Archive for August, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009: Settling Back In to my Routines

Posted in living to the hilt with tags on August 31, 2009 by drycreekherbs

Settling Back In to my Routines

We arrived home on Wednesday after hours and hours on the plane from Paris to Dallas then Dallas to Austin. Kristi picked us up and filled us in on the house events on the ride home. She has done a fine job for us and we are very pleased to have her on ‘staff’! She and Max make the homecoming easy. We made a quick stop at Brookshire Bros. (not up to Italian, Pellicano supermarket standards), for milk. Then on to wonderful home.

All was well…even Mickey and Morris were happy to see us. Even though it was nearly 7:30 by the time we got in, we just kept on movin’. I think we both turned in around 10:30 which isn’t bad and I slept like a rock although Len didn’t. He is a light sleeper anyway and add that to jet lag….well, it has taken him a couple of days to get settled in. On the other hand, I really haven’t had any difficulty. Guess there is something to say for medicating for flights!

The next few days were dedicated to quiet home, laundry, AND trying to figure out what to do with the GUINEA who moved in while we were gone. According to Kristi 3 guineas showed up unannounced while we were away….but alas now there is just one….Perhaps entrees for the owls or coyotes? I was so pleased to have the hen…what with the reputation for snake and insect control…what I didn’t anticipate was the weak digestive system of the guinea! And it likes to sit on the window sill or either of the porches. Yuck! We must get a dog fast.

Monday, August 24, 2009: Beautiful Day to Say Goodbye Menaggio

Posted in living to the hilt with tags , , , , on August 24, 2009 by drycreekherbs

Beautiful Day to Say Goodbye Menaggio

Villa Carlotta signOddly, Len and I have had a delightful last day in Menaggio….no stressing out at all. We left about 10:15 to go to see the Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo. It was built by a Milanese banker in 16something or another but passed on to Princess Marianne of Nassau, Albert of Prussia’s wife, who in turn gave it to her daughter, Carlotta for a wedding present! Lots of statuary of scantily dressed robust men (mostly wearing fig leaves)and full-figured women and some nicely furnished rooms….I really liked the 478 plaster cameo miniatures that served as souvenirs for those fine Italian gentry to who went on the Grand Tour. Very cool souvenirs. Best of all—the 14 acre gardens with all sorts of specimens….big collection of camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas. Lots of cool shady places to duck into for a nice rest.

After the Carlotta visit, we parked in ‘upper’ Menggio for free parkingPost cards and walked into town for a nice pizza lunch followed up with the ever-popular Limoncello. Limoncello & other spirits I could get used to this. This was our first pizza and just right….I had mozzarella, ham, artichoke, and mushroom — not at all as heavy as what we get in the US with a thin crust such that it could be considered a cracker! AND, I had a cheap coke…only $4.50.

Now sitting in our ‘office’ again, doing a bit of packing for a very early departure tomorrow morning for the first leg back home. We fly from Milan to Munich, Munich to Paris. We stay overnight in the Paris Sheraton Airport Hotel, and then fly to Austin via Dallas on Wednesday morning.

I will have 3-4 hours in Munich airport where I intend to dump many Euros for novelties I do not need. I am quite taken with fashion necklaces I see LOTS of on cute young Italian women….very long necklaces….fashion trend that may hit Salado in a couple of years?

One of Len’s very dear crowns came off so he is eager to get to dentist Thursday morning before he looses it…..right now it is in a plastic bag next to the dollars in his wallet….this is being written so we won’t forget it! I have loosened one of my crowns too….think it is the wonderful chewy bread.

I do love this wonderful, quiet neighborhood and I would certainly come back – I wonder if G. Clooney would ever need a house sitter? So maybe more tomorrow from Paris or more from wonderful home!

