Gucci shoes and Ferrari
Italian Gelato (in Switzerland & Lindt Easter Candy gift bag
In March, we were in Vimercate, Italy, (just outside of Milan) and this was the first week of my husband’s and was our first time to Italy as well. I met two women who have joined their husbands on this assignment that I had never met before. I had been watching for them, knowing they were here, but not having any idea of what they looked like or even what their names were. I noticed two women sitting together in the hotel lobby, talking and using iPads and wondered if they could possibly be the women I had been looking for…so I discreetly stood on the other side of a pillar, to see if I could hear them and find out if they were speaking in English. I could not hear them, so I proceeded to the front desk to inquire about a possible solution to a minor problem my husband, Jon, had asked me to handle for him. (He is the current team lead and has to deal with the details for an assortment of tasks.).
As the gentleman at the front desk went to the back to check on a solution, one of the two women walked up to also ask a question, so I decided to be brave, and ask, “Are you two ladies here with your husbands while they work on assignment with a security team? The light colored brunette with curly hair, looked at me, and said, “You must be Vicki–we have been wondering where you have been.” She introduced herself as Maureen and the somewhat younger looking woman with dark wavy medium length hair, as Dee. They began telling me about their plans to take a taxi to the Milan subway station where they would take the subway to the center of town and take a “Shopping Tour” by bus across the border into Switzerland to an Outlet Mall. The tour was only 20 euro’s; however, since we were outside of Milan, the most affordable way to get to the tour bus was by public transportation bus. The problem with that was that you can not purchase tickets for the local bus on the bus or in the area–and the hotel did not have any tickets available–so you would have to travel by taxi to the subway, then take the subway to the tour bus, which cost 30 Euro’s. I told them I would be happy to join them and split the cost of the taxi with them.
Dee’s husband is new to the team and they are from Connecticut and she only plans to travel with her husband Stephen occasionally. The youngest of their 3 boys is 14 and the two older boys are home from college for spring break, so Dee was able to take some vacation from her job as a pharmacist to join Glen for the first week of this assignment.
Maureen and Glen, originally from New Zealand, have been living in Australia for several years and have two grown children, and their professional lives have been seeing changes while they find themselves as empty nesters. Maureen recently found out her old job would be ending soon, so she decided to leave her job sooner and join Glen, while pondering what she wants to do with her job situation–look for a new job, or stay available for more travel with Glen–or perhaps decide she is ready to “semi-retire”, as there is a possibility that Glen might be joining “the team” permanently. Does she want to follow along with her husband, like I follow mine, or look for a new job and only travel with Glen occasionally? This is not an easy decision to make; however, in the meantime I’m enjoying have another woman to join me in some of my travel adventures and would of course be happy to have another women along for future trips.
I have been tracking how many countries we have now been to, and I was excited to be going into another new country and see more of our world. The taxi ride was uneventful and since Maureen had lived several years in London, we followed her lead and purchased our subway tickets, and she led us to the correct train, getting us headed in the correct direction. As we traveled on the train, we passed an interesting building of Italy, and some nice countryside. I was delighted when I looked to my right and saw a breathtaking valley, with a cluster of Italian villa’s perched on the hillside overlooking a sparkling lake, which I later found out is LakeComo, where George Clooney has a lakeside villa. Unfortunately, the battery on my camera was dead, and also, I was sitting on the wrong side of the bus to be able to capture it pictures. Less than an hour later, we reached the border of Switzerland and we were surprised that even though there was a stop (possibly a toll?) they did not ask to see our passports, which we had been instructed to be sure and bring with us. We immediately saw that the outlet stores were located just across the border.
