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Today made up for the day(s) of travel...My trip in progress :)

Firstly, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who helped me when I was planning my trip, which is now in progress.

I arrived to Lake Maggiore yesterday evening after a very LONG day of travel from the West Coast. My original flight connecting in Miami was cancelled, two days prior to departure, but fortunately my airline was able to find a flight connecting in Heathrow Airport. Connecting in Heathrow was quite an experience. The process of following the signs & taking the airport bus between the terminals was uneventful. However, I was randomly chosen at the start of the security line when a yellow tag was attached to my backpack.
Not only did I have to go through the metal detector, plus the x-ray machine, but I was also patted down. Then the contents of my luggage were completely examined.
My small backpack was emptied into a large plastic bin, my 3-1-1 liquids were transferred to one provided by security because they had to examine my liquid medications (eye & ear drops) together with all my other toiletry liquids. The whole process took about 40 minutes; it's a good thing I had almost two hours to spare! I understand that airport security is essential, but it's no fun when you're chosen and your luggage contents are emptied, then once they've completed their search, you're left with a big mess that needs to be repacked!
Anyway, my flight from Heathrow to Milan arrived a bit early, so I was able to catch the Alibus earlier and thus arrived to my hotel 2 hours earlier than expected. Yay!
My hotel is located in Baveno and my room is small but comfortable. The shower situation is as expected... I will never understand the reason why they have such tiny shower basins, with curtains which are useless, because the whole floor becomes flooded after one showers!
Anyway enough about my woes!

Today I had a wonderful day. After eating a delicious breakfast provided by the staff of the hotel, I set out to visit the
the small church located behind the hotel. It's a nice Romanesque church with beautiful frescoes within.
After visiting the TI, I took the local bus to Stresa, then the ferry to two of the Borromean Islands; Isola dei Pescatori & Isola Bella. I was underwhelmed by Isola dei Pescatori. Although it makes for a good photo opp, when approaching it from the ferry, I found the tiny island to be packed with
souvenir shops and touristy restaurants.
Isola Bella, as the name implies, was beautiful. I enjoyed the beautifully manicured gardens more than the decadent villa. The white peacocks were too busy eating in the bushes, so there was no display of their beautiful feathers.
After visiting Isola Bella, I visited Santa Caterina del Sasso, a tiny church built on the cliffs of the mountain across the lake.

While waiting for the ferry to return, I witnessed a newlywed couple being photographed (on a boat) with the church as a backdrop! Wow!

When I returned to Stresa, I found a Vodafone shop & spent about an hour getting an Italian SIM card for my iPhone. The reason it took so long was because the salesperson spoke very limited English & I speak very limited Italian. Thank heavens for google translate!
Vodafone is running a special right now which includes 300 minutes to call the US, 500 minutes for calls within Italy and 4GB of data for €30/ month. The only drawback with this plan is that it does not include MSM texts to the US, but I can use free WiFi while in my hotel and in many restaurants.
After getting my new Italian SIM card, I enjoyed strolling on Piazza Cadorna, getting a new scarf (my souvenir!), and eating deliciously creamy gelato at L' Angolo del Gelato, recommended by one of the ferry staff. I was so busy visiting the Islands that I skipped lunch!
You know what they say; don't go to the market when you're hungry... Well, before finding the gelateria, I found a Carrefour Market on Via Roma and managed to find some cookies...
To be continued below...

Posted by
4620 posts

Continued...
A 500gm bag of Jordan Almods ( actually they are labeled as, 'Confetti di Sulmona'), some water and....Since I was SO hungry, I went to the deli counter and ordered a bit over a 100gms of the most expensive prosciutto [ only paid €3,80!]

While waiting for the bus, the lady next to me asked me if the bus to Baveno stopped there. She spoke to me in Italian and I answered in Italian, but then she asked if I spoke Portuguese! Long story short, I met her friends and we conversed for about 30 minutes!
I spoke Spanish and we managed to understand each other very well!
Hmmm...writing this on my small phone took much longer than I expected and it's time to get some sleep now.
Ciao,
Priscilla

Posted by
1952 posts

Oh, Priscilla! What a lovely, positive report. It's a pleasure to read and I'll look forward to your next installment!

Posted by
11613 posts

Priscilla, so happy that your trip has begun!

I was chosen for special security check at Heathrow, too - I sympathize. I am such a careful packer, and it was annoying to have to just stuff things into my suitcase afterward. The packing cubes helped!

Get some rest and keep writing!

Posted by
644 posts

Ciao Priscilla! I'm so happy you are posting a trip report in progress! I loved reading it! Glad you were able to catch the Alibus from MXP to Stresa. Are you planning on visiting Isola Madre?