Sunday, August 23, 2009: On Lunch and Lakes

Posted in living to the hilt with tags on August 23, 2009 by drycreekherbs

On Lunch and Lakes

Our biggies for the day…we had lunch at a place in Croce called Barcola. It is part of an ‘agriturismo’ (as in our agritourism) effort. Our booking agents recommended it as very typical Italian family style restaurant….Yes, more food talk but it was so spectacular. It was in a tiny town, Croce, west of Menaggio….To get there you have 7 switchbacks on roads narrower than our driveway so I was fweaking out.. Since we found the restaurant fairly easily we just did a little drive up the mountain, to a place called Codogna. Len was taking photos of some horses and I went in to what appeared to be a government court yard….Holy Smokes….an incredible church built in 1744Rosario. Photos will tell all.


Back to restaurant talk– Len had to park in a ‘lot’ on a higher level — then you descend to the farmhouse…nice fat cows, ducks, chickens, birds, cats, dogs, and rabbits. Rabbit was on the menu. Hmmmm.

Andrea, of Holiday Homes, reserved a table for us at noon with the repeated warning that it was difficult to find so we left early and killed time when we found it fairly easily….the photos will give you an idea of how pretty it is. Before lunch rush! The story: I am pretty sure we annoyed the waitress because we didn’t speak Italian and I am pretty sure it would annoy me too, but still and all, we weren’t there to be annoying. SO, after a while of staring blankly at an 8 page menu, a young guy came out with a handwritten translation. Even that was daunting.   Clearly we were to order 5 courses…we had 3. Our antipasto was something I read about during my polenta phase. It was very coarsely ground polenta served with sliced lard and honey….Sliced lard and polenta and served on a wooden board. I like the idea of eating sliced lard….it was paper thin with just a sliver of lean meat on it….and drizzled with honey….you put the lard on top of the polenta and it melts….starting to think bacon fat? Very good….Len and I shared it. For the second course, I had Pizzonccheri, buckwheat pasta ribbons, served with cheese, and sautéed spinach, celery, cabbage, and potatoes…..outstanding. Len had Rigotoni with hot peppers and pesto….also well received. My green salad, was just that, shredded mega green leafed vegetable. Lastly, we enjoyed petite glasses of ice-cold lemoncello. The ristorante was packed by the time we left with big tables of families….It only took us 1 ½ hours to eat instead of the 3 typical hours…..so after lunch we took another spin into a different Swiss town…this one not too interesting.

Lake statistics: Lake Como is 56 square miles, 106 miles of shoreline, and get this, 1, 367 feet deep! This makes it the deepest lake in Europe. Max shared the Lake Belton stats…..Lake Belton is 136 miles of shoreline but is only 124 feet deep. There is hardly any boating on Lake Como in comparison to our Lake Belton….Today, Sunday, there has been more activity and lots of sail boats. Sailbots on lake Como We did see one Jet Ski and some speedboats. Oh, and the ferries….both passenger and car ferries and even lake taxis! We have not seen George Clooney’s speedboat or his villa, although we have driven by it a number of times! I will look more closely! Oh, and we did see the tourist helicopter as well as the sea plane.

We are, oh so, ready to get home. Fact of travel: As the journey nears its end, the lure of home grows exponentially. Len and I agree, we have had fun but now we are ready for our own bed, our own ice, and our rotten cats.  

Saturday, August 22, 2009: About our apartments – Germany and Italy

Posted in living to the hilt with tags , , , on August 22, 2009 by drycreekherbs

About our apartments – Germany and Italy

Yikes, I haven’t done justice to Internet vacation homes!

