Saturday, August 16, 2008

European Cycling 2008--Wednesday June 18th-Thursday June 19th

While in Europe I didn't turn the television on for over a week, and when I finally did, I quickly decided that nothing going on in the world could be worth disturbing my European adventure. From my room in the Silvio Hotel in Bellagio, I had a stunning view of Lake Como, as well as a church steeple up the street.

On Tuesday night, I smelled my first cigarette smoke since arriving in Europe. My room was above the front door, and people were hanging around and puffing after leaving the restaurant patio. I could smell it from my balcony, but not from my room, and I never smelled it in any restaurant. The showers weren’t the only thing to improve in Europe over the last ten years! It’s now illegal to smoke in most public places, and they enforce it.

On Wednesday I awoke to crystal clear blue skies, and the extended forecast of good weather for the next week would prove to hold true. We deserved it after the Dolomites and the Stelvio escapades in the cold rain and snow. We were going to have a few rest days, and rest we did.

After a buffet breakfast, we bought an all day pass on the “slow boat”, and traveled from town to town on the lake. Our first stop was in Varenna, where we stopped by a fruit stand, explored the hilly narrow streets, and enjoyed delicious pasta in the sun at a cafĂ©.

Back on the boat, we sat on the top deck and enjoyed the sun as well as tremendous views of the very steep mountains that tower above Lake Como. I can see why wealthy people from around the world gravitate to this area. Not only is it one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, the climate is near perfect, and then there is that great Italian culture, food and lifestyle. Being close to the high Alps doesn’t hurt either.

When we arrived back in Bellagio in the afternoon, we walked the long way back to the hotel, circumnavigating our way around the tip of land where Bellagio is located. By now it was in the mid 80’s, and the warmth felt really good.

I didn’t appreciate the heat at night when my small hotel room was too hot for me to fall asleep. Hot rooms would prove to be the norm for the rest of the trip, as the cool rainy pattern was to be replaced by a near heat wave. The upside was that I was getting a lot of reading done when I couldn’t get to sleep.

On Thursday morning, Tim and I used his stand to give our bikes a thorough cleaning and once over. While we worked, Silvio, the namesake of our hotel, and his sons labored over the fishing nets they had just hauled back in from the lake. When you eat fresh fish at Silvio’s, it’s not only really fresh, your fish is personally caught by…Silvio! We were to see this type of family operation over and over, and it’s no wonder pride in ownership is evident. One of the sons working on the nets had been our waiter the night before, and Silvio’s daughter had checked us in.

Kind of makes you want to go back.

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