So, we have found our seats on the huge Airbus 380 and, miraculously, the third (aisle) seat remains unoccupied. Soon a flight attendant stands near us waiting to direct people to their seats. No one else comes, so she starts up a conversation with Dianne. It is the usual, “Where are you from?”
She seems interested. “What part of Ohio?”
“Findlay, south of Toledo”
She seems even more interested. “Really? My grandmother lives in Rossford! Have you heard of it?”
“Our daughter and her family live in Rossford!”
Well, from that point on we had new friend on the flight crew. Her name is Jessica and she lived for many years in Texas. With her new job at Emirates she has moved to Dubai. But, she misses her family, so we said we would be happy to take a note to her grandma. She said she had a better idea. In a while she came back with one of those red hats the flight attendants wear and put it on Dianne. It was a perfect fit! Then she invited us up to the crew quarters for a photo op. We took many.
She had a Polaroid and soon she had mounted the picture into a card holder and dated it for her grandma, who is 96 years old. We promised to hand deliver it in about a month when we got back.
Last Thursday, we made good on our promise. Jessica’s grandma is the classic sweet, old lady. She has lived in her house in Rossford for 80 years!
She was very glad to get the picture.
Well, as I mentioned in the previous post, it was a wonderful flight to Milan. Malpensa Airport, however, is not in Milan. It is 30 miles away. Our travels in Italy were to begin at Milan Central Station. In order to get the the Central Station, you take a train called the Malpensa Express. And, it is possible to buy tickets on line for that train. We were supposed to arrive in Milan at 12:15, local time. Our train to Varenna was to leave at 2:20 pm. This seemed like plenty of time, so I booked the Malpensa Express for the 12:45 run, which seemed like more than enough time to cover 30 miles. When I booked the train, though, I found that the Express is not really an express at all. It is a commuter train with a number of stops. The entire run takes about 50 minutes and only leaves at hour intervals. So, if we missed the 12:45, we could jump on the next train, but it would be a miracle if we caught the Varenna train.
As it happened, however, our plane arrived early. It was a quick process to get our luggage, go through Passport Control, find the train and get on board. When we arrived at Milan Central Station we found that the Express stopped at a track some distance from the others, so we engaged in an orderly sprint to get to the main tracks.
Here is one thing VERY cool about Milan Central Station. They have an app! One thing we learned from our previous travels in Europe is, just because you buy a ticket to Varenna, doesn’t mean you will see Varenna on the Board that shows arrivals and departures. What you will see instead is the name of the last stop that train makes. In our case, the last stop was Tirano. That is good to know, but actually, since we had our tickets already all we really needed was the train number. So, you look on the board, find your train number and wait for the track to be assigned. When it is, off you go! But, on the app not only do you get the train number, is you click on a little track icon it will show you every stop that train makes on its way to Tirano. Believe me, that adds considerably to the peace of mind of the guy who buys the tickets!
In no time at all we were on the regional train to Varenna! I should point out, that on none of the regional trains (operated by Trennord) did anyone ever so much as look at our tickets. On the high speed trains, they always did.
If you talk to someone who has been to Italy, most of them will talk about Lake Como with that far-away look of dreamers. They loved the place! So, this seemed like the perfect location to unwind and get used to the time difference. The village of Varenna was recommended by Rick Steves and when he does tours, they go there. I don’t remember exactly how we settled on the B&B “…Il Giardino Sul Lago”, but the reviews on TripAdvisor made it sound like just the place we were looking for, even if the name doesn’t exactly work the magic. The manager is Julie and when I told her what time our train would arrive, she said she would meet us at the station. Which is a good thing, because here is the entrance to the B&B: