Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

Hackescher Markt S Bahn Entrance Berlin

We’ve visited Berlin a couple of times in recent years – once in 2013 and the other earlier this year (Monsieur also made a day trip to East Berlin with his West German host family as part of a school exchange trip way back in 1978!). Both our recent trips were in spring, when the weather was pleasantly mild without being hot, the spring flowers were out and it was warm enough most of the time to enjoy the outdoor cafe lifestyle. It can get chilly at night though and quite windy so jackets and jumpers are still definitely needed!

I’ve done a few posts about Berlin before (see here, here and here) but I wanted to bring all my photos and stories together into a series. Obviously this is my personal insight into Berlin – there are so many aspects to such a fascinating place, which somehow has managed to survive terrible destruction and reinvent itself into the modern, eclectic and culturally diverse city of today.

It’s certainly not the prettiest of cities with so much building work going on (just as much as far was we could tell in 2016 as there was back in 2013). We had an interesting insight into this as we stayed both times at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Karl Liebkneckt Strasse, linked to the famous Unter den Linden by the bridge over the River Spree. On the other side of the street the former communist era palace has been ripped down and work is underway to reconstruct the Kaiser’s Palace with an original Baroque exterior albeit with some modifications. Estimated to be completed by September 2019, it will house the Humboldtsforum Museum and a congress complex.

 

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Fernsehturm Berlin With Construction Work In Foreground

The Radisson Blu proved to be an excellent base situated right on the river front with its pretty walkways and cafes. Part of the vibrant Mitte district (straddling both the former west and east zones of the city), it is also near the Museuminsel (Museum Island) and the famous Alexanderplatz dominated by the iconic Fernsehturm (Television tower).

 

 

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the stylish and modern Radisson Blu, which had a range of guests of all ages and nationalities, many of them appearing to be independent travellers like ourselves. The lobby has an amazing feature in the form of the AquaDom, the world’s largest freestanding cylindrical aquarium! You don’t have to be a hotel guest to visit it but we didn’t bother paying our discounted entrance fee to go in as we already had superb views of the fish, especially when we went up and down in the lifts.

 

 

 

With an excellent public transport system, Berlin is easy to get around. We mainly used the Hackescher Markt S Bahn station about a 10 minute walk away from our hotel. As well as the local overland trains we took from here, Hackescher Markt is also a major tram interchange with trams running down the Oranienburger Strasse and the old Jewish quarter towards Friedrichstrasse. The square in front of the station has become a popular hub with street performers entertaining the patrons of the many cafes and restaurants dotted round the perimeter. Even more so on our first trip, we found it easy to eat here at night as we just hopped off the train and had a meal before going back to the hotel.

 

 

Hackescher Markt is also the “East Berlin” meeting point for city walking tours (the western one is at the Zoologischer Garten Station). We did three walking tours with Original Berlin Walks during our first stay. I’d highly recommend at the very least their introductory tour, Discover Berlin, as this really helped us to get our bearings and work out what we wanted to explore further. All the guides were extremely knowledgeable, linguistically skilled and very entertaining. The ones we had were mostly PhD students who had a wonderful grasp and understanding of the history of the city and the political and social context. The exact meeting point was outside the Weihenstephaner Restaurant, which seemed to suit Monsieur very well!

 

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Weihenstephaner Restaurant Berlin – Meeting Point For Original Berlin Walks

Next week we’ll go on a river tour along the Spree. In the meantime “Tschuess”!

 

Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

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Back on line after last week’s hiatus though my computer is still being a bit slower than I’d like it to be!  It needed 2 new RAMS, which the computer tech guy explained was to help it multi task! However since the photos I want to use this week are still on my iPad, I’m having another go at a WordPress app post as it will save me stressing my poor computer trying to upload them all!

Highlighting another delightful spot in the Perth Hills this week, where we celebrated our elder daughter, La Chic Maman’s, birthday the other weekend. Roleys On the Ridge, as its name suggests, sits perched on a rocky cliff in the hillside suburb of Roleystone. Although only about 4o minutes out of the city centre you really feel away from it all here with the native vegetation and quaint country character.

