Sunday, September 20, 2015

Another day at Expo

Things have got a bit crazy recently in Expo land. After reading tales of a crowd of nearly 250,000 people last Saturday me and my friend M were still determined to go back for what was the second visit for both of us. Last week it was announced that the 19th of September was going to be the Festa della birra, or beer festival, at Expo, so that was the end of having to choose a date to go on!

We both arrived bright and early at Rho's metro station, armed with lots of patience. Around 9.15 when I arrived, even the station was chaos. By the time we got to the gates around 15 minutes later we found a big but not unreasonable crowd (the crowd at the gates at the train station was much worse), and later on in the day we discovered that the gates had been opened early due to the amount of people waiting to get in.

We didn't have much of a strategy due to the amount of people we expected to be at the event, but we wanted to make the most of the beer-themed festivities. When we entered we headed towards the other end of the site, M hadn't seen the Japanese pavillion (which has taken on a bit of a mythical quality in the media, mostly due to the queues). This is the only pavilion which has signs to let you know how long the wait in the queue will be. And yesterday even before 10am it was 420 minutes. Five hours! Needless to say, we walked straight past...

We saught out pavilions with shorter queues, but which still looked interesting. Before lunch we visited Hungary, Russia, Turkey, the smaller pavilions in the Arid Zones cluster, and Coca Cola. Russia's mirrored ceilings were fun, and there's a great view from their roof terrace, and I loved Turkey's blues and turquoise. M hadn't seen the Coca Cola pavilion, and I certainly wasn't going to turn down a free drink - Peach Fanta, delicious!

For lunch we headed all the way back to Belgium, on the opposite side of the site, as they were starting their beer festivities at noon. There wasn't much in the way of freebies, but after two queues - one to pay and one to actually get served - we got some good beer at a reasonable price. This was accompanied by some very nice crispy chips!

After watching the Belgium parade of drummers, flag-bearers, people in traditional costume, and men on some insane stilts, the next pavilion we saw was Britain. I wanted to see what they were doing for the Festa della birra, which didn't seem to be anything (boo!) and for 7 euro a pint (!!) I gave up my hope of having a drink from the motherland. Still, it was nice to feel like I was back in the UK for a bit.

In our quest for short queues we found some other interesting pavilions. After lunch where else could we go but to the coffee cluster? We got some coffee at Guatemala's stand, watery but I wasn't going to complain as it was free! Iran's focus was on herbs, the green pavilion made a nice change. Turkmenistan was bonkers. I must admit, I was a bit uncomfortable visiting it, but the wealth and random objects (petrol, washing up liquid, insurance documents...!!) on display was bizarre. After this we were in desperate need of a rest. After much wandering around we gave up on the hope of finding any benches, and I collapsed on a patch of grass near the Arid Zones cluster.

Then the freebie hunt began again! With the evening there were more beer-themed events, but the first port of call was the hidden-away Cibus pavilion for some free food, we did well with soy milk, Findus food, and a glass of wine! At 6 there was a very interesting sounding beer and chocolate event in the cocoa and chocolate cluster. Somewhere. After searching everywhere around the little pavilions for it, we finally realised it was taking part in the outdoor theatre. The premise of the event was genius, the audience would get to try three different pairings of Poretti beer and Vanini chocolate. Of course, where there's freebies there's chaos. There wasn't enough beer or chocolate to go around, and we only got one of the three pairings, the strongest beer and chocolate. Very nice, I have to say, but I was disappointed at not being able to try the other two, especially as the other two chocolates were milk chocolates, and I'm not a big fan of dark chocolate.

For supper we headed to the USA's food trucks, which we'd spotted earlier on in the day. There's a great choice of food, and my not eating meat came in handy as all the burger and hot dog vans had silly queues, whilst my queue for my salmon roll was only two people! Yes, those are crisps that we got with our meals, for an extra 2 euro you got a soft drink and a packet of crisps. I couldn't help but wonder about the number of these crisp packets that had been sold since Expo started on the 1st of May...

The last stop of the day was also the highlight, the tree of life's show. I hadn't seen it last time as I'd left before dark, so this time I couldn't miss out. Luckily we managed to get front row seats for the 10pm show - even though that did mean getting showered with water! It's pretty spectacular, the great big constructed tree in the middle of the lake lights up in different colours in time to music, as well as jets of water. It was like watching fireworks but so much better!

By the time we caught the metro home, we'd been at Expo for around 14 hours. M's pedometer app said we'd walked around 20 kilometres (!!) and it certainly feels like it today!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Classic

Not all that long ago, in 1990, Sotto questo sole by Francesco Baccini & Ladri di Biciclette was No.1 in Italy.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Word of The Week

L'elicottero - helicopter

It's Grand Prix weekend in Monza, which is around 25km from Milan. In my neck of the woods, away from the city centre, all is calm... Apart from the bleedin' elicotteri which will be flying back and forward to and from Linate airport every few minutes all weekend!