Humphrey Goes to Europe – Part 2

Alternate Title 1: Trains, Planes and Automobiles
Alternate Title 2: I See London, I See France, I See (something in Italy that rhymes with France…”very fashionable pants”?)

We successively navigated the train, the plane and most impressively the automobile out of London, over France and to Lake Como, Italy yesterday. Somehow all 550 pounds of luggage fit into the “euro-skittle” car we’re driving. I’m proud to say that we’ve driven three places so far, and only been severely lost once.

Somehow agent confusion continues to reign. It took an hour to check in with British Air because Beth’s ticket was made in the name of “Elizabeth With Infant”. AutoEurope struggled to find our rental car for reasons unknown. I don’t know if agent confusion is more or less frustrating when you can’t understand what the agent is saying. Waiting 20 minutes for the car to arrive in a hot parking garage with a wet, tired, over-stimulated, hungry baby isn’t the most relaxing experience, and it’s even more frustrating when the company won’t even show you how to install the car seat said baby is waiting to get into. The baby safety standards in Italy are a bit more lax than in the States. Theoretically, the car seat can be installed rear-facing, but due to time constraints related to parental sanity, Amelia now has the honor of riding in a forward facing seat. As an added bonus, she’s up high enough to see the world go by…I don’t know if we’ll ever get her back into her boring, rear-facing, middle of the car, (actually safe) seat back home.

I always thought of the “euro-skittle” Fiat as an object to mock, but it’s actually a fun little car with a surprising amount of cargo space (enough for 600 pounds plus a stroller that in its own right is big enough to seat four). We’ve got a “you’re about to hit something” warning beep, a plastic door bumper to avoid door dings and a dash board that lists your current radio station by both number and name.

Speaking of safety standards:

Tip #5 – European hotel cribs were probably built by the craftsmen who couldn’t get on at the church site 400 years ago.

The crib here certainly doesn’t have 2 3/8 in slats, nor does the mattress fit snuggly against the sides. Fortunately Amelia is big and old enough that these don’t present deadly concerns, but she is just big enough to get stuck. This morning we heard her wake with some lovely coos like she always does. Sounds that rival chirping birds enjoying the morning sun. As we roused ourselves, her sounds slowly changed from chipping birds to panicked hyenas.

…snip….75 minutes later

Sorry for the phrase “panicked hyenas”, not my best literary work. But, you see, I was rushed by a repeat of the panicked hyenas sound. Panicked hyenas happens when our new roller finds a way to wedge her arm between the mattress and the side of the crib. The result is a very unhappy baby twisted at a 45 degree-ish angle trying desperately to roll her way out of an unpleasant situation. The first time I saw it, I thought for sure that she dislocated her shoulder. Maybe I should have checked on our foreign health insurance coverage before we left!

Ever since the second installment of panicked hyenas, this day has taken a turn for the worse. It started off lovely. We slept in for a while (after the first installment), had a surprisingly great breakfast at the hotel and meandering our way over to downtown Como (without getting lost). We spent the morning at the town market and walking down to the lake. We had plans for an evening dinner on the patio of a Trattoria with a well rested and fun loving baby. Now it’s raining and our panicked hyena refuses to go down for her nap. Looks like it may be evening of updating the blog and maybe room service.

I knocked the hotel crib, but so far, the Grand Hotel Imperiale in Maltrasio has been superb. On this trip, they get 5 stars in my book just for avoiding agent confusion. It’s a lovely resort with character, right next to the lake in a small, out of the way town (but still close to everything). The people are all friendly and helpful, the rooms are nice and the price is right.

Lake Como is absolutely amazing; one of the most beautiful places I have even been. A deep blue lake surrounding by the start of the Alps…


Ok, new baby hazard. Hotel cribs don’t have bumper pads. Her efforts to achieve panicked hyena thwarted by strategically placed blankets and towels, Amelia has found a way to roll up the protective embankment and slam her head into the wooden sides. It’s looking more and more like room service and TV tonight. (Another thing I love about this hotel, room service isn’t outrageously priced, just a couple dollar delivery charge over regular menu price!)

Anyway, back to Lake Como, absolutely stunning. Beth and I want to buy a villa here. It’s the best of both worlds; you’ve got the water all around with just a short drive to the Swiss Alps for skiing. The towns are built right into the sides of the hills and you really feel like you’re living life when you drive down the streets (a lot like the way you feel alive when skydiving). The weather here is just absolutely perfect, even the rain now is nice. Maybe we’ll get a place somewhere in between the two that George Clooney owns.

I’m glad to be out of London and into Italy. London is fine, but I’m not a huge fan. It’s like New York, but without the skyscrapers. Since I’ve already mentioned Amelia, you know that she and Beth managed to navigate their way around London without great peril. I have no idea how she did it, but Beth managed two days of bus riding without realizing that there were maps and guides to bus routes at every bus stop! After fish and chips, we didn’t really know what else we should be eating in England so we branched out a bit and tried both Thai and Lebanese cuisine for the first time. Both were great.

Here’s why I like Italy better than London:
• I feel like I’m in a different country. They talk a different language and the only American store I’ve seen has been McDonald’s.
• Driving on crazy yet beautiful roads beats packing into the subway hands down.
• There’s a gelato (Italian ice cream) stand every 100 ft. It’s like there’s an ordinance or something mandating the availability of gelato. In London, we only found ice cream at the grocery store, and it was like $7 for a pint. Here, they even have a few Gelatoriam / Bars for the men right next to the shopping areas for the women. Brilliant!!! Ice cream and beer under one roof. Surely this is the land from which I descend!

Amelia had a milestone that would have warranted its own blog entry back home. The last night we were in London, she reached up while seated in her bath and grabbed at the handicap rail. She held onto it and pulled herself up to a standing position all on her own. She had a blast with it, doing it again and again. If we didn’t have to check out of the hotel, I think she’d still be there doing pull-ups. My personal prediction is that she’s also going to make her first crawling step before we leave Rome. She’s trying and trying now, she just needs to figure out how to move those knees.

A negative milestone, she also has her first real head cold. It’s not too bad, but you can tell it’s bothering her, especially since she hates having her nose wiped. Overall, she’s been a great baby throughout the trip, but the cold has made her a bit cantankerous. It’s a good thing we have a full pediatric medicine supply among the 650 pounds.

The little one finally wore herself out and fell asleep. It’s 20:15 so it looks like we’re in for the night. Tomorrow we’ll probably take a ferry around the like and visit some of the other towns. Chow! (That’s Italo-American for “time to go order dinner).



Room service didn’t have much that looked good to Beth so I went out for take away pizza (and gelato of course). Of all the names, I found take out at Tom and Jerry’s Pizzeria. It was actually quite good, I don’t think they know that their name is also a cartoon. Just as we finished eating, the little one decided to wake up. Turns out we could have gone out after all.

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