Apr. 6th, 2010

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Today was such a busy day!

We started off with some free time in Lugano, which was lovely.  It's in the Italian part of Switzerland and has a very definite Italian feel to it.  The shops were just about opening as we left the hotel and so we had a look around a few of them and ended up buying some sunglasses in a department store, and I also bought a purse because my existing one is just a bit too big for my liking.  We then had time to take a little stroll along the lakefront and back again before getting back onto the coach and heading for the first stop of the day, which was the Alprose chocolate factory in Caslano.  There was a chance to walk around the factory but we couldn't really see much going on and so we spent most of our time in the shop, or more specifically at the "degustation" area, where you could taste as much of the chocolate as you wanted, for free.  Nice one!  We did buy some though, so they at least got some money out of us.

After leaving Caslano we went back to Italy and made our way to Lake Maggiore, where we took a boat over to the Isola Bella, which is one of the Borromean Islands on the lake.  The weather was glorious - beautifully warm sunshine.  It was so surreal to be basking in all that warmth and then looking out to see snow covered mountains! 

The first thing we did on the island was find somewhere to have some lunch.  We happened upon a little café which was filled with all kinds of rock memorabilia, including autographed guitars, outfits, VIP backstage passes, gold discs and the like.  It was like finding a branch of the Hard Rock Café in the middle of an Italian lake - so bizarre but very interesting!  The menu wasn't very grand so we just had a toastie and a beer and then after lunch we went to the palace next door, where we had a guided tour.  We'd been told that we weren't allowed to take photos while we were in there, but both Flo and the guide who took us around said that if they didn't spot us doing it, they couldn't stop us, so we were all snapping away.  The palace, which was built and is owned by the Borromeo family, is very beautiful, and the gardens are gorgeous.  While we were looking around the gardens we saw white peacocks and also a really cute little lizard who was sunning himself on the wall.

After leaving the palace and its grounds it was time to get back onto the boat, which took us to the mainland where we rejoined our coach.  The next leg of our journey took us back up into the mountains and through the Simplon Pass, where we stopped to take some photos and to have a drink and a cake before continuing on down the other side and into the Rhone Valley.  We travelled along through there for a little while and then once again headed up into the mountains and into Täsch, to our hotel for the night.  We had dinner included tonight as we arrived quite late, and we had just 30 minutes between arriving and having to be down in the restaurant for dinner.  We gave it our best shot but we were a few minutes late getting there.  No-one said anything though, and I actually think a few people arrived later than we did.  Dinner was very basic - salad to begin with and then chicken and mushrooms in a sauce with some rice, followed by a mousse type thing, but it was nice enough.  After dinner we decided to have a nightcap with Dominic and with the Welsh couple, who are really good fun and who are called Dick and Sue.  A couple of gin and tonics were had, and tonight was the night when Glenys and George set me my memory challenge which I mentioned the other day - a challenge which, I am pleased to say, I passed.  Huzzah!

The other thing of note which happened this evening was that we got to see Suresh (little guy from India) in his silk PJs! We had to pay for our optional excursions tonight but he forgot and he'd already got himself into bed before he remembered. Rather than wait until the morning and let Flo have his money then, or get himself dressed again, he just came downstairs in his slippers and PJs as though it was the most normal thing in the world, bless him!

Yet more photos... )

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