Expo Milano, Como & the Potato

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We only had one full day to explore the lake district so we decided to focus on Lake Como as it was closest and the most iconic lake in the area. We were blessed with cracking weather so jumped in the car early and headed up to Bellagio which we had been informed was the “Jewel of the Lake”, we could immediately see why after surviving a hectic drive around blind corners which was perhaps fortunate not to end with us in the lake. Fairly stunning spot.

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As well as taking in the scenery and wandering the town we partook in some of the local cuisine, I was fortunate enough to trip on some cobblestones and stumble into Apertivo et al, one of the regions most loved wine bars. We were greeted by the server who was fluent in at least five languages and settled down to do a Wine Tasting, I tried a 2009 Brunello Di Montacino and a 2007 Amarone Special Reserve which were without a doubt the best wines I’ve ever had. Unfortunately they were both at almost 100 Euros a bottle to takeaway so I had to be content with the glasses and the promise of more great wine when we explore Tuscany  in the next couple of weeks. We had lunch by the lake with Jess sampling another spaghetti carbonara, pretty sure she will be well positioned to write a book on the cabonaras of the world by the time we get home

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Our next stop was Milan, we couldn’t get into our apartment until seven so parked the car and caught the tram into the city to explore. What we learned about Milan is that it is best enjoyed with a fat wallet, absolute shoppers paradise and everything is pretty pricey, food included. If you enjoy shopping and are on a budget I do not recommend having a day to kill in the CBD, it will make you sad. The main square and the Duomo were very impressive, however the rain prevented the camera coming out for the entire day so no photos to share.

The next day we were off early to the Milan Expo, it was lucky we were up early because we got lost twice and struggled to find the entrance… Google maps is great but not so helpful when local police have shut down and barricaded most of the roads in the area. Eventually we made it though and it was pretty amazing, tens of thousands of people had flocked to the site as it was in it’s final days so it was crowded but the site was immense, their were hundreds of pavilions and some of them were the size of a department store. The theme of the expo was about feeding the world and focussed on innovation and sustainability in agriculture and food production, lots of info, countries sharing their ides and heaps and heaps of amazing food to taste… Many pavilions gave out samples and all had restaurants or cafes with tasting plates of their national delicacies, we were excited.

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Our first four pavilions were Estonia, Turkmenistan, Oman & Slovak – Estonia had a focus on natural harmony and working in partnership with the land, they had a great pavilion consisting of three levels of wooden rooms, swings (a traditional Estonian pastime) littered throughout and a rooftop terrace that played bird and animal noises recorded in their forests.

Turkmenistans pavilion was very unexciting and the most notable thing was that their security kicked me out because I was still eating my unreal sandwich from the Estonian rye bar. I finished up and headed back in to find a confusing space with a giant disco ball that emphasised their position as an oil and gas leader and talked about their national airline and insurance company… Kind of missed the brief I think.

Oman had a fairly elaborate pavilion set up as a desert oasis and though models and multimedia displayed their expertise at harassing and utilising their scarce quantities of fresh water by using aqueducts and water capture systems.

The Slovak pavilion had much more of a technology focus and showcased innovation in electronic transportations, an amazing car/plane hybrid they are starting to produce as well as having an interactive tour of the Slovak forests and cities using virtual reality technology. Very cool and definitely somewhere we want to visit in the future.

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After trying a few of the quite pavilions we decided the time had come to bite the bullet and do one of the crowd favourites, we had a look at Japan but the line was four hours long and we couldn’t imagine it possibly being worth it so continued on to South Korea who had been one of the most talked up of the expo. We were in line for 45 minutes but considering that we had been without wifi for the previous day due to technical difficulties and that there was free wifi in the expo the time passed quickly as we caught up with our correspondence online.

The South Korean pavilion was very technology oriented with projections and audio in the first two areas, a hologram in the second and then giant HD tv’s being controlled by robots doing a presentation in one of the final rooms. The Korean’s had gone for a strong message about reducing waste and targeting gluttony and obesity to better distribute food resources globally. It was a good message but seemingly not supported with any suggestions or strategies of how it could be implemented… We also found 50 Euro on the ground in here which was awesome, I was super keen to spend it all on Korean BBQ but their restaurant had closed for the awkward period between lunch and dinner… I was devastated.

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As well as individual pavilions for all of the countries there were clusters for different categories of foods that consisted of companies and countries who specialised in their production. In a move shocking to none Jess was more interested in the chocolate cluster than the grains & legumes so to chocolate land we went. Jess tried some amazing ice creams and gelato but refused the token food appreciation picture from that sector so I decided to buy a chocolate flavoured beer so we could tick the box.

