Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Upon arriving at the train station in Milan, Italy, we ran around in confusion trying to figure out just how we were going to get to our hotel. We decided that the metro would do the trick so headed downstairs to get tickets. Hanging out by the ticket machines was a very helpful young woman who insisted on pressing the buttons for you and then asking for money. I said "Sorry, no" while reaching down into that dark, apathetic place that resides in us all, grabbed my tickets and headed for my metro. I feel like such a priviledged jerk when I don't give them money, but it's not like I asked for her help or even wanted it. I will not be guilted or obliged into giving my money away! We managed to make it onto our metro and to our hotel with just a tad bit of snapping at each other and some icy silences, but otherwise unscathed. It was a nice sort of place except for the internet. I had been lead to believe that internet was complimentary with the price of the room, bot noooo. It was €5.00 for one hour. That's $7.50 for one hour! And then we were offered two hours for €5.00 or 24 hours for €10.00. We didn't need 24 hours for our two night stay... So that was a bit frustrating and we ended up with no internet. After settling in for a bit we got hungry. We asked the guy at the front desk where a good pizza place was around the hotel, but he was new to the area and didn't know. On the bright side he turned outt o be Spanish and Chuck got to practice his Spanish some more, even though we were now in Italy. We walked down the street and around the corner keeping our eyes open. We settled on a little place called Fly Pizza (whether because of the numerous flies in the place that insisted on sharing your pizza, or because the pizza was so awesome that it was "fly", I'm not sure). They turned out to have some really good pizza, my favorite being the Fly Pizza II that was covered in doner meat (the stuff the use in kebaps) and covered with the garlic white sauce. Man was it good!

We woke up on the 29th with continually itching bed bug bites and some fading sunburns (I might have forgotten to mention that Chuck and I managed to get pretty burned on our hike up the mountain) but managed to get out to see the city despite all that. We caught the tram and ended up getting a free ride because we thought you could buy tickets on the tram, but turns out we were wrong! The driver's apparent apathy meant we ended up with free ride to the Duomo. Although there are numerous "duomos" throughout Italy (afterall, "duomo" is italian for "church") this one is one of the more impressive ones. The outside is more impressive than the inisde according to Chuck. Robyn and I wouldn't know because we weren't allowed to go inside due to the fact that we were wearing sleeveless shirts. In Italy they stick pretty rigidly (especially in the big, well-visited churches) to the rules of "No sleeves, no long pants/skirt, no service." I assume it's done out of respect for the snctity of the church. I sort of think it's BS, but on the otherhand, it's their church and they can do what they want. So no big deal really. But we did learn that we needed to bring along a cover-up in the future. This is also where we first ran into a scam where a friendly-seeming person (usually an African man (I assume they're African by the accent)) physically attempts to tie a little frienship bracelet onto your wrist - just like the ones we all made in middle school - and then asks you for money for the bracelet. We managed to avoid falling into this trap despite being approached about five times. The first guy that came up to us was kind of funny, asking if we were African because Chuck had us, his "two wives" with him. They all seemed to like that "Oh, you are African, yes??" line. After fending a few of those guys off we walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is a big, fancy arcade that is home to some of the high-end shops in the city. I noticed a Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and of course McDonalds in there. The arcade is actually pretty impressive in it's size and detail. And as you pop out the other end of the arcade you find yourself in a busy little square with a fun statue, trees, and an oh-so-popular-for-some-reason drinking fountain. It's not a drinking fountain like you would think of in the US, but more like a fancy spigot with a continually running stream of water. One could fill their water bottle easily this way, or just do a quick rinse of thier hands if they were feeling a little OCD. But I learned from watching another savvy fountaineer that if you stick your finger on the spigot, blocking it's flow, the water pops out in a traditional water-fountain-like stream from another hole in the top. How clever is that?? So I had me a nice refreshing drink of cold water. One of the buildings bordering the square was housing a very temporary-looking exhibit about Leonardo DaVinci and his many, many invensions. We stepped in a looked around briefly. Oh, there was this small, old Italian woman who was having some trouble with one oft he displays. The display was a big four foot wide touch-screen image of one of DaVinci's sketchbooks. To turn the pages you touch the edge of a page and drag your fingers across the screen, effectually pulling the page over. She, however, was having a hell fo a time doing this and after about seven attempts (while the rest of us stood around getting a slightly agravated) she looked with innocent frustration saying something or other in Italian. So Robyn and I ended up turning pages for her. She was actually kind of cute! Across the square from that exhibit was the famous Teatro Alla Scalla. It was opened in 1778 and was the premiere theater for a number of works including Norma in 1831 and Madame Butterfly in 1904. It is also where Maria Callas made her official debut in 1951. Unfortunately we were unable to go on a tour of the building, although Robyn did pay to see the museum section. It's not the most impressive building by any means, but it's got a lok of history. Next stop was Castello Sforzesco. It was original seat of power of the ruling family in Milan - the Sforzas - back in the 1400's. Now it houses a couple of museums, some feral cats, and more of those guys who try to put the friendship bracelets on you. It was a cool place I suppose, but nothing really exciting. After stopping in an American bookstore for a bit we spotted a crowd of people and went to investigate. There was a man carving things out of food sitting cross-legged on the ground. He had parsnips, carrots and beets strewn on the ground around him while he serenly carved away at a swan, or an owl, or a flower. He was fast too! Each creation took only a couple of minutes. Robyn and I were entranced by him and Chuck had to almost literally drag us away finally. We satisfied our starving bodies with paninis from a hole-in-the-wall (I do mean hole-in-the-wall) place. They had over 100 paninis on the menu, it was so overwhelming to have to choose one. It was very good stuff though. Oh, we went back to La Scala again and found there was a chorus singing in fromt of the place. As far as I could tell it was a chorus that was on a trip together for vacationing and decided to pay tribute to the theater by singing right there for the whole world and God to see. It was really cool - the sound echoed well in the little arcade. And the ride home sucked because we tried to get away with a free ride again, but didn't. We were caught and fined €32 each... Ouch! They just calmly wrote us a ticket and had us pay right then and there. The woman was a bit of a shrew, but the guy she was with was actually kind of nice. That sure put a damper on our day. But after a few hours sulking back at the hotel we said "Screw that" and traipsed out to McDonalds for some internet and comfort food. Actually, I tried to just buy two hours of internet from our hotel at first, but the guy who was at the desk was now telling me it was €8 instead of the previously quoted €5. I was ready to shell out €5, but instead they got nothing! Hah! I laugh in their faces. Inside my head. Hah.

We woke up on the 30th, checked out of the hotel, tried to buy tickets on the underground train but the machines were all broken so we got another free ride, although this time it was unintentional and we actually tried to find someone to pay. Then we got our train tickets and hung around at the station forever until it was time to go to Venice!

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