day 14 (9/15)
our hotel had a terrific included breakfast. they also have a coffee bar included and my cappuccino was one of the best — the barista will custom make any kind of coffee drink you want as part of the breakfast — like having our own Starbucks.  we headed into the city centre of Milan and shopped a bit and then visited the giant Duomo (Massive Cathedral). the detail and ornamental structure of this building is incredible. after lunch, i took the kids shopping while Paula and her parents went to the top of the Duomo (it’s her parents’ last day as they fly out tomorrow AM). the kids and i visited a Mercedes apparel store and then back to the Ferrari store. JD couldn’t resist. and he bought another Lego thing with his money. I even bought myself a shoulder sling pack with a Ferrari logo on it for urban hiking (e.g., to hold my camera and a light jacket, etc.).

Elsewhere, Ellie bought some back to school outfits even though the kids first day of school won’t be just just over a month. but, even i thought the outfits were quite cute and how can a little gal visit Milan and not get caught up in fashion? towards the end of the day, i also bought some Ray Ban aviator glasses as my prescription glasses i had brought cracked. JD refused to go shopping for clothes for himself . . . i think that once he bought his Ferrari Lego thing, it was all his mind could think about. heh. oh yeah, when you buy 2 things at the Ferrari store you can sit in one of the Ferrari Indy cars. both Ellie and JD got to sit in one and i took their pictures. i’ll post photos soon, i hope.

day 15 (9/16)

Paula’s parents take off early today. i drive Paula to the American school of Milan. we all go in but JD, Ellie and i leave to head into the middle of Milan. i have a woman i met online years ago who has invited us to stay with her family. i end up driving into parts of Milan where only locals with permits are allowed. ah well. we finally figure out how to find my friend’s apartment in the city and she directs me to park my car in their garage space. Ana introduces us to her two little boys and takes us up to their apartment — very nice. this apartment has 4 bedrooms and JD and Ellie get one and Paula and i also get one.

Ana gives us a key to her apartment and the kids and i take a subway into the city centre. we explore around a bit and then meet Paula who has take a subway from the American school into the city centre. i should point out that a bunch of Africans are waiting on the steps up from the subway and they grab JD’s arm and put on a string bracelet before he knows what is happening. they’re yelling “free” “free” so i let them put one on me, too. that’s when they then ask for donations. i say, “i thought you said ‘free'” but they’re too busy asking for money . . . and they are much bigger than me. so i give them 2 Euros. this upsets JD and he rips his off.

after another fun day in centre and around the big piazza we take the subway back to Ana’s house for dinner. we had planned to take her family out but Ana decides to make dinner at her house (she uses a Bimby — Paula wants one, badly). we feed the kids and get them to bed and then stay up eating and talking late into the night. Ana’s husband, Gianni, is in advertising and had a big meeting with a new client earlier today. the new client was an expensive Brut maker and gave 2 bottles to Gianni. he opens one after our dinner and we all taste a very nice Brut — not my favorite kind of drink, but it’s still good. Ana’s English is pretty good and Gianni’s is even better. we spend time talking about the differences in our countries and life and our personal histories. this is a very fun evening. even though we’ve all just met today, i felt like we were hanging out with longtime friends. of course, Ana and i have known each other for a decade in online forums, so there’s that.