A Travellerspoint blog

Day 11

Stresa to Venice

Day 11 Saturday 2nd October 2010
Done Deeds:-

Drive from Stresa to Venice. Used back roads, drove around outskirts of Milan and observed the roadside prostitutes marketing their wares. Stopped off in Sirmione to view the Roman ruins on Lake Garda. Stayed in Villa Vicinni in Preganzol near Venice.

Chatter – he says
After the strange behaviour of the GPS the night before, we still trusted it to get us across to Venice. We were rewarded fortunately.
Our trip took us out of scenic Stresa and into the flat and misty landscape south of Milan. The area around Milan is quite industrial and in stark contrast to what we had been experiencing up to that point.

As we drove around the semi rural area, I noted a girl on the side of the road beautifully attired from the naval up. Nothing but shoes from the naval down. I commented to Jenny, who suggested she was probably wearing a tight pair of trousers. Unconvinced, I knew what I saw, and there was definitely only shoes below the naval. Further along we spotted another, then another. The trip took on a new interest for us, which Jenny has kindly offered to elaborate on.

On the way from Milan to Venice, we stopped off at Lake Garda to view the Roman ruins there. The place is very popular with tourists, and there are huge parking lots for buses and private vehicles.

The ruins are on the end of a peninsula which juts out into the lake. The entrance to the peninsula is guarded by a mediaeval castle and moat, which is impressive to look at. However as it was crowded we did not go in. We ate our lunch on the wharf and watched all the tourist boats come and go.
The ruins are those of a large Roman villa, measuring about the size of a football field. The villa’s main frontage would have been a very impressive 3 storeyed, pillared balcony structure looking out over the peninsula headland. A lot of the vertical parts of the structure are still standing, though all the floors have long collapsed. Photo shoots at every turn.

We headed on to Venice using the motorways, not the tollways. The roads were not crowded, but I did experience being overtaken by 3 large motorbikes, travelling at speeds probably up to 3 times what I was doing, and I had 3 digits showing on my speedo.

As the sun was setting behind me, I could see a large red ball in the rear vision mirror. The haze was so bad that it was possible to look at the sun with the naked eye (through the mirror). As we approached the outskirts of Venice, the traffic thickened and slowed to a crawl. It took us about 45mins to do the last 10km to our accommodation.

On reaching our hotel, the entrance was off a side street. The grounds were palatial, and there was a huge turnaround in front of the doors, and adorned with typical venetian sculptures and rose gardens. Unfortunately you could not use the turnaround – it was there for looks, not practical purposes. We lugged our bags across the pebbled turnaround and were greeted by a cheery chap who as it turned out was an employee of Air France helping a friend out in Venice. He was French and spoke excellent English. “For you I have a room overlooking the gardens, or if you prefer I can arrange for you to have the room overlooking the main road – which would you prefer this evening?”

After dropping our bags off we thought we would go out for a quick meal. There was nothing around our hotel so we went down the road to Moglione. We walked everywhere and decided there was only one place open that served meals of the sort we wanted. It was crowded and waiters were racing everywhere amongst the drinking patrons, delivering pizzas and drinks to those at the tables. As we looked for somewhere to sit, we met up with Helen, another member of our group who had just that evening also arrived in Venice. Our early evening for planning our Venice trip did not eventuate, and it was after 11 that we returned to our hotel room overlooking the garden.

Posted by k-jturner 09:48 Comments (0)

Day 10

GPS Stress in Stressa

Day 10 Friday 1st October 2010
Done Deeds:-

Restful days in Stresa. Purchased Vodafone Simcard, plug adaptor for kettle, Watched loading of offshore powerboating boats into Lake Maggiore (Formula 1 boats). Went out for evening meal with Maura and Gavin, Paul misbehaved on the way home.

Chatter – he says
Our room at the Brisino hotel had two balconies on adjacent walls giving a fabulous view over Lake Maggiore. The hotel is on a hill above the lake, and our panorama spread from one end of the lake to the other. Mid morning we went out for a sightsee and to do some shopping. The town was hopping not only with tourists, but also those who had come to participate or view the offshore power boat racing on Lake Maggiore. Many streets were closed off, as the huge transporters that carried the power boats needed space in which to manoeuvre, and park. On the foreshore, 2 large cranes were parked to lift the boats from their transporters to the water. Some of the boats had support crews of 20 or more. The boats we saw had Arabian names and money appeared to be no problem to them.

Once finished, eating our bread and cheese buns on the foreshore and watching this spectacle, we headed off to find a simcard. Nowhere in Stressa was there a shop that looked like selling anything practical. We were advised to head out to the next town about 15km away, which we did. It took some time to negotiate the few remaining streets that were still open.

