Happy Halloween, everyone! Let me tell you something about Halloween – it's a North American kind of thing. Well really, Canadian and American. The Mexicans have a whole different sort of thing going on, which is quite a bit cooler than swanky (or skanky) costumes, and free candy, truth be told. The Europeans don't really feel it. The Australians don't know when it is, and no one else seems to care. Sure you see one or two stores with things in the windows, but lets be honest, that's for the tourists. A fool and his money – all that. So for me, this is just another night. And that is somewhat upsetting. It's as if Halloween 2009, never really happened for me.
You know how you'll travel for big occasions, like Carnival, or The Running of the Bulls? I wonder how many people make their way to North America to feast their eyes on the spectical of Halloween – and really, it is quite a spectical isn't it? The streets are full, the clubs are running late, and no one is what they seem to be.
But that's magic for another time; that's magic for another year. Becase right now I'm in Milan, sitting in my hostel, where I've been for hours upon hours, catching up on the latest episodes of all the shows I would have been watching back home. I'm one episode short from being caught up with Big Bang Theory (until the new ep tomorrow) and I'm up to date with How I Met Your Mother. So, hey, at least Milan has been good for that.
But I did go out. I did wander. I did explore. So I'll try to be nice to this city, with not all that much going on. To start, I'll say it would make a great place to switch trains. If you have a two or three hours stop over, you can do everything this town has to offer, feel good about it, and continue on your way. Honestly, that's what I'd recommend, and it's from that outlook that I'll talk about this cozy little (terrifyingly urban) town.
You'll want to start off by heading to the central square where a great big impressive church rests. Honestly, it is great big and impressive. The problem with these things of course is the ABC syndrome – if you've travelled, you know what I'm talking about here. And not only that, but the people here seem to think that pigeons are fun and games. What is it about Italy and people letting their kids pick up and play with these little birds? Does this happen anywhere else in the world?
And why are we so prejudice against pigeons? If they were little song birds, we'd love to be feeding them from our hands. So that's still something of a mystery to me – but creepy to see, none the less.
From the main square you'll want to head straight to the castle. If you shop – or understand the concept, something which remains a mystery to me, you'll probably want to look into a few stores here, or a few stores there on the way. But not this guy – this guy will go straight to the castle.
There you'll find yourself in a courtyard full of people trying to scam you with friendship bracelets. It's an odd scam where when you say you don't want to buy it they force it upon you, and then when you try to give it back they act all hurt and say no – no – keep it. Keep it. But then once you've taken a few steps away they come and take it back. I watched this happen a few times – what? You're going to feel pity for how hurt they are and pay them?
And what happens if you don't give it back? Probably best not to explore that option, isn't it? Probably best for your continued good health, I'd imagine.
But – you are in a castle courtyard, and you can walk around it and through it for free. There's even a garden that you can wander through – or stand, covering your eyes – in front of a way too giant geisha.
If you want to go inside and see the museums there I've been told it only runs you one euro. So, very reasonable. But again – ABC (this time the C in the acronym is different.)
So by now you've seen a few sights, and perhaps you're feeling peckish. You will look around, and look around, but you won't find many restaurants in this area. Which is strange, really, all things considered. So you'll head off to McDonald's for a few (or five) one euro cheeseburgers. Hey – don't judge me. You're probably stuffing your face with sweet sweet Halloween candy right now, what's a handful of cheeseburgers compared to that?
Gluttons! Gluttons, the lot of you!
I'm sorry – I'm still just a little jealous and upset about not having a fest of witches, goblins, and girls wearing headbands with ears to distinguish the truth behind their costume (a la Mean Girls.)
So what you'll find if you go to the McDonald's in the main square is that they do not take their fast food requirements seriously. They clearly have not graduated from Hamburger University, nor do they wear the shirts proclaiming such a thing like employees in other parts of Europe (feel for those employees ladies and gentlemen. It's almost like wearing the Harvey's Grill King gear – but not quite as cool.)
So after waiting fifteen minutes for your three cheeseburgers (five at once would be ridiculous!) you can head back to the streets and explore that for which Milan is truly known. The shopping district. Two main streets make up this area, which is full of trendy people, and monsters created by far too much surgical work (who may not actually be considered monsters in this kingdom of dark. It's all relative, after all, isn't it?)
You'll pass by Gucci, and Versace, and – I don't know – others? You'll see stores that you can not simply walk into. Oh no – you have to be let in by door keeper, and bouncers, and other such things. For these hallowed halls are not for the meek. Or myself, it would seem – though I think that I am perfectly trendy. Now, sure, I may not have washed my Clothes since Madrid, and even there the machines didn't work properly, so it was more like I rinsed my clothe – but hey, grunge was big for a while, wasn't it? Gen 13 were proof of that, before they met their tragic (and retconed) deaths in the final few heartfelt issues of their series.
Up and down the streets you'll go, avoiding the few scammers there as well. A good ploy is learning how to say “I don't speak English” convincingly in another language. And you'll have quite a time, I'm sure. It will make a good story next time your friends start going on about the new seasonal trends anyway – provided you have such friends.
And then – well – that's all Milan has to offer. I'm told it has a simple night life, but most of the clubs are for the type of people who buy up to the minute fashions at all those stores I quickly walked by. Simply saying “Thanks,” when the bouncer says “Nice clothes.” (meaning nice clothes only) will not get you a place at the bar. And with ten euro drinks, and a twenty euro cover, maybe that's for the best.
And then you can hop back on the subway and be clearly guided to your stop by a metro that translates everything into English as well as Italian. And that's that – Milan is done.
A few hours and you're golden. A day and a half, and you may find yourself watching lots of internets – which is o.k. if you need a break too. I'm not complaining about it.
I do however feel a tinge of pain for all those who set out to spend a week long vacation in Milan due to the name recognition. In a country as beautiful and varied as Italy, basing your judgment of it on this one barren city is hardly fair. But once again, stopping here for a night, just to say you did it, before heading south? Well – there are worse things you could do, I'm sure.
Also, the police wear goofy hats.
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