Eating out in Cannobio – the hidden gem

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 20.52.31The restaurants by the lake were similar and offered much of the same food. We tried a few and can no longer remember their names, but we were satisfied with what they had to offer and they were cooperative in finding food that our baby girl, then 9 months, could eat. But then
, we visited a well hid restaurant for lunch one day. We had been given an address and set out to find it. We were very insecure when we found the street and street number. We could not find anything that looked like a restaurant. But looking closer, the gravel-covered parking Hid a building with a gate that looked less private than the houses around. We entered a courtyard with tall trees that cast shadow over most of the open space. On the walls around us hang memorabilia from past farming and vintage images. At the tables sat Italian men smoking, eating and talking. They were mostly workers on their lunch breaks, all locals.

We didn’t get much attention, except for the glances from the people around us who were not used to tourists invading their space. Even the staff didn’t seem thrilled to see us. And nobody spoke English, anywhere, when we did they answered in Italian. When I tried German, they answered in Italian. When I tried French, they answered in Italian. When I tried in Italian, they were a little more cooperative. They warmed up to us after a while. But the breaking point came when they served us a small basket of bread. And the bread is the reason for this post! We didn’t try anything special at the restaurant (the insalata mista was nothing to brag about, the gorgonzola pasta was good, the pizza was delicious, but it was not what the locals ate). But the gem! The bread! It was baked in a stone oven. It’s been given time to rise, time to develop that amazing flavour. Heat enough to set a crust so crispy, and resilient, and savoury, and… well, you know exactly what I mean. Huge air-bubbles in the crumb showed off a gluten web so intricate and beautiful that nothing but love and patience can create. A drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt made the bread truly a divine experience. We complimented the bread and they gave us some more, along with that came a smile. A ciao for the kids while they ruffled their hair. We felt well taken care of. And the bread, yes, that bread.

 

Residenza Patrizia, Cannobio, Italy



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We spent four pleasant nights and four gorgeous days in Cannobio in early autumn. Fours days of walking barefoot by the lake, eating Italian ice-cream, soaking up the sun, seeing new places and faces. And thoroughly enjoying life. We stayed at Residenza Patrizia. A hotel I would very much recommend if you’re in the area. It was clean, pretty, and colourful. The staff was very helpful and very polite.

Travelling with two small children was throughout our stay a positive experience. Of course it helps that our children are somewhat well behaved and both have big, blue, eyes. But they are still children and we let them roam around and understand that they cannot be expected to sit still. Still they were always met with smiles and friendly faces. High chairs and cots appeared as if by magic during the first hours of our stay.

IMG_3839Sitting waiting for lunch outside the restaurant the children were hungry and far from patient. Son was running around and was not eager on taking order. However, a few minutes after ordering we received a plate with something that had him sit down quietly while he waited for his expected dish to be served.

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If ever in Cannobio don’t hesitate to stay at Residenza Patrizia. We were not disappointed (even if we could not find it at first and were worried the hotel did not exist at all…)

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Heading south, summer 2014

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 20.19.51The outline of the 2014 summer vacation has been sketched little by little this year, before Husband suddenly took out the magic marker and drew with bold lines. The vacation is consequently now planned, booked, and waiting to happen.

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We’re going by car again this year. Our own car, but using a bit of Deutsche Bahn’s (German railway company’s) fuel from Hamburg to Munich. We, and our Skoda, are spending a night each way on the Autozug (cartrain) reducing the mileage and the number of days we would need to travel to Italy.

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This year we’re planning a week by the coast with a group of friends, some nights in Tuscany with our extended family, about a week near the beautiful Garda lake, and a few nights in culinary heaven at the foot of the Alps. I can’t wait!

