Day one was yet another travel day. Really the only drawback to European travel is, of course, the transportation from city to city. Lucky for us, the Alpine region is pretty scenic, so the bus rides aren’t boring.
This morning’s bus ride was a little too exciting for some. We were in this beautiful scenic region along hills and mountains, through scenic ski resorts and cute little French villages. But the price of the scenic route was a bit of carsickness. Jen and I had luckily taken Dramaine before the ride, but not everyone had. We were passing it around like candy as the ride went on to hopefully cure everyone.
We first stopped off at a cute little town in the middle of nowhere. It was definitely like the Alpine equivalent of a Route 66 highway stop, just some restaurants, shops, and a tiny little chapel in the hills. And of course the whole place was surrounded by mountains and sheeps and cows. I impulse bought a pair of fuzzy wool slippers (only 15 euro, I consider that pretty good for an impulse buy) and then Jen and I got a coke and a cappuccino respectively. Then we were back on the train.
We went a little further down the road, further along the windy, hilly roads. After a couple hours, we were in Chamonix, France, this gorgeous ski resort town in the French Alps in the shade of Mont Blanc. Mont Blanc is the tallest of all the Alpine Mountains , is always snow-capped, and has a big ole glacier right on its side. This whole place was absolutely gorgeous. We kept saying it was like a fake Disney town, so colorful and full of flowers. OF course it didn’t hurt that it was a gorgeous blue sky day.
We grabbed a bite to eat at a little restaurant that only had like three things on the menu. Between a giant ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette (without mayo or mustard, but otherwise good) and a coke zero, we were at 8 euro, which was like our cheapest meal by far. After lunch we went on a walk, bought some snacks at the grocery store, and took a little walk in the scenery.
Soon after we were back to the bus, for another few hours of mountains and scenery. Soon we crossed the border into Italy, which was already showcasing a different landscape. The mountains weren’t as tall, which we could tell because the trees grew all the way to the top. But it was kind of cool, cuz all the mountains looked like they were covered in a green fleece blanket. As we drove we were following another Alpine river, which was this pale greenish white color. So far so good.
We were also darting in and out of mountain tunnels. We were in and out of tunnels for the entire run of Italy. We’d be in a tunnel for a minute, out of a tunnel for a minute. Back in for thirty seconds, back out for ten seconds, over and over again. We lost count of how many we drove through.
We also were apparently in castle country, because it felt like every ten feet we had a different castle. We started to get judgey with the castles we saw. “Oh, well, that one’s a ‘starter’ castle. You give that one to your least favorite kid.”
After an hour or so in Italy we stopped in at an “autogrill,” which is basically the European equivalent of a rest stop. Of course they’re a lot nicer than American rest stops, in which you can get fresh food and a variety of drinks. So, at a rest stop, I got my first Italian cappuccino. It didn’t disappoint.
After another hour and a half, we had reached the waterside town of Lecco. Lecco sits on the eastern leg of Lake Como. It’s definitely much quieter than the more metropolitan Como, its sister city on the western leg of the lake. But it was still pretty scenic, and featured, as did all of our Alpine lakes so far, a gaggle of Alpine swans.
We went up to our room and relaxed for a minute, waiting patiently for our bags to be delivered (teehee). The rooms here were definitely nice, and featured decent air conditioning, which was a treat.
For dinner we ate at the hotel, in the company of some of our fellow travelers: Mike and Tikka from Tennessee, Bernie and Carol, fellow Bostonians, and Catherine and Stella, the cousins from Canada. We spent dinner swapping travel stories and family stories, all while devouring our Italian feast. It was especially fun because the cost of dinner was included with the tour, so that was definitely nice.
After dinner we walked downtown into Lecco with a bunch of people on the tour, all following behind Jeurgen like baby ducks. The little town was cute, and we even stumbled across a youth parade representing a bunch of choirs from all around Europe. At first we had no idea what was happening, but apparently there was some kind of youth choir festival being held downtown. It was super cute.
We capped off the night with gelato and some group bonding. We spent a lot of time talking to Tara and Randy, a father and daughter pair from LA. Tara is a rising senior in high school so she’s fun to hang out with. I’m quite used to hanging out with teenagers.
Around 10:30 we packed in and headed back to our hotel to shower and get to bed before yet another whirlwind day.