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Unread 17 Jan 12, 12:32 PM  
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geoffa's Reviews
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Coach Trip - "The Voyage of the Damned" - DAY 5

Today is a chill day no trips out on coaches. Instead we are going to be touring the northern part of the lake and taking in a few villas. A few? They are everywhere as you will see. Doris was in full moaning mode at breakfast. Her bed is too hard. The pillows are like sacks of coal. Somebody kept using the lifts all night long.I know what Id like to do with one of the pillows!
We dont leave until 10 ish so it gives me some time to sort out dirty laundry and wrap it around the precious things of the shop as Darrin calls them. (You need to know League of Gentlemen to understand that one! That series was filmed in my old home town but I digress).
They have arranged a boat (launch ?) for us which leaves from the hotel's pier. What I discovered is that opposite every large building on the lake shore there is a patio / balcony building where the foundations stand in the water. Underneath this patio is.a boathouse. Heres an example:

So we all board the good ship Skylark (Buona lodola della nave a literal translation) or whatever its called and take our seats. Some of us are brave enough (or foolish) to go out the blunt end in the wind.

We tootle along the shore passing such grand buildings as this one (note many are closed for the winter):

Some (not all) have been converted into apartments. A two bedroom affair would cost you around 250,000 at present. Not bad considering the location and you do get use of pool and a parking space, which are at a premium around here. Some villas are own by large companies and organisations and are used as convention centres. A few are still privately owned, such as this one. Its owned by the Heinz family (paid for by baked beans no doubt!).

We continue up the lake until we reach Menaggio where we dock.
A bit of history / geography for you: The area of current Menaggio was conquered by the Romans in 196 BC. The Roman conquest culminated with the construction of a road called the Via Regina. Menaggio sits at the mouth of the river Senegra and was a walled city, and remnants of the wall are evident today. Construction of big hotels in this cool summer area made it popular. Benito Mussolini attempted to escape Italy at the end of World War II and was captured in Dongo, an area nearby. Ok so now the lesson is over lets look around.
The town from the lake:

The main square is the Piazza Garibaldi ( note - thats not pizza !) the inventor of that dry biscuit with currants in it alright, I jest. He was a famous revolutionary leader.

We wander around the little streets but a lot of shops are closed for the winter, as are the public toilets! However, we do find a kind of wine shop with caf attached so because we buy biscuits and a bottle of limoncello Im allowed to use their facilities! Very grateful I was too it was a nippy morning! We finish up in a small caf in the Piazza Garibaldi and enjoy a cappuccino (in Italy these are nothing but delightful coffee flavoured froth) and a sort of vanilla slice that is composed of everything Amaretti.

On re-boarding we make for Bellagio. Believe me it looks nothing like that hotel in Las Vegas, or should I say the hotel in L V looks nothing like the town it gets its name from. Ive been looking across to this delightful village from our hotel window every morning. It does not disappoint. Most lakeside towns are built in steps up the sides of the lower mountain and the main church is usually at the top of a steep climb despite the fact that they look as if they are nestled in the towns centre.

There are about four individual flights of steps up from the water frontage and heres one of them:

We explore the town and again there arent too many shops open. However, opposite the church is a Christmas shop and they have hand painted baubles of Bellagio. Those who know us will recall our souvenir Christmas tree that we put up each year. It has a Space Shuttle, Disney Cruise Ship, covered wagon from Arizona, Mexican sombrero from Cozumel, Liberty Bell from Philadelphia, bauble from Celebration Fl etc. etc. So this will be added to the collection. And, sorry, no I didnt take a photo of it. However, here is a shot inside the church if you want glitter!

It always astonishes me how you find an unprepossessing building and yet the interior can be stunning.
We make our way back to the waterfront as lunch is beckoning. The hotel gave us a packed lunch again and we sit and eat it whilst gazing out on the lake. Its a little dull today after the blue skies in the week but the charm of this area is not diminished. We had no idea of the beauty of Lake Como and would happily come to visit again.
Darrin has been looking for a watch. He collects them like I collect Jim Shore Disney figures! So far he hasnt seen much that took his fancy and then we find this delightful little shop:

This shop has been here 150 years. The current owners are in their late 80s. The gentlemans father used to run the place. Inside its like one of those wonderful old tobacco shops I recall in Manchester as a child. It has ceiling high display cabinets with rococo artwork at the top. It has never been altered and its like a step back in time. (We learn later that the Gelato (ice cream shop) down the way is even older. 200 years ago it started and is still family owned supplying most of Northern Italy with its delightful wares.) Anyhow back to watches. The man pulls out various display trays for Darrin to look at. His wife suddenly says: Dont buy Italian theyre rubbish. Choose Swiss they are precision made! After laughing I ask the lady where she learned to speak such excellent English. Her response: I was in your country in 1953 to see the coronation of your beautiful Queen!
Im now calculating she must be 90 plus! And why is it that countries who did away with their Royal Families are so obsessed with ours? (Dont you find that in the USA too?)
So a Bulova is chosen. It has a face the size of Big Ben but Darrins is happy with is choice. A heck of a lot of Euro are taken from our card (we had a prepaid Fairfx one) and the item is boxed. They offer to gift wrap it but we say its not necessary. Everywhere you go around here they offer to gift wrap the items you buy and at no extra charge. UK yet a bit more Customer Service you could do to learn!
Then as we are about to leave the shop, the lady gives us two small packages Christmas gifts - and tells us they are very useful:

And indeed they are! We opened them on Christmas morning. They turned out to be calendars but have little post its and those hi-light tabs for pages:

And, of course, it helps if you know the months in Italian!

Regrettably, we have to board the boat again as we take off for the island in the lake - Locanda dell'Isola Comacina. First of all this where Mr Branson has a villa. He flies in by sea plane. The first thing you see is the boathouse complete with living accommodation! Next comes the garden house complete with accommodation! And then you come to the villa:

And do you recognise this place? Its just down the way from Branson Towers:

Its the Villa del Balbianello. If it looks familiar its because it appeared in Star Wars Attack of the Clones and also in the Daniel Craig version of Casino Royale.
Theyre just beautiful arent they?

We return to our hotel at Cadenabbia about 2p.m. Most go off to pack their cases ready for the return home tomorrow (Saturday). Not us. There is the village of Griante behind the hotel and we mean to explore. One of the main roads is the Via Roma and so we start to climb. Along the way we pass the Co-op. Well, amongst the Italian of the establishments name was Cooperativo, so to us its the Co-op. We bought some last minute things one of which was a packet of delightful chocolate biscuits called Baiocchi. Ive just finished them off with a coffee whilst writing this missive! Anyhow, we continue up what I named the Via Rosa. I have never walked so many steps since I went to Whitby! Right at the top of the village is the church dedicated to the Saints Nabore and Felice.

Their relics are still kept within the building. I can read a little Italian and the historical notation on the sign outside mentions Michelangelo. No way!: I cry. Well, above the right altar inside is an Michelangelo fresco but its Michelangelo Carminati of the 16th century not the right bloke at all! Put the jemmy away Darrin!

We make our way back into the town centre and find a shop where a local artist displays his paintings. Darrin took a shine to one and so this is purchased. We speak in broken Italian / English to the owner who tells us we must go see San Martino the chapel half way up the mountain its only an hour and a halfs walk!

He tells us that it is beautiful and the vista is stunning. I dont doubt his word but Im not going up there without a packed mule and certainly not on a December afternoon when twilight is forming!

So its back to the hotel for dinner, a few limoncellos and a hot bath before bedtime.

And if you are wondering - no yellow or red cards today - but Doris came close to both!
Cancer -let's kick it in the butt!

Edited at 11:15 PM.
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Unread 17 Jan 12, 07:21 PM  
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What lovely scenery - I've been reading bits out to Russ who is pointedly ignoring me, (he only perked up when I mentioned watch shops) as he's on a mission NOT to go abroad this year (due to new bathroom and DS wedding etc), but I think I'll wear him down before the summer, and I think Italy just for a week or a 7 day cruise will be nice ... really he doesn't stand a chance bless him .
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Unread 17 Jan 12, 07:25 PM  
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Eeyore rocks
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WOW, the scenery is truely beautiful.

I am glad Darrin likes his watch.

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Unread 17 Jan 12, 09:56 PM  
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highland lass
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The trip is so interesting makes me want to consider a coach trip
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Unread 17 Jan 12, 10:01 PM  
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Melanie R
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Still loving the Doris! She must be growing on you Geoff - no red card today

Hope to get back to Italy one day soon - it's a beautiful country!
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Unread 17 Jan 12, 10:18 PM  
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geoffa's Reviews
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Restaurant Reviews: 3

theDIBB Guidebook
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I don't want to give too much away but Doris will get a comeuppance!
Cancer -let's kick it in the butt!

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Unread 17 Jan 12, 10:53 PM  
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Stunning pics and I am really enjoying your trippy.
You have got the patience of a saint with Doris. I would have throttled her by now!
We discovered Limoncello on a trip to Rimini/San Marino and have been seriously addicted ever since. I always loved the way they left a bottle and two shot glasses on the table when they brought the bill after a meal, although it was very difficult to stop at just one. Its very moreish! xx
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I'm so excited...and I just cant hide it
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Unread 17 Jan 12, 11:09 PM  
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I am so enjoying this trip report! It is filling the Coach Trip sized hole in my life left after Brendan boldly went to meet Santa! Thankyou for the wonderful photographs too!
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