Posted by
31303 posts

Priscilla,

It's great to hear that you arrived early, as that's always a bonus!

If it's any consolation, I was selected for "random screening" at my local airport they swabbed everything, including my hands and my DSLR camera. I don't think I look especially dodgy, but I seem to get "randomly" selected each time I fly out of that airport. It didn't delay me for long, but it was still a bit annoying.

It's also nice to hear that you made it to that Church, and that the ferry connections were seemingly easy.

Posted by
293 posts

oh lordy the showers - - - yes, why oh why are they all so strange and different? One time in England, at the Military Officers Club Hotel in London, (back in the early 90's) there was this hilarious get-up; imagine this: it is a bathtub, with two faucets supplying hot water, on the left, and cold water, on the right. When I asked about how to shower there, they sent up a double set of orange "shower hoses" , which came in sealed plastic wrap, like medicinal equipment. The employee attached one orange hose to the hot, and one hose to the cold. He showed us how to turn on both faucets, and hold both hoses in your hand above your head, one hose spewing hot water, the other hose spewing cold, out of their shower nozzles. Oh. My. Lord.

Now remember that you can't shampoo your hair, nor can you wash your "bits and bobs." And no shower curtain, of course.

So husband and I simply held the shower nozzles for each other, and laughed. And you can't regulate the temperature of the water very well, either, because you're holding two hose nozzles. "Why is this so?" I asked the anthropologist inside me...and I did come to a conclusion: it is normally cold temperature in England, and I think people don't sweat or have a "daily shower culture" like I have in the hot, dusty, sweaty Central Valley of California, where it's hot 6 months out of the year. I think many of them must probably take a weekly bath instead of a daily shower.

Posted by
12400 posts

"...the hot dusty, sweaty Central Valley of California...." How true, and such eloquence! We mustn't forget the rolling balls of heat either which you can encounter in Sacramento and Bakersfield.

Posted by
782 posts

These posts always warms my heart, I remember first starting to take trips to Europe and having people on this forum encourage me and teach me. Rick Steves has an unusual approach in teaching people to be independent of his company, the funny thing is that for the first 5 years I traveled on my own, just using his books, but now I enjoy the people I meet so much on the tours that I've done at least one tour per year over the last 3 years, and plan to do another next year!

Posted by
1966 posts

Priscilla,
I'm also enjoying your report. I flew home yesterday from
London Heathrow and was randomly selected for special screening at the beginning of security and then, a second one, at the gate! Had to take off my shoes, was wanded, patted down with some kind of gauze-like pads on my hands and ankles and my bags searched again. This was a day after the attack on the tube. Btw, we avoided the tube and only used taxis when we went back to the hotel at night and took one to the airport.

Posted by
940 posts

Priscilla - it sounds like an overall good start, except for the special airport attention. It's hard to get your bag back just right after it being dumped like that. I experienced that treat at Schiphol. Just finally getting there, having a good meal and some lovely sights is soothing to the soul. Gelato is the icing on top. I'm looking forward to reading more about your adventure!

Posted by
315 posts

The gauze pad checks for explosive dust on skin and luggage. Our luggage has been checked for years when flying through JFK.

Posted by
9832 posts

Off to a great start, Priscilla! Looking forward to following your voyage as we make ours. Sorry we won't be in the same place at the same time.

Posted by
14404 posts

Hi Priscilla, So great to hear you are fnally in Italy and having another adventure. Now you know why I hate going through Heathrow. Last time, I was returning home from a U.S. visit (aka biannual shopping spree), and my friend and I had spent well over an hour packing and repacking and rerepacking my hand luggage so that everything would fit exactly. At LHR they went through every bit of my stuff including expensive electronics and then left me a mess to put back together in the open space with dozens and dozens of people walking past. The worst was the attitude of petty bureaucracy - probably the only place in their lives where these unskilled people have any authority.

Enjoy the weather! It's pouring rain here in Krakow, still a fascinating place and as soon as I finish this, I'm heading back out for more. Today's observation: a microfibre towel would be a great thing to have in a day bag after a rain when all the benches are wet and you really want to rest your weary feet for a few minutes.

Posted by
4620 posts

Thanks everyone for the positive feedback!

Reading from others' experiences about the special random security screening at Heathrow is comforting to me, in an odd sort of way, because I kept asking myself; why is this happening to me!?!

Judy B, sorry you had to go through a second screening at Heathrow, once was enough!

Zoe, thanks for all your help with my first solo trip!

Ken, enjoy your trip!

Shelley, I can't imagine taking a shower with a hose spewing hot water and the other hose spewing cold water!
I'll take a tiny shower where I can adjust the temperature of the water any day, even if it means flooding the bathroom floor!

