Milan!

When we came out of our tent this morning the chap in the bungalow across from us came over with two big biscuit-cake things for breakfast. Which was nice! We surreptitiously squirrelled them away for later and went to have brekkie with Gerard and Jean-Marie. Jean-Marie gave me a coffee and Anna a tea, and we had a nice morning chat.

We headed off to the station to buy our tickets a little ahead of the French guys, as Gerard had got theirs earlier in the morning. Anna queued while I guarded the bikes. There was a little boy of about 3 years old running around by himself in the station wearing pink flip-flops. I think he was one of the refugee’s kids. We played a game where he hid behind an advertising board and peeked out, and I was scared stiff every time I caught him looked at me. This went on for about 20 minutes, but I thought it was better than the other game he liked, which was hurling a plastic kinder egg across the station, and hitting me in the legs. No parents appeared during this time, and no other adults seemed interested. We were in the middle of a game of stamping on the ground and making a loud noise when Anna finished at the desk. She came over and opened up the bar bag with the biscuits in the from this morning. The little guy saw them and was suddenly very interested, so we unwrapped one and handed it over before heading off, leaving him happily munching away. He looked pretty well fed and awake so I guess he’s adept at charming tourists into feeding him! I hope things work out for him!

We had some time before the train so we went to get some food and check out the town. We found a great market full of fruit and veg, cheese, meat and bread. All we could want! There was one stand which was dedicated to dried fruit. Anna was very happy!

Great market!

Great market!

After that we went to the seafront and observed it cynically. The sun loungers are out on the beaches, with each bar having its own little fenced off bit of beach. The coastline would be absolutely beautiful, but it’s really over-developed, the same as we saw from the train in France. It’s a shame they didn’t know when to stop! God, we’re so stuck up these days!

Anna in between shaking her head at the beach

Anna in between shaking her head at the beach

We headed back to the station and found our platform. We were waiting to get on the train when another touring cyclist turned up. He’s a professional cycling guide, and he’s been on a short trip to check out a route that he will be riding with clients in September. Sounds like a great job! It turned out we were at the wrong end of the train so we rushed down to the other end to find Gerard and Jean-Marie were already there and getting their stuff onboard. Five touring bikes and luggage seemed a tall order but the guard’s van coped admirably!

It was a couple of hours to our change in Genova so we all spread out and relaxed, playing cards, reading or chatting. When we got to Genova we checked the boards and found our connection was at platform 18. One the way there however, the boards seemed to say it had changed to platform 20. So we lugged the bikes and bags up the stairs to platform 20 and waited. There were some nice flowers growing up the walls.

Genova station flowers

Genova station flowers

Hm, the board isn’t showing our train yet…..I glanced over at the board on platform 18 to see – yep, 13.44 to Milan. Argh! We had to get the bikes back down the stairs, across to platform 18 and back up the stairs! We managed it in time and stood there sweating, waiting to see which end of the train the bike van would be at. It turned out by the way, that platform 20 received a train FROM Milan at 13.44, and a train departed TO Milan from platform 18 and 13.44. Anyway when the train pulled in we all ran down to the correct end and got our stuff on before the conductor had a fit, and we could relax for another 2 hours!

When we got into Milan we went into the massive concourse, said goodbye to Gerard and Jean-Marie, and……where’s Anna? Nowhere to be seen. Oh dear. Cue 10 minutes of barging around the station looking for her (she doesn’t keep her phone switched on). Eventually she phoned me, and we had a mutually angry reunion by the ticket inspectors. Apparently she thought I’d finished chatting to the French guys so she just walked off. She thinks it’s my fault for not paying attention to where she’s going, whereas I’m sure it’s her fault for walking off without saying anything.

Grumpily reunited we went out of the station looking back at the ridiculously elaborate building, complete with giant rearing horse statues above the door for a quick piccie.

Milan station. Understated style.

Milan station. Understated elegance.

On the bikes and – oh dear. My bike doesn’t seem to freewheel any more. We attempted to inspect it in the shade of a large building but were shooed away to the other side of the street by a security guard. Friendly! Taking the back wheel off I found that the cassette wouldn’t turn freely any more. While I was getting all mucky Anna was finding us a bike shop which was only a kilometre away, so we walked over there. They didn’t speak English but they managed to get the guy from the furniture shop over the road to translate. Long story short, the options were to wait 10 days for a replacement Shimano component, or get it back tomorrow afternoon with a non-Shimano but compatible part. The quick option was €130, there was no price on the 10 day option other than “expensive”. I thought a quick call the Greg at Enigma Cycles (who built my bike) was in order and he confirmed that the options on the table were not good. Option one sounded like nonsense and option two was a rip-off and would invalidate the warranty. So instead we retired to “Hostel California” a few km up the road to consider our options.

Things looked a it brighter after a shower, and we went out for some food. We walked a little way and found a pizza place, where we got two massive portions of pizza and a couple of beers for €18. So after that we went for amazing ice-cream as well (when in Rome). We wanted to find a launderette, so we asked the girl in the ice-cream shop.She didn’t know, so immediately went and collared someone on the street to ask them. That someone turned out to be Macarena from Chile, who is in Milan to support her mother-in-law at the Milan Expo 2015. The mother-in-law owns and runs “Rancho Doña Maria”, a shining light in traditional Chilean cuisine, and they are both cooking and representing Chile at the Expo. Pretty cool! She obviously didn’t know where the nearest launderette was, but instead she took us to her hotel and charmed the concierge into letting us use the guest’s washer and dryer. So we sat for 1.5 hours while our clothes got cleaned listening to Macarena tell us about her home, the Expo and her time in Milan, accompanied by an extremely comprehensive series of photographs. Anna and I were both knackered after a long day and it was amazing to just sit and listen to Macarena talking with very little input required!

After we said goodbye we wandered home with our fresh-smelling laundry, and went to bed. After an email exchange with Greg at Enigma I decided I will take my bike to a different shop tomorrow to try and get something sorted out there. Here’s hoping!

– Dave

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