Thursday, 1st Sept 2016 – The Week So Far.
After setting up the basic trailer-tent on Sunday, we spent Monday morning getting the awning up and the annexe up at the back. This gives us a huge amount of space and is well worth the effort if staying somewhere for any period of time.
The previous night had been very hot and sticky and didn't really cool down until about 3:00 am. By the time we had sorted the tent out Monday morning, it was 10:00am and the temperature inside the tent was 40 degrees C! We then went off to try out the showers. Wendy was less than impressed as the cubicles were rather small with nowhere to hang your clothes so they wouldn't get wet. Added to that, the shower tray had a mat that an Indian Fakir would have found testing!
We then went off to find the local supermarket, about 4km away, and got some provisions. A supermarket is a supermarket but when you have to go round a roundabout surrounded by high mountains
it becomes a bit more interesting. We were pleasantly surprised at the cleanliness and smell of the supermarket, given our experience of French supermarkets, even in colder climes. We stocked up with things for a BBQ and more mozzarella, before making our way back to the campsite.
After lunch we then tried out the campsite swimming pool, a very large, no-nonsense 18 x 10 metre pool with no provision for children, making it ideal for proper swimming. We were the only ones in it and it was beautifully warm once you got over the inevitable initial shock. By this time the weather had cooled down and clouded over and we got out of the pool just as the thunder started!
After some pretty heavy rain we were fortunate to get a couple of hours of sunshine during which we had a barbecue. Later that night we again experienced some heavy rain, but it was a much cooler night.
Tuesday dawned cloudy and dull and the forecast was for it to stay that way with the risk of thunderstorms. One job we had to tend to before setting off anywhere was to sort out our crockery box. We have reassigned the blue glass crockery from Emjaytoo for camping. But this trip we learnt why china, and glass in particular, are not suited to being bounced about in the back of a trailer!
We then drove down the other side of Lake Como (we are on the west shore at the top) visiting a working abbey at Piona (Abazzia di Piona).
From there we went on to Carenno Plinio, a medieval village on the lakeside with steep stepped alleys
leading down to the lake shore and a quaint little harbour the size of a bath!
We stopped for lunch at Bellano where we had a bowl of pasta and sauce, with bread and the ubiquitous parmesan, with water, for €8 each. We then drove on to Varenna which looked pretty enough, but since we couldn't find anywhere to park we kept going until we reached the next junction on the main SS36 road and turned back towards the campsite. This turned out to be on the outskirts of Lecco, at the bottom of the eastern prong of the lake. Down each side of the lake there is a main road, often dual carriageway that by-passes the towns and villages and tunnels through the mountain. Then there is the coastal road which twists and turns and threads its way through all the ribbon development along the lake shore. Once on the main road, which is pretty boring, especially since so much of it is in tunnels, we were back at the campsite in no time.
By now the weather had brightened up, the thunderstorms had failed to materialise so we sat out with a beer to enjoy the evening.
On Wednesday, we decided to leave the car on the campsite and set off on the lakeside path towards Sorico. After calling into the Tourist Office to get some bus/boat timetables and a map we returned to the lakeside path and walked towards Domaso. Once we got on to the lake proper there was a pleasant breeze which kept us cool. The lakeside path was very picturesque.
On the outskirts of Domaso we found a great little ristorante with a terrace overlooking the lake
where we each had an enormous plate of salad. Armed with our bus time table we located a bus stop and were back in Sorico in 15 minutes. All in all we had walked about 7km which was pretty good going in the heat and all the more interesting because we were able to do it in just one direction.
Finally we finished off the afternoon with a swim in the pool and had pasta for dinner with a glass of red wine – very Italian (even if the sauce did come from Waitrose!).
