Friday, May 19, 2006

We’re in the Hotel Cristoforo Colombo on Corso Buenos Aires, the LONGEST shopping street in Milan. After checking in, I walked around looking for a Bancomat (ATM) to get some Euros. I walked past boutique after boutique sporting the most gorgeous clothes, and bar after bar. One big difference between American bars and their Italian counterparts is their bill of fare. These bars here offer a lot of food choices, from Panini and piedini to complete four-course meals, as well as gelati and even frozen yogurt.

I just had a simple but fabulous dinner, which I ordered in Italian! I told the waitress I wanted something with frutti di mare – literally, “fruits of the sea” (seafood). She suggested a pizza. It came with mussels and clams in the shell, along with shrimp and the most tender octopus, but also alarmingly, with bits of imitation crab. One feature I noticed is that the toppings were not distributed somewhat equally across the whole pie, as they are back home; instead, they were spread out in little groups. To go with my dinner I ordered a half liter of “l’acqua naturale” (still water, with a pH of 7.8, which should please my naturopath-observant friends.) The house red wine is 2 Euro for a quarter liter - less than a can of soda, which costs 3! O what a dilemma. My thrifty soul forces me to pick the rosso.

I ended the meal with caffe corretto – literally, “corrected coffee.” And man, how they correct it! With grappa. Mmmmm.

The next half hour was spent people watching. My favorite sight this evening: the fashionably dressed young women navigating the busy intersections on their Bianchi bicycles, while chatting on cell phones!!

We have to be up early tomorrow to see the Duomo and Da Vinci's "The Last Supper." It's almost midnight now, so time to say "buona notte."

Italy, at last! We touched down at Milan’s Malpensa Airport, and I made contact with my entire tour group, a wonderful bunch of 9 women and two men. Our Italian tour guide Arianna, escorted us out of the airport – and all of us were surprised that we didn’t have to go through Italian customs. Arianna explained that since our flight came from Denmark, we were already within the EU and thus didn’t need to go through that step.

On the half-hour drive into downtown Milan, I spoke to Arianna about getting the group signed up for a cooking class in Genoa, and with a couple of calls on her cell phone, she set it up! So our day on the Riviera of Liguria will close with a cooking class in Rapollo with a “particular type of man” (I take it to mean a character) named Fausto, who is also a avid cartoonist. He will teach us to cook, then feed us in his restaurant complete with wine, aperitivi and after-dinner drinks, present us with aprons and cookbooks bearing his art. We’re all pretty excited about that!

Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport boasts an incredible shopping and dining area, with designer boutiques offering all sorts of shoes and bags, clothing, cosmetics and perfume, liquor and tobacco, and dining that appears to offer more upscale choices than most airport food courts. There’s a tapas bar, and English steak house and a seafood bar offering raw oysters and lobster. Prices are posted in Danish Kronor, which a sales clerk tells me is about 7 Kronor to the Euro.

One thing I notice all over the terminal is this sign:

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it meant, so I asked a Danish airport worker.

It means emergency exit!

It was hot and muggy when I left Pullman, and the flight was the same. The discomfort was alleviated only by the aerial view of the beautiful green and brown rolling hills of the Palouse, and of Mount Rainier, still clad in snow despite this recent heat wave. In Seattle, I boarded the airport train to get to the S concourse for the SAS flight to Copenhagen. There, I met up with four members of the NWPR tour, but we didn’t have much time to chat before boarding. I was cramped in the middle of the middle row, and the Scandinavian man next to me has fallen asleep after consuming staggering quanitites of alcohol. His elbow is digging into my side. I’ve tried prodding him gently. but it took a pretty sharp nudge to wake him to allow me to make my way to the bathroom.

Now, nearly four hours into the flight, I’ve gone through nearly a third of the Da Vinci Code and felt the need to blog. There’s wireless internet on board (SAS says as of March 2005, it was the world’s first airline to offer wireless on board its entire intercontinental fleet.) but alas, one has to pay a minimum of ten bucks to go online, so I’m recording this as a text document, and I’ll post it online once I get a wireless connection on terra firma.

It’s been over ten years since I’ve been on an intercontinental flight. One feature I found entertaining on this flight is the individual video screen in the seatbacks. The safety demo was easy to see, and one can choose from a menu of different movies. But what I found most entertaining (before the novelty wore off an hour later) were the two live cams mounted on the fuselage itself – one at the front of the plane, and one below. It helped to relieve a little of the claustrophobic seating situation, and gives some measure of democratic viewing to those not privileged to have window seats.

The moving map and flight data are great. I like knowing that I’m somewhere over northern Canada, east of the Gulf of Boothia and moving in an arc south of Baffin Island. The ground speed is 566 mph at 33 thousand feet, and that the outside temperature is an unbelievable minus 68 Fahrenheit!!

(Note: I wrote the blog above on board the SAS flight, but am posting it now from my hotel in Milan.)