30 March 2013

Solidarity and rip offs

We went to Milan for work a couple weeks ago. Our days weren't completely full so we decided to be tourists and go to the big cathedral called the Duomo. It is an amazing forest of stone pillars. It's an immense space. We didn't pay the 3 Euros for the special arm band that allowed you to take photos, so you'll have to look online or take my word for it. It's really something to see.
Duomo, Milan

It also had a crypt room in the lower level that had a mystical other worldly feel and it was beautiful to look at as well. Dimly lit, lots of gilt and stone benches around a central marble coffin. It almost felt like people were there. A watchful feel seemed to permeate it.

Since we were too cheap to do the photo pass, this next story probably won't surprise you either. As we approached the cathedral from the metro -- a short plaza walk in the rain, several gentlemen from Africa approached with bracelets. One fellow was very persistent and laid one across my arm. I said no I didn't like it. I didn't it was yellow, and pink, and red, and all colors. I'm more of a black and brown person in my wardrobe tastes.

The African kept saying it was a gift. It was gift. It was free. I knew these were scams to get money so I was fighting him. He managed to tie the thing on me with me trying to pull my arm away. The whole time saying it was free and it was solidarity with Africa. I already have solidarity. I don't need a bracelet.

Once he let go of my arm and we tried to walk off, he demanded some kind of money from my man. We gave in and gave him something, but it was aggravating me the entire time I was in looking at the Duomo. Just sell the bracelets, don't con people. Next time that happens I'm going to call for the police I think, because I know they are illegals and will likely back down and leave us alone.

Later leaving the film festival was an African woman who had bracelets and I was completely rude to her because of my earlier experience. Then I felt bad, because I'm a nice person and I'd like to handle things better than getting conned at one stop and being rude to the next huckster.

The rest of the trip was nice. It rained on us pretty much the entire time. Kudos to the street hucksters who came out in droves with umbrellas. That's offering a service people want. The evenings were pretty with the reflections off the shiny cobblestone streets. The last night we came out of the theater to find a hundred people or so standing around the glassed in shop of a gelateria/bar. We thought there must be a celebrity in there so we crowded in too. Turned out everyone was watching the TV monitor over the bar waiting for the newly announced pope to make his first appearance. The shop got tired of the crowd and turned off the TV to a large group moan from the street.

We rode a street car one night back to the hotel. It was all shiny wood benches and was built in 1928 (?more or less) and a lovely little old lady reading a James Rollins book helped us make our stop or we'd have missed it.

The galleria
I was reading a Michael Dibdin, Auelio Zen novel, Cabal, which had it's dynamic end in the galleria alongside the Duomo where we had lunch one day so it was a nice touch to my trip.

16 March 2013

Window or Aisle?

I'm a good flyer, love it. Until recently I always chose a window seat as I enjoy watching take offs and landings. I like to look out my portal window as we go and see the changing color of the landscape and the quilted patterns of the countryside.

The last few years my knees protest if I hold still too long. Movies, theater, flying. It hits rather suddenly, so I like to have the option to get up when I want. I've also had to fly for work more often and so do more solo flying which has also pushed me to opt for an aisle seat.

You would think as a seasoned traveler there would be no difference for me except the location of the seat. The last few flights I noticed a strange thing.

When I cannot look out the window and get my bearings so to speak of which way is up and which way is down, all those things that go bump during a flight seem to spook me. The clunk of the landing gear coming up? Window seat: no pasa nada. I glance out and keep reading or look at the clouds. Aisle seat: strain to see out, only see white. Is the plane okay? Are we going forward? Down?

Now, this anxiousness is very light and I often laugh at myself, but I have noticed a lot more jumpiness when I can't SEE what's going on. It's not like the window seat is in the cockpit, but it's reassuring somehow to see the ground way down there and staying where it's suppose to be.

I won't give up my aisle seat  I don't think, but my preference is flying with a companion in the two seat on the side scenario, so I can have both the view and the aisle. Which one do you prefer?