Thursday, May 19, 2022

Lake Como - Wedding Interlopers

It just so happened that our friend Eva Marie's daugher was getting married in Italy the week after our bicycle barge trip to Amsterdam.  We weren't invited to the wedding, mind you, but since we were already in Europe, we thought, "Why not hop on over to Italy and party with the wedding group?"

So we bought tickets on Easy Jet from Amsterdam to Milan.  We paid extra for a large cabin bag, a small cabin bag and priority boarding for each of us and the cost still came to less than $100 each!

Saturday

We got to the airport very early for our flight which was delayed, so we had lots of extra time.  Tony and BJ made it through security without incident. Our travel companions' bags were both searched but no contraband was found.

We were not allowed to go to the gate so we found some seats and settled in to wait for our flight.  We had plenty of time for a nap.  After the nap, there was time for some fun.  We decided to try our hand at rowing and kayaking on the moving sidewalk.



  

They finally announced that our flight was ready for boarding and notified us of the gate.  By the time we got there, a long line had already formed.  Another passenger told us that once we got downstairs, we would be allowed to join the priority boarding, but we could see out the window that they were already boarding the flight. It seems they were trying to make up time for the delay and just boarding willy-nilly.  This was fine, except that there was no place to put our cabin baggage near our seats.  We finally found a spot around row 20.  Our seats were in row 3.  So much for getting off of the plane quickly.

We were required to wear N95 equivalent masks on the plane and any other public transportation in Italy.


In the Milan airport, we found a ticket machine and purchased round trip train tickets to Como.  We had a little trouble figuring out which track we needed to be on, but managed to find a train going toward our connecting point of Saronno.  We sat on the train for awhile waiting for it to take off.  Rebecca noticed that someone had dropped a jacket getting off of the escalator.  She felt sure the person was on our train, so she ran out and grabbed it, but was unable to find the owner.  We left it on the train where it will now probably ride forever!

We boarded the connection train in Saronno and found seats together in the most amazingly hot train car we had ever experienced.  BJ left everyone with the luggage and went in search of seats in a cooler section.  She found one 3 cars away, so we all lugged our luggage through the train to get to the car.  It was well worth the walk!

We had booked different hotels from our travel companions.  We found our hotel, the Il Vecchio Borgo right next to the train station.  Chick and Rebecca waited with us while we checked in, then we went to their hotel, the Palace.  The Palace was a much nicer hotel, although it had a very tiny elevator which the four of us and luggage barely fit in.


We all freshened up from the train ride and set out to find dinner.  We didn't make it very far until we came upon Al Lungo Lago Ristorante Pizzeria with sidewalk seating next to the lake.


There was an adorable 6 week old puppy at the table next to us that had an accident under BJ's chair.  Everyone got a big laugh because it looked like BJ had the accident under her chair.


Momo our server, recommended a delicious local red wine which paired perfectly with our pizza.  Rebecca was the picture of sophistication as she tasted the wine.


After a few glasses, Momo decided we should try a different wine and he should serve it to Rebecca personally!  We ended up buying a bottle to take back to the room.
 


Momo served us limoncello after dinner as is customary at most restaurants in Italy.  We took the short walk back to the hotel after dinner and were in bed by 10PM, early by Italian standards, but we were tired after our day of travel.  We told Momo we would be back for dinner the following night.

It was rather a loud night.   The A/C in our room didn't work, so we had to leave the window open.  It cooled off nicely but there were lots of revelers on the sidewalk below our room.

Sunday

We had been asked to pre-order breakfast at the hotel when we checked in.  They had a rather disjointed selection of options. BJ had cappucino, a croissant and summer sausage.  Tony had some bread and summer sausage.  Chick and Rebecca said they had a very nice breakfast buffet at the Palace.  They also had good A/C in their room.  If we come back, we'll probably stay at the Palace Hotel.

Chick and Rebecca went in search of a laundromat while BJ and Tony explored the town. They were very pleased with themselves for being able to figure out how to use the Italian machines with no help from any English speakers!  Chick also got to wash the clean shirt he was wearing TO the laundromat when a bird pooped on his shoulder.


We walked to the main square where we passed a restaurant with a menu outside.  BJ asked Tony, "What is Pawca Kes?", thinking it was an Italian breakfast specialty.  


