Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Here we go again

We are sure that there is a song somewhere there!
Its still raining here in Stresa. In fact, the rain has really set in and the clouds have descended on the town like a blanket. We get the occasional glimpse of Isola Bella out in the Lake, but really, it is obscured more than it is visible this morning. Luckily there is no glass recycling collection today, but the bells are still ringing for this little girl! Love them bells!!

We check out of the Hotel Primavera in the pouring rain and head down the street to say goodbye to Rosaria and Sarah. They give us the details for a friend who has a B&B should we ever get back to Stresa and we insist that if they ever get over to Oz that they come and visit with us. Having some genuine contact with the locals just adds so much to our travel experience and they have been very warm and generous in so many ways. I mean, these people could very easily become life-long friends of ours. Hels ducks out to get a little thank you gift for Paola at the car dealership.

And then we are off, back to Domodossola. Not that this is one of our choice destinations, but gee, the car is here and we have been told that it will be ready for 6 pm today. In this weather, too late to travel any further, but we hope for an early departure tomorrow morning. Its still raining, so the trip is a little slower than when we left. There are now a myriad of waterfalls coursing down every crevice in the hills and mountains - a little reminiscent of those we saw in Switzerland (and the Isle of Skye) when the rain fell. There is a birch forest just outside thetown and in the rain, the colours of the trees are just beautiful - really, quite vibrant.

And so we come off the Highway back into Domodossola. We have been told that the old town centre is really quite lovely and kind of feel that maybe we should take a look and try to find somewhere for lunch at the same time (its about 1 pm). Much of the city is industrial or heavily commercialised and there are many places closed (well, it is lunchtime). We make one pass through town without seeing anything that excites us too much.

A second turn through as we turn right instead of left this time and end up down near the railway station and bus terminus. Aah - there is a restaurant just near a supermarket. So with Frances on our side, we find a car park about 80 m away. Mind you, it is still pelting down. A quick dash across the balance of the car park and we turn in to the Restaurant Regina. Must be good - there are lots and lots of locals dining. Certainly smells wonderful. This is a local diner, not some tourist trap, so the menus are not in English. But we are actually starting to get the hang of Italian and so feel we kind of have an idea of what we are ordering.

And to our delight - we are right! We begin our meal by sharing a plate of Bresaola olio e limone - ahh, this dried beef is the new prosciutto in my opinion anyway! Then we tuck into some of the very best pasta we have tried. Helen chose the Pappardelle panna, proscuitto e pamodoro (Pappardelle with cream, proscuitto and tomato) while both Michael and I had their Raviolotti di polenta e formaggio ossolano condadolata di patate funghi porcini e scaglie de pecorino (Raviolotti polenta and cheese Ossolano condadolata from sheep porcini mushrooms and potato chips). Served with crusty rolls this was an amazing meal. No photos - it was too wet to dash back to the car for the camera! You'll just have to take our word. They were not big meals - perfect for lunch. But rich, creamy and with the honest flavours that you get when a chef does not tamper with great ingredients!

We leave, bracing into the cold wet again - and to add further insult to the day, someone else has taken Helen's purple umbrella! She thought she was safe bringing a purple one, I mean, its such a popular colour (not! well in Australia anyway!)

And so we are back at the Hotel Internazionale. Same bat room, same bat experience. Michael returns the high car to the garage next door - pity the weather has not been better for more exploring. We have an afternoon of trying to condense our ever increasing 'stuff', lying around reading and planning for the next two weeks. Again, there is an adjustment to our plans and we will now head east through to Venice, south through Bologna to Pompei and then north to Rome and Florence. We are trying to get a connection from either of these last two ports for Helen to fly back to Paris to connect with her flights home in a fortnight.

About 5 pm Michael heads downstairs for a smoke and then walks up to the Opel dealer just a few hundred metres up the road. The Italians obviously react to a little histrinocs as we have full steam ahead action. And even Vauxhall in the UK have responded - offering to put pressure on the Italian end if needed. Steph followed up my angry email to Opel in Germany with a phone call but was told that as it is a British version, that the Brits or the Italians would need to sort the mess that they had created - still not happy Jan with the service provided by Opel (or the attitude of the German end!)

Anway to cut a long story short, the car is delivered from the mechanic to him right on the dot of 6 pm, all fixed and ready for more adventures. Bookings are now made for accommodation for the next week - as far as Pompei. It gives us surety at least and a trip that will have a bit more structure to it. We plan driving of no more than about 2.5 hours for each day bar one - and that will probably be more like 5 hours!

Dinnertime comes and we just head back to the El Toros Restaurace e Pizzeria downstairs - again. Tonight it will be pizza all round. They were popular with other diners when we were here last week and after tasting them we know why. It is all about the crust and a few nice ingredients to accentuate it. Helen has the Marghuerita, I have Brescaola and Michael the Capricciosa with roasted capsicum, artichokes, mushrooms, ham and tomato. Nice and light and a good finish to the day. We follow this with dessert - Helen and I have the Creme Catalana that was soooo good last time and Michael (true to form) has the Profiteroles with Chocolate sauce!

Once back in the room, Helen and I have a couple of fingers of the Stresa Amaretto that I bought the other day (hic! no, not that much!) And so its off to bed to get ready for stage 2 of our 'Adventures with Helen in Italy' - stay tuned!

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