The food was superb as were the accompanying wines and we had a wonderful view across the rolling bushland from the enclosed terrace area. There is an outdoor terrace too but we thought it was easier to mind our two little granddaughters (aged nearly 4 and 19 months) indoors rather than worrying about them trying to clamber over the balcony. The only issue I had was the child friendliness of the outdoor area as the rocks, that the little ones were keen to explore later, dropped right down to an almost sheer cliff on the other side! That didn’t detract from a wonderful lunch however – the desserts were particularly delicious!


Next door to Roleys are a few pretty shops selling amongst other things organic food produce and herbal toiletries. There is also a charming cafe if you just want a quick coffee rather than a full meal. Roleys is only a couple or so kilometres from Araluen Botanic Park, which we visited last week (see here and here for previous posts). It is a wonderful location for a Sunday lunch or celebration meal (they cater for wedding parties too) and the views are priceless!

 

Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

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Alas after being temperamental for the past few weeks my home computer decided to have a total nervous breakdown yesterday collapsing into repeated blue screens with “the kiss of death” then it packed up altogether. Hence I’m only able to use my iPad for the next few days whilst it is at the computer repair shop. I don’t find the WordPress for iPad app at all user friendly but it may just be me!!

So an abridged version of this week’s planned post! We had a lovely day out at Araluen Botanic Park about 45 minutes south east of central Perth in the hills suburb of Roleystone last month. Spring is always a highlight here with the tulips a big attraction. This year even in October they were not fully out as a result of the colder than average winter we have had. They were still pretty impressive though and the wisteria was magnificent. We took our two granddaughters on the little train, which trundles through the park and admired the extensive collection of camellias and rhododendrons. Chalet Healy makes a great lunch spot and we were also entertained by a Celtic musical band playing in the grounds near the cascading stream. In the meantime here are a few photos from our recent day out. Hopefully my computer will be restored to normal service by next week!

Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

View Across Lake Como To Bellagio

A couple of weekends of Grandmum Le Chic duties hasn’t left much time for blogging! However although I could go on for ever (given the amount of photos we managed to take!) it’s time to say farewell to Lake Como for the time being. I’m just going to finish off the series with a montage of some photos of our daily morning walk along the lake at Menaggio. Not a bad way to start the day even if we did have a few cloudy mornings!

 

 

And here are a few favourites from our holiday. You can find the link to all the posts from Lake Como and the Italian/Swiss border region here.

 

 

Coming up I’ll be covering our trip to Berlin interspersed with some Western Australian posts I’ve been meaning to write up for a while.

Wishing everyone a lovely peaceful weekend and ciao for now!

 

Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Como Harbour

Another trip down memory lane this week – a quick tour of Como City and its environs (you can find an excellent visitor’s guide here) where we stayed on our first trip to the lake in 2009.

 

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Lake Como Near Como City

 

We only had 3 nights here on this trip and arrived mid afternoon on the first day, which gave us in effect 2 full days. Our first evening greeted us with a bang in the form of a spectacular thunderstorm, which lit up the lake and thwarted plans for a relaxing stroll round the lake followed by dinner. We made it as far as the little bar on the corner of Piazza Cavour (our hotel the Metropole Suisse was on the opposite corner). Aperitivos turned into pizza as we contemplated how to get back to our hotel without getting soaked!

 

 

 

Next day was much brighter! Although as we rode up to Brunate on the funicular railway (see here), we could see the post rain haze persisting over the mountains. In the afternoon we took a short cruise on Lake Como up to some of the villages in the lower part of the lake, including Moltrasio.

 

 

The southern end of the lake is far more built up than the central lakeside villages (Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio etc) but it is stunningly beautiful as well. Its proximity to Milan, about an hour’s drive away, and the major road and rail transport links make it an attractive proposition. It’s also only 15 minutes to the Italian/Swiss border point at Chiasso.  We’d come down on the train from Lucerne in Switzerland via Lugano and to avoid further travelling opted to stay in Como itself although we headed up to the central lake by ferry on our last full day in Italy.