Tony explained that it says PANCAKES!  BJ got ribbed for that one. 

The Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is in the center of Como. 


The bells are loud and haunting and go on for a long time!


We met up with Chick and Rebecca at their hotel when they finished their laundry.  We found an interesting statue in front of their hotel to add to BJ's Posing Like Statues Album on Facebook.


We were just setting out to do some exploring when we got a message from the wedding group that they had landed and found that the trains were not running due to a strike!

We had stopped for another cappucino and maybe a glass of wine at the Funicolare Restaurant when we got another text that the wedding group had taken taxis and were waiting arriving at the hotel.  We waited with them until they got checked in and then went back to the Funicolare Restaurant to grab some lunch.


After lunch, the weary travelers headed back to the hotel for a nap.  Chick, Rebecca, BJ and Tony decided to take the Funiculore up to the top of the hill to get a nice view of Como.  We took our place in line to buy tickets.  While we waited, we watched a helicopter delivering building supplies to one of the hillside houses. 


We made it through the turnstile and waited outside the funicolare for the doors to open and let us on.  A few minues later, a man came out and made an announcement in Italian and people started to leave.  We didn't know what was going on, so Chick asked, "Does anyone here speak English?"  We finally got an explanation that the funicolare was closed (we think due to the helicoptor delivery service).  Chick and Tony stood in line to get our money back while Rebecca and BJ contemplated what to do with our afternoon.

There was a bicycle sharing station nearby and we considered biking around the lake but there was only one bike available and there were four of us, plus the boys nixed that plan anyway.

We went back to the Funicolare Restaurant and got a table upstairs.  It wasn't the top of the hill, but it had a nice view of the lake.  We ordered a (few) carafe(s) of their delicious (and cheap) house sparkling white wine.  It was such a lovely setting, we decided to make a reservation for the entire group for dinner.



We went back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner.  We remembered that we had told Momo the night before that we would have dinner at his restaurant, so we crossed over to the other side of the street so he wouldn't see us.

The rest of the wedding group, still tired from traveling drifted to dinner slowly, so we ate in shifts.  The restaurant was very accomodating.


After dark the lake lit up with sparkling lights everywhere.  It was enchanting.  We were even serenaded by a violinist playing Hallelujah on the sidewalk below.

On the way back to the hotel, we found a couple of the gang at Bar Lario.  We stopped for a night cap and stayed out until 11:30PM, a much more respectable time to turn in while in Italy!


Monday

We packed our luggage and left it behind the desk since we would be leaving for Laglio that afternoon.  The wedding group was originally planning to move to Laglio where the wedding would be held as well, but many had decided to stay in Como where there were more restaurants and entertainment options.  Our group had non-refundable hotel reservations so we would continue on our journey.

We visited with the group at breakfast and then went (you guessed it) back to our favorite spot, the Funicolare Restaurant.


At lunch, we decided that we would take a ferry to Urio which would be close to Laglio.  We sent Tony ahead to get the ferry tickets.  When we caught up with him, we found that the line for ferry tickets was extremely long.  We decided that Rebecca and BJ should stand in line while Tony and Chick went back to get our luggage.  It was really hot, so we used BJ's umbrella for shade.  There were vendors selling hats and masks, making sure everyone knew of the requirement for an N95 type mask.

An hour later, we were just getting to the ticket booth and the boys hadn't arrived with the luggage yet.  We decided they had stopped for a drink so Rebecca went looking for them (and a bathroom) with no luck.  Turns out they were back at the hotel enjoying some air conditioning while we sweated in the ticket line.

Once we got our tickets, we decided to hit the ATM again for some cash.  Chick and Rebecca tried their debit card for the umpteenth time with no success.  Not to worry, BJ and Tony to the rescue with their working debit cards!


We found the dock for the ferry and someone there told us there was a market nearby where we could buy wine.  Chick hurried away to get some wine and almost didn't make it back in time for the ferry.

We donned our masks and got on the ferry, but discovered that folks seated outside were not wearing their masks, so we found seats on the back of the boat.


We made several stops at pretty little towns along the lake, San Bartolomeo, Cernobbio, Torno and Moltrasio before arriving at Carate Urio.

 
 

It was a .7 mile walk from the ferry stop to our hotel, the Hotel Ristorante Fioroni which, as it turned out was not actually in Laglio as we thought but was in Carate Urio.


