Prosaic adventures in Italy

More on that Europe thing. No, not the humanitarian crisis, just my little trip.. right before the pudding hit the fan.  There are the instagramable moments when you travel abroad, but there are more that are not.  So often travel is more about all the little bits inbetween the “Hey Facebook friends, look where we are” moments.

So, beside Milan expo we stayed in a villa ( we were lucky to be asked to be there) North of Milan in the Lombardy region.  The first 3 days we were very jet lagged and their was a wicked heat wave. jet lagged with kids So despite the fact that we were in Italy. We barely moved.  The kids and I in particular stayed low and I perfected my Cacio de pepe.  ( buttery spaghetti with parmesan and black pepper)italy with kids

 

I did spend a fair amount of time in Italian grocery stores.  Most excitedly I learned there Rex is a supermarket tycoon!  Rex supermarkets in Italy

The non fancy grocery stores have such nicer food than we have in US markets.  They don’t have has large a variety, but what they have is great.  Fresh pasta galore, great meats, Vitello tonnato at the ready.  Yum.  They do organize things differently.  We were all confused that toilet paper and paper towels where on opposite sides of the store.  To us, it’s all paper.  To them they probably think, oh, gross, why put your hand towels next to butt towels.

Because of heat and jet lag I wanted to lay low the first day, but had to rally. Mark and I and his business partner needed to go to a chef event associated with the expo.  My luggage had been lost (found a day later) so I borrowed my sister in laws shoes and dress.  My feet are smaller so combined with cobblestone sidewalk I went down.  Hard.  A kind woman came running up as I lay spread eagled on the ground and she asked in English “Are you okay?  Do you need some water?”

Are American’s known klutzses? Is that why she spoke English?

We naively drove and drove around the expo for about an hour looking in vain for a place to park.   Well laid out highways, big, new asphalt parking lots.  But, no room at the inn for us.  This is a “sustainable” event which made parking unattainable.  We were told by guards the only parking must be made by reservation online.   I thought, oh, but SURELY, like would happen in the States, there is some scrappy entrepeneur who will flag us down and sell us a space on his brother in laws lawn for $40  ( exactly what happened to me once when I tried to go to a Trojan game).  After an hour we would have paid anything.  We couldn’t figure it out.  We finally sort park/abandoned it in a corporate area, and grabbed a cab.  Luckily we weren’t towed. When we got to the Expo I blabbed to every English speaking Italian I could pigeon hole “what’s with making parking so hard?  Why is no one trying to turn a buck here?”

They shrugged, “It isn’t done.” (one of those I am so AMERICAN moments)

The next time we went we made a reservation, but the parking was more than a mile away with Rex’s little legs and my little crankiness it was not ideal

parking for expo milano

now this is a parking structure!

The third time was the charm  I searched and searched online and found a parking lot that promised a shuttle to the expo.  When we finally found the lot it looked like it was semi abandoned space ( good I thought, it’s these kind of areas that have reasonable priced parking.) Manned by two immigrants… I think East Asians (Yes, scrappy Immigrants, this is what I’m use to).  “Where is the shuttle?” Over there they kept gesturing.  Apparently,
“shuttle” must be Italian toward “walk that way”.  We used our divine trust in enterprising immigrants and walked.

Seriously, this is the way to the big international event?

Seriously, this is the way to the big international event?

It looked like we were headed toward a freeway.  But, lo and behold, once we rounded the top of the ramp.  There was the entrance to the expo! Eureka.

When the heat broke we did explore Lombardy.  Major highlights:  A cooking class with a real down home Italian chef.  A wonderful woman named Giovanna.  I highly recommend her class if you are ever in the area and in general it’s a great thing to do so that you feel connected to where you are.  cooking class in lombardyOur group of family was a diverse group of professional chef, Mark to Vivien, to a friend of my niece who can’t boil water.  We all enjoyed it and learned.  The great thing too about cooking is while there was a language barrier between our teacher and us, it didn’t matter.  We spoke a different language.

Watch out Food world.  Vivien was very good

Watch out Food world. Vivien was very good

Then we sat in her lovely garden and ate the food, drank wine.  Perfecto.

Our day in Lake Como was also a perk.  So many places in Italy are over run with tourists but not here.  We took a boat up and down the lake.lake como with kidsThe wind, the light rain starting as we looked out on the vista. It was exhilarating.  Everyone always looks better with a wind machine. mark and daphne in italy

But, you look even better as an action star! how to be an action star

Speaking of stars.Yes, I did see George Clooney’s house. But, I’m not saying where it is.  I’m a degree away from someone who once stayed there.

I said how I wished we’d find a good wine store.  Mark found an enoteca online.  Charming place that gave me MANY tastes. enoteca in lake como I wanted to take some wine back to the house where we were staying with many others, but I didn’t want to schlep back to the car.  Then they said one of the workers could bike it back to our car.  Oh, well, then I’ll buy a case.

Vivien guards  the wine

Vivien guards to the wine

When it comes to wine I’m an old world sipper.  The California wines that were big, bold, oaky, buttery 1990’s wines.. NO thanks.  I’ll take a dry, crisp, mineral vino.  I like Italian wines.. but I LOVE French wines.  Of course, lot’s of California wines have improved since the old buttery days.

Another moment when I felt my Americanist come over is when I was driving in Italy.  Stick of course, small, winding roads.  Our Tom-tom would say every few Seconds “make a right in 400 meters, go around the roundabout, make a left in 500 meters, make a right in 300 meters, go around the roundabout.”  I think round abouts a great idea, but I was muttering, Ah, my kindgdom to just be able to gun it down a long straight away!  The 101 heading into Ventura!  The other problem with the small, windy roads was some of us got car sick.  Then I’m trying to spot from the road what looks like the “Italian Target” so I can get a change of clothes for the sickie.

Yeah, I guess there are moments that are not instagramable.