And so to today. We have been giving some thought to our route home and how we cross the Alps. Following our footsteps here is not really on as we are going to see Romana and José near Stuttgart on the way home and want a slightly more interesting route than queueing for the St. Gotthard tunnel and belting up the motorway via Zurich. Wendy had identified the Splugen Pass, but it appeared to be pretty twisty from the map so we decided to have a day out up in the Alps to try it out with out the trailer.
The road was minor compared to the St Gotthard Pass route and a lot quieter. On the way up we stopped at a village called Gallivaggio which had a wonderful church
with a beautifully decorated interior, including an ornate marble altar the Victorians would have been proud of.
After crossing over the pass
We then descended into Switzerland and the village of Splugen where we had lunch at a lovely roadside restaurant.
We had the archetypal Swiss meal of Roesti (fried grated potatoes) with bacon, raclette cheese and a fried egg.
Afterwards we had a walk around the village which was exactly how you expect a Swiss Alpine village to be.
The road up to the pass had been spectacular and apart from a couple of hairpins, quite good.
We had read that the roads on the Swiss side were not so good and indeed that proved to be the case. So over lunch we decided to take the main road from Splugen – the A13 through the San Bernardino tunnel. This will be our route up to Stuttgart. It was a way better road than the St Gotthard road, very quiet, no queues at the tunnel and very spectacular and picturesque.
On the way home we stopped at a little supermarket and picked up some more food, wine & beer. This was our second shop and on both occasions we have been surprised at how little it has come to. Everyone says that Italy is expensive but so far, apart from the campsite, we have not found this to be the case. Unfortunately, when we got back to the tent the beer was warm, so we had to have a couple over at the camp bar, no great hardship there!
Friday, 2nd Sept 2016 – A Small World.
After yesterday's marathon drive session Kim was up for a day of doing nothing. Well, apart from trying to get the blog up to date. We were getting on for being five days behind. We spent the day on the campsite, Wendy did some washing and Kim progressed the Blog. We had a very pleasant lunch of Prosciutto ham, cheese, a bit of salad and some bread. In the afternoon we went for a swim and again had the pool to ourselves.
Our barbecue in the evening was a disaster! The chicken we had bought yesterday had gone off, so that went in the bin. That left us with “smelly” sausages that Wendy didn't like plus some pork chops and barbecued vegetables. The chops were burnt, the vegetables were burnt, but the corn-on-the-cobb was cooked a treat!. We finished the meal vowing we would never barbecue on holiday again! In fact we decided that self-catering holidays in general, were a disaster.
So far this week, it has been incredibly hot – pushing 40 degrees, very humid and not pleasant at all. The campsite is very pleasant, the facilities and the pool excellent. The area is spectacular but somehow doesn’t really “do it” for us. It has been quite hazy a lot of the time so perhaps we are not seeing it in the best light.
Something interesting that did happen today, in fact it was quite amazing! Yesterday a British registered camper-van arrived and parked up opposite us. Nothing amazing about that. This morning Kim was sat looking across at it and was intrigued by the tow-hitch mounted bike carrier. This is something Kim has been intrigued by for some time. So he went across and asked the guy how it worked. After the explanation, Kim noticed the guy was wearing a Musto cap, so asked what he sailed. He said he didn't sail any more but had had various dinghies, culminating in a Moody 31 yacht which they had sold some years ago. Kim commented that we had sailed for many years and were now selling our Bavaria 30. The guy asked where we sailed and Kim told him we had been in the Netherlands for some years, but were now moving on, so to speak.
At this point the conversation stopped and Kim walked away. As Kim then went on to take the rubbish to the bins, the guy called Kim over and asked if he had ever been on Yachting Monthly's Scuttlebutt Forum. Kim replied yes and the guy replied “did you collect your Bavaria from Ipswich in 2007, because if you did, I've sailed with you”. Kim looked at the guy a bit more closely and exclaimed “You're John!”. John couldn't remember Kim's name, but certainly remembered the occasion. Without repeating the account all over again, you can read the story by going to the Blog Archive and looking up May 2007, the 21st – Weekend With Stargazer. His wife Ruth didn't remember the meeting in Ipswich, but John certainly remembered the weekend he and Kim went sailing prior to us taking Emjaytoo over to Holland.
