Wednesday, June 7, 2017
A Lake full of Vendace Surrounded by Bleached Peacocks
I am aware of the whispering in corners as to how much time Madam and myself spend in other places but whisper away, as Madam and myself are currently operating under a mandate of once the work is done we're living for pleasure alone.
Mandate by the way, an unusual men's fragrance from the 1980's that preserved many a young buck's chastity - dreadful stuff.
Italian lakes this time, Maggiore to be precise and a place that we visited a dozen or more years ago when children were small and we were camping in Switzerland and crossed the Alps via the Simplon Pass in search of warmth and cheese that tasted of something.
Gatwick was a trial and Milan Malpensa was a bit of a faff what with us landing in one terminal and the hire car being at the other forcing us to endure the interminable free bus ride with the spawn of Emerson Fittipaldi at the wheel that at one point may well have seen us skim Turin on two wheels.
And so to our movements.
A forty minute ferry ride put us on Isola Bella, the summer retreat of the Borromea family. A stunning villa the size of which belies the fact that it was the principle summer drum of a little Italian Fella and his brood,
the ballroom alone is the stuff of the hall of the mountain kings.
Unlike many big old houses it is brim full of original objects and furniture,
the enormous windows are still thrown open and on a warm day a gentle breeze permeates the whole house.
Out in the gardens we came across a herd of bright white peacocks which added to the ethereal feel of the place.
The gardens are terraced and immaculately kept with views to all sides of the lake.
More understated this one, with an extensive collection of puppet theatres the scenery for which had been run up by the chap in charge of La Scala.
There were the requisite white peacocks and a pair of males provided some sport as they fought on the lawn
A large cyprus tree stands outside the villa held up by multiple hawsers. It toppled over in 2007 during a tornado and rather than go at with chainsaws and the medium of fire in the manner of Lord Ludgershall and myself the Borromea employed helicopters, winches and substantial funds to stand the thing up again. It's a fine tree, but the hawsers grate a tad.
Roads this time in a funky Fiat 500 that was good fun to drive. We soon mastered the practice of horn and finger as a means of communicating with fellow road users when confronted with the innumerable grey areas that are a feature of driving on Italian roads. It was a very easy car to park, which is just as well as parking can be a problem in many of these lakeside towns, it took us twenty minutes to find a space in Cannobio on a quiet midweek day, but it was worth the effort as it is a pretty place, very laid back and a town a few miles short of the Swiss border to which we would like to return.
Apologies, postprandial notes a little hard to read
The Savoy family and their associated hotels
where we were hauled up the local alp in bins.
Sandwiches were taken and we were joined by a young lady with a big bag and I don't think it was anything we said
but after ten minutes she threw herself off the mountain,
With oxygen and time running out we began our descent and came across, and I may need some help here, as I know the collective term for larks is an exultation and for starlings the murmuration, for our friends the crows it's murder and geese are always a gaggle so if I've got this wrong forgive me as there's no clever sub editors here.
it may have been some kind of lemming worship
or possibly an Icarus cult
as one by one they threw themselves from this three and a half thousand feet summit out into the abyss.
Inevitably human nature kicks in and we tried to save the first few souls,
but were warned off by a guy in high viz replete with walkie talkie (do people still call them that?) who informed us that it was an international Hang Gliding competition and could we please stop shouting "Don't do it, nothing is as ever as bad as it seems"
Our oxygen bottles had run out and we were forced to the bins to descend. halfway down we passed a line of ascending bins full of cyclists with bikes hanging off the outside of the bins, and it dawned that all those fold up planes had made it up the mountains in bins too. Well done the cyclists by the way, get a lift up the thousand odd metre mountain in a bin and just do the downhill bit, who needs gears?
It being the weekend everywhere was busy and the islands that we visited midweek that were quiet were now rammed with many Milanese,
Stresa was all that we remembered, if a little busier. We found the shop where Child B had purchased a faux Shevchenko Inter Milan shirt, the stall where Child A had punished the Gelato and the Cafe in the square where we took Pizza for lunch. A Margherita (Child A and Child B's pizza of first choice at the time) cost five euros back then, on this visit the price had rocketed to five euros fifty cents, so we withdrew our custom and took beer on the other side of the square.
Home the next day (It was only a few days, all those who say I should be working) from five days of thirty degree heat to rising winds and plummeting temperatures.
We've visited this country a few times in recent years and our grasp of the lingo now results in us being presented with the German version of the guidebook for whatever attraction that we are about to visit. I consider this progress, if not assimilation and we have subsequently put in a cheeky offer on this house.
It included the words "all that we have, benign labrador, at least two chickens and a whisky jar full of coppers" but we expect the vendor to question the positioning of the decimal point in the offer's final figure,
but we await a reply.