Travel Review: Milan

So myself and Yasmin whisked ourselves off to Milan at the end of September. We’ve both been working really hard and we needed a little girly break without the distractions of boys and bosses calling at 7am on a Saturday… So in true style, here’s a break down of what we got up to whilst being in the centre of fashion and food.

We woke up at 3am on the Saturday morning, missed the connecting bus to take us to our Airport bus and ended up getting into an Uber with a driver who, not only was it his first day driving for Uber and we were his first taxi ride, it was his first ever ride as a taxi driver. When you have 10 minutes to go until your bus leaves and you’re giving the taxi driver the wrong post code despite living in that area for the past year (STUPID YASMIN!) it is a heart pumping event. However, it was only the first of our troubles.

After smoothly going through security and spending our spending money in duty free at the airport, I checked my phone to see that our gate had closed 4 minutes prior. Cue THE SWEATIEST LOADSOF RUNNING IN BOOT HEELS YOU HAVE EVER SEEN and you’re not even close. We cried our way through the gate and despite being the last people on the plane, we got good seats and I had a little kip. Yasmin described it as similar to the Kanye West video ‘All Falls Down’ but I assure you, if Gatwick ever release the CCTV of that run, it will be so  SO far from Stacey Dash, dashing through the airport in what can only be described as a velour towel dress.

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When we landed, finding transfers etc was pretty easy, Italians are a friendly bunch it seems and to be honest, despite being tired and little bit agitated, we were pumped to be in one of the world’s fashion capitals. So, on to the important stuff…

Cafés and Restaurants

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So for the record, we spent a lot of time lazing in cafés, sipping Espressos and asking for table water instead of bottled, and people watching quite quickly became our brand new hobby. We decided that we were going to throw caution to the wind and eat as much frigging pizza and pasta as we could and literally, it’s taken me about 3 weeks to face pasta again. If you’re opting for a traditional Milano meal, go to the centre where the Duomo (Cathedral) is situated and start walking in the direction of the outskirts. The courtyard, though vast is set out in a sun shape like formation which means that all the streets are more or less diagonal off the square. Pick one of those streets and if you don’t come across a sweet little italiano restuarante, you’ll definitely come across a McDonald’s (there’s one in view of the Rectangle of Gold even!). Me and Yasmin opted for an al fresco experience as the weather was really good whilst we were there but these pop up outside elements of the restaurants aren’t really available when it’s not tourist season.

Accommodation

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The Holiday Inn…in our eyes

Yasmin and I like to live life reminding ourselves of our student days aka being skint as hell. We booked a Holiday Inn, there’s no shame. Our room was great, cleaned by the maid every day and there was a speaker in the bathroom connected to the TV. It was a slight walk out of the centre, but an enjoyable one definitely. Book early if you want fancy, book late if you want cheap. Our deal came with breakfast, which was definitely European, but also all you can eat which is great when you’re on a budget. Just don’t try to steal any hard boiled eggs…not a good move as I found out.

Public Transport

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We mostly walked but public transport is cheap

Okay, so I’ve never been the greatest with public transport, but I’m certainly not the worst. But Milan is something else. I found this problem in Belgium and I really think Europe should take note of how great our transport system is here in Britain. You pay by time on the underground in Milan, so you can do an unlimited amount of trips, but they have to be within 90 mins. Weird as hell. Genuinely didn’t see any buses, so I can’t comment, but we did get the train to Lake Como one day and it costs us roughly about £4 each, so well worth it.

Lake Como

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Also looked out on by Byron, Shelley and Keats

In a slightly soppy way, this place has a lot of meaning for me. My English degree is pretty much based on the British Romantic writers and a lot of them lived on and around Lake Como, seeping inspiration from its very waters. And when we got there, I could really see why. The place is just stunning. Literally, it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We rode on the practically vertical cable car right up to the top of the mountain for the view and it was truly worth every penny (it cost about £3.60 to go all the way up and down again).

