My trip to Lisbon from Milan was originally planned via Brussels, but due to unexpected circumstances, I found myself crossing over all the way from Liege in Wallonia to Ostend-Bruges in Flanders to catch the last seat in the flight to Lisbon. Milan to Brussels to Lisbon became: Milan to Liege + over priced Taxi to train station + Train to North Belgium Ostend-Bruges(with help from a nice friendly local who helped me book the tickets at the station without the intention of scamming me) + Bus to the airport + 2 hour wait with loads of travelers in a little airport. I wont complain much, as not only was I completely refunded for my troubles by Brussels Airlines (Taxi fare + Train tickets + bus ticket), they managed to get me at my final destination comforted with a seat in business class in TAP Airlines (Portuguese Airlines). Travel Blog Confession: Sold to Portugal after business class upgrade My first ever Business class trip after literally covering not just a country but en entire continent. Let me explain my complex trip to Portugal. Milan to Liege (Economic Class Air) Liege Airport to Train station (Taxi) Liege Train station to Ostende Bruge city (Train) Ostende Bruge Train station to Airport (Bus) Ostende Bruge Airport to Lisbon (Upgraded to Business Class Air) Starting from the land where they speak Italian to the land of French speaking Belgium. Next, a train to the Dutch speaking part of Belgium to only end up being spoilt by the best of Portuguese air hospitality. The crew of TAP airlines were obliged to treat me special as a Business class passenger. I wonder if they knew that I was upgraded by the awesome staff in Flanders Ostende Airport. They really did their best that busy day. The funny thing that day was me even attempting a maverick journey like that to travel all across Belgium to catch a flight in time. Vasco Da Gama would be proud of my Travels Vasco Da Gama traveled south reaching below the cape of good hope in South Africa before he reached north east of Africa and then to South India while taking help of the ruler of Malindi (present day Kenya) and the great Arab navigator Ahmed Ibn Majid, to show the explorers the route to India. Mean while , I found myself reaching Liege and taking the help of a cool Arab Taxi driver who helped me quite a bit in realizing that Ostend- Bruges was actually all across the other end of the country and that it would be better and cheaper if I juts took the train from the train station. He did that speaking in French to some one who has a real tough time saying Bonjour and always prefers to say Ciao with a wink. He did try to over price me though and but was quite easily prepared to bring down the amount upon me bargaining like a typical Indian. Our conversation reminiscent of conversation between the great explorers, navigators and sea faring merchants of that time who would often hang around India, Indonesia, Persian gulf or across the sandy beaches of east Africa. A trip to the National Museum in Rome would enlighten me of the historical Roman trade with many Indian ports and beyond that was thriving until the demise of the great empire. Landing in Portugal on a busy weekend night Lisbon had great vibes. I love coastal cities, they are always special. Maybe the influx of people over ages brings all the coolest people over to a coastal port city. Wading through the busy evening streets, we find ourselves in a little street with history written all over it. Our Airbnb hostess invites us to climb up 3 storeys on wooden steps that seemed to belong in one of Vasco Da Gama's old ships. I gasped for my breath as I carried our week long luggage across the tiny wooden steps. Had to climb three floors to finally reach our beautiful little Portuguese apartment. Our Airbnb landlady would further entertain us with an introduction to Lisbon city and Portuguese culture. Like a typical coastal nation citizen, she takes out an old paper map. As she reads out some Portuguese names of the areas around, we get interested and take notes. The next day you would find me jumping in joy around the coast. I was absolutely loving my holiday in a country which helped make Goa fun. Lisbon fever: Love at first sight We took the city sightseeing bus service that would play beautiful fado music while educating us about Lisbon. I was awestruck listening about its glorious history on top of the bus. Walking across Lisbon was great fun. Paradise is sunny weather and regular supply of Codfish Cakes (Pasteis de Bacalhau). Do click on the link to the have a glimpse of this Portuguese delight. I had actually tried it at this very place on the link. The perfect brown fish cutlet is filled with melted cheese and has to be eaten with care. You fall in love instantaneously with Lisbon, while sipping wine on a disposable "I Love Lisbon" wine glass at the Torre de Belem. Strolling across the Bairro Alto or the upper neighborhood/district, you can find the best food at the best price. Just make sure to avoid the tourist traps. By tourist traps, I refer to those unscrupulous businesses that exist all around the world. Usually near the perpetual tourist attractions. Intending to only benefit from a location but not to deliver in terms of value. The rent could be high or the motivation to meet a threshold to have customers may be low. Soon we would find the best places as we dine with old friends in Lisbon. Later we would eat the best frango and wine near the train station at faro completely based on a intuitive hunch. Not always do you enter a place to be completely blown away with the service, quality and value. I discovered loads of trattoria in Italy where you can end up having a really good meal at lunch time at a great price.
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Duomo di Milano
If there is one cathedral in the word that can proudly boast of having the most intricate facade and an impressive interior, it is the Duomo. The pristine white gothic structure stands out in a city otherwise abounding in modern galleries and fashion outlets. The fifth largest church on this planet, it also houses the biggest stained glass window in the Christian world. There probably is a reason why it took over 600 years to complete this marvel. Embellished with 135 spires and 3200 magnificent statues with a gilded copper Madonna adorning the main spire, the Duomo draws thousands of tourists every day some of whom spend a good amount of time lost in the breath-taking views of the city and the Alps from the roof terraces. When in Milan, do not miss the Duomo, you will regret it. Getting there: Buses, trams and the metro connect all major spots in and around Milan and the tickets come for nominal amounts. The closest station to the cathedral is 'Duomo' (90 metres) which serves Line 1 and 3 of the Milan metro and one can buy tickets at the station itself for 1.5 Euros. Tickets for the Duomo can be bought right outside the cathedral and they come for about 5 Euros. The prices increase if you want to see the roof terraces - 7 Euros if you choose the stairs and 12 if you take the lift. There might be long queues but are not much of a deterrent because they move pretty fast. Entry is free on Sundays but one still has to buy tickets for the spired roof terraces. Remember to dress 'appropriately' and do not carry any glass bottles in your bags or basically anything that can be used as a weapon because the folks at the security check are extremely paranoid.
