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Europe2009

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    Europe2009 Europe2009 Presentation Transcript

    • Tim & Janè’s Big Adventure European Vacation April, 2009
    • Tim & Janè’s Big Adventure
      • We decided to take a trip to Europe to celebrate our 50 th wedding anniversary; it would start with a 12 day cruise of the Western Mediterranean’s Iberian section and then a tour of northern Italy, including Lake Como and Milan.
      • We chose an Italian cruise line, Costa, mainly because they advertised “cruising Italian style” which was appealing to us. The advertisement clearly stated that English speakers would definitely be a minority; it was true, we were definitely a minority, 100 out of 2500 people on the cruise.
      • We set everything up on the internet; a flight from Philadelphia to Newark, NJ and then on to Milan, Italy. We would arrive in Milan, take a shuttle to Milano Centrale rail station, a train to Genoa and then a taxi to our hotel in Genoa, where we would stay overnight and then be transported to the cruise ship.
    • OUR ITINERARY
    • THE FLIGHT
      • Our flight from Newark to Milan took about 81/2 hours and was uneventful. We arrive about 8:30 AM, Italian time; six hours ahead of eastern daylight time. We found our shuttle with no problem and were on our way to the Milano Centrale railway station in no time.
      • We ran into a small problem when we went to carry our bags into the station; a young Egyptian man grabbed our bags and put them on a hand truck before we could object. (We were carrying two bags each; one weighing about 45 pounds and the other about 30 pounds, plus our carry-ons at about 25 pounds each. We probably over packed, but twenty-three days is a long time). He said he would help us get into the station because there was quite a bit of construction going on. He kept up a constant stream of conversation distracting me from asking him how much he wanted to carry our bags. We got into the station and I handed him five Euros, which I thought was plenty; he did not and protested, I wanted to tell him to stick it but thought better of a confrontation on our first day in Italy and gave him another 5 and told him to get lost. A good lesson learned on our first day; carry your own bags or agree on a price, beforehand.
      • I was sort of expecting one of those high speed bullet trains; but it turned out we were on something that looked like a retired SEPTA train, but the ride to Genoa was beautiful and uneventful.
      3-31-09 4-1-09
    • The Way to the Boat  Train Bus
      • We arrived in Genoa after about a two hour ride and we found ourselves in baggage situation #2. We were on the platform looking to find a taxi to take us to our hotel, the Hotel Bristol Palace; the only problem there was no way to get off the platform without navigating about 20 steps down into an area where we could get to an escalator to take us to the street where the taxis were; where was that Egyptian when we really needed him?
      • Somehow, Janè’ and I carried that baggage down those steps and up the escalator to the taxi stand; it was a situation where no matter what we did we would have had to leave some of our baggage alone at the top or bottom of the steps so we strapped it together and made like pack mules to get it done.
      • The hotel was a very pleasant surprise; a hotel from the 1800’s that was elegantly beautiful. We had booked the hotel through the cruise line and I was a little leery of what it might be. Despite the events of the day and the 6 hour time difference, we slept very well and woke up anticipating an adventure. The first thing we were a little apprehensive about was transfer from the hotel to the ship; this was also arranged by the cruise line and all I had was a phone number. I had already called it twice and spoke with a person who I could barely understand who was telling me something about a letter.
      HOTEL BRISTOL PALACE GENOA, ITALY 4-1-09
    • HOTEL BRISTOL PALACE GENOA, ITALY
      • We had one of the best hotel breakfasts we have ever had on our travels on the European plan (breakfast included in the price) and then went to the lobby with our luggage and were happy to find an American couple with their son and a friend waiting for the same transfer we were. They were very nice and explained that the hotel was supposed to have given us a letter with the details of our transfer the night before but had neglected to so. They had finally received theirs that morning, we then picked ours up a the desk.
      • I should have realized that the evening clerk was not as sharp as she thought she was; when I asked for an extra bath towel and she proceeded to explain to me that a bidet was a French invention and how it worked. Fortunately, an associate interrupted her before she finished, saying indignantly ”he just wants a bath towel”.
      • We sat and talked with the couple and gave them some advice on converting dollars to Euros at an ATM (or Bankomat in Italian) which they greatly appreciated, so I considered us even for them helping us out.
