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“The Family”

Take some Advice From A Dumb Blonde, grab a good bottle of wine and watch Netflix’s show The Family with your favorite friendly debater…

Excerpt from Digital Spy:

According to the film, members of the organisation (that’s not really officially an organisation) include senators, diplomats and religious leaders from countries all over the world. There are also a number of political figures that are referred to as “friends of the Family”.

https://www.digitalspy.com/tv/ustv/a28676978/the-family-netflix-doug-coe/

Flights to Europe are on sale!!

Having my morning coffee and checking flight discounts has become my new “thing”. Points Guy on top of it again posting flights from some major hubs in the US to big Cities in the EU for around 232.00!! He recommends you book to any of these big Cities in Europe and find a small discount flight to your actual destination….now where have you heard that before? Two cities for under 500.00 (or less), if you’re looking to visit us now’s your chance, need to book a honeymoon (I know a few brides to be 😉 ) or if you’re tired of going to the same beach every year, check out the options overseas.

TAKE SOME ADVICE FROM A DUMB BLONDE, YOU CAN GET TO EUROPE IN ABOUT THE SAME TIME OR LESS THAN YOU CAN FLY FROM THE US EAST COAST TO THE US WEST COAST SO YOU DON’T NEED A LOT OF TIME OR A LOT OF MONEY TO VISIT!

Go to The Points Guy and click on Travel then Deals for more details.

Traveling to Italy might not be as expensive as you think…..

We’ve just returned from a trip to Lake Como where we spent an incredible 4 nights with one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen.  Go to Delta Airlines and check out their sale on tickets to Italy. You can get to Milan for less than 300.00 from some of Delta’s US hubs (or check out The Points Guy for more information).

Rain, planes, and boats…our trip was “on” the second we arrived!  We met in Paris (even though our destination was Italy) because, as I always tell friends and family traveling here, your destination may be in Milan but watch for cheap flights into any city in Europe then book a small, cheap flight from there to your choice destination. 

We had to kill a few hours in the Paris Airport but boarded an Easy Jet flight from there to Milan (127.00 pp).  When booking our rent-a-car I made sure to check on the arrival terminal so we could grab a car and go. We arrived in terminal 2 and to my surprise (but not a surprise to my husband and son) the rent a car was in terminal 1! What can I say, I’m dyslexic! MAKE SURE YOU BOOK A RENT-A-CAR THAT IS LOCATED IN THE TERMINAL YOU ARRIVE IN! It’s not super easy to get from one terminal to the other, you have to take a bus ride about 6-7 min to the opposite terminal, then lug all your luggage to the correct counter (we followed signs to rental cars but that was to the garage and learned the counter for payment was across the terminal).

Anyway, we were way late leaving the airport so I messaged the Airbnb manager to see if we should just get a hotel for the night near the airport and check into Lake Como the following day….Her response, “you don’t want to miss waking up to this view”.  She wasn’t wrong!

It took us about 1hr 10min and a whole lot of stress to get there!  I would recommend getting a small car because the roads are narrow (Bill upgraded us to a larger car and forgot to make sure it was an automatic…did I mention he didn’t pay the extra fee to add me as a driver so it was all on him to get us there!).  I would also recommend NOT driving those roads at night if at all possible, they are curvy and most are more like a lane and a half than two lanes.

We booked Tina’s House in the town of Faggeto, Sara (the caretaker) met us upon arrival.  She got us settled into the apartment then walked us down to the beach bar/restaurant to see if they were still serving food.  The kitchen wasn’t open but the wine and beer were flowing and the waitress was nice enough to bring us bowls of peanuts, olives and pretzels….that’ll do!

The next morning I opened the front door and tried to take in the enourmous mountains across the lake, the gardens, the buildings and of course the beautiful lake.  I honeslty can’t describe it in any other way but magical.  

