This is a blog about our holiday to Europe in 2014. We started off our travels in Venice, where we began a cruise of the Adriatic and Aegean seas, ending in Rome. We then travelled from Rome to the Netherlands by rail, stopping in various places along the way. We are: Me - Gill, my husband - Grant, my daughter - Paula; my father - Neil and his partner - Astrid. We are South Africans, from the lovely province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Our friends Lisa and Trevor joined us from the UK for the cruise portion of our holiday.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bellagio (Lake Como), Italy

29 June 2014
After breakfast in the cute breakfast room at our hotel in Rome, we caught a taxi to the train station.  There was an organised group of gypsies at the station, offering to help people, give them directions to their platforms etc and then demanding 5 euros for their troubles.  We had time, so we watched them from a distance.  Unbelievably, even having seen what was happening, we were caught unawares when two men helped us to get our suit-cases onto the train and then boarded the train and helped Grant hoist them into the overhead lockers.  We truly thought they were employees of the railways - they were dressed very much like railway employees...., turns out they were gypsies who then loudly demanded their 5 euro (each!) tip.  Grant gave them a couple of euro and they argued vociferously, but eventually got off the train and left.  

We enjoyed our train ride through Tuscany to Milan.  Our transfer was waiting for us at the station in Milan and we then began the approx hour long drive to Bellagio.  It was really, really beautiful, but the weather was miserable.  We booked into our hotel and unpacked.  The views from our hotel room are absolutely gorgeous, even with the bad weather.  Words and even photos don't do the beauty of this place justice.  It has to be seen to be believed! (prepare for photo overload as we have the photos off Grant's camera AND the photos off my iphone all vying for a spot on the blog!!)

Our terrace

Once we were settled we climbed the stairs into the town centre where we found a little restaurant and had a light lunch.  We bought a really good gelato for pud on the way back.

After lunch we took a stroll to a nearby park where we did a geocache.  Finding the geocache pretty much involved climbing right into a holly bush.... fun!

The rest of the afternoon was a typical lazy, rainy afternoon.  I think we all needed to relax a bit, so the weather was actually a good thing!

Grant, Paula and I decided to find a restaurant for supper, so we ventured out into the pouring rain - at which point I discovered that my rain-jacket is no longer water-proof! We found a lovely little restaurant and had a really nice supper with sublime cappuccinos afterwards.

30 June 2014
We woke to a glorious sunny day- if I thought this place was beautiful in the rain, well in the sun it is just amazing.  The view from our terrace literally took my breath away when I stepped out this morning!

We had a buffet breakfast in the hotel dining-room (good selection of things to eat, lovely cappuccinos!) and then wandered along the shore to the "little train" stop.  We climbed aboard the train and enjoyed the ride up to a little village with gorgeous views of the lake.  

We continued on the train until the village of Loppia, where we got off to visit the gardens of Villa Melzi.  It was so very, very beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed our wander around the gardens.   We went about 3/4 of the way through the gardens, and then decided to see the last 1/4 from the Bellagio side on our return to Bellagio.

Having visited the little chapel in the Villa Melzi gardens, we left the gardens and instead of getting back on the train, we decided to stroll into the village of San Giovanni.  It's a very pleasant walk.  

Once in the village we wandered around and then stopped for a drink at a restaurant.  We sat outside and watched a group of Egyptian geese hovering around the doorway and begging for snacks.  

I love the local custom of bringing plentiful snacks with your drinks.  They call it apperitivo.  It's so nice, because the snacks are usually local specialities.... olives, bruschetta, that sort of thing.  This restaurant had particularly nice snacks.

We then did a quick geocache at the pier of San Giovanni, before boarding the train and heading back to Bellagio.  We then entered the Villa Melzi gardens from the Bellagio side and enjoyed walking through that section.

On our way back to our hotel we stopped to take a picture of the waterfront.  Our hotel is the pinkish building and our room is the one with the terrace on the very right of the building.

We had a nice siesta and then enjoyed some time on our terrace, drinking in the view, before taking a stroll through the village.  

We found an amazing shop selling all sorts of Christmas decorations - I exercised incredible self-restraint, but still managed to have a pretty bulging shopping bag by the time we walked out of there...  

Paula and I are reading Erica James' "Gardens of Delight" which is set here in Bellagio, so that's adding another layer to my enjoyment of our time here.   I am VERY in-love with Bellagio.  It is officially my "happy place".

For supper we had some wonderful pasta and Bellinis at a nice little restaurant and then bought some drinks at the nearby superette, so that we can have a couple of drinks on our terrace.

A nearby restaurant has a couple of singers performing tonight and it was lovely to listen to them after we went to bed.  I woke up in the night and couldn't resist going out onto the terrace to look at the stars... it is so, so beautiful here!

1 July 2014
Today was partly cloudy and not too hot, perfect for our 11am boat ride.  We wandered around a bit, had a coffee at a coffee shop down the road and then assembled for our boat ride.  We had a lovely small group tour on a water taxi-type boat.  

We stopped off at Villa del Balbionella and had a fascinating guided tour of the villa.  It's very beautiful.  

We watched Casino Royale shortly before leaving for this holiday, to see Villa Balbionella, which features in the movie, so it was fun to pick out the areas that were shown in the movie.

I'm really glad we did the boat tour, it's a completely different experience seeing the views from the water.

We shared a couple of panninis at the pub at the hotel for lunch before having a siesta - I'm totally buying into this siesta concept!   

Another thing I've loved about Bellagio is watching the swans with their little cygnets and the ducks and ducklings... even the pigeons and sparrows are really tame and come begging for titbits when you sit and eat outside. 

It's raining this evening so we opted to have supper at the hotel and then nipped across the road to have a gelato - that's become a part of our evening routine, the gelato is sooo good.

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