      4-2-09
    • THE COSTA MAGICA
      • The driver of the bus, which would serve as our transfer to the ship, then arrived and we boarded and were on our way to the ship. The 40 mile drive from Genoa to Savona along the coast of the Mediterranean was beautiful; mountains on one side the coast on the other. We arrived in the small town of Savona and saw our ship, the Costa Magica for the first time; it was majestic.
      4-2-09
    • THE COSTA MAGICA
      • After a short period of time for embarkation, we were on the ship and on our way to Malaga, Spain. Our cabin was very nice, it was on the eighth deck; AND WE WOULD NOT HAVE TO CARRY THOSE BAGS AGAIN FOR 12 DAYS.
      4-2-09
    • THE COSTA MAGICA 4-2-09
    • Cruise Day 1 – CRUISING The ship left the dock at 5 PM on April 2 nd and we were off to Malaga, Spain, a city I had never heard of prior to setting up our itinerary. 4-2-09 4-3-09 Spain Vigo
    • Cruise Day 2 – At Sea 4-3-09 The table seating for dinner was arranged to have English speakers together so our table mates were all Americans and our waiters were English speaking Brazilians. Our waiters, Juan and Jose Two of our table mates were American students studying in Barcelona this semester; J’Nay, (yes, another Jane’) from Penn State and Christina from Cornell, very nice women.
    • Cruise Day 2 – Cruising 4-3-09 Our other table mates were a couple with their two sons originally from Ohio, who now live in Germany, while the father, a retired officer, works as a civilian on an Army base there. Kathleen and Gary were a nice, retired couple from Colorado, who have a lot of time on their hands.
    • Cruise Day 3 – Malaga, Spain 4-4-09 Malaga-->
    • Cruise Day 3 – Malaga, Spain 4-4-09 As I had mentioned earlier, I had never heard of Malaga, Spain before our trip but I had done some reading on it and it seemed to be a very interesting place. We went on a Costa excursion into the city that morning and visited a ancient fort on a hill overlooking the city. There was a small museum there on military history that was interesting.
    • Cruise Day 3 – Malaga, Spain 4-4-09 Also from the fort there were exceptional views of the city; with its bullfighting ring and cathedrals. Our ship from the fort The Fort
    • Cruise Day 3 – Malaga, Spain 4-4-09 We also visited a cathedral in Malaga, that was very beautiful.
    • Cruise Day 3 – Malaga, Spain 4-4-09 Some pictures from inside the cathedral.
    • Cruise Day 3 – Malaga, Spain 4-4-09 More……..
    • Cruise Day 3 – Malaga, Spain 4-4-09 And, of course, their claim to fame, Picasso who had a school and studied here before moving on to Barcelona.
    • Cruise Day 3 – Malaga, Spain 4-4-09 So, after we had seen Malaga it was back to the ship to get ready for our next stop in Cadiz, Spain. Here are some shipyard shots I thought were interesting. Jane’ and I met two interesting older women from South Africa on the tour of Malaga, they had become tired and asked us if we would like to join them in a taxi ride back to the ship, being the only thing left to the tour was another fort. We joined Valerie and Sandra and had very interesting conversation and made some new friends.
    • Cruise Day 4 – Cadiz, Spain 4-4-09 Cadiz 
    • Cruise Day 4 – Cadiz, Spain 4-5-09 We took another excursion into Cadiz, this time, and it was very interesting although the bus driver made a wrong turn and we ended up seeing a lot more of the Spanish countryside than they intended. We visited another cathedral in a small town outside of Cadiz and saw some very interesting posters that depicted their celebration of the Holy Days.
    • Cruise Day 4 – Cadiz, Spain 4-5-09 More posters…….
    • Cruise Day 4 – Cadiz, Spain 4-5-09 We then went to a sherry winery where we tasted the best sherry we have ever had.
