Project Complete

For more than a year I’ve been promising my wife that I would build her a proper compost bin. After several days of planning and construction, it is finished!!!

After finishing the construction, I screened all the compost we had before construction.

Homeward Bound

We woke up in Milano this morning at 5:00.

We took a private car from the hotel to the airport. His credit card machine wouldn’t work, so we had to stop at two ATM’s before I could get Euros to pay him.

We arrived at our gate, B2, by 8:30. We had a good 2 hours to wait before our flight begins boarding.

We landed in Atlanta at 3:25pm. We have been traveling for nearly 15 and a half hours. We left the hotel in Milan at 6:00am CEDT.

We cleared Customs and Immigration in less than 10 minutes. Thank you Global Entry.

Viaggiamo a Milano

I woke up early this morning because I was hot. The house we rented in Varenna does not have air conditioning. While laying in bed, all I could think about was why didn’t I let Albert sleep in the room with the bunk beds. It was not a big deal. He asked about it while we were orientating to the house, but our hostess suggested the bedroom he slept in and I didn’t think it was a big deal. So why am I laying in bed, wondering why I didn’t let him sleep in the bunk beds? He never mentioned it again. I don’t think he has ever slept in bunk beds before. I’m sure he would have found it fun. I regret that I didn’t tune in or that it didn’t occur to me until the last day here. I brought him all the way to Italy to have new experiences and I may have missed letting him have the simple experience of sleeping in a bunk bed. Parenting is always fun.

We left the house about 9:10. Since we were early, we went to the restaurant at the train station and ate a second breakfast. Well Shari and Albert did, I just had coffee. The train arrived a little later than scheduled. The cars were already mostly full. Shari, Albert and I were not able to sit together.

Once we arrived at Milan-Centrale train station we easily maneuvered thought the station to the Metro station. We maneuvered the Metro and got off at the Duomo station. I had a little trouble navigating with Google maps once we were out of the Metro station. We found a shady spot to figure things out and were quickly on our way.

We register at the hotel, but our room was not ready, so we checked the luggage and went out to explore and get some lunch. After lunch we walked by the Duomo to see what all the particulars were about tickets and waiting in line. We were concerned if the shorts that Albert and I were wearing and the skort that Shari was wearing would be allowed in. Shari approached and attendant who said our dress was fine and encouraged us to go to the normal ticket counter, not the Skip the Line ticket counter. So We walked across the street where we purchased three tickets and three audio guides.

We walked back across the street to get to the entrance and wait in line. As we entered the line we walked past an attendant who said we were in the wrong line. He directed us to the “skip the line”, line. We can only guess it was because he saw Albert with us that he moved us. That was a blessing because it save us 30 minutes of standing in the hot sun waiting to get in.

We walked around the Duomo for an hour listening to the audio tour. The interior is amazing with 52 sequoia size columns. After finishing the interior tour. We took the elevator to the terraces (roof). We had to go through security again and the guard kept Albert’s Guy Fawkes mask. He told us we could pick it up after we finished. The terraces are very interesting. The details that are carved into the marble is amazing. We walked all the way up to the very top of the Duomo. It was an awesome experience.

After riding the elevator back down, we stopped by the security check point and retrieved Albert’s Guy Fawkes mask and the walked over to the ticket office to return the audio guides and retrieve my passport.

We walked to the hotel and finally check into our room. It was after 6:00 when we entered the cool comfort of the room. We “chilled” in the room for a while and then decided to go get a gelato. We walked over the the Galleria Victor Emanuel and found a gelatoria. Afterward we strolled around and went outside where the Leonardo Da Vinci statue is. We sat on a bench near the statue and ate our gelato. When we finished we took a couple of pictures with the statue and then strolled along the street back towards the Duomo. After wandering around for another 30 minutes we walked back to the hotel. We all took showers and freshened up before going to bed.

