Europe 2012 – 3. Stresa to Home

Part 3 – Stresa to Home

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Flickr Album – Stresa at the end

Flickr Album – After Stresa

Day 14 – Lanzo to Stresa – 83 miles

Have breakfast, shame we didn’t know it was included for the first 2 mornings of the stay…

Chat further to Alessandro. The hotel alternates between British and German tour groups. I am glad we were on a British week. It is the first time we had stayed in a hotel that focuses on tour groups and while it had some good points the food let it down. Also strange was the fact that there was no in-room information at all which I would normally expect, but tour groups don’t need that kind of thing. The hotel and room were very clean, staff and friendly and the grounds were pretty. The location up a mountain means it is quieter and cooler than the lakeside, but you have a longish drive, possibly on an evil road, to get anywhere.

Descending the main road it takes up 22 minutes to get to Argegno in the lakeside and a slow drive along the lake to join the motorway.

Arriving in Stresa there are some grand hotels but what really gets our attention is a car park by the lake with spaces! We have barely seen a parking space for days! As we drive into the car park a helpful chap from a ferry comnpany talks to us and we end up getting talked into a boat trip to Isola dei Pescatori and Isola Bella. It turns out that there are a lot of these private companies and they cost a bit more than the public ferry that runs the same route. However, this company seemed to be good, were helpful, and the ferries were fast and on time. Just be aware that as you drive into the car park you don’t have to talk to these people if you don’t want to. We call our B&B to rearrange our arrival time as we hadn’t planned to this extra sightseeing, but we need to make the most of our time here. The B&B are fine with that.

Fishermans Island was nice, quite packed with buildings and we have some sandwiches for lunch.

Isola Bella has an impressive palace that is worth the entry fee to visit and then some really lovely gardens. After the visit we had some ice creams before catching the boat back to Stresa.

The far end of the Isola Bella gardens
The other end of Isola Bella with the frontage of the Palace

When we had finished our island visiting we had a quick walk into town and picked up some information on the Lake Maggiore Express, our plan for the next day. We then head up to B&B Campino, our home for the next 3 nights.

This is a great B&B. The room was large, comfortable, very well equipped and had a little balcony for our use. Marco is very helpful and speaks plenty of English. He also gave us access to a room where we could do our washing. There is secure parking behind a gate for which you are given a remote control. The breakfasts were very good indeed.

Dinner was a short stroll down the road at La Rampolina, where we had some tasty pizzas and could admire the nice view of the lake. Book or arrive early as it filled up and they were turning people away.

Day 15 – Lake Maggiore Express

Breakfast at 8am, very tasty pastries, bread, salamo, cheese, scrambled eggs and yoghurt.

There is free parking at the train station, and we find a good wide space for the TVR.

Nobody will open doors into the car now…

A regular train takes us to Domodossola where had to wander around to find the underground platform to board the narrow gauge train to Locarno. This is the route of 100 valleys, which seems about right. It is a very pretty route and the journey passes quickly.

On arrival in Locarno we have an ok lunch before taking the funicular railway up to the Madonna del Sasso church.

Ornate interior
Some of the path back down, funnicular runs on that viaduct

From the church we can see our ferry back to Stresa arriving, so we take the interesting path down past many small shrines. We can see some of the path and the church from the ferry as we set off.

We take seats on the roof of the ferry which is very busy, but after some time on the lake, with winds picking up, the temperature dropping and a storm forming in the mountains around us the deck clears and we almost have it to ourselves.

The ferry takes a few hours to make its way back to Stresa with a lot of stops at pretty lakeside towns.

A pretty lakeside town

On arrival back in Stresa, having had a good view of the Borromean Islands that we visited yesterday, we walked back to the railway station to collect our car and decided to have dinner at the station cafe as it seemed to be packed with locals. It was a good dinner, but they had some interesting pizza choices.

After dinner we head back to our nice room to relax. This was a really good day out and we would recommend it to anybody staying in Stresa (or Locarno, as you can start at different places).

Day 16 – Lake Orta

Another very nice breakfast, Mario makes some scrambled eggs to go with the all the other food and a nice almond cake.

I then spent some time wiggling wires to the ventilation blower fan control board which thankfully made it start working again.