Pictures are stolen from the hotels’ websites, Le Volpaie, Agriturismo Ai Casoni, and the Cavallino information site.Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 19.51.33

Albergo Ristorante Stampa in Ponte Tresa

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When travelling I very often book  hotels through booking.com. I’m very pleased with the site and have found many charming places scattered across Europe. After returning home I always leave a review with a few words, both positive and negative comments, I keep it real! After travelling this autumn I came home to a full timetable and hectic days. I wanted some time on my hands when writing the review to make sure it turned out well. But when I did sit down it was too late. It turns out you can’t review the hotel later than a month after you left, which I missed by a few days. We stayed at some small, family-run hotels and a positive review means a lot to them, so I was very disappointed not to be able to do so. However, I have a blog where I can write whatever I want and share with whoever bothers. But hopefully what I write here will pop up among search results if someone ever wonders just how wonderful the small hotels are. So here goes:

IMG_9720We drove from Nice in France in the morning and headed towards Lörrach in Germany to catch a train to take us back north. The drive is about six-seven hours so we decided to have a small break either in Italy or Switzerland. The hesitation in deciding which country to stay in resulted in a small town called Ponte Tresa; which is divided by a river: the northern part of town is Swiss, the southern part is Italian.

The hotel we found was located far up into the mountain and I utterly and completely fell in love with the view. The hotel is family-run and as far as we could make out there were three generations running around. The hotel seemed very large from outside, but once inside it seemed to centre on the restaurant, the lobby and the kitchen. There was a swimming pool out on the back, but it was closed in early October. Our room had a double bed and a bunk bed, and plenty of space for a crib as well. The design was a bit outdated, but it was still bright, open and spacious.

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The hotel was both an ‘albergo’ and a restaurant, which meant that many visitors, many seemed to be locals, came solely for the food. During the day three young men ran up and down the stairs outside to get wood for the pizza oven inside. We felt a little sorry for them as they ran many rounds with heavy loads of firewood on their backs, but when we tasted the pizza we realised it was indeed necessary. Typical Italian pizzas were produced during the evening with heavenly crusts and delicious toppings. Baked in a woodburning stone oven. The menu in the restaurant consisted of many common Italian dishes, but honestly, we ate little else but pizza while there, with a pomodoro-mozzarella salad on the side.

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The hotel is well worth a stay. We really enjoyed our stay and will definitely stay there again if we find ourselves in the same area. And the pizza, the pizza itself is worth a stay!
We really enjoyed our few nights at Albergo Ristorante Stampa. Travelling with two blonde, blue-eyed, charming little children outside of season might have resulted in extra care and attention from the staff. We did have some difficulties communicating as their strongest language, by far, was Italian. We would also like more information about the surrounding and examples of what to do with children without having to travel too far by car. Being Scandinavians we are used to a proper breakfast, whereas the white bread served in Italy seem almost like cakes to us, the hotel did not stray from the Italian tradition at breakfast.

The hotel at Booking.com: Albergo Ristorante Stampa

The hotel’s own website: Hotel Stampa

 

Italy – or thereabout

IMG_2244It was a dull and cloudy day the day we arrived in Lörrach. The train stopped just outside a Milka factory (chocolate producer – among the largest in Europe) so that at least brought a hint of purple to the grey morning. We got on the road and took off south. We had a small break in Emmetten before continuing towards Italy.

Husband asked whether we going through one of the longest tunnels in Switzerland that day. I had no idea, but we hadn’t travelled more than a few more minutes before traffic slowed down to narrow the two lanes down to one and allow plenty of space between each vehicle. Suddenly we were inside the 17km long Gotthard tunnel, indeed the longest tunnel in Switzerland.

IMG_3801The Gotthard pass and tunnel really functioned as a border between Southern and Northern Europe. The weather cleared, the temperature rose and signs were all of a sudden in Italian. Houses looked more Italian, the number of Ferraris on the road increased. Driving without a map, trusting Garmin to take us where we wanted to go, we found ourselves a little confused: had we entered Italy, or were we in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. Our plan was to have a proper break in Switzerland, but that was now too late. So we decided to instead have our first break in Italy and enjoy the summer’s very first Italian gelato. We stopped in Bellinzona.

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Bellinzona was gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. There was a castle smack down in the middle of the town with town walls stretching out on both sides of the castles dividing the town. The castle had wine ranks growing along the outer wall, like all castles should have. And it was sunny, the grass was green, we were surrounded by huge mountains and the town itself was old, charismatic and charming. I loved it. It screamed: welcome to Italy. Except, it didn’t!

We found our gelato. I had limone, Son had cioccolato. Daughter tasted her very first and loved it! We ordered in Italian, payed with euros, thanked them in Italian, and talked over and over about finally having reached Italy: except, we hadn’t!

