Published on Friday, September 30, 2011 12:33
Written by Laura Munson
Maybe you are one of those people who can sleep on planes. I am not. In fact, I’m afraid of taking a sleep aid on a plane at all because the one time I did, I was in a miserable head-bobbing semi-conscious state all the way across the Atlantic, tuning in and out of movies and perky night-shift flight attendants, so that my arrival found me standing catatonic at the baggage claim carousel ready to curl into it like the arms of Morpheus.
So this last overseas trip, I accepted my truth: I am a sleeper. I don’t function well with even a fitful night of sleep in my own
bed. I find that when I travel far from home, in the first few days I'm a mess. My heart races and skips beats. I wake up gasping for breath. And if it’s really bad, I get something I call “the wobblies.” It’s like a form of vertigo wherein the world starts to pitch and heave like I’m on a boat in a storm and I want to put my hands out for balance. Suffice it to say that the wobblies can make you look sort of suspect in line for coffee on the streets of Milan, or Paris, or Rome-- and you don’t need trouble. You just need espresso.
I don’t profess to have a cure. People always say “push through. Don’t go to sleep. Make yourself stay awake until your regular bedtime. Take serotonin. Whatever you do, don’t drink alcohol on the plane.” I’ve heeded all that advice, to no avail. So this time, I just accepted myself and gave it two days and three nights in Milan before heading to my destination in the Lake District. Full permission to sleep and eat and walk whenever I felt like it, pressure off when it came to sight-seeing, to just get my over-the-pond land legs. Sure, it means less time in your final destination, but for me it was well worth it.
Short of fashion week, Milan tends to be a stopover city for many tourists, who fly in and out of its airport and get out of town asap. It may lack the charm of the winding streets of Venice and Florence, or the full frontal history of Rome, but that does not mean it is without its awe-factor. When you’re easing in to a foreign country with jet-lag, and that foreign country is Italy, after you've had your espresso that is, I think the next awe to seek out is gelato.
Here’s where to go:
Grom Gelataria, right around the corner from the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele mall. The line might be long, (mostly locals) but it's well worth the wait and it's great people watching. I always order hazlenut or pistachio and a fruit flavor.
From there, stroll (or wobble) over to the Galleria where you'll see that Milanese shopping is Mecca-ready in its glass vaulted ceilings and marble floors. If you find it too overwhelming, tuck into one of my favorite bookstores-- Feltrinelli-- and get lost for awhile. You can find an extensive travel section downstairs in English for the rest of your trip.
Of course you could wander out into the wide streets of couture shopping, (more like window shopping given the weak dollar) but this is high stimulus and is not for sissies, especially sissies with jet-lag.
Instead, cross the main Piazza and wander around the massive cathedral Duomo di Milano (make sure your shoulders and knees are covered or they won’t let you in). If you want the exercise, you can walk the stairs to the top for some fresh air and beautiful views of the city through gothic angels and gargoyles.
If you can handle a museum or two in your days of the wobblies, here are my favorites:
The Poldi Pezzoli
with its stunning collection of art in a classic home where you can truly hear the murmurs of people coming to and fro, talking of Michelangelo, and the famous Brera museum
But keep it simple. Don't torture yourself by staying up too late. Listen to your body when it really needs you to go back to the hotel and crawl into bed. This too will pass.
When it comes to jet-lag, this is the singlemost helpful advice I've gotten: get out into the sun as much as you can. It will re-set your internal clock and trick it into accepting your new time zone. So walk on the sunnny side of the street. Espresso helps.