Saturday, 3rd Sept 2016 – Villa Balbienello.
In spite of the seriously oppressive heat and humidity, today turned into a really good day. We were both dripping wet from the heat and decided to head down the lake to visit one of the villas that the area is famous for. The lake was very hazy but a bit clearer further down.
We chose Balbienello. We parked at the foot of the path leading to the villa and set off on the 1 km walk to the entrance. It turned out that seeing the gardens only was €8 each but seeing the villa itself (on a compulsory guided tour) would have been a further €9 each, which we decided was too much.
The gardens were beautiful and had everything you expect an Italian lakeside villa to have. Statues, manicured lawns, raked gravel and geraniums by the bucket load.
We decided to take the longer walk back (2.5 km) but had not counted on the hairpin paths going up, up and up again.
We both had sweat pouring off us and were struggling, even though the views were amazing – or would have been if we could have seen them.
It was about 3.30 by the time we got back to the car and we hadn't eaten since breakfast, so we decided to have a gelato. Great idea, but very difficult to achieve. We drove down road after road but there wasn't a parking space anywhere. Eventually we found a gelateria at Domaso
almost back at the campsite.
When we got back to the campsite we went for quick swim to cool off, then were invited for pre-dinner drinks with John and Ruth (ex-Stargazer) which was very pleasant and whetted Kim's appetite for a camper van even more.
We had cold meat and salad for dinner which was just the ticket given the very warm and very humid evening. By the time we retired it was still 25 degrees inside the tent.
Monday, 5th Sept 2016 – Time To Move On.
On Saturday evening we had decided that we wanted a boat trip and getting the boat to Bellagio (at the apex of the fork in the lake) would be a good way of getting there and having the boat trip. The weather forecast was the usual cloudy with thunderstorms, but Sunday looked better than Monday, so that's what we did on Sunday. There was a slow boat from Domaso (a few miles up the road) at 9:50am and so we got up promptly and left the camp site at 9:00am. Where the ferry boat left from did not have much parking, but there were a couple of spaces and it was free so we were fine. The views of the lake shore from the open deck of the “slow boat” were spectacular, spoilt only by the overcast hazy conditions.
Nevertheless it was a very pleasant way to while away an hour and a half as the ferry hopped from town to town down the lake.
By the time we got to Bellagio
it was quite apparent that we were staying up at the “poor end” of the lake. As soon as we landed at Bellagio we went for a coffee at a very swish hotel/restaurant
before wandering off to see the town. The town isn't very big, but it is on a hill so there are lots of narrow stepped streets joining a top road to the bottom road by the lake.
We passed a couple of restaurants that looked way too expensive just for a lunch until we found a small “ristorante” doing pizza and pasta. We both had fantastic pizzas
and a beer followed by coffee before wandering back to the lake shore. We had only been in Bellagio for about 3 hours, but we had seen enough and were able to catch the 2:50pm fast boat back to Domaso.
An interesting observation, whilst waiting for our ferry, a Como bound ferry came in and there must have been hundreds of people boarding that one, but when the ferry to the “poor end” of the lake came in, there were only a couple of dozen people who got on it! The fast ferry was not as pleasant as the slow one as you had to sit inside and it was rather stuffy, but it got us back in 50 minutes rather than almost 2 hours in spite of having to come down off the plane to negotiate the kite surfers playing “chicken” with the ferry.
Another, this time fruitless, search for a gelateria followed, but this time we gave up as it was just impossible to park. We had a pleasant evening in our usual fashion, making up for the decadent lunch with lots of salad for dinner. The weather threatened thunderstorms and rain but nothing ever happened beyond a single clap of thunder.
Monday was also supposed to be cloudy and showery but in the end, it turned out to be the clearest day since we arrived.
