Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lausanne, Switzerland and Lago Maggiore in Italy

On our way east we stopped at Lago di Garda, in close proximity to Verona, and enjoyed the detour very much. Beautiful scenery that differed from everything we had seen in France as well as Roberts’s love of water influenced our decision to take a different way home from Milan than through Torino, as we had come almost two weeks earlier. Driving north would take us to Lago Maggiore, perhaps the most famous of the Italian lakes.

These lakes in northern Italy are of glacial origin, narrow and long. Lago Maggiore is sheltered by the Alps and has a mild climate which allows for lush vegetation and colorful displays of flowers. We jumped off the main highway near Arona to take the smaller road closer to the lake, and spent the next couple of hours cruising up the west shore of the lower third of the lake, stopping often to admire the scenery and stretch our legs. Near Stressa we explored the option of taking a ferry to Isole Borromee, three islands belonging to the princely Borromeo family since the 16th century. In the 17th, Charles III established a residence on Isola Bella, named after his wife, and this palace is one of the major tourist destinations in Maggiore. Isola Madre is supposedly covered with gardens of flowers and rare/exotic plants, and the third island, Isola Pescatori still has a little fishing village. As Lauris chose this time to take a nap, we did not embark on a ferry journey, but instead decided to capitalize on the nap time of our most vocal passenger and continue north. After all, we had done plenty of the “ferry thing,” now was time for the “mountain thing.”

At the Simplon pass
And wow! Immediately upon entering Switzerland my jaw dropped, the scenery was just WOW! We pulled off at a little rest area at the Simplon pass, to snack and enjoy the mighty Alps surrounding us. Wow.

We ate dinner in Visp, a good meal of fish and potatoes, and for the first time since moving to France, Roberts looked to me for my language skills; I had chosen to study German in high school, and although the German spoken in Switzerland is reportedly not identical to German, I was able to understand enough to converse. This was short lived however, as we upon arrival in Lausanne we found that the proximity to France means French was the language of choice. For the curious, the official languages of Switzerland are German, French, Italian and Romansh (and the currency the Swiss Franc, which we had completely forgotten about having become so used to using euros wherever we go!).

Lausanne proved to be quite quaint, with its cobblestone streets and big Gothic cathedral in the middle of old town. That was our first stop the next morning, Cathédrale de Notre Dame, built in the 12th and 13th centuries. A walk through the nearby streets revealed a slight hitch in our plans; every street had a steep incline, the altitude change to Lake Geneva must have been 300 meters, and there was no way I was climbing back up, pushing the stroller up, that progressive incline to return to the car! So we drove down, and parked next to the Parc Olympique, located in Lausanne because it is home to the International Olympic Committee.

The Lausanne cathedral
The lakeside district is called Ouchy, and we strolled the boardwalk, enjoyed a pizza, checked out the playground, and spent at least an hour in a hundred-meter long wading pool with various fountains and waterfalls. To a family with a toddler, this pool was Lausanne’s best feature, and were it not for the call of home, we might have stayed longer.


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