Smoochasaurus

“The fierce Dinosaur was trapped inside his cage of ice. Although it was cold he was happy in there. It was, after all, his cage.

Then along came the Lovely Other Dinosaur.
 The Lovely Other Dinosaur melted the Dinosaur’s cage with kind words and loving thoughts.

Dinolove

I like this Dinosaur thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur.
 Although he is fierce he is also tender and he is funny.
 He is also quite clever though I will not tell him this for now.

I like this Lovely Other Dinosaur, thought the Dinosaur. She is beautiful and she is different and she smells so nice.
 She is also a free spirit which is a quality I much admire in a dinosaur.

But he can be so distant and so peculiar at times, thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur. 
He is also overly fond of things.
 Are all Dinosaurs so overly fond of things?

But her mind skips from here to there so quickly thought the Dinosaur. She is also uncommonly keen on shopping.
 Are all Lovely Other Dinosaurs so uncommonly keen on shopping?

I will forgive his peculiarity and his concern for things, thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur. For they are part of what makes him a richly charactered individual.

I will forgive her skipping mind and her fondness for shopping, thought the Dinosaur. For she fills our life with beautiful thoughts and wonderful surprises. Besides, I am not unkeen on shopping either.

Now the Dinosaur and the Lovely Other Dinosaur are old.
 Look at them.
 Together they stand on the hill telling each other stories and feeling the warmth of the sun on their backs.

And that, my friends, is how it is with love. 
Let us all be Dinosaurs and Lovely Other Dinosaurs together.
 For the sun is warm.
 And the world is a beautiful place.”

Sometimes, It’s Hard. To Be. A Woman.

I started my period when I was 10 years old. I know 10 year old girls, and I can’t believe that at that age, I was beginning my journey into womanhood.

My breasts began to develop around that time and I didn’t like it. As one of the tallest girls in my class, I probably looked older than my nieve years.

I remember starting my period very vividly. I came home from school and went to the downstairs loo in my rush to get in front of the telly to watch Neighbours. Pulling down my knickers, skirt round my waist, I glanced down and all of a sudden, time stopped. The crotch of my white M&S briefs were daubed browny-crimson. I remember feeling my breathing get quicker, my face flush hot and sick. I called for my Mother.

Her face took on the mirror image of mine when she popped her head around the door. I was 10 years old. I’d been aged in single figures a few months before. This was something that happened to ladies. I asked her if I was OK. She said yes, and scrambled up stairs to get me some fresh undies. My eyes stung  with indignant and confounded tears.

My mind shot back to Neighbours, and how it would be on telly and I’d be missing it sitting in the toilet with bloody knickers. I remembered Hannah Martin, who’s Dad was Philip Martin and Mum was dead Julie Martin. She lived in the big house and was once kidnapped by a guy selling sweets.

Anyway, what was happening to me right that second had happened to Hannah at school, in front of everyone, only a few months before, and she’d had to tell her Dad about it, because of her dead Mum. It was all very embarrassing. My own Mum didn’t bother explaining the storyline at all. I knew the same thing was happening to me right now though. I would probably be dead soon.

My Mum brought me some new scants, whilst passing my Dad who was told what was going on, and proceeded to get as far away from the situation as was possible without making a scene or crying.

She’d managed to ring her best friend, who’s daughter very kindly gave me some pads to wear, which I was utterly horrified about. I was presented with a thick, long nappy and I didn’t fancy walking around with it between my legs. What if people knew it was there? What if I bent over and someone saw the outline of this pant-mattress I was being forced to wear?

From that day, until well into my Second or Third year at High School, the bain of my life was the paranoia that someone would see my sanitary pad, under my clothes. Sometimes I wore two pairs of pants. I even had slightly thicker black ‘period trousers’, which I wore when I was on. This was my first taste of the paranoia only women get when they begin to become ‘Women’. Unfounded, crazy, nutty-lady paranoia.

We didn’t go into massive detail about it, but I knew it was my period, and my Mum covered the basics. We bought some of my own pads, some wee wipe things and some more knickers just incase my drawer full of knickers wouldn’t suffice now that I was spewing blood from my vagina, even though I was now wearing pant-mattresses with flaps on the sides.

At 10 years old, in Primary 6, wearing a bra, I became a woman.

Love Ibiza?

Loads of exciting things have been happening to me lately, and one of them is writing for the fab website loveibiza.net.

