In Search of the San Siro

Trip Start Feb 11, 2012
Trip End Feb 19, 2012

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Flag of Switzerland  , Vaud,
Saturday, February 11, 2012

Starting this new blog is a strange feeling. I have just opened up the folder on our travel laptop titled 'blog entries' and, being Saturday 11th, I looked back to see what we were doing on the last Saturday 11th.  It was June 2011 and we had just spent the day splashing our way across New Zealand’s North Island in heavy rain to reach a heavenly spot called Mount Manganui.  The title was ‘California Dreamin’ as in a few days we would fly to LA to start our 3500 mile pedal across the USA. We had begun the day circling a sulphurous lake in Roturoa, before reaching a rugged coastline where the sailing boats glistened in the evening sunshine and the trendy young families of Auckland’s ‘burbs enjoyed a glass of Hawkes Bay Sauvignon whilst their kiddies bounced around barefooted in the white sands. Sunday 12th June 2011 saw me jump out of a plane from 14,000ft. Hopefully my Sunday in Geneva tomorrow will be slightly less adrenaline fuelled.

So much has happened since Polly and I concluded our global expedition on a bike.  Bosham Primary school is now a big part of our lives and Polly is enjoying working with a new class of wonderful children.  Midhurst Rother College goes from strength to strength and I continue to work very hard to be part of what we hope will be the best school in Sussex.  Family and friends grow with engagements, weddings and new arrivals (‘big kisses’ by the way to my 3 day old God-son, Toby James Storton) and of course, Lavant FC are top of the league with promotion to Sussex Premier league looking a dead cert.

So what is this trip all about?  Well, in my early teens there was a wonderful programme on Channel 4 called ‘Football Italia’.  Many Sunday afternoons were spent watching these beautiful athletes kick a ball around.  With their flowing dark hair, rough but cared for stubble and deep rich tans, they were the footballers I wanted to be.  One day ‘Nevelli’ would score against Lazio and the world would hear a completely over-the-top commentator scream "GOOOOOAAAALLLLLLLL NEVELLLLLLLIIIIII".  As the years passed, the flowing dark hair never appeared and I was left with a scruffy short crop and rough stubble that became ever more ginger. I knew, quite definitively, that this Italian dream was over (as if I needed reminding of that, the couple in front of me on the train have just returned with their baby girl and it appears that instead of changing her nappy, they have actually encouraged her to make more of a smell).

I decided a few months ago that the least I could do was go and watch these footballing heroes.  So here I am, off to the San Siro in Milan to watch the Champions League game between Arsenal and AC Milan.  I plan to rock up in Geneva tonight by train and then on Monday morning, start the 280 mile bike ride to Milan.  Weather reports are not looking good with heavy snow both sides of the Swiss-Italian border but I am determined to arrive at the stadium of my dreams by bicycle.

The first signs earlier in the day were not great.  A two minute walk to Bosham station resulted in an immediate change of plans.  There was a broken down train which was clearly not going anywhere for some time.  Polly scraped off the ice from the Audi windscreen and off we screeched to Havant where I connected with the Waterloo train.

Attempts to get stuck into the Saturday papers were derailed by an extremely annoying South African lady who was determined to use all of her 500 free minutes a month before she reached Slough.  What made it more ridiculous was that the person she was talking to on the phone, was the same person she was going to meet in Slough and spend the weekend with.  What the hell are they going to talk about when they actually see each other?

Desperate to find out more about why ‘Arry Rednapp is the only choice for the new England boss, I had to move, only to position myself next to the most boring quartet of people you could ever imagine.  The two forty-something married couples were off to London to do things like ‘see the Queen and ride on the wheel’.  They continued to distract me from the papers but at least they reminded me that I really must keep believing that I am 18 yrs old and never accept that I am creeping up on 40.  If I ever get to the point where I am sitting on a train talking about the capacity of a laptop processor or whether my next leather jacket should be length or fur lined, please inject me swiftly with a lethal cocktail.

Kings Cross St Pancras was a relaxed affair.  I sat outside for a while before scabby heroin addicts asking for change drove me back to the comfort of Marks and Spencers.  I got over the experience with an extravagant  BLT.  I photographed the incredible structure of St Pancras station and pondered on the words of Betjamen, whose verse is  scattered across the terminal floor.  He apparently had a huge part in saving the station from demolition and his poem about standing exultant, neutral and free was the ideal send off for my bike ride up into Les Alps.

Having rolled across Kent and then Northern France, all was looking great until the announcement that we would be half an hour late into Gare du Nord.  This meant that my short trip on the metro across to Gare de Lyon suddenly turned into The Krypton Factor.  I had only 25 minutes to translate the station signs, withdraw Euros, buy a ticket, dive across platforms and board the 18:11 Geneva express.  Gare du Nord was not as welcoming as St Pancras and I was pleased to speed through across the concourse and jump on the waiting train.

Now on my way on the TGV down through France, I am on track and should meet Sid in Geneva at 9pm.  The refreshment car has not lived up to the standards one might expect from this cuisine rich country.  No food or water, just Kronenbourg 1664 and jus d’orange.  Thank goodness Polly sneaked a valentines present into my bag.  The jumbo size Toblerone is substituting well for the l’escargots and champagne I was hoping for.

Miles Cycled:  0. Car, Train, Tube, Train, Tube, Train, Car.
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triciagick on

Close shave that Mikey, as I tried to sign into my travel pod only to realise it was more than a year since I'd used it and had to dig deep and hard to remember what password I used!! Well done - I assume by now you are battling through ice and snow on you two wheels - anxious mother-in-law says BE CAREFUL and watch out for mad lorries and all the other vehicles skidding throught the passes. Bon Voyage and don't get frost bite - Pols and I off for a Costa (sorry)!! xxxxxxxxx

Mum and Dad on

Brilliant! More blog.Yes we heard about The train.Good start! Expect by now you are peddling along.Take care and enjoyxxxxxxx

Jojo on

Couldn't find the blog until this morning! CJB had to point outt hat it wasn't just tagged on to the world trip. What a romantic you are Mikey - please pass it on to your Godson. Hope the weather is kind to you and you make it over the mountains okay.

Bethany on

Why did you choose a backpack instead of panniers?

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