Headed Home

I woke up this morning before my alarm went off. I laid in bed and dozed until the alarm went off at 6:30. We are headed home today. We have a flight from Zürich to Amsterdam then to Atlanta. 

The hotel front desk hired us a car for the ride to the airport.  It was a small mini-van which already had another couple in the far back seat.  We sat in the middle seat.  There was not much space for our luggage, so the driver piled it on the front passenger seat.

We arrived early for our flight, which is a good thing.  So after dropping our luggage we had time to explore the shops and the airport.  Airports today really are glorified shopping malls.  

While we waited we had breakfast at a Starbucks.  I think this is the first “American” restaurant we have visited during our trip.

Breakfast in the Zürich Airport
Our plane to Amsterdam

Our flight left Zürich on time.  It was a couple of hours to Amsterdam where we had a few hours to wait for our flight to Atlanta.  Once again we wandered the airport and ate an early lunch.

We saw this cool clock in the Amsterdam airport.

Albert wanted to have his picture taken in the giant tea cup.  At first I didn’t understand the relevance of a giant porcelain tea set.  Then I remembered that in it’s trading days, Amsterdam was know for it porcelain.  Today I think it is best know for drugs and prostitution.

Giant tea set in Amsterdam airport

On to Zürich

I did not sleep well last night.  i could not get to sleep.  I blame the coffee I had around 4:00PM. I laid in bet trying to go to sleep, then I watched the last of “The Way” on my iPad. I laid back down, but I was hot.  I threw the covers off and then I started to drift off to sleep.

The alarm went off at 6:00 this morning. I was not ready to wake up. Unfortunately, the cable car from Grimmelwald to Stechelberg only runs between 6:00am and 8:00am.   So we are getting up early to make sure we get the cable car.  Otherwise we have to get to Mürren and take that route.  It would take us a little longer
We got up and motivated. Quietly ate and cleaned up breakfast and left the guest house at 7:45. It was snowing as we left, so we carefully walked the 200 ft to the entrance to the cable car station. We watched it snow as we waited.  A few minutes before 8:00 several more people showed for the cable car.  I took great comfort in that.  At a little before 8:00 the massive wheel atop the station began turning and we knew the car was on its way.  Once the car arrived we boarded for the short trip down. As we descended, we went into a cloud and nothing was visible. Then slowly we could make out lights and buildings in the towns below. I was relieved that we made our first connection. 

When we arrived at the cable car station we purchased bus tickets to Interlaken OST. We took the 141 bus which became the 311 bus all the way to the train station. At the train station we only had 10 minutes to find the next train to Bern.  We did it and boarded the train. I was relieved that we made our second connection.
We rode the train for about an hour to Bern.  Once again we quickly left one train and quickly found our train to Zürich. Last connection made successful. We rode the train an hour to Zürich. 

At the train station in Zürich we took a few minutes to see if we could get some information on the airport train in the morning.  Albert and I stayed with the luggage while Shari looked for an information station. About 15 minutes later she returned,  but was unable to find an information station staffed by a human.  We walked out of the train station.

I turned the roaming data on my iPhone, so I could use Google maps to find our hotel. It gave me a walking and riding option.  We walked for a little while, but I was tired of dragging my suitcase.  I started looking for a riding option. We were standing across the street from a tram station, so I started looking at how to find the right tram.  I bought us 3 day passes. I thought we could use the tram like out Hop-on-hop-off bus. We boarded the number 13 tram, but we boarded going the wrong direction. I didn’t figure it out until we were about six stops down the line.  We exited the tram and walked across the street and waited for a 13 tram going in the opposite direction. Once on the right track we were on our way.  We exited at the “Central” station which was unfortunately only one stop from where we first boarded the tram.  We exited the tram and then used Google maps to help us walk to the hotel. It wasn’t obvious. We had to climb some stairs and walk down the street, but there was our hotel, Hotel St Josef. Our room was ready. Once in the room we took a few minutes to get connected to the WiFi and figure out where we wanted to go for lunch.

We identified a restaurant that Rick Steves recommended called Restaurant Zeughauskeller. When we arrived we were seated at the end of a long table where other people were already sitting. I was confused at first. We took our seats and in a few minutes our waiter brought us some English language menus. Shari and I ordered the veal and Albert a dish that was a glorified Mac and cheese with potato’s.

