – as was I.

With the bags unloaded in front of the departure terminal (by the chauffeur of course) we loaded the bags on to a trolley and proceeded to the Cathay check-in desk.

We had not listed (not through a lack of trying) for the flight however, the flight was “wide open” so we were checked in and given seat allocation at the check-in desk.  Indeed, we were allocated exit row seats.

So………..  here I am at 5pm Rome time (dark outside as we head East) sitting in seat 54C next to my beautiful Princess on an Airbus A340 heading direct to Hong Kong.  We have been “fed and watered” and I am enjoying my third glass of French Merlot and listening to Mary Black on my iPod and finishing the last of the Roe’s Winter Tour series.

It is hard to believe that we have been on the road for three weeks (four weeks for The Princess).  We have literally travelled around the world.  We have visited 5 countries (6 if you included Hong Kong) and 2 continents (3 if you included Hong Kong).  We have attended 2 conferences, met and associated with wonderful people.  We have experienced below -21 degrees in temperature, snow, sun and little bit of rain.  We have completed the whole journey on standby (staff) travel without any hassle and the who adventure has been without incident or argument.

We have learnt that we live in an incredible world in which the people are all motivated by the same thing – something to eat, something to eat, some love and a place to sleep.

We have also learnt that we are truly blessed to be able to experience the wonder of some of our earth and we can’t wait for our next trip.

We hope you have enjoyed the summary of our trip.  In the coming days we will publish some of our photo’s to our gallery.  You can visit our gallery at: http://www.flickr.com/wegotwo.

We look forward to catching up with whoever takes the time to read our travel blog.

Until our next trip – love to you.  Roey and The Princess

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