Santa Maria delle Grazie
The Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazi is known to the world probably because it houses Leonardo Da Vinci's fabled 'The Last Supper' in an adjoining chamber. The most famous mural on this planet depicting Christ's admittance to the knowledge of the betrayal was unfortunately greatly damaged due to restoration work, yet nothing stops thousands of people from being transfixed at this masterpiece on a daily basis. The details on the windows behind Christ and his disciples effectively illustrate the talent that Da Vinci possessed. Getting there: Entry to the Basilica is free but tickets need to be booked months in advance for one to see Il Cenacolo Vinciano (The Last Supper) on www.vivaticket.it or through their call centre number mentioned on the website. The ticket should come for about 10 Euros inclusive of everything and your tour will last 15 minutes. English language guided tours however cost more (3 Euros). If you have more money to spare and want a detailed guided tour that lasts an additional 30 minutes, visit www.tickitaly.com and shell out 70 Euros. I was not lucky enough to get tickets because of the huge number of EXPO visitors, therefore book ahead. Absolute last minute tickets which include a city tour can be bought for 75 Euros from en.zaniviaggi.it. Cadorna serving Line 1 and 2 is the closest metro station and is about 800 metres from the basilica. Tickets can be bought at the station itself for 1.50 Euros for a single journey which is valid for 90 minutes.
Fiera Milano Rho
If you love art, culture and home design you must vivid Salone del Milano. The exhibition showcases the latest in furniture and design around the globe. Salone is held annually in April and so far I have been twice and every year my mind is completely blown away by the creativity and the variety of style.
Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie
Pay especially close attention to the shops around Piazza Santa Maria. You will have more than enough options to bleed Euros here. With pockets empty and shopping bags full, we finally paid attention to our dog-tired butts and plonked them at the closest chairs available.
Olympia International (S.R.L.)
I found myself meeting tons of new people from artist to politicians. I met a AC Milano basketball player and he invited me to a game at the Olympia International Stadium. What a thrill to see the AC Milano team score countless baskets for the win. The went on to play in the championship!
Expo Milano 2015
The city of Milan is now host to the Expo Milano 2015, a Universal Exhibition from May 1 to October 31, 2015. Around 140 participating countries have been working hard to showcase the best of their technology in order to be able to guarantee sufficient food for the future, which is healthy and sustains our planet at the same time. With 1.1 million square meters of exhibition area, the EXPO has been drawing lakhs of visitors on a daily basis. It truly is a wonderful platform for the exchange of ideas in order to build a more nourished future. You must not miss the Future Food District, the pavilions of Brazil (especially walking on the net suspended over it), United Arab Emirates, South Korea and Vietnam. The interactive maps around the massive exhibition site will constantly guide you and access to free WiFi is also available. For additional information, you can download the EXPO app on your smartphone or visit www.expo2015.org. While the exhibits live up to all expectations and are absolute crowd pullers, the food in most pavilions is sub-standard by all means. Go only and only if the theme really interests you because the visit is very time-consuming. Getting there: Night tickets are the cheapest and come for 5 Euros and single day tickets are of two types: Open Date (39 Euros) and Fixed Date (34 Euros). Expect the evenings to be super crowded owing to the low prices of tickets. You can either purchase them at the site after standing in long queues (probably the only way to get a night ticket) or book them online. Additionally, you can request your hotel to book tickets for you. For more information, visit www.expo2015.org/en/tickets. If you do not want to take a taxi to the Expo site, the metro is the best option. Purchase an extra-urbano (extra-urban) ticket, and take the Linea 1 (Red line 1) to Rho Fiera Milano metro station. A lot of walking is involved. For more information visit www.expo2015.org/en/explore/exhibition-site/how-to-reach-the-expo-site
I had the best gelato on earth! The winner goes to.. CioccolatItaliani! I can't believe I queued for almost an hour for a cone! The unique part is that you get to choose what chocolate fudge you would like to have in your cone! There is white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate fudge! There are so many flavours to choose from! I chose Pistachio and Yogurt! There are pistachio bits in the gelato. It is not too bad for 3euros! I LOVE IT!
Mozzarella e Basilico
First meal, we dined in at Mozzarella e Basilico, a stone throw away from Duomo! I conclude that they have the best pizzas! The cheese on the pizza is spot on! Usually the pizza that we eat are just grated cheese topped on. Here it is different!! I saw the pizza chef actually chopped big round mozzarella cheese balls and top on the pizza! Delizioso!
This area plays host to one of the most popular flea markets in Milan and is worth visiting on Saturdays when it is open from 8 am till 5 pm. Right from clothes, shoes and bags to the freshest of produce ranging from fruits and vegetables to olives, cheese, meat and bread, everything that one can think of can be bought here at reduced prices. If you are good at bargaining, you have come to the right place. There might be some second-hand stuff on display, so do check the merchandise a few times before striking a deal. Getting there: Sant'Agostino is the nearest metro station and is about 250 metres. It lies on Line 2 of the metropolitan system of Milan and tickets can be bought at the station for 1.50 Euros.