Monday, October 6, 2014

Oh, where is my Hairbrush?

While Milan was almost a full 3 months ago, the impression of it still sticks with me and it quickly has shot up to one of my favorite cities in Europe.  I would say it has all the fashion of Paris, with the hospitality of the Italians.  Perfecto.  Needless to say, I felt my time (working) in Milan was fantastic.

After almost 24hrs of travel, I was awake enough to navigate the train and the metro to make it to my home for the week.  And I did what I always do when I get in - take a nap. :) But by 3, I was on the metro headed to the center.  While on the train, we were 'serenaded' by a guy with a speaker and a microphone...putting me in the right mood to talk with a cute guy who came up to talk to me when we got to the Duomo.  I ended up walking the city with him and a couple of his friends (they were Romanians, living in Italy).  He was a bit of a spaz, but harmless.

We walked all around the center, twirled around 3 times with our heels on the bulls balls in the shopping center (see below), meandered through the castle (me in front of said castle below), looked for gelato (and finally found some), and generally had a pleasant time, but I was getting tired of them and hungry for real food.

Which led me to what I hoped was food, but instead was just a bar, so I had an aperitif (Straf Bar) and then for a pizza.  I ended up at that bar at least 2 more times before I left.  It was cozy, and appeared to be a place where locals would go to hang out.  And I can say that I am a big fan of spritz's.

The rest of my food and drink week was amazing, but rather than bog this down, I'll post that separately (Restauranting - Milano).  But for a 'taste'... here's a sample of what I had:

We found the old city with the last remaining canals (and I of course got eaten alive by mosquitos and ended up with cankles...) and I got to have dinner with my friend, Jon, from Seattle who just happened to be popping through during the same week.  Also, in our search for a spot to watch the British football match (we were unsuccessful, as even the British pub was only showing the Italy game), we happened into a quaint little place that was packed people watching the Italians play, we were the odd men out, but the owner showed us some great hospitality in getting food and drink while the game was on.
Church with the Last Supper
What the city used to look like
The streets of Milan
I ended up staying in Milan for the weekend, and while I wasn't able to get tickets to see the Last Supper, I did walk through the adjacent church, all around the square (was hoping to see the Duomo with a friend, but that never happened and as such, I never did make it in the big church), into the Modern Art museum, around the castle to relax and write postcards, shopped a little, ate some more, and generally just had a relaxing 2 days in the city.  My favorite church was a recommendation from my friend Jon - it's a cool optical illusion to be sure!
One of my favorite experiences was sitting down at a cafe for dinner (now sometimes I have problems picking where to eat, I over-think it, find a place on Yelp or TripAdvisor that looks good, but when I walk past it, I am not interested or don't realize I've walked past and then I get all awkward about wanting to turn around and look like I'm lost).  But after walking for quite a bit, and getting away from the largely touristy areas, I found a great wine and food bar.  Here I sat, read, and had a chef's choice 3-course meal.  Near the end of the meal, a girl who was sitting nearby struck up a conversation and invited me to join them for drinks.  Who am I to turn down making friends?  It was a fun evening with a makeup artist, an architect, and a socialite who is known for throwing fantastic parties.  While I was invited to go, and the girl added herself as a friend on Facebook, she never did accept her own request.  Alas, it was fun to hear about anyway.
The city of Como
After working in the city, I headed to the lake...of course hoping to see the famed George Clooney, but instead maybe only seeing a glimpse of where he lives.  Como was great, albeit a little stormy at the time.  It was an easily navigable town, but it is fairly quiet and the center is deserted early on.  I had 2 days in town, and spent one day wandering (in the pouring rain, refusing to buy an umbrella from the street peddlers) and popping into little places for coffee or wine.  I took the streetcar up the hill and the ferry to Bellagio (not to be confused with the Vegas monstrosity, or the sister hotel of the "Pellagio", aka the Palazzo...).

I popped onto the the slow ferry, so it took 2 1/2 (very hungry) hours to get to the city.  And of course once there, I popped into the first place I saw....haha, no of course not.  I wandered and checked Yelp, and wandered a bit more.  I did find a semi-hidden little wine bar where I had a wonderful eggplant cheesy lasagna (pictured above in the food preview).  It was worth the wait, but I wouldn't go until 2pm before I eat again - not advisable.

I asked my waiter for advice on a swimming spot and he recommended the tip of the town.  Off I head in search of a place to bathe...only to find a restaurant and a boat mooring spot.  I of course go into awkward mode and decide I guess I'll have a glass of wine - only to meet the above scooter driver.  After serving me wine, I asked where a place to go in the water was.  He says, oh I'm headed to swim after I leave here.  I can show you.  Me, thinking, this was part of his plan to meet up with friends agrees.  It must be close by, right?
The ferry ride and my scooter companion in Bellagio
He covers the wine and leads me to...his scooter???  Alright, I didn't realize this was part of the plan, but ok, sure, why not?  He FLIES through the little town at cringe worthy rates.  Slowing barely for people to jump out of the way, the policeman makes the "slow down" gesture at him, and I am holding on for dear life, hoping my bare skin won't be rubbed clean off by a crash.  We arrive...at a bar?  And he goes off to change (so yeah, I guess he wasn't originally planning on swimming after work), and tells me to get a drink at the bar.  I do, and wait.  He returns swim-trunks clad, and off we go again... to the other end of the town...

You might be thinking, seriously Natalie, you're an idiot!  Well, I may be, but I'm writing this so you know I'm alive, and it was such a fun, spontaneous afternoon.  And I did, in fact get to go swimming in the lake (it was F'ING COLD), laid out on the floating dock, jumped in again and again, and laughed with delight that this was where I was in my life.  We shared a couple spritz's, some vodka and lemon soda's, and he only had a couple hours before work, so I was able to get back on the ferry and head "home" to Como, Milan, and eventually Seattle.

I learned from this trip that when traveling alone, I prefer to be in big cities, as opposed to little villages (which are truly made for couples), and oh yeah, and I think I forgot to mention, I left my hairbrush at home and I was stuck with a comb for 2 weeks...  Here's to living life 'on the edge'!!