28 August 2014 - Cardiff to Metz
Edwards Coaches did a super job. Everything on time and as expected.
The Red Dragon coach is spacious and has excellent facilities, including WiFi (which works in France!!) and Sky TV. We watched “Wales Today” just outside Reims.
The Novotel at Metz is OK. It’s not 4-star (at least this room isn’t!), but it looks like it has a block of rooms at the back for coach tours, so maybe the rest of the place is better. It’s clean, tidy, has all the basic needs, but the paintwork and furnishings have chipped paint and there are paper cups with the tea & coffee stuff. Stayed in a lot worse on coach overnights, however.
The evening meal was pleasant, if basic. Soup (green?), chicken and mushroom pasta (tasty) and a choc/mocha gateau. Given that it was 20:45 when served, it did the job and, in fairness, the hotel kitchen has to do something simple if 40 people are going to turn up and expect to eat at once so late in the evening.
A drop of red wine and off to bed for a 7:30am departure tomorrow.
So far, so good (enough).
Friday 29 August 2014 - Metz to Lake Iseo
After breakfast in Metz (pretty good, actually) we set off (7:30am - yawn!) for Iseo, via Switzerland.
It’s a long trip and you don’t realise how boring the French countryside is, until you’ve watched it from a coach window for so, so many hours.
However, by early afternoon, from Bellinzona, Switzerland, the scenery kicks in. Alps everywhere. Serious mountains these, with beautiful meadows at their feet, with cows (and bells) grazing and chalêted villages with pristine white churches passing by, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Everything in Switzerland looks as if it’s been manicured. Weeds must live in fear of their lives and littering is probably a capital offence!
Then, approaching the Italian border the lakes appear, beside you and sometimes below you as the Autostrada climbs it’s way towards the Gotthard Tunnel - a 17km (11 mile) hole in a mountain. I think that there are more road tunnels in Switzerland than holes in Swiss cheese.
We arrived at our hotel - Iseolago Hotel - early evening and checked in.
This place was a real surprise, in the best way.
And the food was as good as the Hotel!
Buffet table with maybe 40 different salads, meats, fish, vegetables and “Italian things”.
Choice of Vegetable soup or Pasta in tomato & mozzarella.
Chicken Balantine of rosemary & ham (served with parmesan courgette and potato).
Panacotta with strawberries.
All cooked and served to a very definite 4-star standard.
Did I forget to mention that unlimited (yes, I checked!) wine, mineral water and breads were also provided.
All-in-all, given this is a coach tour, a very big and pleasant surprise indeed.
Off to bed, exhausted.
After a quiet day 3, just strolling in to town, drinking coffee, tea and beers, sitting on the balcony and watching the world go by, this morning we set out on the coach for Lake Garda.
Desenzano, on Lake Garda, is a really pretty little town, the largest on the lake. There was a Sunday Market on the lake front selling all sorts of things, including a stall dedicated entirely to lavender products. Lots of narrow streets and pavement cafés to spend time watching the world go by.
In the lake there seemed to be an awful lot of small orange buoys. On closer inspection, these seemed to be moving, and on even closer inspection they were actual large swimming boys - there was some competition in progress. Why would you want to swim for miles in an ice-cold lake on a warm sunny day? It takes all sorts!
We then moved on to Sirmione and it was heaving. Busy beyond belief. It took the coach 20 minutes to get in to the car park! It was, however, worth the trouble.
It’s an old, very old, fortified town, inside a castle. All vehicles are banned, except the ones that aren’t (this is Italy!). The few that are allowed in enable pedestrians to practice wall climbing to let them pass.
We decided to have a gelato each. Two scoops each. Never seen so much ice-cream in our lives. At home this would have been 4-5 scoops each! It was so rich, you could feel the arteries harden as you ate it!
A great day out, loads of sunshine. Oh, and BTW, a new Italian leather handbag seems to have appeared mysteriously in the wardrobe.
Today was a “rest day”, the drivers need some down time!
We spent it strolling around the town of Iseo and taking a cruise on the lake, visiting some of the communities on islands and the lake shore.