 

We went to buy a postcard. I had received a few coins after paying for the gelato with a note and took them out of my pocket to see if I had enough for the postcard and a stamp. That’s when I noticed. The coins weren’t cents, they were centesimi, or Rappen, the denomination of the Swiss franc! And that’s when I noticed the red flags with the white crosses. A few minutes earlier they had been banners waving overhead, along with plenty other banners, now they were Swiss flags. God we felt stupid! I announced to the children (or, well the child who understood anything of it) that we weren’t in Italy yet, we were still in Switzerland. Then we laughed. Walked hand in hand through the gorgeous streets of the Swiss town of Bellinzona. Then we left, and drove towards Italy.

Stretching our legs

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One of the better reasons for driving on holiday? The clock was ticking towards lunchtime. So we simply exited the motorway and found a small village. Driving up a steep road with an astonishing view over the Lake of Lucerne in Switzerland. We found a small gathering of houses, a small shop and a few hotels – the town of Emmetten.

The mountain air was crisp and clear. There were a few drops of rain in the air. Surrounded by green grass, green trees, mountain peaks and wooden houses, we were far from home. People were friendly. Hotels were still closed, but we found a few bites in the small shop. Got to stretch our feet at a place we’ll probably never see again. And to remember: we sent ourselves a postcard.

All in a good night’s sleep

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The view from the ferry where we woke up the first night on the road

Travelling with small children this year, we decided to keep the time in the car to a minimum and tried the ‘Autozug’ (car train) in Germany. This meant we put the car on the train, boarded the train and slept our way through Germany. We boarded in Hamburg and got off in Lörrach. Travelling like we did (from Hirtshals, Denmark in the morning) we reckon if not taking the train we would have had three more sleepovers on the way south and used a lot more petrol.

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The hurried and delayed drive through Denmark in pouring rain

We took a ferry from Norway to Hirtshals, Denmark and slept on the ferry. We had planned to have 13-14 hours to drive through Denmark down to Hamburg. This would include a long stop in some park where we could tire out the children and make it a memorable and fun day. Instead, the ferry was severely delayed. We were supposed to reach Hirtshals at 7, instead we left the ferry at 1.30pm (13.30) This meant we had to drive straight down to Hamburg, stopping only for food and the occasional diaper change. Not an ideal start, but we made the best of it.

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Finally at the check-in in Hamburg

We reached Hamburg after dark. We did not have the exact address for the check-in-point for the ‘autozug’ but had an approximate address (which we left for the sat-nav to find) and a small printed street map to find the exact place. We managed to get there quite easily, but I have consider myself to have proper map reading skills and a good sense of direction. There was a small sign on one of the larger roads taking us into what seemed like a mix between a small alley and residential area. So if you’re every there trying to find the place, keep your eyes open!

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Waking up on the train – almost in Lörrach

When we got there we had a wee bit of time to kill. First all four of us, but then Husband had to leave us to get the car onto the train. The setting wasn’t ideal. Two kids who were tired, who had been in the car all day long with very few breaks at a train-station or the lobby of a hotel (the DB (Deutsche Bahn) has an agreement with a hotel connected to the train station) was not much fun. As soon as we got on the train things improved. Son thought it was fun being on a train (for the first time) and Daughter finally had some space where she could move about.

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A short break waiting to enter the station in Lörrach

We had a couchette compartment to ourselves. There were four seats on opposing walls (altogether eight) and above were three foldable beds. The seats also functioned as beds, but were slightly smaller than the foldable ones. Travelling with a baby then became a bit of a challenge. She’s at the age where she finds something to hold on the and stands up if she awakes during the night. The seats were to small to share with a baby all night, and the foldable beds were quite high up, and we were afraid she’d suddenly crawl over her bedmate and end up on the floor. Our solution was to build her a nest on the floor using the blankets and bed linen provided and our bag or suitcase to frame it. It wasn’t ideal, but it functioned well and we all managed to sleep (at least some).

We had breakfast served before reaching Lörrach, quite a good breakfast actually.

It was a good way to travel. We didn’t sleep much, but then again I rarely do in new, unfamiliar places. Economically, as well, the train was the better choice.