Germany. Our apartment was in a little town right on the Czech border….one road in and one out. The area is considered a reasonable place for Germans to vacation. It is not the high end but a very pretty end in Germany…the Czech area was more depressed. Very Iron Curtain. Our apartment in Bayerisch Eisenstein was very German. Margaret & Martin, landlords, have 4 properties on two streets that are connected. Their house is the reception area with a shop of sorts, lounge with snacks, their office, and their home on the 2nd floor. Our apartment was in the Haus Martin…apt. Vogel. Four apartments to the house. It had sloping ceilings, Livingroom Bayerisch Eisenstein one king size but uncomfortable beds in the bedroomBedroom in Eisenstein , one bath in a long hall, the kitchen/dining area, living room, and a balcony facing a garden. The furnishings were very ‘modern’ and simple. It was exceptionally clean. We had fantastic support from Margaret and Martin. Fantastic support. They didn’t miss a trick. Newsletters, weather, a wine stube, laundry, maps, you name it. Margaret was very easy to work with before we arrived and after we arrived. They also provide ‘starter’ groceries…brötchen, butter, milk, juice, tea, coffee, olive oil, etc. But NO ICE. You can easily walk to town and train station. Kitchen The Bayerisch Wald was beautiful and if you are a mega trekker you are in business. It is a great place for short outings like Regensberg, Passau, Prague, and other places in Czech Republik. Closest grocery store was about 10 miles away. There was a very nice restaurant in town and nearby lots to see and do just locally to include a golf course. You are expected to tidy up when you leave and you wouldn’t dare break anything….all dishes, glasses, and utensils are very nice.

Italy. This apartment is in a smallish town on Lake Como…with several different types of towns along the shore. All little towns are accessible by car or by ferry. Our town, Menaggio, is considered to be the best for night life (? Not that I would know.) It has a supermarket like Brookshire Bros. and pricey like BBros. All lake towns are more or less terraced….and are on roads with many, many switchbacks that make me NUTS. Len loves them…and makes little animations like zoom, zoom, whissssssch, etc. like he is on his bike so he says. I hate that. Our Apartment Our Bellavista, is on probably the 5th terrace….he says 3rd. Hmmmm. Add to that level, each street is circuitous at best. Instead of forks in the road, you have one fork up, and two down, or something similar. Our apartment is actually pretty new, maybe 5 years old and reminds me of something on HGTV International Home Hunters. It is behind a traffic barrier but we have never seen it down; we have a locked garage; we are on the 2nd floor; we have one bedroom with king size bed; kitchen (gas range, microwave, dorm refrigerator); living room with fire place; dining area, huge bathroom with shower and bidet, and an incredible balcony overlooking the vast lake with at least 4 villages Another office view Menaggio bedroomproviding sparkling night lights. No a/c and it is August. The furniture is very nice, with lots of houseplants, shutters for the climate, little drying rack, and a pool too. Closet space You cannot walk to town without risking life and limb. The booking agency, Happy House something or another have been pretty helpful. They are Italian and don’t speak great English like Margaret and Martin. But they did get us our wifi ASAP that cost 15 Euros for the week and 2 fans. Also they were pretty responsive about getting us directions and reservations. But like our Texas neighbors to the south, Italians pretty well think, “Chill out.”  Nothing provided for starters except some left over brandy! We love this apartment. Traffic is NUTS. Like the lady at Hertz said when we got here, “Black Days of Traffic.” Yes. If you don’t get the insurance, and you have a bad day, you pay. We paid and we are glad.

In conclusion. Both apartments have been nice and worth the money. Italy cost more but I think that is the location, location, location. Lake Como is more like Niagara (Not Viagra) Falls, and Bayerisch Eisenstein is more like hmmmmm, we can’t figure out what to say here. We liked both in different ways and were not disappointed in either.

Saturday, August 22, 2009: Two Different Days

Posted in living to the hilt with tags on August 22, 2009 by drycreekherbs

Two Different Days

I couldn’t even write my blog yesterday—our trip to Milan was so long, so hot, so hard, so expensive, and so some other things. We drove to Como instead of using the ferry because it was supposed to be easier but the parking was a nightmare and ended up costing $30.00 for about 6 hours….not a lot like parking in downtown Salado!    The train was pretty grimy — or filthy, take your pick — and Good Gordon, it was hot ($15.00 for tickets)! The guidebooks are right when they said that Milan closes up in August and especially during the time of day we were there. Milan Duomo But we did get to see the Duomo, walk through the totally closed fashion district, and eat a nice lunch. I had a tasty risotto with mushroom dish and Len had more spaghetti ($50.00…..my Coca Cola Normali was $7.50 for as Len called it, “A small shot glass!”)

By the time we made it back to Menaggio I was almost finished. If I could have had a tantrum, I would have….but it would have been more energy than I could muster. Even the trip to the silk outlet couldn’t revive my depleted energy. So I showered and went to bed….and that was just what I needed….not even a tiny glass of vino!

