Buongiorno from Italy!
The Texan Holiday Ambassador (or in other words, my father) finally arrived! With him descended madness, much laughter, thoroughly missed Texan cuisine (re-fried beans and tortillas!!) and a gift bag stocked full of goodies from ma mere (which I have been diligently waiting to open until xmas…well most of it anyways).
Some how relaxing took a back seat as dad and I ran around trying to prepare for our trip, fighting with gps technology (or lack thereof), and printing out last minute maps. We made a snap decision to cut our trip in “half” (if only we knew), crash at Antoine’s in Grenoble Wednesday, and brave the snowy French Alps on Thursday all to avoid Swiss tolls and make it to Como, Italy. After the 4 hour drive turned into over 10, and as sanity, patience, energy, and motivation to make it to our remote mountain villa faded, it seemed as though we would not arrive at our final destination in one piece. But we finally arrived and the sight of our beautiful (and GIANT) lake view villa was enough to breathe new life into us. We couldn’t believe that such lavish accommodations were all ours! But lesson learned- sometimes your time IS worth the money.
The past few days have been dreamlike, or as Dad keeps calling it “Disneyland!”. We took ferries around the pristine lake from Menaggio, to Bellagio to Como and caught the funicular in time to watch night fall over Como. (Fun fact: for those of you who don’t know, George Clooney owns a villa in Como. Unfortunately no sights were made). Today was just as surreal, as we popped across the border and took another (much bigger) funicular up Monte Bre in Lugano, Switzerland. While I might have an ever increasing personal annoyance with Switzerland (their “neutrality” is a little too convenient, they hold most of the world’s money, they’re surrounded by EU countries all sharing in currency and border privileges and yet remain their own little island of superiority AND charge out the wazoo to pass through their little island…), I cannot deny the breathtaking beauty that is the Switzerland. Layers of snow capped mountains stacked upon steep rolling hills with crystal waters and cozy villages nestled in valleys is pretty hard to scoff at. As we ate our pre-packed sandwiches, we stared in awe at the fairy tale scenery before us. Sometimes I really have to stop and remind myself of the amazing experiences I am having. I truly am lucky.
That being said, I must reaffirm what I already learned through my travels (especially during my East Europe trip) as well as some new insight.
1. Maps- always have them. Especially detailed ones. Don’t rely on technology (namely stupid Garmins!) to help you.
2. **A little planning goes a long way** I’m staring this one because as much as people like to write my desire to plan trips off as just another anal tendency, there are certain factors that, when planned, can alleviate stress and insanity.
- Knowing where you’re going and having a general time frame helps avoid hunger, night driving, tolls and delirium…
- It also helps to think about when to leave (especially by car), when to pass through, and when to arrive in big cities. Will you hit traffic? That goes for small cities too! Will you get lost if there is a detour? Will you be able to find your way at night?
- Having detailed maps for leaving one location and arriving in another is always good. Surprisingly enough, the highway roads are not as easy to find the next day.
- And I have learned that roads always take longer in Europe. They’re windy and you don’t know they way and maybe even the language. Prepare to get lost. Prepare to smile.
As Dad likes to quote from Peepaw, “Prior planning prevents piss poor performance”.
3. There’s something to traveling off season. True, things might be more dead than usual and you might miss out on some experiences due to off season closures, but there’s a tranquility, a peace that you don’t normally get to have when travelling to hot spots. During off season, you’re not battling the crowds, the jacked up prices, or the stress of “gotta see it all quickly!” You have time to set up the shot that you want to take, to breathe in the air, to listen to the sounds. Most of these places are beautiful in their own right- because of the area and not necessarily the tourist attractions set up around them.
4. And finally shoulda/coulda/woulda doesn’t ever really help. It’s tempting to pull them out during times of frustration, but it never changes your situation or predicament. And most of the time you don’t really look back and think of the bad things. I won’t resent the traffic jam in Milan, or the scary snow/ice covered alpine roads, or the expensive tolls because they led me to the good. And they helped pave the road for future travel knowledge. Instead of lamenting the things that should or could have gone better, it’s best to keep our eyes on the road, the final destination and learn from our mistakes- our experiences.
Here’s hoping I can apply these things to Nice! Tomorrow we bid the mountains arrivederci and make our way towards the Cote d’Azur!