What happens when two Davis girls get together in Europe? Lots and lots of laughter. I’m not sure Europe could handle all three of us at once.
Grant and I traveled to Milan to visit Kat, who is temporarily there on a work assignment. We had traveled throughout Italy during our honeymoon, but we never made it to Milan. It was fun to explore a new place with family and watch Kat try to interact with the locals using her Spanish, with a distinctly Italian lilt, and ridiculous over-the-top hand motions.
Kat immediately greeted us with some aperitivos drink when we arrived at her apartment. Grant especially loved this drink (by loved I mean he poured his into my glass when I was in the bathroom). You’d be surprised at how quickly one acquires the bitter aftertaste of aperitivo, though. We decided to hit the big sites during the weekend while Kat didn’t have to work. First stop was the Duomo area. We walked through the large outdoor shopping center, and we each tried to make 3 turns on our heels on the famous mosaic with a notch in the bull’s testicles. None of us succeeded, but we did look really cool trying.
Next was the Duomo cathedral itself! It is enormous (I mean check out the size of that door!). It was one of our favorite things during the trip. The tickets allow you to walk along the roof, which gives an up-close view of the architecture and all the details of the facade. There is also a pretty good view of Milan from the roof.
I have to pause here to say that visiting Milan in July was literally the hottest I have felt in any recent memory. Barcelona is warm right now, for sure, but it has ocean breezes that keep it bearable. Milan is just plain hot. People in Milan also don’t use their air conditioning if they have it, so that means it seems even hotter. I say this because you can assume between every activity that we did in Milan there was a pause for a drink, a granite (delicious slushy drink, my favorite flavor being mint), or gelato.
Saturday evening we went to a burlesque circus dinner show, at which we got to observe all the bachelor and bachelorette party traditions of Italians (the place was crawling with something like seven different parties).
On Sunday, many things are closed in Milan (as they are in Spain and throughout Europe). We walked through Chinatown first, which was an interesting contrast to the rest of the city. Kat had started me salivating about salsa, since she offered to make us some, so we picked up a cheap blender and some dubious looking peppers for salsa later. On a side note, good salsa is one of the biggest things we have missed in Spain. Salsa and burritos.
Then we checked out the Milan canals area, called the Navigli District. There were pretty shops and artists set out along the canal. Of course, halfway through, we had to duck into a dark bar to escape the heat. That evening, we bonded watching Silicon Valley, which is a hilarious HBO comedy about a 20-something who starts his own business in the Bay Area. It is freakishly accurate.
One of my favorite memories from the week with Kat was a simple memory of going with her to get her laundry done. None of us knew Italian, so getting around was a rather interesting affair. We did discover that they could pretty much understand our Spanish, and we could get the drift of their Italian. Anyway, we walked in with Kat, and Kat immediately asked if they could speak English (which they couldn’t). Then began this electrifying conversation, conducted more with hands than words, in which Kat and the lady at the laundromat tried to communicate what needed to be washed, how long it would take, and how much it would cost. The back and forth conversation just got more animated and louder as time went on, and Grant was fearful of what would have happened if we had stayed another five minutes. It was hilarious to watch as Kat subconsciously took on these Italian inflections of speaking to communicate. Needless to say, the lady at the laundromat was extremely kind and patient. And Kat got her laundry done. No matter the situation, Kat always seems to find her way – which makes her a great traveling partner.
While Kat was at work during the week, Grant and I did a few day trips from Milan. I’m working on a different blog post to cover the laughably disastrous Cinque Terre experience we had, but our trip to Lake Como was very beautiful. Lake Como is about an hour North of Milan, and it is easily accessible by train. I found this church that I really wanted to visit around Lake Como, which has been named by the Pope as the church of the patron saint of cyclists, Madonna del Ghisallo! I got this idea in my head that we could rent bikes and bike up to it. What I didn’t keep in mind was: a) how hot it was and b) how high the church was located. In the end, we took a train to a ferry to a bus that took us right up to the little chapel. After having ridden on the air-conditioned bus and seeing how it precariously maneuvered the hairpin curves of the switchbacks climbing up to the church, I was very glad we had opted to take the bus (and not been run down by the bus while cycling!).
The church was the most unique one I have ever been in. It was set up high on a mountain overlooking the lake. The church itself was filled with bike paraphernalia that famous cyclists had given over in faith. There is an eternal flame that is there for cyclists who have died. It was a very special place for me – having grown up Catholic and now loving cycling so much. I took a saint card for Madonna del Ghisallo and plan on carrying it with me on every ride I do moving forward.
O Mother of the Lord Jesus, We pray that you kindly assist and protect us in our cycling activities.
We ask that you keep us strong and healthy in body, pure and fervent in spirit and keep us away from dangers both in training and in races.
We ask that you make the bicycle a tool of brotherhood and friendship, which may serve to elevate us ever closer to God.
We pray for our dear friends who, torn from our company, you wanted with you in the kingdom of your Son: he gives them the joy of Thy bliss, and allows their families to accept this ordeal with faith and resignation.
I think the church meant even more to me because someone I was riding with a few weeks ago was in a bad cycling accident. I know it can be dangerous, especially in the city around cars, but I typically take my safety for granted. I’m usually more preoccupied with whether I’ll be able to do a climb in a certain amount of time than I am preoccupied about safety. Anyway, I’ll hold this church in my heart for future rides.
The towns around Lake Como were made of twisting cobbled streets that followed the curve of the mountain they were built on. They were charming just to stroll on. We got to enjoy a ferry ride back to the train and the shining blue water in front of the bold blue mountains in front of the clear blue sky. I would highly recommend Lake Como – it definitely exceeded my expectations. Not only was it naturally gorgeous, it was also uncrowded. Let’s just keep this secret between you and me.
It was sad to say farewell to Kat (although we are crossing our fingers that she will be able to visit us in Barcelona in a few weeks!). We needed a dose of family time, complete with homemade salsa and Italian wine.
Thanks for hosting us Kat! Drink up some granites for me!