I’m back all. Terribly sorry for the long absence and lack of updates. Please accept my apologies for all the heartache I have caused.
My last post was a hastily penned/typed missive from my a plane/hostel in Milan with promises to try and keep the blog up to date. Well, that didn’t quite work out. So for the next couple weeks I will be posting once or twice a week about the trip, and adding a few handy travel tips and thoughts on travelling along the way.
First Stop Milano
My first few days were spent in Milano. I was a little dumbstruck by the simple idea of ‘holidaying’ at this point. The notion that I could simply get up, take in a museum or two, a walk in the park perhaps, and then open a bottle of wine having achieved all I had to for the day was almost too much. I am sure you can guess that I was not struck dumb for long.
I was fortunate enough to have landed in Milan at the very beginning of their Film Festival. I was not just lucky to be able to attend the festival, but also because it seems to bring Milan to life. After attending a film I was sitting at the festival’s bar and struck up a conversation with a local. I asked him whether he was from Milan, and when he replied in the affirmative I said what a fine city it was. I was rather surprised when his response was a snort of derision*. He reckoned that Milan is a bit of a shit hole, good for business but that is about it; and that the town only comes alive twice a year: during Fashion Week, and during the film festival.
Before I made it to the festival I spent a lot of time getting completely lost. After an especially long day of side streets, dead ends, parks that I could have sworn were not on the map, right turns, wrong turns, left turns and u-turns I came across this ad for Nike. I understood.
As I was wearing Converse, I feel the change is justified.
But it was on my second day after another mammoth wander that I bought two quarts of Heineken and headed for the park. I loved the Parco Sempione with the Castello Sforzesco on one side and the Arch of Peace on the other. The arch was originally commissioned by Napoleon, but after his defeat at Waterloo it was dedicated to European Peace reached in 1815. I found a girl sketching it
The Castello Sforzesco is chock full of museums and galleries. After thinking I had visited them all (about 3 1/2 hours of museuming) I checked the map and realised I had only done one wing; that’s when I opted for the beers. One of the more famous works housed here is the Rondanini Pietà, Michelangelo‘s last sculpture.
I have a pic of it to prove that I was there.
But far more awesome was this wonderful piece :
Again, sorry for the poor quality pic. But how awesome is this guy? He was positioned toward the back of a church to scare the churchgoers into a state of repentance. It took all of my willpower to not turn the handle.
Right. So after finishing Travels with Herodotus by the Polish Journalist Ryszard Kapuściński – a great book for travellers and historians alike – along with my two quarts in the park, and not being able to face another gallery. Bought some more beer, sunbathed, and then bought some tickets for the film festival.
On my way back to the hostel to freshen up I again noticed how people in Milan stop when the little red man says so. On my first day walking I was strolling up to a pedestrian crossing with a group of people when the traffic light changed to red. Seeing that there were no cars in sight I stepped into the road and found myself alone, cut off from the herd. As I was walking I noticed the disappearance of my foot powered peers and turned to see where they had gone. What I saw was a set of disapproving faces intimating that I had made some sort of pedestrian faux pas. It turns out this is a Northern thing and down south the Italians have the same healthy disregard for traffic laws as us saffas.
I went to see two films. Well I tried to see two. The first was The Secret of Kells, which was crack for the eyeballs. A beautiful animated film telling a story of how a boy helped to write the Famous Book of Kells. Next up was Dead Man as part of a Jim Jarmusch retrospective. I had befriended one of the organisers and we were sitting in great seats waiting for the film to start. After a quick pre-recorded hello from Jim, the film began.
I then faced a slight problem. During the previous film I had worked my way through the majority of a bottle of wine. That, and the effects of all my strolling were waging war against the muscles keeping up my eyelids. The muscles lost. I woke with a start to thunderous applause. The film was over. I joined in the clapping. My organiser friend was obviously not impressed as he left without saying a word. I wonder if I snored?
The film I missed
The next day or two was taken up by more walking and exploring, and sipping cold beer al the while. Italians love to drink in the street. Coming out of a church I saw a beautiful blonde in high heels sauntering down the street as if on a runway with shopping bags in one hand (they love to shop in Milan) and a beer in the other.
So that was Milan. I used this part of the trip to come to terms with doing very little whilst scoffing buffalo mozzarella. Reading and sampling various wines from the supermarket, picked pretty much at random, were my evening pursuits. This was done from the comfort of our hostel’s little balcony.
There was also the Duomo:
A Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator:
And lots of these:
So that was Milan – for now anyway. I found a city that bustles with clean clothes, long legs and designer sunglasses. It seemed modern and business like. Wealthy and attractive. My holiday had begun. My next stop was Portugal, where I would spend a week with Dirk Niepoort in the Douro.
*“snort of derision” is a rather hackneyed phrase that I tend to avoid. But this man’s snort could only described as such. And from now on I will measure all others’ snorts by this man’s most typical, perfect derisive one.