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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Italian lakes - Hurray for Mormons! and other delights

A visit to the island of Monte Isola on Lake Iseo.

We had some good beach school in the morning, with Poppy learning about Georgian fashion as part of an extended fashion timeline project plan. Then we set off to catch the boat from the town just down the way, Tavernolo. It's always such fun catching boats! And this was no different. We sped quickly across the beautiful lake and enjoyed really not having a clue where we were going to land. Met some nice young American lads on the boat, who turned out to be mormons living in Bergamo! "Spreading the word of the Latter Day Saints" as it were. I nearly said that I had watched the Book of Mormon so I understood where they were coming from, but I didn't.

We got off at the Pescaeira stop on the island because we had heard that was where we caught a bus from to go up to the church. Well, we got off and overheard that the mormons were also planning to catch the bus so we followed them. Hooray for mormons! - we made it on to the bus, but it only went halfway. Boo for mormons.

To be fair, they had advertised that fact to us, but even so.

So we got off halfway and found that it was swelteringly hot and we had to climb to the top - about 600 feet. My it was hot! Everyone made it OK, but I'd be lying if I said it was fun. So finally we were there, and no one had to complain about being desperately tired/hungry/thirsty etc etc because we stopped for a picnic lunch just before the church. Then at last we reached the church and anticipated the delightful 360 degree views of the lake we had been promised. Two problems - the haze, and the trees. We didn't even try to go in the church, because nobody was interested. It almost makes you wonder why we had gone to such efforts to get here, huh? But this had been nothing compared with going back down again.

There was clearly marked on our map a path which would lead all the way down to Pescaeira (spelling?), but it really was nowhere to be seen. There were no more buses which would take us down, unless we waited an hour. The boat left in 40 mins, at 4.20, so we had said goodbye to that one, and planned to catch the 6.07pm. So instead of walking down a nice mountain path we set of down the road in the boiling boiling heat reflected and magnified by the tarmac and in vain still tried to find a path. We found one! It lasted for about 50 metres, then we were back on the road - argghh!

We carried on down with not only Poppy complaining about the boiling heat, but now Rosie started up, she had far more vim and vehemence in her complaints though - her hip hurt. First one, then the other. They really hurt so very much that she could hardly put another foot forwards, she said. It hurt so much it was arghh, and then very quickly it became waaaaahhhhhh. The walking waah, perfectly charming. I was holding her hand, while walking down, and making soothing noises, and we were all despairing of ever making it back down with any degree of sanity intact when suddenly behind me I saw the bright orange of.. a bus!! "A bus!" I cried, "A bus! Joe, Poppy, quick! Run! Say to the driver, Pescaira?' (spelling?!) They ran, we ran, it was the same driver!! and yes! He was going to Pesceira!! Thank the blinking lord!

We arrived back in Pescaira, in about 8 minutes, well in time to catch the 4.20! And have an ice cream first. Phew. From the jaws of disaster and all that.

Happily on the 4.20, we discovered that it stopped on the other side of the lake, and then back at several different stops on Monte Isola before finally heading back to Tavernola. At the last stop on Monte Isola the mormons got back on again! They had clearly had some cunning route down from the church and then over the island to the other side via the path thing, which we had not thought of. No ice cream shop there, though, so in many ways we were the victors - oh yes. When we pulled into Tavernola though, when they got off the boat a bus started to arrive, and they started utterly pegging it to catch the bus. Go mormons go! But the bus wasn't stopping, and it wasn't stopping! Where would it stop? Far down along the prom. Go mormons! They went, and they caught it. Hooray. Two human dramas happily resolved in one day. Presumably god's influence, or possibly Joseph Whatshisname's.

Back to Tavernola, and the only bother was that it was really too late in the day to go swimming. It had become a little cloudy, and not quite so clement. And it had been so boiling on the island!

