188. A night at the Sheraton Milan

Shelling out for a four star airport hotel? Me? I just WISH I was that much of a flashpacker. Luckily there is this lovely rule in the EU where (if I remember rightly from the one time I was diligent enough to actually read the T’s and C’s on a flight ticket) if your flight is delayed more than a certain amount of hours the airline has to organise accommodation or a cash rebate. My flight from Milan to Berlin was delayed by 12, so EasyJet put us up in the  Sheraton, including breakfast. The downside was that it took hours for them to actually arrange the accommodation, and then to check people in in groups of 10. By the time I got to my room I had only 4 hours before I had to go check in to the new flight, but I was so glad to have a chance to shower and change. I was particularly looking forward to a shower, after the mayhem that came out of trying to catch the airport express from the city. As it turns out, Centrale Stazione in Milan is a huuuuuuuge railway station. When I was buying my ticket in the little machine, it popped up with a message saying “your train is departing in less than 3 minutes, are you sure you want to purchase this ticket?” Naiively, I thought to myself “sure, I can make that.” After lumbering up the escalator with all my bags, it dawned on me just how large the station was, as I tried to work out where to find my platform. Naturally, it was the furthest away platform and I had an epic sprint, in what was maybe only down to 36 or 37 degree heat, with a pack and two other bags. I made it just in time to the train, and once I had sat down I was feeling so faint from the heat I was practically seeing spots! Won’t be making that mistake again.

Other entertainment of my many hours spent in Milan Malpensa Airport, was spending less on an imported Danish beer at inflated airport prices than actually being in Denmark, and the two lovely friends I made whilst waiting. One was a music publisher for Sony BMG (who’s job I am most definitely jealous of) from Berlin who gave me lots of good advice on things to see and do, the other was a male model from South Africa who spouted my favourite quotable quote – pointed to the giant Armani billboard in the airport and said “Oh, I used to flat with that guy in New York.”

187. Castello Sforzesco

After the parents practically threw me out of the car while it was still going so they could get back to their holiday, I had most of the day left in Milan before my flight to Berlin to meet my friends. It was something like 38 degrees, raging humidity and I had all my bags. All I wanted to do was find some air conditioning and a seat, perhaps even some wifi and any drink with ice in it, but I really felt like I should do some culture, so I made a second (successful) attempt at getting in to the Duomo (a more strict dress code than most night clubs) and checked out the Castello Sforzesco. Not only is it a grand old castle, but it hosts regular events and is chock full of museums. Having spent hours of my life learning the piano and cello, I would normally have been quite excited when one of the museums was full of old musical instruments. The beautiful gardens outside would usually also be quite the drawcard – I do love me a good walk. But with the oppressive heat I was too busy dreaming of an ice cold water to enjoy it, so it was a rather brief trip. At least the museums were free!

The other lesson of the day to share was that although the airport train goes from Cardona, only Centrale Stazione has luggage storage.

178. Get on the Aperol Bandwagon

In Denmark I had seen a tonne of billboards and ads in bus shelters for Aperol, some kind of orange aperatif. In a cafe in Milan, we kept spotting these orange drinks with ice in wine glasses going out to customers. On enquiry, it was an Aperol Spritzer – a mix of Aperol, soda water, a slice of lemon and Prosecco, and apparently quite the famous Italian cocktail. Yes, please, sign me up! After getting a round they proved quite delicious and I can definitely recommend them.

Later on, when I became a cycling orphan (the folks ditched my to spend three hours riding up a steep hill. Don’t ask me why they put themselves through that), and had made my way around the entirety of the small town that is Bormio, the obvious answer to what to do with my time was to sit in the sun and drink my new favourite cocktail on my own. So much better than 3.5hrs of torturous bike riding!

169. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan was where I had imagined all of the great shopping to be, but in actual fact there weren’t all that many shops there. The flagship Prada, Louis Vuitton and Gucci stores were good fun, and it was a welcome relief that they still let us in all the flash stores after being too under-dressed for the Duomo. I guess in a city where most people look like Snooki the sales assistants have stoppeed discriminating.

168. The Armani Store

Is that Georgio Armani? Wait, no it’s Dad

The highlight of the day in Milan as most definitely the Armani Flagship store on Via Manzoni. The clothes weren’t so much the clincher – the only thing I wanted to try on was a ludicrous velour tracksuit, but Mum wasn’t keen after we got told off for trying to take photos. Instead, the highlight was the cafe in the store. We started there for a coffee, and the winner was most definitely an Iced Coffee with Amaretto – like the most amazing espresso martini I have ever had, only so much better. The Amaretto addition was a winner.

