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The Old Fogies go to Legoland in Billund, Denmark

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Billund and Denmark is of course the homeland of LEGO (even Billund airport was once owned by LEGO) and it was only a short walk from Lalandia to Legoland. When we arrived at the large entrance, the girls began to get excited and we got in line.

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One of the great things about visiting a Legoland theme park is that they do allow access to the first part of the park before the main part is open. This allows the children to run around the various attractions rather then getting bored and restless standing in lines.

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We handed the oldest granddaughter, the map of the park and told her that it is always a good idea to go to the furthest part of the park first because the queues would be shorter.

She followed these instructions to the letter and when we arrived at the large water raft we were first in line, Mrs Nice is not a great fan of these types of rides but was game enough to try this one. It had a Viking theme and I am always amused that Vikings in the UK are viewed as plundering murderers and pillagers, whereas in Scandinavia, they are viewed as quite jolly explorers.

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The ride was quite gentle until we reached a large platform that transported our ride up to a great height before descended at some speed until we crashed with a splash into the finish. Only slightly damp we went to the next ride. This was in a castle and Mrs Nice decided to sit this one out. The first part of the ride involved a gentle meander through the castle looking at various jolly scenes, however the scene changed when you get outside and you realise you are on a massive rollercoaster. Just as we reached the top, the heavens opened and a torrential downpour soaked every one on the ride. If the ride was a little scary before, suddenly it became terrifying.

When we got the end, I was soaked and shaking, the girls were laughing and jumped off looking for the next ride. Mrs Nice had sheltered from the rain and said ‘are you wet’, I was tempted to throw her into the nearby pool.

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Of course, the fun never ends in these type of places and we made our way to another scary ride in the Arctic section.

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One of the joys of Legoland is that they only really cater for the 3 to 12 years old and there is plenty to keep that age group entertained. As we made our way back to the centre of the park, the crowds got larger and the queues got longer.

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As well as rides, there are plenty of imaginative Lego sculptures all around the park and various attractions that offers the chance to win prizes. Some of the prizes included very large doughnut toy and a life-size husky toy which you saw people carrying around the site.

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The only substantial queue was to go on the Ninjago ride but once again Lego think about the small details because in the queue the adults walk around the lines but the children can play with Lego bricks and other things provided. This takes away a lot of the stress of having excited children with nothing to do but wait.

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The only very disappointing attraction was the Sealife Atlantis Aquarium which was just a small aquarium with limited appeal.

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This was the first Legoland when it opened in and I suspect it was very different in those days, LEGO has been one of the great success stories with over 400 billion bricks sold since 1949. Part of their success is knowing their customers and the parks unlike many of competitors know that it is the small details that make all the difference. In Legoland, there is always something to see and look at and it is not a question of hours of queues and frustrated children.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

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The Old Fogies go to Lalandia in Billund, Denmark

As is traditional in our family, the grandparents always take the grandchildren on holiday during the long summer vacation.  This year Mr Curmudgeon asked our granddaughters what type of holiday they wanted to do.  The eldest quickly piped up that she would like to go to a water park with big slides and waves.  ‘OK said Mr Curmudgeon I will see what we can find’.

Having browsed the internet, Mr Curmudgeon looked a bit concerned, we could go to Billund in Denmark he said, there is a place called Lalandia that has a large indoor water park and something called Monky Tonky Land as well as a ski slope and ice rink and it is right next door to Billund Legoland, what do you think he asked me.

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I said what is the cost, you know Scandinavia is very expensive.  Not too much Mr Curmudgeon said, we have to fly from Heathrow (Oh I sighed) but we can stay at Lalandia which is only 3 kilometres away from the airport.  OK I said, let’s do it, go on book.

The next time we saw the granddaughters we told them about Lalandia and showed them the internet page, they said it looked just what they were looking for, score 1 to Mr Curmudgeon.

The day eventually arrived that we would take the grandchildren to Lalandia in Denmark for our traditional summer break with them.

