From Milan to the Alps!
Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
9Trip End Sep 30, 2010
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The Metro (subway) took us towards the center, and after lunch in a small family-own pizzeria, we checked out a couple of hotels we're considering, then got off the Metro at the Duomo (cathedral).
Coming out of the subterranean depths of the subway into the sunlit piazza in front of the cathedral is a "wow". The white marble fašade fairly glistened in the Sunday afternoon sun. Poking around the interior of the 500-year-old building was like wandering around a massive covered football stadium (another form of worship?). It claims to be the 3rd or 4th largest cathedral in the world, depending it seems on whether non-Catholic St. Paul’s in London is considered. Regardless – it’s big!
Our goal was to get onto the rooftop. I’d read about this experience and, in all the other cathedrals I’ve visited, including the other “biggies” on the list (St Peter’s in Rome, Seville Cathedral, and St Paul’s in London), I'd never seen one that offers a walkway among the spires and flying buttresses.
So after paying our 5 Euro each, into the stairwell we went, winding ever upwards, squeezing past downward traffic in a quest to reach the roof before our quadriceps collapsed. The walkway is truly stunning, and offers access along the west side of the cathedral, walking through the flying buttresses that allowed 15th century architects to push higher and higher with the spires – reaching upwards to God. Then you can climb even higher to the central spine of the church, walking on the top of the roof among a forest of spires and statues!
Coming back to earth, we elbowed our way through the crowds to the counter of the local gelato stand. It was tasty, but I think we must have hit the McDonald’s of the gelato world – not up to gelato standards.
Using a walking route in our guidebook, we then continued to explore the historic district, strolling first through the Galleria constructed during an ambitious urban renewal plan of the 1860s.
Fashion in King in Italy, and Milan is where it is designed. Only Paris garners more clout in the fashion world, but Milan is apparently considered tops in design of that fashion. The walk took us down several of the streets in the heart of the shopping district.
I’m told that if a store displays only a single garment of each style, it is expensive. And we saw no display racks as we strolled that offered more than one item each. Each garment or pair of shoes or accessory sat like a royal robe supreme in its setting, awaiting that one buyer for whom price is no object.
Today we left Milan, driving west through the Lombardy countryside towards the Alps. We’d been considering a walk in Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso, but after researching the Chamonix/Mount Blanc area, I opted to drive straight through to Chamonix.
We did stop in Aosta briefly to talk to the Tourist Information Office about walks in Gran Paradiso in the event we want to dig deeper in the future. At the same time, we gathered info about taking the group up and over the Alps, and into Chamonix, via cable car. Appears doable, and I’ll be working on that as the preferred way to enter Chamonix.
The coach would drop us on the Italian side, then drive through the 11.6 kilometer tunnel into the Chamonix valley. Meanwhile, we would ride up a gondola, changing methods of conveyance 6 times en route to Chamonix on the valley floor. En route down the mountainside, we plan to disembark and walk the Grand Balcony – North for the walk of the day. Then we’d come down into Chamonix by mountain train.
Upon reaching Chamonix this afternoon, it was too late to go up the mountain so we checked out a riverside walk that we hope to use to connect to a walk on the opposite side of the valley – the so-called Grand Balony – South.
So many options here! As Linda and I enjoyed an outrageously-priced fondue dinner tonight (apparently Beaufort cheese is about $16 dollars a pound!) we agreed that we could spend a couple weeks just in Chamonix checking out the multitude of trails and gondolas. Weather is holding – tomorrow we walk the Grand Balcony – North!