But What Do I Know? My Favorite Posts Of 2012

I listed the top viewed posts of 2012, but thought I would post a list of my favorite posts of 2012 too.

  1. Duomo’s Rooftop, A Sculpture Garden In The Sky – I just like the pictures.
  2. Dubai’s River, It’s Other Waterfront – I liked how different Dubai was from Geneva and loved its mix of cultures.  While you can see cool skyscrapers lots of places, there aren’t many where you can see the old wood dhows and the people from all over the world who trade on Dubai’s waterfront.
  3. Millennium Trilogy Walking Tour Of Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm – Part Two – I loved The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Men Who Hate Women in Swedish).  When we went to Stockholm, I toured the sites mentioned in the books.  Most of them were in the super-cool Sodermalm neighborhood.
  4. Mohawks Welcome But Not Required At The Groezrock Festival– We love live music and a European Music Festival is something to experience.  This one had a great lineup and was well worth the resulting fatigue (better described as exhaustion).
  5. The Toblerone Line, One Sweet Barrier– We looked all over Switzerland for this puppy.  Once we found it, we couldn’t stop seeing it places (Reichenbach Falls, near Thun, etc.).
  6. Why I Love Running– One of my favorite things.
  7. Weingut Otto Laubsenstein – Fantastic people + fantastic wine = unforgettable time.
  8. It Wasn’t Premeditated, Our Hike Up Rochers-de-Naye – A reader suggestion and one of the best views in Switzerland.  If you’re not up for hours of hiking straight uphill, you can always take the train there.
  9. The Shock Of Your Life – Culture Shock – I tried to keep it real.
  10. Les Contamines – Although we’ve done a lot of skiing, this was one of our favorite days because we spent it with wonderful fr
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Buon Appetito! Eating Our Way Through Milan

Although we saw some cool stuff in Milan, one of the main reasons to go to Italy is for the food and drink.  They are an attraction in and of themselves and did not disappoint.

We had at least two cappuccino for breakfast every day.  Italians only order cappuchinos until 10:00.  Although italians only drink cappuccino until 10:00 a.m., they pop in for expressos all day long.  If you run into a friend in the street, it is customary to pop into a café for a quick espresso at the bar while you catch up.  Ten minutes later, you’re back on your way.  Perfect for caffeine addicts like us who don’t always like to linger at a table.

Before dinner, Italian tradition is to have an aperitivo.  It is a pre-meal drink meant to stimulate appetite, but seems to be an excuse to go out for a drink, relax and chat with friends.   When in Rome, or Milan…

I loved the Antipasti, the appetizer course, because I usually hadn’t gorged myself yet so I could eat while I was actually hungry.  The food was so good that I did a good amount of eating when I wasn’t actually hungry.  It was so tasty that I just had to eat it.   Who knows when I’d have another chance to taste something like that?

One of his favorites was a cheese plate that included burrata, a fresh artisanal cheese made from mozzarella and cream.  Although people eat cheeses that are older than some of our nieces and nephews, you are supposed to eat burrata within 24 hours after it is made.  Ours came on a plate with fresh buffalo mozzarella and ricotta.  De-lish-us!

In Italy, pasta is usually the next course, known as Primo Patti.  Although they sometimes serve soup, rice,  polenta, etc., it’s usually a rich pasta dish.  Carbalicious.

Secondo, the main course, usually consists of chicken, meat, or fish.  With so many courses, thankfully the portions aren’t too large.  Most Italians don’t eat an antipastoprimosecondo and dolce at every meal, but the selections are always on the menu.  Just because we pigged out doesn’t mean you are required to.

The dolce (Italian for sweet), dessert, ends the meal.  People often order an espresso to help digestion and to finish off a meal.  Plus it gives them more time to sit and talk over food and drink.

Sorry, we couldn’t wait to take a picture before taking a bite out of our daily gelato.  We weren’t the only ones who liked gelato, just check out this cute little guy.  He was going to town on his gelato.  Notice how he is inside the restaurant.

Remember, friends don’t let friends serve each other packaged food.  Viva l’Italia.

