Saturday, December 15, 2012


Well of course: the sun comes out the morning I'm to leave Warsaw.

Suddenly the city changes. Heads held high, faces toward the sun, not so much with a smile, but with a feeling of deep satisfaction (permit me this generalization -- Poles are not quick to smile. Laugh -- yes, they laugh with their whole being when someone takes the trouble to put wit into a sentence or a thought. But they don't just smile. That's an American thing. Probably because Americans have good teeth. Poles of my generation typically do not).

But I don't have time for a walk. I linger over breakfast because I am so fond of it and of this b&b too. I look at the fantastic book on Paris that the hosts here have put together (it's in Polish with English translations). Funny to be picking up tips on hidden Paris gems from a Pole. Funny but not surprising. Poles (another generalization) are great travelers. Explorers. Lovers of distant places. Even as most do come home to their place of birth (I'm talking about recent times -- not of the great migrations after the first and second world wars). In that, I am oddly not like my countrymen and women.

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Okay. time to set out for the airport.  (Two scenes, just from the brief walk to the bus stop.)

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...Onwards and upwards. To see what hurdles I must jump through today to get to where I want to be tomorrow.

And sure enough, with a snowstorm raging in Milan and all those labor issues, there are delays. The airline clerk moves things around, gets newer, later flights lined up for me, even as I feel we are just postponing trouble.

I settle in to wait.

Okay. I'm off. Over the chopped up fields of Poland, covered with snow...

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To Rome first, where I am connecting.

Well now, forget the strike. What strike? Is there a strike? I get shrugs when I ask. But the weather gods have spoken. Snow follows me around the continent as if I were one with it. Is there any joy to be had in knowing that the cold weather is my constant traveling companion? There's cold snow in Milan. So in Rome, I wait again.


It's hard to be tickled in life with one's good fortune when one plunks down in the hotel room, opens the laptop, checks, out of habit, the news and reads, well, the news. Particularly heartbreaking awful news.

So let me just quietly recap that airports in Italy were in chaos today, in the end, not because of labor issues, but because of the snows in the north of the country. I was lucky (oh, that word!) in Rome to get on a flight that was to leave for Milan many hours earlier. Businessmen, mostly that, waiting, waiting, missing, missing meetings or maybe missing their families up north… Sigh…

Me, I did not have to wait. I got on the delayed flight, we took off.

In Milan, the snow is wet and, well, wet. It's just at freezing point and in a city that means it's just slush. I push my small suitcase from the metro to the hotel knowing it's getting its bottom bathed in Milan's wet mush.

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I'm very hungry.

At the hotel,  I have a heart to heart with the clerk. Listen, I tell her, I know you want to be a good neighbor with nearby businesses and all, but the last time you recommended a restaurant in the neighborhood, it was not good. All of Milan knew it was not good. One other person ate there with me and they were not from Milan. Can you suggest something else?

She writes down an alternative. You're not just helping out a friend's business? - I ask. She smiles, not insulted.  No, it's good.

I set out.

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I'd like to say -- wow, I'd discovered a wonderful place that's 100% local! -- but really, who on earth is even in Milan right now but locals?

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Trattoria Milanese. A lovely place with indeed wonderful food (even if I have to guess my way through the menu; I wasn't quite ready for an all Italian evening).

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baby artichoke salad

scallopini with porcini mushrooms

I watch a table of seven right next to me. Six adults and a toddler. Are they celebrating a little kid's something or other? 

The kid is twenty months old, I learn.  I stare at their effervescent joy and I find myself wishing what every mother has ever wished for a child: please please please stay healthy and safe. They, these children of ours, can attend to nearly everything else, they'll have to deal with life's ups and downs. But they need good health and safety. I get kind of weepy here. Strange old lady in restaurant with tears. Sigh...

I walk home. No great feat -- three blocks maybe. Still snowing. Wet clumps of snow, falling steadily, quietly.