Tuesday, July 16, 2013

garda: scenic views, just not of the vacationers

We planned to end our time in Italy with some "relaxation," as Keri put it. We booked a room at the Poiano Resort just outside of Garda. The hotel overlooks Lake Garda, Italy's largest lake and, given its natural beauty and warm climate, a favorite summer vacation destination -- favorite, it seems, for Germans, in particular.

Our hotel is fine, but not great. It sits on a hill with dramatic views of the lake. The hotel has a large pool and a schedule of activities for children and adults. There is also a breakfast buffet included. On paper, it looks pretty good. In reality, it is only okay. (Pictured here are Owen and Lauren lakeside, in the scenic town of Garda.)

The children's activities, which we hoped would free us up to do some poolside reading, are pretty lame. They are all run out of a small shed on a hill just below the pool area. There was on the schedule for yesterday at 300 a "clay molding" class. No one showed at 300 other than the Eckstein children. When Owen and I went back at 330, a young Italian woman arrived and Owen asked whether she was teaching the "clay" class. She asked him to speak English. I intervened and asked again whether she was doing something with "clay." She said her English was bad and did not know what I was talking about. She further said she had some "drawing" materials. Minutes later, she brought out something that resembled play-doh. I fully realize we are in a foreign country and I don't presume to think any Italian's English should be better than my Italian. But when the hotel puts on its schedule "clay molding" is it too much to ask that the person they put in charge of it at least recognize the word "clay"?

Lauren and Owen were occupied with drawing and "clay" for the better part of an hour yesterday. They spent another couple hours in and around the pool. Speaking of the pool, I think it must have been built for some other purpose. It is 50M in length with room for eight lanes and the uniform depth required in competitive swimming facilities. It is really a very quality swimming pool -- just a bit odd for a resort setting.

We went to town last night for dinner. Garda sits in a cove on the edge of the lake. There is no beach here, just a stone boardwalk lined with hotels and restaurants. We ate at one of the hotel restaurants. Halfway through our meal, Keri observed that the hotel sign had one star on it. She further saw that the sign used to have a second star. I imagined someone from the Italian Hotel Star Association coming to the place, slapping the hotel manager in the face and, with great disgust, removing the second star, spitting on the ground as he walked away. I have no idea what one has to do to get knocked down to one star or, frankly, why a hotel would advertise its one star status. As the people who ate at the one-star hotel, I know, we are in no position to talk. The meal was not that bad, by the way, which only made me really curious as to how bad the rest of the joint had to be.

We also saw promotional posters for Die Herren, a German cover band, performing their In the Name of U2 show. The show was scheduled for 930 in the town square. We saw them setting up the stage and running a sound check, but we did not have it in us to keep the kids up to see what I feared was going to be a bad show. U2 is a tough band to cover. Indeed, I have never heard a good U2 cover, and I did not expect last night to be the first.

Our hotel breakfast this morning was mediocre. We had eaten a couple good breakfasts at our Venice hotel, and this one was nowhere near that level. This, along with our complicated travel plans to Switzerland tomorrow, have inspired us to leave early tomorrow.

After breakfast today, Owen and I had a brief game of catch and the four of us spent several more hours at the pool. For those of you who have not been to a European pool/beach, you are really missing something. There were no topless ladies today, but the swimsuits were skimpy -- far more skimpy than was warranted by most of those who wore them. (Pictured here is one of the best-dressed persons at the pool today.)

I was struck, in particular, by a 50-something man with a large stomach standing in the snack stand line wearing a suit that, for all practical purposes, was a spandex pair of boxer briefs. The view from behind was troubling. The profile will haunt me. (Keri did not have her camera or I would definitely post a picture of this, as my description cannot possibly do justice to this scene.)

We are up in our room now, the sounds of techno blaring poolside reverberating through our hotel window. We are very old, very American, or some combination of both.


  1. Tim, again your writing has us in stitches. Only sorry that you did not have a photo of the 50+ large stomached man:-) On to Pontresina where you will very likely have fine cuisine and wonderful accommodations!

  2. Seems like your humor has permeated all generations. It is "dangerous" for an old lady like me to laugh and laugh so incessantly at your funny funny way of telling your stories - which I am sure is what is really happening. YOU MAKE IT SO MUCH BETTER! Baba