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European Trip: Attempting to live in style, but also like the locals.

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giantkingsquid

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Hey All,

Its coming up to one year since myself and Miss giantkingsquid went on an seven week European sojourn. We planned the trip so that we would base ourselves for about a week in one spot, generally rural, and explore the area from there. We are keen mountain bikers so dragged our bikes all around with us too which made life a bit difficult at times.

We didn't really have a budge per se, so we certainly didn't slum it, but we didn't spend a fortune either which was a pleasant surprise. We are mountain people (not as in Yetis!) so we tried to enjoy the mountains where we could.

Basic itinerary was as follows: Three and a half weeks in Italy, three days in Germany (not enough in hindsight), a week in Switzerland, and two weeks in France.

So enjoy the photos and feel free to ask any questions!
 

giantkingsquid

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Week 1: Nesso, Italy

Now week one is a little misleading. It was actually 10 days...

Nesso is a tiny village on the Western side of the Lario triangle on the shores of Lago di Como. The weather was hot, about 30 degrees and humid until a massive storm one evening and then all of a sudden it was Autumn.

We flew Y BNE-MEL-DXB-LHR-MXP. We booked before the QF EK tie up and to be honest it did muck us around a lot in terms of lounge access, Ie before we had some and after we didn't. But hey thats life.

Here's the A380 at MEL ready for departure. It was my first time on a 380 and to be honest it didn't have the romance of a 747 but it was a comfortable flight and I loved the QF carbon fibre seat shells: beautiful design. I thought the meals were a bit bready, we got off the other end feeling like we'd ate a dozen bread rolls each!


After transferring through LHR, which felt like driving around a paddock in a bus for half an hour, we headed back the other way on BA from LHR to MXP. This was probably the most enjoyable flight I've ever had. The staff were friendly, the pilots were out and about, the roast beef sandwich for brekkie was delicious and the views over the alps were spectacular!


When we arrived in Milan we went through the very easy immigration, to find our bikes hadn't made it. Bummer. Now's as good a time as any to test out our rudimentary Italian. After much confusion and hand waving we realised that we'd lined up at the wrong baggage handlers... Ok try again. After much confusion and hand waving we discovered the bags were still at LHR and we should come back the next evening (a 2 hour drive each way!). So without much choice we did just that!

Anyway we used the excellent Renault Eurodrive leasing program and highly recommend it. Great cars, great price and great service. Here's some views around Nesso.

View from bedroom window:


Our Villa was right on the lake. Breaktaking views. Here's the kitchen window:


Town views from higher up the hill on our walk to the deli to get some food:


Here's the results of our deli trip. Felt like a bit of an effort after travelling half way around the world then driving through the mountains for. By this point we'd been awake for 36 hours or something! Worth it though.
 

giantkingsquid

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Re: Week 1: Nesso, Italy

The ferry heading from Bellagio to Como late in the afternoon. Actually probably about 8 pm from memory.


And some rowers practicing. Being yelled at very loudly infact! Forza! Avant! etc.


Our first day dawned with more beautiful views out the window. What an amazing place!


The photos do not show how steep the hills are. Even after two thousand plus years humans are only just avoiding sliding into the lake.


Hydrofoil on the commuter run.


Day two was back to MXP to (hopefully) collect our bikes and do some grocery shopping at Carrefour. We walked back into the arrivals hall and spotted our bikes, serious mountain bikes, probably $10,00 worth, just dumped in the middle of the floor in the corner. Oh well, they both made it ok so no harm done luckily.

Here's Le Clio. She was to prove a trusty steed for our entire trip. And we managed to fit two adults, two suitcases, two bikes, plus a shed load of female's shopping in. Great car!


And a surprise in the supermarket. Horse!
 

giantkingsquid

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Re: Week 1: Nesso, Italy

Here is a small collection of photos from around Nesso. We walked along the lakefront, then back up the hill and through the upper areas and back to the villa.

Here's the 'road' to our villa. No joking, its a gazette road. Goat track more like. We had to carry out bags and bikes over 100 m vertically down from the car and back again when we left. Which took a while! She was still smiling at this point...


Luckily we didn't arrange for the airline to deliver the bikes!


Very old bridge:


Waterfall. You certainly wouldn't call the local builders risk averse!


Nice pool.


Steps


Pines


Our place is the four story one with the light Terracotta roof. Amazing spot.


We just had to go for a swim in the lake. It was cool, but bearable for 20 mins or so. Glad to say we've done it!


In the next instalment. The Italian Grand Prix at Monza :)
 
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DontGetMeStarted

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Loved reading this and the photos too. We are not long back from a week in Varenna also on Lake Como. It was stunning and we had an apartment there too. Looking forward to the next instalment
 

Blinky

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Thanks for the photos so far, and keep them coming.

My wife and I are much older, in our early 60s, but still quite fit and love getting away from the tourist hotspots. Just over a year ago we also spent about 7 weeks in Europe, mainly Italy, Germany, Greece and Switzerland, with a week and a bit in London, Dublin and Paris (where we've been before).

We absolutely loved northern Italy and, in particular, Switzerland. Most countries would settle for one valley surrounded by pristine mountains, beautiful villages and azure lakes. Switzerland has dozens.

Rome was wonderful in it's own historical and cultural way, but we never felt particularly welcome, and sometimes threatened by taxi driver thieves and other scamsters. Naples was a hole.

Despite it's reputation, we found France to be nothing but hospitable on both trips there. London is a magnificent melting pot of cultures and history, despite the myriad Eastern European ripoff merchants. Can't wait to visit Europe again.
 

opusman

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I find your thread title confusing. The locals are Italians - how else would they live but with style? :)
 

giantkingsquid

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Loved reading this and the photos too. We are not long back from a week in Varenna also on Lake Como. It was stunning and we had an apartment there too. Looking forward to the next instalment

Varenna! That's where I stayed last time. Unbelievably gorgeous.