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Flying from Heathrow why is it so difficult ? The Piccadilly line is painfully slow, and Heathrow is some 20 stops from Green Park, but hey ho we are off. Our flight time was 4.00 pm a bit late for us, but never mind the grandchildren are very excited.  Arriving at Heathrow, there is a 24-minute delay on our flight, I looked at Mr Curmudgeon and raised my eyebrows, yet another nail in the coffin of easy travel.

Anyway, eventually we get on the plane and get ready for departure, we are travelling British Airways, and I was shocked and surprised that suddenly they are charging from coffee, drinks etc.  This is very bad, as British Airways was always our first choice, even though it is a bit more expensive you usually do get a coffee and biscuit.  The pilot appeared to make up a bit of time as we arrive at Billund airport just after 7.00 pm Danish time.  We find a taxi and we then drive for a few minutes to Lalandia holiday site. 

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Lalandia is an indoor complex with a number of different attractions and with an artificial bright blue sky above, everyday is a nice day ! Although the service centre is not open, we go to the sports bar and they ring through to alert the service desk staff to our arrival. 

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We then book in and are given our wrist bands for the park.  Our ‘chalet’ is number 215, so with suitcases and girls in tow, Mr Curmudgeon and I get on the small transport train, it is a bit of a tight squeeze and off we go to our chalet.

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At the trains last stop, we disembark and look to try to find our chalet, my first thought when I saw the accommodation was WOW, these look fabulous all wood of course but large and spacious. 

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Our youngest Grandchild when entering our particular chalet, uttered the word ‘Awesome’ and it was, two bedrooms, a large living space, which included, the kitchen area, seating area, dining area, as well a patio area, not forgetting the bathroom.  The chalet is not only spacious it is well designed and has everything you need, except as our eldest grandchild said, salt and pepper, this lost it a point in her eyes and she only gave the chalet a 9!

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One of the drawbacks, is that you have to make up the beds yourself, you can hire linen from the centre or bring your own, we had decided to bring our own, so the first thing we needed to do, bearing in mind that it was now nearly 9.00 pm was to make the beds up. 

It had been a long day, and after a drink and a small snack we all decided to retire for the night, so we would be ready for the big day at the Aquadome tomorrow. 

The morning arrived and after a going to the supermarket and getting some cereal for the children and milk for Mr Curmudgeon and my coffee, we sit down and have some breakfast.  Then donning our swimsuits under our clothing we catch the 9.30 am train from the terminus for the 10 minute very slow ride to the centre.

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Along the way the children play on the various small parks around the site, there is truly a lot to do around the Lalandia chalet sites, with lots of space for running and playing.

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Arriving at Lalandia main entrance, we all get off the train and then go into the centre.  The Aquadome is on the right at the top, we are a bit early so we look around Polar world, which is interesting, but at this time it is not really fully open, we will need to come back and look again.

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The wristbands that everyone wears are very good, they allow entrance (electronically) to all the areas and also will lock and unlock your chalet door, WOW the grandchildren feel that this is really High Tech.

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10.00 am and we use our wristbands to get into the Aquadome site, Mr Curmudgeon goes upstairs, and I take the girls downstairs.  Again the wristbands are used to lock your locker, we discard our clothing putting it in the locker and closing it with our wristband.

We then have to shower, they are very particular that you shower thoroughly I was sent back because I had not done my hair!  Oh dear, in trouble again.

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We go through to the actual water area, and all you can say is WOW, there are numerous pools, warm ones, cool ones and some in between, the  girls want to go to the centre slides, where there is just numerous water spouts tipping unexpectedly onto you, plus to biggish slides and a number of smaller ones.  The girls run up the stairs followed by Mr Curmudgeon and me at a more sedate pace, down we all go, I got a bit disconcerted as I slipped and went down on my back and landed at the end as Mr Curmudgeon said like a stranded whale, he does know how to compliment one doesn’t he!

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I take the little one to a set of slides in the corner, these are quite safe and I feel confident that little one will be okay here, so I can just sit at the bottom and watch.  Mr Curmudgeon takes the eldest grandchild on the bigger slides, these look quite frightening to me, but the grandchildren show no fear.  In the end even little one went on them whilst Mr Curmudgeon came off quite green the girls showed no such issues, and played constantly up and down these enormous slides.

