Family Trip #15 (& #16)

Yep. Another trip. With our time in Denmark beginning to come to an end, we are trying to squeeze in as many European trips as possible. So when my gearhead husband saw that EICMA, or “The Milan Motorcycle Show”, was a go in Italy, the whole family booked tickets to go along with him.

Day 1:

We flew to Italy on the budget airline, Ryan Air. If you’re from the USA, I would compare it to Allegiant Air. While the initial price is cheap, you have to pay for each additional bag, seat, etc. A lot of hidden charges. However, it was still cheaper than our return flight using our reward miles. But because it is a budget airline, it sometimes lands outside of major cities. This particular one landed in Bergamo so we had to take a bus to Milan. And man…the bus station was FULL. It was definitely smart to have purchased tickets online as we were allowed on the bus first. Unfortunately, (I’m assuming here) our driver had sold the last two tickets for the bus and didn’t see our two children in the seats that he likely assumed were empty. He instructed us to have our five and nine year old sit on our laps the whole one hour ride into Milan. It became a hot and bit claustrophobic ride but the girls were well behaved.

The bus stopped at Milan Central Station so we walked seven to eight blocks to our hotel. We had to show our CoronaPas, (an app that displays a QR code that indicates your vaccine status, negative test or immunity from COVID-19), our locator form for Italian authorities and our passports. We were so very happy to get into our room. We had a couple of hours to spare before our scheduled time to go to the pool. Due to COVID-19, only a certain amount of guests were allowed in the pool at a time and you had to schedule it. I had emailed the hotel a few days before our arrival to book our times. Turns out that was a good move as another gentleman checking in was unable to get in the sauna area until midnight.

We splashed away our 45 minutes in the pool and settled in for a good nights sleep.

Day 2:

We started the day with breakfast in the restaurant. It was a very big breakfast full of pastries, fruit and meat. They also had a little gluten free option box for me (mainly prepackaged, dry options). We were sure to fill up as much as we could as we were going to try and limit our meals to only two a day to save money; one huge breakfast and one big dinner.

Dad then went out into Milan while the girls and I stayed at the hotel. Dad would get to enjoy the motorcycle convention and the Alfa Romeo Museum without uninterested tag-alongs.

While Dad was away, the girls and I watched movies, enjoyed the pool and took a late afternoon stroll to a gluten free bakery and McDonalds (it was their request, not mine). We really learned how big Milan was. The night before the streets had been fairly manageable but wow….it was very busy on a Saturday afternoon. I was a bit uncomfortable as it was only my set of eyes to keep watch on the girls but they stayed close and we had no issues.

Dad’s adventure was a bit more hectic. He was able to ride the metro directly to the arena where the EICMA was held (Side note: The metro in Milan is super simple to take. If you have a contactless card, you just scan it on and off the metro. No special ticket needed). But when he got there, it was packed. He was only able to see a few of his favorite brands (MotoGuzzi & Honda) before calling it quits and heading to the Alfa Romeo museum.

According to the Alfa Romeo website, there should have been a bus for easy transport to and from EICMA and the museum. Unfortunately, the husband couldn’t find a spot to buy bus tickets. Since his phone was dying, he instead called a cab.

He made it to the museum without incidents and enjoyed his time there as it was virtually empty since most gearheads were at EICMA. Enjoy pictures of cars below I know nothing about:

When he left, his plan was to jump on a direct bus from a nearby mall that went directly into downtown Milan. Unfortunately, for him, he couldn’t find a spot to buy tickets. According to a few people he asked, he was unable to purchase tickets on the bus due to COVID-19 and no one knew where he could purchase them in the mall. So as his phone died, he hailed a taxi and went back to the EICMA to take the metro back to our hotel. Thankfully, he remembered the stop and was able to find his way back to the hotel. (I was not very calm at this point. He had no phone and was in a huge city without his guide (me).)

After finishing a movie, we went out for gelato. I found a little spot not far from the hotel, that served gluten free options (along with other dietary options). And let me tell you, it was delicious! We all loved it and made plans to go back the next night.

