Just a day, well an afternoon in Milan as I’d spent so much time there last year. But i’s lovely, in short doses!
Photos courtesy of @Timmy666
Just a day, well an afternoon in Milan as I’d spent so much time there last year. But i’s lovely, in short doses!
Photos courtesy of @Timmy666
Surprisingly for a religious country, shops and Christmas markets are open so late on Christmas Eve but then I realise why, they are not open on Boxing Day – not even the restaurants so I get by on McDonalds salad and fries. Although I was dying for soup as I actually had an appetite for it today, I’ve never in my life been so grateful for an open all hours McDonalds.
The festive lights are fantastic in Milan with all the neighbourhoods having their own colour.
My throat and cough however needed me to be indoors so each evening of the festive weekend I make my way wearily back to Watt Tredici Hotel and work my way through the MTV stations. It’s the first time I have seen Sky in a hotel and the first time I’ve heard English for which through my violent cough, I am very grateful for.
There was no room service for which the first time in my life I would have gladly paid extortionate prices to not leave the warmth for a day and recuperate. Four star status should be evident in the service too, not just the large white, modern art interior of the reception and the de rigger chocolate brown furniture and white linens in the bedrooms. (Jeez can we move on from this? I had that hotel look for my bedroom in c2000)
Believe me; thoughts of John Belushi dying along in a luxury hotel did cross my mind.
I saw Depeche Mode live; I knew they were more guitar than synthesiser these days but they are actually pretty rock n roll.
Also, George Michael live in London in 2008; now that man puts on a show.
The Take That documentary about Robbie coming back was probably aired in the UK umpteen times but I wouldn’t have cared to watch it. Gary should never have let him back, make friends by all means but leave him out of the team, he doesn’t deserve their success.
I also catch a lot of the Italian ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’, a show I have never watched in the UK but I was challenged by trying to figure out the question by looking at the answer options.
I notice that each day one show is shown on Italian TV that isn’t dubbed and I manage to catch Ugly Betty twice. Doesn’t seem like much of a treat but it was very welcome, I can tell you.
The sun comes out on Monday and I leave for Verona, feeling about 75% and much more in control of my symptoms.
So Milan, or Christmas Day never happened in 2010.
I’m not bothered about Christmas; in my mind I do all my celebrating on 1st-24th December with friends and relatives before I leave the UK but the hard work that’s gone into being able to have a holiday – well that’s just wasted.
Still it worked out well in that I went all out on a lovely hotel for the Christmas which I barely leave except to get food and it’s miles from civilisation (about two) but I knew that when I booked it. I’ve only been in Milan 8 weeks ago so this was just a chill-out time to ease me into the holiday whilst enjoying my first Italian Christmas.
Part three follows. Part one here
One thing I’ll remember about this year’s Christmas holiday; being ill.
Christmas Eve Symptoms; Sore throat, runny nose, aches, rash (around nose from excessive tissue use) lethargic, headache, no appetite, nausea – at the airport, straight after most expensive cereal bowl in the world, asthma.
Christmas Day – Sore throat, aches, lethargic, no appetite, rash (around nose from excessive tissue use), headache (from not eating), asthma = bad cough.
Boxing Day – aches, lethargic, low appetite, rash inside mouth, asthma – bad, violent cough, breathing problems.
Monday – asthma, mostly controlled, bad cough, violent cough at night.
Tuesday – getting much better, just the asthma cough.
I’m not one being ill, or at least I don’t acknowledge it and shoo away a cold with extra vitamin supplements and staying in for a couple of days. I’ve never had a day of sick – ever – so this really did shake me up.
I had what I thought was a little cold on the Tuesday before, which got worse than a little better on Thursday. I thought I’d be fine by the time my holiday came round on Friday.
After a very rough night at the airport hotel, I had to wake at 4 am to go the two miles to Luton airport. Thankfully, I’d booking into the very comfortable Days Inn who provided a private taxi as part of the service.