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The bell sounded for the waves to start, so we all pile into the wave pool and enjoy 15 minutes bouncing up and down, even I enjoyed that, and the eldest grandchild was in her element.

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After about 2 hours we all had enough, so we went to change and met up outside the Aquadome, I then went to the supermarket, which is well stocked and reasonably priced, well you need to remember that Scandinavia is expensive compared to British prices, I picked up something for lunch and we went back to the chalet for a bit of down time.  The girls were running and jumping and still full of beans, maybe Mr Curmudgeon and I are a bit too old for this type of holiday but never mind only 3 big sleeps to go.

After lunch, we decide to walk back to the Lalandia site, this takes about 20 minutes, but the girls insisted that they try every play area on the way, they have a great time, running up and down the circular coloured hills, the sand and swings, the climbing frames, so it probably takes us about ½ an hour to finally reach the entrance.

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We are now going to the indoor play area that is called Monky Tonky Land, this is a large space filled with different play areas and is completely safe and secure we spongy flooring and netting to protect the children.  Again, access is via a barrier which your wristband gains you entry. 

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The girls immediately take off their footwear and run into the play area with no concerns, Mr Curmudgeon and I take to a table and chairs at the side, and start to relax a bit, knowing that the girls will be safe whilst enjoying themselves.

There is a great rule at Lalandia, that you can only take photos of your own children, so it is quite fun but very secure.  Denmark appears not to be such a nanny state as Britain, while there is staff about, they are not intrusive, and responsibility really is in the hands of the parent (or in our case grandparent) I feel this is a good thing.

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They play for a little while they appear to especially like the trampolines which are very good and allow children to bounce quite high.  The eldest especially liked these, but she also like the challenge of going around the whole complex in a timed way, Mr Curmudgeon is very good at this sort of activity encouraging and getting the best time possible. 

After a couple of hours, they are quite exhausted, and it is time for a drink of juice for them and a coffee for Mr Curmudgeon and me. 

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There are some activities that are not included in the price of a Lalandia ticket (is anyone surprised, Mr Curmudgeon and I certainly wasn’t).  One such activity is the bungy trampolines, of course they had such a great time in Monky Tonky Land, they wanted to experience the bigger trampolines.  OK I said but this is the only time, you will not go on again.

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After collecting more food from the supermarket, I must really do a bigger shop, we went round to Little Vegas which is a game machine area, they are allowed the small change we have from our shopping trips which they play with for approximately 20 minutes then it is time to go back to the chalet for dinner.

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We walk back to the chalet going into the goat enclosure.  These goats are very tame, and are the small variety the girls really enjoyed stroking the goats and watching there funny leaps and bounds over the ground. Lalandia is a great place for families and has the added bonus of Legoland being next door. It does have a few idiosyncratic rules and regulations like bringing your own bedding but we think that this is because most people travel to the resort by car. If you are flying into Lalandia, it may be easier if you arrive earlier than we did, The Service center closes around 6pm and it is a bit of fuss to get your wristband. Both Lalandia and Legoland tend to cater for the 3 to 12 age group, although there is plenty for younger and older children as well. 

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies go to the San Siro Stadium in Milan

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When we went racing at the San Siro Ippodromo, Mr Curmudgeon couldn’t resist a visit the San Siro Stadium could he, even though it was over 30 degrees in the sun, we took the relatively short walk to the stadium to have a look see, although as you can imagine I was not too keen.

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The stadium is set in a large concrete area and stands four square and proud in the middle of the concrete plain.  To me the stadium itself looked very industrial, it was originally designed by architect Ulisse Stacchini and engineer Alberto Cugini in the 1920s but has been renovated a few times since. Mr Curmudgeon, guidebook in hand enlightened me by relating that the Chairman of A.C. Milan at the time Piero Pirelli, promoted the construction of the football stadium and the horserace course next to it. Although it is known around the world as the ‘San Siro’, the stadium is actually called the Giuseppe Meazza stadium, it was renamed in the 1980s after Giuseppe Meazza, one of the most famous Milan players.  