Donald, I know what you mean in terms of this forum being so helpful.
Enjoy your upcoming RS tour!

Chani, I know you warned me about avoiding flights connecting in Heathrow but the other flight option given (connecting in Madrid) was fully booked.
I'm just grateful I made it to Italia!

It rained here the evening when I arrived as well as yesterday evening.
Today was a bit chilly in the morning but it turned out to be a lovely day.
Enjoy the rest of your trip!

More about my trip in a few days ;-)

If I could only get a hold of a real computer with a keyboard!

Ciao!

Priscilla

Posted by
4647 posts

Shelley, your post made me laugh. And I remembered a time years ago when we were camping at Mesa Verde. We were hot, tired, dirty, so headed to the campground showers. Which were pay showers, and we only had enough cash for one. So of course, we shared!

Chani, that's the best reason I've seen for packing a microfiber towel.

Posted by
11613 posts

Priscilla, some hotels or libraries may have computers for guests to use.

Posted by
4647 posts

Also TIs often have public computers. We've used all these - hotel, public libraries, and TI.

Posted by
1966 posts

Emma, I believe I was selected because there was a code on my boarding pass - SSSS, that indicated I was to have additional screening. First of all, my Delta airlines app always allows me to check in with it. This time Delta emailed me as usual to check in. When I tried to do so, this message appeared: "your request cannot be processed - check with an agent at the airport." My traveling companion did not have this code and message and was able to check in with her Delta app.

Posted by
11613 posts

I got that same message when I tried to check in online.

I did come to a conclusion: it is normally cold temperature in
England, and I think people don't sweat or have a "daily shower
culture" like I have in the hot, dusty, sweaty Central Valley of
California, where it's hot 6 months out of the year. I think many of
them must probably take a weekly bath instead of a daily shower.

So, Shelley, based on the state of the shower at a club way back in the 1990s you've reached a conclusion about an entire nation's hygiene habits?

Good hotels (I mean ones where you pay a proper price for modern amenities rather than looking for quaintness) in the UK will have a decent shower. Water pressure might not be what it is in the US in some older properties. (After all, most visitors who frequent this site seem to look for picturesque historic places - then moan about room size or showers or lack of elevators) but that doesn't mean we don't wash. Most people I know will have a daily shower or a daily bath.

Posted by
2753 posts

Priscilla, I am so glad you are on your trip! I'll be looking forward to your updates. Your itinerary sounded wonderful.

Heathrow: is my airport of choice, contrary to many/most people's opinions. Maybe because I know it well at this point? I keep my experience to terminal 5 and it has a lot to do with the flight from the US that I like. Anyway, up until this year's trip, I have always been put through the extensive security; hand search, explosive test, etc. However, this year I didn't even go through the naked scan. I have always attributed my extra screening to being buxom. This year, after the metal detector, I was diverted around the naked scan. Now, this is only one flight out of many so not a real test, but this year I wore one of my sport bras with no wires. So this will be my system on my next trip to see if it works again. However, knowing I will be screened so thoroughly, I pack accordingly, and allow time. I check my wheelie whenever possible and this is one reason. That being said, I have always found the TSA personnel to be very professional.

Posted by
4620 posts

Oops!
Christine, I meant to answer your question but just realized that I didn't.
Anyway, I decided not to visit Isola Madre mainly because there are other places along the lake I want to visit.

Laurel, I can't believe we keep missing each other. Have a bellíssimo trip!

Here's a update...
Yesterday, I had a very peaceful, leisurely walk along a lakeside promenade from Suna to Verbania. When I arrived to the TI at Pallanza, the young woman I spoke with was surprised when I told her about my walk and she asked; " why didn't you take the bus all the way to Verbania-Intra if that's were you wanted to go?"
Well, I know I could have taken the bus but it was way more fun to walk and to experience the beautiful scenery of the lake and the promenade at a slow pace. Along the promenade I enjoyed watching parents walking and playing with their children, others were walking their dogs. Many of the people I came across along the promenade were running for exercise. I also witnessed a large group of young people racing their kayaks.
The weather was perfect for this long walk. It started out a bit chilly, but after a while I had to remove my scarf followed by my vest.

When I finally arrived to Verbania, I went into the lobby of a hotel and asked the young woman for a restaurant recommendation. She explained how to arrive to 'La Latteria' via an archway & down a narrow alley.
I'd not have found this delicious restaurant if you'd paid me! I take that back, if I'd had a map, I may have found it. My lunch was superb; a tender steak with red wine sauce, served over a bed of roasted rosemary potatoes plus a mixed salad drizzled with olive oil & balsamic vinegar. I don't usually order dessert but decided to try the panna cotta with caramel sauce which turned out to be an excellent choice! My lunch lasted about an hour and a half (started writing this update).