    • Cruise Day 4 – Cadiz, Spain 4-5-09 Some pictures from the winery…………
    • Cruise Day 4 – Cadiz, Spain 4-5-09 Some pictures from the winery…………
    • Cruise Day 4 – Cadiz, Spain 4-5-09 Each excursion had a multi-lingual guide, on most of our trips we were the only English speakers, but the guide would always make sure they did their spiel for us. Our Cadiz guide was Valerie …………
    • Cruise Day 4 – Cadiz, Spain 4-5-09 We returned to the ship and got ready to sail for our next port, Lisbon, Portugal. Some pictures leaving Cadiz harbor……
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-5-09 Lisbon --->
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 We arrived in Lisbon on the morning of April 6 th and were greeted in the port of Lisbon by the Cristo Rei statue, a huge statue, which is actually a miniature version of Rio's giant Jesus statue along with the massive April 25 Bridge across the harbor…very impressive!
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 Tyler visits Lisbon quite regularly and had let us know the sights we should be looking for in the area. We again took one of the excursions and had an excellent guide. Some pictures of the beautiful Lisbon Harbor……
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 More beautiful Lisbon Harbor……
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 Downtown Lisbon ……
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 Downtown Lisbon …… The main shopping area of downtown The elevator to the “Highlands” section of the city.
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 Downtown Lisbon …… The Balloon Lady The Heart Man
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 Downtown Lisbon …… The Flower Lady Tim takes a break in Café ‘A Brasileira’ in Lisbon’s Chiado area on the beautiful Rua Garrett to have his picture taken near the statue in bronze of the poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), once a regular customer at the café.
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 Downtown Lisbon …… The Fort that protected the port of Lisbon, this picture was taken from the Highlands area of the city
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 Lisbon …… Pictures from inside a cathedral in the Highlands
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 Our guide on this excursion was very good, the picture below shows her explaining the statue of a Lottery Seller” in a square in the Highlands section of the city..
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 Lisbon was definitely one of the high points of our trip and we loved the city; we now see why Tyler is so fond of it. Below is Jane’ in front of a fountain in the main square of the city.
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 As we were leaving Lisbon, we got a good picture of the impressive April 25 th Bridge named for the day in 1974 that Portugal became a democracy.
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 And then there was the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean as we left Portugal on our way to Vigo, Spain.
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 And then there was the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean as we left Portugal on our way to Vigo, Spain.
    • Cruise Day 5 – Lisbon, Portugal 4-6-09 And then there was the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean as we left Portugal on our way to Vigo, Spain.
    • Cruise Day 6 – Vigo, Spain 4-7-09 Just a minute; I had forgotten, when we were on our excursion in Lisbon, we were taken to a Port winery. I have now developed a taste for that fine wine, also. As you see Jane’ reaching for yet another glass.
    • Cruise Day 6 – Vigo, Spain 4-7-09 Vigo 
    • Cruise Day 6 – Vigo, Spain 4-7-09 As we arrived in Vigo Harbor there was a light rain falling; Jane’ and I were up early and caught this rainbow just after daybreak.
    • Cruise Day 6 – Vigo, Spain 4-7-09 Vigo was the most modern of the cities we visited and being the ship docked adjacent to the downtown section of Vigo we decided to take our own tour of the city.
    • Cruise Day 6 – Vigo, Spain 4-7-09 Our ship at the dock.
    • Cruise Day 6 – Vigo, Spain 4-7-09 A weird statue in the center of town.
    • Cruise Day 6 – Vigo, Spain 4-7-09 The Santa Maria collegiate church is situated in Vigo's old town and is the city's most popular church. It is dedicated to the Cristo de la Victoria (Christ of victory). It dates back originally to the Middle Ages, although it was demolished and rebuilt in the 19th century..
    • Cruise Day 6 – Vigo, Spain 4-7-09 A produce market on the streets of Vigo.
    • Cruise Day 6 – Vigo, Spain 4-7-09 As I had mentioned Vigo was a fairly modern city and probably the least interesting of any port we visited. These are pictures of the harbor.
    • Cruise Day 6 – Vigo, Spain 4-7-09 Oops, how did that get in there……I really must have been bored with Vigo. Actually, some Italian art work in the hallway outside our cabin on the ship.
    • Cruise Day 6 – Vigo, Spain 4-7-09 Finally, we left Vigo and were on to our most anticipated destination, a country and continent new to us, Casablanca, Morocco, in Africa. Leaving Vigo, some more harbor shots.
