Day two – London to Milan
And now our train trip really began – with an early morning walk to the monument of travel that is St Pancreas international station.
We boarded the Eurostar with a slight familiarity of airport travel with queues, security and passport controls and then slept our way to France. The tunnel was a blur of about 20 minutes of darkness until we immerged into France. Going at about 200km per hour, the trip lasted just over two hours and dropped us in Gare du Nord. A quick metro trip to the Gare du Lyon brought us to the famous Train Bleu, a very stylish restaurant that we had wanted to have breakfast in. In fact, whenever I talked about the travel plan, the sentence “ and then we’ll have breakfast in Paris” was my favourite.
A traditional part of old style travel, I thought and the décor most certainly reminded of Hercule Poiort movies. The food however, was a sad let down and very average. A selection of bread which I had ordered in hope, turned out to be an old mini baguette and 2 slices of sliced pan…. My French was not up to commenting as I would have liked to but the review on google and trustpilot most certainly will. A gilded ceiling and age old tradition means nothing without good food. Maybe, lunch and dinner would be worth it but we didn’t stay long enough to find out.
Instead we went for a quick walk to the Seine and two hours later boarded the next TGV to Milan. The same classy train, very comfortable with power sockets and wifi and the amazing ever changing scenery as the plains of central France with their huge cereal fields turn into a southern looking agriculture with fields of sunflower and the alps in the distance. As I write this, the train that was nearly flying before, has moved past Lyons and we ‘re moving into lower alps around Grenoble. Going at a much slower pace, we head to the coffee shop for a late lunch and love our travels.
The dining car, as it used to be called, is now an open standing area which, since we all have been sitting for ever, makes a lot more sense. Lunch was an unexpectedly nice quinoa salad and a beer with tea and biscuits to follow. As the alps turned to the plains of northern Italy, we arrived to Milan Garibaldi and the BAM ( Biblioteca degli Alberi park), an incredible urban area designed by a Dutch studio called inside Outside, it is part of the Porta Nuova urban project and comprises 10 hectares of extensions and a botanical collection. We knew nothing of the design and the ideas behind this project when we walked through it on our way to our hotel. Quite tired and on a mission to drop the bags and find some food, the impact of this space was still pretty amazing.
It made us think about the best of urban architecture and it made Milan look as if they were getting planning right, bringing nature back to the city and using the best of high rise architecture to do so. The Vertical Forest Boeri Studio looked amazing. Aparently it won the International Highrise award in 2014 and hosts terraces with 800 trees, 11 000 plants and 5000 shrubs with a total of over 900 different species. Impressive !!!
However, our aim was the “Best Hotel”. A simple 2star hotel on a lovely quiet square in the centre of Milan brought the day to a very relaxing close especially as we found a great restaurant three doors up. Everyone at “Frijenno Magnanno” was incredibly nice to the Irish with absolutely no word of Italian. He brought us courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta and we decided on pizza and pasta and red wine and sat on the street in the mild evening in Milan. After month of planning, the travel days turned out magnificent.