*note: i wrote this on sat but couldn’t get online til now (sun)…last night was amazing, so there’ll be an update on that later.
So I guess work has been a little more demanding lately, because once again, I’ve abandoned the blog! This week was really crazy. Everyone decided I had too little to do (true), so everyone came up with a project for me! I’m actually really thankful…the week goes by so much faster when you’re not spending 5 out of 9 work hours on facebook…and I’m working on a pretty important project for the “big man” himself, so I’m stoked about that.
It’s Saturday (finally), and I’m typing this in front of the telly, which is broadcasting some sort of French equivalent to My Super Sweet 16, except it doesn’t descriminate by age. There’s a little French duchess who’s turning 6 so mummy and daddy are throwing a 3.5 million euro ($5.5 million) fairy tale ball! She’s Cendrillon (Cinderella). I’m jealous of her dress. And her shoes.
Whatever, my sixth birthday party was better. It was at Las Trampas pool (<3 Burton Valley), and half my kindergarten class came, and we ate pizza, and Ryan (my true love who moved to Arizona and broke my six-year-old heart) gave me Aladdin jammies. I still have the shorts. (shhh don’t tell)
OK here’s the update. Abridged…? Ha.
Last weekend I went to Milan! LaTache, one of my closest friends since 7th grade, is studying in Florence this summer. So we obviously had to get together for a crazy Euro adventure. After weeks of struggling with each other’s packed schedules, we finally decided on July 11-13 in Milano. Neither of us had ever been…I would have met her in Florence, but “been there, done that” (I’m a snob, remember?), and it’s just too much of a hassle to get to Florence from Paris if you’re only staying a couple days. Milan, by contrast, has an international airport. Oh, and it’s the fashion capital of Italy. Si, cierto!
I flew through Amsterdam to save a couple Euros. I was excited; I had an hour stopover, and I wanted to spend all of it in the gift shop buying inappropriate presents for my deadbeat friends back home…but the Amsterdam airport was BARREN. It’s northern Europe, I should have expected minimalism in the extreme, but if I’d walked for twenty-five minutes (time I didn’t have) I probably wouldn’t have found a single gift shop. So instead, I hooked up the iPod and enjoyed the view out my gate window.
About a week before finals/Eurotrip, my computer erased all my music. Needless to say, I was too busy to bother with re-downloading everything, and I’m going through some major withdrawals. I keep searching for Regina and Michael (haha Cueto, you know what I’m talking about) only to remember that they’re gone. It’s like they died. But Mayer and Bowie are pulling me through. And a little Britney. She may be a hot mess, but she’s got some talented producers with very expensive sound equipment. Don’t pretend you don’t love the product.
I arrived at Malpensa airport around 4:30 pm. As soon as I stepped into the terminal, I was greeted with an enormous ad featuring Patrick Dempsey modeling Versace sunglasses. Clearly, my heart skipped a beat. But I couldn’t help but laugh…everywhere in Europe, you find ads featuring American movie stars. There are PLENTY of attractive European models and actors, but they seem to just like ours better.
I’d like to quote some song lyrics from the timeless classic, “Team America: World Police.” You know what I’m talking about. I’m pretty sure I’ve belted that song about 47 times since I’ve been here. Typically late at night, wandering the streets of Paris with a crowd of interns/Marines/other expats. Or perhaps at the 4th of July party, in slightly more hushed voices.
Back to Milan. I slowly started remembering my Italian, and found my way onto the Malpensa Express train which took me into the city. From there, I explored the underground, which was incredibly simple and easy compared to Paris’s Metro. I think there were three lines, Red, Yellow, and Blue. I could handle that. I took the Red east to Duomo and the Yellow south to Missori. It dropped me off on the very quiet Corso Italia, which I followed to our little street and the ABC Hotel! The hotel was typical European, with very sparse amenities, but the bathroom was HUGE, so I was quite pleased. Keep in mind, I’ve been living for a month in a two-room apartment with the tiniest bathroom known to man. There are stairs leading up to the toilet/shower (which really is toilet/shower, in the same 2.5’x4′ space). The ABC Hotel’s bathroom was easily 4’x6′, with a COUNTER for the sink, and doors for the shower…and best of all…a bidet!!
