Monday, 5 August 2013

Glasgow to Garda

No holiday plans this year?

Right up to the moment I listened to work colleagues describing holidays in America, Cyprus and the Algarve, this statement would have applied to me. A quick calculation showed that with weekends already booked for Coll Half Marathon and the Devil of the Highlands unless I went.....well pretty much immediately I'd rapidly run out of summer.

A quick phone call to Ann, "nip up to the travel agents and see if they've got any last minute deals leaving tomorrow or the day after?" And 36 hours later we're at Glasgow airport to check in for a 6:10 flight to Verona for a week on the shores of Lake Garda.

Now the fun starts!

Arriving at 4:30am, even the red eye business flights are two hours away, so the airport is exclusive home to the delights of the package holiday makers and no frills travellers, specifically the early morning Ibiza flight.

Now I admit I've become a travel snob and I've never been to Ibiza. I like my executive upgrade every time I check into a Holiday Inn, I exude a superior air when I manage to wangle 1st class on the train to London, I breeze through airports with the demeanour and insouciance of the seasoned traveller, sadly the groups we saw heading for Ibiza confirmed all my prejudices about any holiday destination where flip flops and a football shirt are the "de rigour" attire.

As I enjoyed the quiet sophistication of Wetherspoon's Eggs Benedict and black coffee, the group of lads heading for holiday hell were cracking me up.

"Haw remember when ya fund me bollock naked in Tenerife", I almost spat out my muffin.

I work in the building trade, so I'm not unaccustomed to colourful language but I hadn't realised just how many swear words it was possible to squeeze into one sentence. As the lads washed down their 3rd pint of the morning with some sort of shot mixed with Monster energy drink, I marvelled at their ability to multi-task. Drinking, swearing and ogling the group of nubile young ladies with the raw ardour of a starving man eying up a banquet.

Now I'm not saying I'd never go to Ibiza, only that I'd rather have hot pins stuck in my eyeballs and my fingernails pulled out as a more pleasurable alternative.

Whilst listening to the testosterone charged banter I was suddenly struck with a vision of The Inbetweeners movie, where the lads check into the Hotel Paradiso to be greeted by the sweat soaked, fag smoking hotel manager dredging a dead dog out of the pool, oh God what have I let myself into?

Thankfully our flight was the antithesis of the Ibiza flight. On time, civilised, quiet and pleasant and not a football shirt or flip flop in sight. We were whizzed seamlessly from baggage belt to transfer coach by a chain of reps, the temperature mid morning a pleasant 28C. The coach journey through industrial Verona and Rivoretto did nothing to dispel my nagging doubt that we'd really no idea what we'd booked.

The coach wound its way through olive groves and vineyards and cresting a mountain pass, you get your fist view of Lake Garda. Simply jaw dropping, virtually sheer cliffs plunging down to an azure blue lake with roads and villages clinging tenuously to the slopes.

A couple of stops in Torbole and then it was our turn, the only guests for the Hotel Panorama in Limone sur Garda (that image of the dead dog starting to creep back).

The coach stops in a lay by, we step out to the raucous din of cicadas, the cheery wave from the rep indicating we're on our own now, Hotel Panorama/Paradiso here we are.

I'd been worrying needlessly, check in took seconds and our balcony was a stone’s throw from the lake, no literary licence here either. The 6 storeys of the hotel being almost carved into the cliff, with the reception and restaurant on the top floor the pool and terrace 6 floors below; a further 40m down a staircase that UK Health and Safety would have kittens over, was Lake Garda itself. Having left Glasgow on time, by Lunchtime we were sunning ourselves poolside.... RESULT.

The only slight downside was that the hotel was "on the outskirts of Limone, along a picturesque lakeside path".

For my running friends I'll describe the path as undulating (you know what I mean), for my West Highland Way friends, it was like the roller coaster hills after the big gate at Crianlarich! For everyone else it was a genuinely picturesque but sweaty 1 mile hike into town itself.

I’m not going to bore you with the blow by blow details, tales of fat Belgians hogging the pool, Austrian sun worshipers sneaking out at 7am to bag the sun beds or the woman in the room next door with the persistent and annoying cough, suffice to say we had a brilliant holiday!

Glasgow airport I could happily give  a body swerve, Lake Garda I’ll definitely be back.

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