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The stadium is rectangular in shape, different from the modern British stadium which tend to be oval and bowl like, the San Siro has four corners and a large number of circular walkways that lead to different levels of seating.  Mr Curmudgeon described these to me as tyres (tyres, Pirelli, there is a connection), I could see his point.

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Mr Curmudgeon wanted to walk all round the stadium, I have already said it was over 30 degrees, he is obviously going a bit senile, but walk it we did and I was extremely pleased that we had.  At gate number 9 you can walk up and pay for a tour, cost of which was only Adults €17, Seniors and children (6-14) €12, Children under 6 are free, which is really reasonable.  We did not have time for the tour because of the horse racing, but the tours run every hour and allows you full access to the dressing rooms, pitch and hospitality.

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The other place it allows access to is the shop, however, at gate 14 you can enter the shop, unlike British stadium the shop is inside the gate, so when we arrive at gate 14 we went in.  The stadium is home for both Milanese teams, AC Milan and Internationale and the shop is split into 2 distinct areas for each of the teams, the black and red of AC and the blue and black for Internationale, but the real joy of the shop is there is a window onto the pitch.  Mr Curmudgeon immediately got his camera out and started taking pictures of the pitch, covered for a concert at the time we visited, and the seating, which goes up an awful long way.  I am not sure you would get a good view of the match at the top unless you were using binoculars though.

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Having exited the shop, we continued around the stadium, finally reaching the point where we started, it had took quite a long time to traverse the stadium but it was worth it in the end.  Mr Curmudgeon forehead, which goes a long way back these days was bright red, I was feeling pretty smug because I had my trusty race day hat on.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies ride the Number 1 tram in Milan

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The transport system in Milan is quite extensive, albeit difficult for a visitor to understand as there are no real maps of the entire system.  On the day following our arrival in Milan we purchased a 48-hour travel pass, cost of which is only 8.25 Euro per person, again I had to negotiate the ticket machine, but they are really easy to work.  This ticket allows full access to all Milan’s transport options including, buses, trams and the metro, it is important to note that you must validate your ticket at the start to prevent inspector fines.

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The number 1 tram goes from Piazza Firenze to the centre of Milan and as it’s number indicates was probably the first tram route, although this is guess work, the trams were certainly not as modern as other trams on the network. 

Each tram stop has a map showing where the tram goes and an electronic indicator telling you when the tram is due to arrive, as a side note you need to be careful crossing the roads as the tram line traverse many of the streets, remember they travel on the opposite side of the road than in Britain.

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Waiting for the number 1 tram at Piazza Firenze, Mr Curmudgeon and I see the tram in the distance coming towards us, as it stops I notice that the platform is extremely high, I said to Mr Curmudgeon how am I going to get onto that, he looked at me and obviously he had the same thought, oh well in for a penny in for a pound.  As the tram stopped ingeniously the doors opened and the platforms appeared out of the tram, breathing a sigh of relief we both step up into the tram itself.

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Having validated the tickets previously, we did not have to put them in the machine, the Number 1 tram goes up Via Sempione, which is a broad avenue from Piazza Firenze to the wonderful Parco Sempione, which is really worth a wander through, a special mention must made of the large arch at the front of the Parco.

The tram is slow and makes an amusing noise when stationary, but then appears to cut out and you wonder if the tram has broken down.  Mr Curmudgeon and I smiled at each other every time this happened, as we both thought this was very amusing.  As the tram regally travels up Via Sempione you have a wonderful view of the fine architecture, although like most Italian cities we have been to this is spoilt by the graffiti adorning the walls.  I am not talking graffiti that is wonderful to look at, i.e. a Banksy, but rather scrawls and random words, although they may mean something to the person who did them.  It is such a shame that Italian authorities have not taken the same action of many of our British local governments have, which is zero tolerance and graffiti is removed immediately which deters its production.