I have been a fan of the site for a while, because I simply adore the island of Ibiza. As soon as someone tells me they’re going, I revel in imparting my knowledge because I want everyone to feel the same as I do about it. Pure hedonism.

On another note, I look forward to exploring the Island to its full potential in holidays to come. I’d love to visit Ibiza Town and really explore it, go to Cala Vadella and lie on the unspoilt sands and see what the fuss is about in Playa D’en Bossa.

For now though, I shall impart my partying wisdom on you all, and would love it if you kept up to date with my blog posts.

Find them HERE.

 

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Bus Tours, Horse Meat and Thunderstorms: Day Three in Milan

After the sweltering heat of Day Two, I decided to don a bit of a more summery outfit on our third day in beautiful Milano.

The human map decided that we should go on a bus tour today, the big red bus with ear phones that almost always never work, and usually get stuck on the German translation.

Rab smiley on the bus 🙂

I have been on the tour of Edinburgh when I was working there, and found it incredibly handy to get about and see all the most important attractions. This would be the best way for us to find our bearings in Milan.

We found out that this CitySightseeing Tour had two routes, which was great, because there are so many things to see of importance in Milan that one route would have taken hours. Paying our €20 each (just under £20 quid), we boarded the bus and climbed to the top deck with our wee red earphones.

La Scala

As we had got on at Duomo, the first stop was famous opera house, La Scala. It wasn’t as majestic as I had thought it might be, although later in the week we had the pleasure of seeing it lit up at night, where I expect is when it comes alive anyway. Teatro Alla Scala has been resident in Milan since 1778, and hosts some of the most famous and successful operas, ballets and recitals in the world, such as Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Along the road is Museo Poldi Pezzoli, home to the art collection of Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli. To be honest, I only realised we had passed the museum when the day was over, because I had a slightly dodgy earphone situation. Home to a collection of mainly renaissance art, glassware, textiles and jewellery, I would love to visit here if I am lucky enough to go back to Milan.

Journing through the Fashion District, we got to see how the other half really live. One of the things I loved about Milan was how everyone seemed to be dressed to impress, at all times. At 7 o’clock in the evening, when all the banks, offices and shops close, the

Touring the City

metro is popping with ladies in sky high stilettos, strutting onto escalators and jostling for position on the heaving trains. Gianfranco Ferre and Dolce and Gabbana are as commonly there as River Island bags or Primark dresses are in Glasgow. The ladies look immaculately turned out, with perfectly set make up even after 12 hours sweating it out in the Milanese Stock Exchange. And, when they get too old to look good naturally, many of them are not adverse to a little nip/tuck.

The men are sharp. Classically beautiful, with groomed hair, sculpted beards and distinguished moustaches. The suits are designer, of course, the shoes are polished and perfect. You won’t regularly see a business man creasing his suit by carrying a backpack. Briefcases and Italian leather man-bags carry laptops and wallets. It’s such a different life, almost as if the people who work and play in the heart of Milan feel like they’d be doing the city an injustice by dressing down.

Through the beautiful gardens and stately homes of the Manin district (Napoleon actually lived there in the early 1800’s), we entered

Piccolo Theatre

Moscova, which is also easily accessible by Milan Metro. The Arena Civica, Milan’s early answer to the now world famous San Siro, can be seen here, still used today for small sporting events. Moscova is also home to Milan’s China Town, which we didn’t get to see too much of unfortunately!

Just off of Moscova is one of my favourite streets in Milan. We didn’t particularly notice much driving through, but later as we wandered around, we found a long street laden with beautiful shops and cafes, called Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi.

We decided to get off at the next stop, the Castello, to have a wander around.  After a stop off for our first taste of Italian gelato sitting outside the rather glamorous looking Piccolo Teatro in the sunshine.

Caramel and Tiramisu Gelato ❤

The Castello Sforzescowas a total undiscovered treasure for me. I’d had a good scout around websites to see what we could do in the city before we arrived, and I had never even heard of it. It really is breathtaking, the

Castello

grounds are beautiful. The massive fountain at the front of the castle adds even more magic. We walked through the courtyard where we could have went and looked at some of the original Lombardy paintings and sculptures, but we decided to keep going to get to the gardens.

On our way through we were accosted by a lady ranting about signing a petition for an anti-drugs campaign, which I did, and then realised you had to donate money! Cheeky cow! We threw a €5 note at her ex-junkie face and walked away. Scammed in Italy.

The gardens are simply stunning. We even saw a couple getting their wedding photos taken there, which would have been complete fairy-tale. Beats round the back of the Popinjay hotel anyway.

