We arrive at our destination, Sirmione, an indescribably quaint Italian lake town at 4 pm on the last Sunday of summer. Why you ask does this matter? Well, we had to drive through impossibly narrow streets (you can touch both sides) filled with (I kid you not) thousands of human beings wondering why there was a vehicle in a pedestrian only town. Despite all the fjord and country road training Steve has had on this trip NOTHING prepared him for this. Possibly the most stressful 20 minutes of our trip was spent driving thru these medieval streets to get to our hotel at the end of point in the middle of Lago di Garda. By the time we got there, we were willing to pay any amount of money to have someone else drive our car out of there.
Sirmione is a beautiful town filled with fantastic restaurants and lots of Italians. We had many good meals and saw some awesome Roman ruins, but the weather wasn't quite warm enough and Vince had an issue with the "cuzzi". We've come to find that that the Italians like their jacuzzis cold?! WE don't. We had calmed down after our 3 day stay and got up at the crack of dawn to insure "light" pedestrian traffic for our drive out--we made it.
Real Balsalmic Vinegar from Modena and Ferraris
As most of you know, Adele is quite the connoisseur of balsamic vinegar and Vince of race cars, so we found kid heaven in Modena. We went on a personal tour of the home of one of the founders of "traditional" balsamic vinegar from Modena. I want you all to know, if it doesn't say "traditional from Modena" on it, it's not real. And you can taste the difference. What a thrill to be in the home of the matriarch of the movement to distinguish the home brewed concoction from the factory watered down version. To top off the day, we visited the Ferrari Museum. I would like to think that Vince is well rounded and would enjoy a day at the Louvre as much as looking at race cars, but not true. Vince was absolutely transfixed with these bright red vehicles. He literally sat for 1/2 an hour just staring, we finally had to peel him out of there. See pics. A great town to vist--who would have known.
Finally, it has stopped raining. That's because we are in Italy. We just so happen upon the lovely town of Bolzano to stay for a stopover on our way to the Lago de Garda--wow, what a treat. First, we have a 2 bedroom "suite" and this is more room than we've had in 3 months, secondly the cafe at the hotel we are staying at is tres chic. I realize this isn't the best place for us to start our re-entry into civilization after 3 months of camping, but we're going to shower and give it our best. The food is oh so good and we eat to our hearts content. We go to bed watching the U.S. Open, another luxury we've done without--TV-- and could not be happier.
We decided to stop by the Messner Mountain Museum, those of you fellow armchair mountaineers will know who Reinhold Messner is: first to summit Everest without oxygen, first to summit all the 8000+m mountains and the list goes on. He has created this stunning, modern museum within the confines of the grounds of the Castel Firmiano (see pics). What an amazing juxtaposition of old and new, and a great history lesson in mountaineering which goes way back in the Tyrol mountains.
Our final days in Germany were appropriately spent with our friends Jana and Mira in the tiny, beautiful village of Bühlerzell. Mira and her mother Jana lived down the street from us on Clifftop Way for a year. We stormed into their bucolic life 5 days earlier than planned. Mom had had enough of the rain and camping and begged Jana to let us come early. She and Mira were the most gracious of hostesses. They took us to truly the coolest town in Germany, Schwäbisch Hall--very artsy and hip. We started at the market where we bought the most amazing cheese, veggies and desserts. We then had a great lunch at this hip spot where the kids had there own corner upstairs to dine and we adults could actually talk.
Back at home we were treated to the most delectable meals by both Jana and her friends. It was so close to being home that I almost cried. Adele and Mira reunited as if time had stood still. They spent 4 blissful days together doing what girls their age do--sharing ipod songs, dancing, putting on "shows" and exploring the woods. Our time here was heavenly.
2 of our favorite things about Switzerland, and there are many, are the cheese and the Thermes!
I, with my nose in the air dismissed going to Gruyere, thinking it would be another touristy gimmick of a town--I couldn't have been more wrong! The old town was set within ancient walls and was filled with modern restaurants and fabulous galleries. There was a bar where the ceiling and chairs were made of bones (albeit fake, but cool nonetheless--see pic). We spent a couple of hours hanging out in this impressive town and then did the requisite cheese factory tour the next day. So glad we didn't miss this one.
If the Jungfrau is the place between heaven and earth, then the Vals Therme IS absolute heaven!! The Therme is listed as a protected building. Photos of the Therme have been published around the world: "A lesson in courage and aesthetics", "a unique archaic bathing and therapy landscape replete with quiet sensuality", "a spa such as the has never been seen before". I was on a quest to see this place, so despite the fact that Vince had a gash in his head from falling that morning and Steve's general resistance--I pushed onwards. In one of the more harrowing, we've had SO many, drives round hundreds of blind curves where numerous semis carrying Vals water were waiting for us--we made it. Oh, and was it ever worth it. Please see above quote for the sublime description and my pics below. Don't like that this is a footnote, but forgot to talk about Chateau de Chillion, truly the best castle we've seen! Check out the website for more: http://www.chillon.ch/en/NOTE: 2 Sets of Pictures