Lake Como is beautiful! Relaxing and enjoy the scenery seems to be mostly what it is about. Wandering the streets and shorelines of Varenna was incredibly peaceful. Unfortunately, two of our family members, had some stomach issues, so we didn’t get to see quite as much as we would have liked, but given that relaxation was the main point, it was fine. Like so many apartments in Italy, ours had tile floors, so mopping up little boy vomit wasn’t as awful as it could have been. Oh well. Sometimes travel pictures lie. To prove this point, if I wouldn’t have told you this, you would never be able to tell any of our woes from the pictures on this page.
Saturday, June 23, 2018
Most of our day was filled with a long train trip from Sorrento to Varenna. Train strikes are very common here, but luckily they are required to announce it ahead of time. Fortunately, they picked the day before our travels so we didn’t have to alter our plans to make it here. If you are traveling by train, you may want to check the schedule of train strikes.
Since trains are almost always late in Italy, we were skeptical we would be able to make a 20 minute connection in Milan, so we decided that we would purchase the ticket on arrival. When we pulled in only 10 minutes late, we managed to get our tickets and get on the train with 2 minutes to spare. Of course, this was our first train that actually left on time, but we felt grateful to be on it. If we would have missed it, it would have been a 2 hour wait.
Once we arrived, we walked from the train station to our apartment. Google maps is wonderful! T-Mobile is awesome in that there are plans that include free 2G speed data in most parts of the world. Travel before this combo was much more complicated.
We love our apartment! Before arrival, we knew we wouldn’t have a lake view, but given the length of our trip, our desire to stay in the heart of the city, and the need to keep our sanity with a little distance from the boys, this was a good financial compromise. We have 2 floors. The top floor is a beautifully decorated living room and kitchen, while the lower floor has two bedrooms and a nice bathroom. Our host gave us a tour, a free bottle of wine, and pointed out the foodstuffs available in the apartment. The boys were pleased with the wafer cookies and a bag of chips.
We went out for a walk to get acquainted with the town. The town has a population of less than 900, but because of the tourism, it feels a lot larger. There were a couple of churches in the main square, so we ducked in to see them. Before heading back to the apartment, we stopped at the tiny grocery store to get pasta and breakfast stuff, and the salumeria (salami shop) to get some delicious looking meatballs and some cheese.
Back in the apartment, I put together a nice spaghetti and meatball dinner, although we could have used a bit more sauce. Unfortunately, one of the boys started feeling really sick just before dinner. I thought he was just tired and trying to get out of drinking the milk, which was likely at least 2%, if not whole, rather than the fat free the kids are used to. When I made him drink it, he promptly vomited, at which point I felt really bad and didn’t complain about cleaning it up. Sigh. Unlike hotels, apartments are usually stocked with cleaning supplies, so it wasn’t too bad since the floors were tile. We had him rest a bit and enjoyed the town as best we could with a sick kid.
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Happy Birthday to me! I woke up to a beautiful morning in Varenna. We had eggs and a really nice apricot tart with a lattice top. Our sick kid was able to have half a slice of toast and said he was feeling a bit better and really wanted the peach he bought yesterday. Yay! But unfortunately, it was too much for him, and the vomit landed in a nice little container we had sitting next to him. No fever, so we were pretty sure it was just something he ate that needed to get out of his system.
Given our breakfast and evening experience, we nixed our ferry hopping plans and decided to stay in town. There was supposed to be an Anglican church with an English service 2 ferry stops away, but we didn’t want to risk taking a sick kid that far away. We opted instead to catch the 10:30 Catholic service, in Italian, two blocks away. With Jeremy’s high school knowledge of French, plus a semester of college Spanish, he was able to read about half of the Italian, although listening was a bit harder. I was able to enjoy the music and the setting, as well as look up Bible verses on my phone and study them. It was a good experience.
Afterwards we took a short walk and thought about trying to climb the 20 minute hike to the castle, but at that point, my stomach started giving me trouble, so we decided to stay close to the apartment. Throughout the day we made mini adventures through the town, the boys enjoyed some Italian T.V., as well as a Harry Potter DVD that they found in the apartment.
For dinner, everyone was feeling well enough to go out to a highly recommended pizza restaurant, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. Worst case was that we would need to leave early and take our pizza back to the apartment, but luckily that measure wasn’t needed.
We came back to our apartment and enjoyed a nice glass of wine before putting the kids to bed. Overall, it was nice birthday, even if not completely what we intended. One nice thing about taking things slower is that we have had lots of time to think about what we want to do once we return home. It’s nice being away for an entire summer, but our return is getting closer and we need to get our act together and figure out our next steps. We keep hoping that something will make complete sense and that we can jump on it, but so far, no luck in that department. Too many choices feels almost as bad as too few.
Monday, June 25, 2018
Everyone felt better today! “Vitamin I” (Imodium) saved the day! This is an essential thing to have in your travel medical kit. Food in other countries isn’t the same as at home, and sometimes you just need to plug things up to get things back on track. Our experience is that it is rare to need more than 1-2 pills for everything to return to normal. When stomach issues hit, we try to let them play out for a day or two, if our travel plans allow for it. Pepto bismol tablets are our next source, as they are less intense than Imodium and if there is something bad in your stomach, it will likely work its way out. Imodium is the last resort, but is particularly great if you know bathrooms will be scarce or you simply don’t want to miss something. While traveling internationally, I always carry a few individually wrapped Imodium tablets in my purse, and keep a full bottle of them in my suitcase. It’s a bit weird, but I also pack a tube of diaper rash cream in my travel kit as well to make walking more comfortable when the Imodium was needed. Your kids will complain that it says “diaper,” but then they will thank you (use with toilet paper). Other items almost always in my purse include hand sanitizer, a tube of sharable Carmex, bandaids, a pack of Kleenex, either Ibuprofen or Tylenol for general aches and pains, Benadryl in case of an unexpected allergy reaction, and Dramamine if there will be car or boat travel. My suitcase has a lot more variety, and I will transfer stuff in and out of my purse as needed. One of my kids gets heat rash, so Cortisone cream is a common addition for us.
We started our morning with a ferry to Bellagio. Beautiful! If we were to do it over, I may have considered one of the passes and just rode the ferry all day. It reminded me a bit of my ferry time in Alaska’s Inside Passage, but with super cute Italian villas scattered everywhere.
Once we reached Bellagio, we found a larger version of Varenna. They were similar in that the waterfront was lined with restaurants and hotels, but different in that Bellagio had a lot more shops. I had a ton of fun window shopping.
We found a simple restaurant to eat in, and I decided to try the ravioli. Somewhat mediocre. The boy’s pizza was much better.
Afterwards we went down to the docks and almost got on the wrong ferry. The guy collecting tickets pointed to the next dock over and we ran to catch the correct ferry. Luckily, it was late, and we made it on with about 30 seconds to spare. That is one nice thing about things never being on time here.
We returned to our apartment with the intent of letting the boys change into their swimsuits and go down to the very tiny public beach. Of course, I fell asleep instead and everyone enjoyed some quiet time. When I woke up, we proceeded as planned, but it was windy and the boys found the water quite chilly and only got in to their ankles. Yesterday, we saw a bunch of people jumping off the end of the dock, but the boys had no interest after feeling the temperature. Instead, we enjoyed just sitting and watching the waves while the boys played on the shore.
I made another spaghetti dinner, but this time put in enough sauce. Tasty! We took a final evening walk by the lake and came back to the apartment to pack up. Tomorrow morning we go to Milan, where we will catch a night train to Vienna!