Lake Maggiore and London

Trip Start Sep 13, 2007
Trip End Sep 22, 2007

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Driving the mountainous, narrow winding road along the lake from Bellagio down to Como was scary but provided the most magnificent views.  We stayed one night in the historic old town of Como however it didn't really compare with the lakeside towns. Though, Cynthia has Como to thank for multiple pairs of glasses frames from the best Italian designers of course.  Our final Italian Lake, Maggiore was again very different to the others.  Stresa is built on flat lakeside land with the mountains behind it and this allows for one long boulevarde rather than a hillside compact town.  Our hotel was a five minute walk to town past all the massive 19th century hotels, frequented by Napoleon and made famous in Hemmingway's A Farewell to Arms. The highlight of this area is the Borremeo Islands, three tiny islands just off Stresa.  They belonged to the powerful local Borremeo family - one has a palace and Baroque garden, another a huge residence with a massive English Botanic Garden.  We spent the day on the ferry visiting each and marvelling at the showy displays of wealth. Stresa gave us good food and gelato and the opportunity to relax in a wonderful setting.

Cynthia and I sadly said good bye following our flight from Milan to London - she met her cousin at Heathrow and was off to see the Rugby World Cup in France and I was greeted by Marie and escorted to her wonderful apartment just of Kensington High Street.  I had been to London several times so Marie suggested some great alternative things to do that I would not have known about.  We experience the very crowded Camden Markets following a walk through Hamstead Heath.  A real find was Linley Sandbourne House in Kensington.  Mr Sandbourne was the famous illustrator for Punch Magazine and his house is a perfect example of a Victorian home exactly as it was at the turn of the century.  Luckily his ancestors kept it as it was during his time and it is now maintained by the National Trust.  I think perhaps my favourite place was the Churchill War Cabinet Rooms, opened to the public in 2005. They are deep underneath the parliamentary buildings and were the nerve centre for Churchill's second world war campaign.  Again these rooms are preserved just as they were in 1945 which some changes only to accommodate a Churchill museum.  Visitors see the map rooms, cabinet meeting rooms, sleeping areas and offices, dining rooms, kitchens etc. You could spend a full day here and I highly recommend a visit to anyone going to London.  The Wallace Collection at Herford House just behind Oxford Street houses a great collection of art and furniture and has a fantastic cafe and restaurant.  On my last day we walked through Hyde Park to the Albert Hall and took a really informative tour. We even got to sit in the Roayl Box and view the Queen's withdrawing room where she waits prior to performances. After a quick trip to the V & A museum and a stop at a wonderful crepery for lunch we walked through Knightsbridge and of course had a look in the Harrods food halls.  I overheard an Australian man say to his partner "this is just like David Jones...".  Really.

My trip ended far too quickly though it does seem a long time ago that I flew out of Sydney.  It was the most perfect holiday and travelling with Cynthia a real bonus.  Being looked after so wonderfully by Marie in London helped me come to terms with the fact I was heading home.

Her advice - to start planning next years trip!

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