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Having reach the top of Via Sempione and wondered at the magnificent arch, well worth more than a quick glance, we traverse a number of streets, all rich in Italian architecture, but it was very hot over 30 degrees in the sun, so we couldn’t do our normal walking.  At the centro end of the Parco is the wonderful Castello Sforzesco, you just catch glimpses of this magnificent 15th century fort.  The tram remorselessly traverses the streets, although to the untutored eye, that would be Mr Curmudgeon and I have to say Mrs Nice as well, they all look very similar. 

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As you get into the centro district you notice the streets get narrower and more difficult for the tram to travel, but eventually you get to La Scala, more later on this venue, Mr Curmudgeon and I get off the tram to start our walk around the Piazza Scala, the Galleria and the marvellous Duomo. 

Part of travelling is to have interesting experiences and often transport can be boring, the number 1 tram is a slow but fascinating ride through this wonderful city.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies take a walk around the Navigli district in Milan

Modern Milan is known for many things, but few visitors would know that for centuries that landlocked Milan was an important port. To understand more, we made our way to the Navigli district which is now famous for its bars and restaurants.

The Navigli district seems a world away from the crowds around the Duomo and has a bit of a ‘Venice’ feeling to it.

The district has been one of the main hubs of Milan since the 12th century when work began on a series of canals that allowed Milan to become one of the country’s largest inland ports. The Navigli are a system of canals and waterways  that connected the Lake Maggiore, the Lake Como, the Ticino river and the Po river and connecting Milan with Switzerland and beyond. Many of the canals connected to the Porta Ticinese dock, also known as the Darsena, in Milan.

The Naviglio Grande was considered the most important of the Milan “navigli”. Construction began in the 12th century and in the 13th century reached Milan. Although intended to be used for irrigation, soon lots of goods were transported including stone and marble for the Duomo. Traffic along the canal peaked in the 19th century but it was used extensively during the Second World War.

The Naviglio Pavese once connected Milan to Pavia, Naviglio Martesana does not come all the way to Milan but is a popular place to walk or cycle along the towpaths. The Naviglio di Paderno is famous because it is the canal where Leonardo da Vinci experimented with gates for the locks. Naviglio di Bereguardo closed in the 19th century.

The Navigli district usually refers to the Naviglio Pavese and Naviglio Grande which are lined by bars, restaurant, shops and live music venues. The area is a very popular place for Milanese citizens and visitors who enjoy a stroll before having a drink and a bite to eat.

It is a wonderful place to take a walk alongside the canal with plenty to keep you entertained, some of the restaurants had a strange line in life-size models including a mad chef and gladiator.

The picturesque Restaurant El Brellìn is near to the Vicolo Lavandai, a corner where washerwomen used to wash clothes.

Further along we crossed the concrete bridge to look at the local market, we were taken aback by the rather scary mannequins on one stall but the rest of the market was full of interesting bits and pieces and is obviously popular with locals.

If you want to explore the canals a bit more, you can join one of the canal cruises. We were just happy to wander around and stop for coffee and watch the world go by.

It is quite easy to walk to the Navigli district from the city centre or you can use the metro. It can be reached by using the M2 (green line), getting off at the Porta Genova stop.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

Spinning on a Bull’s Testicles in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan

Most visitors to Milan gravitate to the Doumo and why not, it is very impressive and the fifth largest cathedral in the world.  Standing nearby is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is considered one of the world’s first shopping malls and now populated by some of the most luxurious brands and restaurants.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is named after Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy and was built by architect Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1867.

Unfortunately Giuseppe Mengoni fell to his death from the heights of the glass dome, just days before it was to be officially opened.

The Galleria is often nicknamed ‘Milan’s drawing room’ due to its importance as a Milanese meeting and dining place. The popular Biffi Caffè, the Motta restaurant and the Camparino are just some of the old traditional meeting places.

The building is a remarkable structure and is considered the prototype for large shopping arcades or Galleria all over Europe. The central octagonal space is topped with a glass dome which lights up the ground below which has four mosaics portraying the coat of arms of the three capitals of the Kingdom of Italy (Turin, Florence and Rome) plus Milan’s.