After that we perused the store for a while, and with everything so far out of my backpacker budget (and quite frankly I didn’t find any of it worthy of the price tags), we decided to kit Dad out with a nice new shirt. With shop assistant numero uno running rings around us, and shop assistant numero dos banished because he was one of those weird “I-work-in-customer-service-but-I’m-too-cool-to-serve-customers” types we were in business. Once my Father’s two fashion consultants picked him out a nice shirt it was back to the cafe for lunch. The best dish was the Calamari, but they had some tasty club sandwiches too. It wasn’t too unreasonably priced, and provided an excellent spot for people watching whilst feeling like we were far too special.

167. “From The Catwalks Of Milan”

Ever since I was a wee young’n, Dad has always joked when one of his daughter’s has bought something new that it looked like it was “straight from the catwalk’s of Milan.” He had quite the way of making it sound extra patronsising as he said it, and it has since been a bit of a family joke. Sortof like in The Castle, where the father is always saying “You could sell that” when his wife cooks a meal.

So extreme hilarity was to be had when sure enough Dad found himself shopping in Milan with his wife and one of his daughters!

It was absurd just how expensive some of the items were. After poking my nose in to almost all of the big name stores, I am thoroughly convinced that Italian fashion is just not my thing. Most of the Italian labels, from Armani to Gucci, where just so incredibly tacky it was hard to believe it was “fashion.” After seeing so many identical bags, but for the different letters of each major label, or the amount of items of clothing covered in diamantes and other sparkly shit, I’m just so glad I come from a country where “wearing your money” (as you would with these labels) is really not something that gets much approval. Except maybe in Ponsonby, but to be honest, the rest of New Zealand really wouldn’t mind if Australia took Auckland.

I did really enjoy the Ralph Lauren store, though. It was like a museum – filled with beautiful art, and set up like an amazing house. The polo shirts seem like a very plane item jazzed up on the basis of a logo, but the womenswear was beautiful, and you could tell it was high quality and very flattering styles.

As I walked through these stores (at one stage overhearing a man saying “only €1200? I’ll take it!), I begun to think to myself, with every item: “If it didn’t have a designer label, would I wear it?” and at least 80% of the time the answer was no. Some things are just outragously ugly, but because I famous designer made it, well, it’s high fashion and high price. It really makes me wonder if it is this secret ironic joke where top designers are saying “How ridiculous can we make this item and still get people to pay ludicrous amounts?” A bright red suit with a bright pink turtleneck (in the window at Versace) was my favourite example of this. Sadly, I don’t think that’s the secret motive of the fashion world.

Nonetheless, it was fun to go to all of those stores and see what the fuss is all about, and I really hope that no matter how much money I may or may not make in future, that I will never be buying ridiculously priced crap that looks good on no-one just because someone said it is fashion.

166. The Duomo

The Duomo, in central Milan, was absolutely stunning. I was all happy and excited that I had a cardigan in my bag as many women were being turned away for not having their arms covered but alas, my skirt was too short to get in. Only my father was deemed holy enough to enter, and his report was that “it was full of dead people.” I was half tempted to go back in a Burqa and see how that went down with the catholics, but I went for a modest longer dress with covered sleeves which worked on round two. Sadly mum still missed out, the tart.

The building itself was enough of a site though, even though it seemed paradoxically rude that I was too much of a hussy to enter but one of the spires was advertising the latest Mac.

Inside, there was loads of beautiful art, preserved bodies of important people, and for an extra few euros you can see the treasury and cript downstairs. There wasn’t much in there so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend shelling out anything extra for it if you’re not too bothered about viewing the spoils of Catholicism.

163. “The luckiest girl in the world”

I was succesfully fooled by the labarinth that is Copenhagen airport and in a fit of blondness was waiting at the wrong gate. When I finally realised, it was just after my flight to Milan should have departed. Once I got to the right gate I was relieved to find out it had been delayed, and I just made it! Everyone was already waiting in line to get on the tiny plane, and once I got to the gate all the Danes stared at me, while all the Italians either laughed, shook their heads or smiled and said “Oh you are the luuuuckiest girl in the world!”

Don’t I know it! Should have bought a lotto ticket that day.