We then drove over to Orta san Giulio on the edge of Lake Orta. This was a good drive other than doing some laps of the centre of Omegna when the signs seemed to dissapear. This included quiet cobbled squares and some awkward roads.

Arriving at Orta there was a large carpark above the town with plenty of space to park at 10 Euros / day.

We walked down into the town and were quickly in narrow pretty streets and had a wander around. It didn’t take us long to find some icecream.

Dog in Orta
Church in Orta

We had a pleasant lunch at Ristorante Venus on the main square and then spent some time sitting in the shade watching the world and ducks go by before catching a boat (4 Euro return) over to Isola San Giulio.

The dock at Isola San Giulio

If you want to visit the church here, remember not to wear shorts. I don’t know what the inside of the church is like, but we had a very pleasant walk around the island, there is a single circular route on a very pretty little road. It is the island of silence, and most people manage to keep quiet, but we are in Italy…

Isola San Giulio map

There are many signs on the walk and depending on whether you go clockwise or anticlockwise you are on ‘The way of silence‘ or ‘The way of meditation’. The signs all have interesting text in four languages to read.

We stopped for a while on a peaceful jetty and admired the view with our feet dangling in the water. Until some other tourists joined us.

The little shop at the end of the walk containg some interesting rowing memorabilia and old pictures of rowing crews.

We took the boat back to Orta, and tried the other icecream shop in the centre. I definitly don’t like chilli chocolate icecream. I like chilli, chocolate, and ice cream, but not all together.

The main square at Orta, Restaurant Venus on the left.

We have a nice lakeside walk out of town on a path called Lungolago 11 Settembre 2001 and have another paddle in the lake under some shady trees.

Lake Orta from lakeside path

On getting back to the car we take the roof off, which is hard work as all the rubber trim is painfully hot from spending time in the sun. We then have an interesting drive back which includes following a car with a completely flat tyre for 2 miles. The car is doing about 25 mph and seems to be having some control issues. When we finally go in different directions there is a smell of burning rubber, the tyre must be about to come apart.

After some pretty but slowish roads we get onto the autostrada back towards Stresa. This is not good in the first tunnel where we are stuck in traffic with the roof off enjoying the fumes, but then the traffic clears and we can zoom through a few tunnels.

We stop at a little supermarket in Baveno to buy some supplies for a dinner on our balcony. Before dinner we take a little stroll through Campino, and take some photos of the islands we visited on our first day here.

Isola Bella

Day 17 – Stresa to Lucerne – 136 miles

Breakfast was once again excellent. We have really enjoyed our stay at B&B Campino and would recommend it to anybody visiting Stresa.

Before setting off I do a number of car checks. Tyre pressures are all good and the car has used no oil or water. I use elecrtrical tape to cover where the bonnet seems to have been rubbing. Filling the washer fluid bottle, which had become empty far quicker than expected I realise why when it all runs out on the driver’s side of the car. The hose had become unconnected at a connector, so simply pushing it back together fixed it.

Ready for loading

Following a lakeside drive North we fill up with 98 octane fuel as soon as we are in Switzerland where it is cheaper.

We then make our way north towards the Gotthard Pass, stopping at some services just before for a break.

This was a really good pass to drive, lovely sweeping roads in excellent condition. I was going no faster than the local drivers, but you didn’t need to go very fast to enjoy the road. We stopped part-way up to take photos and there was a chap cooking some sausages so we had a light lunch. We then stopped again near the top where there was plenty of snow, but this time the road was clear.

Nice bend leading into long partial tunnel

There was a lot of traffic far below (see photo) queuing to go through the tunnel. I can understand heavy vehicles doing this, but the drive over was fantastic and did not take that long.

Would have been nice to have the roof off…
TVR and snow. Passenger hiding…

The descent of the pass is again on good roads, and involves a lot of popping and banging from the car.

On arrival in Lucerne we have to head through the centre and out up a hill to reach our B&B,(at Schadruti 9c, Adligenswil)  and manage to drive there without any problems. But we are early and the owners and not home from work. So we head back down the hill to the near side of Lucerna where there is the Swiss Transport Museum and a big park bordering Lake Lucerne.

We spent some pleasant time relaxing in the shade under trees and watching boats go by before returning to the B&B at the time we were expected.