After lunch I visited Intra's church with its beautiful oxidized copper dome and the mostly marvel interior. The church is beautiful but it was quite dark inside so I didn't stay very long.

I then decided to go window shopping since most of the shops were still closed. I ended up buying myself some nice pjs. Why would anyone buy pjs on vacation? Well...My hotel room gets cold at night, but the heater won't be turned on till October 1st, and I didn't want to keep sleeping in my fleece vest!
When I returned to Baveno, I was so tired that I decide to settle in, change into my new warm pjs & go to bed early.
I also requested an extra blanket!

Continued below...

Posted by
4620 posts

I woke early today & after watching the sunrise, I went down to breakfast. I was the first one there. After eating my usual; yogurt, small croissant, juice, a small sandwich made with sliced tomatoes, salami, prosciutto, cheese and drizzled with olive oil, I waited for the bus to Intra.

Once I arrived to Intra, I waited for the bus that would take me to Cannobio. While waiting for the bus, I met a young man from Africa.
He chuckled when I asked him if he was Italian. We ended up sitting across from each other on the bus & we had a fun conversation. We spoke in a combination of Italian, French, English, and Spanish.
He told me that he works at a restaurant where it gets very busy from March to August, but once mid September rolls around, the business slows down and he then needs to find another job for the winter months.

The scenery of the lake on the way to Cannobio was spectacular!
Once I arrived to Canobbio, a smalll medieval lakeside town, I found the TI office where I obtained some information & a map. I overheard some other tourists asking (in German) about Santa Ana's gorge, so I in turn also asked how to get there.
There's a beautiful trail that runs along the river and it was a peaceful 45 minute walk to the gorge and to Santa Ana's church.
Unfortunately the church was closed so I headed back to the towns historic center. I had a delightful time visiting Cannobio's church, San Vittore, walking along quaint narrow cobble stone alleys and on the lakeside promenade.
I asked a woman at a shop where she likes to eat, and her response was; "a casa!" (at home!)
She ended up recommending a restaurant that serves typical food but unfortunately it was closed!
I then asked at a hotel in one of the alleys and was referred to a small trattoria. When I arrived, the owners were eating & the place was empty because I'd arrived sometime after 2pm.
The owner told me that I was welcome to order the pasta with clams that the family was eating.
I'm not fond of clams, so I asked what else he recommended. He recommended the lasagna & the eggplant Parmesan. The food was tasty but not great.
Once I'd paid my bill, I asked the restaurant owner for a recommendation of a good gelateria, and she
told me that the gelateria at the end of the promenade was the best one.
The mango gelato tasted as good as eating a fresh ripe mango, yum!

I'd consider taking the ferry back to Baveno, but ended up taking the bus instead, mainly because wanted to arrive to Baveno earlier than if I'd taken the ferry.

Tomorrow is my last day on the lake, so I decided to do some laundry at a self serve lavandería conveniently located next to my hotel. I met a nice couple there and
found out that the wife was born in
South America, so we talked for quite some time.

I'll share more about my trip in a few days.

Ciao!

Posted by
8397 posts

Really enjoying your Trip Report! Sounds like a wonderful time!

Posted by
8397 posts

Really enjoying your Trip Report! Sounds like a wonderful time!

Posted by
681 posts

Love your report and glad you are having a good time. Mango gelato is my favorite.

Posted by
4647 posts

So, Shelley, based on the state of the shower at a club way back in the 1990s you've reached a conclusion about an entire nation's hygiene habits?

Good hotels (I mean ones where you pay a proper price for modern
amenities rather than looking for quaintness) in the UK will have a
decent shower. Water pressure might not be what it is in the US in
some older properties. (After all, most visitors who frequent this
site seem to look for picturesque historic places - then moan about
room size or showers or lack of elevators) but that doesn't mean we
don't wash. Most people I know will have a daily shower or a daily
bath.

Ummm, just wanted to let you know, this poster isn't me.

Posted by
644 posts

Priscilla,
Sounds like you are off to a great start! Love reading your trip report in progress. Yes, I understand about Isola Madre. No matter how much time I allow on a trip, I can never cover everything!

Posted by
72 posts

Priscilla

What a great trip report - and what a beautiful and tasty corner of the world you have discovered. How are you liking traveling solo? You and I discussed this a while back. You certainly are adventurous and I love that you are asking the locals where to eat and go. Bravo for you!

Take care
Amy

Posted by
6684 posts

Priscilla, so glad you were able to get a rerouted flight with all the problems in Miami. You are really seizing all that northern Italy has to offer-- love the tale of the promenade along the lake, that sounds so beautiful.