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Ciao Italia


View Hiking the Dolomites on bejjan's travel map.

Comfy as I’ve gotten through the years, I had booked one night (Friday – Saturday) at Radisson Blu Sky City (Arlanda) and also due to the unreliable Swedish railways (SJ) that you nowadays can’t trust getting you to Stockholm-Arlanda Airport on time. So, my journey started already yesterday evening by train to Stockholm-Arlanda. And just as predicted, SJ neither disappointed me this time… got to the neighbor-city when a delay occurred. The train didn’t move for 25 minutes before it continued. But it didn’t matter (this time) since I was flying out tomorrow morning.

Woke up in the hotel room in time on Saturday morning, ate my brought-along breakfast and checked-out by 7am. Early morning and it had already built up queues at the check-in desks. There’s always a certain expectation in the air on airports and people are dragging their fully packed suitcases and bags dreaming of a week vacation or two. All people you meet have a destination, an ambition, usually towards more southern latitudes. Standing there in line for Security check I couldn’t help myself looking at people around me trying to figure out where they were traveling. I spotted a couple of people that I thought looked dressed for hiking. Perhaps they were flying the same flight as me, and even to Champoluc?

We boarded the flight just before 9am, a minor Boeing 717. Good to know about this type of airplane model is that both jet engines are mounted at the rear of the fuselage, i.e. not under the wings, which I had considered when I chose my seat. Cause who wants to sit in the rear and louder part of the airplane when you can choose to sit more up front and a little quieter? Even though it was a smaller aircraft (2+3 seats), I got really surprised over the generous leg space. The plane was pushed out from the gate at 9.20am according to schedule, taxed to the runway and soon thereafter we were airborne and, on our way south, to Milan, Italy. During the 2 hour and 20-minute-long flight they served beverages for all passengers and for those who wanted could also buy some food. Surprisingly I discovered that one of the flight attendants wore hearing aids in both (!) ears. That must be a direct challenge having bad hearing and work in such loud noise environment at the same time you need to hear what the passengers say during flight. So courageously done of her!

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During approach to Milan you could see how the city was surrounded by heat haze and it looked terribly warm. At Milan Linate Airport the airplane stopped at a distance from the actual terminal and a transfer bus parked just outside the airplane. Oh, right! Passengers often get transferred by bus to and from the terminal; I should have remembered that from last time I landed here. In the very same moment I sat my foot outside the aircraft, it was like hitting a wall of heat. A +35 °C heat struck me and suddenly the short way downstairs to the transfer bus got tougher. And it was neither cooler in the transfer bus. But it took no more than a minute to get to the terminal and I localized the baggage belt quickly. But I waited and waited. My bag didn’t show up. I got nervous and felt more and more stressed that everyone else got their bags and left. Eventually I recognized my bag on the belt and grabbed on to it and rushed away to the meeting point for all of us booking the hiking trip in Champoluc by the travel agency. I could easily locate the girl (Lina) that held the sign with the travel agency’s name on it. But surprisingly enough, it turned out that I was the first on sight. But it didn’t take long for the remaining 12 people to arrive to the meeting point and we walked together as a group to the minibus waiting just outside. We reluctantly board the bus fearing it would be about +30 °C in there. But it turned out that the air-conditioner was very effective, and the transfer for 2 hours and 30 minutes to Champoluc became comfortable after all. The first 90 minutes was along the highway through the Italian highland, with cornfields and vineyards along the road. We paused for about half an hour for restrooms and optionally buying snacks or food before we continued.

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We took off into Ayas Valley and the road winded itself up towards our goal, Champoluc at 1568 meters above sea level. The minibus conquered one hair pin turn after another uphill and it never seemed to stop. After a while the drive rolled down his window and I immediately felt the familiar scent of eucalyptus coming with the wind.

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Well there in Champoluc, the bus stopped just outside our hotel, Hotel Relais des Glaciers, a beautifully cozy tree house in classic Tyrolean style, with blooming pelargonium hanging on the balconies. In the sun chairs outside the hotel guests rested on the well-managed lawn curiously looking at us pale Swedes. The heated outside pool was just aside and gave an inviting feeling. Checked in at the hotel and according to Italian law the hotel staff must copy all of their guest’s passports to keep during the stay. It felt a little uncomfortable to give away your passport, but we would get them back before the evening dinner. My room was on the first floor and I got a little surprised that they had wooden floor in the room and not the otherwise common and sometimes disgusting wall-to-wall carpet. But wooden floor is so much more hygienic. I unpacked some of my things from my baggage before heading to the village local store Crai.