We found the Vodafone shop and waited until 3pm when the lunchbreak was over, and purchased a simcard, loaded with time to get us through the rest of the holiday. WE also managed to buy an adaptor so that we could use our French kettle in Italy. The French had to be difficult to the end.
That evening we arranged with Maura and Gavin to eat out. The restaurant was full of offshore power boaters and their supporters. After the meal we thought we would show off how good our GPS was, even though we knew the way back. Paul misbehaved.

Paul’s positive instructions took us a different route, but with full confidence we followed these up very narrow streets, that eventually were so narrow that the mirrors were shaving the vertical stone walls either side of the car. Eventually we arrived at a sign that said private property. We had to go on into the private property to turn around, but the wet cobblestone surface did not offer the best traction. Eventually we cleared the private gates and after being lead up the garden path, found a place to turn around (about a 5 point turn from memory).

We headed back down the road and tried again to follow instructions again. We were sent the same route, so in resignation at this failure, we decided to go the way we knew. As we headed up to the hotel, there was an accident that closed the road. No way through for at least an hour. We had 2 choices – head back to the carpark near the Vodafone shop 15km in one direction, or head an equivalent distance in the other direction and trust Paul to get us home. We went the way we knew via the Vodafone shop.

Chatter - she will say

Posted by k-jturner 09:03 Comments (0)

Day 1

Wellington to Korea

Day 1 Wednesday 22nd September 2010
Done Deeds:-
Depart Wellington 6-30am for Auckland
Depart Auckland 9-30am for Seoul – flight duration 11.5hrs
Overnight in Seoul at Hyatt Incheon
Chatter – he says
11.5hrs is a long flight. Nothing could have prepared me for such a long slog. Despite this the service on the Korean Airlines flight was excellent with timely food and drink top-ups. The in-flight food was a mixture of Korean and western. The earlier meals were Korean, comprising seaweed soup and other such delicacies which I suspect all help to keep the Korean nation free of obesity.
On the previous evening we had celebrated Claire’s 21st. That evening’s Italian food and champagne, followed by 4 hours of broken sleep then Korean delicacies in flight the next day I must say, tested my cast iron constitution just a little.
The only visible land on the flight was over Papua New Guinea. All views were otherwise of cloud and ocean.
To relieve the monotony of the flight, we were handed customs and immigration forms to fill in. I could see that risk assurance had been involved in the development of these documents. I took things seriously and checked in my cabin baggage to ensure that I indeed did not bring with me any tigers, crocodiles, cobras, emus, asses, etc, and that there were no bundles of USD10,000 or more lurking therein. The latter in my case is not just a rare species, but an extinct one. I don’t think Jenny took the matter so seriously because I noticed that she didn’t check her bags.
Incheon airport is a huge, modern and very efficient airport on an island just off the mainland. It handles large volumes yet nowhere did we wait more than a few minutes to be attended to. I was surprised however that we disembarked to the tarmac and were transported to the terminal by bus. Our instructions through customs and immigration, were clear and once at the designated desk we were branded with stickers, and escorted to the bus that took us to the Hyatt.
Suffice to say we were tired. After more food, we showered and hit the sack.
Accommodation Seoul

Accommodation Seoul


Accommodation Seoul

Accommodation Seoul


Chatter – she says
Jenny will comment late

Posted by k-jturner 12:32 Comments (2)

Day 9

Switzerland, Jungfrau and into Italy

Day 9 Thursday 30th September 2010
Done Deeds:-

Took 7-30am rack rail through the Eiger to Jungfrau. Drove to Stresa in the afternoon to meet up with 2 of our group. Stayed at the hotel Brisino on Lake Maggiore.

