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Archive for March, 2010

We went to Milan on the third day of our trip. Due to crazy Italian drivers and undoubtedly high parking costs in Milan we decided to park in Bergamo and take the train to Milan. It was lovely and not too expensive, especially when you consider how comparatively expensive rail travel is in the UK.

I don’t want to ruin the rest of this post for you, but my favorite part of Milan was the train station. Seriously. I love train stations and this one was beautiful:

We decided to forgo the underground and walk to the city centre. This was probably not a great idea. Italian drivers, as I have mentioned, are CRAZY. Crossing the streets, even with a green light, was treacherous and I did not enjoy it.

When we eventually got to where we wanted to be, the Brera Art Gallery, I felt extremely harassed. The gallery itself was impressive but unsatisfying. I knew most of the artwork was Italian and religious but there are only so many different paintings of Madonna With Child you can handle before getting bored. By the end of it I was saying to myself “If I have to see one more floating cherub head with wings instead of a neck…” Like I said, it was impressive, but I got very bored very quickly. Which was a shame.

Then we walked towards the actual city centre and discovered much more impressive sights. Which, due to us not doing our homework again, we didn’t really know existed. First, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is a 19th Century glass-vaulted arcade that has been transformed into a high-class shopping centre. It was pretty fancy!

Then, on the other side of the Galleria, we walked out into the Piazza del Duomo and found this:

Which, again, I didn’t know existed. It was phenomenal. Absolutely stunning and very, very busy. It was actually the only part of town that was overcrowded, but I certainly wouldn’t want to go there in the middle of the high season. The queue to get into the cathedral was massive.

The Milan Cathedral was outstanding from afar but, if possible, even more impressive when you got closer. For instance:

After standing in awe for a good ten minutes and then taking a dozen pictures we walked towards the Santa Maria delle Grazie which is the church where The Last Supper is. We knew that tickets to see The Last Supper were expensive and sold out months in advance but we thought we’d go and see for ourselves. Well, it was expensive to get in and besides, the tickets had been sold out for months. I was a bit miffed because the three groups awaiting their entrance times were all under the age of seven and wouldn’t have appreciated seeing what is, arguably, the most amazing mural painting in the world, while S and I really would have enjoyed it, but what can you do? I wasn’t going to knock the wee kids over and steal their tickets… So I had to make due with taking a picture of the outside of the building. Like so:

On the way back from Milan we forgot to validate our rail ticket and were fined €50 on the spot for being ignorant tourists. The best advice I can give you if you are travelling to Italy is drink a lot of coffee and GET YOUR TRAIN TICKETS VALIDATED before boarding your train. It was an aggravating end to a disappointing trip, but it was our own fault and so we had to deal with it. Although I am working on an angry letter…

That evening we arrived back in Bergamo around 5:00pm, which is FAR too early for dinner.  Most restaurants we saw opened  at or after 7:00!  We drove to Nembro, the small town at the bottom of the mountain we had to climb to get to Selvino, and decided to have dinner there.  Except we had an hour and a half to wait before anywhere was open.  We didn’t fancy driving up the 7 mile twisty road and then back down again for no reason, so we walked around the town and discovered that it was quite lovely.

The main church in the centre of the town is the Church of San Martino, and, according to this website, dates back to the 15th Century and was refurbished during the 18th. It was nearly time for Mass, but we poked our heads in anyway and it was an absolutely beautiful church on the inside.  There were quite a few people praying so I did not take any pictures, but I would have liked to.

There was also a tiny church tucked away down a side street which I have since found out (thanks to the website above) is the Church of Santa Maria del Borgo. I noticed two frescoes on the outside of the building which were very cool and obviously very old and are, according to the above, from the 15th and 16th Centuries.

There were two paintings in the town centre devoted to St Martin of Tours and a plaque quoting 1 Corinthians 9:22: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”

So, a fairly religious town, then.

We had a tasty dinner at the Ristorante Giardino on the Via Guglielmo Marconi, which is, by far, my favourite street name, ever. It sounds like a toy for small children – Get your Googly Elmo here!! I loved it!! The bathroom in the restaurant, however, I did not love:

So, that was day 3. A disappointing trip to a disappointing Milan followed by a lovely and memorable evening in Nembro. If you would like to see the rest of our pictures from Day 3 you can find them HERE.

xo
A

Day 2 – Venice
Day 1 – Airplane & Selvino

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On the second day we went to Venice. I’ve wanted to go to Venice since I can remember and I am very glad to say that it did not disappoint. It was another lovely sunny day, but not too warm which was perfect.

It was quite a drive from Selvino to Venice Marco Polo airport, three hours each way, actually, but it was worth it. We parked our car at the airport car parks and then took the Alilaguna boat from the airport to Venice. We ended up getting the more expensive ticket but that was a longer, more scenic route, so we didn’t mind.

The boat ride took over an hour and it was wonderful. I am not a big fan of boats in general, but the views from the canals were amazing and very much worth it. We got off at Piazza San Marco, which seemed like as good a place as any to start the day. It was mobbed with tourists… Absolutely crawling with them.

Still, in the end, once you got past the teeming masses, it was beautiful.

St. Mark’s Campanile & St. Mark’s Basillica:

I really wish I had done my homework and figured out exactly where in Venice I wanted to see, because apart from St. Mark’s I had no idea what there even was to see in the city. In fact, it wasn’t until we’d actually gotten there that I remembered I wanted to see The Rialto Bridge:

And then I also remembered about The Grand Canal. How do you forget about The Grand Canal? Well, I did.