 

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Lake Como Promenade

 

Each day we walked on the lakeside promenade and admired the gorgeous wisteria and the elegant Villa Olmo. The latter is a neoclassical villa built at the end of the 18th century and now used mainly for cultural events and exhibitions. We also watched the seaplanes of the Como Aero Club taking off and landing – a different way to see the lake though we didn’t book a flight!

 

 

Como has delightfully elegant streets, lovely shops and many churches and museums. In the Piazza Duomo you’ll find the late gothic cathedral dating from 1396. It wasn’t completed until the early 18th century when the cupola was added. The beautiful facade was constructed from 1455-1486. On our second night we enjoyed a superb meal at one of the many restaurants dotted round the piazza perimeter.

 

 

Our final day was spent exploring the central part of the lake stopping off at Bellagio and later Menaggio, which I’ve covered in detail in the posts about our most recent trip. It was aperitivos in Menaggio on our last day (see here) that made us determined to come back to this part of the world one day and we were lucky enough to do so this April.

 

View from Hotel Du Lac towards Lake Como

View from the front of Hotel Du Lac Menaggio

 

On the far side of the lakeside promenade in Como, you come to a small harbour with pretty views back towards Villa Olmo across the lake. The whole street at this point is lined with little cafes and restaurants. On our last night, we enjoyed a lovely dinner here sitting outside on the lakeside terrace. Like many Como restaurants the one we chose specialised in fish dishes fresh from the lake.

 

 

The rain stayed away and we were treated to a wonderful sunset over the lake with stunning colours of pinks, peaches and lilacs – a fitting way to end our first trip to Lake Como!

 

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Sunset Over Como

 

Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

View Down To Como From The Brunate Funicolare

Today’s post is a blast from the past going back to our first trip to Lake Como in 2009. However I thought it was worth including in the recent Como series of posts, especially if you’re staying in Como City, as the funicular (funicolare) is a great little trip to take from the town up to the village of Brunate.

The funicular entrance is conveniently situated a few minutes from Como town centre. There is an interesting display board on the station wall with some historical information  and details of the funicular workings – a good way to while away the few minutes waiting for the next ride. For timetables and tariffs head to the official website of the funicular (see here).  You can also find some interesting background information on wikipedia (see here).

 

It was not the best day weather wise but at least the previous night’s spectacular thunderstorm had cleared away. Although only a short ride to the top (7 minutes to be precise) it seemed an eternity to Monsieur Le Chic who has an aversion to heights (it’s a pretty steep ascent). Hence I took pictures as we glided up to the top station with the buildings in the valley below now looking like Legoland.

 

 

Brunate is a sleepy little settlement perched high above Lake Como, which affords it stunning vistas of the lake, wooded valleys and Alps in the distance. We wandered round the quiet streets, had a quick look at the pretty little church but the main draw card is the viewing deck where on a fine day you can see as far as Turin and the high Alps of the Monte Rosa and Mont Blanc range.

 

 

There are several little cafes and eateries catering to visitors near the funicolare terminus at Brunate. We found a nice little trattoria/pizzeria and settled down to enjoy a tasty lunch with some excellent local wine as recommended by our friendly waiter. The sun managed to come out and it was pleasantly warm sitting outside on the terrace.  Despite the persistent haze the views were still pretty impressive and must be stunning on a clearer day! Please excuse the rather foggy quality of the photos though.

 

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Views Across To Alps From Brunate

 

As well as the funicular there is a steep winding road up from Lake Como to the village and it is also a starting point for several walking trails. Check the funicular return times especially in the evenings as you don’t want to find yourself stranded at the top!  Of course you can always walk up and down from Como to Brunate and back if you prefer the exercise!

 

Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Lakeside Dining Bellagio

Following our stroll and shopping expedition in Bellagio (see here) we wandered down to the lake in search of lunch. The water front is as pretty as you’d expect, lined with trees and floral displays. There are so many cafes and restaurants with attractive terraces taking advantage of the stunning views.

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Lake Como At Bellagio

 

We were waiting for the ferry to take us further north up the lake so didn’t want to venture too far from the ferry point. Hence we settled ourselves down on the terrace of Hotel du Lac right on the front. Fish was the order of the day and I had the fresh catch of the day whilst Monsieur tucked into a large bowl of mussels. It was simply cooked nothing too fancy but was delicious.