We went inside and walked around looking at the various high end stores, not really making much in the way of purchases, because we were not really in the market for Gucci, Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, not to mention Ferrari! However, it was fun looking in the shops even though we nearly fainted after looking at some of the prices on things. For example, we looked at a couple pairs of shoes, with clear heels approximately 4 or 5 inches high, (which I could never walk in anyway!) that were regular 1400 Euro’s and the outlet price was 500 Euro’s! That is a good deal, right? YIKES! I snapped a photo when nobody was looking, so I could show them to my husband’s cousin who LOVES high heeled shoes and that was good enough for me…
We bought ourselves an Italian Gelato (my first REAL gelato IN Italy!– oops, I guess I wasn’t actually in Italy–but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm) and a pretzel bread sandwich with prosciutto, cheese, and tomato for lunch. The sandwich was a little on the dry side, but quite tasty anyway. I’m beginning to learn to eat my sandwiches the European way, with not much , if any mayo or dressing on it. After lunch, we found the Lindt Chocolate store outlet, and since Sunday is Easter, they had chocolate Easter bunnies! I chose one for Jon, as well as several different flavors of truffles to make up a cute little Easter Candy Gift Bag for him, and they gave me a milk chocolate truffle sample–Mmmm!!!! Unbelievably rich and creamy yumminess! And to think I hadn’t even tasted the carmel truffles or the orange chocolates for Jon. Do you think they will make it to Easter? Hint: we each sampled a couple of the truffles and we are saving the rest until Easter–so far, so good.
We returned to the tour bus and were surprised when the bus made a stop near the border, and several people got off the bus with their bags. We were discussing with each other about “Why would they be stopping here and people be getting off? A young girl behind us heard our discussion and said “Duty Free!” Ah, now we understood what those stores were that said Free 1 Store and Free 2 store! Now, if we had bought those 500 euro shoes or the 1000 euro’s bags, I would be getting off the bus for a tax refund as well!
The ride back was fairly event-less considering it was getting dark by this time, and we quickly headed to the subway. We were glad we had already purchased our return tickets, because all we had to do was go down to the train, again, with Maureen leading the way. She also reminded us that we needed to keep an eye on our bags. I had also shared the story about Jon getting pick-pocketed on the subway in Madrid, during our earlier travels, and I told them about how he had chased them down, and they returned his wallet to him. (Note: See http://wp.me/py72s-1c for this story). The other two women were impressed and commented on the fact that I had told them, about being told that most pick-pocketers were not confrontational.
The first train came, and just before Dee and I started to board the train, Maureen signaled us to follow her, and she showed us that there were two different ultimate destinations from this track, and the train we almost got onto, would have passed the division that lead to our desired station. We waited for the next one, and it indicated that it stopped a couple stops before our division, so she asked another gal who was standing nearby, also waiting for the train, but she was not sure if we were in the correct area or not and told us to go up and ask them at the desk. I suggested that we wait for one more train, and if that one was also wrong, then we would go ask about it–problem solved–it was the next train. We rode to the stop where we needed to switch trains, and discovered that even though it was getting late the track was busy.
We had to switch subway trains once, and as we were getting onto the 2nd train, there was a HUGE rush of people trying to get into the train, and a couple teenage girls got just beyond the doorway and then stopped, making it difficult for everyone else to get on it, so everyone was pushing and shoving to get on. Dee pushed her way to the left, as Maureen and I pushed our way towards the left, and we all grasped the poles to hang on, however the train didn’t begin to move right away, and they began making some sort of announcement over the loudspeakers–in Italian of course. Dee said something about pick-pocketers, but we were unsure of what she said, and then the three girls got off the train and quickly began their way up the stairs, when Dee said, “They pick-pocketed my wallet! ” We asked if she was sure? Dee checks her purse and, starts getting off and said, “YES, COME ON–THEY TOOK MY WALLET!”
Maureen and I quickly followed Dee as she was running up the stairs, with us trailing after her as she follows the three girls, shouting at them, YOU TOOK MY WALLET! GIVE ME BACK MY WALLET!” I was right behind Dee as we caught up with the girls, and these young teen girls are looking at us, as if to say, “What are you talking about?” The next thing I know, crumpled paper bills are flowing down to the floor like falling snow! I quickly start grabbing money and so does Dee, while continuing to yell at the girls for taking her wallet. Maureen told Dee to check to make sure she had all her cards, and Dee checked again, and said, “They are all here–I didn’t have much money (mostly ones and fives), I was just concerned about getting my cards back and I remembered what you said about them not being confrontational.” Whew, what an experience!
After calming ourselves, we got back onto the next train, which turned out to be not as full and a newer train, so we continued our journey to the train station, where Stephen and Glen were waiting with the car. We shared our exciting story with the men and they were surprised, yet said they were proud of Dee for going after her belongings. We had quite an exciting day and we were all ready to get back to our apartments and go to bed, as we all decided we had enough excitement to last us awhile–we would have a nice quiet and calm day the next day.
~Tune in to see what the next adventures will include for the Traveling Wife.