When we arrived, we were greeted by the 80 year old very animated Giuseppe.  He was very happy to welcome us to the hotel and found the Morris reservation immediately.  Then he discovered that he had no reservation for Chick and Rebecca!  Oh dear!  Their reservation was actually at the hotel by the same name in Bellagio!


Giuseppe said he has seen this problem many times and he would try to help resolve it.  He called the other hotel and spoke angrily in Italian.  Of course we couldn't understand what he was saying, but at the end of the conversation, he said the other hotel would not refund the reservation.

After the phone call, Giuseppe went to the piano and started to play.  He said he had to calm himself down after the phone conversation.


Giuseppe said that he did have a room available but it was not a room they regularly rent, so he wanted to show it to Chick and Rebecca before renting it to them.  He took them up to the top floor of the hotel and showed them a huge room with both a queen sized bed and a futon as well as a window that opened onto the rooftop.  He told them that it was the room where he and his wife first had "Boom Boom"!



Chick and Rebecca decided they would take the room and we all got checked in.  BJ and Tony's room had both a queen sized bed and Murphy bunk beds and a small balcony overlooking the courtyard.


We walked up the street to Caffetteria Aurora.  Rebecca asked them to make us a charcuterie tray.  It was not on their menu but they happily obliged!


About halfway up the hill behind Caffetteria Aurora we found the Botega Del Gusto mini-market where we bought some wine and cheese, and of course, Coke Light for Tony, the addict.

 
There were lots of steps leading up the hill. 

 

We carried our purchases back down to the hotel.


We were just going to sit down and have a glass of wine at one of the inviting tables overlooking the lake but Giuseppe insisted that we have dinner.


We asked about the menu, but Giuseppe said that he WAS the menu and proceded to recite everything they had. The meal was delicous.  Giuseppe would not let us leave the table without having tiramisu.  Yum!



Tuesday

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast buffet of meat, cheeses, eggs, yoghurt and cereals.  BJ went exploring while Tony, Chick and Rebecca relaxed at the hotel.



It didn't take long to get winded from climbing all of those steps so BJ sat down and took a break with a very friendly cat.


There was no shortage of cats in the hills above Carate Urio.


The view of the lake from high on the hill was beautiful with all of the terracotta roofs and the bell tower. BJ could see the courtyard next to the hotel so she texted Tony, Chick and Rebecca and asked them to come out for a photo.  If you squint, you can see them behind the statue next to the railing in the courtyard.



Tony took a picture of BJ from below.  She's under the green striped awning about halfway up the hill.



BJ wound her way back down the hill, trying to use Google Maps to find a restaurant we were considering for dinner but it was hopeless.  The maps application didn't do very well with all of the varying altitudes.  It was a pretty walk anyway.



Chick and Rebecca had walked back to the ferry dock and found the Mellesimo Enoteca wine bar.  BJ and Tony joined them there.


We hiked back up the hill and found the restaurant BJ had been looking for but it was not open.  There was a beautiful view from the patio.


Back at the hotel, Tony grabbed his kindle and sat outside to read.  BJ went upstairs to relax and recharge (her phone) for a few minutes when she heard a familiar voice talking to Tony.  It was Susan from the wedding group.  She had walked over from the wedding venue in Laglio.


BJ and Rebecca were planning to walk to Laglio that afternoon to see the wedding venue so they walked back with Susan.

They passed what appeared to be a funicular to a private home.


It was just over a mile and a half to the wedding venue.  The streets were very narrow and several times, we plastered ourselves against a wall or ducked into a crevice to avoid getting hit.  It was a hot walk, but there was lots to see, even a Posing Like Statues opportunity!


When we got to the Villa Regena Teodolinda where the wedding would be held, they were busy setting everything up.


We found Eva Marie who had just finished having her hair and makeup done.  She looked beautiful!  She showed us around the property.  It is a very old majestic place with a private dock where the bride and groom would arrive for the ceremony.


On the walk back to Urio Carate we stopped at Da Luciano for a glass of prosecco.



When we got back to the hotel, we found Tony, still reading his kindle at an outside table.  We played cards for the rest of the afternoon until it was time for dinner.  Giuseppe was happy to set our table outside.  


We actually found the menu on the wall this time so we weren't reliant on Giuseppe to recite it.


Rebecca ordered the marinated baby fish from the lake which wasn't her wisest meal choice of the trip.  
BJ had the grilled trout and the boys both had pasta dishes.


Wednesday

After breakfast, Tony got the bus schedule from Giuseppe's daughter and found the nearby shop to buy our bus tickets.

We said our goodbyes to Giuseppe and headed for the bus stop in front of the busy Caffetteria Aurora.  The bus was nearly a half hour late but we were in no hurry.  The bus had a difficult time navigating the narrow roads, avoiding cars and bicycles.  Once a car had to back up almost a quarter of a mile to let the bus get past. 



Back in Como, we had time for lunch before catching the train back to Milan.  We stopped at La Trattoria Di Coppola and shared a most delicous seafood salad.


We couldn't leave Como without one more stop at our favorite place, the Funicolare Ristorante. We said goodbye to our servers.



We got a little confused when we got to the train station.  We got on what we thought was the right train, but then Tony decided we were on the wrong train so we jumped off at the last minute.  I went to the station and asked which train we should be on and the agent said the one we had just gotten off of.  We hurried back over to get on but the doors were closed.  We banged on the doors and miraculously they opened!  We had time for a quick nap before we got to our connecting station of Saronno.


In Saronno, we found a restroom and an agent to tell us which train to take to the Milan airport.  When we got to the airport, Chick called the Hilton Garden Inn and asked where they would pick us up.  The hotel was further from the airport than we expected.

We took our required BinaxNOW proctored COVID test (that we had brought with us) in the room.  A negative result would allow us to travel back to the United States the following day.  We all tested  negative thank goodness.  BJ was able to upload her results to the Delta Fly Ready site but Tony, Chick and Rebecca all had issues getting their tests approved. 

We were comparing notes on our flight home and discovered that Chick and Rebecca had been reaccomodated on a later flight than BJ and Tony.  They were able to get their flights changed back to the earlier flight but would not be seated together.

We had a dinner of french fries and salad in the hotel lounge and headed off to bed.

Thursday

The complimentary hotel shuttle didn't start running until 7:30AM which made our nervous travelers uncomfortable so we requested an earlier shuttle and were charged 20 Euro.

When we got to the airport, the check in desk was not open yet so we found a place to wait near a power outlet where BJ could keep her phone charged.  Rebecca noted on Facebook that even though these pictures don't show it, we are all still speaking to each other after our long trip together.


We had time to stop at the Priority Club lounge for some breakfast before heading to our gate.  We were happy to be heading home!


Rebecca had checked her bag, not realizing that she would need to claim it in New York, so it took her a little longer to get through Passport Control.  It was a long walk from Passport Control to the gate area for our Jacksonville flight.  The Sky Club conveniently overlooked the gate so we could wait until boarding started to go to the gate.

The JFKJAX flight was aboard an Embraer 175.  In laymans terms, that means small overhead bins!  As BJ was lifting her way-overstuffed bag into the overhead, the flight attendant commented that it would never fit, but the man behind helped stuff it in!  We almost couldn't get it out when we got to Jacksonville though.

Tony and BJ got off of the flight in Jacksonville and waited until the entire plane had emptied before Chick and Rebecca came out of the jetway.  It turned out that Rebecca and another man had identical bags.  She had gotten off with his and they wouldn't let her back on the plane to get hers until everyone else had gotten off.

Rebecca's daughter Allison picked us up from the airport and drove us home.  Lucy was waiting on the Juliette balcony and seemed none too happy that we had left her for so long!


Our pet sitter Lindsey took good care of her and Lola though.  Lucy had even had a bath!

Lola also did not want us to leave again.  As BJ was doing laundry, Lola laid on top of it to make sure we were not packing to leave again!


BJ's Eagle Creek Cross Roads 22 Travel bag that she purchased in 2009 had 2 "flat tires" on the trip. She's sending it back for its 2nd set of wheels under the  Lifetime Warranty and hoping to get it back in time for the next trip.




It was a great trip, maybe a little longer than we should have planned for our first post-COVID travel out of the country.  We usually like four or five day trips, seven at the most.  This one was THIRTEEN! Being with great friends made it all okay though!

If you missed the first half of this trip, you can find it here:  https://bjstravels.blogspot.com/2022/05/top-of-amsterdam-bike-barge-tour-also.html

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