Not that Lake Maggiore in Italy, Brussels in Belgium and London in England are any less important, but they have been lumped together simply for convenience’s sake since we spent very little time in these cities and it seemed appropriate to put them together in a post (rather than completely omitting them).
While on the way from the French Riviera to Lucerne, our coach made a stop at Lake Maggiore (‘Lago Maggiore’ in Italian). For this detour, we have our experienced tour leader to thank. I’d been to England’s Lake District years back, and I loved it there. Italy’s Lago Maggiore and its vicinity was equally charming.
A boat hire was necessary to bring us across the lake to Isola Bella, one of the Borromean islands of Lago Maggiore. We both liked Isola Bella a lot. For starters, this quaint little island was not swarmed with tourists. It was also a good break for us all, to be amidst Mother Nature instead of built-up cities. We didn’t have a lot of time to fully explore the island, but I do remember that a small trattoria on the island served about the best fare we had on the whole trip. We had nothing fancy for lunch, just simple pasta (the mister had aglio e olio). It was mind-blowingly delicious!
Before we knew it, it was time to leave the island. We did after all have quite a distance more to travel. Here is a parting shot of the friendly boat captain who traversed us across the lake to and from Isola Bella.
Brussels in Belgium was another day tour we made while travelling via coach from Paris to Amsterdam. We were supposed to come by many sites including the Atomium, the Chinese and Japanese pavilions etc. but it was raining incessantly. Rain… a definite mood dampener for me. Because of the rain, we never got off the coach till we arrived at Grote Markt (the central square of Brussels). We saw Manneken Pis who, unfortunately was buck-naked, and not dressed up in any costume. The 61cm tall bronze statue that we saw was of course a mere copy from 1965 and not the original. We were told that the original statue was kept locked up in at Maison du Roi on Gorte Markt itself, presumably to foil any future plans of stealing it.
And we came across many, many shops selling Belgium chocolates. It was where we went quite crazy shopping for chocolates to bring home to family and friends since we were only left with Amsterdam and London before headed for home. Here, on the historical square of Brussels, I first heard about the folklore of Lady Godiva and the origins of the term “Peeping Tom”. It was also here that I finally decided that I do not fancy Belgium chocolates. Too bitter for my tastebuds.
We had a good couple of hours to ourselves, and thoroughly explored the historical centre of Brussels. With it being a rainy and gloomy day, we hardly took out the DSLR to take pictures. There is really nothing I hate more than rain when travelling.
London needs no introduction. Please don’t be mad at me if you are a Londoner or is a fan of London, but if there is any city I’ve come across that I felt is grossly over-rated, it is London. Considering that I made up my mind about this metropolitan city at the age of 17 (and felt strongly about it) it had to count for something, because at that impressionable age, I was mostly undecided about most things.
Since we had very little time in London after flying in from Schiphol Airport Amsterdam, we broke from the group after checking into our hotel in Knightsbridge. While the group went visiting the usual touristy places like Trafalgar Square, London Bridge, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the likes, we headed straight for Old Bond Street and Oxford Street. If these two streets reek of a shopping haven to you, you are quite right. I was however, not there to shop for the usual stuff women shop for: I was there for the old-style bookstores and bookbinders. 12 years ago, they were all over Oxford Street. Alas, 12 years later, I had serious trouble locating even one of these shops. Must have given way to the more commercialised and profitable shopping trade in the name of ‘progress’. 😦
We took the least amount of pictures in London because we were busy soaking in the commercialised aspect of the city. On hindsight, it was a rather self-serving decision on my part not to revisit the usual sights in London. After all it was the mister’s first visit to London. Although he was very agreeable to break from the group, he wouldn’t know what he was missing since he’d never been. My conscience has been weighing heavily on me these years because of what he missed as a result of my wilfulness. I promised to make it up to him; one day we would do an extensive fly-drive tour of England, including a visit to the mecca of every Manchester United fan – Old Trafford. It is my dream to watch a live match between the red devils and the reds but the mister fears my safety because well… football hooliganism is very real. We have not sorted this out yet, but will sort it out. Soon.