All entries for November 2005

November 07, 2005

20 hours in Milan and ridiculousness of travelling – Part 2

Follow-up to 20 hours in Milan and ridiculousness of travelling – Part 1 from Tongue in Cheek

Okay fine, so it took a week until I carried on from the last post! Pah, not as if anyone reads this thing so as to care!

Where'd I leave off? Covered in bites as I recall… Damn they itched! So I wake up in the morning and go down to take advantage of the breakfast buffet.
If there is one thing my parents taught me to do properly it is to take advantage of free (or pre-paid) things, especially food. Having gotten quite tipsy on the way into Milan because of free drink on the plane and knowing that beer in the airport was on expenses I made sure I got my "money's worth". So at breakfast I made sure the company money putting me up in this hotel didn't go to waste. Many croissants, bowls of fruit and mugs of coffee delivered by the very attractive Italian waitress later I realised I should probably set off to the Hilton for the whole reason I'm here!

The taxi driver who picked me up was a very nice chap who spoke pretty good English (it was certainly better than my Italian which kept lapsing into French for some unknown reason). Got a good guided tour of Milan from the comfort of a Mercedes taxi cab. Did you know that the rivers in Milan are artificial "canal" type things designed specifically to import stone and marble to build the big cathederal there?

No, neither did I.

I'll skip over the details of the conference itself since unless you're interested in automotive engineering and the CAN protocol (with CANOpen as the higher layer protocol) in particular you'd find it painfully dull.
The conference in theory ends at 5, I have a plane to catch so I leave at 4, I get changed out of my suit. It has served me well around the Hilton (where the conference was held) and I've dined out in style but now I have to travel back and I'd be more comfortable in jeans and a scabby t-shirt. In the entrance to the Hilton I realise… Arse, I don't have my keys.
After searching all my stuff (emptying my rucksack in the reception of the Hilton getting some very disapproving looks) and not finding them I deduce I've left them at my hotel. Not being able to speak a word of Italian I ask the concierge at the Hilton to phone my hotel and ask if anything was found. I could've kissed the guy when he said yes.

Outside the hotel I meet the same taxi driver I'd had that morning, freaky? Hell yeah… I'd mentioned what time I'd be finishing and he'd come to pick me up (probably due to the 80 euro fare to the airport he could charge). After explaining the key situation and the fact that a cash machine would be required if he was going to let me leave the taxi alive we set off…

Never, NEVER ask an Italian taxi driver to "please hurry because I'm going to miss my flight". It is a silly suicidal thing to do and is likely to cause premature death and/or heart failure. The man drove at no less than 60mph in the city (at 5pm rush hour in Milan) and then 110mph+ on the motorway dodging and weaving his way through traffic. I have honestly never been more worried in someone elses company as when that taxi driver put his seatbelt on and smiled at me.

We got there half an hour quicker than the most optimistic tour guide had suggested was possible. I had ten minutes to check in for my flight. I tipped him. He deserved it. I had a stiff drink on the plane to clam my nerves from the drive.

The guy was so cool when we arrived that he gave me his card and said "When you come back to Milan give me a call and I show you more of the city", he was a genuinely nice guy. He must've also appreciated the 100 euros I just gave him (15 of which was a tip). I return to the good old (crappy) Midlands and back home and back to work safely in my own car. Think am going to have to go back to Milan and see it properly at some point, whether I phone my mate the taxi driver is another matter (I have his card). Of course luck (or curse) may bring me back to him in that damn scary car of his.

So be afraid next time you go to Milan (or indeed anywhere in Italy probably). Never ask the taxi driver to drive fast… he won't need asking twice.


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