Saturday, June 02, 2007

Switzerland Journal: Day Four

We were all "up and at 'em" early on May 19th, a brisk cool Saturday morning. Who could sleep in when you knew you were headed to Milan Italy? Fun, fashion, food, Italy!
Our men had told us to pack for a one night stay, so I had condensed my suitcase down to lighten my load, while thinking of every possibility: Cool weather, warm weather, elegant dining, long walks on cobblestones.
The men made do with small back packs. Kate got bookish...maybe be around a librarian infected her with some strange virus, at any rate she carried several guide books in a colorful tote that she toted with amazing strength!
Our packing proclivities, well, what can you say...we were going to MILAN, the fashion capital!
And we didn't want to miss a thing!
I loved that we could walk to the train station. The trains are electric, and so very quiet, unlike the trains that run near our home and our son's home, trains that you can hear from a distance. The Swiss trains glide silently along, their whistles rarely heard, and when a toot is sounded, it is more like a child's toy sound, a sweet single note.
It was a bit chilly as we left. It felt really invigorating.
Kate was a pro a figuring out train schedules.

Kate had packed a breakfast for us; marvelous Swiss cheese, crusty bread, and some cherries.
Yup, it's me, eating again.

Kate had made a really cute passport carrier to wear around her neck while she traveled. I had the typical beige plastic passport carrier, known as a "bosom buddy" (referring to it as that always lead to comical expressions from Bernie.)

Only moments after leaving the St. Gallen train station, we were treated to views from our train window like these:

I'm a sucker for a church spire.

And I "ooh'd" and "awed" at the Italian Swiss Alps.
Sherman was quite knowledgeable about castles and fortresses. Apparently you can tell the era of a fortress by the wall shape, because the wall shape is defending against whatever is the most modern weaponry. This castle, still in Switzerland, is Medieval. I hope Kate will leave a note when she reads this, and get Sherman to remind me what the name of the castle is, the town and the era. From this picture it looks like it right next to the train tracks. Actually it is quite high on the hill and nearly hidden from view! Ahh, the wonder of modern cameras and a good photo editing tool!
The four hour train trip went fast. We raced by the resort community of Lake Como, and being from Southern California, I didn't think to take pictures of the Italian corner of Switzerland, with it's Mediterranean style houses and palm trees. It just looked like San Diego to me!

I didn't even notice when we crossed the border, as the signage had changed to Italian long before we were there. Switzerland is like three countries in one: German, Italian, French areas each speak the language, follow the building style, and serve the cuisine. Each "canton" or state in Switzerland has a strong personal identity. By traveling the small country, which is no larger than "four hours in any directions by train" (a commonly heard expression) you get the feeling that you have visited FOUR countries: Germany, Italy, France, and vaguely, Switzerland.
By the time we arrived in Milan it had gotten quite warm. We hailed a taxi, not knowing where our Marriott hotel would be in relation to the train station.
What's a trip to Italy without a wild cab ride???
Near misses, hand gestures, bike darting through traffic, six lanes funneling into two, and may the best man win! Kate and I were busy watching street fashion and store fronts, the men were busy holding on for dear life, white knuckled and bug eyed.
About twenty minutes later (or was it five???) the cab careened into the Marriott parking lot, which looked to me like the front of a restaurant. Star jasmine blossoms blanketed the entrance to the hotel, the flowers combining to create a warm fragrance that was simply intoxicating.
I love walking a red carpet through a tunnel of flowers! The Milan Marriott was a real treat: five star hotel and thank you Marriott Hotel points! Getting that Park City Utah Marriott timeshare last summer really paid off, otherwise our one night lodgings would not have been quite so glamorous!
I can (and did) get use to this!

Pink Venetian glass chandelier, against an orange ceiling in the hotel lobby. Yup, that's right. Orange again.
Fairy princess chandelier!
The view from our bedroom window. I love the way the windows on the bottom floor of the yellow-orange building are wrapped with design. The little window box gardens were wonderful too.

Lunch time in Italy is from 12 to 2, and after that the restaurants close until dinnertime. We hustled out to the street, hoping to find a tasty little place to get some pannini.
We were too late, most of the restaurants were closing up, but we did find one hole in the wall where the locals were eating. By pointing at various plates we managed without speaking much Italian to get something that looked pretty tasty.