Castello Gardens

We ended up walking all the way back to my favourite street that I mentioned earlier, and it really is very cute. We found a wall which was written on in chalk, with ideas for what the derelict building could become. The ideas

I Wish This Building To Become...

ranged from bakery, to a library or swimming pool. I loved that concept! Although I imagine that the suggestions on the side of a building in Glasgow City Centre may need to be censored somewhat.

The bakeries in Milan are a.maze.ing. If you like cakes, which, lets face it, everyone does, then you will love love love the pasticceria’s of Milan. Cakes are displayed in the windows like proud trophies, each one packed with perfectly piped cream or custard, hand decorated with chocolate and fruit.

Massive cakes are available to buy, presumably for dinner parties or birthdays, and look delicious and

Yum 🙂

fresh, baked in store every day by very talented bakers. Greggs, these ain’t. We even found a charcuterie with loads of meat hanging from the ceiling. It looked amazing!

The tour certainly put us on the right path for touring Milan by foot for the rest of our trip. It’s hungry work, so we walked back to the Duomo square and stopped for lunch at a pizzeria in one of the side streets.

Pizza 🙂

Rab decided to be mental and try a Milanese pizza, with saffron and cheese, and some undesirable meat stuff. I went for something I rarely get to enjoy, because I rarely order a pizza for one and Rab refuses to eat it! Pizza con tonno. Absolutely bloody lovely, with some wine to boot (of course!).

Home to the hotel, we got ready for our evening out. Like I said in a previous post, the bar and nightclub culture is either very well hidden, or very rare in Milan, so we decided to look for somewhere to eat. We wandered back to the shopping district, and eventually settled on a buffet restaurant.

Shown to our table, we presumed it was a Chinese buffet, but on closer inspection, it seemed to be what I like to call a ‘freezer buffet’. This is when you have nothing in the house to eat, so you just take stuff out of the freezer

Plate O' Randomness

and blitz it all in the oven. Fish fingers, chicken dippers, spring rolls, oven chips, that kind of thing. This appeared to be the case when we approached the counters, filled with sushi, breads, veggies, potatoes, noodles, and just loads of stuff!

We then approached the meat bar, where you chose what you would like to eat and then had them cook it for you there and then. Swordfish, chicken, pork, horse. HORSE. Actual horse! I was a little repulsed at Black Beauty being served up but strangely intrigued to try it! I didn’t though, I’m not that cool.

Hot Chocolate

The experience was just weird really. Give me traditional Italian any day!

Walking back to the hotel, we felt a sudden change in the climate. Bearing in mind it was supposed to rain every day we were there, the heat had caused the threat of thunder.

Back in the hotel bar (where we put everything on a tab. Free drinks, until check out!), I had a hot chocolate, probably the sweetest drink I have ever had, and sat on the terrace listening to the thunder and observing an  American couple, the woman clearly with the man for his money. Certainly wasn’t his

Rainy Milano!

patter.

The heavens opened, and the rain came down in torrents, bouncing off the street. We watched from inside. Even the rain in Milan was beautiful!

So off to bed we go. We planned to go to Bergamo in the morning, hoping to see the town that we should have seen when we first arrived. Falling asleep to the sound of Italian politics shows was becoming quite relaxing!

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Banoffee Cupcakes

Banoffee Cupcakes from The Hummingbird Bakery Book

I decided this morning that a cupcake just wasn’t enough. I wanted a cupcake that was really a dessert.

I can make a pretty mean banoffee pie as it is, courtesy of my Mum’s recipe, which I normally make whenever a dessert is called for at any occasion. It’s a sure-fire winner, and is so easy to make.  I needed a new challenge, and this was it.

First of all, I started with my basic cupcake ingredients. These are the usual things you need to make plain vanilla cupcakes. So far, so good. And set your oven to Gas Mark 5 to heat her up a lil’.

Flour, butter, caster sugar, a pinch of salt, baking powder. All mixed together in my Mum’s ancient Kenwood mixer, which she got as a wedding present, when she married my Daddy 38 whole years ago.

I found it at the back of a cupboard, cleaned it meticulously with an array of scouring pads, cotton buds and a toothbrush, and voila! Brand new. Except from the burning smell it emits whenever I used it. You get used to that though.

If I had a Kitchen Aid (preferably metallic purple) then I wouldn’t need to worry about blowing myself up so much. (Disclaimer: This is most definitely NOT a hint.)

