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27-DAY ODYSSEY IN THE ALPS with 3 FINAL DAYS IN PARIS

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Dec 6th, 2014, 08:13 PM
  #41
 
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Enjoying your report tomarkot. We've been to many of the places you traveled.

In fact, we spent 16 nights in Austria from 2-18 September, 10 of them in St. Gilgen and 6 in Vienna.

When you mentioned the Café Nannerl, it reminded me that while in St. Gilgen, we came upon a wedding in the town square. It was raining, although not too hard at the moment. The bride was a beautiful blond and she looked radiant in her beaded white gown. The groom was very tall and handsome and they looked like the perfect couple. The wedding was a very big production with two bands playing and the mayor of the town greeting them. Later that evening from our balcony we saw an awesome fireworks display over the lake and decided we'd ask the owner of our hotel about it the next morning.

Well, we found out from Frau Eisl, the lovely owner of Hotel Schernthaner, that the groom was the son of the owner of the Café Nannerl and the fireworks were in celebration of the TWO weddings in the town that Saturday! I guess the other wedding had been held later in the afternoon.

We've also spent a lot of time in Hallstatt and agree that the views are stunning. We had lunch at the Hotel Zauner during our trip in September. On our first visit to Hallstatt back in 1999, we stayed at the Gruner Baum and had the same room you had overlooking the market square. They have since done a lot of remodeling to the hotel and it is much nicer than it was then.
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Dec 7th, 2014, 08:25 AM
  #42
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Bettyk, thanks for reading our TR. It's nice to know that folks are interested.

The Salzkammergut area is very beautiful, as you expressed. We can understand why you might spend an extended time there.
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Dec 8th, 2014, 02:11 PM
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Digbydog, we trust that you're still following along. We "dug into" our trip info and found this website: www.gardenacard.it , and we did find www.alpineroads.com/dolomites to have helpful info, as mentioned above.

You might want to begin a thread as you're planning your trip. We found Fodorites to be very helpful.
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Dec 10th, 2014, 02:57 PM
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Tuesday, September 2, 2014 DRAMATIC SCENERY EN ROUTE
TO SWITZERLAND, ST. MORITZ

Today was departure day from the Dolomiti and a scenic travel day to the Engadine area of Switzerland.

We arose about 6 AM, eager to get an early start on our journey, especially energized by the blue skies and sun. We enjoyed that last morning meal in the beautiful breakfast room, finished packing, and by about 9:30 were ready to check out and enjoy the beautiful drive through more dramatic scenery. (436 EUR)

As we were leaving, we met the owner Itzio. We engaged in a delightful discussion with him about the history of the area, the effect of WWI on the culture and languages of the area, and other current political and economic conditions. Itzio’s 17-year-old son is studying in Colorado Springs, so that provided another common topic. This conversation was a delightful ending to our wonderful three days in the Dolomiti.

We made a last leisurely drive down to the town center, stopping in one shop, hoping to purchase a wood-carved piece. However, we decided that we couldn’t find just the right piece in a hurried manner. And we wanted to make best use of this beautiful day for driving.

As we began our day’s journey, we thought we’d follow the same highway that had successfully led us into Ortisei from the Autostrada. We were enjoying the drive down through the mountain valley when we abruptly encountered a sign in Italian, “Strada Chiusa”. . .“Road closed”! We were as disappointed as a trio of bikers we met at the same point.

There was no other choice than to turn around and travel north quite a distance to another entrance to the Autostrada. Once on the highway heading down the mountain, we enjoyed the drive, glancing up at the beautiful mountainside with a castle and and small towns with their typical churches in the center.

This detour cost us about 45 minutes. We exited at “Bolzano Sud” and successfully negotiated the many turns and roundabouts and reached Merano. From here, we considered our options for our route to St. Moritz.

We had read about the Passo dello Stelvio, and knew that it would be longer route, but promised very dramatic scenery. Also, we had learned that once over the pass, we could turn off and take a route through the mountain town of Livigno. Then we could connect with the upper portion of the Passo del Bernina, and take that north to St. Moritz. Today was Tuesday, not the weekend, when we knew that the pass gets very crowded with bikers. So we decided on that route, with the idea that “getting there is half the fun”!

