Tuesday, 1 November 2011 – Part III of III
Idea Hotel is definitely different; as described online, it is a modernistic, minimalist décor with very little color. Check-in goes smoothly, although it takes a try or two before I get the desk clerk speaking the right language (old hat by now!). I can’t wait to get to my room and clean up after the smelly train ride and the glued hands, and I am pleasantly surprised to find the lights are on in the halls here. OK, hold the phone. Maybe this place is a bit too modernist for me – I can’t for the life of me figure out how to open the door (yup, here we go again!). I just keep waving different parts of the card key in front of the sensor plate until I get a green light – wish I knew which part worked…could be a real challenge after a bite to eat and a drop or two of vino… (For the record, I now have the same problem with the card key for the pool at the condo I moved into…it’s just something about me, clearly.)
Totally ready to relax, I enter the room and discover (wait for it…) I can’t figure out how to turn on the lights. I finally notice a slot by the door and try the key card in it – Let there be light!!! Good thing I’m not afraid to experiment – who knows what else might have happened, sliding that key in that slot??
I do what I can to remove the leftover glue residue from my hands, spend a few minutes organizing, charge my iPod and camera (yes, I remembered the proper converter for Euro power this time), figure out my clothes for the next day, and do a proper inspection of the boot situation. Given all the glue that had come out when the tube end let loose, there is a fair amount of excess as I had applied it rather hurriedly and was just trying to get the bulk of it off my hands. I look for any gaps and fill them in, also cutting off any visible globs that were not serving a purpose. I am hoping the boot saga will now end, given the copious amounts of shoe glue on the job.
Next, I consult my guidebook on the appropriate way to order a glass of wine and ask for the bill in Italian (what else would I need a guidebook for? ha, ha), and then try to figure out what the charge would be for using the phone to call Mom, but nothing I find references a charge of any sort for the phone. I am exhausted and need to vent, so I decide, to preserve my sanity, I will eat whatever it costs to access a phone line, since I already have my prepaid phone card and a number to dial to access very cheap per-minute phone service. (Again, very glad I did so much research in advance – the minutes were so cheap that, even having called Mom several times from Europe and having called Mum Po from the States a few times since the trip, I still have money left on the card in 2013, and I didn’t put much on it to begin with.) Anyway, turns out the phone charge was only 1.6 euro (about $2) when I checked out, so I am glad I didn’t sweat it too much, especially given the room only cost 59 euro ($79).
Poor Mom, though, having to put up with my whining. I’m sure she is worried enough, worrywart that she is, about me making this trip, much less hearing me complain, even though I try to keep it under control. Two full days of travel with no ability to actually connect or communicate with anybody is taking its toll at this point. It’s a bit of a shock to the system, particularly after being in England and interacting with so many people so much of the time. Knowing my tendency toward social overload, you would think I would be savoring the solitary at this point – but not so much… So, Mom’s voice is enough to bring me some relief, and the time zone makes me able to talk to her when I most need it at the end of a trying day. (In fact, it works out better than when I am home since my trying day there is nowhere near ending when she goes to bed.)
Having finally relaxed after a fully interactive conversation in English (Thanks again, Mom!), I decide to venture out to find a bite to eat since I can’t remember the last time I actually ate anything. (As I do any time I travel, I took little snacks – e.g., granola bars, etc. – with me on this trip and tried to pick up extra cookie/cracker packages at any breakfasts that offered them.) I ask at the desk where I might go (since the only thing I had seen was McDonalds), and they point me down the road. I had thought this was actually a fairly active area, when I got off the train, but I now realize it appears to be an area that is probably active during the day but closes up early.
I walk a block or two down the street and around the circle at the end, finding a lot of closed places and graffiti, realizing there are mostly hotels and only one café. I stop to take a picture of a beautiful old church on the circle, but my camera won’t work. I turn it on and can’t get to the settings menu, can’t see the photos I have already taken on my SD card, and can’t even turn it off! It couldn’t be a battery issue, since I just charged it in the room. Talk about being on the verge of a nervous breakdown… I am really freaking out now! Fortunately, quirks with technology are not foreign to me (crazy cell phones, primarily) so I actually think, after this arduous day, to remove and replace the battery, which allows me to at least turn it off. At least I can store it safely, since the lens retracted back into the camera and was covered.
Immediate crisis resolved, I head to the near-empty café to satisfy that ravished feeling in the pit of my being and decide to take a seat at one of the outdoor tables, even though it is a bit chilly. I have been cooped up for the better part of two days so fresh air of any temperature is preferable. The camera thing, of course, is still pestering the corner of my craw, so I pull it out and start fiddling with it, leaving me distracted and unprepared when the waiter approaches. So, it is not the finessed encounter I earlier rehearsed during my in-room preparation, but I manage to order a glass of vino in Italian. He tries to get me to order food, but I manage to get across the point that I may in a bit but I would like my vino first (as in, NOW!).
