Tre laghi in un giorno

Tre laghi in un giorno – three lakes in one day. That was today’s quest and we made it. 

We are camped at Porlezza on Lago di Lugano en route to the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at Monza. Lugano is a small lake (compared to lakes such as Maggiore and Garda) that straddles Switzerland and Italy. Porlezza is in the Northern Italian part and is a very beautiful town. The houses are painted in subtle oranges and yellows and cling to the side of the mountains like a wild wisteria. This is our second year here and spookily we are camped on the same pitch as last year. It’s a lakeside pitch and so can’t be reserved and you can’t use the ACSI card to get a reduced rate. Pure fluke it was available when we arrived! It’s our little bit of extravagance. Dora’s door and canopy are parallel to the lake and as we are the Northern end we drift off to sleep to the sound of the waves gently lapping on the shore. The view down the lake is simply stunning. The mountains rise from the water like a slalom wending into the distance and the clouds sit like rolled cotton wool draped across them. On an evening the village lights twinkle across the water like a magical fairy land. Last year we were going to cycle from Porlezza to Menaggio on Lago di Como, but the weather turned very stormy, so we left a day early. This morning we awoke to rain, but it soon cleared and we set off on our bikes; not before Slaw made some repairs to my bike, straightening the handlebars and re-affixing the front mudguard (read Give Germany a go!)

The route from Porlezza to Menaggio passes Lago di Piano and you cycle through the beautiful nature reserve. The route is a mixture of rough track and Tarmac; it follows a disused railway line in parts and even has a tunnel with lights. In the main it’s off the busy road that runs parallel, with just one small part where you cross over at Cardano and is very poorly signed. As soon as you come out onto the road, after the builder’s yard, cross over and take the next left, at the end of that road turn right and you’ll pick up the signs again. The signs to follow are ‘Ciclopedonale Menaggio-Porlezza’ and when you come to the end of the cycle track just above the town, we avoided the main road and followed ‘percorso pedonale per Menaggio’. It’s a 12.5km route, but including our bit to and from the campsite it was 18 miles in total and there was a very steep descent into Menaggio and, of course, a very steep ascent back out again! Not for the faint hearted.

We were shocked at how many English were in Menaggio; it seemed to be every other person! It’s not our scene – we prefer to be the minority tourist. Menaggio has a pretty town square with the obligatory street cafes and each lamppost is decorated with what looked like a tutu in Italian flag coloured net – very effective. The town is adorned with an abundance of red geraniums lining the shore of the lake and, of course, there are many blue and white striped wooden poles in the water to give your photographs just the right amount of perspective. We sat in the square, ordered our food and ‘due birra’ and settled back into our favourite pastime of people watching. So disappointing that so many English don’t have the common decency to learn just a few words in the host language. With only buongiorno, si, non, grazie and a pointed finger and a smile, they could have managed perfectly well. I mean, what is difficult about Peroni, spaghetti carbonara and tagliatelle bolognese??? But, no. The first words that are spoken are ‘do you speak English?’ I hung my head in shame for them 😦

Slaw was on the warpath today when they brought his Peroni; it was cloudy and he was having none of it. The waiter had the audacity to tell him Peroni is usually cloudy. Oh dear! Red rag to a bull! The waiter got a right dressing down, especially when Slaw had been fobbed off with a bottle of Becks (in Italy? Really?) and then he spotted clear Peroni being served. Off he went and came back with a free one and a smug feeling. The waiter didn’t appear again after that. Did it spoil our day? Not in the slightest. We managed tre laghi in un giorno and enjoyed a pleasant 18 mile bike ride and lovely lunch.

Give Germany a go!

We’ve travelled all over Europe over the last 20 years or so. More recently in ‘Our Vera’ a VW T4 and now in ‘Our Dora’ a Hobby motorhome. We frequent France the most, but have stayed in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain too. Most people have a bad perception of Germany and have a stereotypical view of brussen (it’s a Yorkshire word) rude, queue jumping people. However, Germany is one of our favourite places to go to.

