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Journal of a 9-day coach holiday through 9 countries.

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This page last updated: 19th July 2015.

Stresa Today we are booked on the optional excursion to Lake Maggiore, Italy and the Borromean Islands. The drivers have told us that, for those going to the islands, food is expensive there so they recommend their packed lunch. We have elected not to buy their packed lunch so while Christine prepares for breakfast, I go down to the patisserie in the next street and come back with a large sandwich and two doughnuts.

After breakfast, it is on to the coach and back up the motorway to Locarno. It is somewhat dull weather as we take the road along the shores of Lake Maggiore, and we cannot see across to the opposite shore. We cross over the border into Italy. The driver tells the guard we are all British and he waves us through. At no point on our journey through nine European countries does anyone ask to see our passports.

The road is quite narrow in a number of places. Stopping at the village of Cannobio, while an oncoming lorry negotiates its way through, allows us time to look at the wall-friezes on the house opposite. The stone walls of many houses in Italy seem to be decorated with paintings usually of some religious theme. It is no wonder the country is well-known for its art.

The sun is beginning to get stronger by the time we arrive at the town of Stresa. We are dropped off at the lakeside. Those of us who are going to the islands are led to some small boats. The Borromean Islands consist of three islands, Isola Pescatori (Fisherman's Island), Isola Bella and the small "Lover's Island" where two is company and three's a crowd. The boat takes us around the islands. Fisherman's Island with its array of little houses, looks very inviting, but we are landed on Isola Bella.

We disembark on to a shingle beach at one end of the island. We have to negotiate steps up to the palace. Ramps have been placed over some of the flights but not all. Those who are fit visit the palace and its gardens. The latter is on nine levels and is home to some beautiful white peacocks. Between the palace and the shore there is an area thronged with market stalls, selling all kinds of souvenirs. Near the pier where the regular lake ferries stop, there is a man playing an accordion, albeit somewhat badly.

We buy a small a bottle of coke from a stall. Things here are not as expensive as we were led to believe. We sit on a bench and eat our picnic, which is delicious.

Slowly we make our way back towards the landing area and Christine finds a spot under some trees. She rests here, reading her novel and admiring the view while I explore what I can of the island.

A maze of little alleyways lead up from the shore below the palace gardens. There are small shops, including one selling magnificent yellow-glazed pots. I buy myself a nice tee-shirt with a dolphin design, a souvenir fridge-magnet and a postcard showing the white peacocks which are in the gardens that we do not get to see. In these back passageways are little verandahs with cacti on display. I also find more intriguing wall-friezes.

Back at the landing-stage area, Christine has been surrounded by a crowd of rather noisy school-children, so we move to a slightly quieter spot to await our return boat.

Again the boatman circles the island, allowing us a chance to get an idea of how extensive are the ornate gardens belonging to the palace, before returning us to Stresa.

There is a park and a fountain by the lakeside. Christine sits there and sends me off to explore. It is very quiet in this seemingly laid-back town. A shop-owner courteously directs me to the Post Office where I buy stamps for my postcards. We will be home before they arrive, but no matter.

I then return to Christine and we walk slowly back into town. We stop off at a greengrocer's shop to buy bananas. Prices here are even cheaper than at home. We stop at a cafe with tables laid out in the square. We get tea for two and some toasted sandwiches. The tea is fine, but we are unable to get an extra pot of hot-water to top it up. Perhaps if we spoke the language ... ?

Christine buys a tee-shirt with a different dolphin design to mine. Back at the lakeside we sit on a bench and chat with a couple from the Netherlands who are on a camping holiday.

We leave Stresa and follow the lake to Arona where we get on the Italian motorway network. The scenery is industrial, modern and boring until we pass by Lake Como. We cross the Melide bridge over Lake Lugano and return to Paradiso in good time for dinner.

It has been a very pleasant day, and we have enjoyed our little glimpse of Italy. After dinner I take my last walk along the promenade. Some people are roller-skating, while others are just strolling along or sitting on benches, admiring the evening view.

Journal Day 5 Photographs Day 4