A Travellerspoint blog

The man with 3 wives in Lago di Como

Tara and Em come to visit

rain 16 °C
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We thought it was strange that people kept staring at us, until Em pointed out that a guy sitting at the dinner table with three women wearing wedding rings and speaking in English might attract a few odd looks. From that point on we declared Simon to be the proud husband of 3 wives.

We were staying in Gravedona, a nice small-ish town in the north of Lake Como, which doesn't attract quite as many tourists as the more southern towns. Our weekend was pretty wet... well, let's face it, the weather was shocking. But we still managed to get out and explore Lake Como and have heaps of fun and plenty of laughs.

The photos will do most of the talking...

Our days started with the best croissants we've ever tasted in a pasticceria in Gravedona...
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Gravedona
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Why is it that when you ask someone to take a photo for you, they always want to get the pavement, and forget the nice background? Here's a classic:
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Tara mastered the self-take
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The rain held off for long enough for us to get a boat to Bellagio, for some shopping, pizza, and exploring.
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Tara snapped the 20 week belly pic below...
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The chicks enjoying a little bit of sunshine back in Gravedona
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ER's artiste shot
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Plenty of good food was enjoyed by all, and wine by 3/4 of us.
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The owner of our agriturismo took a liking to us, and sat with us for about half an hour making small talk. When my entire Italian vocab ran out and we tried to escape, he offered to show us the animals. We went around the back of the farmhouse and discovered them picking cherries, which they said were for us! Score!

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We then discovered the extremely well endowed male sheep, that appeared to have just fathered a heap of little lambs. We couldn't stop laughing not only at his enormous balls, but also the bassitone baaas he kept letting out, that sounded so deep they could have been coming from a cow. Our host must have thought we were quite mad the way we laughed at this sheep. Classic. Here he is with two of his wives - he's the one on the right!

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After a great weekend of tasty food, good friends, and many laughs, we just managed to get Em and Tara to the airport, and ourselves home to Verona before our beloved VW Trend overheated and died*.

Just as well we weren't planning on going anywhere for a while!

  • The Trend only died temporarily - it's back from repairs now much to my disappointment, as I had to hand back the keys to the zippy brand new Polo loan car.

Posted by fishitaly 15:16 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

Svizzera

We escaped Italy for a few days in Switzerland

all seasons in one day 28 °C
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We're back in Verona after a week of travel and catching up with some good friends which has been awesome. Now Rich Say has come to stay, and he and Simon are out exploring the city.

I'm housebound, as I'm waiting for a courier delivery (for the 2nd day), which incidentally just arrived as I typed this. Hurray! It is amazing how challenging it has been trying to receive this courier (which contains Simon's plane tickets to Prague where he's heading in a few weeks - they don't seem to understand e-tickets) - the language barrier meant we ended up having to ask our friend in the bar downstairs to call the company for us and try and set up the delivery. Just when I thought my Italian was improving, you have a phone conversation with a customer service agent who clearly does not make any effort to speak slowly or clearly or rephrase things for you, and you have to give up.

But it's actually given me an excuse to catch up on emails, blogs etc.

In the last week we visited a doctor in Bern, our good friends Jen, Patrick and Elia in Basel, and our London visitors Em and Tara in Lake Como. We are thriving with the enjoyment of having friends around us, although it has meant our Italian skills are diminishing rapidly.

Here are some pics from Switzerland...

First stop was Bern, which was really pretty.

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... although some of the statues baffled us a little...

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They have these two bears in a park at the entrance to the town, I think the bear is the city's mascot or something. Anyway they were so cute and cuddly (from a distance!) we enjoyed watching them for ages.

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The 19 week scan went well, and our baby is growing strongly. Swiss medical technology is so advanced we were watching the ultrasound in 3D projected onto a screen on the wall in front of us about 2 metres wide. Hard to believe the baby is only 20cm big when you have seen it in those proportions! Here's a pic of the little fish...

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We then had a few days in Basel enjoying Jen, Patrick, and Elia's company.

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Basel is a beautiful place. We were amazed by the differences from Italy in organisation, cleanliness, maintenance of buildings, people actually obeying the road rules, street signs that actually took you where you wanted to go, public transport that was efficient and accessible...

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One of the downfalls of Switzerland is things are fairly pricey. So we booked into one night in a nice hotel, then 2 nights in a private room of a brand new YMCA to save on cash. Unfortunately, the YMCA didn't have parking included, and typically, we managed to pick up our second parking ticket of the trip. Kind of defeated the purpose of saving money on accommodation. I was also not entirely happy with having to climb a ladder to get into bed - that's right - bunks. Suddenly my 5 month bump is making me less agile than usual and bunk beds are really not an option. Next time I think we'll fork out for the nice hotel.

Anyway after an enjoyable few days we headed back to Italy to pick up Emma and Tara, stopping at Interlaken to take in the amazing views.

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Posted by fishitaly 04:10 Archived in Switzerland Comments (1)

The day that non funzione

From Sicily to Verona via Rome and Umbria

overcast 25 °C
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Our unwinding and relaxing in Sicily ended with one of those days where so many things go wrong, all you can do is laugh and wonder what will happen next. We were running late for the airport, causing Clare to power on through Sicilian roads at 150kph. We arrived, dropped off the car (with no petrol left) and stood around waiting for the shuttle for the airport. Waiting waiting...

The shuttle arrives and the man takes one look at the wheelchair and keeps driving. Waiting waiting...