Day 3:

Sunday funday! Today we woke up early to grab breakfast. I had a bit of a nervous stomach ache as I was finally going out to see the big city. I had spent the weeks prior to our trip reading all sorts of warnings about pick pocketers and scammers in Italy. So I was sure to be on my guard as we were going to the second largest cathedral in Europe,  Duomo di Milano.

We arrived 30 minutes before our tickets to allow us into the cathedral. So we took this time to walk through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest (and very expensive) shopping mall. Since everything was closed, we pretty much had the entire mall to ourselves. We walked past Prada, Chanel, Gucci and many more ($$$) stores. But we were able to find the lucky bull. According to legend, if one turns on the bull’s family jewels with their right foot, they will have good luck. The Christmas Tree was being put up when we arrived but luckily the bull was still uncovered. So we definitely tried our luck at it.

At 9:30, we made our way into Duomo di Milano. We had to go through corona and security check-points. Mass was also going on. It was a very neat experience to view the church and also witness a service in person. Attendance was low but tourists were trickling in and out at a pretty steady flow. But man, the church was massive. The cantor’s voice echoed off the walls and filled the space. We even got to hear the Lord’s Prayer in Italian.
You can rent an audio headphones but we decided not to (it appeared to be closed when we were there). Looking back, I would recommend renting one. There aren’t very many plaques around the church explaining the murals and statues. The headphones may have offered a bit more history on the cathedral.

Next, we went on the ROOF! We paid extra to take the elevator up to the top (hundreds of steps did not sound appealing with little kids). Due to COVID-19, we couldn’t take the elevator down and everyone was to move in one direction. But man, the views were awesome and the detail was….just….WOW! There was detail on everything! From the stairs tucked back in a corner to the top of every spire (over a hundred). We enjoyed looking at the different faces of over a hundred gargoyles and finding the smallest details. It was truly stunning! It is amazing to think exactly old it is. Construction on it began in 1386 and ended around 1858. Wowza!

We made it down the stairs with just a bit of whining and ended up back in the church. We decided to call it quits and made our way out into Piazza Duomo. By 10:30 am, it was packed. The mall was crowded with weekend shoppers and everyone seemed to be out in the square enjoying the day and view of the cathedral. The girls chased around pigeons while the adults tried desperately to keep an eye on them and avoid the scammers. We successful kept track of the girls but may have overpaid on some bracelets by a pushy salesman.

We then decided to go grab lunch. I had found a gluten free bistro and was very excited to try it. Unfortunately, I had forgotten we were in Europe and it was the weekend. We should have booked a table because when we got there, we were told they were all booked up. But as we turned around to leave, the waiter said he had one table we could stay at if we promised to leave at noon. We promised and sat down to have a quick bite. The girls ate gluten free pancakes (they stated mine are better) and the husband and I got focaccia pizza. It was…so…good. If you have to or choose to eat gluten free, you know most breads under perform and taste dry or like cardboard. But oh my goodness, this was so fluffy and moist, I had a hard time believing it was gluten free. Yum!

After grabbing our bite, we decided to take the metro back to the hotel and rest our feet before our next sight, Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci (or Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology).

After a couple hours (and a snooze for the parents), we jumped on the metro to the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology. Wow! What a museum. It is an enormous museum full of pretty much everything and anything. Parts of it had Leonardo da Vinci works of art and inventions, another area had information on crop production in Italy and a whole other building housed different types of transportation. We definitely didn’t make it through all of it before the museum was set to close. Just so much stuff! But I will admit, it was not the most kids friendly museum we’ve been to. There were less hands on displays than other kids museums we’ve been to. Our littlest became bored pretty quickly…

We left the museum as the sun was setting and decided to stop by McDonalds for the girls. We were all exhausted from a long day and figured this would be the quickest/easiest option for them. Afterwards, we grabbed more delicious gelato.
That evening, we went to the swimming pool. And we definitely ended it on a note. Avery was practicing holding her breath underwater. Unfortunately, she swallowed some water and then proceeded to throw it all back up. We cleaned it up and called it the end of our pool time.
But…that night, Claire started complaining about a stomach ache. We told her to just get some rest and we’d see what tomorrow brings.

