Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Tasmanian Devils (2010)

Next stop: Lake Maggiore

Despite the lesson that should have been learned some five or six weeks previously, I once again took an overly cautious approach and set my alarm for 0530. After all, the Hoppa might not be in cooperative mood. In the event, the whole process could hardly have gone any more smoothly and I was soon in Terminal 1 with lots of time on my hands. The good news was that, for a sizeable part of my visit, I had bmi's excellent Great British Lounge more or less to myself.

I left plenty of time for the very long walk to Gate 47a in the south-east corner of the terminal, where a number of BA long-haul flights used to go from in the days before Terminal 5.

(Link to flight log in side panel)

Sitting on the transfer bus as it traversed the tarmac at Zurich, I wondered whether my connection to Milan was still possible. It was going to be a desperately close run thing. When I saw the queues at Passport Control, I thought the game was up. Once through, however, I pressed on as fast as I could. No queue at Security - excellent! Downstairs to the Gates 1-10 area, let's see now ... yes, still boarding! In fact, there was some kind of problem with the majority of passengers through the control point and outside the building, yet no bus to be seen. Eventually, one turned up. I have no idea what caused the mishap, but as far as I was concerned, it was a definite stroke of luck. What a relief!

(Link to flight log in side panel)

The luggage appeared fairly quickly at Malpensa and locating the Avis desk was also a breeze, so before long I had the keys of a brand new Fiat Punto with 18km on the clock and no previous renters - a nice bonus! Slightly daunted by the long list of directions that I had printed out from the Internet, I asked the rental agent to get me started and she proceeded to describe the entire journey in just three steps! What's more, they worked perfectly, which just proved for me yet again that the turn-left-after-the-next-lamp-post approach of electronic navigation aids is ludicrously over the top. I much prefer to get the basics written down - or, better still, memorised - and then use a combination of observation and common sense to complete the job. There was the usual pain of road tolls to contend with, but at least it only happened once. I thought my luck was in again when I pulled up in the grounds of the Hotel La Palma in Stresa and took what appeared to be the last parking space. I hadn't spotted the overflow car park in the grounds of a derelict property across a side street.

After taking a few minutes to settle into what was to be the longest-stay accommodation of the trip, I decided to go out for an introductory walk around the town and try to get a feel for the place. Although the sunshine was pleasant enough, there was an incredibly strong wind blowing down the lake from the Alps, such that boats in the bay were lunging around in a rather disconcerting manner and the swell was causing waves to break over the promenade, as though they had the full force of the ocean behind them. I had to remind myself of the obvious fact that this was a land-locked, freshwater lake!

Having failed to spot any restaurants that took my fancy, I decided to have dinner in the hotel dining room, which in fact proved to be a pleasant enough experience, even with several large coach parties present in the room. Back in my room, I took the opportunity to catch up on the day's news and was dismayed to hear that the ash cloud from Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull was once again threatening to cause disruption to UK flights over the coming days. Wonderful! I resolved to put it out of my mind until I had completed Sunday's planned sightseeing, at which point I would re-assess the situation and take whatever action seemed appropriate.