Elevating Sights

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The site on the shores of Lake Maggiore seems big enough to swallow its neighbouring village, tiny Feriolo. And it is packed with Dutch and German visitors, making us almost the only British [there is one other unit I can see], unlike Garda, where almost everyone was from the UK.

Maggiore’s beach is sandy, making it a pleasant spot to spend an hour or two with a good book-or merely to stare into the distance as ferries criss-cross from Stresa, a few km along the lake, to the lake islands and back.

Mornings are becoming misty and moist now, although as the sun rises higher the weather is still blistering hot. We decide to give the cycle path that leads from the site a go, and it does appear at first as if it may take us to Verbania-a sizeable town further round the lake. We take a track down through a nature reserve and come to a dead end before finding another path over a small bridge. Following the road, it becomes tarmac and well-managed. We ride on. Then it stops.

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I am far too much of a coward to cycle along with Italian lorries so we turn back. This following paths and turning back when they peter out becomes the theme for the afternoon-but in the end we decide that all the back and forth paths probably gave us a good enough ride-if a little frustrating!

At Stresa, a short bus ride away, we can get a cable car ride up the mountain, Monte Mottarone, a compelling idea. When the bus picks us up from the stop at Feriolo it is packed with school students, most of whom are fixed on their phones. Clearly there is no custom of giving up seats for older passengers here, as Husband has to stand by the driver and I am obliged to occupy the steps by the front windscreen.

After we purchase the cable car tickets there is a short wait then we pile in to the car and it lurches away and up through the trees. Soon there are spectacular views of the lake and its islands, with darting, miniature boats against the blue waters. At the half way point we must disembark and swap on to a new car, which lurches away again. At the top the air is cool and thin but the mountain panorama is glorious.

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We get a coffee, although the restaurant’s terrace with a stunning view is reserved for those ordering meals! A clanking sound precedes the arrival of several bell-wearing donkeys, who wander down and past us to graze in the cable car area.

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I’ve suffered altitude sickness on two previous occasions and am not inclined to clamber about much at this height, so we eschew the chair-lift and the trolley switch-back and ride back down the mountain to the cable-car station, then on into Stresa.

The town has a swish waterfront promenade, landscaped with beautiful planting and with stunning views of Maggiore. There are also some seriously top-end hotels!

It’s tricky locating the bus stop for our return to Feriolo but I employ some of my ameobic [but burgeoning!] Italian and we find it, managing to get a seat, too.

The weather is set to change and it is time to be heading north and west on a slow journey home. And we are not yet finished with lakes…

 

 

 

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Give all you like…Just don’t keep telling me!

                I am sorry to be banging on about Facebook yet again, but whilst I have no wish to leave it [yet] there are elements that I do find irritating and the particular issue I’m tired of this week is pleas for sponsorship.

               OK. This makes me sound humbug enough to get haunted by ghosts dragging chains, I know. I should be reading all these stories of children with wasting diseases, mums who’ve died of cancer, heroes who’ve fought for queen and country and had bits blown off, poor, emaciated donkeys and the deprived local tennis club with tears in my eyes and then rushing to dig out my credit card immediately. I should revere those who are selflessly walking, swimming, jogging, knitting, singing or cycling their way to £10.50 or whatever their target figure is and should be thoroughly ashamed not to be following their shining example or even accompanying them in their respective crusades. Shame on me!

                 But actually, where charities are concerned, to me it is personal. I am not averse to inserting some loose change into the occasional collecting tin, provided the cause is worthy in my eyes, but on the whole I want the choice. I want to choose who I donate to, when I donate and how much. I don’t want to be reminded on a daily basis that this or that FB acquaintance is of such a saintly disposition they are giving of their time for such a selfless act whereas I am content to slob around at home heedless of the plight of such victims as they have elected to support.

                   It seems to me that those of us who are lucky and privileged enough to have been born and brought up in a relatively wealthy western civilisation are the lucky ones. We inhabit a country with a moderately stable climate [alright-it did go a bit pear shaped this winter], we can be provided with enough to get basic provisions, however impoverished we may feel ourselves to be. If our health is threatened we have access to some [admittedly marginal] health care. The authorities can provide some fundamental shelter, if it becomes necessary. This safety net is not available to vast numbers of people in the world; people who live in countries racked by drought, floods, famine or wars. We will never find ourselves stranded in a desert with starving, diseased children and nothing but grass or leaves to eat. We will never have to walk ten miles for some water.

                 This is what makes me averse to donating to the redundant donkeys’ homer, Helicopter rescue or Save the Allotments, although I am in favour of taxation to fund overseas development.

                  I do have my favourites! Oxfam, for one. The charity I do like to support, through a regular  standing order from my bank account, is Wateraid. Because I cannot think of anything more important than the provision of clean, safe water, vital to life itself. But I don’t want to swim, sing, dress up or walk…I’ll just donate, thanks!

The Road West

                “Bacon and cabbage now, that’d be the thing,”

                We were in ‘Brendan’s Bar, Clogheen. It was our second night, and second attempt to find some life. The first evening we’d walked into the village, a single, long street of terraced houses broken only by the ‘supermarket’-an exaggeration, a grocer’s shop, a pharmacy, a diminutive fire department, a takeaway [the only remotely animated spot in the street] and three bars. It had been a gloomy day and continued a gloomy evening. There was little sign of habitation and I fully expected to see tumbleweed whisking down the long sweep of the street. We squinted into the window of the first bar-‘Nerdeen’s’-and detected a light, and yes, the door opened when pushed. A teenage barman, distracted by his mobile phone, managed to serve us. Sky Sports News played to the empty bar. We sat in a corner of the desultory space with our drinks. A man came in to sit at the bar, staring morosely into his cider, then one other. The landlady came in, talking on her phone.

                I know that Husband is seeking wild, folksy nights with impromptu musicians and perhaps some spontaneous dancers leaping about with ramrod backs and high kicking feet.  This was definitely not the ‘craic’.

                Brendan’s Bar was distinguished in having a lone, redundant, ancient petrol pump outside, growing out of the pavement. Brendan, sitting on a stool, arms folded, was a fountain of Irish knowledge, backed up by his friend-the only other customer in the pub. I quizzed him on Irish cuisine; and why was the petrol pump there? The friend mumbled that perhaps it should have been taken away. ‘The tank’s in the middle of the road there’, Brendan affirmed, as if in explanation. He urged us to visit all the places he recommended, even ringing his wife [who may have been upstairs], when a name escaped him.

                Next morning as we left Clogheen I felt I’d warmed to the place. We drove into the centre to find our onward road, past a wandering, stray donkey strolling along the pavement.

                It was relentlessly wet. We stopped only to make a visit to Blarney Castle, running the gauntlet of a swathe of visitors from all parts of the globe, their enthusiasm not dampened. We queued to climb the spiral stone staircase to the top of the keep, queued again for an unceremonious tipping back in the rain to kiss the famous stone for the gift of the gab. Husband, I feel, hopes that by brushing my lips against the damp slab, the opposite may occur.

                Then on to Kerry-wild, wet, windy and a tourist magnet, judging by the abundance of hand woven garment, pottery, craft, fudge, woodwork and local art outlets. We find our site at Cahersiveen with a prime view across to Valentia and the prospect of some spectacular sunsets-if there is ever any sun!