Ultimo giorno al Lago di Como

This morning we took the ferry across the lake to Menaggio. Once there we wandered around the square looking for a tourist office. We never found anything, but enjoyed the walk around the lake front. We decided to walk to the Villa Carlotta. Google maps said it was a 3km walk and it would take us about an hour. Shari and Albert were game, so we started walking. Most of the walk had sidewalks, but there were a few places we had to walk on the road. At one point we walked through a tunnel, which Albert thought was a pretty neat experience. He asked me later if we were going to walk through it again.

The Villa Carlotta is an old estate and botanical garden. When we arrived we approached the ticket window and asked for three adult tickets. The tickets are €10 each. The woman at the ticket window asked how old Albert was and I told her he is an adult. Then she said in broken English, he doesn’t pay. I said, Thank you. She handed me back my card and three tickets. We all said thank you and began to walk into the gardens. It occurred to me that she didn’t have me sign anything for the charge. Then I looked at the tickets and all three were no charge. This is not the first time, in Italy, Albert has not been charged an entrance fee. The first time was when we were in Rome at Castle San Angelo. However, this is the first time the someone let all three of us in for free.

We wandered around the Villa Carlotta’s gardens for about an hour. They were spectacular in both the variety of plants and how beautifully the flowers were maintained and arranged. After touring the gardens we entered the house. It was also spectacular with the first floor having greco-roman plaster reliefs all along the walls. It contained several greco-roman statues. It also contained a collection of paintings. www.villacarlotta.it

After walking around the Villa Carlotta, Albert was starving. We walked south to Tremezzo and found a restaurant with shaded outdoor seating and ate lunch. After lunch we walked about 1/4 of a mile to the ferry launch on the lake in front of the Villa Carlotta. We found a shady spot under a tree and waited about 15 minutes for the ferry. We rode the ferry across the lake to San Geovani, then to Bellagio, Menaggio, and then to Varenna. Shari wanted to sit on the front of the ferry in the open air and sun. After a while Albert and I couldn’t handle the heat anymore and went into the main cabin. This turned out to be a good move. The normally stuffy cabin was breezy and not in the sun.

After arriving in Varenna, we walked along the water to the gelatoria where everyone got gelato, and then we walked up the the Varenna town square and found a shady spot to sit and eat our gelato. I went to fill up the water bottle at a spring outside the church and noticed the church was open. Shari and Albert walked over and we all went into the church. This was our first time inside the church in Varenna. After touring the church and saying a prayer we went back to the square and sat on a bench under a tree. Albert asked if we could leave a couple of times and I told him no. He was bored sitting in the shade. I told him we would leave once the church bells rang six o’clock.

After the church bells rang we walked back to the ferry terminal. We decided to see if we could just ride the ferry around the lake for a while. We rode a car ferry from Varenna to Menaggio. At Menaggio I realized that this would be the only ferry for 40 minutes, so we quickly got back on the ferry. We thought it was headed to Bellagio, but Varenna was it’s first stop. Once back in Varenna, we decided to get off the ferry and go up to the house and clean up. Since this is our last night in Varenna, we decided to go out to dinner.

After we all showered and dressed, we walked back down the hill to a restaurant that overlooks the ferry terminal and the lake. The restaurant specializes in lake seafood, so we all ordered seafood for dinner. Everyone enjoyed their meals and we had dessert. It looked like a thunderstorm was rolling in, so we finished up and paid so we could get back to the house before it rained.

Once back at the house, we watched the thunderstorm from the patio. The lightening flashed across the lake, but the storm moved South and away from us. Shari and I sat outside and finished off the last of the red wine and watching the lightening show across the lake.

Secondo giorno al Lago di Como

Today we explored Varenna. We are moving slow this morning and it will be a nice day to stay close to the house and see what is nearby.

We started exploring Varenna by walking down to the ferry terminal and then along the sidewalk that winds around the water front. We continued past the town center and up an alley way that brought us south of the main town square. The Tourist information center is nearby, so we went in to get a map. After reviewing the map we continued to walk south along the road past the monastery We walk along via Roma until we reached the top of the hill and steps to continue to Castle of Vezio. The climb to the castle was very steep and rocky. Albert has some difficulty. Mostly he was uncomfortable with the rocky trail and worried about loosing his footing. So he moved slow. It took us 30 minutes from the stairs to get to the castle. The castle is mostly ruins and was built by either the Romans or the Lombards depending on what historical reference you believe. The view of the lake was spectacular.

