The one saving grace was the late sunsets - it was lovely after work, to head to a local park - in our case Clapham Common, grab some beers, or ciders ('the' summmer drink) and try and soak up any sun that existed. The beers gardens in pubs were full - people were smiling and actually polite - it is amazing what some fine weather can do to people!
So where to catch some sun ....hmmmmmm how about Italy?
So we decided to consult the massive map of Europe on our living room wall - there was an orange dot (orange dots = places we want to get to) just north of Milan right on Lake Como.
Susan decided it was time to to have a 'Lifestyles of the rich and famous' experience, so we bookeda hotel, on the lake at Bellagio - home to George Cloooney and site of a recent James Bond film.
Another rush to Gatwick airport on a Friday post work and on our carrier of choice (ok, the only one we can afford) EasyJet ..... a budget airline, which never runs on time and you can't quite be sure that they'll run at all. Afteran hour and half flight, we landed in the home of Italian glitzy fashin - Milan. We grabbed car and headed north. Lake Como is about 1.5 hours north of Milan, and as we landed after 11pm, we decided to keep the drive short and do a stop over in Varese.
Neither of us knew much about Varese - and as we were only going to have a sleep over, we didn't much care. Our hotel turned out to be an old medieval palace, so we pulled in, checked in and then slept. he next morning revealed what a stunnng piece of luck we stumbled upon - Varese is beautiful and the hotel we stayed in was outstanding. (the view from our room below)
As a further reason love Varese, is that it was the host ofthe 2008 World Road Cycling champoinships - ahhhhh Italy and cycling - what else could you ask for?
Well it just got better- we headed up towards Lake Como - but decided to take a bit of a detour via Lake Maggiore. The southern part of the lake is in Italy, the northern part in Switzerland - so we decided to take a quick trip in Switzerland on our way back around to Lake Como.
There are around half a dozen lakes upon on the border of Italy and Switerland - all beautiful. The scenary is alpine - funnily enough with the Swiss Alps as a back drop!
We arrived in Bellagio - the sky was blue, the temperate was mid 20s - this is the summer we were chasing!
Bellagio is a small village, on a promitory which is surrounded on 3 sides by Lake Como. The villas are bright yellows and pinks .... which conjures hideous visions of 1970s Surfers Paradise - but somehow, the Italians just know how to pull off tacky, in a way that has some charm
We walked through some tiny cobblestoned alleyways, past restaurants, bars, cafes and numerous wine shops/tasting rooms called enoteccas - these were a real highlight. You wander in, talk to the proprietor of the shop and explain the type of wine you like - hand over £10 and get to tast some pretty good vino. Most enoteccas also do food, usually local produce - which in the case of this region was lovely cheeses and stunning, thinly sliced cold meats. So after a fair few vinos - we settled on a bottled e liked and headed back to our hotel room - right on the lake, with a balcony which had a view to die for.