Going for the gusto

I don’t know about you but I’ve been itching to get away. A change of scene, a bit of pampering. Living in Switzerland means there’s always something different around the corner. So off we went for a few day’s escape to Ticino.

I found a fabulous hotel by the lake in Lugano that offered a 2-night package and also accepted dogs — at a price, but what the hell: if you’re going to go for it, you might as well go for the gusto.

The amazing thing about living here is that two hours south almost feels like a different country. Italian is spoken and it really does feel a lot like being in Italy. At least a cleaner, more well-heeled version. (I suppose that’s also how Geneva feels for francophiles.)

First we drove south through the Gotthard tunnel. At 17 km long it is world’s longest road tunnel. It was also under construction on one side so there was 2-way traffic in the ‘tube’. I was thankful that husband was driving.

After that, we were in Ticino, Switzerland’s Italian-speaking canton. We stopped for a picnic in its capital, Bellinzona. Known for its three castles, it’s a pretty town with a medieval feel. The sun was shining and we were off to a good start.

Although I can see why this place was empty.

A short time later we arrived in Lugano. We had been here before but never to this grand old lady of a hotel. The boys were welcomed like royalty, with two plush dogs beds and bowls set up in our room.

The Covid-19 rules in Switzerland now are that outdoor service can be offered in bars and restaurants, as well as indoor service to hotel guests. We took advantage of both. A perk of booking our package was dinner in the hotel’s Michelin-star restaurant. Now, normally I am not that kind of foodie; I like real food in reasonable quantity, not multiple courses of molecular cuisine. But what a thrill to sit down and be served after endless meals chez nous!

I took the wine option with my menu which meant a different glass with each course. There was not enough food to soak up the sea of wine that just kept coming, but who’s complaining?

In addition, we had a floor show. Not really, but one of those real-life cliché moments when you want to pinch yourself and say ‘Is this for real?’.  As we sat in our well-distanced corner table in the elegant dining room, in walked a couple out of central casting. He: an older man, flush faced and silver haired. She: a young woman of certain timeless assets, decked out in a form-fitting dress and needle high heels with bejeweled anklets. A word floated into mind, one I hadn’t heard in years: ‘La bimbo‘.

I’d heard the expression used years ago in France on a television news report about someone whose name escapes me — Pamela Anderson perhaps, or Loana from French reality TV. Any one of a certain type of woman — blonde, buxom and playing arm candy to an older man with a healthy bank balance. It seems the meaning of bimbo has changed over time. It started out as Italian for a young boy, morphed into a derogatory term for a brute (male) before hopping the gender divide to be applied to a particular breed of female. Barbie is the term most commonly used in some countries to describe such women.

Anyway, here we were with food and (too much) wine, being entertained by life imitating life.

“Perhaps she’s his daughter,” my husband pointed out.

“They’re holding hands,” I replied. But he was right: I shouldn’t judge. Theirs could be the June-December romance of the century. Or at least the weekend.

I ended the meal with a row of half-finished glasses and no other excuse to feel unsteady as I tottered out of the restaurant on my flat heels back to our room.

The rest of the weekend was wonderful, though the weather clouded over. We took a funicular to the top of Monte San Salvatore for the view and did a lot of walking in Lugano. We discovered a fabulous shopping street with little cafés and amazing produce. I will never look at a salami again with the same innocence. Plus, an excellent shoe store to which I am already planning a return trip. (It only takes an hour and a half by train.)

P.S. We saw the couple again the following night at dinner and once again I scored a ringside seat. She was definitely in command. He sat there looking like a spoiled little boy who had been given a bigger birthday party than he was ready for while she (unfortunately out of earshot) held forth while eating and drinking with gusto.

Do you long to get away? Where to?


  1. Taste of France · May 6, 2021

    What a fabulous place! Your meal has me salivating. And what better time to drink too much wine than when you just have to go upstairs to fall into bed?
    Heading to Paris for next weeks’ pont. Everything will still be closed, but maybe there will be some takeout options. The poor restaurants here have mostly given up even trying. I am sick of my own cooking. Paris is a place where just strolling the streets is fabulous on its own, even without cafés, shops and museums.
    Re bimbos: each side in those relationships gets something out of it, but probably not love.

    • MELewis · May 6, 2021

      True that — guess it’s a symbiotic relationship of a different nature. 😉
      I bet you’ll find lots of takeaway options in Paris. How cool to be able to enjoy ‘la capitale’ at this time of year — with spring in full bloom but without too many tourists and, hopefully, before full-on strike season! It will be good to get away….