We drove up to Dascio and had a lovely walk in the hills above the village,
musing about how come so many lovely properties had been apparently abandoned,
before coming down and having an excellent lunch on the terrace of one of the 2 small hotels in the village.
After another walk along the lake shore after lunch, we both decided that this was probably the loveliest place we had seen.
A quick trip to the supermarket and a swim in the stunning pool,
kept us busy for part of the afternoon, followed by taking the awning down
in readiness for our move to the Bodensee tomorrow. Our last meal here will be a barbecue and salad – we hope!
Monday, 12th September 2016 – Back Home And A Lot To Catch Up On!
Tuesday the 6th September was spent driving up to the Bodensee. We somehow managed to make a meal of packing up and departing from Sorico, eventually getting away about 11.00am. We had decided to use the San Bernadino Tunnel, but the sat-nav wanted to take us via the Splugen Pass. So we spent the whole time ignoring her and thus got lost in Lugano! Eventually the sat-nav accepted that we were going via the tunnel.
Again, driving at 80 kph was scary with 40 ton “artics” tail-gating us because they were not permitted to over-take. The road up to the San Bernadino Tunnel was a very good dual carriageway with some spectacular views as it hair pinned its way up.
We inevitably got stuck behind some slow traffic,
But when the opportunity came Kim was able to shift down and get past. However, it wasn’t very good for the fuel consumption!
After stopping for lunch at some services in Switzerland and then having to buy an Austrian motorway vignette, for a 20 minute ride through Austria, we finally got into Germany and proceeded along the north side of the Bodensee towards a campsite that Wendy had established over the phone, was likely to have vacancies. You might wonder why we hadn’t booked it. Well, most campsites around the Bodensee don’t take bookings so it’s ‘first come, first served’. By now, we were hitting a lot of traffic – rush hour, or just tourist? The campsite reception shut at 6.30pm and we arrived at about 6.15pm! It was then a ‘free for all’ running round the campsite trying to bag the best of what was left.
We ended up on a pitch up against the road which had a railway line the other side! We weren’t over enamoured, but after a couple of beers and a meal in the campsite’s excellent restaurant, we felt okay about it and Wendy actually had the best night’s sleep for ages.
Wednesday morning, after discovering how brilliant the showers were, we went off for a walk to the Klosterkirche at Kloster Birnau. This pink confectionery building is a baroque church with a totally over the top interior, but it is in a stunning location amongst the vineyards and overlooking the lake.
After walking back to the campsite, we got in the car to visit the nearby town of Meersburg, but the place was so packed out, could not find anywhere to park, so we returned to the campsite. We then went over to the restaurant to try it out for lunch - Bratwurst, pommes frites & German beer!
Later in the afternoon, we decided to walk into Unteruhldingen,
which was only a couple of kilometres away. By now the sun was starting to go down and the lake looked spectacular.
On Thursday, we decided to have another go at Meersburg, this time leaving the campsite at 9.30am and this time we managed to get a parking spot – but only just! We then walked into the town and found a little café for coffee. Thereafter we wandered around soaking up the atmosphere.
We felt it was a bit like Veere, only bigger. It definitely looked like a Disney film set.
By lunchtime we were done and after looking for cheap Bratwurst & chips café, we gave up and bought a cheesy sandwich each and ate it on the promenade.
We then decided to drive back to Unteruhldingen and catch the ferry over to the island of Mainau. When we found out that it was going to cost €52 for the two of us which we felt was too much for a “boat trip”, we abandoned that idea and decided to drive down to the town of Uberlingen. This was quite a large town and not that picturesque, but it did have some nice walks along the lakeside.
What it did have was a ferry boat giving 70 minute round trips on the lake for €10 each. Now that was more like it! By now it was really scorching and it was very pleasant to get out on the water and enjoy the views of the lake shore.