Duomo’s Rooftop, A Sculpture Garden In The Sky

My favorite part about visiting the Duomo was the rooftop.  I’ve been to cathedral’s (like Strasbourg) where you can visit the bell tower, but I don’t know of any where you can visit the roof.  The Duomo’s is filled with statues (there are over 135 spires and 10x more statues), making the rooftop a sort of sculpture gallery with a stellar view of the city.

We always try to take the stairs, so we bought a ticket for the stairs instead of the elevator.  On a 35-degree day, it was an economically good, but exceptionally hot choice.  With views like these, who cares?

I brought my big lens with me and had a blast playing with it.

All of the statues are different.  Many of the ones that depict martyred saints were a bit gory.

The perspective was fascinating.   It was like walking through a forest of spires and statues.  I don’t like open heights, but there was no way I was missing this!

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Next to Milan’s Duomo, is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a four-story glass-covered shopping arcade.

We sat down for our first of several coffees at the Campari Cafe, just inside the opening.  The cappuccinos were the best these caffeine addicts had ever tasted.  I’m not exaggerating.  It was the best coffee I’d ever had.  Sitting on the patio, we had front row seats for some great people watching.   I am sure that people in Geneva and other places are just as interesting, but the culture is so private that you feel bad staring.  In Milan, everyone is there to see and be seen, so it feels perfectly acceptable.

Campari was invented in this historic café.  Giuseppe Verdi and Auturo Toscanini used to hangout here after a performance at the nearby La Scala Opera House.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was built right after Italian unification in 1870 to be a showplace for modern Milan.  This patriotic, art deco building still is.

It was Milan’s first building with electric lighting.

Guiseppe Mengoni designed it, but tragically plummeted to his death from the scuffling just weeks before it was finished.

For good luck, locals (and tons of tourists) spin on one of the floor’s mosaics.  The mosaic is of a bull, Milan’s symbol.  You don’t just step on any part of it.  You spin, grinding your foot into its, um, what’s the word for cojones in Italian?  We saw over a dozen people do it.   People walked out of their way to do a quick spin before continuing with their business.

I’m all for breaking some balls, but the extraordinary amount of wear and tear means that the poor bull gets a new set every few years.  The ground is permanently indented there.

Milan’s Duomo-mo-mo

From the square, the Duomo, Milan’s cathedral, is stunningly beautiful.   It looks fresh and cool in the heat of the day.  In the afternoon, it radiates with the warm late afternoon, early evening light.  At night, it glows.

It took centuries to build and spent most of its life as a construction zone.  Started in 1386, the building continued until 1810.  They added the final touches in 1965.  Renovations began shortly thereafter.  Go figure.  As a result, the inside is a mish-mash of architectural styles and materials. It is huge (housing over 40,000 only the Vatican’s, London’s and Seville’s are larger).   With 52 hundred-foot pillars, over 2000 statues (just inside) and countless enormous paintings, you didn’t know where to look.  It was a bit overwhelming and the huge mix of styles made it hard to process.

It contains everything, including the kitchen sink.  It’s so big, there has to be one in there somewhere.  Some of the more interesting items include:

  • The body of Saint Carl Borromeo in a glass casket in the crypt.
  • Rappers aren’t the only men who like to wear a lot of bling.  Apparently, priests and/or cardinals do as well.

  • On a similar note, kings aren’t the only ones who like to wear crowns.
  • That little red dot to the right above the altar is where they keep a nail reputed to be the one that nailed Christ’s right hand.

  • This guy was a little creepy.  Check out the hand.
  • Although the ceiling (second photo above) looks carved, it is actually a much more budget-friendly trompe l’oeil paint effect.  Top that Trading Spaces.

  • Even the marble floor is interesting.  We learned that black marble is harder than other marbles.  As a result, the different colors in the floor have worn unevenly.  Amazingly, you can feel it when you walk!

  • My favorite thing inside was the 16th century statue carved by a student of Leonardo da Vinci.  It depicts Saint Bartolommeo, a Christian martyr who was skinned alive by the Romans.  It is grotesque, but is an amazing depiction of human anatomy and a powerful sculpture in its own right.    Ironically, the knowledge of human anatomy needed to sculpt this was only available from dissection, something prohibited by the Catholic church at the time of sculpting.