Art, Faith & Fashion Trip – Milan

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The second post in the series. Milan – the fashion capital of world.

Though the sky was overcast but it couldn’t dampen our spirits. Armed with maps and directions we set off towards our first stop for the day Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle). A castle built in 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remains of a 14th-century fortification. Later renovated and enlarged, in the 16th and 17th centuries it was one of the largest citadels in Europe. Largely remade by Luca Beltrami in 1891–1905, it now houses several of the city’s museums and art collections.

From ROVERETO metro station we took Line No M1 (towards RHO FIERA / BISCEGLIE) for 9 stops and got off at stop CAIROLI Castello. This metro station is right in front of the castle. Admission to the castle itself is free but there is an entry fee for the museums.

Street in front of Castle

Castle entrance

Gardens inside castle

Flower in garden

Castle wall from inside

Castle from the park

Lotus in the park

Some flowers from the park:

 

After strolling and clicking pictures around beautiful park/gardens we had light breakfast at snack stall in castle. Before heading to our next destination we shopped for souvenirs of Milan at a stall near the castle entrance.

We went back to CAIROLI Castello stop and took Line No M1 (towards RHO FIERA / BISCEGLIE) for 1 stop and got down at CADORNA. From there we changed to Line No M2 (towards ASSAGO FORUM/ ABBIATEGRASSO) for 1 stop and got off at stop S. AMBROGIO. From the metro station we walked to Sant’Ambrogio Church(an eleventh century church built on the site of a fourth century church). The church is really beautiful. A wedding was in progress when we reached there. We watched the proceedings for some time then we walked through beautiful streets of Milan towards our next destination.

Some pictures of Sant’Ambrogio Church:

Corridor of church

Inside Church

Church Courtyard

A Beautiful Balcony

One of the streets in Milan

Next destination San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore got into our itinerary mainly due to rave reviews at tripadvisor. In fact it is ranked #1 for attractions in Milan. Must say it was a wise decision due to its beautiful frescoes. Moreover there is no entry fee to see those magnificent paintings. Please read my review here.

A few pictures of frescoes inside the church:

After seeing some breathtaking frescoes we walked towards our next destination. On the way my friends shopped sunglasses at a store named Ottica Vigevano on Via Santa Maria Segreta, 6. I remained content with window shopping.

As we could not have proper breakfast in morning plus all that excitement and walking made us very hungry. We found one McDonalds right opposite Milan cathedral. Though had to struggle with a large crowd but ultimately found a cozy corner for a sumptuous American lunch.

After lunch we walked across to Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano). The largest in the Italian state territory and the fifth largest cathedral in the world and. A must see monument in Milan. Entry to the Cathedral itself is free albeit you need to dress appropriately (no bare shoulders, shorts etc.). The Duomo square was an awesome place with lots of people enjoying the warm summer sun and whiling away time clicking pictures of Duomo and its surroundings. Duomo square is flanked by Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II on one side. It’s one of the world’s oldest shopping malls. It was designed in 1861 and built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. Please do read my reviews for the Cathedral and Vittorio Emanuele II archade.

A few pictures from our collection!

Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano)

Inside the Cathedral

Crowded Duomo Square

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

After some more window shopping through the arcade we crossed to other side right in front of Piazza della scala which is opposite Teatro alla Scala (La Scala Theatre). It was around 3.30 pm and we had some time before we had to take a train to Rome. We sat on the benches in front of Leonardo Da Vinci’s statue tired and weary. My friends went out to explore the area but I stayed back. In the background a street musician couple were belting out melodious songs. It was a perfect setting for sitting silently and watching people from different parts of world with different languages, cultures and ethnicities going about their activities. In fact piazzas (squares) of Italy are considered best places for such people watching activities and spending time just doing nothing.

I want to re-live and share some of those magical moments through frames frozen in time.

Teatro alla Scala (La Scala Theatre)

Leonardo Da Vinci’s statue

A few roses from the garden beneath the feet of Leonardo’s statue.

After our tired legs regained some strength we headed towards Via Monte Napoleone. An exclusive shopping district home to some of the top names in fashion and design. Good place for window shopping. Walking around we reached Corso Vittorio Emanuele II which has more affordable stores. As evening was drawing close the place was getting crowded with lots of shoppers. The ambiance was perfect for spending the evening shopping but we had to catch a train so we headed towards Duomo metro station.

Corso Vittorio Emanuele II

Also on same street

From DUOMO we took Line No M3 towards COMASINA for 4 stops and got off at CENTRALE FS. From Milan central station we took 9553 FRECCIAROSSA to Rome. It was quite a thrilling experience to travel in a high speed train for first time in my life. The train reached speeds of 300 Kms/hr.

That was the end of an amazing trip to Milan. Given the time constraints we had to skip many places from our itinerary for the day. Actually to cover everything in Milan you need minimum two days. Before I finish here are some useful links.

