The long-promised post about our August holiday

6 Oct

Our epic August mega holiday was two months ago, so naturally I’m writing about it now. I’m focusing on the Italy portion of our trip, because everything in Vienna was beautiful and went smoothly, and nothing makes a more boring blog post than “Everything was beautiful and went smoothly.”

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. Obviously you don't want me to go on about how beautiful it was.

 The more research I did on Milan, the more excited I got to go there. To be honest, the reason we put Milan into our itinerary was because there is a Park Hyatt there and Stephen racked up enough Hyatt points so we could stay for free. And when you have the opportunity to stay at a Park Hyatt — for free! — you do it. So Milan became our second destination on the trip.

I was excited to go to Milan for two reasons:
1. to see the beautiful Duomo cathedral and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Duomo did not disappoint — I’ve seen a decent amount of cathedrals, and this is one of my favorites.

And Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was equally impressive (on the left in the photo below), especially since our hotel room looked into it. (It’s a shopping center, home to the Prada flagship store.)

Shopping, however, was another story.
I did my research and found all the places we wanted to hit. Stephen is a big fan of Armani, so we had to hit the 8,000-square-foot Armani megastore. I, on the other hand, am a big fan of discounts and sales, so I found the two best designer discount stores. (Think TJ Maxx, except with Armani and Prada instead of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger). We dedicated an entire day to shopping in Milan, and set out in the morning for the Armani megastore. It was about a mile walk from the hotel and it was a gorgeous day out. As we neared closer to the golden triangle of shopping, something didn’t feel right — we saw no one with shopping bags, just loads of map-and-camera-clutching tourists. We finally came upon Armani Mecca, and….

It was closed for renovations for the next two weeks. (Renee’s Tourist Tip: don’t go to Italy in August.) We were disappointed, but figured we could find Armani even cheaper at a discount store, so we ventured onward. The discount store was around the corner, but was depressingly small and picked over. So we decided to hike to the mega discount store, which looked deceivingly close on the map. As we walked, we noticed less and less tourists and more and more “real” Italians. We soon found ourselves outside of touristy Milan and on the proverbial backstreets. We had come too far to turn around though, and the deals were calling us. So we walked for about a half hour and finally found the correct street. It too was quiet and deserted in an unsettling way. Where were all the people with their shopping bags? We stumbled upon the front entrance of the store, which told us to use the back entrance. We went to the back entrance, which told us the store was… closed for renovation.

So there we were in the middle of nowhere, Milan, having spent an entire morning walking around with no designer goods to show for it. We decided there was no way we were walking back, and walked towards the subway stop on the map. We eventually found it, but were greeted with ticket machines we couldn’t figure out how to switch to English and a subway map with way more lines than my little hotel map showed. We had walked so far we were no longer in the city central, and thus were on the suburban train line. It smells like a recipe for disaster — I imagined us boarding a train thinking we were going back to the city and ending up in a small town miles away where no one spoke English. But fortunately things went smoothly — we managed to get the ticket machine into English finally and boarded the right train to take us back to Duomo and tourist central. I complain about tourists a lot, but you don’t realize how comforting they are until you’re in a near-abandoned train station or back alley in a foreign city where you don’t speak the language.

As usual I wrote more than expected, so I’ll write about Venice in a new post (which I promise will come in less than two months).


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