Breakfast at the local hotel down the road of croissants and coffee, cheese and meat (great salami) $25.00 (2 breakfast buffets and 1 croissant to go)

Missed the ferry so we hired a boat to take us to the other side of the lake so we could hike a trail Kagen picked out for us (Moltriasio Trail). $100.00

Lunch at a great restaurant the boat captain recommended (we like local places so this was up the hill from the tourist areas). $50.00 3 meals 1 beer 1wine 1 coke.

We hiked for about 2 hours, the beginning of the hike was straight up cobblestone roads where I took a lot of breaks! Once to the top we entered the trailhead and enjoyed the views, the breeze and the history.  Kagen had picked an “easy” hike that went through an area where they cut rocks from the mountain and would haul them down the hill, there’s an info board located at the first lookout point. There were several forts made of rock and rock walls built into the landscape…just beautiful.  You have views of the lake almost the entire way. Our descent was on the road they used to haul the rocks down, it was hard to imagine how the cart full of heavy rocks didn’t get away from them on such a decline!

We caught the ferry back ($14.00 3ppl) and enjoyed a cold beer on the ride.

Dinner that night was at the local beach bar restaurant $35

We all slept hard that night and the boys woke ready to go again.  We did an 800 ft elevation the day before but today they were looking to go almost 1400 ft!  The hike itself left right around the corner from our Airbnb. Four hours later and a few skinned knees we all met at the beach near the Airbnb (you can read the story Bill posted about their hike).

We decided to use one of our “splurge” nights (where we go to a nice restaurant in the area) in Faggeto at the Hotel by the beach. It didn’t disappoint, lake fish appetizer, 3 meals, bottle of wine, 1 beer and two desserts only set us back $120.00…not bad!

Day 3 we took a ferry into Bellagio for some lunch and shopping.  The ride itself took about 1 hour 45 min with all the stops. You ping from one side of the lake to the other but it was a beautiful site to see!  Bellagio was way more crowded than the town we were staying in but there was much more to do so if you’re looking for a large selection of shopping, places to eat and nightlife, I would recommend you stay in Bellagio. The shops are pretty pricey and unfortunately we hit a tourist place for lunch (55.00 for ½ carafe of wine, appetizer and 3 meals that weren’t memorable).  

Our waiter forgot about us after he delivered the appetizer so we missed the ferry back, “no problem” he said “take the bus”….scary stuff!  The roads are super narrow with hairpin curves and steep drops. I would totally recommend doing both, I’m glad we got to see the view from the water and from the mountain side.  

We checked out of the Airbnb early Sat. Morning to avoid the traffic that might be coming to the beach that day.  Bill’s a great driver but none of us wanted to meet one of those busses rounding the curve on a road just wide enough to pass a small car (side mirrors folded in on all cars, lol).  We drove to Lake Maggiore for a two night stay.  

Lake Maggiore was pretty but it just didn’t wow me as much as it did Bill.  The hotel we stayed in was family owned and nice enough (165.00 a night) but I wouldn’t tell them we sent you as I’m sure there is a “most wanted” poster with our faces on it!  There seems to have been some confusion on how to check out before staff arrived, Woody thought they said “go out the back door” so around 5am we opened the door and set off ALL THE ALARMS!  We looked for management but couldn’t find anyone and with our flight leaving soon we didn’t stick around. As we drove away I saw the sign post with a picture of the security camera on it, if I didn’t feel so bad about waking everyone up it might actually be funny picturing us running out of the building…me fussing at Woody, Woody trying to figure out how to shut off the alarm and Kagen yelling at us to “run!”, lol!  

https://www.hotelristorantebelvedere.it/en/

We took the Motarone Cable Car, big fun and well worth the crowds! 

(https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187847-d1751014-Reviews-Mottarone_Cable_Car-Stresa_Lake_Maggiore_Piedmont.html)

We also rented some paddle boards and canoe, I recommend this but try to do it when there is less boat traffic (ie. Not on a sunny Sat. Afternoon), I came off my board about 100 times (boats were passing really close and the turbulent wakes were tossing me off my board…must have looked funny) and was nearly run over by a few boats! 