After lunch we tried to find St Peter’s cathedral,but go lost in the narrow streets.  We wandered for a while enjoying the adventure of exploring.  We found the Apple Store and since it is Black Friday I was tempted to go in, but didn’t.

The Apple Store Zürich Switzerland

Since it was still raining, we decided to board a tram again and ride around.  We did this for about an hour until we were tired of being cold and wet and decided it was time to go back to the hotel. We promised Albert dessert, so we stopped at a Coop grocery store and bought a chocolate cake and a bottle of wine to take back to our room. 

Rainy day in Zürich

Thanksgiving Day

Esther’s Guesthouse Grimmelwald, Switzerland 
I woke up this morning before my alarm went off at 6:30. I laid in best listening to the rain on the roof. Our room is located on the top floor of Esther’s Guesthouse and the ceiling is the roof. We have two skylights in our room that peer out at the Alps. 
Since it looks like it will be a rainy day, we have decided not to go to Jungfraujoch, the highest peak in Europe (www.jungfrau.ch) It is a two hour journey to get there and around 150 chf to get to the top. The money and time does not appear worth it with less than perfect weather. 

We decided to walk from Grimmelwald to Mürren and take the train and then the cable car down to Lauterbrunnen and explore.  It took about an hour to walk up to Mürren.  We also ran into our landlord and his wife and child.  They were coming down from Mürren.  I commented that they must have started early. Shari made a friend along the way.

View along the trail to Mürren

It was just starting to snow as we hiked the last bit into Mürren. Our landlord told us that the restaurant at the Alpenruh hotel was open.  So we stopped in for some lunch.  We are here during the break in tourist season, so the offering was limited.  We each had a salami and cheese sandwich and a large beer.  For desert they had a nut log.  The filling reminded me of baklava.  It was a delicious sweet ending to our meager Thanksgiving dinner.

It was still snowing as we walked the mile to the train station.  Mürren has some beautiful architecture.  We stopped and took a selfie with one of the more distinct building behind us.

When we arrived at the train station, we just missed the train, so we had to wait 30 minutes for the next one.  We found a heated waiting room and hung out there until the train arrived.  These flags were flying inside the train station.  The one on the left is the flag of Lauterbrunnen and the other is for the Canton of Bern. I could help notice how anatomically correct they drew the bear.

Small gauge train in Mürren Switzerland

We rode the train to Grütschalp and then took the cable car down to Lauterbrunnen.  Lauterbrunnen has one main street through the town, so we walked along the road toward the Lauterbrunnen Tourismus.  There is a “bridal veil” type waterfall behind the Tourismus.  The Tourismus was closed, so we continued walking south.  We came to a RV campsite where we found a walking bridge and crossed over to a trail that goes along the creek.

We walked the trail back to the main part of Lauterbrunnen.  We were all a bit hungry so we stopped into Air Time Cafefor a coffee and a chocolate brownie.  Albert wanted a lemonade, but they didn’t have any.  The barista suggest he try a Rivella.  A local soda.  I tried it and it was actually very good.

After our coffee and snack we walked back toward the cable car station.  It was starting to get dark and the Christmas Market was starting to come to life.  We stopped at a few booths, but didn’t buy anything.  Near the bus station we stopped into a Coop grocery store and bought some wine and groceries.  We walked to the bus station and took the 141 bus to Stechelberg where we could take a cable car directly to Grimmelwald.  This cable car line is only operating after 6:00PM.  Back in Grimmelwald we opened a bottle of wine and ate a few snacks while we played a few rounds of Uno.

Travel to Grimmelwald

We are taking the Glacier Express from Chur Switzerland to Grimmelwald Switzerland.  It is a very scenic train ride across southern Switzerland.  We left the Chur train station at 9:00 this morning.  As we stood on the platform, I noticed the bicycle parking nearby.  Seriously.

We rode the train from Chur Switzerland to Interlaken Ost. Along the way we crossed a high mountain pass at Oberalppass. It was complete white-out conditions.

Chur to Brig to Interlaken Ost where we took the 141 bus to Lauterbrunnen. At Lauterbrunnen we took a cable care to Grütschalp.  From here we took a small train to Mürren.  From the Mürren train station we had to walk to another cable car station about a mile away.  It was lightly snowing as we walked dragging our luggage behind us.  The sun was setting and it gradually became darker as we walked.  At the cable car station we had to wait about 45 minutes before we boarded a taxi van for the drive to Grimmelwald.  

