Monday, September 14, 2009

Round and round the roundabout not the Monza track!

After a late-ish breakfast, Michael phones to check on the progress of the car. Poor Paola at the other end of the phone in Domodossola is again the bearer of bad news. The part is not in and won’t be here until at the earliest tomorrow morning. Crikey – we should have offered to drive back to Germany in the hire car to pick it up – certainly would have been much much faster! Anyway, we don’t want to stay in Milano so its back on the net we go to find some accommodation in Stresa – if we have to be waiting waiting waiting, we may as well be somewhere that is really pleasant! There is a whole range from really basic shared bathrooms to the opulent five-star hotel that is still owned by the Borromeo family. Us? Well, we decide to go half way. We want to be right in the township and close to the water should we decide to do another ferry trip. We settle on the three-star Primavera Meul'rle Hotel and make a booking for one night.

And so we say goodbye to Milan - well, we try to. But Milan just doesn't want to let us go! We had decided that since we couldn't get tickets to the Grand Prix that we would go and take a look around the Monza Race Track. We program Kate who takes us excitedly from one c
lover leaf to another and then another and from one toll plaza to the next and gee, deja vu happening here, we are back again - its like Bill Murray waking up on Groundhog Day! Altogether it adds up to about €20.

As a driver the road system here in Milan sucks. Big time. The lack of lanes causes these crazy Italians to want to create their own lane - in fact they insist upon it! And at close distance to my rear bumper, and
my front one and my my side door. And all the while Helen is driving - with her foot on the brake on 'her' side of the car - doesn't do her much good!!!!! And this crazy system of turning right on to the service road to turn left around a half roundabout is the wierdest.

Eventually we get to Monza.
Well around we go through the streets of what looks like another run down suburb of Milano. The weather is as bleak and dull as the colour and shapes of the buildings on either side. We realise that we have to turn around and head off as Maria has forgotten that left is the new right and right is old left. We are all confused but not Kate. "Make a U turn", "turn right at the next intersection" or indeed the more insistent "in 100 meters make a U turn."

Not likely Kate. There are mad cranky horn honking vehicles everywhere. It seems that the smaller the car, the louder the horn and the bossier the driver around these parts. Eventually, we make it onto a section that has tall metal barriers and Michael suggests that we are , indeed on the racetrack! YIKES. I have a cow and start texting Greg about where we are. HONEY We are on the Racetrack in Monza... Silence. Oh that's right in Australia it is sleeping time! There are road works everywhere and the ever present roundabouts to negotiate. but eventually we head out and away from the Milano.

Alas it would appear that we were mistaken. The actual track is a little way off in a less dense part of this town. We didn't know it at the time and for a short while, I was in rev head heaven. Yes I have joined the masses of wannabe Formula 1 hoons and imagine that just for a short while our Fiat Punta was a great beast on the grand prix circuit, screaming around the bend EEEEEuuuuooooonnngngngngng... It that how is sounds? Who cares, a gal has gotta have a dream.

We take off away from Monza and towards my now beloved Lake Maggiore into a new part called Stresa which is opposite Pallanza on the Lago (Lake). The trip here is uneventful and quite short. There are vista's with tiny terracotta villages tucked neatly into hillsides, tunnel entries of various sizes and ages and lots of rolling hills and valleys. It was cool to see it from the other side. I took a few ahhh photos but alas these did not turn out due to a technical downloading error. We shall not blame the drinking of the wine this time.. LOL

Stresa the un-stressor it seems to me. I love this little village. We are in a quaint if not quirky 3 story hotel called the Primevera. There are other grander palaces and many of similar ilk to this one. It is comfortable enough and favours the colours of golden yellow, apricot and biege in it's rooms. The beds and pillow are rock hard or firm to those that prefer this. I am as always glad that I have bought my pillow.

We head out to suss out somewhere for dinner, wandering past many small edateries we take a seat outside at the Restaurant - lots of people but our suspicions are raised when the food is served super fast. We order:
Polpo marinato (Marinated Octopus) Michael
Fondue di formaggio e polenta (Cheese Fondue and Polenta) Helen and Maria to share
Ossu Bucco e risotto allo zafferano (Ossu Bucco and Saffron Risotto) Michael
Risotto allo zafferano e gamberi di fiume (Saffron and Crayfish Risotto) Helen and Maria
Creme Caramel (Creme Caramel) Helen and Maria

We had passed this little deli cum bottle shop on the way out to dinner and I had remarked that we needed to call in on our way back to the hotel. I have some orange juice left, so need amaretto to drink with it ;-)
So we do just that. Once we walk in to La Cambusa and start to get all excited at the exotic and wonderful cavernous display of exquisite culinary delicacies, Beautrix makes her move. We were goners! How on earth could we possibly resist her passionate sharing of her knowledge of her products and her generosity in offering ample servings.

A chef by profession she first offers Olive Oil and herbs on crusty Italian dense bread. Then 10 year old Balsamic Vinegar lined on our fingers - "you don't use this on bread," she says "Cheese or fruit or ice cream." Followed by a shot glass of the local Amaretto and finally a brandy balloon each of Pear Cognac and Crema di Robiola de Alba al Tartufo (white truffle cheese spread). Oh. My. God. We have died and gone to food heaven. We get the inside local knowledge on a great restaurant for tomorrow night and promise to come back in and say hello tomorrow. It was so magical - the charm and generosity and welcoming nature of local people who love their town. Photos for the blog taken off to the hotel we go.

And then, trouble with the photo software - lost them ALL from today.
Bugger, so we haven't got much to show you. We'll have to go back to take photos with Beatrix again!

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