I was absolutely beat, so I took a nap to wait for LaTache and her friend, Jodie, to arrive on the 10:00 train. Eventually I wandered over to Stazione Centrale, Milan’s main train station which is housed in a enormous, beautiful old building with columns and horse statues and overall Italian-ness. I was starving, and there wasn’t much around, so I treated myself to a cheeseburger at McDonalds while I waited. Delicious. The weather was typical of Italy in the summer — hot, humid, and the deep blue, clouded sky was sporadically laced with bolts of lightning. I wish I’d had my camera (I didn’t…and still don’t…but I will soon…long story…), it was absolutely spectacular. I sat on the edge of a lawn in front of the station, taking in the view, when I felt a little itch down my leg. I looked down, and saw four mosquitos chillin’ on my ankle.
Mosquitos love me. I think it’s the sweet, ginger blood. At one point on my Italy vacay when I was eight, i had 18 bites at once on my right arm. Miserable.
Needless to say, I flipped out and ran inside the station to wait. Finally, around 11 (the train was late), LaTache arrived with Jodie and we met up with another friend, Jamie, who’s been studying in Milan for almost a year. Jamie took us to an adorable area along the canal and to a quiet little pizza place, and I got a mouth-watering prosciutto and mushroom pizza for, like, 6 euros. In Paris it would have been at least 10. This was a running theme in Milan (and probably just about everywhere else in Europe)…Paris is, simply, freaking expensive. Jamie took us on a tour of our area (our hotel was super central, great job LaTache!), which was full of little restaurants and bars and SHOPS. The next way, we decided, would be purely dedicated to shopping. We passed the Duomo, the enormous Gothic cathedral, on our way back to the hotel. A huge TV to its right was casting swathes of color onto the cathedral’s face, which stood out red, blue, green, yellow against the night sky…surreal.
We finally got to the hotel, and the girls dropped off their bags so we could go back out. Only problem: Italy, which is silly like the United States, stops serving alcohol at 2 am. Some bars do this in Paris, but you can always find one that’s open til 5. By the time we were ready to go out again, it was 1:55. We raced out the door, back to the cute street we’d been on before, and found a place that was serving beer in plastic to-go cups. We grabbed a few and settled with a crowd of youngens at “The Columns,” a piazza between a row of ancient, ruined columns and a church presided over by a statue of Caesar. The Columns are a popular hangout for the “regazzi” of Milano, who evidently had nowhere better to go after 2 am.
The next day, we shopped. All day. I don’t know if I’ve ever shopped that hard in my life…and that’s saying something. The employees are very hands-on. Shoe shops, for example, are not quite what they are in the States. The walls are lined with boxes, and on top of each stack of boxes is a shoe. It’s this way in Paris, too. You’d think it’s set up this way to be a sort of “help yourself” scenario, but NO. The second you touch a box, some woman is on top of you, speaking rapid fire Italian, asking Can I help you and What is your size and Can you tell that I ate garlic bread for lunch. Instead of being helpful, we just found this to be an incredible turn-off, and it probably prevented us from spending more money than we would have. (in the long run…a GREAT thing.) But we succeeded in buying a couple of pairs of shoes (amore), and also some cute shirts/dresses/pants along the way. We literally ran out of time; by the time the shops closed at 7:30, we weren’t even halfway done with the main shopping area. “There’s still tomorrow,” we told ourselves.
We limped back to the hotel for naptime, and woke up to raindrops. I hopped out of the shower to a thunderstorm, and soon it was hailing. Oh, Italy. We freaked out a little, but I assured the girls (with my vast knowledge of Italian weather) that it would pass very quickly and we could still go out. I was right! We slipped into some of our cute, new purchases, and headed down the (dry) street to the Mexican restaurant on the corner for some good, cheap eats and margaritas. The food was pretty great considering the circumstances, and the menu translations were hilarious (“beens,” “corn’s chips,” “baby menu — menu for the babies”), which kept us laughing as we continued to slurp down weak margaritas and shots of Cointreau (Jodie’s suggestion) and (free from the bartender!) lemoncellos.
Somewhere along our shopping journey, we had stopped into a little cafe for a potty break, and Jodie hit it off with the very cute Italian barkeep who spoke impeccable English. She was determined to return that night for a few drinks, so we did! Sadly, our favorite bartender was gone, but another cute one was in his place. “Walter” was from Brazil, and he was accompanied behind the bar by “Linda,” an adorable blonde wearing a little black dress, white high-top sneakers, and braces on her teeth. Walter made us Linda’s favorite cocktail (the “Linda”….appropriate.) and he and Jodie flirted it up. We had expressed our desire to sing and dance the night away, and Walter said his friend Bruno was coming around 3 am to pick them up and go to The Beach, a club on the outskirts of the city. Would we like to come? SI, CIERTO! Bruno had been a model casting agent in Milan for eight years, and was now starting his own company. He brought along with him a man from Senegal, which made me super excited because I’d been struggling to speak Italian for 24 hours, and now I could have a real conversation with someone–in French! He didn’t end up coming to the club with us (good thing–I think he’d caught a feeling), but around 3:30 the rest of us hopped in cabs and headed to The Beach.