Chatter – he says
Once again we started the day early. The first train up Jungfrau left the Grindalwald station at 7:25am. Not only was this cheaper than other trains later in the day, but it was also necessary to give us time in the afternoon to drive to Stresa in Italy. The hotel prepared a breakfast for us the night before, and allowed us to settle our accommodation bill on our return from the Jungfrau excursion. We left the car parked at the hotel, rather than taking it to the station and running the risk of having it broken into. More importantly the parking was free.
The rack rail train climbed steadily upwards under the shadow of the Eiger to the middle station. Along the route the train passed through tunnels, and under the avalanche chutes which sit on the side of the cliffs like some sort of front porch that has yet to be glassed in. There are 2 trains to the middle station – ours from Grindalwald, and another from Interlarken. At the middle station all passengers alight to another train for the final push to Jungfrau Joch. Much of this leg spirals in tunnels through the Eiger, emerging at the station within Jungfrau Joch.
The complex at Jungfrau Joch is one to be marvelled at. This huge hunk of rock is riddled with passageways, lifts, observation decks at all sorts of seemingly inaccessible vantage points, an ice palace comprising a series of tunnels snaking into the upper reaches of the glacier, observation decks, restaurants and other touristy type shops, and of course access out onto the snow. The day was a little cloudy, but when the skirts lifted we did get a view of Jungfrau itself. The 3 peaks, Eiger, Jungfrau and Moench were all visible at various stages of the day. Once again the altitude of near 4000m affected our stair climbing ability. Jenny’s cold was building while mine was receding so we were good company together as climbing buddies.
Once out on the snow I tried to use the solace and remoteness of the glacier to catch up on some correspondence, which by now was the best part of a week or more behind. The light was too bright so I gave up and checked the GPS. I knew we were in the right place, because the GPS showed nothing on the screen except the little pointer, and a message to turn left in 6.2km.
For photography in this light, a view finder (which I don’t have) would be helpful. The screen on the digital camera is useless in the harsh light, so aim shoot and hope is as good as you can ask for without a viewfinder.
The temperature was around minus 5 degrees Celsius, and I suspect it was even colder in the Ice Palace. Outside and out of the breeze it was very pleasant in the sun, and by the time we were about to leave we could see clouds starting to roll in over the ridge. We had been treated to the best part of a stunning day.
Once back in the valley, we set our course for Italy. Not the straightforward course, but one which took us over St Gotthard’s Pass. To get to this we first crossed Sud Passe. This road wound its way up into the mist, and in the upper reaches, road crews were clearing small avalanches of snow using hi-abs with snatch buckets, then snow blowers to clear the road once the snatch work was completed. We moved quickly to ensure we were off the road before it froze over. The outside air temperature, according to Victor the Renault, was closing in on zero.
The passes zigzag endlessly. Many of the turns are so tight Paul thought we had reversed our direction of travel, and commanded that we turn around when safe to do so. The poor chap was confused, so we ignored him until he got his act together.
St Gotthard’s Pass follows the Sud Passe. At this site there is a famous bridge (teufelsbruecke) where a battle raged between Napoleon and the Russians. What these armies were doing battling on Swiss turf is beyond me. Perhaps they were both lost and their early GPS equivalents were equally confused. Who can understand the minds of warmongerers?
The old bridges and parts of the old roads still exist and their graceful arches are framed by the graceful arches of the modern bridges. When I get time to work out how to load the photos into the blog, I will put some up.
Our drive into Italy on the motorways was quick and efficient. We found our way easily into Stresa, stopped and put the hotel address into Paul, and followed his authoritative instructions to the hotel. The carpark where we stopped was going to prove to be a place we visited a further 3 or 4 times in the coming days where we could sort out a confused Paul and get back (via drivable routes) to our hotel.
At the hotel, we met up with Gavin and Maura, 2 more of our party of 9 that we would meet up with in Italy. The evening meal was good, the hotel everything we expected of the Italian Lakes District and a great place for both of us to catch up on rest in our enduring battles with our Parisian colds.

Chatter – she will say

Posted by k-jturner 02:46 Comments (0)

Day 8

La Thuille to Grindalwald

Day 8 Wednesday 29th September 2010
Done Deeds:-
Depart La Thuille for Grindalwald. Visited some Landi shops (equivalent of PGG Wrightsons) on the way for some agricultural retail therapy. Lunched picnic style on the edge of someone’s farm down a side road, lying in the sun watching the world go by.
Chatter – he says
We programmed Paul to avoid tollways and get us to Grindalwald by all the otherwise quickest route. The countryside all the way changing from French to Swiss, Charolais farms succumbing to lots of little Heidi-heidi type buildings. Stayed in Glacier Hotel at Grindalwald.
As we passed from France to Switzerland, we drove through the unmanned border control. Such a huge complex pretty much now redundant for tourists, though truckies need to fill out declarations. Switzerland is not part of the EU.

Once in Switzerland we found a Landi shop as Jenny wished to buy a real McCoy Swiss cow bell. We managed to resurrect enough of our German to communicate with the shop assistant. Unfortunately Jenny asked for a bell for a cake, (kuche) rather than a bell for a cow (kuh). We sorted that one out, but that shop didn’t have one the size we wanted, so the assistant kindly rang the next shop down the road. We were given directions to it, which was only 5km away. We understood and followed these directions, and at the next shop the assistant was expecting us. After more broken German, we successfully purchased what we wanted. It surprised us that the shops were in such close proximity. A similar situation in Wellington would see one shop in Porirua, 20km from our farm, and the next one up at Masterton or Levin, not 5kms down the road.
We had not booked accommodation in Grindalwald, and expected that there would be plenty available. We were wrong. There was accommodation, but most would only permit a 3 night stay. We paid dearly for someone to give us one night’s accommodation (I think the equivalent of about NZD$360 which included breakfast).
That evening we went out for a meal of schnitzel – we know the Swiss cook this to perfection, and we were not disappointed. We also noted that the Swiss used wireless credit card units to facilitate paying for the meal at the table. This was far ahead of our experiences elsewhere in Europe (so far).

And still the battle raged between my Paris cold and the Annecy Sudafed. I was innocent collateral in this matter.

Chatter – she will say

Posted by k-jturner 02:15 Comments (0)

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