I finally made it to Malpensa Airport in Milan.
As soon as I got off my flight, I changed my dollars into euros and got a ticket for the shuttle bus into Milan's Stazione Centrale.
Everyone who told me that our dollar is weak wasn't joking. I was a little bummed at how little euro I got in the exchange rate.
The ride into the city reminded me a bit of the freeways in Chicago, except that every sign was in Italian. The bus had air conditioning which I would soon learn was a luxury in most of Italy.
I got off the bus at Stazione Centrale and found the baggage storage so I could explore the city for the day.
Walking out of the train station.
First, I found the Metro and took it to the Duomo.
A friend told me that when she went, she audibly gasped when she walked up out of the Metro, and I now understand why.
Because it is high season, there were so many people everywhere and so many people ready to take your money.
The birdseed sellers pissed me off. I was so hot and tired, I really didn't feel like being harassed in and around my personal space.
It was Sunday, so there was a service going on. I felt kind of disrespectful taking pictures while people were getting their jesus on even though no one else seemed to have a problem with it.
The floor was cool too.
I asked around for Jesus' email address, but no one wanted to give it to me.
After checking out the inside, I walked around the corner to get a view from the roof. Everywhere I turned, there was another picture to take.
It was SO hot, but I didn't care. This was so amazing to see up close.
I was wandering around, checking out the shops at the "mall"...
when I heard a screeching sound and saw a large flaming gay man approaching me with his arms out.
How did I know he was gay? Well, he mentioned it in the first 5 seconds of our conversation. That and he was also from Barcelona and a hermaphrodite who was taking hormones, and would be getting surgery to complete his "womanhood" in two years.
He wanted to see my tattoos. He asked me if I was from Australia. He wanted to know if he freaked me out. He wanted to read my palm.
He talked so fast and so loud, I was having trouble understanding what the hell was going on.
He wanted to walk around the corner to tell me my fortune, and before I knew it we were sitting on a bench in the hot sun and he was giving me a "special deal" for the reading.
I was too weak from hunger, sweat and being in a completely foreign country to walk away from what was surely a con.
I kept a close hold on my bag and figured that even though he was full of shit, at least it was going to make for good blog fodder.
After spewing (literally. He spit a look when he spoke) a bunch of vague visions, he took me by the hand and wanted to show me the "gay park". At that point, I knew better than to go anywhere with him and told him I was going to go have lunch now--alone.
I had a salad and fruit at a self serve lunch place, then some gelato (strawberry).
I was starting to really feel the jet lag, and it was almost time for my train so I made my way back to the train station and found a place to sit down and drink a beer and smoke a cigarette in peace.
Let me just say this: While you cannot smoke indoors in Italy, you can pretty much smoke anywhere else, and most everywhere has an outdoor seating area. No one gives you dirty looks either like they seem to here in the states. It was kind of nice except that I smoked way too much while I was over there.
Milan was cool; maybe a little too fast-paced for me. Everyone was in a hurry, and it was Sunday. I can't imagine what it's like there on a work day.
I found my train and tried my hardest not to fall asleep (per my cousin's advice) so that I could sleep a full night when I got to their house.
It took a while to make it to them, and I had to change trains. It was all pretty clear cut and, even though everything was in Italian, I'd been in enough train stations to figure out where I needed to be.
I didn't get to my cousin and her husband until 10pm, but she only lives about 10 minutes from the train station.
I'm sure I looked (and smelled) like the train had dragged me there. I got a quick shower and went straight to bed where I slept like I've never slept before.
I basically woke up in the same positon I had passed out in 12 hours earlier, and this is the view out of her guest bedroom:
After that, I was good to go. Once I had a solid sleep behind me, the time difference (they are seven hours ahead) didn't really bother me.
We decided to go to Venice for the day, but those pictures will be in the next post.