Not one for breakfast until at least 10am, I’d been up a couple of hours and felt I should force something down me. I had the most expensive cereal and orange juice ever as it came straight back up not five minutes later.The Easy Jet flight (ooh I miss those transatlantic comfortable flights) was so warm that at least the runny nose stopped for a while.
Despite my lack of sleep, a cold and now asthma, I go straight out when I reach the hotel in Milan. It’s a new neighbourhood to me and as advertised, it’s an up and coming area with not much around. My room isn’t ready yet anyway but when I come back after a very light lunch that stays down, I’m really glad I pushed the boat out for a luxury Christmas treat. The only thing that’s lacking is food – other than breakfast and a kettle, which of course otherwise I would never need being a coffee drinker but I can’t face coffee and really just need two hourly dozes of hot water and honey.
Part two follows
I’m grateful for seeing the season change during my favourite month
I’m grateful for celebrating yet another year of this wonderful life
I’m grateful for having my birthday dinner in Purnells which if memory serves me right, is only the second Michelin starred restaurant I’ve eaten in
I’m grateful to share my birthday with many of my new Birmingham friends mixed with a couple of old ones
I’m mightily grateful to add yet another travel adventure to the many I have already experienced. A break in Milan was also just what I needed to refresh mind, body and soul.
I sit under the outside heater with my laptop and wonder why the rest of the patrons are not at work at 9am. It’s still raining but I decide I have the time and inclination to get soaked whilst having a last walk through Milan.
I really want to go up and down those side streets that I spotted last night when we were looking for an open restaurant at 7.45pm. So I do.
45 minutes of walking up and down cobbled, almost empty streets peering into the windows of closed designer show rooms and it’s time to walk back to the hotel. As I come out onto the main street, I realise I’m only a few minutes away from the hotel and 30 minutes away from the taxi to take us on our journey back home.
It’s been ten years since I was last in Italy although not in Milan. I did fly back from Milan last time and as the plane took off, I noticed the biggest ever advert which simply stated ‘Giorgio Armani’ like the designer was the airport’s sponsor.
That and a lifelong study made me think that Milan, more than Florence, Rome, Venice and even gorgeous Verona will have row upon row of designer stores.
I’d expected them to be scattered across the city like McDonalds. I certainly expect there to be flagship homage to the great and good of Italian fashion. But no, they are mostly tucked away in a little area known as the ‘Fashion District’ and these are not for the average consumer; no these are for serious collectors, fashion buyers and editors. They certainly don’t look open. None of that spoilt my enjoyment of spotting each and every delectable store of course.
My favourite thing about visiting Italy is that I know every coffee will be great, no matter where I buy it from. The first day in the hotel was suspect but much improved when they made a fresh pot; they were replicating ‘American’ coffee for the tourist and I guess because it‘s lot easier for them if we can help ourselves rather than employing someone to make each cup.
However, ten years later, I’ve forgotten that big coffees don’t exist here so I cannot linger with a book or indeed my net book. I’ve yet to see what the world calls ‘Italian coffee’, I call sickly milky stuff and you will probably call latte in Italy.
On the other hand, I so rarely have it in the UK it’s lovely to spend a few mornings filled with cappuccinos.
Discoveries: McDonalds’ McCafe, complete with above average coffee – i.e. better than most UK coffee shops (I said ‘most’) and I had no trouble finishing of the Tiramisu too. In regular cafes, coffee ranged from €2.80 to €4 and that’s just when I noticed the price so the €1.10 for a decent cup in McCafe is refreshing (excuse the pun).
Old discoveries that thankfully still hold true; fabulous coffee, pizzeria on every street, pasta at every cafe and everyone speaks English when they shouldn’t have to!
I love Italy!
Adventures in Milan – Day 4Sunday Best
Today has always had rain forecast so ‘they’ did not disappoint us. However, I’m one step ahead as I keep the Cathedral, the main tourist attraction (apart from the sport that is Versace shop spotting) for today.