Milan metro map: http://subway.umka.org/map-milan.html

Milan’s online journey planner using public transport (came in very handy): http://www.atm.it/en/Giromilano/Pages/default.aspx?bwid=2638df8e-af5a-4509-b4f8fc864345c92c-54105808&wbt=nav&contextname=2638df8e-af5a-4509-b4f8fc864345c92c-54105808&ORIGINE=Milano&DESTINAZIONE=Milano&sthm=Fermata:%20Duomo%20M3&edhm=Fermata:%20Stazione%20Centrale&xs=514862&ys=5034581&xe=516151&ye=5036883

Italy’s railway reservation site : http://www.italiarail.com/ & http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=4ddd1a035296f310VgnVCM1000005817f90aRCRD

For information on international trains from Italy: http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=70bab5d8039cf310VgnVCM1000008916f90aRCRD

Our Walking route map

Video of our visit to Milan, Italy on 28-Jun-14.

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Art, Faith & Fashion Trip – Paris

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This is the fifth and final post of the series. Paris – City of Romance, Fashion, Art and illustrious history.

We started early morning as planned and reached Rome’s Ciampino Airport well in advance of departure time. We took Ryan Air flight FR9631 at 6.35 AM which reached Paris Beauvais airport at 8.45 AM. On landing the first thing we noticed was the weather. The sky was overcast with strong winds blowing and the forecast was of rains. But that could hardly dampen our spirits. From the airport we took a shuttle to Paris’s Porte Malliot . You can view the timetable of shuttle from here.  We were to reach 13 Rue Auber for L’ Open Tour (Hop on Hop off tour of Paris). We almost lost our way inside the maze of Paris metro and RER trains. We could reach our destination with help from some kind hearted Parisians. We had six hours approximately to see Paris so we felt the best way make most of it is pre-book the one day Hop on Hop off tour and try to see most of Paris. The L’ Open Tour has four tour routes which covers the entire Paris. The routes are:

  1. The longest tour, the Paris Grand Tour lasts 2 hours 15 minutes and shuttles visitors around many of the city’s most popular sites, including the Louvre Museum, Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe.
  2. The Montparnasse tour lasts about an hour and covers some of the left bank’s most storied places, including the Latin Quarter, Montparnasse and the Invalides.
  3. The Montmartre Tour lasts a little over an hour and gives visitors a good overview of the edgier, more modern right bank, with notable stops at the Sacre Coeur basilica, the Moulin Rouge cabaret, the Saint-Martin canal area and classic Paris department stores (Grands Magasins).
  4. The Bastille tour lasts around an hour and gives a good glimpse of Paris’ dynamic center and Seine-side attractions, including the Centre Pompidou, the trendy Marais district, the Ile Saint Louis and Picasso Museum.

As you can see to do all the four tours it would roughly take six hours. However, due to our severe time constraints we decided to do only the Paris Grand tour, which would cover the most famous landmarks of Paris.

After reaching the tour company’s office we boarded the first bus that was waiting there. We were quite excited that we would soon see the iconic Eiffel Tower. But as I listened to the commentary I realized that we got into wrong bus it was the Montmartre Tour as we were in front of the famous Moulin Rouge. You should have seen the reaction on the faces of my friends when they realized that we were on the wrong tour. Well some pictures from the tour.


Streets of Paris

A black beauty

Moulin Rouge

Another Beauty

One of the cafes of Paris

The bus then returned to the starting point and we waited for the right bus. This time before boarding we confirmed with the driver where were we going. The tour was quite long winding through the busy streets of Paris. It took quite some time to reach Eiffel Tower. Some pictures from the tour. You can get a glimpse of the dull weather as well.


Palais Garnier Opera house from other side

Hotel Du Louvre

Louvre Courtyard

Pont des Arts bridge on River Siene

An interesting news article in NY Times relating to flip-side of love locks on the bridge and bids to discontinue the tradition.


Palais Bourbon (seat of the French National Assembly)

La Paix de 1815

Finally when the bus reached the west pillar of Eiffel Tower we were ecstatic. We rushed down to lawns below the tower for photo session. After all it was one of most iconic monuments of the world and we needed proof that we were actually there. After clicking pictures to our hearts content we picked up few souvenirs from a stall near the tower. We found people sitting and relaxing on lush green garden across the street. We decided to give some rest to our weary legs. I sat on lush green grass and gazed at the wonderful piece of architecture in front of me. Couldn’t help but take a moment to thank the universe for granting me the opportunity.

Looking at pictures you might have understood that this Paris trip was just about getting a glimpse of city from a distance (only place we got off the bus was at Eiffel tower). What else can you do with just six hours in your hands? As we were leaving Eiffel tower the Parisian sun which was elusive all day started smiling indicating that probably it was not our lucky day weather-wise.

From the west pillar we took the tour bus to take us back to its starting point. From there we took RoissyBus (a bus service that connects Paris-Opéra with Charles de Gaulle airport). Time was ticking away for our Air Baltic flight BT694 / BT325 to Helsinki which was to leave at 18:35. We were holding our breath as the bus was winding its way through busy streets of Paris. In the end the bus took a little more than an hour to reach airport. On reaching the departure gate we realized that we did not have a proper meal through the day and would need some dinner to survive the rest of the journey. The day eventually turned out to be a very long day as we crossed three time zones without any sleep for more than 24 hours. When we reached our apartment in Pori, Finland we were completely drained out.

Looking back at the whole trip I felt it ultimately turned out to be a memorable one. We had covered so many iconic places in such a less time. However, ideally it should have been a nine days ten nights trip instead of four days five nights one. But in life rarely things are ideal.