Tradition says that if a person spins around three times with a heel on the testicles of the bull from Turin coat of arms this will bring good luck.

We watched a married couple and entourage including photographer crowding around one of the mosaics in the centre of the Galleria. The groom and bride then spun around to the applause of the wedding party and watching tourists.

Of course, Mrs Nice had to have a go and managed a couple of turns before nearly falling over. I began to laugh until she came over and said ‘be careful or I will be stamping on your testicles’.

The Galleria is generally very busy because it connects Piazza del Duomo to Piazza della Scala and is great for people watching. Just before we moved on, a demonstration with flags and brass band marched through the Galleria to the bemusement of thousands of tourists.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

Old Fogies go Racing at the Ippodromo racecourse in Milan

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One of the reasons we came to Milan was to visit the Ippodromo, the Milan racecourse.  Situated to the north west of the city, we travel by M2 metro (otherwise known as the purple line) to the San Siro Ippodromo station.  This station is one down from the San Siro stadium stop, as you can imagine the San Siro Stadium is a place, Mr Curmudgeon really wants to go, anyway less about football, more about the Ippodromo and the racing.

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A part of Ippodromo race course is open all the time, because of the wonderful statue of a horse on display there.  No normal horse statue this, designed by Leonardo Di Vinci back in the day, but made in America to his design, the horse stands some 20 feet tall and is absolutely huge, really huge in parts you wouldn’t want it to be!

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Getting into the racecourse is free (yes free), we arrive, early as usual, but the course is open, having taken the requisite number of photos of the horse, Mr Curmudgeon decides to move into the actual course.  Well ½ an hour is not too long to take a couple of snaps is it (sigh).

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The course itself is in the Italianate style,  built in the early 20th Century and is very beautiful, there is a wonderful dancing fountain at the front of the building, and some wonderful lawns and flower displays to wander through, well I would if on my own.

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There is only a small part of the course that you cannot go into, which is the members stand, but this is so small that it does not impinge on the ordinary racegoers view at all, even the winning post is available and some wonderful stands to rest our weary bones.  The course is relatively flat but looked lush and green in the brilliant sunshine, there is a jump track as well as flat racing at the racecourse so there is probably racing all year round here.

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We had lunch at the only restaurant on the course and it is wonderful, with white linen and even proper napkins, what a joy! I have got to say the racegoers are not the usual racegoers you would find in Britain, they arrived wearing a variety of dress, cut off shorts, low slung jeans, open neck shirts, and in some cases no shirts at all, and that was just the men!

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Racing finally underway, Mr Curmudgeon and I make our selections.  When we go racing we both have a selection in every race, like a little competition, like most of the racecourses in Europe the main betting bit is the Tote, but you can take the price if you wish.  As usual I pick the favourite and Mr Curmudgeon picks a bit of an outsider, he is good though and does get a winner or two.  The first race starts, there is the normal excitement of a race anywhere in the world, the eager wish for your horse to win is still alive and singing.  The first race goes to me, although short price at least I made a bit of a profit, Mr Curmudgeon loses. 

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Racing the world over is hard work, the viewing the horses in the paddock making your personal selection and placing a bet, going to the stands to watch and hope then returning to the unsaddling enclosure to view the winner and with a bit of luck go to collect your winnings.

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We had a wonderful time at the race course and had 3 winners between us (2 to me and 1 to Mr Curmudgeon, Ha).  But it was time to make our weary way back to the hotel for a well-earned rest before dinner.

The racecourse is not on the usual tourist trail and offers something different with a chance to mix with the locals and enjoy some sport in pleasant surroundings. 

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

 

The Old Fogies go to Milan

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Mr Curmudgeon and I decided to go for a weekend break to Milan, Italy.  We have been Italy several times, but never to the famous northern city, so we were quite excited.

Travelling to London City Airport, by the DLR we arrive in plenty of time as usual, what a joy this airport is, small, friendly, conveniently located for the Old Fogies, having checked in we wait for the gate number and then we boarded.