On the outskirts of Merano we had a nice meal at a HOTEL RESTAURANT HANSWIRT. After pulling off the highway, we noticed the white tablecloths, and uniformed waiters, normally not our style for lunch. But the lovely outdoor patio, well-shaded from the intense sun, seemed like the perfect stop. We weren’t sure of what other opportunites might lie ahead. A shared meal of a tasty pasta and salad energized us for more dramatic scenery and the challenging road ahead.

We had read that the Stelvio Pass, or Passo della Stelvio in Italian, is the second highest paved road in the Alps. At 9,045 ft., it’s just 43 ft. below France’s Col de l’Useran, which we’ll save for a future trip. We learned that the original road was built in the 1820’s by the Austrian Empire, and that the route has changed very little.

Driving the roads over passes in the Dolomites, with their many hairpin turns, prepared us for the challenge of what we had read were 76 switchbacks and steep terrain of the Passo dello Stelvio. Whether the number 76 is accurate, we experienced that there were very many switchbacks. As we made our trek up the steep, twisty terrain, we stopped often to absorb the stunning scenery.

Our mid-afternoon cappuccino stop was at a hotel/restaurant aptly named “Bella Vista” at the SCHONE AUSSICHT HOTEL which was perched on a mountainside. The lush grassy knoll in the rear was an incredible place to sip cappuccino. One notable feature was the over-sized wooden chaise-lounge rockers, which accommodated two. The waitress brought our drinks outside to our lounger! Unbelievably relaxing! With the intense sun, sunscreen was definitely called for! This setting was so incredibly beautiful that we could have stayed here for quite a while longer; but time was passing and we thought we had better move on.

We continued on our way, tackling the many sharp serpentine switchbacks, being very careful to crook our necks at each turn to check for oncoming traffic. (MK says that TK has really gotten into this mountain driving!!!) Gazing high up the mountainside ahead of us, with its many long steep Z’s, it was hard to believe that we would be climbing so high. We find ourselves out of vocabulary to describe the beauty we’ve experienced all along this trip.

The climb was a series of “Oohs and Ahs” and superlatives! The phenomenal scenery just didn’t quit!

In contrast to the incredible natural beauty en route to the top, near the pass was a collection of souvenir shops and food stalls. We met many of the bikers with whom we shared those steep switchbacks. We especially admired the bicyclists who made it to the summit! Smiling faces, but, no doubt, exhausted bodies!

Once we passed the shops, the actual Passo dello Stelvio summit was a perfect place to drink in the layers of beauty before beginning the descent of continuing scenery. It was now getting later in the afternoon, but the views along the way, including waterfalls, gave us no concern. We were winding down the mountain.

We eventually saw the sign indicating “Livigno” and said, “Here’s our turn!” The route through the pretty ski town, Livigno, connecting us with an upper portion of the Passo del Bernina, would lead us to our destination: St. Moritz. Our estimate was about 1 ½ hours, with stops being additional. We met two bicyclists from Munich, who with their large, detailed map, confirmed the plan.

That is where all the “fun” began. The shadows were getting longer, and the scenery in the soft sun was beautiful and relaxing. Until. . . suddenly, we were abruptly greeted with another one of those now familiar signs, “Strada Chiusa” What to do???

No choice but to follow the arrows leading us down the mountain quite a way and dropping us to a highway intersection. We were fairly sure of the correct direction in which to head. Very shortly, we found ourselves feeling “shot” into a long, long, lo-o-o-ong seemingly never-ending tunnel- (Michelin map estimate: 20+ km); having no assurance of where we were heading, and, as it turned out, neither did Gilda, as there was no satellite reception. Our sense of direction told us that we were heading in the correct direction. So we hoped! The tunnel was really a series of tunnels, with very short breaks from one to the other. We were driving mostly in a dark or very dimly-lit atmosphere, making map-reading impossible.

After finally emerging from that nerve-wracking drive through the tunnel, we pulled off at the first sign of anything that seemed like it might be a town. . .across a railroad track. We think it was “Valtellina”. There we were fortunate to find a pizza café with a waitress whose boyfriend worked in St. Moritz. Even though her English was very limited, matching our poor Italian, she was able to confirm that, “Yes, we were headed the correct direction of Tirano, and then would travel north up the Passo del Bernina. She apparently drove it often.

