Milan station is an amazing place. The building is huge; a massive open space with a shopping mall beneath and massive columns in the main concourse. Outside it resembles a triumphal arch.
The odd thing is that the platforms at Milan station are on both sides of the train and a long way down. As soon as the train pulled in and (almost) stopped, I opened the door and hauled our luggage down onto a deserted platform. I figured everyone was asleep but as we made it to the end of the train (which appeared to only have six berth couchettes the entire length) I spotted a huge crowd of passengers on the other side of the train, gathered around a guard waving tickets and small children at him. We shrugged and moved on, not caring.
The Hotel Andreola is just down the road and, once you find the road, very close and easy to find. We rolled our bags in and checked in with the night manager (it was about 11:30) without any problems.
The hotel is advertised as four star but I think this is because it’s in the middle of Milan rather than because it’s better than a three star. Don’t get me wrong, the room was comfortable enough – at least it would have been if the air conditioning had actually worked. After a while in the stifling heat of the room we flung the windows open to try and capture a bit of fresh air in the stillness of the night.
We rang down to the front desk (twice) to get someone to come and fix it. Eventually a totally unqualified porter arrived. He fiddled with the control panel (just like I did) and made a few calls down to the desk, explaining in excited Italian that we were right, it didn’t work. He tried a few more things while Mirinda insisted we move to another room. I think he tried to explain that there were no other rooms just as the air conditioning leapt into action, the engine whirring away sounding for all the world like a sick whale. His face lit up and he left.
After another half an hour during which I managed to buy an hour of wi-fi time (I find it hard to believe that a four star hotel doesn’t have wi-fi as standard for its guests rather than having to nominate how long you want it and buying a small piece of paper with a code for access) and booked our plane tickets home, it was apparent that the motor was working on the air conditioning but no air was coming out of the grill. We gave up, opening the windows and shutters and managed to sleep.
The next morning we slept in, enjoying the scant complimentary breakfast (an extra €5 to enjoy it in your room) which included about ten gallons of milk but only enough water for one tea and one coffee. I tried to watch the BBC World channel but it had been reprogrammed although the hotel room was supposed to receive it. We showered and left. Actually the shower was very good: Pressure excellent and nice and hot. We checked out, discovered where the airport shuttle left from and departed.
Outside Milan station is a long line of coaches that regularly leave for the many Milanese airports. We had booked a British Airways flight leaving from the closest (Linate) and looked for the one we needed. It was very reasonably priced for the short trip, a surprise this holiday, and it deposited us at the airport with a minimum of fuss.
For all I moan about airports and the bad service I generally get at them, I have to say the BA staff at Linate airport were brilliant. We easily checked in (Mirinda in business, me in coach) and went through security without any fuss at all. Mirinda went off to the lounge for some relaxing freebies while I enjoyed a €1 espresso, made by a very happy and jolly chap just outside the customs gate.
The flight was excellent even though it was full. It only took an hour and a half and we landed at Heathrow Terminal 5. Mirinda, not having a British passport, always has to clear customs through a different line to me. The officials always ask her weird questions. Today they asked her whether she was travelling alone. Who knows why. She answered, irritably, that her husband was on the plane somewhere and they let her through. I think they get bored and just make conversation when they can.
Outside and back in England, we boarded the coach to Woking then a train to Farnham where we took a taxi home.
The house was still there (always a relief), the garden flourishing, the mail stopping the door from opening with its abundance. After a quick reconnoitre, I raced up to Waitrose for some supplies.
The park looked wonderful and green. We’ve missed the green terribly. Como was fine but Venice has very little in the way of nature (except the awful smell which is clearly far too natural for human noses and why we invented sanitation in the first place). I don’t understand people who can live without great swathes of green to look at every now and then.
Having shopped and started to unpack, we settled in for an evening of Doctor Who catch up, blogging, having a much needed shave and mail reading.
In conclusion, our holiday was wonderful, particularly the surprise of Zurich and the splendour of Como and was a worthy celebration of our 20th anniversary. Venice was a surprise. We often visit places where we leave something to come back to (which we’re never likely to do) but not Venice. There’s no way we’d return and if anyone asked my advice about going, I’d tell them to go somewhere nice instead. Finally, like all holidays, it’s great travelling to and seeing new places but, in the end, it’s so good to be home!