On the way back to the campsite, we called into a supermarket, which Kim was very impressed with, to get some things so we could eat at the tent.
Once back at the tent, we had a beer and then went for a walk down to the lake to get some photos.
Wendy had a paddle, announced the water was really warm and so we rushed back to the tent to get our cossies on and then went back for a swim. It was absolutely glorious. It was a bit shallow and rather muddy under foot, but once you got into some deeper water it was fabulous.
We came ashore and dried off just in time to get our sunset photos.
This was our last day on the Bodensee and effectively the last day of our holiday, but it was certainly a magnificent end.
On Friday, we drove up to see Romana & José’s at Asperg, just outside Ludwigsburg. We arrived just after lunch and Romana had the day off work so was there to welcome us. We had a very relaxed day on Saturday and as always with Romana & José the food, wine and hospitality were first class. We stayed until Sunday morning when we then drove up to Hoek van Holland to catch the overnight ferry over to Harwich. Driving through Germany on a Sunday was a mixed experience. HGVs are not allowed on the roads, so Kim did not have to contend with being tailgated, which was good, but all the lorries were parked up in the service areas and it proved impossible to find anywhere on the motorways to stop for lunch, or even to have a pee!
We arrived at Hoek van Holland with a bit of time in hand and once we were on the ferry and had found our cabin, we had a couple of drinks in the bar before having a very quiet and civilised meal for less than €25 for the two of us! This is the second time we have used this overnight ferry and whilst it is an expensive way to travel, it is so civilised!
Travelling back Sunday night we paid the price on the A12/M25 Monday morning! But hey-ho!
All in all a brilliant holiday, greatly helped by what turned out to be unseasonably hot weather throughout Europe. However, Kim did find the ridiculously low speed limits in Switzerland & Germany rather stressful and the 620 km drive through Germany & Holland on the Sunday (at 50mph) was really too much, but no doubt we will convince ourselves to do it all again next year.
Indeed, now we are back home, we are already planning next year’s trips!
Sunday, 18th September 2016 - Planning For Next Year.
So, a week after getting back from our holiday we are planning for next year. Of course, without the boat we have no weekends away to look forward to for the remainder of this year and our next trip away will be Easter! Kim has booked his holidays for next year, a week at Easter, two weeks at the beginning of June and two weeks at the beginning of September.
Easter is not a time to be going camping, so we are looking at cottages in Cornwall. We will then have at least one of our fortnights with the trailer tent, probably in the Auvergne (central France). The other fortnight is still to be decided. Ideas are - hiring a motor home/camping in France/Italy; doing the same in Britain; hiring a canal boat. Wendy is not keen on the motor home or the canal boat.
Today Kim is up in London to meet Jim and find a pub to watch the grand Prix, leaving Wendy to continue researching Cornish cottages.
Friday, 30th September 2016 – It Looks Like Being A Caravan.
Following on from meeting up with Ruth & John, Kim was hooked on the idea of a motor home/campervan. Until he started to look at the cost, that is! It really is a very expensive way to go on holiday. At pushing £50K for a new vehicle, that you can’t really use other than holidays and the occasional weekend away, it starts to get like boat ownership – it doesn’t stack up! You can hire/charter several times a year for considerably less than the cost of owning.
We then started to look at the idea of hiring a motor home for a fortnight’s holiday. We looked at Scotland on the basis of driving our own car up to, say, Glasgow and then hiring the van up there. This was still an expensive holiday.
At the same time the idea of a caravan started to materialise. Caravans cost less; you can set them up and then go out for the day in your car and you haven’t got an expensive vehicle sitting on the drive only being used a few times a year.
What about the trailer tent you ask? Wasn’t that supposed to be a replacement for the boat? Well yes, but after two summers we have found that the season with a tent is too short and whilst we had a great time in Italy, it is not a replacement for the boat.
So we have been nosing around caravan dealers and looking at loads of websites!
This could be a long one!
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