Although we had planned to travel this gorgeous Passo del Bernina road, we hadn’t thought of beginning it close to 6PM! We hurriedly ate a pizza, which gave us energy for the drive. We had the confirmation of knowing that, though our drive would be longer than anticipated, we would make it to St Moritz by dark. (Thank heavens for those longer daylight hours!) Driving through the town of Tirano, we easily found the Passo del Bernina road. When crossing the border into Switzerland, there were no personnel at the Passport Control, and so we went right on through.

We told ourselves that witnessing the soft colors of the setting sun on the mountain vistas was a special treat that we wouldn’t have witnessed had it not been for our travel blockade. At least, we liked the positive spin!

The scenery on Passo del Bernina is very different from what we’ve been experiencing so far. Poschiavo, with its beautiful lake; the mountains very green and seemingly more gentle, and large glaciated valleys. As we negotiated the twists and turns, more lakes were visible. The pass is above timber line, so the landscape appears a bit desolate with ice worn rocks.

After making a few stops along our way, we thought we had better get serious about finding our hotel. We would return tomorrow to explore more of the Bernina Pass.

Gilda was alert as we approached St. Moritz, and we easily found the HOTEL STEFFANI, located right in the main circle of the town. And, to our surprise, parking was directly next to the hotel, and “free”. Check-in went very smoothly with Anna, who spoke excellent English.

It was so comforting to walk into a large, attractive room, with a well-appointed bathroom to match. It wasn’t until the morning when we would enjoy our view of a water cascade out of our bedroom window.

After settling in, we went downstairs to have a drink. We entered their bar, but it was so smoke-filled that we quickly exited. Upon asking at the desk, the receptionist told us that there was also a bar in the restaurant, non-smoking. We promptly went there, and that beer tasted so refreshing!

We chatted with Marco the bartender who really likes America, and was excited telling us about all the places he had visited. We turned in for the evening tired, but very contented, hoping for a repeat of a sunny day to explore the surrounding area of the Upper Engadine.

For information regarding Switzerland, including the Engadine, we want to especially thank Ingo, Neckervd, Melnq8, and PalenQ.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014 ENGADINE EXPLORATION

Slept in until 7:45; long day yesterday deserves an easy day today. Fruhstuck was good here, as the same buffet pattern is now familiar to us: lots of cold cuts, cheeses, soft boiled eggs, croissants, etc. A waitress delivers coffee to your table. We were finished about 10 AM, and before going out for the day, spent some time planning our route to Locarno tomorrow.

A bonus for staying two nights at the hotel in St. Moritz was a free pass to local transportation and the mountain lifts. A girl at the hotel desk suggested that the Muottas Muragl cable railway would be a good choice for us; the summit has a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and lakes of this Engadine region, including the St. Moritz area.

We wasted some time in finding Muottas Muragl. Being used to ski areas in the US, we thought we would see a large parking lot with an obvious sign, and a cable railway area in full view. But there was only a small road sign on the road pointing to a parking lot of maybe 12 cars, and somewhat hidden behind some trees was a pink building: the ticket window and the cable railway “station”. Our tickets were free (66 CHF value), thanks to the hotel pass.

We boarded the train which left within ten minutes; and within another ten minutes, we arrived on top of the mountain. We were ready for lunch, so before walking around the summit, we ate at the HOTEL ROMANTIK; shared a macaroni meal with a beer/wine and bread.(37 CHF). Temperature was moderate and we took lots of pics; views of the valley and lakes of St. Moritz and surrounding mountains, including the towns in the area. We had cappuccinos in the café on top. (10.40 CHF)

When we first arrived at the top, there were quite a few people around. But, by the time we had walked around the summit to take in the vistas, and had our cappuccinos, there was only a handful left.

After descending on the cable railway, we were eager to again enjoy the Bernina Pass to Poschiavo. We stopped often to soak in the views and paused for a while at the summit to walk around. We continued on to the beautiful valleys ahead.
This drive may have been the highlight of the day!

One observation: the Bernina Express train is well-heralded, but we think the road, which often parallels the train track, was even more favorable for us this trip, given our ability to stop and stare and take pics.

