There was jsut too much in France still to write about but as we are now in Italy and soon will come home, I thought I would skip over to Italy. We travelled up over the Alps having stayed our last night in France at the Villa in Volan which had been built in the 1400's and had been in the family of the present owners for 200 years. Valerie was our host there and she was a superb cook - my favourite meal in France was prepared by her and it really wasn't French food at all, more like those gorgeous mixes of international food we get in Australia.
Anyway, after our very happy time in France we thought a few quiet days in the Alps would be just the right thing to do before heading off to the Italian lakes. Ours was the only small hotel at Lake Laux, a small curiously clear lake surrounded by green banks and views of the highest alps all around. We checked in on the Saturday and it was idylic. What a surprise on Sunday morning to find that half of Turin had decides to spend their day picnicking around the lake (too cold for even the children to swim), setting up stalls and so forth. Montville at Easter! We had to laugh .... Apparently it is like that every Sunday as it is only an hour from Turin and in August, every day is a Sunday.
The tiny hidden village of Laux was quaint. Known as the village of birds it could better be known as the water village. So many wells and channels of water run through the village and many small murals decorated the walls. A very cute village - seemed almost deserted yet was such a tidy little gem.
Up above the next village was the Forte Di Fennestrelle which is referred to as Italy's Great Wall. There are few words to be able to describe this fort which climbs 700 meters above the base level with various internal and external tunnels which travel three kms up the mountainside. Menacing, imposing, threatening and yet quite beautiful. Through it was built with Italian defense in mind, and was fully manned and guarded, it never went through any war or attack - I think the French just knew they would not have a chance through that valley. Like many monuments it is in a state of disrepair but over the last decade restoration has been occurring and you are able to tour large parts of the fort. We took the three hour tour, in Italian which meant we had to rely on the sheet of English explanation we were handed. Three hours took us up a little over a third of the way. We met others in the Hotel who did the eight hour trip up to the top.
I am always drawn to graffiti and the prison cells of the fort did not disappoint.
Just one section of the internal staircase we ascended.
In the church there was a modern or contemporary art show on three or four metre lengths of paper. I loved this contrast.
From there to Stresa and the lake ..... Misty evening of our arrival but beautiful views as the sun set.
And this the next day! We decided to visit a couple of the lake islands and spent most of our day on Isolla Bella looking through the fascinating Palace and gardens. So much of historical importance on this island and though we thought we would jsut be looking through the palace briefly, it was totally engaging. I took may photographs inside but they don't do it justice. The gardens were typically Italian - splendid and decorative.
We had lunch on the island with my brother and sister-in-law.
Typical garden terraces. Maybe a few more statues than many of the villas about!
And now to lake Como and this would be one of my favourite photos .... Though in my mind it seems more Parisian.
Flowers in every window.
'The Lady in the Window' is attributed to the school of Leonardo because, as with the Mona Lisa, the eyes follow you as you walk by.
This I particularly loved as our guide pointed out that the craftsman was 'just showing off'. He had the talent to carve these columns with knots and though all the other columns atop the market place were without flourish, these were still used as the centre piece. Personally I love that there was an artist/craftsman who dared to be different, and was allowed to be so.
We took the funicular to Brunate which is the town on the top of the the hill watching over Como. Apparently the makers of instruments used to live up there and Steve's family ancestry is tied up with the Negretti's and scientific instrument making in Como - they well may have lived up here though no evidence of that exists.
Another of my favourite photos. An old grandfather looking after his young grandson in the old hilltop village, sitting in the cool of the church doorway and a Porsche parked just outside. We sat in the cafe eating gelati and soaking in all the paradoxes which make up Italy.
The funicular was broken by the time we were ready to descend and rather than wait endlessly for the bus we decided to walk down the 'pathway' - a mere 700 meters. At one point the path was so overgrown we were wondering if we were actually on the path until we met a man climbing up the other way who assured us. The path very quickly changed from something resembling pathway to a donkey track of broken rock. Fun though.
It has occurred to me that it is almost impossible to write of one's travels in a blog because there is just way too much that one just soaks in. I used to keep a journal and now I simply rely on the gps in my camera telling me where my photos were taken and reminding me of the day!
it is now Monday and we will be home on the weekend after a thoroughly good time ... More fun to be had before we depart though.