Katelyn's 5th Birthday

Birthday girl, Katelyn

We arrived in Australia just in time for our granddaughter Katelyn's 5th birthday. Suzi baked her a special rainbow cake, and held a lovely party for Katelyn and her friends.

The Rainbow Cake
The sponge inside was striped with colours of the rainbow!

Katelyn and her friends played with bubbles

Katelyn busy drawing. She loves to draw and paint.

We also got to go to the Farmers' Market. I have always loved these, in any country I have been, as I always find something interesting.

Farmers' Market in Stroud NSW

I was surprised to see these monks from the nearby hermitage,
contemplating the wine for sale

Here is cowgirl Katelyn sitting on a fence

Here is Katelyn's Cowgirl Dance
(This is best viewed small, as it is low res. The high res. one
took far too long to upload)

We treated ourselves to pizzas for lunch

Interestingly, the guy selling pizzas had adapted his van to take a pizza oven in the back. Now he makes his living as a mobile pizza seller. He drives to people's houses, or other venues, when they want a pizza party. What a great idea!

by Elizabeth Coughlan


The Antrona Valley, and the Campiccioli Dam, Piedmont, Italy

Just one of the stunning views in the Atrona Valley, Piedmont

The view was spectacular, as we drove high up into the mountains in Guliano's 4x4. We had crossed Lake Maggiore to Piedmont and were heading for the Antrona Valley. On the way, we stopped off at a little village delicatessen, where Guliano selected our delicious lunch.

The view of Lake Antrona, from the Campiccioli Dam wall

We reached Lake Antrona, where the road stopped, with a sign saying, "No vehicles beyond this point." Nevertheless, Guliano continued onward and upward, along scary narrow tracks, and heart stopping bends, until we reached the  Campiccioli Dam.

The Campiccioli Dam

There, we left the car and walked across the dam wall, through the undergrowth, and up a barely defined pathway to a shady spot beside the dam. This was where we were to spend our day, with a picnic by the lake and the sheer pleasure of being in the mountains, with not another person in sight.

Giuliano, Reg, Jessica, Carlotta, and David, walking across the dam wall

Here they are walking along a narrow trail through the undergrowth

The Campiccioli dam was built on the Rio Campliccioli Troncone, 
between 1924 and 1928, and began operation in 1930. 

Jessica, with David, on the edge of the dam.

Giuliano and Carlotta fishing

Jessica and Reg were brave enough to try swimming in the freezing water

Later, we drove back down the mountain to explore one of the quaint villages in the area, and enjoy a welcome late afternoon drink. I, of course ordered an Aperol Spritz, although they brought me a Campari Spritz by mistake. I must say, that is equally delicious!

Here David is sampling the water in the village well.

Giuliano's delicious Mushroom Pasta

While we were in the mountains, at some point, Giuliano and Reg had gone off to pick some wild mushrooms. On arrival, back at Bistro Laguna Blu, Giuliano cooked them, and served up a mushroom pasta for us all to try.

Sunset over Lake Maggiore

It was a perfect end to a perfect day, as we watched the sun set over the mountains we had visited. Thank you once again, Giuliano!

by Elizabeth Coughlan


Out on Lake Maggiore, Italy

Giuliano driving his speedboat, with David beside him

We were all delighted, when our friend Giuliano offered to take us all for a ride in his speedboat on Lake Maggiore. The weather wasn't that great, but we had loads of fun, roaring around the Lake. His boat was parked in the tiny harbour outside Bistro Laguna Blu, in Reno, where we all climbed aboard.

Santa Caterina del Sasso

The first sight we passed was the Hermitage of Saint Catherine, perched precariously on the rock face. I never cease to be fascinated by the history of this place.

Reg, Jessica and Clare

There were seven of us on the boat, Giuliano, David, Reg, Clare, Jessica, Carlotta (Giuliano's daughter), and me.