TAKE SOME ADVICE FROM A DUMB BLONDE, DON’T ASSUME INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL IS TOO EXPENSIVE, WATCH FOR AIRLINE DEALS AND THEN BOOK AN AIRBNB WHERE YOU CAN COOK SOME OF YOUR OWN MEALS TO SAVE MONEY.  RENT A CANOE NOT A POWER BOAT, YOU STILL GET TO SEE THE COAST LINE WITHOUT SPENDING A “BOAT LOAD” OF MONEY…BONUS, YOU GET YOUR WORKOUT IN FOR THE DAY!

Sent from my iPad





Flights from the US to Italy under 300.00!

Full disclosure: I just woke up, it’s 530am and haven’t had my first cup of coffee yet so I’m posting without proofing but I wanted to get this out to my besties with a baby moving to Italy….Points Guy just posted trips to Italy for 286.00. Not sure of the details but for that price I’m thinking everyone should book a flight into Milan and drive over to Lake Como! I’ll try to get my post up on our trip to Como with the place we stayed, where we ate and money spent ( we’re traveling today so it might be tomorrow before I have it posted) for budgeting purposes.

Deal Alert: Flights to Italy From $286 Round-Trip

Running with the Bulls in Italy

So there is hiking to be had in Lake Como.  This was a bit of a surprise to me as I thought it was all about the Lake. On such vacations and work trips I am first inclined to find a place to row.  On this trip my son, an avid hiker, was visiting so I was okay with giving up some water time to hit the trails.

  Day one.. we took a boat from Faggiato across to Rovenna and hooked up with the well marked Rovenna-Moltrasio trail.  A respectable effort with a 700ft total climb and few sporty sections, one with a steep drop against the trail and a chain link grab line (more on provided grab lines later) on the other.  This hike earned a “great family hike” label on my Strava feed ( https://www.strava.com/activities/2578368594 )and we were proud of our effort and adventurous spirit.  That night my son said he wanted something a little longer and higher.  As a self appointed Lake Como master hiker with one day of experience, I said, “Sure, whatever you find, we’ll go in the morning”.

Day Two.. My son awoke ready to go and explained his extensive planning, “I found a few trails on google and it looks like we can get up to a peak around 1900-2100feet”.  I didn’t acknowledge that it was three times the elevation of yesterday’s effort.   However, to show I was involved in the planning, I quickly added, “yeah, I saw some stairs behind our breakfast place, lets go”.  Off we went, the stairs behind the breakfast place were fairly steep and became consistently long lengths of upward straightaways after every short turn.  After a half mile we noted that we had already hit yesterday’s climb, we turned another corner and continued on the next cobblestone upward climb.  It struck me how well maintained the small road sized path was.  Thinking we must be close to the top, we arrived at the town Cappella di S Rocco and as I looked around the narrow alleys of beautiful stonework, I thought out loud, “Who put a city up here?”  As we headed out and further up out of town things became more woodsy and rural as we felt we were certainly on the trail system and must be close to the top, right?  The first bit of excitement was a 4 to 5 foot black snake that cut between us across the trail, went over the steep side and down and out of sight.  “He didn’t look poisonous, but keep your head up” I offered as I grabbed a walking stick.

For the next hour we continued uneventfully up.  As we approached the 3000 foot ascent mark I was sure this “around 1900-2100” foot peak had to be close at hand.  Then we saw it.  Sunshine and a hint of possible grassy slopes to a peak beyond our current forest canopy trail.  If our google nav was correct we’d soon be in the saddle of two peaks (Monte Palanzone and Madonna del Soldo) and our only decision would be which one would give us the best views and picture opportunities to Lake Como below. ( https://www.strava.com/activities/2581011215 )

