Into every life a little rain must fall…

Today we had bucket loads of the wet stuff. At times visibility was frighteningly poor. A dash into an aire for coffee cheered us up a bit but the rain still lashed out of the sky. The discomfort was compounded by a windscreen wiper that erratically thwacked the screen, making us jump and frightened it would fling itself into the murk and leave us sightless.

However, by Chateroux the sky was considerably brighter with even some sunshine now and then. The view behind us of banked black cloud must have terrified the oncoming drivers.

The traditional peacock ‘on the move’ lunch, home made ham sarnies, with a shared bag of crisps and twix, was eaten at Salbris and we headed for Paris. The gps decided to take us right up to the peripherique but then got confused by all the tunnels. We stopped listening and followed the signs for the airport, Charles de Gaulle, and the A1. It is years since we have driven north by that route so every so often there were gasps of recognition. Especially for the little blue boat that has been marooned in its green field for ever and seems not to have aged at all!

After an age of boring driving through a flat winter landscape we made it to seclin on the outskirts of Lille.

Off to find supper.


at au bureau in seclin’s zone commercial, very cosy and good grub.

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Leaving for Lille

Well, that was good news and bad news! I managed to create a post but couldn’t work out to add a photo. Then I lost the whole thing. Time for bed, leaving at nine tomorrow for Lille en route for Amsterdam.

but i hadn’t! ūüôā

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Leaving for Lille

There is a first time for everything they say so here I am blogging from my phone. Time will tell if this is a good idea or no. Bags are packed, tickets bought (a canal cruise, two art galleries and two photo ones, of course.

Right, let’s see if I can upload a photo.


well, i couldn’t! i remember i couldn’t load up photos on my tablet. so this is being done on the computer later.







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arrivederci, italy

still no better weather to see us off from the hotel du lac.¬† we ate one last toast-free and fresh orange juice-free breakfast (our respective grouses) and finished the packing.¬† lou went off to get the car while i settled up with the rather gloomy owner, or rather, son of the owners who had been in charge on our honeymoon.¬† as i guarded our luggage i noticed he checked people out without any cheerful word of thanks or wishing them well on their onward journey.¬† giacomo would have been horrified!¬† at the last moment as lou was taking out the cases ‘gloomy’ suddenly started to talk about ‘the diary’ and diving into a cupboard presented me with a print of the hotel and a birthday diary, full of pretty prints of bellagio, something i will use and treasure.¬† family run hotels are a quirky bunch with a certain charm.


we drove down the como side of the lake ignoring the bleating gps.  in como she became demented as we followed signs to the motorway on our own as the road she wanted us to take was closed with no deviation signposted.

then a familiar motorway drive in the sun towards milan, turin and then a right turn for the aoste valley.


through the mont blanc tunnel (sweaty palms) and out into clouds on the french side.


not much snow on mont blanc this time, i noticed.¬† onto annemasse to a hotel we hadn’t used before.¬† no wonder i couldn’t find the campanile on the internet.¬† the place where it used to be is now an empty piece of waste ground!


the comfort inn lived up to its name, pretty and pink with tea and coffee (take note ibis styles) and biscuits (take note hilton maidstone).¬† there was a special dinner and breakfast deal with a nearby restaurant of which we took advantage.¬† that night we ate a three course meal, with a choice of two ‘plats’ for each course, wine and coffee included and no pasta in sight!



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fifty years plus one day


the promised brighter weather didn’t materialise so there was no sentimental wander through the grounds of villa melzi stopping to take a photo of lou in front of the bamboo or me sitting on a bench by the lake’s edge aka 1967.¬†¬† no rediscovery of san giovanni and its little harbour, the site of more photographic re-enactments.¬† nor a walk to la punta, the very tip of the bellagio penisular where i had posed a la lesley caron in a carelessly tied headscarf and lou had posed moodily, leaning on the harbour wall.¬† instead we battled through the rain and unexpected gusts of wind to the car in the hotel garage to retrieve some extra layers of clothing.