It was getting late in the day so we decided to do one more pavilion before heading home and getting some rest for day 2, Mexico was on the way and we wanted taco’s for dinner so the choice was easy. The line took a while but luckily Kazakstan had live music on next door and Poland who were opposite had seemingly turned into a nightclub some were definitely entertained. On entry at Mexico everyone was given a unique barcode that you could scan at different points to do log in and complete interactive tasks, based on your results you were categorised as a particular piece of Mexican produce. I got Avocado, as you can see in the picture I am pretty pumped about this, I’d say avocado is probably the best you could do… Except maybe corn, either way I’m sure I had dazzled the Mexican judges and could leave with my head held high.

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Day two started brightly with us managing to find our way to the expo without getting lost at all, arriving slightly earlier we raced to the Japanese pavilion hoping the line wouldn’t have gotten too out of control that early, alas it was already at the four hour mark again so we gave it a miss and headed for Morocco. It turned out that this was a great choice, Morocco had an amazing pavilion, they had an indoor orchard with fruit and olive trees producing the goods throughout their pavilion, they also had a desert section complete with a hot Moroccan wind and an ocean zone showing their innovative fishing techniques. They also had one of the best restaurants we had come across s we decided on an early lunch of an amazing curry and a sweet pumpkin dish that was ridiculously good.

Our next stop was at the Austrian pavilion, they had essentially built a giant courtyard and brought down trees from Austria and recreated the Austrian forrest. Their focus was on using green spaces to regulate temperatures in urban areas and offset carbon emissions from agriculture. They also spoke about creating miniature green spaces inside of office buildings, schools etc to regulate temperature and offset carbon emissions. They executed really well and it was one of our favourite areas in the expo, perhaps partially because it was a lot quieter and calmer than the rest of the expo which was a bit of a culture shock after our years in Ramingining… There were a lot of people about!

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After the forest we tucked into some Slovenian sausage and I tried one of their organic beers, we had done the Slovenian pavilion yesterday and loved it but had been too full to try the food, this time around it had been well over an hour since our last lunch so we had at it. After that we headed up to the chocolate expo because Jess had a hankering for some churros, while we ate those we noticed that a chocolate demonstration was about to kick off. We decided to wait the fifteen minutes for it to start in the hopes of seeing something revolutionary and getting some samples… Fifteen minutes into the presentation all we had witnessed was a women speaking in Italian and a man stirring a bowl, all we had been given to sample was an olive, at this point we cut our losses and ran away.

We wandered for a while and checked out a few more areas before heading to the Nepalese pavilion, we were both keen to check it out as I am keen to do some climbing in Nepal over the next couple of years, have worked with some great Nepalese guys at ALPA and because the Nepalese restaurant we wanted to go to in Amsterdam had been closed so we felt we were owed some Nepalese food. The line didn’t look too crazy so we were optimistic it wouldn’t be a big wait, optimism misplaced, in a clever ploy to trick people in to lining up the majority of the Nepalese line was inside their space. We turned a corner and thought we were in, BOOM, another half hours worth of line. Eventually we made it in and it was a lovely space, they had  prayer hut and thousands of prayer flags upstairs and a contemplation and relaxation area downstairs alongside their restaurants. After taking in the relaxing vibes for a while we decided to take in some delicious momo’s before heading home, our two days of Expo Milano complete.

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The World Expo wasn’t our only activity in Milan though, we had also managed to get tickets to the Inter Milan vs Roma football match. It was quite a high stakes match with the teams battling it out for top spot and if the crowd reaction was anything to go by it seemed like their is definitely a healthy Milan vs Rome rivalry. We got to the stadium early and headed into our seats to soak up the atmosphere, the Italian crowd was definitely more lively and more fun to be in than either of the English games we went to, with fans having melt downs, jumping onto they chairs, biting finger nails and refusing to watch with regular frequency. The game ended up being won by Milan, incidentally the first time we had been on a winning team this trip, and the crowd went home very happily with the entire stadium linking arms and bouncing up and down singing the team song after the victory.

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Please don’t watch the entirety of the video below as it isn’t the most exciting to watch from start to finish, I only included it for a couple of moments that highlight how great the atmosphere was. At 3:15 in the video the announcer starts listing the players starting for the home team, in England they read their names and the crowd politely applauded. In Italy the announcer says their first name and then on cue 60,000 fans scream the players second name. The other big moment is at 5:20, about 30 seconds after I finished explaining to Jess that Gary Medel was essentially a potato and wasn’t good enough to play off the bench for a bottom half English club and questing the intelligence of him being picked to start for title contenders in Italy he scored the match winning goal. The crowd responded by continuously chanting his name for over a minute much to Jess’s amusement.

The football match hadn’t kicked off until quarter to nine at night so we had a long and late walk home, getting back to the apartment after midnight, it was a great night but left us both a bit wrecked which meant the next day became all about planning and making bookings for the rest of our Italian adventures.

The next morning we headed off for Venice which will be the focus of our next update.

Thanks for reading!!

LF & JT


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