We get to the part where the lift takes us up to the roof. This part costs €8 to see and there are no lines so we are easily outside and on the roof to see the magnificent detail of the Duomo in seconds. After our descent, by stairs – I’m feeling energetic – it’s still raining but my plan for us to spend an hour or two inside the dry cathedral is thwarted. There isn’t the line of people as there was yesterday because they are not letting anyone in. We decide to try again towards the end of the afternoon rather than try to get a translation as to why.
In the meantime I’ve come to realise that unlike any other city in the world that relies partly on the billions €€€ spent by tourists every year to survive and flourish, Milan doesn’t. There is barely a sign to point out places of interest for us to spend our hard earned pounds in. It does feel like there are Milanese secrets and us the tourists are not invited in.
The shrine to Versace is still not evident and whilst I know there will be at least one Versace store in Milan, just like in every other major shopping city in the world, my point is that they don’t make the most of their fashion heritage. I’m gobsmacked that D&G, Armani and especially Versace are not more prominent. By now surely we have walked nearly every street around the ‘fashion district’ and I’d have expected to see a handful of each spread around the city.
And no, I don’t see the point of searching on my rubbish internet connection to find out where they are; I don’t need to shop there, the point is I expect all these designers to have a high profile here.
Back at the cathedral there is a line waiting formed with a multitude of umbrellas but we still get inside within a few minutes. It’s worth the effort to see inside what has now become a magical place, one that I seem to be able to spot from whatever neighbourhood I’m in.
Whilst thinking on where to eat on the last night (we never did find anywhere ‘dressy’ to eat) I recall the two recommendations I’d received from a fashion editor via Twitter. With the lack of reliable internet access, we only found the street name for one and duly set out for Sunday evening dinner.
The last supper
As we turn into Via Montenapoleone, I realise this is where I’d noticed the sign pointing to the Four Seasons this morning but we’d decided to turn on the next one. Of course it’s where all the fashionistas would come, its where are all the designer show rooms and offices are. Sure enough there is the predicted Versace (we’d seen most of the others by now) but just a little Versace ‘blue’, not a big shrine in ‘gold’. Disappointing.
In the dark rain, we don’t find the restaurant – it must have been on a side street- so we carry on to two more. Both times, we step inside; put our wet umbrellas down only to be told they are closing. It’s not yet 8pm. On the second one we even check the closing time first, 10pm. They still tell us they are closed, after we have shaken brollies, stepped right inside the place and started taking hats and coats off. The shops are closed now so I guess the market is not there but it’s still odd.
We find something to eat in what looks like a family chain, Brek and go back to the hotel. Later in the evening, it’s just a small crema ice cream for me on the last night in Milan.
Final part to follow.
Today I met with my friend and the we hit the tourist trail; the church that has ‘The Last Supper’ in it, that we discover we can only book to see by phone, before hand, the castle that has a nice photo exhibition of before and after photos and entertainment in the back yard and the famous La Scala which is so tiny, blink I we won’t see the theatre. Then we move onto the real culture of Milan, the shopping district.
Prada is here, along with Gucci bag shop and a few others but that’s it under the gorgeous covered domes. My friend is quite taken with the fact that people are still smoking although we’re technically undercover but not as much as she is with the little Gucci coffee shop.
We both agree that the McCafe here with a view of Louis Vuitton does have acceptable coffee in addition to very agreeable pastries.
By now I am shocked that that I still have not seen any Versace or Armani in 3 days of walking the streets of Milan. By now and especially here in the shopping district I expect to see a shrine to Versace at the very least. I don’t know about every other tourist in the world but I expect to see the big Italian fashion names in the heart of Milan. It’s just odd that they don’t maximise on their heritage.
Still the restraining order that they appear to have put on Starbucks more than makes up for not seeing a Versace I’m not buying anything in.