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Travelling by British Airways, we arrive in Linate Airport, Milan just after lunch.  Linate airport is only 6 kilometres away from the centre of Milan, but it is not the easiest in transport options.  Mr Curmudgeon does not like to spend money on taxis, “I’m not paying £50 to travel for 15 minutes in a taxi”, I can hear him saying, so we must negotiate the local transport network.  First therefore we had to get our ticket, it is always my job to work the ticket machines on our little jaunts so with some Euro’s clutched in my hands, I work the machines.  I must say that the price of transport tickets is extremely cheap.  I put my 3 Euro in the machine and out pops 2 tickets, these will last 1½ hours on all local transport, including buses, trams and metro.

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I have got to say Mr Curmudgeon really excelled. Our hotel was situated the other side of Milan from the airport, we travelled on the 73 from the airport to the centre of Milan, catching glimpses of the local architecture on the way.  Arriving in the centre of Milan we caught site of the wonderful Duomo, see other posts for information about this wonderful cathedral, we now had to locate the correct tram stop.  This is where Mr Curmudgeon really got into his stride, having looked on Google Earth, he directed us to the tram stop really well, although having spent a few days in Milan, we realise that as usual he had gone the long way around (sigh, oh well).

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Milan tram network is extensive; but not easy to work out, however, Mr Curmudgeon knew we had to catch the number 14 tram to take us to the hotel.  What wonderful inventions trams are, very little pollution and very efficient, albeit a bit slow.  We arrive at Piazza Firenze and look for the right road for our hotel.  Having located the tennis club, yellow/orange walls, we find our hotel and check in.

The Mercure Regency Hotel, Milan, the building appears to be an old convent or abbey; but I am not sure. Although now part of a chain, the hotel has its own character with a lovely courtyard and the keys are old fashioned with large tassels, so you need to hand them in when you go out, as they are rather large and heavy. Our room is situated on the 3rd floor of 5 and the room is a delight, with traditional blinds.  The design is early 1920’s with arch mirrors and matching head board, and what joy a fridge that allows you to put your own items in.  We are always a bit wary of Italian plumbing, here it is noisy but it seemed to work OK, we will know a bit better when we shower later this evening.

Having got here safe and sound, mainly thanks to Mr Curmudgeon, we quickly freshen up as we want to go out and enjoy the local neighbourhood, even if it is in the middle of the afternoon, but as the saying goes only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun (oh well here we go again).

Read some of other blogs about Milan for some insights into a fascinating city. 

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

Times Square and other New York Oddities by The Old Fogies

Almost every visitor to New York will find themselves in Times Square which is the main entertainment centre and tourist destination in Midtown Manhattan at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. Americans with their natural modesty sometimes refer to Times Square as “the heart of The Great White Way”, “The Crossroads of the World” or “The Center of the Universe”. It is one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions, attracting an estimated 50 million visitors annually.

The location was originally known as Longacre Square, Times Square was renamed in 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters there. It is not really a square but made up of a couple of triangles. For decades, the square had reputation as a dangerous and seedy neighbourhood until the area was cleaned up in the 1990s. It now has a large police presence all around the clock.

Times Square is a neon wonderland with lots of billboards and advertisements all around the area. It attracts a strange assortment of street performers who dress up in a variety of costumes. For some reason there is a large section of red stairs which leads to nowhere and seems to function as seating where people watch the thousands of people walking past.

Nearby is a statue of George M. Cohan of Yankee Doodle Dandy fame. There are a number of attractions like the ABC’s Times Square Studios, where Good Morning America is broadcast live and plenty of bars, restaurants and retail outlets.

Times Square is one of those places that you feel that you should visit but as soon as you have been there, you think why did I bother !

Away from the craziness of Times Square, we thought we would point you towards some other attractions that were much more enjoyable.

Grand Central Terminal or Grand Central is one of the most famous railway stations in the United States, its distinctive architecture attracts over 20 million visitors a year excluding train and subway passengers. The enormous Main Concourse is the centre of Grand Central and is 275 ft (84 m) long by 120 ft (37 m) wide by 125 ft (38 m) high.