Back to the house for diary and learning time, and then dinner for kids and Bea, but not for us, because.. major excitment... we were going to Restaurant Panoramica for dinner a deux - yey! Almost three weeks into the journey and this is the first moment we have had for just the two of us. The restaurant was one recommended to us by Cristina and only a few minutes drive away, we passed it every day on our route to the lake.

I wanted to walk there so I didn't need to worry about drinking. So we set off walking arm in arm down the road, dressed up in our best clothes, which are not very best, and he and I wearing trainers and sandals respectively, as these are our best shoes. We arrived, after a surprisingly long walk - you would have thought if we hadn't known already that today would certainly have taught us how far distances can seem when you walk them, compared to when you drive them. Well, we finally got there - perhaps 20 minutes - along the road, and I commented that it would be dark by the time we came back. D said that if we didn't get a move on it would be dark by the time we got there. It was a large open restaurant, designed to be open to the elements, but of course it wasn't tonight - there had been a little rain before we had set off. But that was nothing to the rain we had when the main course arrived..

The food was completely delicious - I had courgette flowers stuffed with minced crab for starters, mmm, and catch of the day for main course. And it was about then that arrived that the storm came - and wow! what a storm! It began to rain, and then it began to absolutely and utterly tip it down. Then came the odd flash of lightning and the occasional clap of thunder. And then came massive lightning streaks turning the whole sky a luminous lilac again and again, accompanied by the incredible constant rat a tat tat of very loud rain on very thin roof, and sudden extravagant immense drums of thunder. It was all very exciting and great fun. Of course there was the small matter of getting home to consider..

Let it be remembered that I had noticed it was also a hotel, and I suggested to D that we should stay for the night, I even went to the extent of mentioning to the owner/waitress that we had come on foot and so we wondered if perhaps they had a room and we should stay for the night. But she came back, very kindly, with the rejoinder that they would of course take us back to Fonteno when we were ready to go. Damn!

So, we enjoyed deserts and desert wine in delightful peace and harmony. Reflecting how time has flown since our adventure began.
Back to the house with a frightening lift in the brother's car - and everyone here says that I drive like an Italian? I think not! And found everyone happy and well, of course. Read a bunch of Anne of Green Gables to Poppy - such a delight to have rediscovered it, and to get the chance to do an assortment of Canadian accents! And so to bed.

Fonteno, the view from the house of Lake Iseo. Wow!

What fun to have a hammock in the garden

The view of the lake from Riva di Solto

The swans love it here too

Happy Poppy

Happy Rosie

Happy Joe

Happy me

Happy Danny

And then my Mum arrived

And she was happy too

It's always such fun taking a boat across a lake!

The Italian lakes are sooooo beautiful

Here's the island, our target

Walking our way up to the monastery on the top of Monte Isola

We've made it to the top! The relief is palpable.

Walking down through the archway

Beautiful views from the boat - look at this amazing Pirate Castle Island

The scene from the car park in Fonteno - a car park with a view indeed!

More fun messing about with boats, even if they are ferries

Poppy doing a presentation to us on her chosen subject of Georgian fashion while we waited for the ferry. Beach school in action!

Beautiful Riva di Solto - we love you! Fabulous swimming with swans and ducks, and nobody else

Yes it's lovely being on a boat

Especially when the view is so lovely

And someone even took a photo of me to celebrate (it was Joe, he's a good boy)

Amazing trompe l'oeil in the tiny town of Pisogne which had the ferry stop, and a train station too! A throbbing metropolis no less.

Gorgous views

Kids. Amazing how well they get on with there are no other friends around!

See what I mean?

The pretty central squre in sleepy Fonteno

Yes we had a wonderful time at the Italian lakes. I didn't see George Clooney, but Joe was there, which is almost as good

I sure found plenty to smile about

Happy days

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

An experiment in glamping - Morgex camping du parc is molto buona!

