Jan 25 to 30
25.01.2013 - 30.01.2013
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.
So it has been a while since I have had the time to blog, sorry to all of you who are anxiously anticipating my every story.
So the next stop, and the first of my lone traveller stops, was Milan! It was a difficult start in Milan. Firstly I was abandoned by Alicia, I clung to her legs tearfully as she heartlessly tried to leave me. Ok so that might have only happened in my head, but there were a few tears! And anger as I think she is entirely selfish for thinking doing her honours is more important than keeping me company in Europe.
So after the difficult separation I had to find my hotel. Not the easiest task in the world. I had the instructions in getting there but there were two major issues; a lack of escalators in the train station and me having no idea which direction tram I was needing to take. Luckily there was a nice man to help me with the first issue, and a english woman who spoke italian and became my translator to solve the second problem.
At the other end of the tram ride I was in a massive square with about 50 different roads down it and no idea which one was mine. Luckily I found a nice lady who actually decided she better lead me to the hotel to get me there, I must have looked completely lost. By this point I was over it and exhausted as you can well imagine and the sight of three flights of stairs and no lift almost killed me. Thank god the receptionists heard the highly attractive grunting type noises I was making as I tried to get my bag up and came down and carried it up for me. A little embarrassing that he managed to do it so easily... My day got significantly better when I got to the reception purely because of the word 'tea' said by one of the receptionists.
I very much enjoyed Milan. I initially only planned to stay 3 nights but ended up staying 5. I did my days by themes. I had my shopping day, my culture day, my rest day cos the weather was crap, my lake como day and them my all the stuff I hadn't done yet day.
Milan has a hell of a lot of shopping I can tell you that much! Not that I'm complaining. Although I did despair on the first day when it was 5.30pm and I hadn't managed to buy anything yet. But then within the next hour I found a nice warm scarf in the nicest green colour from Max and Co as well as a blue coat from some random store. Both purchases were definitely a good idea as the coat and scarves I have are not really at the level of warmth necessary for the freezingness of Europe in winter.
The second, cultural, day I saw about a million paintings. I started off failing to get in to see the Last Supper. Instead I saw a small exhibiton with pages from DaVinci's Codex Atlantus I believe just around the corner. That was quite interesting, there was a lot there about his studies on air and water. I then went to the castle museum, or the Sforza Castle Museums. There are multiple museums there and my favourite was the one that had all this old furniture from like the 1200s to current day. There was some absolutely beautiful old furniture there with some amazing woodwork. Then you got to the more recent, 2000s kind of stuff... Little weird!
My ticket to the DaVinci exhibiton also got me into the Ambrosiana Art Gallery which had a continued exhibiton of the Codex Atlantus. However this was also an art gallery in itself, and rather a large one at that! It took me about one and a half hours to get around it! It was full of quite old works, around 1400-1600s I believe, and absolutely worth it. It was still only about 5pm at this point and freezing so, seeing as it seemed a little early for dinner, I decided to go see the Art Gallery Brera, while I was in the arty mood. Another good gallery which again contained some more contemporary ummm... interesting... works. I spent a lot of time sitting down in that gallery as walking for about 7 or 8 hours both days is not something my poor feet were used to.
My day of rest consisted of going to the supermarket, and checking out where to get the bus to Brussels (my next stop) from. The supermarket was a good idea as I ws feeling rather sick today and it is possible that it may be due to my lack of drinking enough fluids. It was rather sad actually as I bought goats cheese, prosciutto and bread and I had to throw out most of the cheese due to my lack of fridge. It was a rather an emotionally hard decision, however I knew that both myself and the cheese were better off for it. Didn't make it any easier though!
Lake Como was absolutely awesome. I caught the train to Varenna, then the ferry to Bellagio, then the fast boat to Como. It is crazy how cheap and easy it is to get out there! However apparently nothing is open during the week. After the whole half an hour it took to walk around the adorable little Varenna I still had an hour to kill. I then discovered that the town was completely dead as everyone was in the pub, the only place open. So I had a cup of tea. I then went and sat by the lake and had possibly the most relaxing half hour of my entire life. There is something really calming about a beautiful sunny (8 degrees, and it is sad that that now seems warm to me) day and sitting by a stunning lake with noone else around. If anyone ever moves to Milan I would recommend living in Varenna. It is only 40 minutes out the city if you get the right train and it would be impossible to get a place without a view! And all this for a tiny 135 thou euro! Yes, I did check out the house prices in the real estate places window, and no that's not sad...
There was also a fast boat that came to Varenna, most bizarre boats ever! They zoom along with only two parallel bars below touching the water. Then when they slow down the bars sink under the water and they became a normal boat! I will chuck up some pics, it was kind of really cool. Although when I went on one later it is the most bizarre feeling when it slows as it genuinely feels like you are sinking!
