Posts Tagged ‘lake como’

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
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Water Cub
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Lago Di Como From The Air
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Smooth As Silk
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On Finals To Splashdown
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Volta’s Monument
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All The ‘O’s – Cernobbio, Tremezzo, Bellagio – O My!

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Touring The Lakeside

Cernobbio

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

We rose to the sound of the nearby chapel’s bell this morning – a beautiful way to be woken from our rather deep slumber. The bed is one of those designs that you sink into and as it envelopes you, you sink into an instant deep sleep.

Opening the shutters and revealing the morning light doing it’s best to illuminate beautiful Lake Como was a sight we won’t forget in a hurry. Truly breathtaking.

European Time

We are now sitting downstairs in the lobby restaurant enjoying a sumptuous breakfast and planning a day of touring the lakeside and the mountains surrounding it.

We left Cernobbio around 0900 and headed north along the road that boarders the western shore of the lake.

Every turn in the road revealed another stunning view of the lake and the quaint villages that hug onto the side of the mountains. Impossible building challenges seem to have been overcome in this place. Ancient churches and townships have been built on outcrops of rock that appear impossible to get to. The roads either pass through the mountains and bypass historical villages or they traverse the ridges on a series of bridges and bypasses.

We stopped off in a little village called Brienno and photographed a beautiful church before driving onto Argegno where we enjoyed a morning espresso, tea and a jam filled croissant at Cafe Colombo. The flaky croissant filled with jam was delightful.

From Argegno we continued our drive north but it wasn’t long before we were stopping again to take more photos. Every corner is a postcard in waiting.

Stunning villa after stunning villa line road and waterfront – opulence at its finest.

Boating In Style

We stopped in the village of Tremezzo for lunch. We settled on a roadside restaurant called Helvetia and we were not disappointed. The service was excellent and the food and wine equally impressive. We shared a delightful walnut bruschetta and a fresh tuna salad. We chose to wash it down with some local white wine and both agreed that we will be searching out Italian whites when we return to Hong Kong!

The car ferry to Bellagio was a short drive from Tremezzo and we arrived just in time to take the 3.15 ferry across the lake.

The short trip across the deep water of Lake Como gave us an opportunity to see the mountains and villages from water level – a great way to view the spectacular scenery.

On arrival in Bellagio we found a place to park and returned to pavement in search of some more sights.

Bellagio is a beautiful village however we both found it to be a little too tourist focused for our liking. The back streets (away from the crowds) were more appealing than the main area and we enjoyed walking the cobble stoned streets and soaking up the quieter side of town.

We left Bellagio around 4.45 and planned to stop somewhere on the drive back toward Como. However, the weather had other ideas and the rain started to fall quite heavily soon after we left Bellagio.

The seemingly one lane roads, the impatient drivers and the rain made for an interesting trip back along the mountain side. I was glad that I had taken out full insurance! I am not sure how I got away without hitting another car or the side walls at times. Very sporting.

With the inclement weather insisting on remaining with us for the afternoon, we decided to head back to the hotel and have a quiet early evening sitting in the lobby. Indeed, right now we are enjoying a real Italian coffee and the delightfully peaceful setting that is Hotel Miralago.

We had a very relaxing pre bed night cap down in the lobby and met a great couple from Calgary – can’t get enough of these Canadians!

We decided not to have dinner tonight as we are rather full from the delights of the day. Need to pace ourselves or we will return to Hong Kong looking like a couple of Sumo wrestlers.

Time for an early night after our day of travels. The chapel bells have just sounded 10 pm – a sign that our work for today is complete.

Good night from Cernobbio, Italy.

Ciao.

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Photo 2
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