Today, a totally different scenario. We took the car ferry over the lake to Bellagio and had some quiet time….separately! No tiffs, just different interests beckoning. Len had the TIME OF HIS LIFE….of all things the Madonna di Ghisallo, the shrine for cyclists Len in front of the Madonna di Ghisallo is in the mountains above Bellagio! Also there the triathalon of Como where the competitors rode their bikes up and down the mountains with slopes in excess of 18%. He dropped me off ‘downtown’ where I immediately became restored by visiting the Gardens of the Villa Melzi and shopped around. The gardens were nearly empty and it was blissful. I purred. Anyone who knows me knows I have to recharge my batteries with silence and time out. Mother Nature can bring me out of a dark slump….so both of us equally happy, we met for a yummy lunch….we shared two different pasta dishes….a linguini with pesto, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and mozzarella. The other dish, a rigatoni with a sauce of sundried tomatoes, almonds, and goat cheese. Daaaaaang, both were delizioso!

Wind for a hatWe ferried back to our side of the lake then took a quick (?) trip to Lugano, Switzerland by way of the liquor store. Very pretty and a fair sized city. The traffic was insane though going….coming home it wasn’t bad at all. So now we are back on our balcony having bread, cheese, tomatoes, salami, and marinated artichokes. I am once again interested in having a glass of wine!

Oh the weather is absolutely gorgeous today….actually a little nippy. No fans needed tonight.

In our neighborhood, there is a lovely old facility for children who have very special needs. We learned this from a local man who was sitting outside the gate. Whenever you pass the building you hear haunting moans and screams. It tears my heart out. It is a Catholic hospital….Nuns with lovely old-fashioned, white habits in the garden. Here in this incredible setting, more beautiful than anything I have seen and anguish. I feel obscenely self-indulgent. I pray for those in care and for the caretakers.

Thursday, August 20, 2009: Doesn’t seem as hot today…..AC in the car!

Posted in living to the hilt with tags on August 20, 2009 by drycreekherbs

Doesn’t seem as hot today…..AC in the car!

This may have been the only day since we left that we did not hurry. Len was up at 6:00 but I didn’t get up until 9:00 then we left about 10:30 with not much on an itinerary. First off emptied the garbage in very cool recycling units…..  DSC04358 drove north along the lake through about 7-8 tunnels….some very long….like 3.5 miles long. Luckily, I am not currently afraid of tunnels.

It wasn’t long before I spotted a local market…..Len, the super hero, managed to parallel park on a street the width of a sidewalk. It was a bummer little market – no hats to speak of…there were some parakeets for sale and lots of underwear! So we went further north past Lake Como to Chivenna then back to Dogo for a luscious lunch….or I think it was. Len wanted pasta but caved in to my burning desire to have risotto with spinach and Gorgonzola cheese in cream sauce (It was for 2 only.). He begrudgingly admitted it was good – I am telling you it was fabulous.Back Yard?

Then on to find the oldest golf course in Italy – it was waaaaaaaay up there and more than a little spooky riding through the narrow streets….I never screamed once, but I did use the imaginary brake on my side of the car….repeatedly.  

Then onward to the West to find another beautiful lake (Lake Lugano) and a town, Porlezza, with a mega market….of course it was necessary to replenish the larder.  

Man Possessed by ComputerWe commented often that today just wasn’t that hot….thank you car A/C.

One brief observation. I so loved my month in the Cotswolds….the cottage, the village, and the support system (Kim & Tim) were perfect. Now I’m telling you that at times it was really challenging. Here is the punch line: I could not rent a cottage in Italy. It would be too daunting for me. Germany I could do….first of all there is not much flat here except for that golf course….and it was on top of a cliff.

Tomorrow driving to Como, park the car, hope to find the silk outlet, then train into Milan. Ciao bambinos!

