I'm typing this as quietly as possible, while crouched down behind a barricade of furniture and suitcases. No, I'm not protecting myself from sniper fire, although that's how it looks. The enemy attack will come from within - within the barricade, that is. It's Darcey's bed.
We chose not to bring a portable crib, since the three nights in Milan are the only ones where we won't have one available and we didn't want to drag one with us for three weeks. So last night we built a makeshift crib area for Darcey and had some limited success in getting her to sleep there. It is true that the more tired a child gets, the more difficult it is for them to sleep. Poor Darcey has been dragged all over the world during her naps this week and she is definitely feeling the effects of it.
We came home this afternoon so she could take a nap, and as soon as we laid her down, we all hid behind beds, or the barricade, so she wouldn't see us and be distracted. We looked like complete idiots, uncomfortable idiots to be sure, laying on the floor when there were perfectly good beds right above us. As always, it comes down to cost. We could have gotten two rooms, one for them and one for us, and even though we still would have had to do the barricade thing, we could at least have some dignity in the other room. But that was pretty much our only option, and I'd rather suffer on the floor and spend the money on something else.
Milan is a little prettier than my first impression of it, thank goodness. We conquered the Metro system today, and that gives me a feeling of empowerment that sadly the lack of any Italian takes right back from me. But at least we know how to get places, and that feels good.
We went to the Piazza del Duomo today, and the Duomo is just as grand and beautiful as the pictures looked. Except for the two giant billboards hanging on the front of it. And the sound and lighting system that is being set up for some show right in front. What is the deal with that? Don't they know that yokels like me want to see the whole thing, not just most of it? Seriously, would we do this in America? Could you imagine the Lincoln Memorial with giant banners out front, saying it's being renovated? No, put up the scaffolding, get the work done - we'll get the idea that it's not supposed to look like that. We're not idiots. I say this as I'm sitting on the floor behind a suitcase barricade with a towel now around my shoulders because the A/C is cold and my sweatshirt is missing. Yeah, right, we're not idiots.
The Piazza is covered with two things, and I leave you to guess which is more annoying. 1) Con artists and 2) Pigeons.
I personally prefer the pigeons, even though there are literally hundreds of them and they have no fear of people, will climb right up them if you let them. I have a feeling they will also not move if Zack tries to kick them, but I don't have proof. (He spent a while kicking at pigeons later that day.)
The con artists are what make me nuts. They come up to you with friendship bracelets and say "Free! Free!" while they grab your arm, or your kid's arm, and tie them on. I knew about this trick from Rick Steve's guidebooks, but somehow it feels different when the guy is in front of you, saying that they are free. Then, once it's on, they ask for a donation. Why didn't I follow my instincts and continue to say no? I knew it couldn't be free, I had read about this, but they kept saying "free, free" so I thought, stupidly, that this must be different friendship bracelet people. We hustled on out of there and yanked them off as quickly as we could, so that everyone around us wouldn't see the scarlet friendship bracelet, branding us as suckers. There were also people attempting to take our pictures with a polaroid, giving us popcorn to feed the pigeons, anything that would part us from our money. We wised up quickly and left, which is too bad because we're surrounded by some truly beautiful buildings and can't take the time to appreciate them without being approached by someone who wants our money. Why couldn't it just be pigeons?
Here's us in front of the other gorgeous building on the piazza - The Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele. It was built in honor of Emmanuele the Somethingth who was victorious doing something I can't remember. The Italians were so grateful, what did they build him? A shopping mall. A gorgeous one, but a shopping mall nonetheless. Geez, imagine what they would have built if he wasn't victorious?
We picked a different vantage point for the Duomo, though - just outside of a gelateria, which is the italian word for "best ice cream you will ever eat." What Ryan likes about Milan is that getting food is extremely quick - there are a zillion cafes and all you have to do is pop into one and order a panini or gelato or pizza and go. I like that the food all tastes so good. Last night we ate real italian food (or, as they call it here, food) and it was delicious. I had pappardelle with pesto and Ryan and Zack had pizza. The pizza tastes different than ours, but Zack ate almost all of his, so it must not have been too weird. Today we tried gelato, and it was fantastic. It's like ice cream, well, it is basically ice cream but it is rich and creamy and soft and smooth. I don't know what makes it different from our ice cream, but it is really tasty. Zack got vanilla and I got lemon and strawberry. At the end of our walk, we got more - this time I got chocolate to share with Ryan and Zack, well, Zack is a vanilla boy. Both times the scooper said, "Just vanilla? Only?" Yep, that's my boy. Today is Zack's birthday, so we told him that this was birthday gelato. He seemed to like that idea, he kept chanting "birthday gelato, birthday gelato" over and over again.
We considered this a reconnaissance day - figure out the city, where things are and how to get there, and tomorrow we'll do our serious sightseeing. But more than anything, I want to just enjoy myself while we are here. Relax, eat good food, watch Zack kicking pigeons (he never seems to get one, but not for lack of trying), let Darcey charm the locals, who stop her and say "Ciao!" everywhere we go. We took a long walk, just kind of aimless but with an eye on the map, stopped in a piazza with a statue of Leonardo Da Vinci (for pigeon kicking) and enjoyed ourselves.
We headed back to the hotel for the aforementioned nap, and after Ryan slept he took an antsy Zack out to track down a snack. He came back with a loaf of buttery foccacia and a third ice cream cone for Zack. We're going to go back out for dinner shortly, and possibly walk down Corsa Buenos Aires, which is a main shopping street with big name fashion stores. They won't let me in with my sneakers, I'm sure, but that's okay, I couldn't afford anything they sell anyhow. But it will be fun to look.