22 July 2012 Sunday | 18:14 | 2012/06 Europe
Five villages with colourful houses built on steep cliffs… The picturesque Cinque Terre is full of rustic charm. Trains and ferries ply the route, and like the protected city centre of Florence, there is no way you can drive around unless you are a resident.
At the little village of Portofino.
Some cheese with herbs to go with some bread before we set off to Cinque Terre. Gooey in a very nice way.
I like walking into cafes and not knowing what I’ll find in there.
Many bought pesto sauce here.
Those rocks look really uncomfortable to lie on, no?
The ferry stopped briefly at each of the four villages before we disembarked at Riomaggiore. There was the beach where one could swim or just bake in the sun. I was kept busy looking for shampoo and shower foam (haha!) and I got a SPF 20+ lip balm before retreating into a café for yet another cup of coffee. The fatigue levels were peaking, and I remarked that you really require some stamina to do such a long trip.
Train ride to La Spezia.
This hotel probably just went through some massive refurbishment. Other than an ancient cupboard and the heavy brass key, everything else was new. There was a brand new television and a brand new fridge. It wasn’t switched on and had the operating manual lying inside, and I felt a little guilty turning the thing on just to chill a single can of Coke. I must have slept really early that night because I didn’t write much in my journal. Heh.
The next day, we reached Milan — the fashion capital and economic powerhouse of Italy. I was expecting something like Paris, but I was wrong. People were not necessarily as well dressed, and the service standards demonstrated the city’s total reliance on its domestic population. They didn’t need tourists in Milan at all, and they certainly didn’t put in any efforts in handling customers who didn’t speak their own language.
I was so miffed in Prada’s flagship store. I had to literally beg for their attention to get me something. And this haughty girl wasn’t entirely pleasant. So, I pointed at a few more items before shrugging my shoulders and declared in a most condescending tone that I didn’t like any of those.
That episode aside, I concluded that I didn’t like Milan. The designer stores were spread out along three streets arranged in a triangular fashion. You had to walk an unusually long distance before you reach the next boutique. The people in Paris, Singapore and almost everywhere else had this sorted out long ago by clustering all the high end chains together and thus creating a more conducive shopping experience.
I was astonished to see the massive number of counterfeit items in Milan, something I didn’t see in Paris. Surely you have to protect your own labels by clamping down on these, no? And what amazed me further were tourists asking if those were authentic items. “Of course they’re real, silly woman. Newest alfresco outlet co-owned by Prada and Gucci!” Duh.
Duomo di Milano.
This Gothic cathedral is the fourth largest in the world, and of course we would remember this as the place where Sammi Cheng filmed the movie in which she wanted to marry a rich guy. Mary (Bukoh) was there a few days before me, and she couldn’t go in because the Pope was there. So I egged her to write a letter to the Pope, demanding a free visit to the Vatican City because he disrupted her travel plans. Heh.
Another reason why I didn’t like Milan was because of the sheer number of people stopping tourists in their tracks. Apart from the counterfeit goods, there were people trying to stuff grain into my hands, asking me to feed the pigeons. I’m sure they would have asked for a crazy amount of money. And there were people peddling friendship bands (?!) in your face. Argh.
I observed them from afar and I couldn’t quite decide if I loathed them or empathised with them. Most of them were probably illegal immigrants who left home to seek greener pastures. The question then was, did they have a choice?
Arco della Pace (Arc of Peace) corresponding to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Much smaller though.
Awesome Angus Beef Burger in Rinascenter.
If only it tasted as good as it looked.