It was a quick train ride to Milan. From Milan Central station I had to catch the green like to Gorgonzola. I asked a few people and, with the help of a team of people who each knew a few different words of English, I was on my way.
When I got off the train I called Matteo, the man at whose house I was staying. He had said that he would pick me up upon arrival.
His home was a beautiful loft in an industrial building and he had a lovely little dog named Kunu. After giving me time to smother the dog with hugs and kisses Matteo showed me to my room. It was nice and large with a single bed and doors to a balcony.
Matteo set me up with wifi and told me I could use his bike to go back to the train station – I did.
I got a little bit lost on the bike but eventually found my way. I am so glad and thankful that he allowed me to use his bike. It was a good 10 minute ride and I was cruising!
I locked the bike up at the station and took the 40 minute train ride back into the city.
Day 1: Shopping in Milan
I did not really have an itinerary for the day but was eager to look around. After some googling I learned that the original ‘Freddy’ store was in Milan and not far from the station. I headed that way.
I asked directions only once (a new record) and found the street. It was very obviously a shopping street but not the most expensive one in the city. I saw the Freddy store kiddy corner down the road and headed in. There were so many kinds and colours I was overwhelmed. Thankfully a very nice lady with decent English explained the differences to me and I picked out a few colours.
After squeezing in to some – yes squeezing… these pants are tight! – I decided that I liked the jean ones and a dark grey pair that were on sale. They were pretty expensive but they were comfortable and looked great. Most of my jeans are around $20 but these ones were… well… more. I decided to splurge.
I headed out onto the street now in the shopping mood (uh oh is right). I found a store that seemed similar to H&M but had some nice new trendy clothes. I am not a big fashion person but decided that since I was in Milan I would get something that was ‘up with the times’. I purchased a black crop top and a thick gold chain, similar to what I had seen my brothers girlfriend wearing. She is a fashion merchandiser and the most trendy girl I know so I hoped she would approve.
I continued down the street in search of a nice dress. I was heading to Monte Carlo in 2 days and wanted something nice to wear, since it is the richest place in Europe – maybe the world? I asked one sales lady where the main shopping street was. She wasn’t strong in English but said there was no ‘main’ shopping. I walked down the street and asked a lady how to get to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a place I had read about online as being the oldest shopping mall in the city – it would probably have keystone stores. I was directed to walk down the street for only 15 minutes – jackpot!
When I got there I found that I had been right. There were stores of all shapes, sizes, and price ranges. I did not want a dress from a cheap store but also can’t quite afford Michael Kors or Chanel (yet), so I settled on a store I had not heard of. I wandered around for a bit and then a black dress caught my eye. I tried it on and instantly fell in love (obviously… because I was in the shopping mood and that is just what happens). The sales lady gave me heels to try on with it and I looked… BAM!
Now I was done. Second most expensive city of the trip and it was only the first day!
I kept wandering down the street aimlessly wondering what to do next (since I was running out of cash). Just then I looked up and BOOM – Duomo.
This had been on my ‘history’ itinerary for tomorrow but I guess I was closer than I thought. This was really working out well! I basked in its Gothic white glory for a little while and sat on a ledge in the piazza to people watch for a few minutes. Before leaving, I took a few selfies and some ‘artistic’ shots to enjoy later.
I had not eaten since breakfast so this was my new quest. I did not have to wander far before finding a nice little sandwich shop with wifi. I had a strawberry milkshake and a panini and checked in on Facebook – you know, the usual.
After eating (… ok… after my phone died…) I found my way home through the extremely convenient and straight forward metro line. Before returning to the apartment I stopped at a super market and grabbed my go-to smoked salmon and cream cheese for snacking later and yogurt and berries for breakfast.
That’s right. It’s laundry time again. Luckily for me the place I was staying had a washer and he allowed me to use both it and his soap for free – honestly, best airbnb ever.
While it ran I did some writing, facebooking, and overall computering.
Europeans are not big on dryers. They are either expensive or non existent. The place had some metal portable clothes racks outside to dry so I strung all my clothes outside, as well as set up a line with my handy-dandy twine – THANKS NICOLE.
I noticed, however, that not all of my clothes were clean. I didn’t want to cause a fuss so I re-washed most of them in the bathroom sink – Getting my old-school house-wife on.
Day 2: History
Today was ‘History day’. My best friend is a history major and would be very disappointed in me if I did not do at least a little bit of sight seeing and appreciating the ‘old times’ (she may also kill me for using that term).
I caught the train back into the city and found my way to Sforzesco Castle. It seemed much older than any other I had seen recently and was exactly how you would imagine a castle. Brick, moat, square castle-like bumps on top of a cylindrical tower, and a draw-bridge (which was actually now modern… probably for safety reasons).
I was both surprised and pleased to find that it was free to enter. There were rooms and museums inside that were paid but I could enjoy the courtyard for free.
Friend or Foe-tographer
I was wandering around when a guy asked me to take his picture. I, in return, asked if he could take mine. We were both clearly alone and tired of selfies so we got to talking. He lived in Milan and was a journalist for a fashion magazine. He was doing some sight-seeing and tourism writing before fashion week started in September.
We decided to walk around in the castle for a while and then he offered to show me some sights around Milan. Perfect! A tour guide.