The shuttle comes back. People start getting on, so I (Clare) put the suitcase on and tell the man to put the ramp down for Simon. He says the ramp non funzione. As I get more and more concerned about missing the plane, explain to him in my broken Italian that is was working fine yesterday (didn't know how to say three days ago!), and it really is not that difficult. After much arguing and gesticulating on both parts, and my display of hand clapping, he starts up the bus and as far as we could tell, was about to drive off with the suitcase. So I drag the suitcase off the bus again, only to be told that was not necessary - he was only moving the bus so he could get the 'broken' ramp out - which of course was not broken at all.

With that little episode out of the way, we manage to board the plane quite painlessly and get to Rome safely.

Normally, being the last off the plane (as you wait for the wheelchair to arrive), you get to the luggage carousel just in time to get your bag off before the next plane load of luggage arrives. Not so in Rome. We were of course last off the plane, but when we get to the luggage carousel, it was empty, and surrounded by a crowd of increasingly agitated Romans who we've noticed are not known for their patience. After about five minutes one person decided to go and ask at the lost baggage counter what was going on, we were rather amused to see the entire congregation of passengers head over to the counter together, in an effort to speed up proceedings. Surely an airport can't lose a whole planeload of baggage??

Simon and I sat contentedly people watching - we had seen the bags being unloaded from the plane while we waited for the wheelchair so we knew they were not far away - probably the staff were just taking a coffee break. An hour later, the bags came onto the carousel.

With that behind us, I realise I don't know the details of the hotel I booked for the night in Orvieto to help break up the journey home to Verona. We find an internet kiosk, put some coins in the slot, only to find that once again - non funzione.

Giving up, hoping we might recognise the name of the hotel, we headed off to find the shuttle to the long term carpark where we had left our old, dilapidated VW Passat "Trend", which incidentally seems to have a new creak, squeak, or rattle each time we drive it.

We wandered for about 15 minutes and asked 2 or 3 people directions and then finally saw the shuttle bus stop (we must have walked past 2 on the way). Safely back at the car, we load in the suitcase and get ready to begin our long drive, only to find that we had left the lights on for 4 days. Not surprisingly, the battery was flat. Our car non funzione.

(The reason the lights were left on is that the car was built long before such technological feats as that annoying bing bing bing sound when you open the door, or a light on the dashboard showing the lights are on. It seems it was also built before tape players or CD players, which only leaves Italian radio which consists of a plethora of stations that all play 55 minutes of rapid Italian jabbering each hour, and maybe one tacky love song.)

Could today get any worse?

By this time it is about 7pm (flight having landed at 5) and we are hoping to get to Tuscany for the night.

For once, we are pleasantly surprised. Things start to fall into place. The carpark attendant tells me they can provide a free mechanic service, to come and jump start the car. He turns up within 15 minutes. The car starts, we drive to Orvieto, wander through the beautiful town, find an amazing chocolate shop with internet access to find the hotel details, and at last settle in for the night in our cheap and cosy roadside, freight-train-side, stinking hot hotel room with air conditioning that non funzione.

A perfect end to a perfect day.

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The next day was much more pleasant as we drove home to Verona through Umbria, stopping at some beautiful towns and a winery on the way.

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After lunch at Lake Trasimeno

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Typical little alley in Spello

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Views from Montefalcone - the balcony of Umbria

After a midnight dinner in Bologna and such a long day of driving, we were happy to be home in Verona for a few days of chilling out before the next adventure.

Posted by fishitaly 10:04 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

Italiano Uno Zero Uno

Il mio Italiano non é molto bene, ma Clare’s Italiano é piuttosto buono.

sunny 26 °C
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Some simple words and phrases for getting about in Italy:

No:
Apart from the pronunciation no explanation needed.

Un altro:
Another one or the same again as in, please pour me another.

Non funzione:
Does not work. Commonly associated in Italy most things; lift, bus, key, toilet, hotel room cards, television in hotels, internet, printers, disabled ramps, disabled stair climbers etc.

Sciopero:
Strike. What you can expect when catching any form of public transport.

Incinta:
Pregnant. What Clare is.

Disabili:
Disabled. What I am.

Chiuso:
Closed. What everything is that you want to be Aperto.

Aperto:
Open. Not used very often.

Maniaco:
Maniac. You should yell this at most drivers on the roads.

Idioto:
Meanwhile every one else is yelling this at you.

Tedesco:
German. What everyone thinks we are in our car.

Pieno:

Full. What you will be after every meal.

Vino:
Wine. The A.

Birra:

Beer. The B.

Pizza:
Pizza. The C.

Zona limitato:
Limited traffic areas where we are allowed due to the wheelchair. Quite a perk in Italy.

If ever in doubt just move your hands a lot and speaka like-a you woulda for saying mamma mia. Also adding a’s, o’s or i’s to the end of each word will often work just fine. Clare’s Italian seems to improve dramatically when she is angry and mine seems to improve dramatically when I have had a few drinks.

We are both enjoying learning quite a lot and it is coming along. I have post it notes all over the house and Clare seems to remember everything she learnt at school.

Posted by fishitaly 03:07 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Pot Belly

Ooops, forgot to include this one...

sunny 27 °C
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The bump at 18 weeks:

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Mum and baby both doing well. Had two JW's knock on the door this morning and Clare was asked for the first time if she was pregnant. I thought that was a rather bold question. Clare was annoyed not to have had the presence of mind to look offended and reply, no.

We head off to Switzerland in a few days to visit Jen, Patrick and Elia and to get the 19 week scan.

Posted by fishitaly 07:16 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

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