Wednesday, November 09, 2011

9 November 2011 - Exploring Locarno

OK, I'm pretty well rested after hanging out in bed for WAY too much time, so today was a nice day to get a few miles (kilometers) on the legs.  I'm staying at the Hotel Dellavalle in Brione, which is WAY up the hill from Locarno.  There's a great view right outside my window down onto Lago (Lake) Maggiore.  The owner here tells me that the bus stops only about 300 meters down the street from here, but I decided to try and find my way down to the lake on foot.  Nice move!

The streets here are a series of switch-backs to allow cars to get up and down.  Houses and buildings are all built very close together, lots of stonework and tile roofs, both old and new.  Only a few meters from the hotel I found a stairway leading downhill and decided to try it.  As I continued downward, I discovered a whole new "road" system for pedestrians.  A network of stone stairways work all the way down the mountain to the lake.  So, I explored my way through the stone buildings, vineyards, old churches and interesting buildings all the way down.  After about 40 minutes or so, I was at the lake, actually walking along the path which is part of the marathon route this coming Sunday.

I turned right toward Locarno and enjoyed the balmy fall morning walking along the lake on the Via Alla Riva.  Small boats were moored and covered, scattered along the shore a few feet out in the water.  It was a very relaxing time.

Few people speak much English here.  No reason to.  Nobody understands it anyway.  Still, fortunately, a guy can get a beer pretty handily.  I ventured into a couple shops, and the shop owners were very friendly, but we had a hard time carrying on any meaningful conversation.  I stopped and picked up one of the marathon brochures at the Information Center so I had something that I could pull out of my pocket and point to so people would know what I was in town for.

Figuring that I'd be here almost a week, I may as well get a bus pass so I can get up and down a little faster.  The lady at the bus station was the first person all day who spoke English, so I was able to get the pass and find out when the next bus was leaving.  It would be about a half hour, so I decided to venture up the hill for a while on my own.  I could always find a bus stop along the way.

And that was another nice move.  Past more old buildings, through grotto-like passageways as I worked my way up the mountain.  It only took about 55 minutes to get all the way back up to the hotel.  As I passed the church, I found what looked like a nice little group of restaurant & bar type places.  After working for a bit I headed back there for dinner.

It's a friendly place, Brione.  A small village of about 600 people looking down on Locarno.  I sat at the bar for a beer but after placing my food order, the lady escorted me to a table and had me sit with a very nice older couple, Margaret and Livio Gaudens.  Margaret didn't give herself much credit for knowing English--she learned most of what she knows from TV--but we all had a great conversation and got to know each other.  They are originally from farther north in Switzerland, where the language is German, and they were actually on their way home from Italian lessons.  It was delightful to have someone I could talk to.  Since we're living in the same neighborhood for the week, I hope to see them again.

No running today, but I figure I put at least 10 miles on my legs, with some pretty substantial hill climbing.  Tomorrow I'll get out and run a few miles just to loosen up.  For now, time to kick back and read for a while.

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