The resturants to choose from are in abundance and we chose a cute little one near the waters edge, where we gorged ourselves on pasta, pizza and what dubbed ‘the world’s greatest tiramasu’ . The atmosphere at night is one in a millian (sorry, had to!) and definitely recommended for a romantic trip. After rejecting Yasmin’s moves of a midnight kiss, we waddled back to the train station where we encountered some unfortunate species of the male variety, which I will elaborate on…

Males/Stares/Gawping/Attention

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Getting gawped at and run over simultaneously

For the first two days, we literally thought there was something wrong with us. I reguarly asked Yasmin to check if I had some unexpected growth coming out of my head or if my skirt was tucked into my knickers. It was only after a bit of research back at the hotel that ,nope, people actually just stare at you. At first it was males, and that’s to be expected, in forgeign culture, as long as you don’t look like a minor(ie. over 12) and also don’t look like you’ve been smoking a crack pipe for 10 years, you’re going to get attention. But seriously, it’s everyone. We left our hotel and decided to do an experiment where we counted how many looks or comments we got by the time we had walked to the centre. We had 5 before we had crossed the road from our hotel… The moral of the story is don’t go to Italy if you’re offended by this kind of beahviour and/or are ginger and/are or ethnic looking. You will get stared at, leered at, ciao bella’d at, but honestly, take it as a compliment and walk on, or if that fails, the middle finger means the same in Italian as it does at home.

Fashion

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The dome in the rectangle of gold, I mean we think…

Okay, so if I’m honest, this one was a let down. Not just in a sense of the fashion we saw on people, but apart from the Rectangle of Gold, it’s pretty damn normal when it comes to shopping. Nothing extravagant, nothing quirky, but then again, perhaps we stayed a little too mainstream as we were doing all of the museums and galleries in between (recommend booking to see The Last Supper, we managed to blag our way in because it wasn’t too busy and just paid on the door). I don’t really have much to comment on fashion unfortunately, and perhaps if I visited again, I would go all out on trying to find some hidden gems. Perhaps because Milan Fashion Week had been the week prior was an excuse for the Italians to have a week off? The one vintage shop we found on the way to the castle had some beautiful classic chanel shifts, and YSL shoes and handbags but unfortunately, being $kint the in city, naturally we couldn’t afford the €300 price tag. Sigh.

To summarise, the italians say Ciao for Hello and Goodbye which can get confusing. I would definitely go to Milan again, but I think next time I venture to that part of Italy, I’ll stay in Como. Oh and they do Pizza in McDonald’s, which is obviously a win all round.

Some more snaps that don’t fit into the sections I wrote about…not that the photos there do either.

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Katie! It’s me Gracey, I’ve caught on now, took so looong

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Yeah, this Kate Bush malarky. All returning to do a big tour like 35 years after her last one? Sounds like some money making for Miss Bush doesn’t it? But seriously, I didn’t realise how devastated I was about not having a ticket to see Kate Bush until I didn’t have a ticket to see Kate Bush.

So, queue a slightly muggy and slightly damp mid May morning, and I’m sat in the office already, it’s only 8.30am and I’m already hitting F5 on my computer at least 20 times every minute or so. I am sat here in anticipation with another colleague, about purchasing 4 Kate Bush tickets for our boss. It doesn’t matter what seats, or what price, but we have to get these tickets.

We sit there, palms sweaty, waiting for the clock to strike 9am so we can beat everyone to the front of this virtual queue (no British standards of polite queueing here- if I could hack, I would hack so bad). The chimes of Wuthering Heights are in the background and my colleague turns the volume to the highest when the clock turned 8.58am.

And then, like fate intended to give me a migraine, at 8.59am, the office fire alarm is going off, it’s piercingly loud, and the picth of Kate Bush’s ‘HEATHCLIFFFFF’ is really starting to grind my gears. We are being screamed at from across the room to evacuate the building, but we ignore like we are deaf despite our eardrums threatening to burst. And then suddenly, as if I am Charlie and i have found the golden ticket…I am directed to a payment ticket where I have exactly 7 minutes to enter my details- it is here I realise I don’t have a ticketmaster account…

Anyway, cue of lot of panicking and screaming and keyboard bashing and we manage to get 4 tickets. It is my greatest acheivement to date. I take to Twitter and parade my luck around to all the other grumpy hashtags, I let them wallow in misery as I bask in my (fake) tickets but (very real) glory.