The wine however was terrible. I stuck with water, but everyone else voted the wine to be the worst wine they had ever tasted. Gritty even. So much for an introduction to Italian red wine. I suspect they give the bad stuff to the tourists!
After our brief repast, we walked toward the Galleria area. I was shooting pictures as I went, capturing what I could of the area's appeal.
(I have to be truthful, I cut out all the cars that were parked in the street in front of this row of houses. I just loved the vibrant colors, especially since we live in an area where all the houses conform to the neutral modern colors.)
More fragrance. Note the bike and the motorcycle parked on either side of this romantic door!
I wasn't aware that "Georgio" Washington was ever in Italy. Wonder when they named a street after him?
In the Cathedral square there were lots of little vendors. I had never seen coconut slices being offered for sale in this manner before, with a fountain dribbling water over the slices to keep them from drying out. While I was examining this sight, the vendor stepped over, mugging for the camera. So Italian!
Kate suggested we take a tour of the Cathedral, and we declined, as it was already late in the afternoon. It was our one chance, the next morning church would prevent tour groups. It was getting quite warm outside, and we decided to at least peek inside.
From Wikipedia: Built from the late 14th well into the 19th century (and in a sense, never completed as work continues), the Duomo di Milano is one of the world's largest churches, being second in size within Italy only to Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, and being the second largest Gothic cathedral in the world, after the Cathedral of Seville in Spain.
I like the image of the jet trail above the Cathedral.
Scaffolding banked the building. The newly cleaned spires were perfectly gleaming in the sunlight.

It was very hard to capture such a huge building in a single photograph. Inside I had an Epiphany: The reason why people who normally never darken the door of any church suddenly become such fans of Cathedrals has less to do with spiritual inclination and a lot to do with climate.
In other words: Thank God for the cool temperatures that are consistently found in Cathedrals!

Bernie and Sherman headed off in one direction, while Kate and I walked another way. Kate filled me in on some of the details that she remembered from the guided tour that she had taken previously. If I had had the time, I would have liked very much to have heard the full tour, there was so much history and art to consider!
Bernie took all these interior shots. It was so interesting to compare our photos at the end of each day, and we rarely overlapped in photo coverage. In the picture above you can see a bit of the unfinished ceiling. It puzzled me that they lavishly painted the ceilings to each side, yet have yet (since the 1400's) to finish the central ceiling area.

The place really is huge. The word "Gothic" now has a new meaning for me.

Back outside we regrouped on the square.

Then we turned right and about the distance of crossing a street, there was the Galleria.

Kate says we didn't even make it to the second floor.

It is supposed to be good luck to step on the little bull's boy parts and spin in a circle. The men standing near by around the tile design winced.

I think Bernie and Sherman did a pretty good at keeping us moving along.

But Kate and I did get in our fair share of window shopping.

The looking at tile work, looking at windows, what a treat for the eyes! The dress below, so simple a 7th grade sewing class could make it, cost a mind boggling amount. The belt was cute though.

Gloves! So tempting, yet so pointless in Houston humidity. I just couldn't find a pair that fit perfectly in the shade of light blue that I wanted, so I passed on making a purchase there.

Love the orange buttons....
It was getting quite warm, and there was a gorgeous little restaurant next door to the Opera House. Gelato, and a BIG bottle of water really hit the spot, and the wood work in the shop was charming too.

Love the orange renuculas. Picture this scene as elegant and very, very warm. I am starting to miss my omnipresent air-conditioning! In Houston, some dogs even have air conditioned dog houses!

We are outside of the Galleria at this point. Notice how nice and clean the streets are though? There are designers in each shop, and Kate and I are still raring to see each and every window. Check out the neckline on this dress below!

Milan still has the old city gates and some of the ancient city walls.

And orange trolleys....

I just liked the pattern on this tree truck, almost like another mosiac.

Guess who bought a hat? Nope, you are was Esq. Sherman bought a Panama straw at the Borcalino shop, where pictures were not permitted. You'll get to see him looking suave and dashing in it soon. Meanwhile, enjoy seeing him carry a big orange hat box in a big orange bag.

How about this look? The little coolie style hat was one of the possible assignments in Kate's millinery class. I've made one using buckram and fabric, but this one is straw and adorable. What a look!