    • Cruise Day 7 – At Sea 4-8-09 Swimming pool and whirl pools.
    • Cruise Day 7 – At Sea 4-8-09 Swimming pool
    • Cruise Day 7 – At Sea 4-8-09 The upper decks
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 CASABLANCA -> AFRICA
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 Well, here we were, two country bumpkins, in Africa. I guess you really can’t consider us bumpkins any more, but it was awe inspiring. Our first glimpse of the harbor is below.
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 We decided we definitely wanted a guided tour so we set out on a bus with a guide to tour the city. One of the first things we saw was………..
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 One of our first stops was at the second largest Mosque in the world, second only to Mecca, with the world’s tallest minaret. The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca was completed in 1993 after great expense and artistic labor, and the result is one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in the world. Its gleaming newness and tremendous wealth is a stark contrast against the rest of Casablanca.
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 There was a very large courtyard with many auxiliary buildings.
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 Some other views of the exterior of the mosque. Who is this woman and why is she constantly in my way?
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 Some other views of the exterior of the mosque, which was started in 1987 and all work was done by hand..
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 Some views of the interior of the mosque; we were told to remove our shoes and given a plastic bag to carry them in during our tour of the interior
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 Some more views of the interior of the mosque;
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 Some more views of the exterior of the mosque; Our friends Christina and J’Nay Moroccans at the mosque to pray
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 Some more views of the exterior of the mosque; (It was shortly after this picture was taken that I was offered 6 camels for Jane’ by a Moroccan man ).
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 Casablanca was one of the busy cities we have ever seen; traffic was horrendous with buses, trucks, motor scooters, hand pulled or pushed carts, pedestrians all over the streets, all seeming to be going in different directions;
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 We visited a shop in downtown Casablanca that was very interesting.
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 Casablanca was a beautiful, interesting place; but I do not think I could live or drive there as you can see from their traffic signs.
    • Cruise Day 8 – Casablanca, Morocco, Africa 4-9-09 So we bid Casablanca good-bye and headed for Gibraltar
    • Cruise Day 9 – Gibraltar, United Kingdom 4-9-09 Gibraltar 
    • Cruise Day 9 – Gibraltar, United Kingdom 4-10-09 The view of Gibraltar coming into the harbor on an overcast, rainy day.
    • Cruise Day 9 – Gibraltar, United Kingdom 4-10-09 A closer view,
    • Cruise Day 9 – Gibraltar, United Kingdom 4-10-09 Gibraltar is a modern city and again we chose to do our own tour being there was not much information needed to do it on your own. Some interesting pictures from the downtown section.
    • Cruise Day 9 – Gibraltar, United Kingdom 4-10-09 Some more interesting pictures from the downtown section.
    • Cruise Day 9 – Gibraltar, United Kingdom 4-10-09 We attempted to take the cable car to the top of the Rock but unfortunately it was closed because of high winds. We bid Gibraltar farewell and were off to our next to last stop on our cruise, Barcelona, Spain
    • Cruise Day 10 – At Sea 4-11-09 It would take a full day of sailing to get us to Barcelona, so we relaxed and enjoyed a day of nothing to do but sleep and eat. Above, a couple of nice gestures from our cabin steward; the one on the left appeared the first night of our cruise, the second on Easter Sunday.
    • Cruise Day 10 – At Sea 4-11-09 There was a beautiful full moon on the night we were cruising from Gibraltar to Barcelona.
    • Cruise Day 11 – At Sea toward Barcelona, Spain 4-12-09  -Barcelona, Spain
    • Cruise Day 11 –Barcelona, Spain 4-12-09 We arrived in Barcelona on a cold, misty, day, one of the few bad weather days we experienced on the cruise. We opted to take the cruise sponsored excursion because Barcelona is a large, interesting city. We had bid farewell to four of our travelling companions the night before; J’Nay and Christina were going back to school and the ladies from South Africa, Valeria and Sandra were flying back to Johannesburg from Barcelona. We ran into the couple we had met in Genoa Hotel on the excursion and it was nice to have someone to converse with about the sights we were taking in. The first place we visited was a park designed by Antoni Gaudi, the famous Spanish architect. It was almost surreal, Gaudi used a technique that rounded most corners in his designs and made the look almost gingerbread–like houses. We started out on our bus and saw most of the city and then it was into the Gaudi Park.