You need to pulverise the ingredients into a lovely sandy texture. I have provided a picture of said sandy texture incase you have no idea what I am wittering on about.

Once that’s done, you can move onto the funsies. Getting your mix on with your own built in utensils- your fingers!

Eggs, vanilla essence and milk have to be mixed together by hand in a wee jug. I like popping the yolks with my fingers. It feels like the slimey stuff you used to beg your Mum to buy you out of the Pound Shop.

Add 3/4 of it to the mixer on a slow speed, then add the rest on a higher speed, until its all mixed in just lovely.

Next, the ‘ban’ part of the cake comes into fruition. I’ll leave you with that fruit based bit of comedy genius there. Mull it over.

Two ripe bananas, get them mashed. This may have been my favourite part of the whole cake making bonanza today.

My Nan used to mash bananas up for me in a bowl with sugar and I LOVED it. Watching the fork smoosh the bananas down, wafting the smell up my nostrils, took me right back to her wee kitchen. Happy times.

Take your mashed bananas and tip them into the mix, stirring them in until they are nice and combined. Get all the stuff from the bottom of the bowl scooped up too, incase the mixer has missed it. (Again, not a problem I would have with a Kitchen Aid…)

Done! All you have to do to finish off the sponge is whack it in the oven!

I usually use measuring spoons to divide the batter into cases. I found that with this mix, I got a whopping 23 muffin sized cases full of the stuff, which was a lot compared to my usual 12-15.

I used yellow and brown cases. Banana and toffee, see? I know, I am brilliant.

This cupcake tray is from TK Maxx, the God of all kitchenware. I could spend all day just browsing through the weird and wonderful House and Home section in there. The clothes are crap mind you.

You need a muffin tray, because regular trays aren’t big enough for the cases, which are hearty and man sized, precisely the way cakes should be.

Oven Time! I never time my cakes, instead I just keep my eye on them and make sure they ain’t burnt. As a rule of thumb, I’d say 15-18 minutes usually does the trick. Give them a wee poke to see if they are bouncy.

When I started baking I used a knitting needle to test if they were cooked. Skewer it into the cake and if it comes out clean, it’s cooked! Sitting them out of the tray on a wire rack helps cool them quicker too.

The next part was the difficult bit. The cupcakes are topped with a toffee custard. I do not have a great track record with custard, as it’s usually as lumpy as an elephant’s arse, but God loves a trier.

My milk was put on to boil, whilst I mixed flour, cornflour, sugar and FIVE egg yolks in a bowl. Five! I now have five lonely egg whites in the fridge if anyone wants them.

Separating eggs is fun. Some folk think it necessary to use a fancy-dancy egg separator thingy from the Betterware, but the old finger utensils come in just as handy in this exercise too.

Mixing them together was hard, because it stiffens up pretty quickly. Don’t let anyone tell you that making cakes isn’t a workout! (Which means you can eat them guilt free, of course.)

That done, a good five tablespoons of boiled milk goes into the custard roux, and gets mixed in to make a paste. 

Get that poured into the remaining milk on the heat, and get whisking furiously. You can’t muck this bit up because this is the crucial point in the custard making process. One wrong move and BAM! You’re out the game and left sobbing on the floor. Or maybe that’s just me.

Mine whisked into a very thick custard, and I added more than the recommended amount of delicious tinned caramel. You always need more than the recommended amount of this, and it is absolutely imperative to the baking process that you lick the spoon afterwards.

Pour the custard out (in my case, the custard thudded out) into a bowl or a tray, cover with cling film, and whack it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

I have to be honest, when I saw it, I thought I had ballsed it up. It is so thick and lumpy! But don’t worry! Stick it in the fridge and forget about it, I promise it will all come together just fine.

You have to give your lovely banana-ey sponges time to cool down before you lather them in custard, so open a window or door and let them take in the breeze.

The custard should set in that half hour, and then comes the double cream whipping (I did mention that these weren’t a diet version, didn’t I?) and the folding in of all the delicious goopy goodness.

I used the mixer at this point to beat out all of the lumps and bumps, which worked surprisingly well.

Do not whip the cream into the custard though, but fold it in instead.

Now for the piping! I left my custard mix to set for a bit, although it didn’t make much difference. This is not conventional frosting, so it is very, very soft, and will slide through your piping bag. It looked like I had had a custard slinging war on my kitchen table.

Fill the large piping bag, and pipe away! For these, I used the biggest nozzle I had and just piped a three tier rosette onto the sponge, which evened out into a large splodge.