IMG_20170910_101042136_HDR.jpgmuch warmer now, we climbed up a nearby alley looking for a wine shop and the wine we had had the night before.¬† not the same label but two bottles from the same area were pressed upon us by the smooth talking salesman.¬† (i wonder how many people turn up looking for ‘the wine we drank last night’?)¬† he insisted that it was one he supplied to our hotel and, sure enough, it was the wine we were offered that night in the hotel bar.


outside the hotel again we settled at a table near an overhead heater, (yes, it was that chilly), and ordered coffees.   a boat came in opposite and suddenly we were surrounded by damp tourists, jostling each other, sorting out brollies and generally milling about like headless chickens.  one group of elderly italians were being ordered about by a lady in a green anorak and squashy hat.  we sat tight and waited for calm to return.


the rain beat down and our room and tv was a cosy refuge to while away the time until we could decently eat lunch!¬† we climbed the steps…again…to the restaurant with the ouvrier style lunch we had spotted earlier.¬† we got there in the nick of time as people arriving after us were reluctantly turned back out into the rain.¬† despite being so busy the service was smiley and thoughtful.¬† having asked for our omelettes to be cheese free the waiter came back to say the chef was asking if he should hold back the mozzarella from the salad starter.¬† no, no, we chorused!¬† AND they found some earl grey tea after i politely refused the ubiquitous english breakfast.


back to our room for the afternoon and the final stage of the tour of britain on the telly.¬† the white horses on the lake were subsiding but the car ferry was still ploughing through waves that frothed over the bow.¬† a lot of wet feet on the car deck i’m guessing.

We had booked an outside table for our evening meal but alessia, our waitress, (i asked) had decided we would be too cold despite the heaters so had reserved a table inside.  she had made sure it was in the window so we could still watch the action, people and boats!

we enjoyed the meal far more than the one upstairs.  the menu was almost the same but the ambience was better.  the upstairs dining room, despite its wonderful views of the lake, is too lofty, too austere.  alessia looked after us very well.  she and her sister, who works alongside her, both grew up near varenna, where we had called yesterday en route to menaggio.  when we chatted about bologna and the lovely giacomo she asked for his address as she has friends there.  with our coffee came two offered glass of limoncello.  hic!





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Golden oldies

Not all the tourists left by boat. ¬†Quite a few stayed behind to carouse the night away in the many bars and restaurants. ¬†A lake view comes with the downside of being above the town square and colonades full of outside tables, very popular for enjoying the balmy evenings. ¬†The double glazing didn’t help deaden it much so it was about two in the morning before things were quiet enough for me to fall asleep.


We woke up to mist on the lake and the first boats starting their many crossings of the day.


Breakfast was eaten surrounded by the sound of English being spoken, English speakers from around the world judging by the accents.  There was not a lot of choice of tea, English breakfast being in the ascendancy.  With ITV and BBC channels on the in-house TV it was becoming clear who is the focus clientele.

Out to sort stamps for some postcards and for Lou to buy a lovely necklace and matching earrings made of Murano glass i had been lusting over the night before. ūüôā Then to buy tickets for the ferry to Menaggio. ¬†It was damp but warm so we hoped the day would be ok for some strolling.


It was fun to be back on one of the boats.  We had enjoyed a trip up the lake on a beautiful paddle steamer in 2002, the year of our 35th anniversary.  We camped at Menaggio that time so had some happy memories of that visit.  The ferry goes via Varenna on the opposite side of the lake to Menaggio so we got views up and down each arm of the lake as we crisscrossed it.

The rain was a bit more noticeable now so brollies up when we disembarked.  Along with several passengers we walked along to the tiny harbour looking for coffee.  Luckily there was a bar/hotel with a large awning where we could sit in the dry.


Lou spotted a tiny tourist office and it had some maps of the village in a box outside. ¬†We thought we had identified the campsite we had stayed on but when we came to the place we remembered during our amble it had clearly moved a little farther on. ¬†I hope it has better loos than before. ūüôā

We walked along a pretty promenade along the lakeside checking out lunch menus, popping up and down our brollies. ¬†There was an interesting monument to something but I couldn’t get any clues as to what from its plaque.

About to abandon the search we came to an alley (the motif of this trip) and found an unprepossessing pizza place. ¬†However, on its menu on the wall it offered ‘misti di Lago’, fried fish from the lake. ¬†I love fritti misti so I was sold. ¬†Inside it was very homely and busy, always a good sign.


