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Monday, January 15, 2007
The Lady And The Tram

“Ask Alex why he is allergic to the trams,” I said. The three of us were sitting in a pub across of Café De Hong Kong last evening when the Milan and Rome topic came up. It was the last minute catching up with Adrian, Alex’s childhood friend and partner in many childhood crimes. Plus I was waiting for Mary, MiniBoyFriend R's girlfriend to come into London to pick up a parcel from her beloved.

There is this hearty laughter that is distinctively Adrian's. I heard it many times before when the three of us were travelling around Malaysia two years ago. He has gorgeous eyes, usually held together with a classic black jacket that made his eyes sparkle even more.

“So Alex, why are you allergic to the trams?” my now co-conspirator asked Alex. In his usual laidback manner, Alex declared that it was very difficult to ride the stupid trams in Milan. Yes, that was his exact words. Trams in Milan were stupid.

In my humble opinion, walking from the hotel to the city center (that would be Piazza Del Duomo) and back, with the total walking time of more than 90 minutes daily is stupid but Alex is entitled to his opinions. I am not dogmatic about this sort of things.

The first walk was fine because we arrived in a new city and one of the best ways to see a new city is by walking. But the subsequent walks turned me into this begrudging monster. We walked more than 7 hours on the first day, because we walked:

  • from the Central Station to the hotel.

  • from the hotel back into the city center, which is less than 10 minutes from the Central Station.

  • round and round the city center using Alex’s Spiral Technique (because the hairy boy does not understand the “Let’s Stop And Ask Someone” Technique).

  • From city center back to the hotel.

“Good morning,” the reception man said, “This is a free map. This is where we are,” he said, then circling the piazza where we were located. “And this is Piazza Del Duomo. You take a tram into the city. Do not take the metro,” he said, then pausing for a second, to stress how important it was not to take the Milan underground, which was inconveniently located too far away from our hotel.

“And where do we take the tram?” I asked him.

“Tram number one or nineteen,” he replied promptly. “Down this road and right.”

Alex and I walked out of the lobby and into the sunshine. It is amazing how warm this year’s winter is. It had not snowed in the UK and I was certain that it would not snow in Italy whilst we were there. BBC weather was reporting 18 degrees in Rome, which was not Milan but at least it was an Italian city.

We walked down the street and to the right, as instructed. There were tram lines neatly lined up next to each other, very much like veins in our lower arms. Alex resisted walking towards them. I literally had to drag that hairy boy down the block of apartment building, onto the main street, Via Del Corso.

“Why are you resisting this?” I asked him. I was getting quite annoyed by the fact that I was conned into walking through the Milanese ghetto the previous day. I swore I would have been robbed and Alex's hairy bottom raped, while walking through the Milanese slums. So you can understand why I was extremely determined that Day Two in Milan did not involve walking like idiots, when we could have taken the tram. So determined.

Alex yanked me across the street, in the wrong direction. “Why are you doing this?” I asked. It was my turn having my feet dragged across the black bitumen, which if you were not too careful, you would step on a dog poo or two. “We are taking the tram TODAY!”

“But which side of the platform will we stand on?” Alex whined. Now that was unusual. He has not whined when we were in Thailand, Singapore, Burma nor Malaysia but there in the claustrophobic and dirty fashion city called Milan, Alex was making a fuss about catching the wrong tram to the wrong spot on the wrong platform.

“So we will explore the city a little,” I said. “If it’s the wrong stop, we just get off and walk across the platform and start over.” I waved my right hand, hoping that Alex would be convinced how easy it was to ride the tram. He was not convinced.

Note to oneself: 2007 New Year Resolution #1 = improve acting skills to con Alex into doing things that I want.

One of the reason why Alex liked me (or so he says) was because I am head strong. I broke away from him, walked towards a newsagent and asked the old man in brown sweater if I could purchase some tram tickets. He pointed me towards another newsagent, a buddy of his, I presumed. The first newsagent sold out his tickets. He told me so in English. So I smiled politely, thanked the old man and walked in the direction, as per instruction.

Alex caught my hand and spun me around. “We’ll find another newsagent as we walk down this street,” he said, pointing towards the street leading to the tram platforms. Sounds logical, if you think of it. We walked hand in hand towards the tram platforms, past two more blocks of building. I reckoned we were lost but at least there was a newsagent on the opposite side of the road.

The hairy one whom I suspect is allergic to trams insisted that we should not cross the road to the newsagent (“tabachi” as they were called). Instead we should keep walking down the road, towards an imaginary tram platform and keep hoping that we would stumble on a newsagent on the right side of the street.

There was one! I ran into the tabachi, all excited and smiling. I asked for the tram tickets. He replied in Italian. “T-R-A-A-A-A-M tic-kets,” I said slowly, hoping that he understood what the hell this Chinese girl wanted to buy. He shoved some pieces of paper in my face. I have not seen the tram tickets before and had no idea how the tickets would look like. And I did not understand a word the newsgent said in Italian. Neither did he (understand English).

There and then, I resigned to the fact that we would spend Day Two in Milan walking into the city center again. We failed to purchase the tickets. We failed to locate the tram platform and we failed to find out which side of the platform we should be on and where we should stop. You cannot blame me. I am just a woman.

Actually we walked TWICE into the city center on Day Two. Once during the day to visit the Cathedral on Piazza Del Duomo and again later in the evening, to visit all the boutiques Milan was famed for. If walking 90 minutes was not a punishment enough, we walked 163 steps up to the roof of the Cathedral (saving a cool 4 Euros). The view was spectacular, albeit the fact that I spent the whole time walking silently on my own, away from Alex who was busy clicking the digital camera for all ANNN readers.

(Yes, it is official. Little Miss Otto has a photographer hired to take beautiful photos for About Nude Not naked. Which she promptly blur in Photoshop. Well if XiaXue can lengthen her torsos in Photoshop, Otto can blur her face. Ok what.)

“So you don’t like walking much,” Adrian said. He took a sip from the third bottle of Magners he had last evening. His eyes darted between his childhood buddy, whom he had to defend loyally and a new species called “Best bud’s girlfriend”. My eyebrows arched sinisterly. Take my side or die, my eyes said to Adrian.

“Actually I do not like walking 90 minutes extra daily when I could have taken a 10 minute tram ride,” I replied.

He nodded and then patted Alex on his back. Sympathetic.

“One learns new things every day,” I said. “I found out that Alex is afraid of public transportation and we will stick to island holidays from now on.”

Adrian tilted his head, his mouth ajar. I clicked my tongue four times as I shook my head. “There aren’t any buses or trains or trams or anything remotely four wheeled metal moving thingy with a schedule on small islands.”

Adrian tapped his right index finger on the tall glass. “You’ve got a point there…” His green eyes closed partially. Adrian appeared to be pondering with lightbulb moments running through his head. There must have been a thousand and one memories from their childhood shared together in Scotland flashing through Adrian’s mind as he nodded silently.

“Wait till you ask Alex about the time we were stopped by the police on Day Three…”

Adrian's eyes were wide open. He realised that the Italian trip was beginning to sound like the trip from hell and Alex had not explained what happened during our rendezvous with the Italian Policia on Day Three.

Stain glass in Piazza Del Duomo

The Italians cakes are delicious! Mmm!

The fashionistas worship here

The spiritual worship here

The Piazza Del Duomo from above the Cathedral

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