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Old 13 Jan 12, 11:01 PM  
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geoffa
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Coach trip - "The Voyage of the Damned" - DAY 4

DAY 4

Well, disaster of a kind befell last night. One lady who was on holiday with her friend got back to be told that her mother had fallen downstairs and broken her hip. Big Al spent over an hour organising a repatriating flight. Everybody is talking about it at breakfast.
Doris is still moaning. This morning it’s that all the Swiss are rude. Somebody pushed in front of her in a shop in Lugano she says. This causes the entire Swiss race to be branded as ill mannered in her eyes. All 8 million of them. She continues to grumble as we board the coach and Keith and Jennifer raise their eyes to the skies. We settle in for the run to Milan. It’s located 34 miles to the south and should take roughly an hour – remember the narrow roads! It’s a lovely blue sky again as we tootle along taking in the views. One of my favourite towns along the way is Ossuccio. It has the most unusual bell tower (campanile):



So after coffees with whisky and a glass of red wine (we managed to drink the coach dry – twice – no not me and Darrin alone – the entire party of trippers!) am in need of a trip to the hunchback throne room. Darrin has gone before me. There is a light to indicate when the littlest room is in use. So twenty five minutes pass by and the light hasn’t gone off. I get out of my seat and wait at the top of the little staircase that leads to the loo. I ask the people sitting above the staircase if they know who is in there? They respond that the last to use it was my other half. I check the door. The indicator light works on the turn of the door handle, not the fact that the door is actually locked. As Darrin departed the loo he left the handle in the “lock” position. Consequently I have been in agony for 25 minutes thinking the blessed place was occupied.
So, today Ladies and Gentlemen I am awarding the RED card to Darrin!



We arrive in Milan and disembark near the Castello Sforzesco. It’s enormous. The Castle was named after Francesco Sforza, who transformed it into a ducal residence in 1450. But its origins date back to the second half of the 14th century, at the time of Galeazzo II Visconti. It is somewhat Moorish in appearance and is very impressive. The Christmas market runs on 3 sides of it – but more of that later.



We head on down in to the city and down through the Via Dante into the Piazza del Duomo. Remember “Piazza” – it will become significant later in the day. The cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente is a complete confection of stone. It is the fourth largest cathedral in the world. As it’s Christmas time a magnificent Christmas Tree stands in front of it. Tourist groups are not being admitted because of the seasonal services so a snake of individuals winds its way across the square.



Because of the queue we don’t get to see the interior but guide books show that it is stunning. WE now walk into the Galleria. This was the world’s first covered shopping arcade and it boats the likes of Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton………………………..all the fashion houses and………………….wait for it………a McDonalds. What on earth were the local authority thinking when they gave permission for that? There was an uproar when permission was first given some years ago. Thankfully, their lease is up and the massive unit they occupy is to be taken over by Prada. The glass domed roof is stunning and the beautiful frescos:





You’ll note the black shiny jackets that a couple of shoppers are wearing in the second Galleria photo. These are everywhere. They are made by Mon Cler. Everybody is wearing them from teenagers to Grandparents. We late discover they cost on average Euro 800 – 1000. (£ 700 upwards!) I kid you not! I certainly don’t want one on my Christmas list!
So we pass through the Galleria and buy a few postcards from the Milan equivalent of W H Smith. As we pass out into the Piazza Scala. According to the guide book we should be able to see La Scala – the famous opera house. Well, what can I say? Impressive exterior - not. I’ve seen better looking Bingo Halls! I was totally underwhelmed.



However – inside – absolutely stunning! To think the likes of Callas have performed on that stage.



La Scala's season traditionally opens on 7 December, Saint Ambrose's Day, the feast day of Milan's patron saint. It happens to be the day we are there. All performances must end before midnight, and long operas start earlier in the evening when necessary. Alas we won’t be staying for the evening even if we could get tickets.