Decorating cakes is always fun although I find you can’t do too much with flavoured cakes and toppings, because you don’t want to ruin the taste.

I just simply grated some milk chocolate all over the cupcakes, most of which fell onto the floor and was licked up by my little doggy, Ollie. He always tries to get in on the act!

And there we have it. Banoffee cupcakes. If I was naming them, they would have been called banana cupcakes with toffee custard topping. But I wasn’t, so they aren’t.

More effort than your usual, run of the mill cupcake, but damn good!

If you want the full recipe, then just ask, or buy The Hummingbird Bakery’s amazing book, Cake Days

Chocolate and Vanilla Marbled Cupcakes

As the daughter of a baker by trade, I guess baking should  come naturally to me.

My Dad worked as a baker all his life until recently, and my Mum has baked cakes for as long as I remember. The nicest memories are licking the spoon with cake mixture on (to which my Mum would always say ‘You’ll get worms!’- her go-to phrase if she didn’t want me to eat sugar) and taking my Mum’s cakes to school for fairs, and seeing everyone getting excited, because everyone seemed to love them.

I was lucky to have a Mum who could bake, so I want to be that kind of Mummy too one day.

So I decided to give it all a go, and after a (good) few failed attempts, I managed to get the knack of it, and bake some pretty nice cakes.

The only books I ever use when baking are the Hummingbird Bakery cookbooks, which have oodles of gorgeous and delicious cakes, whoopie pies, cheesecakes and muffins in. I have been to the Bakery myself in Notting Hill Gate, and it was bloody marvellous.

Today, Marble Cupcakes were on the menu. A swirl of vanilla and chocolate cake topped with vanilla and chocolate frosting marbled together.

I taste tested the batter and the frosting so much I couldn’t even try the cakes!

A Few Different Ways to Frost.

I have a palatte knife kit which I have only recently started using; this gives the cupcakes a more individual look, whereas my trusty old piping bag make them all look neat, tidy and uniform. I used both this time.

I made some larger ones, which fit into muffin cases and a bigger cake tin, and some little fairy cake sized ones, which I piped into the middle of, for those not wanting so much of the super sweet frosting! So much icing sugar goes into the frosting that it makes my teeth hurt just looking at it!

I would also recommend using a more expensive vanilla essence in the frosting, you can totally taste the difference! I used to use Asda’s own, but I used Neilsen-Massey vanilla extract this time, which you can also get from Asda. It’s quite a big bottle, and much more expensive at £3.47, but a billion times better.

Baking is such a joy for me, a total release, I love weighing out and measuring and mixing, I just love it all! I’ll report back as to how they went down in the Telfer household!

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Stezzano to Milano!

Brekkie Buffet Italiano Style!

Day 2 of our trip started pretty well considering neither of us slept very well. It could have been the massive, rather firm bed. In my case it was probably excitement for our journey into beautiful Milan the next day.

We dressed for breakfast, and went down to find a buffet trolley set up. I LOVE buffet breakfasts, because usually, brekkie is a bit of toast of some eggs for me, and buffet breakfasts give you the chance to get a bit of everything on your plate. I used to work for a reviewing website for a living, and ever since then I have the overwhelming urge to take pictures of every single thing I eat and place I go to. The breakfast buffet was the perfect photo opportunity!

Continental breakfasts are amazing too, with croissants, brioche, preserves and yoghurt, fruit and cheese. Delicious! The cooked breakfast items were hidden under a silver tray. Boiled frankfurter sausages and crispy fried eggs. I decided to stick to the fruit.

Another interesting thing were the cakes on display! Cheesecake, cream-cakes, topped with cream and fruit, for breakfast! I officially loved Italy by this point.

You’ll be sad to hear that Lidl was closed (yes, we did go and see if we could have a browse, sad I know, since I live about 5 minutes walk from Lidl at home), but we decided not to let this dampen our spirits, and got packed up to go. The lady at the desk provided us with maps, and even got the hotel driver to take us to the station. (Note: Maybe this would have been a good idea for coming from the airport! Would have saved us money!)

Arriving at Stezzano Railway Station, Rab decided to flex his Italiano and ask a burly gentleman when ‘the next train, tr-a-in, to Milano, Meeelano’ was. He pointed to the other side as we saw the train approaching in the distance.

The wheels on the case were mangled, so que Rab hugging this massive case to his chest whilst belting down the steps. The Italian man then seemed to be chasing us, and I basically had a fit incase he was a mugger, but he was only running to tell the train conductor to wait for us and where we were going. Lovely, lovely Italian!