On our way around the lake, we passed some beautiful lakeside villas

Isola Bella

We didn't allow the gathering storm clouds to deter us. as we circled Isola Bella, one of the Borromean islands...

Isola Pescatore

...as is Isola Pescatore, our next port of call.

More lakeside villas

The Splendid Hotel

The Majestic Hotel

There are some pretty impressive hotels right on the edge of Lake Maggiore, just like the ones above.

Isolino di San Giovanni

Although fairly close to the shore near Pallenza, this is a private island belonging to the Borromeo family. It is said that Toscanini lived here from 1927 until 1952.

The mountains of pink granite

Pink granite is quarried in the mountains above the little town of Baveno, by Lake Maggiore. This granite has been used world-wide in famous buildings like  the Arch of Peace, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, the columns of L’Opéra in Paris, the Karlskirche (Church of St Charles) in Vienna, the monument to Christopher Columbus in New York, and the Royal Palace of Bangkok.

Clare and Jessica enjoying the ride on the lake

Our friend, Giuliano

This was such a fun day. I hope Giuliano takes us out on the lake again one day. Thank you Giuliano!

by Elizabeth Coughlan


Varese, Northern Italy

The narrow pedestrian streets of Varese

We spent a glorious day in the picturesque city of Varese, which lies at the foot of Sacro Monte di Varese, part of the Campo dei Fiori mountain range. This charming city is small enough to tour on foot, especially as many of the streets are pedestrian-only.

Entrance Archway

I was fascinated to see that many of the older buildings could only be accessed through an archway into a beautifully preserved courtyard.

The fountain in the courtyard seen above.

The Basilica S. Vittore, with its neoclassical architecture, is the main church of the town

Next to the Basilica is the imposing Bell Tower, Torre Campanaria, 1616-1774. 
This bell tower is nearly 80 feet high.

Battistero di S. Giovanni Battista
(The Baptistery of St John the Baptist) 

This is the most ancient monument of Varese; built between the 12th and 13th centuries. It can be found behind the Basilica, at the foot of the Bell Tower. Unfortunately, when we were there it was closed, and we were unable to see the famous series of frescos, that have been carefully preserved, inside.

Piazza del Podestà

In the centre of the Piazza del Podestà stands the monument to the Battle of Varese, a bronze statue of the the "Garibaldino", which is a copy of the original grey stone one by the artist Leone Buzzi from Viggiù.

Many of the buildings are beautifully decorated,
like this window...

...or this whole building

Some of the buildings date back centuries. I particularly liked this beautiful Gothic terracotta window, below...

 Casa Perabò, Varese.

...and this door

 Casa Perabò, Varese.

Of course, before returning home, we just had to sit in one of the delightful squares to muse on our day, and drink an Aperol Spritz or two. This is definitely somewhere I would like to visit again.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Bistro Laguna Blu, Reno, Leggiuno, Italy

Bistro Laguna Blu

Whenever we are visiting our daughter in Italy, we always go to our favourite restaurant, Bistro Laguna Blu, in Reno, Leggiuno. Perched on the edge of Lake Maggiore, with the most stunning view, this restaurant serves the most amazing food in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

The view from the restaurant

Reg likes to relax, and enjoy a cocktail or two in the evening, at Bistro Laguna Blu

One of our favourite aperitif cocktails is the Aperol Spritz,
made with Aperol and Prosecco

Jessica and I often like to lunch at Bistro Laguna Blu.
Here she is eating one of their delicious pizzas

The meals are always presented beautifully...

...with perfectly cooked ingredients

My beautiful daughter. Clare, loves Laguna Blu, too,
and is a regular customer

The storm clouds gather over the lake

We did have a few good days on this trip, but there was a lot of rain and overcast days too. Fortunately, we were in Italy to spend time with family, so we didn't allow the weather to dampen our spirits, or stop us from enjoying Bistro Laguna Blu!

Press Centre

Press Centre
I couldn't resist this one!