Ah Varenna will play a minor part in the next instalment. A lovely place!

Thanks for the photos so far, and keep them coming.

My wife and I are much older, in our early 60s, but still quite fit and love getting away from the tourist hotspots. Just over a year ago we also spent about 7 weeks in Europe, mainly Italy, Germany, Greece and Switzerland, with a week and a bit in London, Dublin and Paris (where we've been before).

We absolutely loved northern Italy and, in particular, Switzerland. Most countries would settle for one valley surrounded by pristine mountains, beautiful villages and azure lakes. Switzerland has dozens.

Rome was wonderful in it's own historical and cultural way, but we never felt particularly welcome, and sometimes threatened by taxi driver thieves and other scamsters. Naples was a hole.

Despite it's reputation, we found France to be nothing but hospitable on both trips there. London is a magnificent melting pot of cultures and history, despite the myriad Eastern European ripoff merchants. Can't wait to visit Europe again.

Glad you're still enjoying your travels! You'll enjoy this TR then for sure, especially the Swiss sections :). I agree about Rome, we only spent the day there and that was well and truly enough!

I find your thread title confusing. The locals are Italians - how else would they live but with style? :)

Hmmm not always. They are a funny bunch thats for sure :)
 

giantkingsquid

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Italian Grand Prix

One of the main reasons for doing this trip when and where we did was to take in the Italian GP. We're both F1 nutters and I race in lower formulae whenever I can. It was an amazing experience, even if you're not interested in car racing. The sheer enthusiasm of the crowd (and their support of Ferrari) in particular is astounding. There's fans there from all over Europe enjoying the hot weather and each other's company. Easy parking and ticketing make it an easy event to attend. Even the Carabinieri were relaxed. At one point some Serbians near us started throwing fireworks at them over the fence; they turned around and gave them a thumbs up! But for all the excitement and minor explosions there is acres of parklands to get away from the noise and sun for a bit of a break.

Even the typical sports event food was high quality in Italy:


Bikes are allowed within the parklands which made it easy for kids and their dad's to get around!




The Germans tended to drink too much then go and stand in the sun which made them sleepy, so between races they would retire to the edge of the forest for a nap. There was thousands of these drunk Germans sleeping on the ground, and when woken by a screaming race engine they retook their spots in the stands. Northern Europeans and sun don't mix very well actually..


Over half a million people attend the Italian GP each year, but because everyone is spread out over a few hundred acres you don't notice too much. Here's some of the big stands during qualifying.




Aussie hero Mark Webber in his last Italian GP.


Ferraris in formation for the crowd:
 

giantkingsquid

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Swiss Day Trip

Being a keen driver and a fan of Switzerland we decided to combine the two into a Swiss Driving Day Trip. Now in hindsight perhaps this was too big of a day. The basic plan was to drive from Nesso to Bellagio and catch the ferry across to Varenna. From there we would make our way North and over the Splungenpass (2115m) into Swizterland. From there we would travel to Davos for lunch, over the Fluelapass (2383m) back to the South. Through the Swiss National Park and Back into Italy. From the border post we'd turn back West and cross the Stelvio Pass (2758m) and head back towards Varenna and the ferry to Bellagio and home. Top Gear fans will remember that the Fluelapass was their "best road in the world" a few years ago so we thought we better try that one out!

Here's a map showing where we went:

http://goo.gl/maps/IyU2B

We caught the 6:19 am ferry from Bellagio to Varenna which was yet another great little town on the lake. Catching the ferry saved a heap of time compared to driving around the Eastern leg of the lake.


Loaded up for the short voyage:


Climbing the Passo della Spluga: The Eurpoeans sure know how to wind their way up a mountain. The Spluga is certainly one of the less used Alpine crosses, the source of the Rhine is near the pass on the Swiss side.


Despite being in Italy this dam certainly had an air of Eastern Europe in it. Squint a bit and you could be in the Caucaus!


This is one of my favourite photos of the trip. The village of Montespluga on the Italian side.


After crossing into Swizterland it wasn't long tip we came across cows all over the road. They were friendly enough and came up to the open car window for a feed when we stopped. The creek in the background is the River Rhine believe it or not!


Ah Swizterland what beautiful meadows you have!


After a beautifully overpriced Pumpkin soup in Davos we headed to the Fluelapass with anticipation. It didn't disappoint. The descent in particular is remarkable. Fast flowing roads plunging down the mountainside without a hairpin to interrupt the flow for an hour or more. Here's some pictures of the top where it was actually snowy.


 

giantkingsquid

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On the approach to the Passo Dello Stelvio the terrain became terribly rugged. It certainly appeared to be one of the more inhospitable places that I'd been.


The view to the summit from the East side.


I spotted these daredevils installing mesh on ropes. Pretty hairy job but necessary in the steep terrain for ground control.


More gnarly terrain. If you somehow got yourself stuck out there you may as well have been on the moon!


The amazing road to the summit from the East. The poor bus driver had to complete a three point turn at every single hairpin turn. It took him about 45 minutes to get up the part of the road that we could see.


By the time the bus arrived at the top of the pass the sign on the from was very appropriate.


After cresting the summit and having the requisite snow fight we headed down the West side. Obviously some Americans beat us to it.


But we didn't get far. This Dutch truck had become lodged in a tunnel :(


Eventually after far too long on SS roads we made it back to Varenna and the ferry just as the sun was setting.



What a fantastic day! This taster of Swizterland certainly left us with an appetite for when we were to revisit later.

In the next instalment, we head South to Abruzzo and go looking for Wolves.
 
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