Our tour turned into a photoshoot. His camera had died but he loved to take pictures. He took pictures of me in front of every monument and attraction. It was wonderful to not have the camera full of selfies that I had expected for the day.
He walked me back past the duomo and through another section of the square that I had not seen – the ACTUAL Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II building with the stunning ceilings. He took my photo in front of Prada and Louis Vuiton and out in front of the famous ‘teatro’ on the other side. He then guided me over through the famous 4 streets with all of the expensive stores – those which I felt I couldn’t even afford to look at.
Out the other side, and once I was almost in tears staring at the shoes worth more than my life, he walked me through a lovely park behind the Museum of Natural History. A few more photos were taken of course – tossing in a few fancy poses.
He eventually had to leave for an appointment. My plan for the day was to go see “The Last Supper” but the Museum of Natural History seemed so much more interesting.
I wandered back over the the building to check the prices and times. Only 5 euros! Well that seemed reasonable. But when I got inside the lady handed me a ticket and said “free”. Why free? I did not want to stick around and ask in case she found me to be a fraud who did not deserve the free ticket. I quickly scooted off into the first hall.
IT WAS AMAZING. I had absolutely no idea what any of it said and I found myself very confused at some of the displays, but it was wonderfully designed and so easy to navigate.
I walked around for well over an hour, taking pictures of things that were beautiful, that I wanted to look up later, and that simply confused me. I also took a few selfies since my personal photographer was no longer with me.
This was probably one of the nicer museums I
had ever been in. And then there was a second floor! Here I found elephants and realistic animals and stories told through pictures. It was heaven. Other than the freezing temperature (most likely to keep the animals frozen in position) it was an extremely enjoyable afternoon.
When I left I sat outside in the sun and thawed for a little while before grabbing lunch and the best gelato I had had yet (3 flavours: Pistachio, Chocolate, Strawberry – highly recommended).
After I ate I wandered back towards central station. I passed a few stores and thankfully nothing caught my eye. Then I thought of souvenirs… Of course… So… into stores I went and out of stores I came with bags on each arm. I can’t resist!
I eventually made it home, packed, slept, and got a ride (thanks Matteo) back to the train station.
Train #1 – Milan to Genoa
Waiting for the train was short and painless. I got a sandwich and an ice-cream while I waited and watched an old hunchback lady hobble around with a cane crying with her hands out. It was heartbreaking.
When I got on the train my arms decided that they were going to rebel and simply would not lift my bag up into the overhead rafters. It took a few tries before I managed to nearly throw it up onto the top (and likely nearly throw my back out).
I sat down, exhausted, in the chair across from it and asked a young man how long the train was (I hoped for time for my arms to rest before I had to do it all over again). About 2 hours I think? But I can’t actually remember.
My asking of the time was the opening to a conversation. I eventually switched seats to sit across from him (and also to sit forward since riding backwards makes me motion sick). He was from Genoa and was just coming home from vacation to study for his exams in Ship Engineering (obviously not a course at UofC). His English was intermediate and we managed to understand each other just enough (though some ‘google translate’ occurred). We went through my Europe translations guidebook and talked about our mutual love for the spanish language and chatted introductions.
Eventually the train came to a halt. He asked me if he could buy me lunch and a coffee. I still had to buy my ticket to the next stop so told him it would depend on when that came. The next train was in 10 minutes and the next was not for an hour and a half… I decided I could use a break from the train and would go for lunch. He took me to a little focaccia place near the station. After my first piece of focaccia ever (really just deep-fried bread) he took me to his friends coffee shop – All Day Bar – where we sat for a little bit (since my tea took a lot longer to drink than his espresso). After that he offered to carry my bag and show me around the area a little bit. I told him he would regret that offer but agreed with pleasure. We wandered up Genoa’s big XX Septembre street and down past a few shops before heading back to the train. There he waited with me for my train (which was another 15 minutes late) and gladly handed back my bag. It was a very lovely stop over and I made a great new Facebook friend.
Train #2 – Genoa to Ventimiglia
This had to be the most painful train of my life… There were no outlets and both my computer and phone were dead. It was a 3 hour journey through 1000 tunnels (during which I held my breath and counted to ignore my overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia).
The only memorable thing about this trip, aside from my anxiety, was the overly passionate 15 year-olds that were near-sex in the seats across from me. Not only were they making out like this train was heading off a cliff, they were
literally straddling each other (completely on top of each other in one seat). What’s worse, there were two 5 year-olds with them that were jumping on them and hugging them, and being prematurely introduced to such extreme demonstrations of PDA. I could barely watch… but… since it was like a car accident… and I had no entertainment… I did anyway, in hopes that my staring may stop it – it didn’t.
We eventually made it to Ventimiglia.
Train #3 – Ventimiglia to Nice
This had to be the… BEST train of my life. I met 2 very very lovely and friendly Canadian girls from Ottawa and we hit it off immediately. We spent the whole journey chatting and becoming friends.
When we got to Nice they walked me to the bus (which had now stopped running) and then to the taxi where we made plans to go to Monte Carlo the next day together… YAYYYYYYYYYYYY!
- Duomo – Milan Cathedral
- Piazza del Duomo
- The last Supper – Santa Maria Delle Grazie (Saw National History Museum instead)
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
- Fashion District
- Sforzesco Castle
- Central Station