  But then something strange happened, as I saw a blue fabric handrail attached to plastic stakes I heard some cowbells.  We hadn’t seen anyone on the trails past the village and I thought, “this isn’t Alaska, who hikes with cowbells”.  About then a scene directly out of a Coen movie developed, some horses and donkeys ran up to our left  and on the right as we cleared the trees we saw a very full cowpen with some old, large bulls.  There was another strip of blue fabric and I realized these were two electric fence pens with a small corridor between them that we could pass by the bulls and gain access to at least one peak.  We started to pick the peak on the left as donkeys and horses seemed like the better pen to be in.  However, there was lots of tall grass in that pen and the thought of even a non-poisonous snake bite at this remote spot seemed like a bad idea.  We decided to climb under the fence and take the peak to the right.   My under the fence crawl was not as low as required and as the fabric touched my backpack the lightning bolt feeling of my left hand on the ground confirmed that this was indeed an electric fence and not a handrail.  So it wasn’t my ominous presence that kept the bulls merely staring at us as we walked by them.   Newly invigorated (electrified in fact), we headed up the fairly steep, grassy clumped and old cowpie inclined field towards the peak.  Over the first rise I saw some movement further up the hill and realized there were a few more cows further up.  We slowly proceeded and at a point decided the peak was out of the question as three more younger bulls were in the way.  We had an amazing view of the Lake and proceeded to take pictures and admire the scenery.  I set my backpack down and wrung out my sweat soaked shirt.  About then I saw one of the young bulls take a look down at us.  It almost seemed like a Gary Larson farside moment and I can not completely rule out that he wasn’t on his hind legs looking down on us.    

I turned to Kagen and said, “We better go, they see us”, and we quickly began down the hill, Kagen ahead of me bound walking and me shirtless with backpack in one arm and shirt in another.  Soon we crested a small rise and I looked back and realized the bulls couldn’t see us so I relayed, “We should be good, they can’t see us.” A few steps later I heard what sounded like the last few meters of a cross country ski race.  Loud, rapid cowbells.  “RUN, they’re coming!” I yelled and we bounded down the hill to the low hanging fabric that shocked me earlier.  Kagen timed a beautiful dive roll under the fence and sprang to his feet with cloud of gravel and some road rash shins and knees.  I threw my pack and shirt over and opted for the non slide crawl avoiding both the gravel road rash and the shock on this under the fence crawl.  We laughed and regrouped a few feet from the snorting cowbell clad young bulls behind the electric handrail and headed out for our hike downward.  It was a quick paced quad trashing descent but we were anxious for some lunch and a swim in the cool Lake Como waters.  An epic experience for sure and I asked Kagen to re-hike it when he is 53.  I plan on going along then but at 85 I’ll have to keep the training up and maybe bring a cattle prod for a walking stick.  Next time you’re at a water wonderland, consider the hiking options as you might wind up with an unplanned epic event…No Bull.

Premium Economy on Sale to Europe!

Just read that British Airways and American Airlines are offering discounted fares in Premium Economy to Europe.  I just Google Flights and found cheap flights through Christmas!  If you want to hit the famous Christmas Markets here in Germany for a long weekend you could catch a flight out on Dec. 6th Newark to Paris (who doesn’t want to see Paris at Christmas!) stay one night, rent a car (for as little as 70.00 3 days/unlimited miles) and drive over to Germany.  I’ve driven from Bad Godesberg Germany to Paris 5 times now and door to door (my door to the airport hotel) is about 5 hours…its shorter if you drive faster on the Autobahn 😉 .  If you want to experience the Christmas Markets but don’t want the long drive, you can hit Strasbourg France (Alsace France) in about 2 hours from Paris and from what I’ve read, it has an amazing Christmas Market (one of the oldest in Europe).

Take some Advice from a Dumb Blonde, Make this year’s Christmas present a trip to Europe, it might be a hectic 4 days but I like the gift of travel…it is the kind of gift that lasts a lifetime! 

https://www.europeanbestdestinations.com/christmas-markets/strasbourg/

Credit to the Points Guy for alerting us of the discounted fares!