So, come September, I’d completely forgotten about her upcoming tour taking place until I stumbled across a Guardian article trying to guess what was in store for the 20 something date tour. I was on a Virgin train, slightly hungover, going up to Lancaster and it was around 7.45am. I plugged in my headphones and watched the Wuthering Heights video, followed by Noel Fielding’s Comic Relief version. I then thought about the NSPCC advert I used to cry at when I was younger and the song that came along with it, and then I found This Women’s Work. I then came across The Man With A Child in His Eyes and I think the guy opposite me must have thought I was autistic I played it so many times.

What I’m trying to say is that basically, this woman was and is a fantastic musician and I’m so annoyed that I always just thought of her as this crazy and wacky bushy haired woman who I’d never really taken an interest in when my parents played her.

Not only was she an incredibly talented singer (that vocal range) she was literally one of the most beautiful women when she was younger, and although she’d rounded out slightly now being in her mid fifties, she’s still got that charm and mischief about her face. She wrote Wuthering Heights when she was 16, she wrote TMWACIHE when she was just 13 and it’s quite clear from the many people that were around her when she was first starting out etc have all really been touched not just by her creativity but by her utter ability to just be completely normal whilst being a superstar. I love that she pretty much stepped away from music to bring up a child, who she now includes in her performances as it seems he has taken up some of her influence. I don’t know how to describe how cool she is. She’s so relatable whilst being incredibly super stardom capable.

I think I’ve watched every documentary and interview (though not many exist) of her that I can find, and I’ve combed through her Wikipedia page. I received a vinyl of hers for my birthday and although I didn’t get a ticket for her concert (I ENTERED SO MANY PRIZE DRAWS DAMMIT), through purchasing a ticket for someone else, I found another strand of music which I play constantly over and over again because I just can’t accept change. I loved reading Wuthering Heights when I was younger and the fact that it came on  the radio whilst I was writing this blog post really freaked me out and I love that. Ok, girl fandom freak out over now, I’ll go back to being my normal cynical self.

Things I very much did, and very much didn’t like in Brussels.

So I went to Brussels at the start of September, when it was still warm and people were still adamant that it was now Summer forever and it would never rain again…It was part of my mum’s 50th birthday present, and I had decided many moons ago that we were going on the Eurostar and that we were staying in a hotel called Hotel Bloom! (the most ikea themed hotel ever).

What I hadn’t planned was a) how much chocolate I wouldn’t be eating, and b) how much I would actually enjoy beer. Anyway, here is a more concise version of what I did and didn’t like about Brussels (and Belgium in general, sorry Dan).

 EUROSTAR

First stop, the Eurostar or as I will now call it: THE WONDER TRAIN. Literally what is not to like about the Eurostar? It’s a train that you get on at a station that goes UNDER THE GROUND and then as if by magic you are transported to another country. Either that or I’m literally on The Truman Show. Okay so things I specifically liked about the Eurostar:

 The ease of it all- So to my advantage, I do live right by Kings Cross, so despite being booked on what seemed like the earliest train ever when I woke up, the 10 minute’s walk to the station really was nothing. You show your ticket, and your passport, then you conveyor belt your stuff, and then you’re done. No massive check in queue, no side eye from security, simple.

 The Business Lounge- Again, a lovely advantage that my mum happens to work in travel, we got to try out the Business lounge. It is as wonderful as you can imagine, ie. Lots of free food and drink. I suggest stocking up for the train journey, there are bottles of beer, wine, Prosecco, but above all, the most delicious bread. It may be the new Southern streak in me that stopped the Northern part of me from looting the whole place, but if not on edibles, then you must definitely stock up on all the free magazines. Elle runway, Home Interiors, and a load of magazines I’d never heard of with pretty covers and nice feeling paper.

