What could be better than heading to Lake Garda for a week?
The first day of the trip sees a leisurely start from St Pancras on the Eurostar, bound for the 'city of love'; Paris. After a short coach transfer to Gare de Lyon and the Mecure Hotel, we were free to wander the streets of Paris and see the Bastille, Notre Dame and the River Seine, before finding a beautiful French restaurant or creperie for our evening meal.
After a relaxed start on Day Two, we joined our comfortable TGV which would take us all the way from Gare De Lyon to Milan Garibaldi station, a long but very scenic journey. We then transferred to a coach for the final leg to the Hotel Desenzano, our home for the next week. Once we had settled into our very comfortable rooms it was time for an excellent 3 course meal of typical Italian style cuisine followed by tea and coffee in the warm and welcoming lounge bar.
After a calorie filled breakfast the group gathered to walk the 10 minutes or so down the hill to the harbour side in Desenzano, ready for our 20 minutes transfer by boat to Sirmione. Travelling in speed boats, a la James Bond, across the lake - it is fair to see why this is a trip highlight for many.
Here we are greeted by the imposing Castello de Scareggial. For the small fee of €4, you can climb to the top for some of the best views across Lake Garda. The rest of the day was spent admiring the shops, tasting the all-too-good gelato (Ice Cream) and meandering along the shore. You could have visited the thermal spa or the Roman ruins.
Day Four is another early start as we boarded a local service to Venice. Walking out of Venice Station to be greeted by the Grand Canal is one of the best views in the world, in my opinion. We then took a private boat to rendezvous with our guide and spent the next few hours strolling through the city, learning about the history and culture before ending up in St Mark's Square and visiting the Basilica. The rest of the day was then free in Venice, which we spent exploring and enjoying traditional Ice-cream in a local café.
Day Five was at leisure, with plenty of options covered in my Top Things to Do blog.
On Day Six we were meant to go to Isola Del Garda but the wind got up and the rain came, which made the lake very rough and therefore not a the best day for sailing, so we swapped trips and went to Verona instead. Verona is a fascinating city which encapsulates much of the local history in its rich architecture. The guided tour with Andreas taught us much about the city's history and the structure of the place. The Arena, where the operas are held each June to August is stunning and well worth a visit. So are the churches, which are like small art galleries with many wonderful paintings inside them. Verona is also awash with frescoes, some painted onto the side of public buildings that have stood for hundreds of years.
Day Seven is a free day and is covered in my Top Things to Do blog.
After a morning shopping in Desenzano on Day Eight, we all met at the harbour to take an hour long boat trip to Isola Del Garda, a beautiful island just of the shore of Lake Garda. The approach to the island is spectacular especially on such a clear day as we had. The entrance to the island is through a small wooded path that was created in the late 19th century. Our tour guide took us on a wonderful tour of the island, providing us with plenty of information on the history of the place and the famous Olive Oil that is produced here.
The following day saw us, somewhat regrettably, leaving Desenzano by train to start making our way back to the UK. We began with the train to Milan Central before transferring towards Basel, in Switzerland. Milan Central is a fascinating old station, sporting some stunning architecture and the chance of seeing many of the old trams, which are still in service passing the station.
Once in Basel, we swapped to another train to arrive in Metz for the evening. (Sometimes the trip overnights in Strasbourg). The Mecure Metz provided us with a wonderful evening meal before we all joined together in the bar for a farewell drink and a good chat with new found friends.
On Day Ten there was just time for a short look round Metz before heading to the station and the TGV to Paris. We arrived in Paris at Gare De L'Est and transferred to Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar home at the end of a fantastic 10 days.