And so, dear readers, I have to confess to you that I have never spent a night in a tent in my life. Well, I did sleep for a night in a teepee in my parent's garden in London, but apparently that doesn't count. That doesn't necessarily mean I have led an entirely uneventful life, although you may nevertheless judge so, but in my defence, I have slept a night on outside tables of Venetian cafes, passed nights in moored dinghies on lakeside beaches, and spent a night in makeshift sleeping bags on foreign beaches, and many many nights on foreign trains. But never have I spent a night in a tent. And why have I eschewed this particular coming of age ritual? Well, the reason is that the horrid plasticky feel of the outside, and so presumably inside, of a tent, is not something with which I have ever wished to become better acquainted. And also there's the having all your worldly goods strewn about the horrid plasticky feeling floor thing, because there is no furniture to put them onto. And the sleeping on the floor thing. And the sun streaming in at 5am jolting you into an unpleasant wakeful state thing. Whereupon you realise that your whole body is aching from the horrible sleeping on the floor thing. Let alone the presumably horrific nature of the communal showers and toilets. OK, so there are quite a lot of reasons why I have never been camping.

And yet - I find that I have booked self and family into a week of the thing. Ah but no! because I have booked us into a week of glamping, and surely that will be entirely different..? Will I find that I can see past, and hopefully not through, endless washing lines of other people's knickers about the place? Will I suddenly see the point of barbequed food? Will I delight in entrancing campfires glowing in the increasing cold, and children playing late into the night? Will I no longer care about being woken up at 5am by my crying children, or someone else's crying children, or just because of the sunlight streaming in? Will I be converted? Will I become a happy camper?

So, we arrived at Morgex, and were led to our yurt by the lovely team, who I later discover are three brothers, and I hold my breath when we are brought to what is to be my heaven, or hell, for the next 8 days, and find...

that it is yurt-tastic!

It is a beautifully constructed wooden thing, which Genghis Khan would have been proud of, with a sofa bed, which Joe immediately claims, bunk beds, claimed by the girls, a kitchenette, lighting, and how's this for a double bed:

The linen is fresh and clean, the beds are comfy, and, amazement of amazements, at night the yurt is cosy and warm, and wonderfully dark all night long, once the cover over the yurt roofhole is closed, meaning that everyone including the children sleeps late and long, and it is wonderfully silent - the only sound is the rushing of the nearby river.

Rosie gets up on the dining table in delight at her new surroundings


Meanwhile, camping du parc is wonderfully situated between two nearby very picturesque villages, each a short, pretty, walk through the woods away.


The way to Pre Saint Didier, with its famous posh spa, Terme, which I didn't get to visit, what with the whole family in tow thing..


But I don't mind because Poppy is clearly ready for adventure


And the sun has got his hat on, on Mont Blanc



In the other direction there's Morgex with horse riding for Poppy. Must be a great teacher because her first ever riding lesson and - look - no lead!


And for the smaller of us there's pony riding. Rosie had a lovely time on Caramel

And there's white water rafting for the boys


And a climbing boulder for everyone to have fun on




Then back at the parc there's zipwire fun all afternoon


Looking down on our yurt from another climbing rock


And if you look in the other direction.. it's Mont Blanc!


Life was also improved when I realised how to make a BBQ fun, rather than a late evening trail of ever-increasing cold and hunger. I suggested that the kids entirely on their own make a BBQ for lunch, on which they cook toast. Thus enabling the kids to have fun making a BBQ, us to have a change from bread and ham for lunch, to toast and ham, and, most especially, meaning that we didn't all have to wait around in the cold and increasing dark for an evening BBQ to light, and then eat a dinner that would be far nicer if it hadn't been barbecued. But I didn't put it like this of course.


And I even got a photo of me taken, just to prove I exist. I was beginning to doubt it somewhat.

OK I tell a lie, there were two photos of me. This was taken at the incredible Mont Blanc adventure park of zipwires. The ones behind us were just the easy peasy ones we did, not the super long crazy maniac ones we also did. Next time I'm going back to do the zipwire across the immense cavernous gorge, oh yes.


Back at the yurt relaxing on the comfy sofa



So, I declare glamping an unqualified success - Morgex camping du parc really has it all!