Back to St. Steffani Hotel by about 7:30, when it was getting dark. We freshened up, and walked across the street to the HOTEL HAUSER for dinner. We enjoyed a delicious meal capped off by sharing one of their wonderful desserts. Melanie was our 19-year old waitress and shared info with us about the area, some famous guests of the restaurant, like Will Smith, and the education system requiring 9 years of school followed by 3 years of a work/study program in their field of interest. Melanie told us that she made only about 300 EUR per month working in Italy, but 2800 CHF in Suisse. So people want to work in Suisse and live cheaply in Italy. We heard this repeated by other workers we met as we continued our travels.

Returning to our hotel, we talked about our enjoyment of this Upper Engadine area. We readied a few things for the morning when we would have a travel day to Locarno.
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Dec 10th, 2014, 03:12 PM
  #45
 
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This is the part I've been waiting for - the Engadine! Look forward to reading about Locarno.
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Dec 10th, 2014, 03:53 PM
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Still following your trip! We actually stayed and had our dinners at the Hotel Hauser in St. Moritz. Very nice hotel and we had beautiful views from our room balcony.
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Dec 11th, 2014, 01:01 AM
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Also following your trip report and enjoying it - thanks for taking the time to post. Glad to read you hade a great time.

All these closed roads and detours certainly must have been annoying. Quite an adventure to drive all these passes!

Too bad you didn't see the most scenic parts of the Bernina pass area around Alp Grüm, which is only accessible by train.
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Dec 11th, 2014, 02:45 PM
  #48
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Melnq8, thanks for continuing to follow along. We know that there's so much more to explore in the Engadine. . .on a future trip!
Your trip is coming up very soon, right? We wish you "Happy Travels"!

Pja1, another shared experience: Hotel Hauser. Our meal there was one of the better dinners we had. Thanks for your continued interest in our TR.

Ingo, so glad to have you following along with our TR. Yes, as mentioned to Melnq8 above, we know that there is so much more to explore in the Engadine. The Bernina Express will be something to incorporate into a future trip.
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Dec 11th, 2014, 03:02 PM
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I am loving all the details of this adventure. Looking forward to reliving some great memories of Montreaux, and then there's PARIS---can't get enough of Paris and I'm sure you'll have a good tale to tell.
Bravo!
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Dec 11th, 2014, 04:20 PM
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tomarkot -

Yes, we leave Sunday. Dreading the flights, but very much looking forward to cold weather and holiday cheer.
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Dec 11th, 2014, 06:22 PM
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Melnq8, Hope your flights(very long in comparison with ours!) and all your travel plans work out smoothly.

We wish you a "Merry Christmas" and a ""Happy Holiday Season!

Looking forward to hearing all about your trip.
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Dec 11th, 2014, 06:24 PM
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Back at ya, thanks tomarkot!
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Dec 12th, 2014, 05:45 AM
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TPAYT, thanks for your encouragement regarding our TR! We experienced so much beauty on this trip, and Montreux toward the end just added to it. And then Paris!

In between all the holiday "goings-on", we're trying to keep our TR rolling. Glad to have you along!
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Dec 12th, 2014, 11:38 AM
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I'm passing your trip report on to Kim, Mary and Tracy to show that my "get out of bed" times are reasonable. Great report.

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Dec 12th, 2014, 09:03 PM
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I was also noticing your "get out of bed" times for most days. While we're usually up around 7am and go have breakfast, we rarely leave our "hotel" for the day before 10am.

CQ
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Dec 13th, 2014, 11:41 AM
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Maitaitom, great to hear from you! We've been thinking about you and hope that your "souvenir" bronchial infection is totally gone!

As far as our "rise 'n shine" times, (TK's expression!): normally, Tom is a fairly early riser; a "morning person", while MK is definitely not. However, while traveling, it's a different story. We're both eager to take full advantage of our days. So we let the ol' alarm clock get us going!




Coffeequeen, although we're up and have a relaxed breakfast earlier, we often stay and enjoy a bit more of the area we're in before leaving on our travels. IAD on where we're headed.
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Dec 17th, 2014, 02:03 PM
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Thursday, September 4, 2014 TRAVEL TO LOCARNO,
ON LAGO MAGGIORE

Enjoyed our last Fruhstuck at Hotel Steffani with a window seat overlooking the main St.Moritz circle. TK learned how to eat a soft-boiled egg the “European” way!

