Into the Rain of Milan
Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
9Trip End Sep 30, 2010
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Upon arrival at Milan's Malpensa airport, I wandered around until I stumbled into the rental car section of the terminal. The two young ladies there were delightfully friendly, cracking jokes and accommodating my desire to rent a GPS. They only had one in inventory, and it didn't "talk". So they wrote "No voice" on my receipt so that I wouldn't be blamed for its loss of vocal cords when I return it in 12 days.
The GPS got me into Milan to our hotel with nary a wrong turn, and I even found a free parking spot across from the hotel. Then I wandered down to the central railway station to find the tourist information. I am looking for information on walking trails to the west of here - en route to Chamonix and Mount Blanc. The man at the TI office was helpful, but advised me to head straight down to the "center" to the Touring Club Italiano because tomorrow is Sunday and it will be closed.
I've learned on prior trips that these guys (Touring Club Italiano) make great maps, so I heeded his advice and hopped on the yellow Metro line. Five stops later, I resurfaced, and that when I encountered Milano cats and dogs - a downpour. I huddled over my map, trying to find the place where the Touring Club Italiano should be. A few turns later, I escaped the rain into a well-stocked travel book store.
If there's one thing I like even better than a book store, it's a travel book store. If only I could read Italian! But the first clerk I asked spoke English and was extremely helpful, and friendly. Thirty minutes and 39 EURO later, the gal behind the counter carefully wrapped my maps into a double paper bag, and I headed back into the deluge.
Riding the subway should be on every travel itinerary. It's a great way to see how people in most of the big cities of the world get around. At one stop, everyone, and I mean everyone, started to disembark. A little lady next to me looked straight at me and fired off a salvo of Italian that I understood to mean "The train is going out of service - we all have to off so you better follow us". She was right!
Back at the hotel, I wrung out my pants. My top had been kept dry by my REI rain jacket. A change of clothes, and 20 minutes later I walked just around the block for the dinner our partner here in Italy had arranged for me.
As I entered a small, unpretentious restaurant, I was greeted by a the friendly smile of a little waiter who walked with a limp. He directed me to a table, consulted with his boss when I handed him my prepaid voucher, then brought me a 1/4 carafe of red wine.
I had the meal of the day - 3 courses. The first course was a mammoth plate of pasta - kind of a ravioli-like noodle without the beef filling - topped with melting cheese and swimming in olive oil. It was more than enough for a whole meal, so though I couldn't resist eating most of it, I did leave room for the next course.
The sound of sizzling beef strips announced the arrival of the main course. It was still cooking in the steel pan my waiter served it to me in, and was also topped with slabs of melting cheese, different than the pasta. As I waited for it to cool, I read about the walk possibilities coming up across the border in France at Chamonix. Wow! I am hoping that visibility is good. Forecast is for clear skies for the next several days.
The meat was superb. I am not a connoisseur, the kind of eater that will generally eat whatever is put in front of me, but this tasted great! And the red wine made it that much more special. If red wine is truly good for the heart, my ticker just got healthier tonight. I couldn't resist attacking that carafe and still only downed about half of it
For desert, we came down to earth a bit with a dish of pineapple cubes, which was actually quite a relief. They went down easy, and then I just sat and enjoyed the peaceful ambiance of this friendly little place. There were only 2 other parties eating when I was there. One was a young couple on vacation, and the owner send them a glass of digestif to top off their meal as they were getting ready to leave.
My meal was prepaid, but not the drinks. The 1/4 carafe, which provided at least 5 glasses of wine, and which I only drank about half of, cost a sum of 5 EURO. Oh, it's good to be in Italy. Tomorrow I meet Linda's plane and we begin the exploration together in earnest.