Gucci, Gucci, wherefor art thou, Gucci?
Not that I need to buy anything from there but it’s just odd that of the hundreds of shops I’ve seen whilst mooching about today, not one is Gucci or Armani or Versace for that matter. Some American designers have a presence and there’s a Vivien Westwood around the corner but of the Italians, I’ve just seen Dolce & Gabanna. I’ve seen a Gucci shopping bag but that doesn’t count.
There are a few lingerie chains so as it should be, Italians like to look good from the underside out. There is comfort in the lack of skyscrapers although a Pirelli one is highlighted on the map. I think I’ve spotted it – now that they mention it – but I would say it’s just a tall building.
Thankfully my research into Starbucks is correct; there are none!
As was my previous experience of McDonalds in Florence ten years ago, their food is better here. However, now it is improved even more; McCafe Italiano serves Tiramisu, amongst other delights and has decent coffee. Don’t think I’ll be trying the coffee back home though.
There is a downside to everything being so fast in Milan; I can’t slow down for a coffee. In the USA, I’d happily spend an hour or two relaxing with a book or magazine, or just writing in a comfortable coffee shop. Here, as in Madrid, they have lots of stand up coffee places and the coffee only comes in one size, tiny, so I can’t linger with it. It’s ridiculously expensive too. Last night, paid €2.80 for espresso and this morning €4 for cappuccino! It’s all delicious of course.
Right, off to choose this evening’s gelato to see if I can beat last night’s latte & nutty soya combo.
Our plane leaves half an hour late but arrives just 10 minutes after time. For the first time in my life I am earliest on the plane, I’m usually about last as I don’t see the point of sitting on a plane when you have several hours to go. This though is my first European trip in years so a short hop in comparison to two decades of transatlantic flights.
This is the flight they ask me if I’d like more leg room and to sit by the exit door, the one that’s barely enough long enough for me to read the Post and get into my book (read 4 pages). Still I take my ‘emergency door operator’ responsibilities seriously and for once read the instructions. They don’t trust me though and the steward gives me one-to-one tuition. You’re reading this so thankfully I didn’t need my new knowledge.
The only thing about flying out from Birmingham is that I don’t have a chance to experience Air Italia’s food and service but that’s not enough to get me to fly out from London. I do have another theory why my two favourite colours are red and green; I’ve recently come to the conclusion that it’s because I love Christmas but as we land and I spot the Air Italia plane, it could just be the Italian flag.
I immediately feel under par as soon as I arrive at the airport; everyone here is ultra glam, slim & stylish. It’s been ten years and I’ve forgotten how easy the Italians make it look.
I decide to risk an Italian taxi and not only survive but I’m pleasantly surprised that the cab driver rounds down from €10.10 rather than waiting for me to say, ‘make it €12’.
As I start to walk around to get my bearings every woman I see is the same. Even their unkempt hair looks glamorous; everyone has colour and perfect haircuts so I don’t think there’s any such thing as natural hair here.
In amongst the abundance of mainly Italian designer shops I come across a book shop that specialises in automobile reads. I spot the Duomo, the much talked about cathedral a couple of times but I’m saving that for a rainy day and when my friend flies out to join me.
I’m writing this at Passarella Cafe on a main street sitting outside under a canopy but the outdoor heating is so warm, I can take my coat off. There’s no menu so how is everyone else ordering? I’ll settle for pretty much anything in Italy as I know even the fast food tastes good. I love this!
I’m amazed how I’ve managed to write 500 words with the distractions of both perfectly coiffed hair and Fendi shopping bags walking past me
The downside is that everyone smokes. The two on my left have their unlit cigarettes poised ready for as soon as they have inserted their last mouthful but I guess my asthma can take that for a few days. In any case, rain is due so I’m staying outside as much as I can until then.
Now, it’s time for my first coffee in Italy. The first of many as the 2 daily cups rule goes out the window here; this the real deal.
Day 2 follows.