The concourse has an elaborately decorated astronomical ceiling created in 1912, it features various constellations. Underneath the Main Concourse is the The Dining Concourse which has seating and lounge areas, surrounded by restaurants. The terminal has 44 platforms which means the station is always busy but well worth visiting.

Lincoln Center  for the Performing Arts is a large complex of buildings in the Lincoln Square area of Manhattan, the complex is home to the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera.

Whilst many people come to the many events, we were fascinated by the Lincoln Center Revson fountain. The original Revson Fountain was built in 1964 and when it was first built, it was the most technologically advanced fountain ever constructed in New York. It was updated in 2009 and provides one of the best free shows in New York, the jets are individually controlled and can create vertical water explosions from 6 inches and 40 feet in height. We sat near the fountain mesmerised by the various complex routines for ages, eating a tasty ice cream and enjoying the surroundings.

Across from the Lincoln Center was Hippo Ballerina, part of an art installation by Danish sculptor Bjørn Okholm Skaarup.

Annoyances

Like any major city, New York has its fair share of annoyances although the large police presence in Manhattan dispels many of the myths of it being a dangerous destination.

Generally near to the main tourist areas are groups of people trying to sell you bus tours or other attractions, they generally take no for an answer but by the twentieth time it gets a little tedious. Occasionally people do try sell you CDs or other things but a firm no is usually all you need to get rid of their attention.

If you like wandering around the streets, there is some ‘Good News’ and ‘Bad News’. The good news is that you are unlikely to get lost, the city had a grid system that means as long as you know the avenue and street you can pinpoint where you are. The bad news is that the grid systems means that you are forever crossing the road at the crossing areas. This becomes slow and laborious especially on a hot day and if you do not wait for go sign beware, the NYPD do have regular clampdowns on jay walkers.

New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude and brusque, we noticed this more on public transport where the staff were often less than helpful. Generally staff in various establishments were the same as many other large cities, although it did help to have a sense of humour because New Yorkers do like a joke at times.

An example of New Yorker’s sense of humour was a occasion when Mrs Nice was adjusting my trousers at the back, three workmen on the sidewalk shouted out ‘Get a room’ leaving Mrs Nice with a bright red face from the embarrassment.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City, otherwise known as “the Met” is the largest art museum in the United States. The main building which is on the eastern edge of Central Park attracts over 7 million visitors a year and was founded in 1870 and opened in 1872 for the purposes of opening a museum to bring art and art education to the American people. Since the museum opened it has been renovated many times and is 20 times bigger than the original building.

When you enter ‘the Met’ into the Great Hall, it is similar to the British Museum with an extensive collection of works from classical antiquity and ancient Egypt near the entrance.

With limited time available, we knew we could not see everything, so decided to follow the floor plan and see how far we could see.

Our first section was Egyptian Art and the museum’s extensive collection is full of mummies and artefacts, however the most impressive exhibit is The Temple of Dendur which was transported from the shores of the Nile in Egypt in the 1960s.

The American Wing features a number of highly decorated rooms from all over the United States and the rather strange Sara Berman’s Closet.

Medieval Art provides an extensive look at medieval art including stunning stain glass windows.

Arms and Armour provide a piece of Hollywood with flags flying but the armour is spectacular.

Modern and Contemporary Art features a wide range including Manet, Monet and ; a roomful of van Goghs.On the Second floor European Paintings 1250 -1800 include Velazquez, El Greco, Vermeer and around twenty Rembrandts.

There are also a wide range of Musical Instruments.

The Met has a number of cafes and restaurants (we had a break in the lovely courtyard) gift shops and bookstores. You really needed more time than we had to get the best out of a visit to the ‘Met’ but even in our short visit we enjoyed some of the delights of the museum. The only issue is the $25 for admission, for over a century, the museum had free admission and still does not really charge New Yorkers. Using overseas visitors to subsidise local use is not that rare in some museums but is fundamentally penalising people who travelled thousands of miles to visit your city. 

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.