 

Bellagio has that dreamy timeless feel about it and really little appeared to have changed since our previous visit 7 years ago. On that occasion we ate a little further along the lake front and indulged our love of gelati and aperitivos!

 

 

The lakeside promenade beyond the cafe strip is so pretty and a good way to walk off any lunchtime excesses! We didn’t have time to walk that way on our recent visit so the photos are taken from our previous trip. At one point we came across a poignant memorial to a couple of sailors who had helped rescue people drowning in the lake (I can’t remember the exact details but it was beautifully cared for and drew our attention).

 

 

A little further along the path, you come to the entrance to Villa Melzi, another of Lake Como’s treasures. We didn’t get the chance to go round on either of our trips but if you happen to be in the area from March to October it looks well worth a visit (see here).

The old paddle steamer, the Milano, duly arrived to take us further up the lake to the Abbazia di Piona near Colico at the rugged northern end of Lago Como. However next week we’ll explore the southern end near Como City and take a short funicular trip up to a pretty village with an amazing view.

 

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The Milano Ferry Approaching Bellagio Quay

Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Serbelloni Hill Bellagio

We visited so many delightful towns, villas and gardens during our Lake Como stay but I still haven’t written about one of the most famous – Bellagio known as the “Pearl Of Lake Como” for good reason!

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Bellagio Lake Como

 

We have been here a couple of times (back in 2009 and in April this year). Situated on the promontory that separates the 2 inverted “Y” shaped arms of the lake, Bellagio enjoys a delightful situation. There are expansive views of the lake and mountains in all directions. It enjoys road access down to Lecco in the south and onto Bergamo (with its airport) in the south east. Roads also go down to Milan and its air and road links in the south west. The lake ferries shuttle you between Menaggio (our home base), Varenna and Bellagio at regular intervals and the views on approach are delightful.

 

Our latest visit was relatively short as we were keen to go further up the lake to the Abbazia di Piona (see here). However we still had time to wander around the pretty streets, many of them lined with shops selling a myriad of souvenirs! The staircase of Serbelloni Hill is in the heart of the town and is crammed full of boutiques and craft shops. Originally there was a moat here to protect the fortified village in medieval times. As the peninsula is gently undulating here, the streets are not quite as steep or narrow as those in Varenna (see herehere and here).

 

 

I was on a mission to find some silk scarves as the Como region is famous for its silk production. Once manufactured in the lakeside area, silk is now generally imported though I did see a recent television programme, which highlighted the silk industry and the revival of artisanal silk production in the area. The silk scarves and ties are all made in the area, even if the raw materials are imported. As you would expect, the scarves are exquisitely made with Italian flair and style. I got rather carried away in Azalea but I must add the customer service was wonderful and there was no pressure to buy. However after having got what seemed like half of the shop’s wares out on the counter, I did feel it would be rude to walk away empty handed! So I didn’t!!

 

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Le Chic En Rose In Bellagio

 

Further up the hill you reach the Via Garibaldi. In medieval times there was a drawbridge at this point, which was the entrance to the fortified village. Turning right you come across the charming Romanesque Chiesa di San Giorgio, which dates back to 1120. A quiet and tranquil place, the church is a peaceful contrast to the hustle and bustle down lakeside. It has a solitary bell tower overlooking a small side street.

 

 

If you turn left at Via Garibaldi you reach the larger church of San Giacomo. This basilica dates from the 11th and 12th centuries and contains many beautiful artworks including mosaics, an altar and a piece called “A Deposition Of Christ” by the Perugino school. We walked round the exterior but time constraints meant the interior will have to wait for another time.

 

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Basilica Of San Giacomo Bellagio

 

After our stroll round town we wandered back down to the lake in search of some refreshments. You are spoilt for choice with the many cafes and restaurants jostling for space and customers by the lake. There are also some beautiful walking spots and equally gorgeous gardens. It is not difficult to see what drew the composer Franz Liszt to Bellagio in the 19th century.  He stayed here with his partner, Countess d’Agoult, from 1836 to 1837 and there is a commemorative headstone to this interlude up in the village. Their daughter Cosima married the composer Richard Wagner. In a letter to a friend Liszt wrote, “When you write the story of two happy lovers, set them on the shores of Lake Como”. More of Bellagio’s charms to follow next week. Ciao for now!