    • Cruise Day 11 –Barcelona, Spain 4-12-09 Some strange buildings we saw along the way through Barcelona.
    • Cruise Day 11 –Barcelona, Spain 4-12-09 Some strange buildings we saw along the way through Barcelona.
    • Cruise Day 11 –Barcelona, Spain 4-12-09 Then there are these from inside Gaudi Park.
    • Cruise Day 11 –Barcelona, Spain 4-12-09 More Gaudi Park…………….
    • Cruise Day 11 –Barcelona, Spain 4-12-09 More Gaudi Park……………. Enough Gaudi Park!
    • Cruise Day 11 –Barcelona, Spain 4-12-09 Gaudi’s greatest creation was in downtown Barcelona where he designed the Cathedral in 1884 which is still not completed. He lived the last eight years of his life in the cathedral overseeing the work; unfortunately, he was hit and killed in an accident in 1924. His body laid unclaimed for 4 days with people thinking he was a vagrant. Antoni Gaudi The cathedral at night…..
    • Cruise Day 11 –Barcelona, Spain 4-12-09 More pictures of the cathedral………….
    • Cruise Day 11 –Barcelona, Spain 4-12-09 More pictures of the cathedral………….
    • Cruise Day 11 –Barcelona, Spain 4-12-09 Inside the cathedral………….
    • Cruise Day 11 –Barcelona, Spain 4-12-09 We bid gloomy Barcelona farewell as we left for our home port of Savona, Italy.
    • Cruise Day 12 – Savona, Italy 4-12-09 Our route back to Savona, Italy from Barcelona, Spain.
    • Cruise Day 12 – Savona, Italy 4-13-09 We arrived in Savona around 9 AM and prepared to leave the ship for our next big adventure; picking up the rental car and setting out for beautiful Lake Como. I had had some difficulty with the rental car reservation with AVIS, I had made the reservation in November and when I went to check it the week before we were to leave, it had disappeared from their website. It turns out that Easter Monday is a holiday in Italy and when they realized that they cancelled my reservation without informing me. I made some calls and finally was assured that a cell phone number they gave me would bring someone to the agency to rent me the car. I took their word for it, knowing I had booked a hotel within a cab ride of the agency just in case there was no one available. Sure enough, I called the number as we were gathering our luggage and was greeted with the word “pronto”, which is hello when answering the phone in Italy, and that is all I understood. I called back and got the same response. I thought we would give it one more try by taking a cab to AVIS first and if it was closed, as the cab driver assured us it would be, going on to the hotel and trying again tomorrow, costing us valuable time on our journey to Lake Como. We pulled up in front of AVIS and lo and behold, the door was open and an older gentleman was waiting for us. We did not speak each others language, but in about 10 minutes Jane’ and I went lurching off in our standard shift Ford Focus station wagon; along with our faithful Tom-Tom GPS with the Italian map SD card in it.
    • Cruise Day 12 – Savona, Italy 4-13-09 We arrived in Savona around 9 AM and prepared to leave the ship for our next big adventure; picking up the rental car and setting out for beautiful Lake Como. I had had some difficulty with the rental car reservation with AVIS, I had made the reservation in November and when I went to check it the week before we were to leave, it had disappeared from their website. It turns out that Easter Monday is a holiday in Italy and when they realized that they cancelled my reservation without informing me. I made some calls and finally was assured that a cell phone number they gave me would bring someone to the agency to rent me the car. I took their word for it, knowing I had booked a hotel within a cab ride of the agency just in case there was no one available. Sure enough, I called the number as we were gathering our luggage and was greeted with the word “pronto”, which is hello when answering the phone in Italy, and that is all I understood. I called back and got the same response. I thought we would give it one more try by taking a cab to AVIS first and if it was closed, as the cab driver assured us it would be, going on to the hotel and trying again tomorrow, costing us valuable time on our journey to Lake Como. We pulled up in front of AVIS and lo and behold, the door was open and an older gentleman was waiting for us. We did not speak each other’s language, but in about 10 minutes Jane’ and I went lurching off in our standard shift Ford Focus station wagon; along with our faithful Tom-Tom GPS with the Italian map SD card in it.