I check the camera and realize it now seems to be working okay. Time to begin studying the menu. Obviously a tourist joint – the sandwiches are named after famous American celebrities of decades past. I, in fact, order the Marilyn Monroe Panini, no pomodoro (Parma ham, brie cheese and mayo, with no tomato, on toasted bread). Very tasty!
I am merrily scribbling away in my journal, logging my photos and munching on my sandwich, until I pause and look up to reflect, only to find some guy with a bouquet of roses trying to talk to me, and he just won’t go away! He just keeps talking very quietly, trying to get my attention, and I keep waving him off. Finally, he goes into the café for a second and then scoots away. Thank Goodness! I always love someone standing watching while I eat…
Next, an older man in a station wagon pulls up across the street, double parks in the traffic lane, gets out with his dog, and takes the dog for a walk – yes, all with the car still in the travel lane, with no flashers or anything, and the lights out! Good thing he’s not in Paris – he’d be mowed flat by now. In the midst of all this, a very hot guy (hubba, hubba) pulls up to the curb in front of the café, walks in with another guy, hurries out, waves at the double-parked guy (who at this point in back in the car, in the passenger seat), whips a U-turn and squeals off. Very strange, these Milanos… Just a point or two to ponder, as I drift into the advanced relaxation stage.
I figure, since I am outside, it is probably okay to smoke, but I don’t want to make any moves I might regret later so I catch the waiter’s attention, hold up the pack and ask, “OK?” His reply as he brought me an ashtray (which I learn over time is the common response to a woman, or at least to me, by an Italian man in the service business): A big grin, accompanied by the words, “Yes. For you,” (richly implying “only for you”). Aaw, shucks. Don’t I feel special! Aaah, finally all I need to relax – a tummy no longer growling angrily, a nice glass of red, a smoke, and my journal begging for an update, all at a sidewalk café on a side street in Milan. (This tiny place gets a lot of traffic, being the only eatery nestled in amongst several hotels. A steady stream, of mostly business travelers I would guess, has started streaming in since I arrived. Some have even walked away due to the crowd. Once again, I am a trendsetter – where I go, the crowd follows…or at least so says my bartender friend, Kimmy, in Vegas, whose bar almost always gets busier shortly after I arrive.)
Hmmm… more activity on the street. About 45 minutes have passed since the station wagon pulled up, and a woman leaves the café and jumps into the driver’s seat. So…I guess in Milan it is okay to double park for 45 minutes to an hour to pick someone up on a regular basis (a little bit of an assumption, but the hot guy did wave like he expected the older man to be there…). I guess it remains to be seen if it’s “only in Milan.”
I order a second glass of wine and ask for my tab – 20 euro total ($27): 10 for two vino, 7 for the sandwich, and 3 for coperto (seating fee/cover charge) – who knew? Lesson learned: Investigate menus and signage before patronizing a place, as this fee is not uncommon in Europe (although 3 euro was probably the highest I encountered). Quite the racket! But I guess you can get away with it, particularly when you’re the only game in the area. I can honestly say I wouldn’t have walked away over it; I was far too desperate for food and relaxation. (I am definitely conservative with my spending, having a limited budget, but sometimes “ya just gotta do what ya gotta do,” y’know what I’m sayin’?
So, I’ve already paid the tab and am drinking my second glass of wine. It’s been pretty peaceful for, I don’t know, 15 or 20 minutes. Must be time for another interesting encounter, right? I happened to look up just as an older guy was passing (kind of a cross between Donald Sutherland and a slovenly Dennis Farina). He moves his eyebrows up and down a couple of times and then, when he gets five or ten steps past me, starts making kissing noises (or something between that and signaling ‘come here’ to a pet). I ignore it (of course) and, as it turns out, his car is parked right there, so he gets in and drives off. Another “Whew” moment… (In retrospect, I wonder if perhaps I was being solicited earlier by the man with the roses, if you know what I mean. He was certainly more subtle than he of the older generation.) Perhaps they are not used to seeing women alone in Italy unless they are ‘for hire’? Or perhaps, the stories are true about Italian men and their overt attentions. Only time will tell… So far, not sure quite what to make of these Italians. I’m starting to think the nice guy on the train into Milan was an anomaly.
My wine finished, I head back to the room, set the alarm for 5:45 to 6:00 am or so, and turn on the TV to go to sleep. I had received a text from Chris at Gatwick, spending the night before her return to the States, and reply with well wishes for her journey. Between the conversation with Mom and the text from Chris, I feel quite a bit better remembering there are “friendlies” in the world beyond Italy J After I bit, I turn off the TV and fall asleep pretty quickly, given the exhausting day of travel and turmoil.