Autumn Holidays 2015… Week 01…

We are back at school with the second term of the new school year. Tobias is in 5th class (5th grade or P5 for those in other systems). He is back in a single year class (last year, it was a mixed 3rd and 4th together). And i think last term was a good start to the school year.

So back to school means we had holidays before that – the usual 3 weeks of Autumn holidays. i had considered doing one giant post for all 3 weeks but after sorting through the pictures i think 2 posts would be better.

This is the picture summary of Week 01 of our recent holidays.

We went to Milan for 4 days over the first week. The main aim was to visit the Expo in Milan. i had heard about it in summer and the fact that the theme was Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life really helped convinced us to go. Also, we don’t know if the Expo would ever be so near us again in the future. So we took the opportunity and went with friends who had already been there in August, which was great cos they knew all the “shortcuts” to get in faster and avoid queues and where the nice things were.

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We stayed in this cute little one bedroom apartment near the Garibaldi train station. See the cute little walk up in the picture above left. And the view although not of mountains and greenery, was nice cos it had that in-the-middle-of-a-bustling-old-city feel.

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Just to show you the rooms we slept in. Tobias slept on the sofa bed in the open plan living-dining-kitchen (pictured above bottom). And we had the upstairs room which was really spacious and could have had another single up there.

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We had driven the 4 plus hours from our home to Milan and so didn’t feel like doing very much that evening. We had a very late lunch, shopped for some breakfast items and then headed to the Central station to have a walk around the central area of Milan. In the above photos, you see the inside of the nearest Metro station to us and the wonderful architecture of the Central station.

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The next morning we were off to the Expo. We got there at 10ish and got our tickets. And because we managed to meet our friends at the train station, we were saved from joining that very long queue you see in the above-left photo and walked with them to another entrance where there was almost a very short queue. In the right photo, you see the main “street” of the Expo. According to the map provided, if you just walked from one end of the main street to the other, it would take you about 40 to 45 mins! That’s without stopping. Can you imagine how big this thing is with all its branch-offs to each side of this main street?

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The first thing which caught my eye as we entered the Expo grounds proper, were this Food People. They are sculptures of people who appear to be made of food items. There’s this soldier-looking food guy and behind him a fruit lady and many others. i really liked them.

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On the map, they advise people to start their journey through the Expo at Pavillion Zero but our friends who had been before said it was too slow and not worth the time, mainly because we would already have seen most of it before in various other documents which we have watched before (we like watching documentaries).

So we headed straight for the Rice pavilions (i don’t have good photos cos the country pavilions in this area were very small and crowded). Then it was off to the Chocolate area – my favourite food!! (Pictures above, clockwise from top left) You could get a chocolate moustache or a choco-kebab. Unfortunately, the chocolate fountain was only for show. But you can take a rest on little chocolate blocks (plastic) outside the Italian Chocolate Pavillion.

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One of the highlights for me was this photo exhibition in the Arid Zones. It featured amazing photos of these desert areas and breath-taking landscapes.

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We did lots of walking around and, of course, sampled some food. But we had chosen not to queue if possible. There were queues for lots of the big country pavilions, such as Japan where the queue time is usually 2 hours! We did decide, however, to try queuing for the Qatar one, after asking someone near the entrance how long they had waited. It was a reasonable 15 minutes so we joined the rather long queue. BUT… it was longer than that for us because just as we reached the entrance (pictured above left) the “special” groups arrived and they were given priority – groups with disabled persons, small children and with special passes. But we got in eventually and i thought it was an okay display but not as impressive as some others.

We also queued for the Malaysia pavilion. Just for 10 minutes. And it was a well-organised display of the country’s various achievements in food as well as in technology. Unfortunately, it was very late in the night already and the fourth part – the cultural exhibition – was no longer opened. But out friends went on another day and managed to catch a lovely 40 minutes performance of the traditional Malay dances.

It was close to 11 pm when we got back. 12 hours of walking does give you very tired feet 😛 We saw lots of other pavilions but i can’t really show you everything and i didn’t photograph everything either.

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Left: the Toti class of submarine, wholly Italian made. Right: a special exhibition of painting and whimsical robots.

