Can I just say that Italy is lovely? And if anyone ever says to you, “Want to visit Lake Garda?”, your appropriate response should be, “When do we leave?”. Do not hesitate, not even to finish the ironing or the next page of your book, but go straight there. The combination of balmy weather, mountains and a crystal-clear lake all set about with chic little towns and pebbly beaches is a winner. We had eleven straight days of sunshine, enough to get a tan, swim in the pool or in the lake seven times a day and not even once contemplate a cardigan.
Our campsite, the appropriately named Campsite Eden, had two pools, a private beach and was in walking distance to Portese, a dinky little port with a great swimming beach, a couple of restaurants and an ice-cream parlour. We were housed not in a tent, since we have not yet reached those levels of self-sufficient derring-do (plus I like to have my own toilet), but in a well-equipped mobile home that measured seven metres by three. Minature, but perfect since we spent most of our time swimming and eating ice-cream and admiring chic Italians and little time pacing the tiny parameters of our accommodation. The big deck helped to make it seem larger, as did the fact that we were situated in an olive grove, with mint growing in the grass and semi-tame bunnies gratefully accepting carrots.
The campsite was mostly filled with Germans, Dutch and British tourists and my hours of pooltime watching my three avid swimmers gave me some time to form completely scientific conclusions about the different nations. The German and Dutch parents got into the pool and actually played with their children, while the British lay on loungers and ignored theirs. I believe the fact that the British parents were the lardiest is not unrelated to this fact. In order to not be tainted, I played with my children, and while GTH was not out climbing mountains on his bike, I went for runs along the lake, but I was not above bribing them for moments alone on my lounger by sending them to the shop with money for ice-cream.
One morning Ollie woke up, sprung into our bed declaring, “Mummy! I had a good dream! I was sailing in a boat – with you!” so we made his dream come true by getting onto a ferry at Salo and taking a trip to Isola del Garda, a private island owned by the Cavazza family where we were taken on a guided tour by a nice German girl from Liepzig. Apparently the Countess is called Charlotte, which my family found most appropriate. The children liked the Cavazza family cats which followed the tour, and I liked the snacks provided at the end. The island and the villa were lovely too.
After eleven days of five people sleeping in the minature mobile, we packed up and drove 1,200 kilometres to the Uckermark in northeast Brandenburg for a wedding at Schloss Herzenfelde. This is another place to which, if ever offered the opportunity to visit, you should unhesitatingly say, “Let’s go!”. Surrounded by 20 hectares of parkland, and then by the forests and farmlands of the Uckermark, the Schloss has been restored by its present owner to high standards of comfort and luxury. The lovely bride, who did the room arrangements, had warned us to bring mattresses and sleeping-bags for the children as there was only one double bed per room, but when we arrived we found ourselves in a suite with three double beds and a chandelier-bedecked bathroom that was bigger than our Italian mobile home. After eleven days of edging sideways round our bed and still getting knocked on the head or ankles by our belongings, it was bliss to have space, sleep on fresh white linen and admire the statuary in the park out of the bathroom window.
The wedding was gorgeous – an appropriately in love couple, a service in a quaint village church, lots of Sekt, babysitters for the children, an exquisite meal, great people to talk to and dancing until the early hours of Sunday morning. After hauling ourselves out of bed and enjoying one last lovely breakfast under the chandeliers, we drove the 700 kilometres home.
It’s good to be back, but I’m missing the olive grove and the chandeliers. And my family are growing tired of calling me Countess.