A winding road to get there….

The drive to the Cristallo (the photos on their website give you a better idea of the Dolomite sweeping views you are surrounded by at this hotel) in Cortina d’ Ampezzo, a town with an elevation around 4000 feet, a population around 5000 and 70 plus miles of ski slopes, was just a couple of hours from Venice. I don’t remember the road to Cortina d’Ampezzo (I really took the photo below because I liked the river flow cascading down the various levels) as having steep drop-offs yet it paid to be a bit cautionary, as it was winding, somewhat narrow with a decent amount of switchbacks, and included an elevation climb.

Now, once I found out Milan/Cortina d’Ampezzo were in the running to host the 2026 Olympics, all I could think of is how are they going to get all the supplies to Cortina…and the people here? But…I trust they have a plan….

I can easily suggest it was worth the drive. I’m sure these cars parked in the hotel garage, and their drivers, settled into their comfortable rooms with a Dolomite view, after finding their drive a pure pleasure.

Our rental car shared the same garage as these supercars! Unlike these car owners, I selected our rental car because it supported a good gas mileage record, had air conditioning, and with the only splurge in its price being an automatic transmission! In addition to those parameters, when renting in Europe, my qualifications in selecting a rental car also include that it is small and inexpensive, so it will fit in parking spaces in villages and also not be a car that attracts attention…you know, “Who would want to steal this car?!?”

Lastly, I’ll elaborate on the automatic transmission. I almost always am in need of a rental car for a portion of my travels and for a majority of those rental times, I have rented one with a manual transmission. However, one of the things I found problematic was that I would find myself in tight spots that would be better handled with an automatic rather than a manual. However, with rental car prices as they are right now and even limited availability to automatic transmission offerings, I may have to resort back to a manual transmission.

The supercars…and there were many, had a stay over at the hotel for some weekend car extravaganza and although we were allowed to walk freely amongst the cars in the garage, I am sure they had excellent surveillance.

The car lineup, actually, was not of much interest because the main attraction was this GASP of a view from our suite (Yes, the hotel upgraded us.)!! The Dolomites’ show was assuredly worth the price of admission-intense and extreme! And, the hotel property was not too shabby either, enlivened by being surrounded by the hotel gardens, as well as the combination of the valley views in contrast to the up to 11,000 foot elevation of the Dolomite range.

And this view, the next morning, was astonishing when the sun decided to play against the rock!

and it kept up for a while…varying in intensity of light and warmth…

As our stunning view from the hotel calmed down, we headed for town. I think Cortina must wind itself up in the winter for skiing and then the summers bring in hikers. The fall seemed to leave quiet empty streets showing how subdued the town could be. And, that allowed for full views of the decorative facades and some of the other architectural highlights of the town.

I didn’t have to fight for space to do my window shopping either.

There were enough dogs in town for an impromptu dog meet-up to start to take place.

Lunch…At Restaurant Ra Stua. Traditional dishes with earthy mountain ingredients-a variety of grilled meats, homemade pasta, mushrooms, apple strudel. If you open up the link to their webpage, you will find out this is the oldest restaurant in Cortina and its ’30s past had the reputation of staying open until 5AM every evening with live music.

We liked it enough, we returned another day, to taste other flavors on the menu. The decorated round protrusion in my photo that they refer to on their website, is the majolica stove.

The town gave me a sense of stepping back in time, yet, as expected, some current updates were thrown in for day-to-day comfort, interest, and character.

When I travel, I could eat and eat and eat and well, eat some more. Fortunately, I find by taking a photo(s), I often find that will satisfy my taste buds. If not, I would end up having to be rolled down the mountain!

Gondola ride to the top…

Since we were there off season, there were not many travelers waiting in line. The gondola ride took us SO close to this Dolomite wall! The rushed feeling I had when we kept climbing yet also getting closer to the ‘wall’ was a thrill. As you probably can guess, the views become so interesting as the trip to the top pulls away from the valley below. The wildflowers added an intimate touch to the mountain top where the gondola set us down. We ended up being on the last ride to the top which only left us a half hour or so up there. But there were hiking paths to consider as another way to get down???

And, that evening back at the Cristallo restaurant, they offered an Italian (of course) chef’s award-winning pizza on the menu. I could only make it through half of mine. But, of course, I saved some room for yet another style of apple strudel which turned out to be my favorite, even surpassing the more traditional piece I had in Vienna at my apple strudel class.

We didn’t meet any Americans in Cortina nor in our other Dolomite location near Merano (Meran), nor did there seem to be much English being spoken. And that may be because our interaction with others was somewhat limited with it being a time of low tourist season.

I will say that both hotel hosts/management and some of their other staff spoke English and were always helpful, aiding us in any way needed.

As a ‘for instance’, in Cortina, my travel partner had forgotten his medicine as well as had a cold. So the concierge handled speaking with a local doctor who was able to make suggestions on medication for his cold and also called in his prescriptions he needed, once we gave him the drug names and dosages. A hotel staff member then drove me to the town center to the pharmacy so I wouldn’t have to go hunting for the pharmacy location on my own-twice. Both trips, he sat in the car and waited for me, then drove me back to the hotel. Now that’s service!

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