The trains are basic. Hot, hot, hot. Very old fashioned, almost movie-like.

Dalmaine Station

The conductor told us we had to get off at Dalmaine Station and wait there for a train to Milan. So that is what we did. The next train to Milan was over an hour away, so, feeling rather smug that we managed to get the train thus far, we decided to throw caution to the wind and get a train into Bergamo, then one from there to Milan.

TrenItalia

Unfortunately, our smugness wore off when we got to Bergamo and the next train wasn’t for an hour. Silly us.

It was actually nice to sit in the shade and have a wee look at the different trains, graffiti laden and shabby, with two levels, an upper deck and a lower deck, separated with rather annoying swingy perspex doors. The trains have absolutely no ventilation but the windows, so prepare for a really hot and sweaty journey.

Milan was well in our sights as we got on the train for our 50 minute journey. One thing we did comment on was how we’d managed to travel for around 2 hours without being charged a single train fare, rather cheerfully of course because saving money is always a good thing!

The fantastic ceilings in Stazione Centrale

The journey from Bergamo to Milan was pretty uneventful; scenes of countryside with animals, lakes, absolutely loads of green space sprinkled with traditional painted houses, with mismatching shutter windows and balconies, almost every single one strewn with bed covers. This was something we saw loads as we travelled from place to place, so it must be a common thing to hang your sheets out every single morning to air them.

Siamo arrivati ​​alla fine! Milano!

We were so happy to arrive, and pretty overwhelmed by the beauty of Stazione di Milano Centrale, the central station of the city. Introduced in 1931, replacing the old station, this railway station has 24 platforms and a plethora of bars, restaurants, and even shops such as Armani and Zara! It was more like an airport.

We walked to our hotel, which was lovely. The Crowne Plaza Milan City is situated on Via Melchiorre Gioia, a mere 4 minute stroll from the station.

As you probably read from the first post about our holiday, I get quite intoxicated with the whole idea of a hotel room, and all the wee bits and bobs you get in there. So you can

Our Room in The Crowne Plaza

imagine my glee when I saw the mini bar and coffee making area, the ‘Welcome To The Crowne Plaza’ screen that was on our television, the dressing gown on the back of the door, and the ‘sleep kit’ resting on our pillows. Like a kid in a candy store.

The room had a running theme of, well, a woman’s face, which adorned the panel above the bed, the bin and the wardrobe. I didn’t care much for it if I’m honest, perhaps the design could have been better, but as a whole, the room was absolutely perfect.

We didn’t waste much time setting off to explore, and armed with my trusty walking and talking map/sat nav of a boyfriend, I wasn’t too worried that we were wandering around Milan with no idea where to go.

One of my favourite things about the city already was the eating and drinking culture. Italians love to eat, and aren’t shy about drinking alcohol all the time, with almost every meal. This is my sort of place. We grabbed a foccacia from a wee pasticceria down the road, and kept walking onto a beautiful park slap bang in the middle of such an urban metropolis.

Beautiful Statues in the Giardini

The Giardini Pubblici is a 40 acre park, the biggest in Milan. You forget completely that you’re in a city and are totally taken in by the greenery, dusty paths, lakes and water fountains.

People are jogging, walking around in high heels and suits on their lunch break, kids cycling around and walking dogs. We watched a homeless man, his life in a battered suitcase, wash his face and feet in the water fountain in the centre of the park and then lie down to sleep.

Oh, the foccacia. Amazing. The size of a small pathing slab, but bloody fantastic all the same.

Tomato and Olive Foccacia

So we wandered down to the Duomo through the busy streets of Corso Venezia, lined with Vivienne Westwood and Dolce and Gabbana stores, all of which I will be re-visiting when one of us wins the lottery/is recognised for our overwhelming talents and given a significant pay-rise.

Rab refused to take any pictures of the Duomo Cathedral at this point, because it ‘wasn’t the sightseeing day’. We were absolutely knackered as well, after a sleepless night and VERY warm day (I only packed leggings and maxis- the weather forecast for 5 days was rain, heavy rain, and loads of rain. Instead it was 28°C!) So we headed back to the hotel to get ready to go out for dinner, excited about exploring the area at night.