We took the ferry trail back to Varenna. It was steep and rocky and we moved slow. As we reached the end, we realized we were at the gate to our house. So we took a break and went inside for a few minutes. Next, we walked back down to the ferry terminal and along the water front. We wanted to get a gelato, but it was sunny and hot and Shari wanted to find some shade. All the gelaterias were down around the waterfront, where at this time of day it is sunny and hot. Fortunately, we found a shaded place along the sidewalk to eat our gelato. Afterward we walked back up to the shade of the town square.

While filling the water bottle near the town square, Shari notice another grocery store. So after sitting in the shade for a while, we walked over to the store. I bought a bottle of wine and a little cheese. Afterwards we walked along the road toward the house.

After the sun was low, we went outside on the patio and ate dinner. We had the meat, olives, and cheese we bought and of course, the wine. We played Uno on the patio as we watched the sun go down over the mountain.

Primo giorno sul lago di Como

This morning I learned something new. How to make coffee in an Italian stove-top espresso maker. I made one pot and it did not turn out very well. So I watched a video on YouTube and realized what I did wrong. I was using too much heat on the first batch. I used a lower heat on the second and it turned out much better.

This morning we rode the ferry over to Bellagio. Today we don’t have an agenda, we are just explored. The ferry terminal in Bellagio is right outside a promenade with shops. We strolled down the promenade until we reached the end and then crossed the street and walked along the sea wall. At one point we stopped and walked down a few steps to the water’s edge. Shari stuck her feet in the water and said it was cold. We continued to walk along the sea wall until we reached the entrance to the Villa Melzi gardens.

After pizza for lunch, we walked down Via Eugenio Vitali to Parchetto della Punta, a beautiful park on the tip of Bellagio. It has a spectacular view of the lake and a green lawn with plenty of shade. People were lounging in the grass enjoying the spectacular view of the lake. Watching the people around us, it occurred to me that what everyone wants is someone to love, maybe a family, and if you have that family, to enjoy the time together with them and to experience the world together.

Since we were all running out of gas, we walked back down to the ferry terminal to catch a boat back to Varenna. We stopped at a Gelateria along the way and each got a gelato. We boarded a ferry and sat at the front and ate our gelato as we rode back to Varenna.

After the sun went down, we went outside on the patio. I opened a bottle of wine and plated some of the meats, cheese, and olives we bought. We sat on the patio eating, drinking wine and playing Uno. We also discovered that the house came with an affectionate cat.

Ultimo giorno a Venezia

Today is our last day in Venice and a travel day. We slept in this morning and packed up for the train ride to Varenna. We left the hotel around noon and took a vaporetto to the train station. We arrived a little early, so we stood outside the train station in the shade people watching.

The train trip to Milan took a little over two hours, but we saw a lot of beautiful Italian countryside. Once in the Milan Centrale station, we waited for our train to Varenna-Esino to be assigned a platform. Our train was delayed 30 minutes, but that was not a major inconvenience.

I was having trouble finding a triple hotel room in Varenna, so I used AirBNB to find a great house. It has an awesome patio that overlooks the town an Lake Como. Here is the view.

After settling in, we walked to town to get something for dinner before the stores closed. We walked on a narrow sidewalk along the main road until we came to a set of steps. The steps led to an alley were we walked along the outside dining for several restaurants. Eventually, we came to an open area. It was the town center where the church was located. At the south end of the square, we found a shop the sold a few groceries. We bought wine, cheese, prosciutto, and salami. They were out of bread for the day. With our dinner in the bag we walked back to the house.

Once the sun went behind a cloud we sat outside and enjoyed the lake view. Shari and I sat outside on the patio watching the sun go down and the stars come out until 10:30, when we went inside to go to bed.