On arrival we have a nice chat with the young couple who run the B&B and are shown to our room. The B&B is effectively a very nice en-suite shed at the foot of the small garden. Outside we have our own table and chairs and a bench that overlooks a little valley (and the road, but it is quiet). It is very pleasant, and well furnished inside (including little Nespresso coffe machine) with a nice bathroom and comfortable bed. Not what we were expecting but we more than happy with it, especially havng our own outside space. For use when it gets really warm, there is a little plunge pool.

As this B&B is very much on the edge of town there are fields above, and the sounds of Swiss cow bells clanking can be faintly heard.

The owners provide some maps and bus timetables for us and tell us how best to get into town and give some recommendations for dinner. After relaxing for a while and planning tomorrow we head down to the bus stop and for CH6 each get 2 c day passes. A bus 26 takes us down to the Migro supermarket, and a bus 8 then takes us into the centre of town. On this sunny evening town is quite busy and we have a wander and do a little shopping before heading to Taube for dinner.

Pretty pedestrian bridge

We have a nice table outside next to the river, which is very pretty.

The river next to our table

Service is fast (although they have a long walk to our riverside tables), and the food is nice if quite plain (Big schnitzel and big sausage). Two main courses, a beer and a water come to the equivalent of £50.

After dinner we have  further stroll through the very pretty town before catching one of the regular buses to take us to the B&B. We then sit on our little balcony for a while listening to the cowbells.

On the old bridge

Day 18 – Mount Pilatus

A big day out, similar to the Lake Maggiore Express that we took from Stresa, but this time it is the ‘Golden Round Trip‘. Two cable cars up to Mount Pilatus (wiki) , a cog railway down, and then a boat back to Lucerne. Including 5 buses, that is a lot of public transport.

Up at 07:30, we talk to Uli (one of the owners) and arrange for breakfast to be left the next day. The take Bus 26 to Migro and buy breakfast before taking buses 6 and 1 which get us close to the start of the cable car.

The first bit of the ride up is in little Gondolas that seat a maximum of 4, but it is quiet and most are empty so we have a Gondola to ourselves, which is nice. It rapidly gains altitude, going over meadows and forest, and there are some great views.

Part-way up
That is where we are going

The gondola goes through one station part-way up, giving walkers a chance to exit, before carrying on up to an area with a cafe, some activities, and the base station for the big cable car that will take us to the summit.

We have a little walk around here and see some information on the history of the cable cars, but don’t spend long before catching the big cable car (cozy) to the summit.

The big cable car

This has the most dramatic changes of scenery as the trees and meadows are quickly left behind for the rocky steep mountains and snow fields.

Part way up. Interesting location for a chapel

At the top we spend a long time wandering about, admiring the view and taking a lot of photos. It was quite cool at altitude, but we had taken suitable clothing.

View back down to Lucerne
Panorama of the cog railway side. Click for a larger version.

We, and many others, spent some time watching a paraglider getting ready to launch, and it was interesting to see him take off.


As you would expect, there were a couple of chaps playing Alphorns.


After a couple of hours at the summit we caught the cog railway to take us down to Alpnach.

Cog railway carriage

This was a very pretty descent, passing from the rocky mountains into steep meadows and woodland.

Near the end of the descent, the edge of the lake is just visible.

When we reached the bottom it was short walk to the boat to take us back to Lucerne.

Our boat back to Lucerne arriving

In our usual style, we spent the whole of the long trip back outside admiring the lovely view of the lake, towns and mountains. The boat stopped at many small villages / towns before reaching Lucerne.

Retuning on the lake

On our return to Lucerne we had a wander through town and bought some rolls with beef / sausage for lunch from a bakery. We then took the bus back to the park we visited yesterday and have a look at the outside of the Swiss Transport Museum, (see picture below). We then walked to Migro to buy some food for dinner.

Wheels – On the outside of the Swiss Transport Museum

We had a simple dinner sat on the bench outside our room on a pleasantly warm evening before retiring for an early night.


Day 19 – Lucerne to Anould – 133 miles

Early in the morning we hear some thunder and rain, and then hear our hosts dropping off breakfast at 7am. This is placed in a little cabinet outside (with a perspex screen) and when went out to eat it we were very happy with what was provided. The coffee machine in the room worked well to accompany it and I tried all the different types of coffee for which capsules were in the room.