Our hotel had a lovely terraced area, so we bought a bottle of gorgeous Italian white wine from the bar (over £13 for half a bottle,

Beautiful, beautiful vino ❤

expensive stuff!) and sat out on the terrace to enjoy the early evening sunshine. I felt so utterly content at that moment, it was fantastic. Rab, as usual, had his head in a book about Rangers F.C. You can take the boy out of Glasgow…

Travelling down to Duomo was a little easier this time. The Sondrio Metro stop was right outside our hotel, absolutely ideal, and only 4 or 5 stops and 10 minutes away from the Piazza Duomo. A ticket for the metro is €1 per single trip. You can buy 10 journey cards too, but for some reason we never bothered.

The Duomo Square is pretty confusing. This huge, overwhelming structure towers over you as you stand in the square, the statue of Victor Emmanuel II’s grandeur at the other side and the Emmanuel Shopping Piazza to the side. Deciding which way to go was impossible.

We wandered down the side streets and came to a wee cafe-restaurant, Bellavista, where we decided that the

Bellavista Cafe, Milan

menu was suitable for our budget and we went in. The inside was just exactly as I had imagined an Italian cafe to be!

Mementos everywhere, dark woods, dusty wine bottles, little tables with checked cloths, hanging lights. Beautiful. We got some menus, and ordered some wine (of course!).

Antipasto of the Gods!

We went for the antipasto starter, which is an outstanding favourite of mine every time I visit an Italian restaurant here in the UK. The plate was huge, filled with lots of delicious meats.

Prosciutto and pancetta, as well as mozzarella, peppered cheese (amazing!), deep fried pizza bread and olives encased in mincemeat and breadcrumbs (new, but delicious!) made up the plate, which was definitely the nicest antipasto I have ever had!

Yum! 🙂

For main, I opted for orichette pasta, a pasta that I have rarely eaten and is rarely seen on UK Italian menus, with crumbled sausage, sugo and garlic. This sort of food is my idea of complete heaven.

Rab went for a huge pizza, with spiced chicken. Both looked awesome, and my pasta was brilliant. Washed down with more wine (When in Rome…or Milan…) we finished it off and couldn’t eat another bite, not even tiramisu, my fave.

Wandering around Piazza Duomo at night was beautiful. I did notice that there aren’t any bars or pubs, just

Trams at Night

restaurants and cafes. The drinking culture is far more subdued, far more normalised.

I didn’t see anyone stoating around drunk (not even Rab). It just isn’t their way which I totally appreciated. I loved that about the place. Drinking wine or beer is done with food, making drunkenness much rarer than it is in Scotland.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Lit up, Milan is stunning. A woman played a grand piano in the centre of the Emmanuel shopping mall, people gathered around watching her. Street sellers threw flashing helicopter toys into the sky and chased them around the square. The Duomo looked even more magical than it did earlier in the day.

Duomo Cathedral at Night

Our first full day in Milan was perfect. We slept like babies that night, and I couldn’t wait to get up and get started the next day. You could even set the alarm clock on the television, and you can only imagine how excited that made me!

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If You Only Read One Thing Today…..

…Make it this.

http://alicepyne.blogspot.com/

Alice, 15, has terminal cancer.

 

This young girl, Alice Pyne, has terminal cancer.

At 15 years old, most teenage girls are experimenting with make-up, chasing boys for kisses, hanging around with friends and moaning about getting up early for school. This girl has faced up to the fact that she will die soon, having fought cancer for most of her teen life.

All she wants is to complete activities on her ‘Bucket List’, which you can find on her blog, before she goes.

Twitter brought her to my attention last night, with celebs and friends re-tweeting ‘#AliceBucketList’, because one of the wishes on her list was to trend on Twitter, which of course happened.

Her main wish is that everyone is signed up on the register to donate bone marrow if theirs is needed, to save the

Donate Bone Marrow at Anthony Nolan

life of someone with cancer. So do it. I have.

http://www.anthonynolan.org/

Just enter a few personal details and the trust will get in touch if you’re eligible for donation. You may never be needed. But at least you’ll have a made a small effort to give someone an amazing gift.

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Ciao Italia!

I promised you a day by day account of my Italian adventure, and I am a girl who stays true to her word. Plus, I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath for this, so here it is!

We set off from my home town of Motherwell, taking the train to the airport. On the way there I managed to spill a dinky bottle of sparkly wine all over our newly purchased Panasonic Lumix digital camera.

The Blurry Aftermath of My Wine Spillage- Rab Not Happy.

This is the sort of thing I do whenever technology is around; Break it. I could see the contempt in Robert’s eyes. Oh. No.