Bruno is clearly a badass, because, in his company, we were all able to cut the long line and head directly into the club. The Beach was almost completely outdoors, but the ground was covered in astroturf. An enormous dance floor lay underneath a stark white structure of ceilings and half-walls covered in huge TVs and strobe lights and disco balls and everything that screams Euro. We danced the night away, got all our drinks bought for us, and stayed out til the sun poked into the drizzling 6 am sky. Jodie was occupied with Walter all night, and LaTache and I, having absolutely no interest in the locals, pretended to be, um, “together.” Works every time. No, we didn’t actually kiss or anything. Dirty minds, all of you.
Walter got us a cab back, and we stumbled into bed around 6:30. Checkout was at 11, so we jumped out of bed at 10:30, took lightning-fast showers, and headed out for another day of shopping. We met up with Jamie again outside the Duomo, and headed inside for a peek. I was so pleased that they didn’t charge you money to enter this cathedral, as they do at so many others. Compared to the ornate exterior, the inside of the duomo was decidedly subdued. Smoke from the hundreds of prayer candles filled the space and muted the light streaming in from the stained glass. It was so peaceful…I could have stayed there the rest of the day.
We all had to be heading out of Milan at 6 PM, so we spent the rest of the day exploring the shops we’d missed the day before. We had a lunch of paninis and gelato (both of which are, clearly, done better in Italy than in Paris), and LaTache and I bought more shoes (typical), and finally we said our goodbyes. I got back to Malpensa and had a lot of time to kill before my 9 pm flight, so I read my book, ate risotto at an airport cafe, and realized how sad I was to leave Italy. ‘Cept for the mosquitos, who by now had by now caused my legs to resemble those of a plague victim. No seriously, I wore opaque tights and pants all week at work so I wouldn’t scare anyone.
The next day, back in Paris, was Bastille Day, France’s day of independence. I was exhausted and slept in ’til noon. Or was it 1? I had no desire to be on the Champs Elysees at 8 am to watch the military parade, so I didn’t feel too bad about it. Schafer and I lazed around for a bit, and around 4 headed out to a tiny museum to the north, which is showcasing some of the ancient warrior statues found in Xi’an, China in 1979. I’ve been fascinated by them since I learned about them in middle school, so I was pretty stoked. The exhibit was cool, and I got a lot of language practice since the (lengthy) descriptions of each piece were only written in French. Afterward, we grabbed a bottle of wine (on sale!) at a posh little food store next door, and hopped on the metro to Champs de Mars, the park beneath the Eiffel Tower, to meet up with Matt and Josh (interns). After having sipped some fine wine, we met up with Becca (intern) and had dinner at a little cafe near St Michel, and watched the fireworks from the edge of the Seine in front of Place de la Concorde. They lasted 40 minutes, and they were beautiful…I was a little disappointed because I’d seen them in 2005 with my brother, and during that show, tons of fireworks had come out of the Eiffel Tower itself, as well as off the barge on the Seine. This time it was just the barge. But my fellow interns, all of whom are straight East Coastin’ and have seen 4th of July fireworks in D.C., said they were the best fireworks they’d ever seen. So I can’t complain.
Last night, Ranna, Meghan, Courtney, Tallie and I (interns) went to a cute little Tibetan restaurant near Oberkamf, and ate a cheap, delicious dinner underneath Tibetan flags and a huge portrait of the Dalai Lama. We wandered back to the Latin Quarter for gelato, and then Ranna and I went to the Long Hop for some free drinks (Thanks, Adrienne!) and to observe rowdy, drunken Americans singing along to all the favorites and grinding up on each other. We felt very much at home. Tonight I’m going out with Jackie and a couple of her friends for dinner and clubbing…it’ll be my first Parisian club experience! I know, that should have happened like on the first weekend, right? I figure I’m well prepared by now, especially after The Beach. Yikes. I should just not wear makeup and show up in a potato sack, and hope no one hits on me. Still, unlikely. French men’s standards are, eh, not so high.
Anyway, all is well, and I’ve caught up on sleep a bit, and I’m back to “love” in my love/hate relationship with this city…for now, anyway. I still need to get it together and do more touristy stuff…there’s still so much I haven’t seen! But I’ve got time. Sort of. Maybe tomorrow.