It was after 9:00 by the time we arrived at our accommodations for the next few days, Ester’s Guest House.  Once inside the door we sat down and took off our boots and placed them in the designated area.  In our socks we climbed another set of stairs to the main floor.  The main floor had a common kitchen.  There was another set of stairs off the kitchen and our room was up those stairs.  Our room was the top floor of the house and had three beds.  The host had only made up two of the bed, so we used the other for out luggage.  We opened on of the bottles of wine we bought at Interlaken Ost and had wine and snacks for dinner.

The Welcome board at Ester’s Guesthouse.

Travel Day

Today we took the train from Salzburg Austria to Chur Switzerland.  It is a 5 hour train ride, but from a train you get to see the beautiful country side.

Waiting for the train in Salzburg Austria
View from the train

We arrived in Chur Switzerland around 6:00PM.  Once again I had trouble with Google maps on my phone navigating from the train station to the hotel.  We took an unplanned tour of Chur while we tried to find out hotel. We are staying at Zunfthaus zur Rebleuten in Chur. It is a comfortable hotel and we have a nice room on the top floor.  When we arrived in the room it was like an oven.  We opened a window and went out for dinner.

We wandered around Chur looking for a place to eat.  After walking around the city for 30 minutes we settled on a fondue place in the old part of town.  The restaurant was just opening for the evening and we were the first guests.  The waiter spoke a little English, but during dinner I heard him speak German and Italian.  I guess he need to know a little bit of everything.  We had the traditional fondue for dinner with several large beers.

Cheese fondue with bread and potatoes

After dinner we went to the grocery store to buy lunch for the train ride tomorrow.  I find it always interesting to go into a grocery store in another country.  Some things are different, but somethings are the same.  To me, a local grocery store give me a better understanding of how the locals live.

Last day in Salzburg

Today we did a Sound of music tour.  It sound corny, but it was actually a lot of fun.  It also gave us a 10,000ft view of Salzburg which I really wish we had done on the first day.  We rode a tour bus to the various site around Salzburg where the movie was produced.  At each location our guide had interesting details about the location and drama that happened behind the camera.  We rode over to Mondsee Austria where the grand wedding scene was filmed. I used the word “Grand” because even when I was younger, I thought that the church must have been a cathedral.    The inside of the church is very beautiful and ornate but actually quite small.   I took a few picture inside the church.


Mondsee was a picturesque Bravarian town all decorated for Christmas.

Advent in Mondsee

When the tour was over we used what we learned and walked through Salzburg seeing things differently.  We walked through Mirabellgarten, the park shown in the movie.   

Today is our last day in Salzburg, so we walk through the Old Town one more time.  We are not big souvineer purchasers, but we did buy a selection of Salzburg chocolates.  We went to a grocery store and bought lunch for our train trip tomorrow and a selection of local beers and a big soft pretzel for dinner in room tonight. 

Once back at the hotel we all changed into our Pj’s and sat on the bed and ate our pretzel and drank beer for dinner and then ate chocolates for dessert.  Afterward we sat on the bed playing Uno. Before bed we laid out our clothes for tomorrow and packed up. 

Vienna to Salzburg

Before checking out, Albert and I walked down to the comic store so he could buy the two t-shirts that he wanted. I stopped at the hotel front desk to ask about mailing the postcard. The clerk was very helpful and said that she could mail it and charge the postage to our bill. She also admonished me for not checking out.  It was 11:15 and check out time was 11:00. I told her we were running a quick errand and would check out by noon.

Albert and I walked to the comic store where he chose a Captain America t-shirt and an Arrow t-shirt. They had a nice looking cloth Avengers bag for our purchase, so we bought that, too. The store was cash only, so I paid the 42€ for the purchase. 
We walked back to the hotel and Shari was ready to leave.  We rolled our bags to the lift and Shari walked down the stairs while Albert and I rode the lift with the luggage. Once in the lobby, we check out and started walking down the street to the Metro station 

Once at the Metro station we took the U1 train to the main train station. We exited the train at the first stop because I was afraid we got on the wrong train. We were fine and boarded the next train. We exited at the Südtiroer Platz train station and had to walk quite a distance to find the train to Salzburg. Since we are not in a hurry, we took our time and eventually found the right place. We went to the ticket counter for the OBB railway. We wanted to buy a Eurorail pass and she directed us to the OBB Lounge were a very helpful agent helped us purchase a 5 trip Eurorail pass.

