The first time I ever really felt like I was overseas was in 2006 during a two hour stopover at Dubai International Airport. I’d been away the year before to America and Canada, but this was a new experience entirely. Dark skinned Middle Eastern men walked by in floor-length, all-white ensembles, while Muslim women in black burkas glided along, trailed by children dressed like Westerners. I had a similar feeling upon arriving in Dubai this morning, but for a different reason – exiting the plane, I was hit by a scorching Arabian wind. Despite being 4:45am and still semi-dark, it was already 36 degrees outside. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.
Milan’s Malpensa Airport is familiar with its bottle green walls and painted trails on the floor directing EU passport-holders one way, and ‘All Passports’ another.
I’ve developed a little routine for this airport arrival:
Get off the plane as quickly as possible. Attempt to overtake as many people as I can on the way to passport control. Stand in the shortest queue, avoid women with small children (they always take ten times longer). Present passport, resist the Kiwi need to say hello – there’s no point, there’ll be no response. Pee. Wait at the conveyor belt right by where the bags come out. Retrieve suitcase – generally the last one to roll out (Murphy’s Law gets me every time).
Exit stage left, bypassing all beckoning taxi drivers.
Buy the 11 euro train ticket to Cadorna Station. Sit in one of the booth-style sections. Place suitcase on the opposite chair, eliminating any possibility of a fellow passenger attempting to join me. Watch the world go by, force myself to stay awake. At Cadorna Station, buy a tram ticket. Catch the 27 towards Ungheria. Enjoy the people watching – old men in linen suits on bicycles, kids with soccer balls, ladies in bedazzled tracksuits. Every man on the street is wearing a navy blue cotton blazer. I’m no exception.
Trundle past the Duomo, a Gothic masterpiece swarming with tourists and pigeons. Marvel at the centuries-old buildings under repair, temporarily surfaced with life-size photographic reproductions of their facades. Stop outside the building that always reminds me of Mussolini – it’s enormous and marble and wouldn’t look amiss on the cover of a copy of 1984. Get off the tram at Piazza Santa Maria del Suffragio – both the square outside my hotel and my favourite Italian sentence. Step inside the hotel lobby and enjoy the simple pleasure of being greeted by first name – this is my third time here and we’re practically family.
*This photo has nothing to do with the post but I liked the guy’s outfit so much I had to use it. And it was taken in Italy, though not in Milan (everyone’s still at Pitti Uomo in Florence – the men’s shows don’t start here until Saturday).
I LIKE YOU!