June 11, 2012: Milan

Today is our wasted “travel day.”  Originally we were supposed to only have to go to Torino today, a thirty to forty five minute trip, where we would catch the night train to Barcelona.  So we had planned on having most of this day in Neive to relax and do some light, local sight seeing before taking a local train to Torino.  Or, more likely, we would have gone to Torino in the morning and spent the day walking around the city to see it.

But Trenitalia, for some reason, has taken all of the night trains off of their schedules so we are left high and dry.  Instead we are taking a several hour local train trip over to Milan, staying in a hotel by the train station and tomorrow morning catching a quick hop flight over to Barcelona.  Not ideal but it works.  So today is pretty much completely lost as we have to travel and don’t have the time or energy to unpack everything just to pack it back up the same day.  So today is a nothing day in the middle of our travels.

We got up at a good time this morning.  I went and had breakfast first while Dominica kept getting things ready.  I talked to Christian and Marita for a little bit and we got hooked up on Facebook and with email.  They are heading back to Norway today and are leaving two or three hours ahead of us.  It worked out pretty well that we were in the hotel together for almost the entire week – they got in one day ahead of us – and that we are leaving the same morning and that their oldest and our youngest were born on the same day.  So they were off for the train station in Alba at around nine.  That is when Dominica came down to get breakfast and I watched the girls.  We’ve given up on having Liesl go down to breakfast too.   She is well behaved but eats basically nothing but takes forever doing it.

We got everything ready and were outside before ten to make sure that we were able to get to the train station as soon as possible.  We have a bit of running around to do this morning and our train leaves at five after noon so we want to be quick about getting everything done.  We have to wait for our hostess to return from the train station as she has our baby seat with her so we are just stuck waiting as we need that both to get Luciana to the train station as well as to return the car.  The car has to be returned to Avis by eleven thirty but only with the car can we get to the Alba train station so we have a very serial set of events that have to take place to make everything work.

We had planned to leave the hotel around ten to make sure that we had enough time to make it everywhere but our car seat did not make it back until ten till eleven.  So we were cutting it really close.  We closed out our hotel tab, got the baby seat loaded back into the Panda and were off for Alba as quickly as possible.

I dropped the girls at the train station and we raced back to the Avis shop which is about halfway between Alba and Neive.  I had to run to the gas station to get the tank topped up before dropping it off too which was adding to my panic about the time table.

In the end we got the car back to Avis with about ten minutes to spare.  Nothing like cutting it close.  Everything was fine and she drove me back to the Alba train station and I was there by eleven thirty.  So we had thirty five minutes to relax and wait for the train.  It is a very small station at Alba so very easy to deal with.  The train was already at the platform so we loaded up and dropped off the luggage and I ran into the bar to get our morning coffees to take on the train.  I am starting to really get the hang of getting Italian coffee.

The first train was decently short, just running from Alba to Cavallermaggiore where we transferred to a line running north up to Torino.  Unfortunately our train stalled along the way to Cavallermaggiore to wait for another train that was running late.  But they waited so long that we missed our connection at Cavallermaggiore by about fifteen minutes.  It is pretty bad when a train is late by about the total amount of time that it is scheduled to make a run – so about one hundred percent late.  That sucked.

So instead of having a five minute layover at Cavallermaggiore, we were stuck there for an hour.  And Liesl had decided, at the very last second, that she needed to use the bathroom.  So I tried to find her one at Cavallermaggiore’s station but discovered that they only had the “squat on the floor” style toilets.  I took Liesl in there and not only is she unwilling to even discuss using one but she is actively scared of them!  This isn’t good.  So she had to wait an hour for the train to come to use the bathroom on the train.

Once the train arrived we were horrified to discover that it was one of the really old trains and it had no toilets on it!  This is not good for Liesls!  So Liesl had to ride all the way to Torino without being able to use a bathroom!  Trenitalia is not scoring points today.

We got to Torino and Dominica was able to whisk Liesl right off to the restroom and the crisis was averted.  This was a very long afternoon for Liesl.

The delay at Torino was long enough that we were able to eat a meal there. The only restaurant was a McDonald’s but we figured that some fish, larger than usual drinks and a taste from home would not be a bad thing.  I didn’t want to deal with moving everyone somewhere with all of the luggage so I just got us “eat in” food and we sat down in the middle of the train station and ate there.  Looked weird but it was useful and we were next to a sign so not in anyone’s way at all.

The longest part of our ride was the Torino to Milan run but that part went just fine.  We got into Milan in the early evening which was really annoying as the distance is pretty small and we have been working on nothing but getting there since nine o’clock this morning.  Had we been driving we could have been in Milan an hour before our first train pulled out of Alba!

Our hotel room in Milan was right across the street from the train station in a tiny little urban place.  It was a rickety old building with multiple “hotels” located within it.  Ours was on the first floor and our room had views of the train station so clear that we could see two of the arrival boards, see the occasional train come by and hear the platform announcements.  The room is pretty spartan and there is no bed for Luciana.  The bathroom door has no latch so you just have to hope that it doesn’t blow open and there is only one room key and the room door doesn’t latch so it is either deadbolted with the only key or it is swinging open – that means that there is no reasonable way to come and go unless all four of us do so together.  Not ideal.  But there is Internet access in the room which is nice.

We tried going out for a quick trip to see some sights.  The plan was to catch the yellow line to the city center so that we could see the galleria and the duomo.  But just as we headed out for the evening it started to rain and then it started to thunder.  Dominica decided that since we will be living close to Milan in the near future that it was not worth trying to go see it tonight when we could just relax for a bit.  So we turned around and went back to the hotel room and wrote Milan off completely.

We stopped in the Milan train station and got a quick dinner of pizza at one of the fast food places in there.  Nothing special but it wasn’t bad.

Back at the hotel I had the hotel open our two bottles of wine that we had lugged with us from Neive and we drank those tonight.  I put in a bit of time on Facebook and SGL getting things updated.

This was, most likely, the most uneventful day of our entire trip thus far.  No fun stuff today and really nothing even interesting.  So much for our final day in Italy.  Tomorrow we are off to Spain.  Only two countries left to see before we go home.  I can’t believe that we are this far into this huge adventure already.  It doesn’t seem possible.

It is hard to believe that our little girls have already been to eight countries in their lives (and neither has ever been to Canada or Mexico which would be the obvious ones!)  Tomorrow they will be up to nine and next week they will flip double digits.  Kind of crazy.

I am pretty excited about going to Barcelona.  I have long wanted to see it.  This is one of my big “city destinations” in Europe for myself.

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