August 19, 2009: Lake Como and Ferry Rides

Posted in living to the hilt with tags on August 20, 2009 by drycreekherbs

Lake Como and Ferry Rides                 

Where to start? It is beautiful in every way. Milan airport very easy but the cute little Garmin GPS confused me….when I told her Como….she kept giving me these two choices: Como, CO or Como ME. I thought she thought Colorado and Maine so I kept getting her more confused…after a bit of sightseeing we finally started understanding one another and then she took us to Como, CO as in Como not Colorado.

The apt is very pretty…much prettier than the Eisenstein apt but it is much more difficult to get to on foot….treacherous might be a good word…reminds me of the farm house we had in Italy 5+ years ago. The view from this apt is absolutely, without a doubt, magnificent. The condominiums are probably about 5 years old and all I can think about is the HGTV series where people buy international property. It is tiny but very, very pretty. Living room, kitchen, huge bath, big one bedroom with a king size bed…closets built in….Wonderful shuddered windows that open up and a divine balcony….and NO a/c regardless of what they told me before…but thank goodness we do have 2 fans that we use constantly. It was in the 100s yesterday here too not just in Salado but no AC!!!!!Great Len Shot

Yesterday morning we went to the property managers and negotiated for the extra fan and explained the freezer in the dorm sized refrigerator was not operating….Len defrosted it when we got here —was completely iced up. Let’s get our priorities right….One can’t enjoy tepid vodka!

After housing conversations and banking, we got an all day ferry pass that ended up seeming like all year in one all day. The weather going out about 10:30 am Cool color was lovely and off to Bellagio we went. This little town is across the lake from us so you will see it from the water in the photo gallery. Very picturesque. We had a lunch of spaghetti….Len with meat sauce and I had just tomato sauce. I told Len that it probably wouldn’t be too good since it was in a darling outdoor café right on the water…..It was delicious. We eat out one meal a day…midday… then in the evening crackers, cheese, and salami, and a fine beverage, of course.

Not much to say except it continued to heat up…..and I mean it felt like 250º F…even on the very extended ferry ride home….we did dock at about 8 places before getting back but that was ok even if we felt blistered! Once back, we went to our local supermarket……like Brookshire’s but in a series of odd little rooms all twisty and tangled. Len and I looooooove markets. We stand wide-eyed in front of the mustard and even cleaning products. It takes so littleJ!!!

Then a walk up Heidi’s mountain because one of us couldn’t remember where the short cut was located. No names mentioned. Let’s say we risked life and limb walking up the switchbacks with no sidewalks. Back at last for a shower that felt better than anything I have experienced. Then dinner and wine on the balcony with Morning Haze remarkable view with fireworks tooNightscape

Now, about the neighbor. OMG!!!! When we arrived, we had a bit of a worry…aka NO WAY can these suitcases go up there…..Regular rock steps leading to a spiral staircase going miles up it seemed. Remember we/Len had to pay for HEAVY overweight luggage in Frankfurt? A mere $120.00…and I reallllllly did toss things before we left Germany. I bravely let go of 3 out of 5 mascaras and I carried the woodcarving and the painting…and gave away 3 books including the world atlas I loved but Len said had to go! How much can a dirndl weigh? Anyway, back to THE neighbor. Undoubtedly the handsomest living man in the world….came out of the downstairs apt and after doing the ,”Do you speak English?” business….which he did in PERFECT English, he offered to help Len, senior citizen thing…..Len tells this best so I will now take dictation, something I normally won’t do! J In Len’s words–, “I was having trouble using both hands to get the luggage up the spiral staircase, he asked me if I needed any help. Of course, I said, “No.” He insisted. I got Susan’s suitcase almost to the top of the spiral staircase when he with ONE hand picked up my 60-pound suitcase AND lifted it in one motion to the top of the stairs. Susan forgot to say that his biceps are ask big as my calves with matching strength.” Susan now speaking. “Every word true…..but he is also breathtakingly handsome! Now the realllllllly dear part. He and his gorgeous wife are here for 2 weeks with their 25 day-old baby girl. He is sooooooo attentive to both….This is what makes the man! I am trying to figure out a way to get a picture to post. They should be on the cover of Family Circle.