Day 4:
We woke up early to grab a taxi from our hotel to the airport to pick up a rental car. Dad and Avery went to breakfast, while Claire and I stayed in the room. She said she still didn’t feel right and wasn’t hungry.
We opted for a taxi instead of public transportation due to our luggage and the fact the metro didn’t go all the way out to the airport we needed to get to. We could have jumped on a bus but we wanted to do something a bit easier. In hindsight, it was the correct call.
While we weaved our way through Milan, Claire was beginning to look more pale. I told her to breath through her nose and relax. The poor driver kept trying to make small talk with us but we pretty much ignored him as we were worried about Claire.
As soon as we disembarked from the taxi, Claire decorated the side of the airport with yesterday’s McDonalds. We told Claire we were so proud of her for not hurling in the taxi and waiting until we had left it.
After we made sure she was ok, we went to get our rental. Luckily, it was all outside so Claire was able to take some deep breaths. We packed the car full of sacks that I had grabbed from the hotel in case we had another incident, and we headed north to Lake Como.
Our first stop, Como. We parked and immediately had to find a toilet for the little one. There is a little park located on Lake Como. In the spring/summer, it looks like a mini carnival is set up for kids. We instead played a few of the game located in the park, watched an owner and dog playing catch, counted the ducks and even watched a water airplane take off. P.S. The weather was also sunny!

We then made our way to the shopping district of Como. We were lucky as there was an active Christmas market open and we got to see some classic Italian foods (so much cheese!). The girls also grabbed a hot dog for lunch (Claire was feeling better).
The architecture of Como was just amazing. I really enjoyed Como over Milan because it was smaller and much easier to maneuver through. Our littlest was fed up with walking so we eventually meandered our way back to our car.

Next, we continued our northward adventure. The road became very narrow and curvy. It was quite the terrifying adventure.
Our next stop was at a scenic spot called Orrido di Nesso. It is a gorge that opens to a waterfall and scenic bridge called Ponte della Civera. I don’t know how we did it but we convinced our youngest to walk a very steep path down to the bridge (and back up). But it was totally worth the views!

After a LONG trek back to the car, our next stop was Bellagio. We were to jump on ferry and cross it to Varenna. I had planned on walking around Bellagio for awhile but we arrived right when the ferry was leaving so made a split second decision to just get on the ferry now. It provided gorgeous views of northern Lake Como and the Alps.

Once we reached Varenna, we turned south towards the Moto Guzzi factory in Mandello del Lario. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to tour the museum connected to the factory. So instead, the husband checked out a local motorcycle dealer and took a picture of the iconic Moto Guzzi door. The girls just enjoyed time in the car.

The sun was low on the horizon at this point and we decided to head back to southern Milan. We were staying right next to the airport since we were heading south the next day and had an early flight in two days.

Day 5:
Our last day in Italy was for cheese and cars!
We woke up nice and early to drive to Caseificio Bazzanese, a small cheese factory. It was my third choice but the bigger dairies were either sold out or closed on this particular day. But I was not disappointed.
I was a little worried when we arrived 30 minutes late. There had been an accident on the freeway and traffic was backed up. However, we were the only ones scheduled for the tour so it didn’t bother our tour guide one bit.
She took us into a little room to change into hair nets and plastic gowns. She also warned us that she wasn’t the best at speaking English but she did an amazing job. We learned all about Parmigiano Reggiano; how the process starts early in the morning with milking of the cows and then the milk is shipped to the factory. It goes through so many different steps from milk to curd. After being molded, it’s put in a salt bath for over an hour. Finally, it is set out to dry for a year or more! Any company that makes Parmigiano Reggiano must have it inspected by a cheese curator. Talk about a dream job. This curator looks at EVERY. SINGLE. wheel of cheese to decide if it meets Parmigiano Reggiano quality. We learned there are three levels. The first means excellent quality and is given the Parmigiano Reggiano seal. The next is good quality and is usually sold to restaurants. This last level can still be sold as cheese but it cannot carry the Parmigiano Reggiano seal. It is sold under another name.

