Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Keeping Busy In The UK.

2017 has so far been a busy year for our travels with one trip following on from another since the beginning of January, but we have now reached a welcome resting point to enjoy what is turning out to be a warm and fine British Summer at home.

After arriving home from Italy we had just a week to sort ourselves out for another visit to our own beautiful Capital City to visit our daughter and her fiancé again. Our plan was to spend a week with them in their lovely Wimbledon apartment, doing our own thing during the weekdays, and spending time out with them at the weekend.

We never drive down to London these days, finding it much easier to take the Glasgow to Euston Virgin Train from Wigan North Western Station, and then the tube once there. The location of stations at both ends means there is very little distance to travel from home and to our daughter's home once there. Also, as I prefer these days - if booked far enough in advance 1st Class travel can be used on Virgin Trains which provides inclusive refreshments, including alcoholic beverages. On the way home from Euston we also make use of the comfortable Virgin Trains 1st Class lounge while waiting there. The cost of this journey using the 1st Class service - just £27 each way pp, well worth it!

On the day after our arrival we had arranged to visit a friend (distant relative) who had invited us for coffee and then a look around her home town of Godalming. Thanks Barbara - for your hospitality and a fabulous day out.

Whilst in London we took the opportunity to have another look around the City, taking the tube to Leicester Square and doing the usual tourist sights before enjoying another one of the benefits of being a loyal Virgin customer - this time using their complementary Virgin Money Lounge on Haymarket where free tea, coffee and biscuits are available together with free wi-fi to use either your own tablet or laptop or to borrow one of theirs.

At the weekend we all visited the very interesting London Transport Museum at Covent Garden on Saturday.

On Sunday we then all drove out to visit Leeds Castle in Kent - another very interesting day out.

Our visit this time coincided with the first day of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, so on Monday morning we made a day of it by walking out of the apartment to Wimbledon Village, first for lunch and then on to the All England Lawn Tennis And Croquet Club to queue for tickets into the grounds. We were able to see the exciting opening match between Aljas Bedene and Ivo Karlovic and their epic 5 set match which Bedene eventually won on Court Number 3. I have never been a fan of watching tennis on TV, but to be there in person the atmosphere was electric.

All too soon our time in London was over and we travelled home without delay, as we were very much looking forward to an appointment the next day to meet up with two people who we met as a result of narrowboat blogging - Doug and James of Narrowboat Chance. After following their blog since the outset, we first met them in person a couple of years back now on an Ocean Cruise with P&O Cruises. They were in our home city of Manchester and we had arranged to meet for drinks before a late lunch in the city. The day turned out to be one of the highlights of our year to date - enjoying Prosecco first in their beautiful apartment before enjoying a few gin and tonics walking along the regenerated canal on our way down to Albert's Shed Castlefield to eat.

We made a day of Manchester - shopping after free coffee in Manchester's Virgin Money Lounge on King Street.
The cosmopolitan regenerated canals of Manchester.

During our walk through the City to Castlefield.
A truly fabulous day was enjoyed by all of us - thanks guys.

We now look forward to The Edinburgh Festival Fringe next, where we are booked to see (or be part of) what we think will be the hilarious "The Wedding Reception" - an interactive play which includes a 3 course meal. This is performed by the same theatre group when we were part of the "Faulty Towers" interactive meal during a previous visit to London which was very entertaining.

See you then......

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Relais Casali della Cisterna - Belgirate.

The title of this post is the name of the hotel we have just returned home from after a 6 night stay. My post titles would normally relate to the trip just completed - as in this case a visit to Lake Maggiore in the Italian Lakes to do a planned family reunion of us and my two brothers and their wives to see our Australian cousin from Brisbane who was once again visiting Europe, having first completed her own planned river cruise from Amsterdam on the Danube.
However, we all found the hotel so stunning, and the family that run it so helpful and accommodating that I have named the title just as the name of our hotel, even though we visited other lakes and towns while in the area.

This was our first view as we arrived in the late afternoon sunshine and headed to check in at reception. I just had to take a photo there and then, even though my image doesn't do the view justice.