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There were two major roads running through Champoluc, one-ways in each direction. Huge flowerboxes separated the car lane and the footpath for pedestrians and walking among the Tyrolean houses gave an exotic feeling. I bought bananas, bread and some salted potato chips to bring with me for the hikes during the week in the local food store. It was warm now in the village, so I walked along Torrente Évançon (alpine river running through Ayas Valley and Champoluc) and back to the hotel again. It was peaceful walking along the turquoise water.

Included in this trip was 5-course dinner every evening at the hotel, which was served at 7.30pm. We who had booked through the same travel agency had our own corner in the hotel dining area, where we were seated. There were 7 other people flying from Malmoe and Gothenburg besides us 13 people flying from Arlanda. Entree for the night was salad that you selected on your own at the salad table. Ordered in a local bottle of wine; Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle. Recommended highly! Thereafter you got served the remaining courses at your table. The first starter was smoked raw ham and baked potatoes and the second starter was potato gnocchi with veal ragù. Main course was delicious roasted pork on pastry with mustard and lemon and then ice cream as dessert. The courses were definitely not adjusted to a 5-course dinner, more like a whole army. But one thing was for sure, you did not have to go to bed hungry.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Italy Tagged traveling Comments (0)

Arrivederci Italia


View Hiking the Dolomites on bejjan's travel map.

Up in time for breakfast at 6am. It wasn’t the ordinary restaurant staff who worked that early, no no. I would bet my money on someone in the cleaning staff who had to get up extra early, because when I later checked out from the hotel I saw the original staff on site at 7.30am, when the breakfast normally opened up. I waited at the village church where the bus would pick us up for transfer to Milan Linate Airport. I think we got a little bigger bus than we needed for the 13 people getting along. We got an almost full-sized bus with parquet floor and leather seats that you could adjust leg rests and tilt down your backrest way back. But you shouldn’t complain ;)

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Therefore, the bus ride was pretty comfortable. But due to its size the bus had huge problems making it through all hair pin turns we had to pass to get out of Ayas Valley. The bus got stuck in one of all the curves. The entire undercarriage scraped in the asphalt and normally most people wouldn’t have reacted that much. But since we were high up and the curve was surrounded by cliffs, it wasn’t that funny anymore. After a few minutes of fussing the driver managed to run the bus loose and continue on. Apparently, this happened every time they used this bus. That’s why they were broadening the way so the bus traffic could function and handle the increasing number of tourists to Ayas Valley.

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The closer to Milan we got the warmer it became, both inside and outside the bus. Well at the airport, after disembarking the bus the chocking heat came over you and was guaranteed around +35 °C outside and bright sunshine. But we rushed inside the terminal and checked in. Time was already about 11.30am and you just got something to eat and ate it before it was time to board the flight at 12.20pm. All passengers were crowded at a transfer bus at the gate that took us to the actual aircraft. The short way from the transfer bus and upstairs into the aircraft became almost like race because no one wanted to stay outside the airplane more than necessarily due to the heat. A thought struck me that it might not be that much cooler inside the aircraft. But it was actually. They had managed to cool down the air in the airplane so it was cool and comfortable. All credit to the crew for pulling that off. Just before one o’clock the aircraft took off from Linate and about 2 hours and 30 minutes later landed at Stockholm-Arlanda. In peace, I went to the luggage belt knowing my train didn’t departure until 2 hours later. So, I didn’t mind if my bag came out late on the belt or not. We who had walked together during the week said goodbye to each other and once my bag came, I walked off towards Sky City to order some food. One McWrap & Co had to do. That’s becoming more and more of a habit. But it’s so darn yummy, really ;) And the train ride back home went smoothly without delays.

Yet again a fantastic hiking trip though this time in the Dolomites. I met fantastic people and had a lot of fun. Even though you traveled alone you were on in the group. Unfortunately, the travel agency hasn’t promoted the trip to Champoluc well enough and the number of travelers hasn’t met up expectations. The travel agency will organize travels to Champoluc next summer (2016) as well, but then it looks uncertain. So, if you want to try out something different, I can recommend you to take the chance next summer.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Italy Tagged traveling Comments (0)

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