Bellagio turned out to be much the same as Varenna, as in closed, but not quite as pretty I didn't think. I managed to find one woodwork store open and a cafe. I originally went with the usual follow a couple who look like they know what they are doing. However realised ten minutes later after I passed them when they stopped to look at something that they were now following me... One of those few times that method doesn't work. I had a couple of hours still so I just decided to head upwards to try and get a nice view. Instead I managed to end up over the other side of the island in someones private little jetty area with a bug private property sign. Slowly walking backwards now...
Had a lovely lunch in Bellagio and then headed off on the boat to Como. That was a pretty amazing boat trip. Best like 12 euro I have spent in my life, particularly as it lasted maybe three quarters of an hour which was awesome. Well except for the thinking the boat was sinking every time it slowed down...
Como itself was a little disappointing compared to the other two places. I walked out of town and up some hill but then found myself on a main road with no sidewalk... Walking back I decided to take another route and then found myself on a thinner section of the road which was really 'exciting' in a holy crap I'm going to die kind of way. Getting in to town I tried the 'follow someone who looks confident' method again until I realised I had followed her into her apartment car park and so had to try and look like I was meant to be there. Finally made my way to the train station and back to the hotel where I was having a chat to the receptionist who asked if I had gone up the cable car. I was like umm what cable car. Apparently there is a cable car right next to the train station which gives you great views over the lake. Rather annoyed my map had failed to show this to me! And it was dark ok, so no I couldn't see it when I went to the station.
I wasn't leaving til 9.30pm on my bus so I had a full day today. I managed to get in to see the Last Supper this time, although also managed to miss my slot. I swear, I went in 5 minutes before and never saw them letting people in! But it was ok as they let me in with the next group. It was kind of cool but it seemed somewhat not as vivid as I would have expected. I know that is has had to be restored a million times and all but seeing pics it looks a lot more vibrant than it actually is.
I then just started wandering for a while. I produced a new technique of choosing the sunniest path to decide my course. Not the most effective technique I'll be honest. Found myself in a rather less than attractive part of town. I kept going, as long as I see underground stations I'm fine. Unfortunately I then didn't see an underground station for a while and, being unable to find myself on the map got a little worried. I headed back the way I came and finally found a station. Turns out I was pretty much looking in completely the wrong area of the map! But it was ok, I just hopped on a train (totally a Milan metro pro by the way) back to the Duomo.
I decided to check out the inside of the Duomo. It was quite nice, just another standard cathedral really, but at least it was a relatively warm place to sit down, and you know, ponder life for a little bit. I also walked up to the top in the afternoon for the view over the city. I'll be honest though, Milan is not exactly the prettiest city in the world. I had walked around trying to find somewhere to stop for lunch and given up and purchased a sandwich only to find a little cafe so I went back in the afternoon for a cup of tea. It was brilliant as the people who worked there apparently found it awesome that I spoke english or was Australian or something, they got really excited about it. When I left I got these goodbyes from all the staff despite the fact I had hardly talked to any of them. Got to love people like that.
Did some more shopping with no wins in the department store and then headed back to the hotel. My hotel in Milan was actually really awesome. It was called Hotel Bel Sit and had pretty damn good rooms for the little I was paying. I found it reakly funny one day when I told them they really didn't need to clean my room and give me fresh towels every day so don't bother. The guy nodded but when I got back, apparently that is not possible! Your room must be cleaned! What was also great was the fact I could go out whenever I wanted and have a cup of tea. One of the guys who did most of the nights was awesome, whenever I got back he would ask me if I wanted a tea and so I would have a tea and a chat. Being starved for human contact this was definitely appreciated.
As I have not yet spoken much of food in Milan I better do that as it is really the most important part. I went out to a restaurant two nights. The first time I had a Milanese risotto with pork which is basically a saffron risotto. As well as a piece of apple cake and glass of wine. It was all really good and cheap! I found it down some dark street near the Brera and it was above an antique-y kind of shop which was cool.
My second restaurant was rather more expensive. But that is possible because I had a veal ossobucco with again a Milanese risotto and a small red. Then ricotta cake and they gave me these massive free biscuits which I could not quite manage to finish. It was all great though and the waitress was really nice, and possible bored as she said that it was very dead, I was the only one there for most of the time.
So the next stop was to be Brussels! I decided to catch the bus there as it was ridiculously cheaper. Interesting times to say the least. There was the massive confusion of 3 buses leaving at once so had no idea which one I should be on. I asked some guy and he asked like a million other people if it went to Brussels just to be completely sure which was quite funny. Sat next to a very chatty guy on the bus. His english was pretty good and it was good to chat but after a bit I was like just let me listen to my music so I can try to sleep! I couldn't though cos it would have seemed massively rude. He was Italian and lived in Holland, had been visiting his mother in Italy. I commented that that was a distance to travel and he was like, yeah its about 1300km! I was thinking ok, not so big. I had told him before that Adelaide was quite close to Melbourne and I was then like, he probably thinks we are like 100km away. Need to remember close/far have very different meanings here than in Aus!