The smooth ride- I cannot stress enough how comfortable I was on the train. The seats have little in built head rests which other long distance trains should definitely invest in for the napper’s such as myself (I’m looking at you Virgin) the legroom would make my 6 foot male companions very happy, and despite being a rough 70s colour (brown) it was very comfortable and much cleaner than I expected.

Okay, so things I didn’t like so much about the Eurostar:

 The business lounge toilets- Nice hand soap, check. Nice hand lotion, check. Nice, clean environment, check. Visible flushes? Nope. The flush is this tiny teeny little nipple of a button above the cistern…What the…who designed that?

 Snoring- There was a guy behind me on the way out and I thought he was doing a wordsearch because of the sounds he was making. I was going to turn around and offer him a less scratchy pen when my mum informed me it was him snoring. Never been so annoyed. Snoring is just the worst thing to listen to when you are trying to sleep. Lucky for him I was in my polite transport mode and I didn’t KO him, and instead forced myself to sleep with a scarf over my head.

 THE METRO

 Ah the metro, I think I should just get straight into this one.

What I liked: The names of stations such as; Botanique, Louisa, Elisabeth and Stockel.

What I didn’t like: Where do I start? It was confusing, their automated ticket machines are about as advanced as the prototype for R2D2 and they have the WORST design ever for getting your tickets out of the machine. Cue a  really angry sleep deprived ginger tourist fisting a chute on a machine that was as old as time itself.

Outdated: Literally, did Belgium just pause in 1974? The mustard theme of the Metro was not just restricted to the escalators as I has so naively thought but in fact was all along the carriages, which stank of what I can only describe as shite. Literal shite.

 Gypsies: I expected it, but that doesn’t mean I was ready for it. When a chubby Romanian boy comes up to you with a broken violin and a plastic cup with 5 cents at the bottom and you have to shake your head and almost ignore him completely it really broke my heart, until I saw him swearing back at our carriage when he got off to ‘perform’ to another train going in the opposite direction. Little bastard.

 RUE NEUVE

 Bless the absolute organic 100% hemp cotton socks off the guy at Hotel Bloom!’s reception who advised me and my mum that we would really like the shops on Rue Neuve. Although the biggest singular high street in the whole of Europe, the likes of Morgan and Mexx and other fashions from 2004 didn’t quite take either of our fancies and we never returned again. Also, I counted 5 H&M’s on the same street. And a shop called Pleasuredome. Enough said.

DOGS

What I liked: There are literally dogs everywhere in Brussels.

What I didn’t like: Were they dogs? Or were they rats on strings?

GRAND PLACE

What I liked: Well the only way to describe the Grand Place is beautiful. The buildings are like 19th Century Russian architecture and Gaudi smushed together and made huge nobbly and gold buildings. The gothic structure of them loom over you whilst you can’t help but stand back and admire their beauty.

What I didn’t like: Well the buildings are great but god knows what they were all for. There was too much history, y’know? I pointed at one and went, “I wonder what it was in its heyday”. My mum’s response, “A museum”. “No mum, it’s a museum now, but it wasn’t originally.” “Maybe it was a really old museum.”

BEER

What I liked: Fruit beer! Framboise! Kriek! Anything sweet and fruity that actually didn’t taste anything like beer. Although I did attempt a real beer in Bruges. And I mean, yeah I’d drink it again, it didn’t convert me or anything.

What I didn’t like: The price. Fuck man, the prices were pretty extortionate, at one place in the centre it was definitely over £5 for a beer and they didn’t come in full pints. Considering I took about €80 spending money with me, I was not happy. Also explains why anyone I got a present for got a pretty shit present. Sorry.