The next day, we decided to give the Expo a little rest and headed for the National Museum of Science and Technology, also known as the Leonardo da Vinci Museum Milan. Of course, given that name, our main intention was to see the exhibits which are re-creations of Da Vinci’s inventions. And it does not disappoint. Not only did it not disappoint, it was so fascinating that i didn’t take many photos at all, being so engrossed by the various exhibits.

It was not just the da Vinci stuff but everything else too. This museum is BIG! And very hands-on, great for kids. Before going, i had read on their website about their i-Labs but unfortunately, on site, for some reason we couldn’t go in, then we sort of figured maybe it’s just for organised groups, cos we saw a group of school kids going into one of the labs. But we won’t have had time either.

There were so very many sections! From history to space, communication to music, recycling to steel production and transport, OMG! We were lost, all 6 of us, just walking room to room and discovering even more rooms with even more wonderful things to “play” with. It says on their website FAQ that it would take roughly 3 hours to go through the whole museum. i would recommend you reserve an entire day!

There isn’t a proper cafe within the museum but your ticket allows you to go out, have lunch down the street and come back. Which we did. In total, we spent almost 5 hours and still didn’t see everything. i would definitely go back again. Especially since the museum has plans to re-do the da Vinci exhibits along a historical timeline.

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We decided that we really should go back to the Expo and since they offered an evening ticket for just €5, so why not?

We knew there were a few pavilions we wanted to see, so with limited time, we headed for those only. We walked in and had a quick look around at a performance art exhibition by 5 artists from a certain school – the name escapes me now, but you can see one of them working in the picture above on the left. On the right is a picture of the hydroponics system in the Belgium (i think) pavilion, which we found very interesting and was probably the most on-topic pavilion we saw.

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We also saw the Israel Pavillion. The picture above left shows the very cool vertical field they have outside their pavilion. And i thought the way they presented their pavilion was great because it drew the audience in through the use of a well-known (at least in Israel) personality telling a family history – Israel’s history in food production. And i learnt from them that the Israelis invented cherry tomatoes 😉

The Thailand pavilion was also quite nice (see the pretty dragon fountain outside their pavilion, pictured above right) and was another one we queued for, about 30 minutes. As you would imagine, rice is a huge part of food production for Thailand and it was interesting to see so many varieties.

Our very last stop for the night was the South Korea pavilion – it was nice and thought-provoking but i get the feeling that they designed it for people to slowly wander through and think about the questions they were asking through their exhibits. They didn’t provide the answers to sustainable food production but instead asked people to think about it. However, because there were so very many people wanting to see stuff, they had to keep the crowds moving and so kept ushering people forwards.

So ends another feet-tiring day, but it was mentally amazing! We did see other pavilions but that would be too much to post here.

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On our last morning in Milan, we decided to go to the Duomo while our friends decided to go back to the Expo. That would have made it their 5th day there already and still they didn’t see everything… that Expo is HUGE!

The Duomo was amazing! It was very impressive. Just standing outside you can tell it is an amazing piece of architecture. They were also quite concerned about security (see picture above right) and checked everyone’s bags.

There are 2 types of tickets for the Duomo, one which allows you entry into everywhere and one just for the main cathedral and the museum. Since we still had a long drive ahead of us, we decided on just the cathedral and museum.

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The stained glass is beautiful! And there are so many of them! In the 2 photos above, it is just 2 huge panels of many. There was a large number of people inside but everyone was quite quiet and reverent so it was good.

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See those high vaulted ceilings (pictured above left). The atmosphere that gives is truly awesome, peaceful yet you get a sense of greatness. The marble flooring is also something to look at (pictured above right), all that in-laid marble. Speaking of which, the marble used for the Duomo comes from a specific region in Italy and it has a pink tinge because it contains iron in it. (Something i learnt from the earth-cache, geo-cache that is here)

My one regret was not getting the audio guide which would have given more history and information about the place and architectural elements. But it gives me a reason to go back 😉

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We then went to the museum in the next building. It featured lots of religious artwork, such as tapestry and stonework and even woodwork. The top picture shows the tops of the stone pillars in the Duomo. Walter and Tobias are standing next to a sculpture of God, apparently. And the is also on display (pictured above right) the old metal skeleton of the Madonna which stands on top of the Duomo.

That was the end of our trip to Milan. i felt the trip was too short and i would definitely like to go back to Milan again.

We spent the next day lazing at home and letting our feet recover 😉

Stay tuned for Week 02 and Week 03.

syc

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