Here's another great look. All the great fashions are not just in the windows. In fact, it wasn't too long before Kate and I were snapping pictures of street fashion faster than store window fashion. Love the shoes!

Ahem...yes. Oh yes. I like jewels...

While St. Gallen was hosting a "Horse Parade", Milan was hosting a "Cow Parade." There seems to be a trend here...visit a city, see the animal parade.

We actually were treking toward the Milan Castello, where there is an unfinished sculpture of a Pieta by Michelagelo. I had no idea what to expect and was astonished to round a corner and view this structure.

(A castle my family we always take pictures of cats that we meet when we are on vacation.)

This castle used to have an honest-to-goodness mote.

And there seems to be some left over catapult ammunition.

What a cool clock tower! The Castello reminded me of Hampton Court in England, where Henry the Eighth hung out. The same courtyard structure, only in red rather than grey. Sherman explained that the little squares are left over from when they built the castle, the squares are where the scaffolding was inserted. He has a thing about castles and I really should have picked his brain on the subject while I had the chance.

I'm trying to imagine this thing without the city around it.

Are these a couple of tough kitties or what???? Their family has probably been hanging around these castle grounds since the 1400's!

The cobblestone picture is the only picture that Bernie, Kate and I each took with our own cameras. The stones look so beautiful before they are back filled with sand. It was interesting to see what shots captured our attention.

OK, here's the learning part:

Castello Sforzesco:

The original center (of the castle) dates back to 1450, which was built on the wishes of the Duke Francesco Sforza. Over the centuries, the castle has undergone various changes, also due to the particular ups and downs that have seriously affected the structure. At the end of the 19th century, a major renovation was made on the whole building. Castello Sforzesco is a majestic building. Inside it has wonderful interior courtyards, built in Gothic-Renaissance style and incredible halls, designed by Leonardo, and frescos painted by master painters such as Bramante, who were commissioned by the court of Ludovico il Moro. The Castle now hosts important art exhibitions.

There will (not) be a test on this later. However, WE will be back here again tomorrow, because the Michelagelo exhibit was closed by the time we got there. Thank heaven we can go again tomorrow before we leave Milan in the morning!

A well dressed cow, parading.
And another "Fairy Princess" Venetian glass chandelier. This one is in a men's clothing store.

Two of the reasons we were in Milan were to get Sherman a Panama straw hat, and to order Italian made suits. Prices are steep, but a bargain compared to the prices in Switzerland.

Sherman purchased two handsome suits, and Bernie enjoyed trying on a few as well. The Italian style cut was fabulous on Sherm, but doesn't work well with Bernie's body. Whew...I don't think we would have had room in our luggage for a suit anyway!
You know when you get a new suit, you probably should pick out a new shirt and some new ties as well.

No? Can't quite picture an attorney in an orange shirt and tie?
No, seriously, I'm telling you, the talk on the street is ORANGE TIES are IN!!!!
See this Johnny Depp look-alike and his self centered girlfriend? Pink shirt. Yup, just doesn't get it. Tattooed leg and class. Now class...check out the guy right behind Mr. Pinkie.
A white linen suit on the way to the Opera. Now that's classy.

Orange shirt on him: Works. Ruffly skirt on her: Works.

Large silver handbag: So very in right now. Love the skirt, love the little girl's elegance in white.

Yes, this would be classy too. No, you can't have it.

We had a lovely Italian dinner, with wonderful wine and bread with olive oil, tomato salad with mozzerela cheese and vinegarette, and I had spagetti. I remember skipping dessert, and the waiter bringing us some very potent tiny drink, that I think was lemon flavored on blueberries? I really don't remember much after that....outside it had gotten dark, but people were still streaming through the streets, the Cathedral was lit up, which made it look magical.

Around the square store windows were very brightly lit up. Piles of leopard patterned purses and swim suits filled several windows.
It was the details that made the outfits unforgettable. A drawstring in back, one breast uncovered with a secondary layer.
Metalic shorts, with chrysanthemums done in orange red. WOW!
Ever thought about doing this with a zipper?
It was after midnight when we left the square, and the advertising for the big sunglasses on the Cathedral.
We took the subway back to the stop near our hotel. The cars were packed with holiday people who were very happy and very loud.
And a few who appeared very strange. Oh well. It was a lovely walk on Georgio Washington, and then we said good night, and retired to our room for the night.