Following breakfast, MK did last minute packing while TK walked to the Inter-Discount store nearby to buy an 8 GB card for about 13 CHF, a fair price. We traded 400 USD for 348 CHF at the hotel which had better rates than the bank. Go figure!

An early start enabled us to have a couple of hours to enjoy St. Moritz before leaving for Locarno. We walked around the town center and shopped at a little “souvenir” store across the street. (Kiddie souvenir t-shirts, etc.) We did some window-shopping at the high-end shops along the main street. and enjoyed some last views of Lake Moritz. Finally, we checked out of Hotel Steffani (572 CHF), more expensive than other locations, but well worth it.

It’s a beautiful day and we were glad that we had a couple of hours for some final enjoyment of St. Moritz, but felt that the time had come to be off to Locarno. We would be transitioning from a German part of Switzerland to the canton of Ticino, which is Italian-speaking, with Italian influence on architecture, culture, and food.

Why Locarno? In planning our itinerary several months before leaving home, we thought that we might want/need a break from the mountains, where we feared it might be chilly weather, and we’d be missing seeing colorful gardens. Remembering our delightful experience around the Italian lakes a few years back, we couldn’t resist the chance to enjoy a more Mediterrean climate, palm trees, and colorful flowers. We had previously been to Lugano; this trip we decided to book two nights at the smaller Locarno. We could enjoy Lago Maggiore and the little town of Ascona where we had stayed a few years back. From there, we would be in a good location to move on toward Brig.

It’s about 11AM. Several routes will lead to Locarno. Gilda was indicating the Julier Pass, which is actually an old Roman Road, so we decided to follow her lead. Although the day started out sunny, gradually a few clouds gathered…still beautiful though.

In contrast to the steep, twisty mountain roads filled with tight hairpin turns that we have been traveling, the drive up to the Julier Pass today seemed gentler. The summit was in an alpine environment strewn with rock fields. Only a tourist kiosk with a little novelty shop was located at the summit; enough for cappuccino. This seemed to be a popular biker stop.

Leaving the summit and descending, we experienced a well-maintained road, though it had its share of twists and curves, but nothing so dramatic as we had been experiencing prior to the Engadine.

About 1 ½ hours into our drive, we stopped for lunch at HOTEL ALBULA & JULIER in Tiefencastel. The location of this hotel/restaurant was at a pass-through intersection at the foot of the Julier Pass and the Albula Pass. The River Albula runs next to the restaurant. The owner told us that the only thing that keeps them profitable are the tour groups which pass by, as the location is somewhat remote from any popular destination. We split a swineschinzel, fries and vegies. (23CHF).

After that nice lunch stop, we continued for about another half-hour before TK began to feel that “after-lunch lull”. So we exited the highway in Sufer, another very small town, situated on a beautiful lake. We had our typical cappuccinos and a pastry, followed by a lakeside stroll, all of which served to ready us for the remainder of the drive to Locarno.

Proceeding ahead, we had the choice of driving over the San Bernardino Pass or taking the tunnel. We decided on the tunnel as a time-saver. The San Bernadino tunnel, almost 7 km. long, was a twisty, steep descent into the area of Bellinzona. However, after driving that extra-long tunnel before Tirano, this tunnel did not seem that long.

An unwelcome surprise greeted us as we exited the tunnel and joined an extremely heavy traffic flow into Locarno from about 10 km out…roundabouts galore. Locarno is a small city; the traffic was caused by much construction being done in the area.

In booking hotels before our trip, MK thought it would be easy to locate HOTEL GARNI DU LAC, since it was described as one block back from the lake. As we approached the city center, Gilda was in her repeat mode of “Re-calculating! “Re-calculating!” as she had us going round and round. Gilda seemed to be chasing her tail…we knew she couldn’t find the location. After “touring” the small city center a few times, we spotted a “TI” (Tourist Information) center, so MK went in while TK was successful in finding a parking spot in their lot. When we asked the girl at the desk, who, fortunately, spoke excellent English, if she knew HOTEL GARNI DU LAC, she told us to look over our shoulders to the piazza as she pointed to our hotel…Who knew? We had a good laugh! So close and yet so far!!!

