Lake Como: 10th - 14th May 2009
Like so many of our choices during this trip, we're here to test the hype. Lake Como was reputed to be romantic, idyllic, perfect...how could we resist?
Our first mistake was not organizing with George Clooney to stay at his place. According to the residents, he got it right: his own villa overlooking the lake with several adjacent villas for guests.
Instead, we found a 3(ish) star hotel for a few days.
Now, I'll stop here and confess that, back in the days when Raymes and I were choosing between 4 stars and 5 stars, there wasn't much to laugh about: Kelvin at the Four Seasons in Langkawi got my g&t's just right (NB: not too much tonic is the secret); and Nunu, our driver in Lisbon, was so perfect that Rayma and I had separation anxiety when our rental car was ready; not to mention the staff at the Ritz Berlin who secured B-52's tickets so I could relive all my 80's dreams in a castle on the (pre-1989) wrong side of Checkpoint Charlie. Not really blog-worthy stuff.
But, given our current budget, we are now choosing between
2 and 3 stars which happily for you, dear reader, gives me plenty to write about...but it's a little too easy, isn't it? Does it truly enlighten the blogosphere to know that our Lake Como hotel breakfast buffet caused some kind of Slaughterhouse 5-esque temporal dislocation, magically transporting us to the “day room” of the Sunset Acres Assisted Living Community? Slagging off a hotel that caters to price sensitive senior tour groups doesn't give the appropriate credit to the staff (who were pretty good) nor the beautiful view from the room, and the fact that we got the room at the end of the hall resulting in exactly 18 square feet of more space (since our room didn't have to give up the hallways space behind all the other rooms) which was a 30% increase over the average room size.
But, the point is to get out to the Lake. And out there we were each day, tromping over the hills, enjoying the views of the lake from the west side one day, and the Bellagio the next. Our best hike was on our last day, from the top of the funicular railway above Como and on to about
midway between Como and Bellagio. We walked for approximately 6 hours, looking forward to a well deserved dinner in Bellagio. But, here we again suffered the inevitable culture clash between Americans and Italians (and the French...sorry).
The problem with being American is that we believe that having money, and being at a point of sale that is presently staffed by a person (usually the proprietor) thereby results in a transaction of goods and services. For example, let's say you are on the road and you stop by a restaurant at 2:30pm for lunch. In America, you get lunch. In Italy, you get a proprietor with a blank stare stating that all-too-repeated phrase: “e chiuso!” That's Italian for “fuggetaboutit...kitchen closes at 2.”
Hong Kong didn't really prepare us for Europe. Going from 24x7 America to 25x8 Hong Kong left expectations far too high.
Back to our walk. Lovely walk. Fresh air, beechwood forests, magical views. We arrived at the appointed finish in good spirits, tired, but bouyed by the satisfaction of knowing that we achieved another day of fitness and healthy eating. But, alas, the last bus had left at 4:43pm, and it was nearly 7pm. Suddenly, again
as if we were a pair of Kurt Vonnegut's characters, we were no longer walking toward Nesso, but instead toward Bataan...and with all the mirth thereto appertaining. Our remaining orange did little to blunt the effect. Needless to say, when we arrived at our destination, Spaghetti Carbonara, Veal Milanese (that's right: veal) with fries, an extra serving of fries just to be sure, prosecco and beer were now deemed healthy...more from a mental perspective than physical.
On that note, let me also point out that the food in the Lake Como area was some of the best we'd had anywhere in Italy. Really fresh and yummy, and much more selection that pasta or pizza. And when we did have pasta and pizza, the sauces were exceptionally good.
In summary, Lake Como was indeed romantic, idyllic and perfect...and only mildly complicated by the fact that we remained Doug and Rayma within a setting that was non-American, non-Asian, non-4 star, non-5 star, without Nunu, Kelvin, and most of all, without our yet-to-be-friend George Clooney to help us manage the situation.
I highly recommend it.
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