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another wild bus ride and the rest of my stay in Stresa

Thursday, July 16th:
My last trip blog post left off with me in Orta San Giulio heading back to the bus stop to travel back to Stresa.

I was a little nervous about getting lost. I needed to catch the 6 pm bus. If I missed it, I would be staying in Orta San Giulio over night. I returned to what I thought was the bus stop. Then I started to doubt my recollection of exactly where the bus stop was located. There were no bus stop signs anywhere. Worrying began.

Although I was a bit early, I did not see any other people waiting for the bus. I started to curse myself for not taking a photo of the bus stop earlier in the day and then began to panic a little bit. So there I stood pacing back and forth, praying that the bus would arrive. If it was any other night, it probably would not have been a huge deal, but I was checking out of my hotel in Stresa the following morning to travel to Coccaglio. Missing the bus would have really complicated things.

Right at 6 pm on the dot, the little blue bus arrived. An older couple arrived a few minutes earlier but I could not tell if they were taking the bus or waiting for something else. It really was a strange place to wait for the bus. Hooray! I did not mess up. The bus driver waited for 5 or 10 more minutes before starting back. I thought that was very nice of him. No one else came so he started up the bus and we were off.

The bus ride back to Stresa was another wild ride, a white-knuckle journey from start to finish. I sat in the front seat on the right side of the bus and the couple sat in the front seat on the left side right behind the driver. The couple and the driver knew each other and carried on a very animated conversation for the next 30 to 40 minutes. The bus driver drove with one hand while waving his other hand around madly as he chatted with the couple.

The crowded bus on the way over must have distracted me from all the sharp hairpin turns as I was more claustrophobic on that ride. If you have ever been on or have heard about the road to Hana, this was a very similar ride. I spent the entire time on the way back reminding myself to breathe and talking myself out of getting sick.

My face must have been white as a ghost because after the bus driver let off the couple at their stop, he asked me if I was ok. I explained to him that I don't do well on bus rides, especially bus rides with many curves. I thought that perhaps the rest of the bus ride would be a little less crazy now that he could keep two hands on the wheel, but his phone rang, and that was the end of that.

At one point, I recognized the road near the Botanic Garden Alpinia, which is at the midway point of Mt. Mottorone. The bus driver slowed the bus down as views of the lake appeared and asked me if I would like to get out to take a photo. I already had similar photos from my visit there a few days ago but since he was so nice to offer, I said yes. It gave me a chance to stand on land for a few seconds.

Photos from the bus:
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I was soooo happy when we finally arrived Stresa! I loved my visit to Orta San Giulio but could have done without both of the bus rides.

I got my land legs back quickly and headed to the boat ticket window area to meet Dana for a drink. Dana, who has a blog called Stresa Sights was so helpful when I was planning my stay in Stresa. We went to a nearby bar for a drink, sat at a little outdoor table, and had a lovely chat. She was not able to stay very long, but we did make plans to meet for coffee the following morning.

I headed back up to my hotel to shower and change. I ate at il Pappagallo again for dinner. The waiter who I saw at Ristorante il Vicoletto the previous night recognized me. Sadly, I cannot remember what I ate that night at il Pappagallo. It was good though.

After dinner, I walked by the lake and checked out the many booths set up with various items for sale. I ended up buying some strawberries.

Photos from my walk along the lake:
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Isola Bella
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Back at my hotel, I packed a bit and then went to bed.


Friday, July 17th:
At 5:30 am Friday morning, I awoke to....

The wind was howling. I jumped out of bed and ran to the balcony to grab the clothes I had drying outside. I was a little freaked out. First the thunder and lightening and wild winds, then the electricity going out all over town, and then the hail. I was on the top floor, so not only could I hear the hail pounding on the roof, but it also sounded like the hail would break one of the windows. Water was coming in under the French doors by the balcony.

I went back to bed and hid under the covers.