We loaded up the TVR, which was not very clean, and headed down to the museum. The overnight rain was not enough to trouble the car.

Damp car outside the B&B
Parked at the museum, looking small

The Swiss Transport Museum really is excellent. It is a shame we only put in 4 hours parking and head to drive to our next destination, one could easily spend a full day there.

Different areas covered aviation, space, cars, trains, and boats. There were some excellent exhibits and a lot of variety.

Snow eating train
Racks of cars – Each of these could be removed by an automated system and taken to a display point. This photo only shows some of the cars.
Plenty of roadsigns
Note the walkway for going inside

When we ran out of time and had to leave the museum drove off to Migro, bought more supplies, returned to the museum/park and had a picnic in the park (our 3rd visit).

Our favourite park

On our drive out through Lucerne a tourist took a photo of the car, which is always nice. The slow start to the journey soon transitioned to fast roads (and a thumbs-up fro a biker on the Autoroute) and a brief 10 minutes in Germany before crossing into France. We went over a few Cols in the Vosges Mountains, and these were some of the best driving roads of the trip. Not as famous nor as high as Alpine passes, but very good roads, not too much traffic, and plenty of overtaking opportunities when we found slower cars.

We were staying in a house belonging to family for the last few days, so we stopped at a Super U for supplies before arriving. We had to use our French to chat to the neighbours when we collected the keys, but that was fine, and we were soon relaxing with drinks and had cassoulet for dinner. After so many nights of different hotels it was nice being able to settle in a house.

Day 20 – Not very much

Back to a quiet bit of France, and not much to do today.

We had a nice drive to Gerardmer where we had a very pleasant lunch. We had a stroll through town and along the lake, but there wasn;t much going on.

It was nice being back in the France of free parking and lots of space.

Lots of parking spaces!

Lunch in La Taverne Alsacienne was very tasty and well priced. Good beer too.


On our way back we covered some good driving roads and then randomly stopped at a sweet factory,and went to find to join a tour, but it was very loud and there were two coach parties. It wasn’t very interesting so we went back home, stopping at a Carrefour for supplies before a quiet evening in.

Day 21 – Monkeys and birds

Had a bit of a lie-in before heading off on some excellent and quiet driving roads to Monkey Mountain.

A visit here takes a bit longer than an hour, and you get to feed popcorn to monkeys.

This monkey looks how I feel
Mmmm, tasty popcorn
Family relaxing

We stopped for a simple lunch in Kintzheim befiore heading on to the Cigogne et Loutres (Stork and Otter) reintroduction centre in Hunawihr.

This was a really good visit, getting to find out about Storks (in French), see an interesting aquatic show of birds / otter / penguins eating hapless fish, and seeing a lot of other animals.

Tasty raw meat
Tasty live eel
Tasty assortment of vegetables

Following this interesting visit, we took the roof off and had a good drive home. We were stuck behind a slow vehicle for a while, and when I started a full-throttle second gear overtake I backed off after a nasty rattling sound started. This seems to have been sorted following a service, I believe it was a bit of play in the exhaust allowing it to touch the chassis somewhere.

Yet another trip to Super U for supplis before going home, making dinner and packing for the morning.

While putting a few things in the car I get talking to an old French couple (by default everybody here is French…) about the car as he seems interested. It turns out that he has been to the Le Mans 24h no fewer than 40 times, and in 1952 worked on the timekeeping and got to hand Fangio his times. Excellent.

Day 22 – Anould to Home – 621 miles

A long drive today with a tunnel crossing as well. Following at 05:30 alarm we are off at 06:30 and fill-up with 98 octane at the local Super U.

It starts to rain, and it doesn’t really stop until we are home. Lucky the car seems to ignore rain quite happily. we have one stop to fill up with BP 98 and a brief rest an an aire before arriving at the tunnel at 12:30. We are on a train at 12:45 and not long after we are in the UK and start the long drive home, with one fill of V-Power to keep the car happy.

Back home at 16:15. That is 3 weeks, 3000 miles, and barring a couple of minor niggles, the TVR hasn’t missed it beat.

It has used no oil, water nor needed air in the tyres. It has averaged 27 mpg and, bar a few areas, been very good fun.

The car is also quite dirty, and in 3 weeks has done more miles than it has averaged in any 2 years of its life before us.

Poor dirty car
Nearly home