    • Celle Ligure, Italy 4-13-09 Our hotel was just a little further away than I had calculated; it would have been an expensive cab ride, but never the less we made it with no serious problem. The hotel was a pleasant surprise, although it was on a hill, and parking was a little tight it turned out to be excellent experience. The town of Celle Ligure turned out to be a resort area on the Mediterranean ; a beautiful beach with nice restaurants and amusements for the children. It was a pleasure strolling on the beach being the temperature was around 85 degrees; we had a nice lunch at a seaside restaurant and return to the hotel in late afternoon. Celle Ligure turned out to be an unexpected pleasure. We had made reservation for dinner at the hotel that night and we were pleasantly surprised to find a great four course meal and a bottle of Chianti cost only 40 Euros.
    • Celle Ligure, Italy 4-13-09 Some pictures from Celle Ligure……… The Beach The view from our balcony
    • Celle Ligure, Italy 4-13-09 Some more pictures from Celle Ligure……… The Beach Rides Our Hotel
    • Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy 4-14-09 After a very nice breakfast at Hotel Villa Adele; we packed up the car for the 239 kilometer (150 miles) trip to the town of Bellagio on Lake Como. By this time I had mastered the stick shift and was very confident; I had not driven a stick in probably thirty years, but it came back to me in no time. We got on the Autostrada, the equivalent of our turnpikes, and headed for Milan, when we realized that we had made a wrong turn and were actually headed in the opposite direction. I got into a Telepass lane (the equivalent of our EZ pass) at the toll station by mistake and was unable to get out. I then had a conversation with someone in Italian, which I could not understand, as traffic in the lane became backed up behind me. After several attempts to communicate the gate mercifully rose and I very quickly passed under it. I am still expecting that letter from AVIS saying I owe them hundreds of dollars for a toll violation; but then I think maybe they just left the dumb Americano off easy by opening the gate. Everything went well on the drive until we arrived in Como; Jane’ said TomTom said we had 35 miles to our destination and it was going to take 1 ½ hours. I said that thing has to be out of its mind and started the last leg of the journey. Oh, how right TomTom was; the road became a 1 and ½ lane road, where you thought the next turn might be your last. The Italian drivers behind me had no fear of the curves in the road or the steep cliffs without guardrails above the Lake. I told Jane’ to close her eyes and I became an Italian driver for the rest of the trip; downshifting instead of braking and staying right behind the guy ahead of me. It was a great relief when I finally saw the sign….Bellagio, 1 kilometer.
    • Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy 4-14-09 I must say that the trip along the lake was one of the most scenic I had ever seen and we waved to George Clooney across the Lake when we got to a place where I thought we were at about 20 miles from Bellagio and his home was on the opposite side. We arrived in Bellagio, one of the most beautiful towns in Italy around 1 PM, and located our hotel and found that they were not kidding about the 36 steps you had to go up to get into the hotel. We only had one bag each for our two day stay so the steps did not do us in. We went to our room to find that it was exactly as beautiful as it was depicted on their website; a rare thing went it comes to hotel advertising. The view was spectacular out over the Lake with the beautiful snow capped mountains on the other side. We took a long walk through the beautiful town and observed all the happenings on the lake. We decided to take it easy after the long drive and had a combinations lunch and dinner and retired for the evening. We had planned to do the tour of the Lake on the ferry boats the next day. There is a 24 hour ticket you can buy and just ride the ferries between about six towns along the lake.
    • Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy 4-14-09 The trip to Bellagio…..
    • Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy 4-14-09 Bellagio, Como, Italy….. George’s Place--- 
    • Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy 4-14-09 Some pictures from the ride to Bellagio…. One of the many tunnels in Italy
    • Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy 4-14-09 Some pictures from the ride to Bellagio…. One of the many tunnels in Italy A small town on the Lake George Clooney’s House
    • Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy 4-14-09 Some pictures from Bellagio…. From our room….
    • Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy 4-14-09 Some pictures from Bellagio…. From the ferry….
    • Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy 4-14-09 Some pictures from Bellagio…. From the ferry….
    • Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy 4-15-09 Some pictures from Bellagio…. One of the faster ferries … Those 36 steps…………
    • Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy 4-15-09 As you have probably already imagined, we really thought Lake Como was great. As I had mentioned in my emails, we had dinner the night before we left in a beautiful Wisteria Garden…
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-165-09 So reluctantly we packed up the car and headed back down along the Lake on the morning of April 16 th . I will have to admit I did wake up several times during the night thinking about that 35 mile drive along the Lake, this time on the side of the road next the guardrail and in the rain. This time our destination was a small town of about 27,000 people, about 25 miles west of Milan, called Abbiategrasso. I had picked a bed and breakfast from a B&B website on the internet, hoping it would be a good place to stay for trips into Milan and other areas of interest to us. The trip was uneventful and I was very happy to see the city of Como, knowing there was an end to the 1 ½ lane road. From Como it would be mainly Autostrada driving, which now seemed very simple. We arrived in Abbiategrasso shortly before noon, TomTom had been very good for us up until this point, but he was trying to direct us the wrong way on a one way street. I parked the car and left Jane’ in it as I went to search for our destination. I called the woman who owned the B&B and as I walked around the corner she was there to meet me. She insisted in very good English, that she would drive to our car and we should follow her back to the house. This was the beginning of a very nice stay in a very nice place with very nice people.
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-16-09 The woman’s name was Barbara, who was in probably in her middle forties; with four children. The oldest a 17-year-old girl and then two girls probably 9 and 7 years-old and a 4 year old boy. Barbara owned and ran the B&B with the help of her sister-in-law and her sister-in-law’s husband, Marco. Barbara’s husband helped out part-time, running a plumbing contracting business full-time. A more hospitable group of people would be very hard to find. The building had an enormous courtyard, (hence the name of the place Nel Cortile, Italian for Courtyard) so parking was no problem. The family lived on one side of the building, with the B&B rooms on the other side; making for a very secure arrangement for us. Barbara’s brother-in-law, Marco was very helpful with directions to Milan and just an all-round good guy who could not do enough for us.
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-16-09 Nel Cortile, the B&B…..Our bedroom was on the 2 nd floor
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-16-09 Nel Cortile, the B&B…..The common room on the first floor
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-16-09 Nel Cortile, the B&B…..The common room on the first floor
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-16-09 Barbara and three of her children.
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-17-09 The weather had been beautiful up until this point, but of the five days we were in Abbiategrasso it rained three of them. Fortunately, Saturday the 18 th. which we had selected as our day to tour Milan was beautiful. So we decided we would live the Italian way in this town, which was a very interesting experience. We spent the day of the 17 th just walking around the town taking in the sights and stopping for a cappuccino in one of the many cafes. It was amazing to us that practically everyone in this town rode a bicycle; not only the young people but people who appeared to be in their 80’s were pedaling all over town. They all seemed slim and in good health. We had many good meals in the local restaurants; seeing Italy as it is, not as it is in the tourist areas. We had no problem communicating, a few hand signs and our limited Italian got us what we needed. When we thought about it, these people were no different from people in this country in the same sized town.
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-17-09 Some pictures from around Abbiategrasso….. A turtle pond
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-17-09 Some pictures from around Abbiategrasso…..
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-17-09 Some pictures from around Abbiategrasso….. The aqueduct leading to the turtle pond The local park
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-17-09 Some pictures from around Abbiategrasso….. The entrance to a local church Statuary at the church
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-17-09 Some pictures from around Abbiategrasso….. The tallest building in Abbiategrasso The downtown shopping area
    • Milan, Italy 4-18-09 Saturday morning the 19 th we got in the car and followed Marco’s directions to the closest Metro stop to start our trip to Milan. We had no problem finding it and parked the car in an enormous parking garage. We went into the station as if we knew what we were doing an bought a 24 hour Metro pass at a tobacco shop. We checked the Metro Lines, neatly color coded, and picked the station we wanted to get off at, near the Duomo, the huge cathedral in the center of Milan. We came up out of the station and sure enough we were in the square (piazza) in front of the Duomo. We walked around the piazza and took in all of the sights; and then stopped for another cappuccino at a small café near the piazza. The Duomo was as beautiful as it had been described to us. After we had seen everything in that area; we walked through an enormous shopping Corso Vittorio Emanuele area with all very high end stores in a covered section of a city street called Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Some of the stores we saw were; Max Mara, Moreschi, Bruno Magli and Pollini, along with the more common stores like H&M Foot Locker, etc.