This holiday took place just a week after our return from a 4 week tour of Europe of our own in the motorhome, so we had just sufficient time to sort out the Rapido, wash and pack again before flying out from Manchester to Milan Bergamo airport using Ryanair, which we found to be perfectly acceptable bearing in mind their very reasonable fares.

There is a good shuttle bus service from Bergamo Airport to Milan Central Railway Station, where a train journey of around 2 hours or so to Stresa could have been completed easily, with a short 5km taxi ride from Stresa railway station to complete our journey. However, we chose the easy option and contacted Simona who runs the hotel together with Alberto and their young family to ask them to arrange a private taxi transfer for us. This was done without issue and also proved to be a much better price than I could have arranged for myself. When our plane landed after a flight of less than two hours - sure enough our driver was waiting for us holding a card with our surname on it.

This delightful hotel is located here on the Western shores of Lake Maggiore, just south of Stresa in the picturesque village of Belgirate.

The hotel is what we might call a "boutique" hotel, described by the owners as a "historic fashion" hotel. It, together with its grounds and location is stunning. Everything is maintained in pristine condition while Simona and Alberto pride themselves in running all aspects of the hotel that involve personal contact with their guests themselves, giving us a really warm homely feel, as though we became part of their family for the duration of our stay. We found that nothing was too much trouble for them - just ask and they will try their best to accommodate. One highlight of our stay was breakfast on the terrace overlooking the lake every morning.

More images that I took of our own accommodation......

And the view from our window as we opened the curtains on the morning after arrival.....

Here is the link to the hotel's website should you want to follow in our footsteps. We can certainly highly recommend a stay. We would also recommend that you contact the very obliging business owners personally, they will accommodate your requests where possible. Once on the page I have linked to, scroll down from the beautiful image and read about how it all came about. Click on the "hotel" link for the history of the place, then book it - you won't be disappointed.

Relais Casali della Cisterna

While we stayed here we then arranged our own hire car from the only outlet in nearby Stresa - Avis. We bought a 3 day hire package at a very reasonable price and as usual opted out of their excess waiver insurance package as we find that providing our own annual cover via icarhireinsurance to be much cheaper. They provided us with a 2017 Fiat Punto which we used to its full extent to visit restaurants in the evenings as well as days out to Stresa, Orta, Como and Bellagio. We would recommend car hire to give yourself the maximum opportunities to explore this beautiful area. Car hire is obviously available at the airport, but we chose this option rather than drive on the motorways around Milan.

Here are some images of the rather beautiful places we visited by car....

Orta - a beautiful medieval town which remains quite undiscovered by the tourists
At the top of the cable car from Stresa
During an evening meal out in Stresa - you have to try don't you?
Stresa in the evening

From a promenade walk in Stresa
The rather opulent Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees - very beautiful, but not our thing

Driving up the side of Lake Como towards Bellagio
Views from our delicious al fresco lunch stop at Hotel Tre Rose Ristorante

The town of Bellagio

During our stay Simona kindly arranged a tour of the islands of Lake Maggiore - known as The Borromean Islands, by private launch. Our first visit was to Isola Madre where we explored beautiful botanic gardens. There is an entrance fee to do this but we paid just €21 for a ticket that would allow us to also visit the magnificent Baroque palace and gardens located on Isola Bella after we had partaken in a leisurely lunch on the smaller island Pescatori. The cost of the launch to ourselves for the day? Just €15 a head. The way our very friendly Captain achieved this is that when he dropped us off on an island - he told us a time, around 2 hours, he would return to collect us, and presumably he then carried on with his business until our time arrived. This worked very well, giving us ample time to explore. More information about Stresa's many attractions can be found here....

Stresa Tourist Information

Finally, here are my images of our wonderful day out on Lake Maggiore and our visit to the palaces by boat.....

Where we boarded our private launch for the day

This has been a most fabulous holiday. It was also very easy to arrange - not through a package holiday company, but arranged personally as we prefer. We can highly recommend a visit to this beautiful part of our world.