Posts Tagged ‘milan’

Lake Como and Milan

28 April 2009

Ok. For real this time.

I was distracted by some work I had to do for Barnard (shocking, right?). But now all is well.

So where was I? Right, Lake Como.

Now, this is not Lake Como the neighborhood in Orlando.

lake-como

Nor the elementary school where I went to gifted one day a week in 2nd grade.

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This is the Lake Como that was the basis of the Naboo lake country in Star Wars EpII where Padme and Anakin fall in lurv.

naboo

However, before we could enjoy its radiant beauty, The Team and I had to get there. It was supposed to be a simple 1 hour train ride. But as we all learned from EA!P1, there is no such thing as a simple train ride. First, the automatic ticket machine would only let us buy one ticket at a time. Then it wouldn’t take JP’s euros. Then it spit out tickets with this mysterious instruction to “Validate” before getting on the train. At that point, the train was about 2 minutes away from departing, so we ran like crazy, all the while frantically trying to determine how and where to “validate” the ticket. We got to the train and just decided to get on, throwing validation caution to the wind.

So a few minutes into the trip, Mr. Conductor comes through. When I give him my ticket, his brow furrows, and the following exchange occurs.

MR. CONDUCTOR: I am speaking in Italian, so you can only understand what I am saying from body language and context clues based on what you learned in that little pocket guide to Italian. I’m shaking my head and pointing to where it says Validate on the ticket.
ME: Yes, oops, about that…Also, I am not sure what you are saying.
MC: Kids these days. I shall now pull out a large notebook that contains the Naughty List. Babbo Natale will be hearing about this one.
ME: Mi dispiache?
MC: Here is a carbon copy of your Naughty List entry. Now give me 5 euro each. Which is the fine. For not validating your tickets. Even though you bought them from a machine that seems like it would dispense immediately usable tickets.
THE TEAM: (pays).
MC: Now, don’t you ever not validate your ticket again. This is a horrible crime. You could be fined 50 euros! Though there seems to be a hole in my logic because I did not take any identifying information from you that would in anyway lead to a record of this offense. Now I shall say something probably at your expense to the Italian lady sitting next to you and be on my way. Ciao!

And then we almost missed our stop because I didn’t see the sign and The Team was sleeping. Save for a little Italian lady who probably asked me how many more stops to Chiasso (the only word she said that I recognized), we would’ve ended up in Switzerland (this we didn’t learn until later, upon consultation of a map). So we lept off the train at the last moment.

After a bit of wandering, we found some food, an ATM, the Tourist Information (my new best friend) and, most importantly, THE LAKE.

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Lake Como is shaped kind of like an upside down “Y,” and Como is the city at the bottom of the left “/” We took a bus along up to Belaggio, which is the town where the “/” and the “\” parts of the lake meet. More or less.

On the bus, I had to stand at first because there were no seats, but then I kept standing because it was kinda fun to hang my head out the window and take pictures during the hour long drive along windy narrow cliffside roads.

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Dogs: You are definitely onto something with this head out the window of a moving vehicle idea. We should talk.

From Belaggio, we took a short ferry across to Varenna.

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And climbed that GIANT hill of hugeness. At the top, we found both a castle and stunning vistas.

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It was truly incredible. The Team and I marveled at the fact that we were just chillin on top of a hill in the middle of Lake Como in Italy. I had lots of “OH EM GEE REMEMBER HOW I’M IN ITALY RIGHT NOW??” moments during the trip. Also, after we saw the little tiny village at the top of the hill, with the three old ladies on the bench chatting up a storm in Italian, and heard various churchbells from all of the mountains chime 6’oclock, I tried to explain “life romantic” to The Team. It was a life-romance-explosion.

We had a bit of gratuitous sleeping in the next day, due to post Lake Como exhaustion, and got a late start in Milan. Still, I managed to summon the strength to climb on top of Il Duomo.

And that was pretty cool.

Milan was interesting. It wasn’t my favorite city of the trip; it’s a lot more like a commercial/business center for Italy rather than a tourist havin, but I was glad we went.

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Milano: Not just a delicious cookie.

26 April 2009

Milano cookie:

milanoMilano, Italia:

postcard

Well, technically, I suppose that’s a postcard, but it illustrates my point.

So where were we? Leaving Nice, heading on to Milan via train. I think now would be an appropriate time to digress a tiny bit and talk a little bit about the Eurail Pass. 

eurail-001

The Eurail Pass is a magical little document that you buy ahead of time for a certain number of days of travel/combo of countries. And then you just flash that baby, theoretically, and it works like a train ticket. It comes with a booklet of all the timetables of all the cities and all the trains you could ride on with it. The timetables are written in code, and as we came to find out in the time leading up to EA!P1, all of the trains we would be taking require reservations ($$$).

So, we’re leaving Nice. At the train station, I validate my pass, and we do the Super Official Thing that is required: write the date in the box. This was the one train that didn’t need reservation, so we just hopped on. It was one of those double decker trains like you sometimes encounter on NJ Transit. We had a layover in Ventimiglia, which is about an hour from Nice (but in Italy). From there, the train to Milan required a reservation. Of course, the 1st train was delayed, so we missed the connection because we had to wait in line (with only one ticket agent) to make the reservation for the next train. No big.

Talking to the ticket lady was my first Italian!Victory because she didn’t speak English. High five, me. We got reservations (the cheapest ones too…only 5 euro) and wandered down to the beach and sat on a bench and people watched during our layover.

Back at the train station about 2 hours later, we found the train and got on the right carriage and discovered what can be best described as Hogwarts Express compartments. With slidy doors and luggage racks and curtains. And this annoying bushy haired girl came in asking if we had seen a nerdy kids toad. No jk. It was normal-seeming Italian teen girl (and we acquired a middle aged music fan/guitarist, a businessy man, and an adorable old man along the way).

When we got to Milan, DM’s friend C, who we stayed with, met us at the train station and kindly ushered us to his dorm, which was a bit of a hike. It was nice to be with someone who knows the way around for once. We had to ride the Metro, and then a tram to get out to his place. It was waiting for the tram that a crisis arose. The front desk guard from his building was also waiting. Unbeknownst to us prior to this, overnight guests were technically not allowed to stay, and Mr. Guard had just seen C and all of us burdened by backpacks, clear Overnight Staying Indicators. We formulated a stealth plan that evolved into us hiding behind bushes while C walked back in the building with his friends who were also getting back at the same time. Then we snuck in a secret side door that he opened from the inside, and ran into his room. Paranoia continued to plague our guilty minds–phantom boots (a la The Telltale Heart??) were heard in the hallway, so we spent about 5 mins huddled on his balconey with our belongings until danger passed. Then everything was totally fine. C’s friends donated extra blankets and pillows to make pseudo-sleeping bags, so thankfully we weren’t sleeping on the cold tile floor.

Wednesday morning, we got up bright and early for our day trip to Lake Como…

Sorry to leave you with a cliffhanger, but I’m going to have to say “To Be Continued”