    • Milan, Italy 4-18-09 We passed through the shopping area and out in front of La Scala, the magnificent Opera House. We had to wait about one hour for the next tour of La Scala so we had a great lunch in the small restaurant down the street with an opera house décor. After lunch, we did the tour of the Opera House, which was a spectacular place. We then walked around that area where I was particularly drawn to a statue of Leonardo Da Vinci, my hero., the most brilliant man that ever lived. After we left there we walked down Corso Buenos Aires, that is one of the longest streets in Europe. This also was very commercial with stores like Timberland, Mandarina Duck, Benetton, Kookai and Nara Camice. It was in this section that we had our first 8 euro cup of cappuccino (16 euro total); I will admit that it was larger and had more whipped cream than the 1.25 euro cups that we had become used to in Abbiategrasso, but still it was and outrageous price. Another traveler's lesson learned; always ask the price of your cappuccino before you agree to the server’s suggestion.
    • Milan, Italy 4-18-09 We had walked miles around Milan; through a castle we thought might be St. Maria delle Grazie Church where Da Vinci “Last Supper” was painted. And then finally we found it in an inconspicuous section of Milan; too late, the last tour which was sold out. I should have bought them on the internet, but did not think of it when I was setting up the trip. So we trekked back to the nearest Metro stop and found our stop and took the train to it. We found our car and proceeded back to Nel Cortile, in Abbiategrasso. That evening we had dinner at one of the local restaurants and went to bed, very tired but happy that we had a great tour of Milan.
    • Milan, Italy 4-18-09 Pictures from Milan…… The Duomo
    • Milan, Italy 4-18-09 Pictures from Milan…… The Piazza at the Duomo
    • Milan, Italy 4-18-09 Pictures from Milan…… The entrance and the interior of Corso Vittorio Emanuele
    • Milan, Italy 4-18-09 Pictures from Milan…… More of Corso Vittorio Emanuele
    • Milan, Italy 4-18-09 Pictures from Milan…… Me and my hero…. LA Scala Opera House
    • Milan, Italy 4-18-09 Pictures from Milan…… St. Maria delle Grazie Church where Da Vinci “Last Supper” was painted Jane’ at Scala Opera House
    • Milan, Italy 4-18-09 DA Vinci “Last Supper”……
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy 4-19-09 4-20-09 Sunday and Monday, the 20 th & 21 st , were wet and nasty days in Abbiategrasso, so we relaxed around the B&B and went out for cappuccino and our meals and just enjoyed the experience. We had planned to take a trip to Parma, the cheese and prosciutto capital of Italy, but decide to cancel the trip and relax instead. We were wearing down, a bit, from travelling and the relaxation did us good. We took some time to remember the things from our trip…….
    • Abbiategrasso, Italy Somma Lombardo. Italy 4-21-09 Tuesday, the 21 st was a bittersweet day, on one hand we were tired and wanted to go home, but we had had a splendid time and it would be sad to leave the Nel Cortile B&B, they had been very good to us. They all gave us the traditional kiss on both cheeks and bid us arrivaderci and we were on our way to our last stop in Italy, First Hotel Malpensa at the Malpensa International Airport. We checked in, returned our rental car, made reservation for dinner and relaxed in our room. The treat for us here was they had not only the BBC, the only English language channel we had had for the past three weeks, but CNN, ESPN and several other English channels. The past three weeks had been a great cultural experience for us; living amongst non-English speakers almost constantly, had made us appreciate the other cultures and wish that we could have learned their languages, as a number of them had ours. Anyhow, the next morning, April 22 nd , at 10:20 AM, we took off on Continental Air Line for home, tired but thoroughly satisfied with the “Trip of A Lifetime”. What a wonderful 50 th Anniversary trip.