  2. margaret21 · May 6, 2021

    How fabulous! I remember Ticino with a lot of affection, though it’s years since we were the, and evidently not in your hotel. We’re planning our trip to Spain at the moment – granddaughter waiting! The cost of the trip is hugely higher than it should be because of all the covid tests we’ll have to provide at various stages – heigh ho. Plus sailing direct to Spain rather than driving through France, because that would mean yet more covid tests and self isolation… modern travel eh?

    • MELewis · May 6, 2021

      It’s amazing what we’re willing to put up with when we choose to travel, and in this case, choice is the operative word! Very pleased that you’ll be able to meet your granddaughter soon. The wait must have felt interminable. How great that you can sail to Spain! Sounds like a win over the road trip, even without the extra costs!

  3. Ally Bean · May 6, 2021

    Thank you for sharing your photos and the story of your getaway. So refreshing to see something like this but makes me long even more for a getaway. Anywhere at this point. Of course wherever I go I could only hope to see La Bimbo… or as I would call her, a Silicone Sweetie.

    • MELewis · May 6, 2021

      I feel your pain. 😌 Hope you get some relief soon!

  4. Andreas · May 6, 2021

    That looks like a wonderful break!! Well done you for spoiling yourself!!

    • MELewis · May 8, 2021

      It was indeed delightful. Sometimes you just have to go for it, and this was one of those moments. Hope all is well in the lovely south of France?

  5. acflory · May 7, 2021

    -grin- this post was a breath of fresh air! And the photos are great. Pity you could sneak a shot of La Bimbo, although I guess you couldn’t post it anyway. As for getting away…gods…yes? The Offspring and I have these regular conversations about what we’ll do and where we’ll go ‘when covid is over’. At this point, I’d settle for a sit down latte at the local cafe. Or maybe a live in chef. Yes, on second thoughts, I’ll go with the live in chef. Soooo sick of cooking!

    • MELewis · May 8, 2021

      A sit down latté at the local café will be a good start once you’ve got the green light. You read my mind: I did discreetly try to get a pic of the lovely lady while pretending to photograph my food but the angle wasn’t right. 😆 As for us, we’ve been thinking about my husband’s sabbatical which has to be taken by the end of this year. We’d been hoping maybe Australia but it’s not looking like your beautiful country will be opening its borders before 2022…😢

      • acflory · May 9, 2021

        Ah, that’s a pity, both re the photo and the sabbatical. Unfortunately our vaccination program was badly botched so we /can’t/ reopen. It’s a big, hot mess.
        Would you be able to return to Canada?

      • MELewis · May 10, 2021

        I understand there are bigger issues than leisure travel! Hopefully the mess will clear up by the end of the year. The timing for the sabbatical was terrible as it was already supposed to happen in 2020. As for Canada, hopefully we will go back sometime soon but not likely this year. 🤞

      • acflory · May 10, 2021

        Our not-so-beloved-PM is forecasting that international travel won’t resume until at least 2022. Given the snail’s pace of our vaccination program, I hope Quantas isn’t holding its collective breath.
        But this too will pass. I just hope the situation in India eases soon. What’s going on there is terrifying. 😦

  6. Vanessa in France · May 7, 2021

    Gosh, I envy you! I am longing for a break. I stayed at Lake Lugano with my parents many moons ago and remember how beautiful it was there. Your floor show certainly put the icing on the cake!

    • MELewis · May 8, 2021

      Lake Lugano does have a special magic that makes any time there memorable. But as you say, the entertainment added ‘du piment’ to our enjoyment! Hope you get a chance to get away soon — it’s good for the soul.

  7. Dale · May 14, 2021

    Dinner and a show! What more can you ask for on a romantic getaway. What a beautiful area.
    Gosh… I cannot wait to get away.

    • MELewis · May 14, 2021

      I know, eh? We sure got lucky on both counts! I do hope you will be able to get away soon, Dale. Signs are looking positive around here, and hopefully Canada will soon follow. 🤞

      • Dale · May 14, 2021

        So do I… It feels like we actually will get out of this one day. When? Who knows, but at least now there seems to be a dull light at the end of the tunnel.

  8. Colin Bisset · May 15, 2021

    Lugano and the Ticino have long been on my list, and now you’ve cemented it there. Sounds great. And lovely to slip into another sort of life, ringside seats and all.. Looking forward to whenever we can return to Switzerland but your blogs’ll have to sustain me for the while. No pressure.

    • MELewis · May 17, 2021

      No pressure indeed, lol! I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for a Fawlty Towers sort of tourism through this blog. It’s my blessing to be in a beautiful place but a curse to always notice the oddly human underbelly. I do think you’d love Lugano. Hope the travel gods let us get mobile again soon!

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