Our hotel faced a piazza. . .a pedestrian-only area! A nice lady explained the parking situation outside the TI which required 3 CHF for 90 minutes. Since the TI was closed, we were able to leave our car for the night

It was not possible to drop off our luggage at the hotel. So. . .our first experience at pulling our luggage on the street! Luckily, the parking spot next to the TI center, was not that far from our hotel, and we needed only one of our 26” suitcases plus one roll-aboard!

The hotel web site indicated “We speak your language!” When we checked in, we expected to hear “Buon Giorno!” being in the Italian speaking area of Switzerland. Instead, the hotel receptionist asked us, in German, if we could speak German…hmmm! “Sprecken Sie Englisch”??? She shook her head. We think we may be in for communication troubles!!! But we did get a room key!

The room is small and rather tired-looking, but has a great view of Lago Maggiore. . . a nice balcony overlooking a beautiful park and the embarcadero. This room in no way compares to the ambience of Hotel Steffani in St. Moritz, but the view and location make up for it!

It’s a warm evening, so it’s very pleasant to walk around the piazza and the lake shore, enjoying the lush tropical foliage and flowers. We enjoyed a very relaxed stroll around and did a little window-shopping before dinner. In contrast to more exclusively high-end shops in St. Moritz, some of the shops in Locarno seem to have moderately-priced merchandise.

Given the delightful temperature, we decided to eat at one of the sidewalk restaurants. MK had her pasta bolognese and salad, TK had his favorite Bratwurst, fries and salad. With drinks: (51 CHF). All the staff spoke Italian, as we had expected.

Two more final cappuccinos up the street before heading back to the hotel, which was only a few short steps away. The accessibility to everything in downtown Locarno made us happy to have our hotel in this location. We wanted to get back to ready things for what we hoped would be a nice boat trip to Ascona in the morning.


Friday, September 5, 2014 BOAT TRIP TO ASCONA

Up earlier than normal(6:45) because TK needed to move the car parked overnight near the TI building across the piazza. The new metering began at 8AM. By parking there, we avoided the 16 CHF overnight garage parking.

Off for “colazione“, which was typical fare, but the breakfast room was nice. (MK’s comment) This is probably our bottom-rated of hotels rooms so far. However, the view was outstanding, and made up for a less attractive room.

The day was starting with cloudy skies. We spoke for a while with Jennifer at the TI building because she knows English very well. When complimenting her on her impeccable English, she told us that her mother is British. From her, we received some good info on the route to Brig tomorrow.

Jennifer drives the Centovalli road each day, and encouraged us to take it. (Another example of someone who lives in Italy and works in Switzerland.) The Centovalli (100 Valleys) is a snaky, narrow road which winds through beautiful country overlooking dramatic gorges. We watched a UTube of it before leaving home, so we knew that it’s fast-moving, and a fave of bikers. Also, Jennifer gave us some info on “how to get out of Dodge”(ala TK) given all the road construction.

We walked around the piazza area before heading to the embarcadero to catch the boat for Ascona. Although we could easily have driven there, we looked forward to going by water.

We caught the “Torino” boat, glad that it wasn’t an express to Ascona, as we wanted to enjoy more of the lake and the stops at a few of the other little lakeside towns: Magadino, Vera, and San Nazzaro. Even though the skies were a bit overcast, the ride was beautiful given the smooth water of Lago Maggiore and the dramatic backdrop of mountains that surround it.

Interesting side note: we traveled to and from Ascona seated next to two mature Swiss ladies from Lausanne, an hour from Berne. Neither of them spoke English, but we traded German and French words and phrases; and it was amazing the fun we had exchanging ideas. We thoroughly enjoyed the encounter, and they seemed to, as well.

We disembarked at Ascona where we spent the rest of the afternoon. Fortunately, the sun came out in its full glory. Ascona lies in a bay on Lago Maggiore. It boasts a beautiful, wide lake promenade, shops, restaurants, and walks in the surrounding Old Town. It has an intricate web of lanes containing every kind of boutique. Wandering this way and that through the lanes, it’s easy to find the way back to the lakeside piazza. It was while walking on one of these back lanes that we happened upon a great lunch site at GROTTO OSTERIA BALDORIA.

While preparing for our trip, MK had read about “grotto” restaurants around Locarno. When TK spotted the sign with the word “Grotto” and an arrow up a side alley, we were curious and followed it, not knowing that we would be in for a most unusual restaurant experience.

