Catha's Seat

Monday, 29 October 2012

Days 19 to 22: The Alps - part 2

Taking the advice from ground control I pushed south along Lago Maggiore. As luck would have it though, I bumped into a campsite. It was open but with very few signs of life. I finally found someone official - "parlo inglese o te desco" I asked. The answer was a flat "parle solo Italiano!". I had hoped either English or German would get me somewhere in other countries but oh well. Right then - time for hand gestures! When setting up I took a huge schlug of whisky from my flask - first accommodation wobble sorted and I had achieved my lakeside camping fantasy. A lonely dinner was preceded by an extreme pothole in the road which took out my front tyre. No puncture repair kit so I had to walk back to the tent and spend my nightcap time fixing it.

View of Lago Maggiore from the campsite.
Unfortunately the vision of waking to a crystal clear view over the lake was not realised. I decided to make my way straight to Milan in the thick fog and past increasingly industrial scenery. I was somewhat of a novelty on the road. There were plenty of cyclists but not many people using it as a form of transport - it seemed the Milanese way to cycle was as fast as possible, in lycra, on a fancy racer or to have just come off a mountain on something with full suspension.

I had a tense lunch as I couldn't see Scott and the centre of Saronno was eerily empty. I wolfed my plate down and rushed back. Feeling awful I paused on a bench. I put on "Coco Rosie", a band that Jan (Lucio's flatmate) had recommended. He had described it as having some Romanian folk influences, so I naively thought it would be quite jolly and uplifting. Not so, and I sunk further! (good music though). I then saw something you would never see in the UK: Over the road there was a relatively attractive young woman looking like she was waiting for someone. A tidy but slightly sleazy man lounged past, so slowly it was like his next appointment in life wasn't until 2013. He stopped just beyond the girl, at a distance, and turned to face her. They talked in this stand off, the body language somewhat closed. He would lift his head casually in acknowledgement every so often. They both took out their phones, he gave her a number and it looked like she missed called him. Had he just made a successful pass? In England you would expect anyone to need to be at least 4 pints down to attempt a move like that! He walked on afterwards in the same cool manner and when out of sight, suddenly, from the sidelines, another contender rushed in and sat on the top of the bench, feet on the seat. I think this was the person she had been waiting for. Perhaps he had been watching, and they joked about it animatedly. Another gent joined them - it was like watching a modern version of a Shakespeare play!

Milan is effervescent but very challenging on a Scott! Buses, cars, honking, trams, people, double/triple parking, tram lines, roadworks, cobbled and ever changing road surface. I would have been better on a mountain bike!

I arrived early. Eline, who is 6 months pregnant with baby MJ, helped me get Scott in the tiny 50s style lift up to the 8th floor. Her and Marcelo (Marse) have a glorious view over Milan and the mountains to the north from their snug but comfy flat. Eline had Yorkshire tea with milk available - I felt my life blood rushing back!

Eline, Baby MJ and Scott on the 8th  Floor
We ate out at the best pizzeria in their area, which happens to be run by Eygptians. Marcelo had a Falafel filled Calzone! Now, Italians are relatively stubborn about their cuisine, and of course they have good reason for that. What's interesting though is that apparently very few other food culture restaurants survive in their country without serving mainly Italian fayre. Sushi however, seems to be a hit, and other than that there are kebab joints (serving pizza as well) and some Chinese places dedicated generally to expats. What a contrast to London where last New Years my friend Adam formed a group of eaters (food club) on a mission to encounter restaurants from as many countries as possible within the Big Smoke already disregarding the standard Indian, Chinese, Thai, Sushi etc that we are all used to!

Members of food club tucking into Bulgarian food on my brief return to London. A taste of what is (hopefully) to come!
In the morning we breakfasted like Italians: Cappuccino and Brioche (note that, confusingly a brioche is a croissant usually filled with cream, chocolate or jam). The Barristas had that cheeky Italian charm and obviously enjoyed their work.

Time for Scott to be pampered. Marse and I visited the local bike shop to check the wobble on the bottom bracket, which was met with an "it's ok" shrug. Then it was off to the power shower! Suds, rinse and even shine...with his glow back Scott settled in on the 8th floor balcony for a great view and a well earned week off!

Scott gets his bathtime on, with Marse

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