View of the Grand Canal from Rialto Bridge:

Mostly we spent the day wandering lazily down the wee streets and crossing over small canals on gorgeous bridges.  Everywhere we turned there was something beautiful to look at, something different and unique around every corner.  It was truly amazing.

For example:

And this beautiful stained glass lamp which I just thought was fantastic:

Really, once you got away from the crowded Piazza San Marco and Rialto Bridge there weren’t many crowds and mostly Italians. The streets and cafés  were quiet. We had a wonderful cappuccino on the Campo Dei Frari and sat on the edge of a dry fountain outside an 11th Century church to have our lunch.

We got lost, of course, trying to find the boat stop to get back to the mainland. We’d been given a map by Alilaguna which had no street names written on it. Who makes a map with no street names on it? We finally found our way, though, and with a half hour to spare. We sat at the edge of the water trying to avoid the 20 or 30 North Africans walking the pavement in a big group carrying, and trying to sell, fake designer bags and sunglasses – looking like nothing more than P. Diddy’s Entourage.

Predictably the boat ride back to land was less exciting, but it traced the same exact route and it was all stuff we’d seen before, including the wooden pier in the middle of the water that had a sign nailed to it saying “Free Wi-Fi”. Awesome.

Would I go back? Yes, I would love to spend more time there, especially now that I’ve discovered this website and found something worth going to see. It was an amazing day and I am very glad we went. Venice gets a huge thumbs-up.

If you would like to see the rest of our photos from Venice you can find them HERE.

xo
A

Day 1, Airplane & Selvino

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I thought, rather than try to cram all of the fun we had last week into one long, long post, that I would split them up and do one post per day. This way I can be detailed enough but also you don’t have a novel to read.

So, here we go – Europe Trip, Day 1

Basically all we got to do on the first day was take a flight, pick up our hire car and drive to the hotel. But, if you can believe it, this was all very exciting!

The flight was calm and quick, only two hours. There was some turbulence on the landing but I was too busy with my normal OMG I Hate Flying panic to notice.

We did get to fly over the alps, though, and S took some great pictures:

We bought a Sat-Nav before we left and we had it with us, and even though we had set the correct address for the hotel and we were following the directions to the word, we got LOST. A lot. We drove in the same small circle down the same side streets and alleys three or four times, and never went the same direction to get there.

Our hotel for the first four nights was in a town called Selvino which was 21 miles away and up the side of a mountain. There was a twisty road on the way with 19 hairpin turns. I thought it was terrifying. S did not. He loved it. Even driving on the wrong side of the road and having to shift with the wrong hand he still flew up that road. Honestly he must have been going about 3 miles per hour, but my seat in the car was closer to the edge of the road and therefore, TERRIFYING. The only thing I had to cheer me up was the fact that this was the one and only road to the hotel and we had to drive it twice a day for the next three days. Awesome.

We stayed at the Hotel Del Corso which was a budget hotel and we got exactly what we paid for. I am not sure whether the high season in Selvino is winter or summer, but either way the hotel (and the town) was dead. Seriously, the second night at the hotel we were the only guests.

This is our hotel:

This is the view from the hotel:

We had pizza for dinner. It was tasty, tasty, tasty. Yeah, OK it was from the take-away down the street which was run by an Egyptian, but it was cheap and delicious and exactly what we needed for the end of first day in Italy.

This is our pizza:

So, there was our first day in Italy. We had a flight, we got our car, we got lost, we drove up and very twisty road and then we found our hotel. We ate pizza. Our bed was comfortable, the water was hot and, all in all, it was a great day.

Tomorrow: Venice.

If you want to see the rest of the album, you can check it out at this link: HERE.

xo
A

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s’s top 20

I wasn’t the only one interested in making a list of their top albums of the last decade.  My lovely husband made his own list of his favourite 20.  It did not take him as long as it took me.  In fact, I think he wrote this list while I was off making a cup of tea.

However, he did manage to think of albums that I missed and I am kicking myself for it.  For instance, Scott Matthews would have been in my top ten if I had remembered.

Without further ado:

The Top 20

  1. Arctic  Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
  2. Damien Rice – O
  3. Bernard Butler – People Move On
  4. Scott Matthews – Passing Stranger
  5. The Kooks – Inside In/Inside Out
  6. Razorlight – Up All Night
  7. The Spinto Band – Nice & Nicely Done
  8. Coldplay – Parachutes
  9. Arcade Fire – Funeral
  10. Kings of Leon – Only By the Night
  11. Aqualung – Aqualung
  12. Snow Patrol – Final Straw
  13. Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions
  14. The Killers – Hot Fuss
  15. Jet – Get Born
  16. Turn Brakes – The Optimist LP
  17. Maximo Park – A Certain Trigger
  18. The Editors – Back Room
  19. The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers
  20. Cooper Temple Clause – See This Through and Leave

I’m also fairly certain that you can now further understand why we make such a great couple.  It’s a great list, if I do say so myself.

So there you have it, our top albums of the decade.  I am still working on the top 10 songs and I promise I will get it posted eventually.  Although I can’t promise there will only be 10 songs.  More like 100.  Anyway….

xo

A

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