Time for luncheon. We head back to the Via Dante and decide on a place with an upstairs landing. From up there we can watch the world go by. We order a bottle of wine and Darrin decides on Frutti di Mare – a seafood selection….whilst I order….wait for it………….. a Piazza Margharita.
The waiter looks at me then shakes his head and laughingly says “Pizza”. I’ve just tried to order a town square! Well, I was hungry.It was excellent. Not of this stuffed crust nonsense. A proper wafer thin pizza base cooked in a proper pizza oven and just full of flavour.
I was going to use the “facilities” at the restaurant but the queue is horrendous and whoever is in there is taking 20 minutes! With eight or so people in front of me I rack my brains. Milan has a Metro system and, sure enough, they have toilets. It cost 30 cents but it was well worth it!
Time to head for the Christmas market. Did I use the word “Christmas”? It turns out to be one massive boot sale affair with confection and bakery stalls mixed. OK – there are some craft stalls but I’m fast coming to the conclusion that Italy doesn’t do Christmas markets – well, not like the Germans do. I do, however, buy a repro’ clock which, we will later discover, has a tick louder than Big Ben. I intended it for the bedroom but it now currently lives in the Conservatory. I said they had confectionery stalls and whilst Darrin treats himself to an Italian version of Torrone – ( a sort of peanut brittle made with almonds) I elect for Limoncello nougat. How about this one though? They take pizza dough balls, flatten them and then deep fry them. They fluff up like Yorkshire Puddings. Then they are dredged in icing sugar. We see dozens of kids eating them:



We have to be back at the coach by 4p.m. so we struggle through the crowds and make it back to Via Buonaparte. As we cross the road, Wee Al pulls up at the traffic lights and we cross over the road in front of him. That’s what you call timing! So Wee Al takes a head count and there’s one of us missing. We wait another 15 minutes but the lady doesn’t show. It appears she is travelling on her own. We are parked in a restricted area and Al has tried to explain to a couple of policemen what has happened. He manages to bribe them with a couple of coffees. Temperatures are dropping and I guess they were glad of a hot drink. The consensus is that we should wait for her. After all what if it was your Mum ? Wee Al is really het up. He’s on his own because Big Al has gone to the airport with the couple (from yesterday) who are flying back to Britain.
An hour goes by. Wee Al returns to say she has been found. She’s sat in a cafe with a bunch of Italian coppers enjoying a cappuccino! She had taken the optional bus tour earlier in the day and thought she was to be picked up where the tour had finished. She had obviously not heard Al say where we were supposed to meet. So, stowed safely on board with said lady we set off back for our hotel. Doris starts “chunnering” about the missing lady and how stupid she was…… and thankfully, her friend tells her to shut up before I do!
So on return to Cadenabbia it’s a freshen up, dinner and then to the bar. As we pass through reception we notice a fellow passenger in tears and Big Al on the phone trying to book flights. It turns out that one of the ladies has had news that her husband has had a stroke. Here we go again. It’s starting to get like Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indian Boys”. Let’s hope there are no more incidents.
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Old 13 Jan 12, 11:43 PM  
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highland lass
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Geoff I am so enjoying this report I was even going to pm you and ask where day 4 was - how sad am I
Looking forward to reading more
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Old 13 Jan 12, 11:48 PM  
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JaneSi
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That cathedral is something else, so pretty. Wonder Doris hast even decked yet, she sounds like a right pain!
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Old 13 Jan 12, 11:53 PM  
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I've been waiting for day 4 too, now don't stop we want more lol... please x
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Old 16 Jan 12, 01:46 PM  
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Hurry up with day 5 - and pass the limoncello nougat around please
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Old 16 Jan 12, 02:44 PM  
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Eeyore rocks
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You have just got to love Doris.
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Old 17 Jan 12, 07:31 PM  
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Melanie R
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Can't believe I missed this - great day Geoff! Loving Doris although I can imagine she was a pain to be around, people like this are fab for a people watcher like me
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Old 17 Jan 12, 07:33 PM  
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geoffa
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Oh! Go read Day 5 -Doris struck again.
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Old 17 Jan 12, 07:50 PM  
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Just fab! Loving this report!
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Old 18 Jan 12, 08:16 PM  
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Still laughing at you giving Darrin the red card, and can't wait to see what Doris got up to next!
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