I think I had a wee cry, then I pulled myself together and we checked in at Prestwick International Airport, which is ‘Pure Dead Brilliant’, by the way. They got the dead bit right anyway.

We decided to hang back a bit for boarding, and my usual urge to rush to the queue was quelled because, well, I had already ruined my life by breaking the camera, and was in a thoroughly bad mood. We were one of the last couples to board the bold Ryanair flight, but got a seat no bother. This made us smug.

My 'Camera is Fixed' Happy Face!

Rab held the camera under the wee air conditioning nozzle for ages, and about an hour or so into the flight the camera was fixed. Huzzah! I can safely say it was up there with the top 5 happiest moments of my life so far. Sad, I know.

Ryanair flights have a funny smell. It smells like cheap. And urine.

They also don’t seem to bother much about cleaning the plane in between landings, as I discovered when I pulled down my tray. The air hostesses have a certain air of hatred about them. Self loathing maybe, or perhaps just despair at being shuttled back and forwards wearing fake eyelashes and tan tights on the smallest tin can about. I wouldn’t be happy either.

Landing was exciting. I think landing is maybe my favourite bit about flying. I’m always a bit iffy about going up, just incase we come right back down again. I know that landing means we could essentially hurtle to the ground at a terrifying pace nose down, but for some reason, I’m happier to die that way. No idea why.

Arriving in Bergamo, the air as we stepped down those economy steps and into the real world again was warm, foreign and bloody beautiful. I absolutely adore the smell and taste of the air when you arrive in another country. British air is shit.

A bus came to take us to the front of the airport, and the fantastic spell that’s only ever witnessed in airports was cast over grown men and women.

The one where they see a bus, or a queue, and literally run like Usain Bolt to get to the front of it, or on it, happily kicking disabled folk out the way and maiming grannies so that they can ‘get a seat‘, for the 70 seconds that you’re actually on the bus. Sometimes, I hate people.

Grabbing our cases, we went to get a cab to our first stop in Stezzano, a town just outside Bergamo, where we’d be staying for that one night. The taxi drivers abroad are always knobs, but I figured since we were in Italy and not Magaluf that they would be a little better behaved and give us a break. Our driver, however, was a Magalufian knobhead.

‘ Ahhh, Stazzano! Yes, yes. About, €25?’, said the moustached gentleman, ever so slightly moist under his armpits.

‘Aye, fine mate’, said Rab.

Bags in, door closed, engine started.

‘Mighta be a leetle more than the €25, maybea the €30?’. Dirty bastard. He’d trapped us.

We made our way down the motorways of Italy, pretty tired but happy. Alfonso in the front there had the radio up full pelt, and was jigging and hollering away to some Italian ballad. He didn’t seem to be that fussed about the other cars that were missing hitting us by inches.

We arrived, and big Bernardo charged us €31 for the pleasure, a pleasure which took us only about ten minutes. Word of advice? Find out how far your hotel is from the airport and don’t let an Italian driver rip the piss.

Nevertheless, holidays were here, and we checked in and made our way to our room.

Excited Door Opening!

The hotel, Hotel Pegaso, offered a ‘Superior Suite’ at the time of booking, so we took that for an extra €10. I would thoroughly recommend that you do, because it was a very nice room. I was particularly excited that the little Pegasus on the door lit up, and that we had a shaving kit in the bathroom, and what seemed to be some disposable fluffy slippers on the bed. It’s the little things in life, eh?

After a (very) brief wander around the area, which housed a shady industrial estate, a petrol station playing rave music, a closed shoe emporium, a Lidl and a hybrid Chinese restaurant/bingo hall, we decided to retire to our rooms, get our snooze on and be ready for the day ahead.

Room service ordered, we settled down to watch some Italian debate show and get a munch.

The door went, and a young, curly haired lad came in carrying a tray with two plates on it. Atop the tray were two plastic, microwavable containers, still closed over. Both of us looked at each other a little gob-smacked, and the guy left the room presumably knowing that we didn’t expect to be eating Farmfood’s finest on our first night in Italy.

Yum....Yum.

My lasagne tasted like someone had layered paper and beef flavoured soup together with bechamel sauce, whilst Rabs Gnocchi was stuck together with a tomato sauce so hot it almost melted the bowl. One of the main reasons I was so excited about coming to Italy was the food, and so far I had had better meals out of a tin at home.

We went to bed slightly hungry, but excited to travel through to Milan the next day, and maybe even visit Lidl next door. They always have cool shit though, don’t they?

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<3

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.” 

Pablo Neruda

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