 

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Water’s Edge – Lake Como At Bellagio

 

Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Villa Carlotta Tremezzo

We were lucky enough to visit the exquisite gardens of Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo at arguably their most spectacular during the glorious displays of spring (see here for last week’s “Taster”). In April the azaleas and rhododendrons are a profusion of wonderful pinks, reds and soft creamy whites.

 

 

We had a lazy lunch overlooking Lake Como first and were pleasantly surprised to get straight into the gardens without a queue. Our ticket was for both house and gardens and we set off to explore. We had no idea from the lakeside how extensive the gardens are. Laid out over 70,000 square metres with pathways, stairs and woods it is like a walk through an enchanted garden and forest.

 

 

Villa Carlotta is named after the daughter of Albert I of Prussia. Her mother, Princess Marianne of Nassau, had purchased the villa in 1843 and gave it to her daughter, Carlotta, as a wedding present (as one does!). Originally built for a Milanese marquis, Giorgio Clerici, at the end of the 17th century it has a superb setting overlooking the lake and across to the Grignas mountains and the Bellagio Peninsula.

 

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View Across Lake Como To Bellagio

 

In 1801, Gian Battista Sommariva, a politician, businessman and patron of the arts had purchased the villa and he oversaw the acquisition of some outstanding 19th century artworks, which form the basis of the collection in the house today. Not surprisingly Villa Carlotta became one of the essential stopping points on the aristocrats’ Grand Tours during the 19th century.

 

Aside from the spectacular floral displays we also walked through the Valley of the Ferns and the Bamboo Gardens. Although not a particularly sunny day the gardens still looked divine and the brief rain showers were actually rather refreshing. Set along a hillside, the paths were often steep – I can imagine the ladies with their crinolines and bustles trying to get up and down them! The panoramic viewing areas were particularly stunning, designed to take full advantage of the prime lakeside setting.

 

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Villa Carlotta Tremezzo

 

At one point you come across a small garden shed now turned into a museum of some old fashioned gardening and farming implements.

 

No photos allowed in the main house! I found this out the hard way and had the embarrassment of being yelled at in Italian in front of some bemused looking tourists. Downstairs is given over to the neo-classical artworks and is decorated in the elegant style of Italianate villas of the 18th and 19th centuries. Upstairs was more simply decorated and the pretty soft lemon walls were currently home to an exhibition of an Italian Swiss artist entitled “As Clouds”. There didn’t appear to be any photographic restrictions here!

 

The views from the windows down to the entrance and across the lake were charming.

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View From Villa Carlotta Interior

 

We wandered through an arbor lined with citrus trees and enjoyed an extended browse in the well-stocked gift shop before heading towards the cafe, where we enjoyed some gelati and a cup of tea. Villa Carlotta has its own ferry stop just a little further north from the quay at Tremezzo so we were able to time our exit to perfection and took the late afternoon ferry back to our Menaggio base in time for “Aperitivo Hour”.

 

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Villa Carlotta Tremezzo

 

During the summer months and holiday seasons I am sure Villa Carlotta would get very crowded, especially with all the coach parties, but if you happen to be there on a quiet midweek day as we were then it is a different story. We were able to enjoy the beautiful gardens at leisure and it was a wonderfully relaxing and peaceful experience!

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Villa Carlotta Tremezzo Entrance

 

Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Lake Como Viewed From The Terraces Of Villa Carlotta Tremezzo

Post flu lethargy and a busy weekend have not been conducive to blog writing! With another wild and wet weekend we are beginning to think spring has got lost en route to Perth this year! C’est pas normale! So on this chilly Sunday evening, it’s nice to be able to carry on sorting though the photos of our Italian trip in April where the gardens were a riot of spring colour. Here are a few photos from our visit to the stunning Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo. The gardens were a never ending treasure trove – they spread out in a series of walkways and paths from the steep terraces. Full post to follow this week!

 

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

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