Lake Como (and Chiasso)

 

Who could say no to Lake Como? The ultimate in style and romance, no? After a disappointing trip to Milan, Como had a lot to make up for.

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A short visit to Milan that was still too long

Okay, so I have to say straight off the bat… I don’t like Milan. I am sorry if you’re here for insider tips and to get excited for an upcoming trip, but it’s just not my cup of tea.

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Football aside…this is the only good thing about Milan

 

Let’s start at the beginning. I flew from Manchester into Milan Bergamo Airport, Bergamo is a totally different city, miles away from Milan, but it is cheaper to fly into and out of.

Off the aeroplane and on to one of 3 different bus companies that all do the same route for the same price (Bergamo Airport to Milan, €5 one way). Don’t get flustered and buy your ticket ahead of time unless you’re going during the Olympics or some other huge event. There are usually plenty of spaces and not buying ahead of time means you can get one as you board (same price) and not be tied down to one company, so can pick whichever is leaving first. They do offer €9 return, but again that pins you onto one company on your return journey so I opted for singles and it served me well.

The journey to Milan Central Station wasn’t all that bad to be honest, the buses are comfy enough and I lay down as it was virtually empty.

It was pretty dark once I alighted in the center of Milan and an Uber to my hotel was in order. If you don’t have Uber, it is an app on your phone that lets you order a taxi for a whole lot cheaper than normal taxis. If you sign up using the code ‘MOREPASSPORTSTAMPS’ you will receive your first journey free up to £15.

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I say cheaper, but Milan is still an expensive place. I burned through £125 of Ubers in a 2 night stay. Imagine the costs if had I used conventional cabs!

I was resting my head at Hotel Johnny, a cheap and not-so-cheerful place that could do with a lick of paint. The staff were as pleasant as Italians can be and the room didn’t have any cockroaches so I was happy.

I found an Irish pub (typical Brit!) and watched AC Milan get smashed 3-0 by Genoa, which made me all the more excited to watch Inter the next day at the infamous San Siro.

I started my only full day in Milan with a hearty breakfast to set me up for some serious sight seeing. How disappointed I was when the only place worth seeing was the Duomo (cathedral), and even then I spent more time in the McDonalds opposite it.

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Maybe it was the people surrounding me, but I had an immediate disdain towards Milan and was never going to fully enjoy myself. I’m not a fan of shopping or fashion, so I suppose I was never going to “fit in”. Maybe it’s beautiful and I didn’t give it a chance. I can only say how I felt.

It started to spit during the afternoon and I laughed more in 5 minutes people watching than I had cumulatively over the past day. Men, women and children began scurrying around hopelessly, nipping into each doorway as if avoiding a few drops will make a huge difference. I was amazed by the amount of men that not only carried umbrellas, but put them up as soon as one fine drop of rain touched the pavement. It really wasn’t enough rain to fill a teacup, and for the first time in a while, rain made my day better.

After spending an hour watching Premier League highlights with Italian commentators, it was time to get myself ready for the big game. Inter Milan (Internazionale) v Torino at the legendary San Siro.

I decided to walk to the ground for several reasons. 1) It was less than half an hour 2) It gives me a chance to see a part of Milan I hadn’t seen 3) I knew the Uber bill was racking up and 4) I got chance to soak up the atmosphere.

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Exterior of San Siro at night

 

With more and more fans the closer I got to the stadium, I was pumped by the time I arrived! Which, it turned out, was over an hour early because I hadn’t read the ticket properly in my excitement. Better than over an hour late I guess.

I was half tempted to buy a replica shirt from the vans dotted along the streets leading up to the ground, but travelling light means you have to be brutal with purchases.

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Early bird

 

After some food inside the stadium (which is terrible compared to the lovely grub in Italy, but better than in English football grounds), it eventually filled up and the announcer did his usual trick of displaying each of the Inter players on the large display and announcing their first name and letting the willing crowd do the rest. The biggest cheer came for the last name and top goal scorer, “Mauro……” “ICARDI!”

Very pantomime-esque but it is good to see everyone getting involved from families to hooligans. The game was exciting and finished dramatically with that man Icardi scoring both the goals in a 2-1 win for Inter, the second being 2 minutes prior to the end of time.

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The San Siro is magnificent and the atmosphere there is one I will never forget. For me, it saved my short time in Milan.

I know there is more to Milan, I’m sure some folks will love it, but it just doesn’t tickle my pickle. If you are going, make sure to pre book your ticket to see the Last Supper painting if you wish to do so as they do sell out fast. I’m not an art man (stick it in with fashion and shopping) and I’m happy with seeing it on Google Images. Other picture search engines are available.

Sorry if I seem negative, but the next post is about my next few days in Italy when I went to Lake Como and the mood lifted significantly, so stay tuned!

Guinness Storehouse Review

The lovely Irish lads and lasses over at Guinness in Dublin invited me over to review their Guinness themed tourist attraction that is the Guinness Storehouse at St James’ Gate Brewery.

I was excited for this for several reasons. Firstly, I’ve never been to Ireland, and secondly, I love alcohol. The old tale goes that Guinness tastes better in Dublin, but how true is that?

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Andersen Boutique Hotel Review

During a visit to Denmark, I had the opportunity to stay at the prestigious Andersen Boutique Hotel in the uber-trendy Vesterbro “Meatpacking” area of Copenhagen. Before I blog my full post on our trip, here is the Andersen Boutique Hotel review.

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Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

Waking up in the oldest rainforest in the world knowing that you will be arriving at one of Earth’s most beautiful islands later that day, is a feeling that you don’t get too often.

Our schedule was packed, as always, so we couldn’t relish this feeling for too long. Today we were heading to the Perhentian Islands, 2 islands located just off the East coast of Malaysia, that are enjoyed by foreigners and Malaysians alike.

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Perhentians

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Taman Negara and Kuala Tahan

We were up early once again to start our mission from Kuala Lumpur to Taman Negara. We had to pack our stuff before heading through Chinatown to Han Travel, the company we would use for our long journey to the oldest rainforest in the world.

We were there at 7.40am and were the first to arrive, better safe than sorry in my eyes! The doors opened soon after and we paid for our pre-booked trip at the desk. We also paid for the next leg of our journey, which was to Kuala Besut, a coastal town where you can jump across to the idyllic Perhentian Islands.

It was around 95 ringgit per leg per person and our 9 seater minibus was filled with Dutch families and us. A Malaysian fella gave us our instructions for the day and he began driving, but unfortunately it was only for 10 yards. He then got out, and swapped with an oriental looking lady, I assume they had method in their madness but it didn’t look that way. The driver was great, the only downside being that we stopped 40 minutes into the 3 hour journey, rather than somewhere closer to the middle.

The vegetation began thickening and the buildings were decreasing, the rainforest was approaching fast. We got to Kuala Tembeling just after 11am and sat down to take in the beautiful view down the Kuala River. Our boat was not leaving until 2pm, so sunbathing was in order.

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Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves and Cameron Highlands

Moving back to the UK from New Zealand is a big move. It is also the perfect excuse for a holiday. So why not a weekend in Aus and then 10 days in Malaysia? The weekend in Australia was catching up with old friends – nothing too exciting barring a surprisingly sunny visit to St Kilda Beach, despite it being July.

St Kilda Beach

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