Published: August 12th 2012August 4th 2012
Would love to collect a heap and make a juice. Very tasty.
After our first train had no aircon or working toilets, we were feeling pretty unpleasant. Things improved along the way though, and the views over the lakes in the Alps were stunning. We were pleasantly surprised to have our host (Erika) meet us on the platform in Lugano. She drove us up the hill back to her house where we met another surfer who was staying there at the same time (Shawn from Singapore). After our experience in Costa Brava, we were a bit worried when Erika apologised that the room we would be in was a bit crowded with her son's stuff. Not to worry though - the room was large and had plenty of space. After the much needed shower, we came out for some dinner. And OH what a dinner! Erika is a bit like the classic Italian mother - she does her best to cram you full of food at every meal. Thinly sliced raw zucchini with olives, capers, rocket, olive oil, and parmesan. And that was just the entree! Every time your plate or glass got nearly empty, Erika started refilling it! So much food!
The next morning, we awoke to the sound of the
Taken from Castello di Sasso Corbaro
breakfast table being prepared. We went up to help, but Erika doesn't like others getting in her kitchen! She then served up a huge breakfast of toast and homemade jam, cake, and multiple mugs of freshly brewed Italian coffee. Erika had to take her car in to get it tested for road worthiness (important since she drives like a rally driver!) and afterwards we went to check out some of the local castles in Bellinzona. We found a lot of elderberry trees that were covered in ripe fruit. Nothing tastes as good as warm, freshly picked berries! After a bit of sightseeing (and shopping in Aldi) we went home for a HUGE lunch (seeing a pattern here?). Nena was looking forwards to some food, as she was feeling jittery from too many coffees. After lunch we all went into the main town to have a look around (and so Shawn could catch the train to his next destination). Chris found a bike rental place and learnt that tomorrow was a public holiday (Swiss national day) so if he was going to get a bike, he should get it now. No worries! There were only two bikes left and one was
Castello di Sasso Corbaro
pretty average. The other one was a nice dualie (Koga brand) with XT components. It was a bit large, but was definitely the better bike so he grabbed it and rode it home. Nena got a lift home with Erika, and we sat down for another ... you guessed it ... HUGE meal. We were pretty well eating twice as much as we normally would! But it was so tasty, and Erika so convincing that we could hardly say no.. could we? Chris was enjoying using the phrase "Basta! Sono molto pieno" a lot (Stop! I'm too full!), which Erika found amusing as she kept piling food and wine into us.
The next morning (after the predictable massive breakfast), Chris went for his ride while Nena went for a wander around town. The ride was amazing covering a wide variety of terrain and vegetation. Some cute little towns, beautiful forests, little houses converted into cafes for hikers and riders, and high vantage points on completely denuded mountains with cow bells clanging in the background. It was also extremely hard riding - with over 1700m of climbing and maybe 60km of total distance. Some of the descents were extremely sketchy
Down on the lawn you can see them getting the fireworks ready for the national day celebrations.
with a lot of loose rocks (a lot like back in Tassie really), but Chris managed to only fall off once. At the bottom of one of the descents, Chris stopped for some water and could hear the tinking noise of the metal disc brakes cooling down. Always a good sign! On the topic of signs, Chris also came across a sign up on one of the mountains advising people to not pick up unexploded bombs. erm... never seen a sign like that when mountain biking before!
Nena found that Lugano was pretty quiet on a public holiday with most shops (but not the cafes and restaurants). This was dissapointing as she was hoping to pick up a Gucci or Prada handbag. She walked around the edge of the lake (not the whole way around - it's massive), sat under some trees and watched the world go by, before being picked up by Erika and driven home. Chris finally got in at around 7:30pm (having been riding since 10am) and after a shower was greeted by another HUGE meal. Unfortunately Chris's tummy had gone into race mode in which only small bits of food can be eaten (even though
Two birds fell out of the tree. The mother bird started feeding them on the ground. We put them back in the nest. The mother bird couldn't find them. So we put the nest with the birds down on the ground. It worked for a few days...
he knew he needed a lot more), so Nena helped out by eating his share. It was a bit of a shame as it was a delicious pasta with ricotta, olive oil, chilli and freshly grated parmesan. Perfect post ride food! The meal was followed by some yummy home made gelato. After the meal, we all went back into Lugano to the roof of an apartment building to watch the fireworks celebration of the Swiss national day. In Switzerland, anyone can buy fireworks, so while there was the main official fireworks going on, there were some going off all over the city - up in the mountains, behind the lake, from various hotels and so on. There was also a full moon reflected in the lake. It was a beautiful view from up on the apartment, and we consider ourselves pretty lucky to have been with such a good host!
After the obligatory huge breakfast, we went back into the town so Chris could drop off the rental bike and we could both take a look at some of the shops and sights. We were considering checking out the chocolate museum, but it was in the next town along
and train transport is extremely expensive in Switzerland ($14 return and it was very close). In fact, everything is expensive in Switzerland. It's quite amazing to see items that you saw the day before at triple the price here! Erika told us that a lot of locals drive into Italy to do the shopping (it's quite close) every week or two. We bought some ingredients from the supermarket and sat by the lake to eat a sandwich or two. It was a beautiful day and it was nice to just chill under a tree, feed the (millions of) sparrows, and watch the lake. We dozed for a bit and then deicded to go looking for some gelato. Again the prices were ridiculous and the range and quality didn't look too good after being in Italy, so we didn't bother in the end. Nena had been chatting to Erika about restless legs and cramps so we finally found some decent magnesium in a shop and took that home for her was a gift. Of course Erika prepared another huge meal with a delicious omelette kinda thing, a grated potato, onion, garlic, rosemary and salt friend cake (sooo good), a salad, and
Looking pretty beautiful
topped it off with some amazing home made gelato with a honey, chilli and rum sauce on top. So gad we didn't bother with gelato in town! I think we may have to get a gelato machine once we are back in Australia! Erika is heading to Australia in January, so after dinner we chatted for a while about places to go in Australia and how to travel.
In the morning, we were fed another massive breakfast, and then given a lift down to the station to catch a (very expensive) train to Zurich airport. Strangely enough the train was running late (very unusual for the Swiss), but we had allowed plenty of time, so no problems there.
While we didn't have any access to scales while we were in Lugano, we did notice that our clothes had become noticeable tighter while there thanks to Erika's amazing cooking and generous personality. Hopefully she finds some terrific hosts while travelling in Australia!
There are more photos below