The GROTTO OSTERIA BALDORIA is constructed with one wall being the side of a building, a roof of vine poles, covered with green foliage, and a gravel floor. The seating is at large wooden picnic-type tables.

When we approached the entrance, we asked to see the menu, and found out that there is no menu. Only one entrée offering! The lady explains that today it is pasta (farfalla) with beef with topped with a delicious Italiano sauce. So it sounded like fun to us. We were up for it!

Once seated, the waitress takes your drink order. For us, their vino rosa: Ticino Merlot. She then brings fresh baked bread. The wine is brought soon after. Next, a large wooden cutting board with 3 rolls of different sausages, still in the casings, and a large knife, all of which she secures from another table, is placed on your table. You’re invited to cut what you want; then she returns, collects your skins, and passes the salami board to another table. Very shortly, the entrees are served; very hot and delicious. Upon finishing your entrée, another cutting board is presented, this time containing cheeses. Same ritual: cut what you want; whereupon, the board is passed to another table. After clearing your table, the waitress comes carrying a cookie sheet and spatula, and offers a piece of a large chocolate chip cake, fresh out of the oven. Finally, the bill. (51 EUR for 2 meals plus drinks; cash only).

After finishing, we thought that this was the most unique and fun meal we’ll have on this trip; except, maybe, for our dinner with Maitaitom and Tracy in Paris!

Upon leaving the restaurant, we met the 2nd set of USA people on the trip so far; a man and his wife from Minnesota and their friends from St. Louis. He is a minister who has been living in Zurich for 15 years with some sort of international ministry, soon to retire in the US. We chatted with them for a few minutes
.
We walked off our meal by taking a few more of the little back streets: passed the old Papal College and meandered up to the central business district of the town. Returning to the lakeside promenade area, we had a cappuccino outside as we watched the water and people activity. Amazing how you can while away time doing nothing while on vacation!

We made use of a 30-minute tourist train ride around Ascona to see a few of the swanky hotels, a golf course, marina, beach area, etc. The commentary was in four languages and got somewhat long, but it was a good way to get acquainted with other areas of the resort town. The climate of this area is known to be the best in Switzerland, and many folks from the northern European countries, especially Germany, come to Ascona for their holiday.

We caught the boat back to Locarno about 4:30. And. . .whom did we meet on that boat but the same two ladies from Lausanne? They had caught another boat to the Isla Brissago for the day and were connecting in Ascona for their return to Locarno.

On the return trip, the skies were clouding up. As we approached Locarno, it began to drizzle. We were happy that we had gotten the 4:30 boat, as the downpour that ensued would have impacted our ride on the later boat, as well as our walk back to the hotel.

From our covered balcony, we could watch the intensifying rain as we planned our route to Brig for tomorrow. It was soon time to freshen up for dinner. As we headed out, that new REI umbrella, TK’s idea, came in handy for our “Singin’ in the Rain” stroll to and from the restaurant.

At RISTORANTE OLDRATI, only three blocks from our hotel, we shared a tasty lasagna and mixed salad; with beer and wine (33.50 CHF). After our meal, we had cappuccinos in a little place just a few doors from our hotel. It was about 9PM when we returned, feeling contented and tired, but stayed up another hour or more making use of Wi-Fi to catch-up on notes and get things organized for the following day’s travel to Brig.

Overall, following our couple of weeks of constant mountain driving and exploration, Locarno was a good stop. We really enjoyed the warmer weather, although partly cloudy at times, the tropical foliage and flowers, and the comfort of our location near the waterfront. The room at Hotel Garni du Lac was somewhat of a disappointment, as MK had read a rave review of it. But the location was super. . . being right in the central area, with a view of the lake, the embarcadero, and many restaurants around. No need for our car. . .a nice change of pace! And the sun did appear in Ascona, contributing to an enjoyable day.

A sunny day is predicted for tomorrow! We hope to get going early and enjoy a few more hours in Locarno, before we head out for Brig.
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Dec 21st, 2014, 02:11 PM
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Dec 24th, 2014, 10:28 AM
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Thanks, Starrs. Glad you're enjoying our TR. Trust that there are a few others who are following along. Your feedback is encouraging!
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Dec 30th, 2014, 01:27 PM
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Great stuff…Writing down a number of places to visit where we have never traveled before.

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