Italy – Part 2: I Don’t Want Your Friendship Bracelet

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Read PART 1

After screaming at 100km/hr on Italy’s first dive coaster, Oblivion, Doran and I headed toward Milan for our next stop in our Italy adventure. This was our first hotel stay and major city of the trip so I was excited to have someone make my bed everyday and seeing city life in Italy.

Other than being the “fashion capital” of Italy, Milan was a city I knew very little of.

The Duomo was something notable through out my research and so we thought we would see that. The subway station exit, of the same name, leads you directly to the front of the Duomo di Milano and what a reveal it was! Imagine the grandeur, crawling out of the depths of the underworld and seeing the bright blue sky and this amazing cathedral appear before your very eyes!

Yes, we were impressed.

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Other than shopping, one of the few interesting things worth visiting is the Teatro alla Scala museum. If you are lucky, you could witness a dress rehearsal and enjoy a nice view of the theatre.

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Sadly, one of the things I will remember most of Milan was the time I almost got in a fight with one of those guys who force friendship bracelets on you claiming they are “free”. At every tourist location you are presented with a handful of corn, so that you can take pictures of a pigeon attack, or a beaded bracelet because you just plain showed up. If you politely decline their generous offer, they will proceed to ask why. You know they’re free right? If you still say no, they put it on your shoulder. If you then raise your hand to say no, they will put it on your wrist.

These guys are EVERYWHERE and by the end of the day, I was not having it. I was getting really annoyed and was starting to avoid anyone that looked like they were walking towards me strings in hand. While window shopping, I turn around and see this man tying a bracelet on Doran. I reached out politely said no while trying push the man’s arms away. Then to my surprise, the man snapped and shouted: “Don’t Touch ME! I’ll f*** you up!” to which I retorted: “Go ahead, try it!” With my arms out wide ready in fight or flight mode, the man turned away continuing to shout expletives at me.

Having avoided an international crisis, we decided it was best to end the day and go back to the hotel. After some gelato of course.

On a positive note, Milan did provide some retail therapy. Although, all we could afford was Zara. Italian Zara.

Then it was off to La Spezia.

This port town was chosen as the place for us to sleep and store our things while we went hiking along the Liguria coast of Italy. The famous “Cinque Terre” (Five Lands) is a string of picturesque costal villages known for it’s beautiful hikes along the coast and inland. It only takes 30mins to 2 hours to hike between the cities so Doran and I thought it would be fun to do a morning hike from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza then to Corniglia then to Manarola, and end at Riomaggiore for their delicious pesto. However…. with the heat wave, narrow paths and steep inclines, we barely made it to Vernazza alive. Needless to say, once we arrived at Vernazza we decided it was in our best interest to take the trains if we still wanted to make it to Riomaggiore before sunset.

Despite the crazy hikes, the five villages and La Spezia are wonderful places to put on your itinerary on your next Italy trip. We had the best gelato at Gelateria Stella Marina and got some amazing pictures of the villages.

 

Italy – Part 3: When in Rome…

Wet and Cold – Shanghai Part 2

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So after having two magical days in Shanghai Disneyland, Doran and I had the opportunity to spend two days in the “real” Shanghai. By real, I mean the tourist traps. We had such beautiful hot weather the days before (almost boiling) that it was a terrible surprise that our time in the city felt so cold and dreary. Here are my most memorable (not always my favourite) moments in Shanghai:

1. The Food. I had high hopes coming to Shanghai because it’s the birthplace of my favourite dumpling of all time. The Xiao Long Bao. (Here in Melbourne, we are lucky to have large and soupy dumplings just a five minute walk away). I was very interested in comparing what we can get in Australia with what they are supposed to be like in the motherland. So we went to one of the top rated chains, Jia Jia Tang Bao, and immediately asked for the English menu. Sorry mom.

img-20161020-wa0005.jpgThe flavour was amazing, but I was surprised that they are supposed to be that small. The most amazing thing was that what you see in that picture above only cost three Australian dollars!!! THREE!!!!

We also tried some Tang Bao from Nanxian Mantou Dian because it was the thing to do. Basically, it’s a giant dumpling with just soup inside and you drink it through a straw. The novelty of having a dumpling through a straw was intriguing, but after having the soup, you are left with a thick skin sack. We didn’t know if we were supposed to eat it, so we left it. Sorry Shanghai.

Some of the other food things we bought while wandering Yunnan S Road included: baos stuffed with minced meat, noodles and free range chicken. We even ordered something from a cart on the street. They were good, but not great. AND!!! We survived the night; bowels intact.

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And as usual, we tried unique McDonald’s items and even found a CoCo Curry House!

2. Yu Gardens is very picturesque. Even in the rain we got some beautiful pictures. This place is by far the biggest tourist trap I have ever seen. The massive garden itself was surrounded by an even larger “market” where you can get random trinkets and souvenirs. It is also where you can find a Starbucks every 50 steps.

3. The Bund and Shanghai Skyline are iconic to the city. I mean. Look at how the mix of modern and old work so well together. Even in the rain, it’s pretty.

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So that was our trip to Shanghai, China. Even though we had to tell the Chinese visa office our life story to get into the country, it was worth the trouble. Thanks for everything Shanghai!

Especially Disneyland.