Avery hated the tour. I mean…it’s cheese making. It had a very sharp smell and she was not a fan. She was in full tears so our tour was pretty quick. Claire also wasn’t a fan of the smell but she loves learning and took in all the information.
Afterwards, we got to eat cheese! The platter included a year aged cheese, two year aged cheese and a three year aged cheese. We were also treated with some curd (or whey, can’t remember), crackers, and local balsamic vinegar.
Oh…it was ssssooo good. Even Claire loved it (Avery only ate the crackers). The vinegar with the older cheese was such a good combo and we ate every single piece (don’t judge).

Now it was time for cars for the gearhead. First stop: Ferrari.

I’ll be honest here. I had little to no time to look at the cars. This portion of the trip was for the husband. So enjoy some pictures of fancy cars:

My job was the follow the girls around and make sure they didn’t touch anything.
We pretty much zoomed through the museum and made our way to a park located directly outside. The girls played while we waited for the husband to finish looking at the cars. I think one of his favorite parts about the day may have been hearing all the Ferrari’s running at the test track and factory nearby. We also saw quite a few Farraris driving around.

We then discussed lunch. I found an Italian café that made gluten free pizza so we ordered from there (using WhatsApp and Google Translate). We picked it up and ate on the way to our next car museum, Lamborghini.
The Lamborghini museum was much smaller than Ferrari but much more interactive. We first walked in to a dark room that started playing a very intense promotional video for Lamborghini cars. Even the girls were entranced and ready to see some cars after it.
The girls particularly liked one section where you could build your own Lamborghini. There was even a green screen set up for one to take pictures as a Lamborghini model. While the museum was smaller, the girls really enjoyed it.

When we left the museum, we even spotted a few camouflaged Lamborghinis driving around. My husband also found that really cool.
The next morning we woke up at 4 am to make our 6 am flight…which was an adventure in itself. We landed in Frankfurt with no issues but taking off from Frankfurt was an ordeal. We were all on the plane when the captain reported that a person was running on the runway and we would have to wait until officers cleared the area. Next, we were told the computer system on the plane was not working. So we had to get off the plane onto some buses to take us to another part of the terminal. Once there, we were told that the backup plane had to be prepared so the girls and I did some shopping. The wait was actually much shorter and we were racing to get on buses again to bring us to our plane.
So we were very happy to land back in Denmark albeit three hours later than planned.

The one thing I learned during this trip is that we prefer scenic areas over cities. We preferred picturesque Como over crowded Milan. So that leads into our next trip we did briefly over Christmas.

Trip #16: Sweden

With Omicron cases soaring in Europe, many places were tightening rules for travel. The girls’ school even closed down a week early while Denmark waited to see what Omicron would do to the hospitals. So our options were a bit smaller for Christmas travels.
We decided to take a ferry to Sweden. Why did I agree to go on a ferry again? Did I not learn from my Norway trip? I do not do well on the ocean and spent most of the ferry ride lying down or just trying to keep from being sick. Ugh.
But I really don’t have much to share about Sweden as we didn’t do much. We had a harrowing adventure driving from populated areas to our secluded cabin in our mini-van with no studs or chains. But my husband is an excellent driver and we made it safely to the cabin to find we had no cell phone service to contact the AirBNB owner to figure out how to get in. So we had to find some neighbors who had working phones. Saunas are a part of Nordic life especially in Sweden, Norway and Finland. Our neighbors were in their sauna when we knocked. They were all dressed in towels and one gentleman even came outside in the howling wind and snow like that. After some confusion, we were able to borrow one of their phones to call the AirBNB owner and we got into our cabin.
We spent the rest of our time there playing games, watching Christmas movies and playing in the snow. Although it was short and non-eventful, it was a good (fairly) stress-free trip.

Life in Denmark has been an adventure after Christmas. We have dealt with COVID-19 isolation and infection (we’re all fine), changing of isolation rules and Denmark now opening up. Omicron continues to sweep through the country but as ICU numbers continue to drop, Denmark has dropped almost all restrictions (no facemasks, no distance requirements, no crowd limits, etc.). You must still isolate if you are ill with COVID-19 and test coming into the country (unless you are a resident or citizen of Denmark and/or vaccinated).
It appears most countries in Europe are starting to loosen restrictions so we are hoping to travel to a couple more countries before our return to the states this summer.
Thanks for following along!