That first day of travel in Europe is always the most difficult. You see, it isn't really even fair to call it a day because you have been up flying since the previous day. And, if you are us this time, you spent your pre-trip days handling all the details that go along with moving out of your house. Not advisable.
This was the second time I've tried to beat the jetlag by waking up early in days prior to the trip, trying to force myself to sleep well on the plane. And, while I personally got maybe a total of 2 hours of shut eye on the plane, the plan backfired on James. You see, he had gotten up early as well, but he realized that he physically cannot sleep on a plane, ensuring that he was not only hit with normal jetlag, but he hadn't even gotten a good night's sleep prior. Oh, and after all that, I am still up in the middle of the night in Bologna, writing this blog. I digress.
After deplaning in Milan and walking through a strange room filled with smoke and lighting effects (not kidding) , we found our train to the town center. Now, I had planned out the metro stops we needed to take in order to reach the Duomo in a timely fashion, but James decided it was a nice time fora walk. With two hiking backpacks and a rolling suitcase... And a map that wasn't zoomed in enough near where we were... 20 minutes of wandering around , arguing and finally asking for directions, we were on the right path through Milan.
Milan is a really cool city. The vibe is very different from any Italian city I've visited before. Most Italians are laid back; not the Milanese. The buildings in the center have more of a "Belle Epoche" Paris feel to them than medieval or Renaissance. Fashion is everywhere you look, from the women (and the men) to the glitzy shop windows. Everyday folk wear Prada in Milan. As we made our way to the Duomo, we passed an old palace, an amazingly decorated post office and finally the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel with its glass and iron ceilings. Imagine if the Arc de Triomph and the Eiffel Tower came together to make a mall, and you are close to this architectural beauty.
I decided to set up camp with the bags in the McDonald's of the mall while James toured the Duomo, and we would switch out. With only just over an hour before we needed to leave for our train, we were both rushed. Most of our time was spent searching for the location to visit the roof (and purchasing tickets). Trust me, they don't make this easy, but it is totally worth it. How often do you get to not only climb to the top, but actually walk among the architecture on the roof? This is an amazing experience, but I suggest paying the extra euros to take the elevator. While I didn't have time to go inside, James proclaimed it the " best Gothic cathedral" he'd ever seen. And that is saying something. I will definitely return one day and will take at least 2 hours with this church. And how was McDonald's in Milan you ask? Great, cheap and they are closing :( I guess Italians don't appreciate our beloved chain like we do. How can you argue with an amazing cappuccino and two creme filled croissants for less than 4 euro in an architectural wonder, across from a top notch tourist destination?
After an easy metro ride, we found our train and prepared for our next leg: Bologna. For the next two hours, I fought off sleep (trains always make me want to sleep, so lulling) , chatted up an Italian who knew less English than I know Italian, which is really saying something, and wished for a foot rest. Once in Bologna, we were hoofing it again with all our luggage. Somewhere on that walk from the train station to our hotel, I hit the wall. Sleep deprivation, new blisters and a husband who has a stride at least three times that of mine all contributed. When we finally reached our room, I could have been happy watching the Italian dubbed Felicity and The Nanny reruns which were playing on our television. But, after a long bath (rare in Italy, but we found a hotel with tubs) and new clothes, I felt human again.
By now, it was 3 in the afternoon and the only thing we'd eaten since crappy plane food was a croissant. We were dying for some pizza or pasta. Here's the thing in Italy: they close restaurants from late afternoon until around 7 for dinner. So yep, we were walking around Bologna, the food capital of Italy, starving and jetlagged. After a very long walk to the city center which made us vow to always take the bus in the future, we toured two amazing churches, a great piazza, the food/market district of Bologna (which would inspire anyone who cooks) and saw the leaning towers of Bologna. Fun fact, they actually lean more than the one in Pisa, but aren't as pretty, so therefore, are not as famous. We bussed back to our hotel to wait for the restaurant of our choice, preselected for tripadvisor.com, to open at 7.
Naturally, we were the only people staking the place out for a 7 pm dinner, but we finally got in and had one of the best meals of my life. Spaghetti with a cream sauce, sundried tomatoes and sausage, tortellini with prosciutto and nuts with a cheese filling and Parma prosciutto pizza, Naples style: it is no wonder Bologna has earned the nickname "la grassa" which means "the fat one" in Italy. Two hours later, we were satiated, happy and tired. We left with a reservation for Saturday in hand and full stomachs.
So what did I learn today?
1. Don't try to prepare for jetlag; you'll do more harm than good.
2. Try to sleep that first night in the city you flew into. No one needs too much to think about and that much walking on that little sleep.
3. Eat when the locals do, and don't skip a meal.
4. Take advantage of public transportation whenever possible. Bumbling around with a map and luggage is no fun.
That's all for now! Hopefully, I won't be writing future installments in the middle of the night. Now, to attempt to sleep again...