I’ll take you on a little tour with us. We drove from Calais through France and into Belgium, calling in at Ploegsteert War Memorial to the 11,447 officers and men of the forces of the British Empire who fell fighting in the years 1914 – 1918, between the river Douve and the towns of Estaires and Furnes who have no known grave. Slaw was paying his respects to his great-great uncle Private Walter Moore of the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment) who died 15 April 1918 aged just 20, fighting for King and country. We always try to visit a Commonwealth War Grave every year to pay respect and remember those who fought to give us the freedom we have today and to be able to travel across Europe as we do. And without getting too heavy, that’s another reason many people have a bad perception of Germany. Remember the war! 

Anyway, back to the point of the blog. Driving in Belgium through Brussels and Liege on the motorways was a nightmare! Roadworks and files (queues) everywhere. French motorways usually charge a toll – the peage. The autobahns in Germany, however, are another thing completely. Go on, say ‘autobahn’ without singing Kraftwerk! No charges and well-maintained. Even the roadworks flow nicely. Some of the autobahns even have no speed limit at all – the sat nav was very confused as it didn’t know what speed to tell us to drive at 🙂

France has Aires (see previous blogs ‘To aire or not to aire’ and ‘Part deux’). In Germany they are Wohnmobilstellplatz. We have seen one for the past two years on our way to a 24 euro per night campsite, but it’s been on the other side of the Mosel. This year, due to a road diversion, we ended up right next to it. All stellplatz (pitches) are on the banks of the Mosel. 8 euros per night per Wohnmobile (campervan). Strom (electric hook up) 1 euro 50. The only difference to us was no shower block. But we have a shower in Dora. And no bar/restaurant. But we always go down to Rachtig for the Wine Festival. Bit of a no-brainer there then.

Germany caters well for the cyclist and there are cycle tracks running alongside the roads and when we are camped on the Mosel it’s flat easy cycling. It’s our exercise after a day’s travelling in Dora.

This year it’s the 37th Rachtiger Wein-Strassenfest. A veritable occasion that we always enjoy. Don’t forget we’re on the banks of the Mosel and we are surrounded by vineyards. All the local wine makers are represented and ply you with their wares. A traditional carnival band provides entertainment and lots of stalls sell tasty regional dishes. The streets are lit up and lined with tables and chairs; a great atmosphere! We chose a Spatburgunder rose wine. I’m not keen on German white wines and find the Riesling too sour, but the late burgunder grape is much more palatable. The German word for late is spate – so late grape. Very nice!

I used my best schoolgirl German to ask ‘konnen wir hier sitzen?’ I was understood and we were welcomed. Four bottles of Spatburgunder later we are now best friends with fellow motorhomers Stephan and Ricarda from the Rhineland 🙂 I also picked up some slang and Dora is now known as a wohnmo! We find German people to be friendly, funny and kind. In fact, out of all the Europeans we have encountered, Germans are our favourites.

Now a word of warning. Cycling down to the wein-strassenfest was lovely; but cycling back in the dark after four bottles of Spatburgunder was not my finest hour. I now have a hole in my right elbow, a swollen right knee that I can’t bend, chipped nail varnish on both big toes, scuffed knees on my new Capri pants and no front mudguard on my bike! 

We left the Mosel this morning and drove along its banks up to Trabach, before we crossed the bridge to head for the autobahn (you’re singing again!) There are stellplatz and cycle tracks all the way. Beautiful little villages with bars and wine cellars, all overlooked by the vines on the hillsides. The large cargo boats sail up and down the Mosel, laden with coal etc; so large are the boats, they have cars on the back. Tourist boats also sail up and down and there is an abundance of wildlife. So much to see and do. We will definitely be back with Prince William and Minnie the Minx.

Go on, give Germany a go!