We're finishing this up today. Since I am currently at Mandalay Bay for a conference, Mickel can expect a lovely picture of the convention center carpet very quickly.
So we got back to Venice and I got a car. The original plan was to head to Lake Como and see what all the fuss was about (it's the area that was seen several times in Casino Royale). Because there were 9 of us, we were in a van that was so sparse that the people in the back were getting tossed all over the place thanks to the terrible suspension and the windy roads. We got to Lugano, a city on the tip of Lake Como, and then decided that we probably shouldn't continue. Because the lake is so long and it's shaped like a giant Y, it didn't seem like that would be the best use of our limited time. Instead, we headed to Milan. Milan was absolutely crazy. Because of the seating configuration, my wife wasn't seated up front with me, so I didn't have my usual navigator. Now I like to brag on my driving/navigating skills - and they are second to none, but because I end up in the driver's seat on these excursions, I can't really navigate. However, my wife makes a pretty darn good replacement. For all the concern we had last year, she never led us astray when we were traveling around Austria and Germany. My navigator this time wasn't quite as good. He just didn't have the ability to see things forward 3-4 streets and tell me where to go. Instead it was more of a "here's where we are" situation, which led to us getting turned around to the point where I had no idea where we were and we somehow plopped out right at the castle on one end of the historical district. Milan was much nicer than I had been led to believe. I'd heard it was an industrial town that was of little redeeming worth. Instead, it was actually quite charming. We would love to spend some more time here on another trip. Nevertheless, it was marred when we approached the city's Duomo (which was absolutely stunning architecturally) by the birdinistas. These guys came up to you, put corn in your hand, and had you take pictures of all the flying rats that landed on you. After you take the pictures, they ask for a little something something. I dug around my cash pouch and pulled out a 1 euro coin. Not bad for a nickel's worth of corn and 20 seconds of work, if you ask me. After he got it, he dropped it on the ground and asked for 5 euros. I told him he was crazy and it wasn't worth anything near that and left. Another member of my group wasn't so lucky. The birdinistas hounded him so relentlessly that he gave in and they got their 5 euros. I'd love to see some of these cities put these burgeoning "entrepreneurs" out of business. How does deportation sound, Pedro?
At any rate, with the exception of that incident, what an amazing city.