With tickets in hand we walked to platform 8 where a train was leaving at 12:55 for Salzburg. We boarded the train and took our seats for the 3 hour trip. It was an uneventful journey and we arrived in Salzburg at 3:50 in the afternoon. 

From the train station we walked about a mile to the Imlauer Hotel Pitter where we had reservations.  After a quick check in, we took the elevator up to the third floor Once in the room I got everyone’s devices connected to WiFi and then we started looking for a place to eat. We chose the PitterKeller which is located in the basement of our hotel. Very nice place, friendly staff, good, food and good beer.

Dinner at PitterKeller

After dinner we walked to the closest Christmas market. Nothing spectacular. Since it was still early, we walked to the main shopping area and then across the river to the old town.  It was decorated for Christmas. 

Salzburg from the bridge
Christmas decorations in the Old Town

We walked through one part of old town before heading back to the hotel. Albert was getting tired and I didn’t want to wear him out the first night.
Back at the hotel we changed into out pajamas and each did our own thing before going to bed.  It was a really nice day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. 

After the palace

After finishing our tour we walked back to the Metro station and rode the train back to the Karlplatz station.  From the Metro station we walked to Stephensplatz. It was a nice walk and gave us a different tour of Vienna. We approach Stephensplatz from a different direction and we saw more of the shopping and restaurants.  Shari saw a Swarovski store and wanted to go in for the experience. We wandered around the store for about 20 minutes looking at all the beautiful items they make out of crystal. There were some nice pieces, but I’m too practical to spend that kind of money.
Albert was getting hungry so we walked around Stephensplatz looking for somewhere to eat.  We wandered for a while before reluctantly settling on a restaurant named “Chattanooga.” We went inside and chose a table. It took some time before a server helped us.  Albert ordered a bacon cheeseburger, Shari ordered the Veal medalions, i order a bratwurst plate with frites. However, they brought me two ground veal patties with mashed potatoes. I ate it and it was tasty, but not what I ordered. After we finished eating we all made the trip downstairs to the restroom. I took this picture outside the bar that was downstairs. We had to walk through it to get to the restroom. The bar was closed at the time.

After lunch we walked over to St Stephen’s Cathedral and went inside. It was nice inside.  Access was restricted unless you paid 6€ for the audio tour. We decided just to do the free part.  It was crowded, so we didn’t stay long. We lit 3 votive candles and each said a prayer and then left  

Inside St Stephen’s Cathedral

Once outside, we walked down the street to catch the Ring tram.  This is a sightseeing tram that takes you around the perimeter of the old city. It was nice to sit and see the sites, but for 12€ each, I thought it was over priced. You can get off at a stop, but we didn’t. Maybe it would seem like a better value if you used it that way.  Once back at our original station, we walked up the hill back to our hotel to relax for a little while. I took a short nap, but my snoring kept waking me up. 
Around 6:15 we left the hotel room again to wander around Stephensplatz. We started out at a comic store that we passed and Albert just had to go into. We looked around and he saw a couple of t-shirts he wanted. I told him that we would sleep on it, but if he still wanted it in the morning, we would come back and buy them.  

We continued to walk down the street towards Stephensplatz. The Christmas decorations over the street were lit tonight. We walked though the Christmas market that ringed the back side of the Catheral. We saw some interesting things, but nothing worth buying. It was crowded, too. I felt in the way. We continued to wander around Stephensplatz looking for something light for dinner.  I really didn’t want to do the sit down restaurant dinner.  There were several street vendors selling “ hot dogs” but their menus were in German and I didn’t know what I was ordering. Shari suggested that we go back to a restaurant we had stopped in for lunch, but it was too crowded earlier. It was not as crowded now.  It was called Aida and was mostly a pastry shop. We each ordered dessert and decided that it was going to be dinner for the night.

Schonbrunn Palace

We rode the Metro to Schonbrunn Palace. We paid for the guided English tour that started at 11:00.  We had about 45 minutes before the tour started, so we walked around the gardens.  Everything was brown and leafless, but it gave you a better perspective of the size of the garden. It was not as large as Versailles, but it was close.  

We started wandering back to the palace and stopped at a building that was a large bird cage for pigeons. There was a placard that explained the building and the types of pigeons that were housed there. Albert and I lingered too long. At this site.  As a result we missed the guided tour of the palace.  We tried to catch up with the group, but never succeeded.  At one point I think we passed them, but all the group members had headphones, so I didn’ both to try and join.  On our own we walked through the 40 rooms on the tour.  It was interesting, but the gilded opulence did not impress me.  I’m sure part of my skepticism is because I’m an American. We don’t believe that God chooses certain among us to rule over the rest.

Schonbrunn Palace from the gardens
Albert and Shari in front of The Gloriette in the gardens

Vienna Austria

We landed this morning at Paris’s Charles de Gaul Airport at 5:45am CET. After getting off the plane we had to go through security again and passport control. We ate breakfast in the 2F concourse near our departure gate.

Our flight to Vienna left on time. It was a two hour flight and I took a little nap in route. We landed on time and took the shuttle to the city.  I had a little trouble using Google maps to navigate the walk to our hotel it took us way out of the way.  We checked in our room and since Shari wasn’t feeling good we took a little nap.

We are staying at the Hotel Austria it is located close to St Stephen’s Cathedral in the heart of old Vienna. After our nap we walked around Stephanslpatz looking for a place to eat dinner. The Christmas Market is setup around the Cathedral. We strolled for a while before settling on a place for dinner. It’s a beautiful area of Vienna and I could have walked longer, but some in our party are hungry.

The outside of St Stephen’s Cathedral
Statue in Stephensplatz

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.

Terzo giorno a Venezia

This morning we stood in line for about 40 minutes to get inside the Basilica of San Marco. Once inside we toured the ground floor in a few minutes. It was dark and hard to make out much detail of the mosaics. Afterwards we went up a steep flight of stairs to reach the San Marco Museum. We toured the museum which was interesting, but what I really wanted to do was to go outside and look over Piazza San Marco.

In the afternoon, we wandered the alley ways of Venice eventually arriving at the far end of Piazza San Marco. We took a right and headed toward the Accademia. We were just strolling with no real destination or time to get there. We came to the Santa Maria De Giglio square. At one end of the square was the Ristorante Al Giglio. They had a nice shaded outdoor eating area, so stopped there for a late lunch/early dinner.

After dinner we walked to the Grand Canal and hired a gondola to take us on a tour. The tour lasted 30 minutes and it costed €100 including the tip. It was pricey, but definitely one of those things you need to experience in Venice.

After the gondola ride we continued walking toward the Accademia. We crossed the Accademia bridge across the Grand Canal. We walked along Rio Tera Foscarini until we reached the waters of the Guidecca Canal. Right then a tug boat was pulling a huge cruise ship through the canal. I’ve never been on a cruise, so it looked like a huge ship to me.

We walked back to Piazza San Marco and went to 6:45 mass in the Basilica. For mass they had the lights on which made it much easier to see the gold mosaics above the altar. We also had a choir visiting from somewhere which added beautiful a capella music to the mass. The mass was in Italian, of course. I kept up with it a little bit, but I was too slow at some place to get the responses right.

After mass we walked back to the hotel and got a gelato along the way. We ate our gelato and did a little window shopping as we walked.

Secondo giorno a Venezia

After breakfast we began walking towards the Piazza San Marco. We started at the Rialto bridge which is close to our hotel. Once we reached the Piazza we continued walking until we reached the water. A cool breeze was blowing in off the Grand Canal. We walked along the Grand Canal away from the Piazza. It was a nice stroll and we occasionally encountered large waves of fellow tourist headed toward the Piazza. We walked almost to the end before turning around and returning to the Piazza. We walked through the streets and stopped in at the Church of St Giuliano and the church of St Salvador.

This evening we ate dinner while a thunderstorm blew through. Afterwards, we walked back to Piazza San Marco and rode the elevator up to the top of the Campanile. A view of Venice from the Campanile of St. Mark’s..

Primo giorno a Venezia

Today was a travel day. We flew from Atlanta to Milan. Took the train from Milan to Venice. Then a Vaporetta from the train station to the Rialto launch which is near our hotel. We are staying at Hotel a La Commedia in Venice. It took us 17 hours of travel to get here. After freshening up, we went up to the hotel’s rooftop bar for cocktails and snacks.