BRUGES

So we decided to take the train to Bruges for the day, and can I just take a second to say OH MY GOD THE TRAINS ARE DOUBLE DECKER. Literally Virgina trains I’m looking at you again. This would undoubtedly solve the overcrowding problem that you seem to have on every service I ever get on and also, I mean it’s just cool. It’s like sitting at the top of the bus at the front but instead every seat is that. Anyway, Bruges is located a little walk away from the station, but we still managed to find it okay because you just follow everyone else down the only cobbled street with a faint whiff of olden times.

What I liked: Well it was simply beautiful. No neon signs, horse and carriages outweigh cars and it’s just basically a cute as fuck little old town. I recommend the boat tour even though the English version of the audio is definitely someone foreign doing a poor attempt at impersonating Stephen Hawking. Furthermore, you can get some great pictures and panoramic shots as the canals are so wide in some places. There is a random little antiques market held there every Saturday and Sunday and there was some really great stuff there from furniture to grammar phones and a lot of little trinkets and brooches. The atmosphere was great when we were there because of the monthly Cheese festival which was taking place, and unlike Britain where you have to be polite and considerate and not make it obvious that you are only sniffing out free samples of cheese, here you just join the back of the queue of samplers.

What I didn’t like: Now this isn’t just reflective of Bruges, but it’s somewhere where I struggled the most to eat. I’m pescetarian, and I really really found it difficult unless I wanted to drown myself in mussels, which weirdly, I didn’t after eating them non stop since we’d arrived. Make sure you research a couple of restaurants before you go because they quickly become full as a lot of tourists, like us, do simply come just for the day.

GARE DU NORD

I don’t think I liked anything about Gare Du Nord, so here is just my advice. If you get off a train late at night at Gare Du Nord, then please just get a taxi. It is far too dangerous for anyone, particularly, very obviously westernised females to wander around there. Me and my mum didn’t have the greatest time sprinting in heels back to our hotel, and there’s only so much leering you can take. My friend kindly told me that when he used to live in Belgium when he was in his mid teens, someone from his school got stabbed for an iPod outside of GDN. So if my nearly got assaulted story didn’t sway you from not going there, maybe getting stabbed for your iPhone will.

BUS TOUR

What I liked: We were on a bus being driven around, I didn’t have to walk.

What I didn’t like: It is windy on a bus with no roof, it is cold if you don’t have a coat on. Your hair will become a tangled mess and half of the headphone jacks don’t work. For €24 it’s simply not worth it.

Okay so I’m aware that this was the longest post of all time, so instead here are some heavily instagrammed photos to help you make up your own pretty little minds. Also how cute is my mum.

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Time, Time, where for art thou Time?

Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while. It’s like when you have a messy room, and you know it’s really messy, and then you’re like, ‘Oh I’ll totally tackle this tomorrow’ and then tomorrow you’re like ‘Ha, this can totally wait’ and then it’s 3 weeks later and you’re like ‘ACCEPT IT FRIENDS, I LIVE IN FILTH NOW’. And then one day, you wake up with an empty Wotsits packet stuck to the side of your face, a sore neck from sleeping in a semi foetal position amongst the crap on your bed, and you get up and step over that plate with a blob of mayonnaise that has turned back into an egg and you look at yourself in the mirror and just go ‘FUUUUUUCK’.

So, my blog is going to consist of several upcoming posts, and I hope you’re all excited because I’ve been doing some stuff the past month, including maxing my overdraft and crying in the rain so no one can see the tears. I’ve also done some pretty cool things, like going to Brussels and Milan and having/enduring my 23rd birthday double hangover.

Brussels- I went with my mum, we had a nice time and Europe scares me.

Milan- I went with Yasmin and we had a great time and Europe scares me.

My birthday- Friends came down and Wray Nephew’s scares me.

So please, bear with me whilst I try and recover from my rain man memory what I’ve been up to in and out of the capital/UK this past month and then maybe, just maybe I’ll be back on track in terms of doing this blogging stuff. Who knows, I may even start to vlog YouTube in the New Year. Orrrr…sit in my bed and watch Netflix whilst eating a whole bar of dark chocolate cos it’s good for you right?!

xo