The storm passed but it was not looking too promising to be a great weather day. I ate breakfast and then headed down to meet Dana again for an espresso. I was surprised at all the damage from the storm. We had another nice chat.

Back at the hotel, the skies were threatening again.
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I was trying to decide if I should chance it and walk the 5-10 minutes to the train station or call a taxi. I decided to walk (with my fingers crossed). Just as I was about to leave, the owner of the hotel stopped me. She was holding a box of the most delicious cookies that she bought for me for my train trip. I was speechless. We had struck up a conversation on many occasions during my stay and she always laughed at my goosebumps when I would return with my teeth chattering on the cool nights but I never expected for her to give me anything. I really was blown away by her generosity. Katia and I devoured the cookies over the weekend. They were some sort of local cookie from Stresa and sooo good!

The walk to the train station was uneventful. The one good surprise was that the train was a modern, clean train instead of the dilapidated train I took from Milan to Stresa. The ride was very pleasant. The train arrived at the same out of the way train track at the far end of the station.

That ends my stay in Stresa. So what did I think of Stresa? Well, I have to honestly say that I have very mixed feelings about Stresa. The people of Stresa were all very kind. I loved my hotel (Hotel Du Parc), loved the boat rides, loved visiting Isola Bella, Santa Catarina, and Villa Taranto.

Stresa itself however did not do much for me. It is a nice little place but very touristy and completely oriented towards tourists (that was my impression anyways). I don't think I would have enjoyed my stay as much if I just hung out in Stresa. But if using Stresa as a home base, there are so many possibilities of places to visit while there.

I have tried to figure out why I tend to love some places and think other places are just ok. I think for me, part of it has to do with photography. Stresa has beautiful flowers, fancy hotels by the lake, cool water scenes, but something seemed to be missing for me when walking around the town. I was only there for a short stay and did not see all of Stresa, so my comments are just of what I experienced.

Comments (7)

sandrac:

Very interesting, Girasoli! You certainly met some very nice people -- I can't believe the bus driver actually expressed concern about a passenger. And the gift of cookies was such a touching gesture.

Your photos are fabulous -- although the storm sounds scary.

Stresa sounds like a beautiful place, but as a base rather than an full destination in itself.

I really enjoyed reading about this trip, and helping us decide if Stresa will be on our list for next year.

Sandra, the people were incredibly friendly in Stresa. I have found in some lake resorts in Italy, the tourists seem to overwhelm the locals and put them in a crabby mood but that did not seem to be the case here. At least with those I encountered.

Palma, I think it is always important to point out the pros and cons. Glad to be of help to provide more info (of course just my opinion/experiences).

nancyhol:

I would have hidden under the covers too with all of that bad weather. You were brave to venture out in spite of it.

Your pictures are lovely!

Your bus ride back to Stresa sounds like the one I took from the town of Amalfi to Sorrento. I didn’t get sick but did stressed out about the cliffs and twists and turns.

I missed a few of your post-trip blog entries so I want to go back and read where I left. I haven’t traveled much in northern Italy and these posts on the lakes region might be what I need to put the region on my list of places for next time.

Love your photos. That storm sounded quite threatening.

In a comment left in my blog you asked me if the king's cake is also be found in Spain or Italy. I know that there are similar cakes that are made for the feast of the Epiphany in Spain and many Latin American. Don’t know about Italy but I’m guessing that there is some kind of Befana cake.

Love your photos! Great skies in that last photo.

I was only in the lake region very briefly and wished I had more time to explore. But I agree with you that it seemed very touristy.

nancy, if I could have, I would have stayed under the covers all day! Some really nasty weather, but I was lucky to miss most of it while outside. Glad you enjoyed my photos :)

Maria, yes the Amalfi bus ride would be comparable except there really were no scary cliffs on this ride. I'll have to ask my friend in Italy about the King's Cake.

Annie, thanks! I would probably rate Bellagio and Stresa - Oh and Sirmione as the top three touristy places on the lakes. All three have lots to see but just a bit too touristy for me.

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