Morning train to Italy

Trip Start Jul 30, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
lairo Hotel

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Nice to Milan
Monday September 18, 2006
Got up early, packed up the bags and headed out for the station. The side walks were still a bit wet from the rains. I was loaded up w/my pack and my day bag when I stepped on a piece of wet marble. It might as well be a banana peel. I went down so fast I barely had time to react. A guy walking in the other direction grabbed my arm and helped me up. I was a bit wet and my toe was bleeding. We caught the 9am train from Nice to Milan. The view along the coast of the French Riviera was very nice, except for all the tunnels. The train rolled along quickly, so it was difficult to get good pictures. Our cabin for six had the two of us and a retired couple (Florence and John). They had been working in London for the past six years, recently retired and were heading back to New Zealand. We had a good conversation about anything and everything. We were joined by an older German couple who divide their time between the south of France and Germany. Her English was not good, but we were able to understand each other. She said she had a sister who lived in NYC and she recognized Lyn and I as Americans, but then turned to the New Zealand couple and asked what language they had been speaking because they could not recognize it. We thought that was pretty funny. We arrived in Milan and went directly to the Information Office in the train station. Lyn found a hotel board and made a call to Hotel Lairo. They quoted her a price of 28 Euro for a double and we were soon on our way. We hopped on the subway and then had a bit of a walk, but it was the cheapest place we could find. Once we arrived at the hotel we had to buzz to get in. Once inside, there was the strong smell of an animal. I assumed they had a large dog(s) and hoped the smell was only in the lobby. Lyn said we where the couple that called and we were there to check in. He said Ok that will be 56 Euro. ????? Lyn was livid that she defiantly said Double room. He said yes, 28 Euro... for each person. (Nowhere else have we had to say a double room, for two people!). The Asian guy behind the desk assured us this was the best deal in Milan, especially since there is a huge conference taking place. (Yeah, sure!) This was a bit annoying, but we decided to dump our bags and see Milan. We figured on catching the Hop on-Hop off bus and use the 24 hour pass for the rest of the day, and tomorrow afternoon (after a day trip to Zermatt Switzerland to see the Matterhorn.) We made our way back to the train station, to make our reservation. Turns out there is no direct route. You have to travel north for over 2+ hours, then backtrack on another line for 1+ hours. We figured it would be too difficult to squeeze this in if it meant 4 hours each way. Scratch Zermatt. We then took the subway to the Castello Sforzesco (built in 1348) to catch the HO/HO bus. There was an official who said the next bus would be along in twenty minutes. One hour later, as the sun was setting, we figured the day was a bust. We hopped on the subway and saw a few sites on out own... the Duomo with its 3,400 statues, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Teatro alla Scala. As it got darker, we asked a girl where people go, there must be nightlife somewhere. She directed us to Ripa di P.ta Ticinese, a street that runs along an old shipping canal (Naviglio Grande) that once ran from the Darsena (now half dry pond that was a center for trade). There were plenty of shops and boutiques along the canal and the water made for a nice setting. We bought a couple of gelatos and took a nice long stroll. I am glad Lyn was in a good mood. Once we returned to the Hotel, we noticed there were no top sheets and no towels, Lyn went to check the bathroom for towels and almost threw up. "Even if there were towels, there is no way in hell I would set foot in that shower! It is disgusting!!" If it was not midnight we would have been on the road again, looking for a new place to sleep. As we settled into our sleep sacks (Thanks DJ and Christy!) I flicked on the TV to see what was on. To our surprise, we had trouble finding something that was not 'Adults-Only'.

The next morning we were up early, as you could have expected. I was fully dressed with pack on as Lyn went to the front desk to complain some more. But luckily for the attendant, he spoke only Chinese and Italian. We returned to the Central train station and dumped our bags in the lockers ad head to the Castle once more for another try at the HO/HO bus. After a quick stroll through the courtyard of the enormous castle which holds at least 12 different museums/Galleries/Archives, we jumped on the bus.
Unfortunately, most of Milan was destroyed in WWII and the city plan has been modified many times. Many of the things mentioned on the tour no longer exist! (i.e. "This Street is named for the orphanage that the children were taken to once their parents had died from the plague. The orphanage is long gone, but the street still bears the name").
We had plenty of time to do the tour several times. We just wish it was more interesting.

Milan- Medio lano- Named by the Celts in the 6th century BC. home of; The newspaper 'Corriere Della Sera' (1876) 700,000 copies daily, Pirelli Tower, 1.3million inhabitants and 900,000 commuters, Italy's 2nd largest train station (Rome #1), Torre Valasca (Milan's first skyscraper from the 1950's), the location that DaVinci painted 'The last Supper' and such delicacies as; Osso Bucco, Risotto w/Saffron, Veal Milanese and Pannettone.

Milan to Munich
We made our way back to the Stazione Centrale to grab our bags and catch our overnight train to Munich. After seeing what the bathrooms on these trains usually look like, I figure a pit stop was in my best interest. Like most bathrooms in Europe, this one had a fee of 0.70 centesimi. Not a problem since this fee goes towards keeping the facilities clean. As I paid the fee in the subway like turnstile and the high tech glass panels slide out of the way I stood there speechless. In front of me was a huge marble floor, soaking wet. At the far end I could see the janitor mopping away and a sign behind him pointing around the corner to the toilets. Remembering how my flip flops work on wet marble (leaving Nice) I stood there for a minute then proceeded across the floor like it was a mine field. This was defiantly not a place I wanted to slip and fall. It seemed like a mile but I made it around the corner to one of the doors for the toilet. But when I opened the door, to my horror was a 'Turkish Toilet'. If you are not familiar, I have included a picture somewhere in this blog. It is pretty much two footprints on the ground facing away from the wall with a hole on the ground, and that is it!! Oh well, it was a learning experience for me. Enough about that. Hopped the train, full compartment of 6 people. Lyn and I decided to sneak out to eat dinner (we brought a bag of food from the grocery store and felt uncomfortable eating in front of everyone. We went to the last car which is for bicycles and baggage, but was empty, laid out our blanket and enjoyed our picnic dinner. We were about finished when a man in a suit that had been standing around came over and asked us for some food. It was a bit weird, but we just smiled and offered him what we had left. We were lucky enough to spot an empty compartment on the way back to ours. So we had a seat and spent the next two hours running from side to side to catch a glimpse of the amazing scenery. It was dust and you could still make out the silhouette of the mountains. They were high ad steep. On a few you could see castles lit up on the side of the mountain. Every so often we saw the twinkling lights of a town and the reflection off of Lake Como and the huge mountains surrounding the area. It was very impressive, even at night. We had wished we skipped the HO/HO bus in Milan and took the 1 hour train ride to see Lake Como in the daylight.
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