01 Mar European Vacation: Milan
Caught the TGV from Gare de Lyon, which through cunning planning was about 8 minutes walk from the hotel. The station is hard to miss, what with the huge clock tower jutting out of it. Since it was still dark when I arrived, the illuminated clock was a handy beacon, though the plentiful signage was also helpful. I only needed to check the iPhone map when I left the hotel.
Using the timetable screens it was a breeze to find that the train for Milano Centrale was leaving from the yellow platforms, which were either 5 or 23. The blue and yellow platforms were in the same separate area of the station, about 3 minutes walk.
There were screens in front of each platform identifying the destination and stop off points, as well as general timetable screens in the area. My train wasn’t identified until 20 minutes before departure, and then only by the screen in front of the train updating. The general timetable screen still just showed the yellow platform.
The screen in front of train also gives a letter, which indicates roughly where each voiture (carriage) physically sits on the platform. The door to my voiture, number 3, was closed, but luckily there was a knowledgable gentleman ahea of me who knew how to operate the door mechanism.
I was in first class (a mere €50) where the seats were quite plush and bigger than in second, but that’s about the size of the advantage. I bought my ticket over the internet several months ago, delivered to my door, and chose my seat then, number 24. The numbers are on the top of the seat, all lit up and pretty, at least in first class. As in trains the world over, despite all the technology, a conductor still comes around to check your ticket. The chap behind me had to pay an extra €4 for some reason that took 10 minutes to discuss in a protracted conversation in French.
Just one passport check on the French side, and then into Italy, and for quite a portion of the jouney, the majesty of the Alps. A note so you don’t miss out like I did, try and grab / book yourself a seat on the LEFT side of the train (when facing the direction of travel, or putting your back to the front of the platform ) That way you’ll be on the side of the train with the main view of the mountains. I was on the other side, and every once and a while there’d be more oohs and ahs as another wonderful feature of the Alps came into view. The train swung around so sometimes I got a glimpse as we turned, but not perfect.
Passed through Torino (Turin) on the way, which is effectively out of the mountains, though you can still see them in the distance. I can see them now as I type this, just about. They’re far enough away now that they “fit” within the height of the opposite window. They’re still very impressive from this distance, and swathed in cloud and mist. After passing through snow in the mountains, the weather has been steadily improving since Torino, not only has the sun poked out, but there was a snatch of completely blue sky for a while cor a few miles / minutes. It’s hard to tell inside the air-conditioned train, but it certainly looks warmer.
Not too long more now, and I’ll be at the end of this epic train journey which started at 7.42 am and is due to finish at 2.50 pm, which is in 50 minutes. Thank the baby jeebus. That’s almost seven hours if you’re too lazy to do the math. I’ve been longer on a couple of flights, nine hours to Mumbai, India from Frankfurt, Germany (and back) so it wasn’t too much of a shock, but still pretty painful on the ol’ derriere.
[ … time passes … ]
It’s several hours and the most delicious Burgerking meal I’ve ever had later (not very cultural, I know, but I was too tired to resist). I went for a walk around Milan, which is full of stylish shops, as you would expect, and stylish people. First thing I did on my voyage of discovery was locate the nearest supermarket for the vital supplies, water and toothpaste. No hotel seems to provide toothpaste anymore, and you don’t want to be buying water at €2 for half a liter when it costs 85 cent for a liter in the supermarket. I forgot the toothpaste I bought in Paris, so hopefully it will make a welcome present for the next occupant of that room.
I’m watching one of the only two english language channels on Italian Sky, CNN, where Charlie Sheen is currently “talking” to Piers Morgan. Hmm, that dude is whack!
Hmm, Milan, a (rich) fashion shopper’s Mecca for sure, but for me there isn’t enough photographically to justify more than a short day trip. I hit all the places I wanted to within about 3 hours, and that walking everywhere.
Yes, the Duomo di Milano is very impressive, as is the shopping center beside it, but that’s pretty much it. Like I said, it’s got top-end shops everywhere, but that’s not by (Prada) bag. And the (paid for) wireless internet in this hotel sucks big fat hairy monkey balls.