The walls were lined with wine  bottles and photos of the area. The service was cheerful and efficient, two girls whizzing about and going downstairs for orders when an unseen bell rang.


Two plates of fish, a salad to share, beer, wine and coffees to finish….spot on. ¬†Off to find a ferry home and this time it was a car ferry. ¬†I took a photo of Lou as we boarded, a replica of one I took on honeymoon. ¬†Not just the cars that have changed shape! ūüôā


A lazy afternoon, well, why not?  The rain got heavier and heavier and we were pleased we had booked the hotel restaurant for our evening meal.

To make some space I toiled up a steep alleyway to buy some teabags. ¬†No redbush but Lipton’s yellow label is preferable to English breakfast, a tea I can’t stomach. ¬†A happy time ‘windowlicking’ as the French say and back down the now treacherously damp cobbled alleys.


A lovely meal at a first floor window table watching the lights and the last of the boats and then coffee down under the colonades. ¬†We may be old but we can party too….



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Bye bye, Bologna…buon giorno, Bellagio

Giacomo popped out of the kitchen with a plate of fresh pineapple and told us we needn’t check out until the afternoon if we wanted. ¬†Obviously no clients due in today. ¬†He showed me the odd fruit I’d ignored yesterday and disappeared saying he would open one, a very good fruit from Mexico originally and full of vitamins. ¬†He came back and had peeled all five! ¬†Full of pips and tasteless sadly. ¬†I hope he can use the remaining four in one of his smoothies. ¬†We had a repeat of the red fruits one alongside the fresh orange mix.

Leaving was prolonged as he couldn’t find his card machine so Lou went down to the nearby (thank goodness) ATM. ¬†Then Giacomo presented me with a rose, two commemorative Bologna mugs and two small paper carrier bags, ‘for the journey’. ¬†He would have taken our suitcases to the carpark but we insisted he had done more than enough. Fond farewells all round.

Later inspection of the bags revealed bananas, pastries, four cartons of juice and three bags of typical Bologna biscuit goodies.  Spending all his profits Lou said but very generous and thoughtful.


The GPS had its own ideas of how to pass Milan and, despite signs to avoid it, took us almost to the centre.  Finally she plumped for the Lecco road and we drove towards the mountains expectantly.


The road up the left/west side of the Lecco arm of the lake is one we were unfamiliar with and there were two or three long tunnels and many bends to negotiate.  A bus came bearing down on us blowing its horn round one bend.  A car who had been following is a bit too closely started to keep a decent distance behind us!  The views up and across the lake were stunning, camera clicking all the way.

A rise in the road away from the lakeside and we were in Bellagio. ¬†The GPS took us right the edge of the lakeside amongst car parking, bus stop and bars and gave up. ¬†Used to this after Genoa we parked up and walled to the hotel through crowds that resembled rocamadour in august! ¬†Calmer inside the hotel we checked in and got the map to bring the car to outside for unloading. Easier said than done! ¬†We had to drive right around the pedestrianised centre of Bellagio. ¬†Glares on all sides as we crept along trying to avoid small children and dogs. ¬†Unloading achieved we had to repeat the trauma to get to the hotel’s secure parking. Luckily we could follow another car so he got all the grief.

Up in our room we threw open the window on the view we remembered. ¬†Bliss. ¬†The guys on the desk had told us the tourists go by six o’clock and, sure enough, we watched the exodus onto the boats from the little dock opposite the hotel.


Walking around later we were unable to find Lou’s warmly remembered grappa shop. ¬†I had forgotten how many steeply stepped alleys there were. ¬†Younger knees back then. ¬†And so busy. ¬†Even fifteen years ago it hadn’t been this packed.


But the magic was still there. ¬†We grabbed a table at the water’s edge and enjoyed an aperitif and the sound of water lapping against the stones.


Later we found a restaurant for the evening meal and they had a long list of grappas available.  Lou found the one he liked and was brought a large glass!  Bad news, the grappa shop was long gone, good news, the wine shop next door sold it.  So Lou had his bottle of precious liquor and I had my room with a view.  Result!



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