I think this is going to one of those trips where the driving is epic. Our next stop is Milan, city of fashion and finance. Turns out that Milan is more bicycle friendly than Rome, and we were inspired by the number of riders there. Also the drivers seemed more civilized.
They have a bicycle sharing scheme here, like Paris, but since we had our own wheels, we didn't need to use it. If you ever come to Milan, you should certainly grab a bicycle and ride.
We rode all around town, and of course, went to see Duomo, the largest cathedral I have seen so far. The square is filled with tourists and touts (this time Africans selling pieces of colored string and pigeon food).
Nearby, is a place Singaporeans are familiar with, Giant Shopping Centre. Except this one is way fancier than anything we have. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the oldest mall in Milan. It looked like a nice place to sit and sip coffee and people watch too, but we didn't want to sell a kidney to buy a cappuccino there.
Cycling around Milan, we stumbled across some pretty nice stops, like canals and parks.
Of course, you cannot visit Milan without visiting the San Siro Stadium, if you are a football fan. Especially if you are a fan of AC Milan or Inter Milan. We made our pilgrimage there by bike too.
Our final stop for the day was Parco Sempione ("Simplon Park") a large city park that was established in 1888. It is huge, lovely to chill at, and has a castle next to it. We spent a quiet time watching some blokes play football on the grass and wished we had brought some wine on our bikes too. Next time, we might pack a nice Chardonnay, maybe.
If you haven't taken your Healthy Life Index (HLI) at bit.ly/HLIsgBM, you are missing out on finding out how to make your lifestyle healthier and also some awesome prizes.
The leaderboard is very hot, with just one rival separating the top two. Right now the top player has only forty rivalries. Surely you guys can find more rivals than that!
So go and jio jio your friends and frenemies to do the HLI bit.ly/HLIsgBM and be your rivals. Here are the prizes, in case you need reminding:
Sending invites is not enough ah, your rivals must complete the ten easy questions!
I thought I'd share some behind the scenes photos of our video shoot. I spent two days with a great crew and Miyagi (who was also great lah), filming the videos.
When I first started working on the project, I had already some idea of how to keep myself healthy. I lost a lot of weight in 2006 because I had to. My doctor told me I was obese and was at risk of hypertension and I had sleep apnea. When I hit my forties, my metabolism slowed down and now I find I have to work twice as hard to keep the weight off and the fitness up.
It was challenging to keep an eye on my dietary habits, especially since I was traveling so much this year. And getting time to exercise was also a problem. But being conscious of the need to do so is already half the battle, and the HLI helped me focus on the things that mattered: getting enough veggies and fruit, getting enough exercise, and getting enough SLEEP (that one is my biggest problem).
The change doesn't come overnight but this is a long term commitment and you can be sure that I will keep at it, modifying my habits till I reach the right level of healthy. I have to anyways, I promised the wife I would.
I always enjoy road trips. Sure, it takes more time than hopping on a plane between cities, but I love the journey itself. We left Rome for Milan and hit the Autostrada, racking up €38 in tolls and €70 in diesel costs, but our five hour drive was very satisfying.
People are always in such a hurry when they are on vacation. I find the long drives therapeutic. There is time to think, time to talk, time to listen to music or podcasts you enjoy, and time to just look out the window and see the countryside.
And we stop when we feel like stopping. Go when we feel like it. In fact, the truth is, we don't know where we are going next. We didn't plan very much before we embarked on this cycling/driving road trip. It's really a daily discussion as to which city we want to visit next. This is our Nissan EV200 Hertz rental. It is pretty big and can seat up to seven but it swallows our two unfolded folding bicycles AND our luggage. It isn't very sexy but it's pretty awesome in the functionality department.
By the way, I have concluded that Milan drivers are way more civilized than Rome drivers. It's like San Francisco vs New York. Perhaps it is true what they say about the northerners being more conservative than the uninhibited carefree southerners. Nevertheless, I feel safer here in my car and on my bicycle.
Ryan and I are preparing to leave Rome for Milan in our Hertz rental car (it is a massive Nissan EV200 van). We also added the Glass and Tires coverage (we like to insure ourselves to the max), the NeverLost GPS (it is a new TomTom model and a road trip lifesaver) and a Hertz Mobile Wifi package. Yes, we have a unlimited 3G 21.6Mbps daily with a Huawei 3G wifi router that can be shared with more than one device. It saved us the trouble of getting prepaid simcards for both our phones and we now have internet in the vehicle and everywhere else.
In fact, I am typing and uploading this on the highway now. Don't worry, Ryan is driving, not me.
But before leaving for Milan, I thought I'd share some more thoughts and photos on Rome.
After a day of riding around Rome, I have come to develop a strong sense of survival. The drivers mostly treat traffic lights and traffic rules like opinions and the pedestrians are the same.
You know why no one walks and uses smartphones on the streets of Rome? They have all been run over by Roman cars and scooters already. As a friend said, there are only two kinds of pedestrians in Rome: the Quick and the Dead.
The driving here is best described in Hokkien terms as Boh Hew and Gar Gar Lai.
We prepared our Moulton and Bike Friday bicycles in the room and rode out in the slight drizzle. No one seemed to be affected by the rain, gamely queuing to get into attractions like Vatican City.
From what I can surmise, Rome's economy is driven mainly by Bangladeshis selling souvenirs and ponchos/umbrellas when it rains. The hardworking fellows were everywhere, peddling their wares to all and sundry. One fellow I saw offered to shield an irate elderly gentleman with his huge umbrella while trying to persuade him to buy one of his fine mini-umbrellas.
People here smoke a lot. Shopkeepers smoke, young people smoke, and even the cops nonchalantly light up on duty.
Still, despite the smoking and the chaos, it is a beautiful city full of old buildings and history, and streets made of cobblestones that can throw you and your bicycle into the air if you are not careful.
We spent quite a bit of time walking too, to soak in the sights, the sounds and sometimes, the smells. We decided to try the subway here, to get to the Colosseum. You pay a flat rate of €1,50 for a ticket to take the subway in one direction for up to 100 minutes. The turnstiles don't take the ticket back when you exit so I am not sure how this is enforced. Maybe there are random inspections.
You can also pay €6 for an all-day subway pass.
This is the obligatory photo of the Colosseum, or Colosseo, as the Italians call it. Carved on some of the walls nearby, I saw a few maps that showed the extent of the Roman Empire. The Romans certainly owned quite a bit of Europe back in the day.
The neighboring area around the Colosseo is quite pleasant to walk around. We walked into a coffee place and when the barista asked if we were taking away or having here, and we said, having here (it was raining outside).
We should have suspected something when the waiter offered us the cafe wifi password without us asking. "The service very good hor?" we told each other.
Then our coffees came. "The caffè latte very nice to drink hor?" we said, impressed by the taste and the service.
Our lattes cost us €18 total. That's almost S$30. Ouch.
I will leave you with something I read in a travel forum as I was searching for hotels to book:
Where the mechanics are German
the policemen are English
the cooks are French
the lovers are Italian
and everything is run by the Swiss.
Where the mechanics are French
the policemen are German
the cooks are English
the lovers are Swiss
and everything is run by the Italians.
The key messages that the IFA Global Press Conference in Sardinia, Italy, wanted us to take away, in a nutshell, seems to be:
1. Yes the economy in South Europe is pretty bad but they are optimistic that things will pick up provided the European economic crisis is resolved by 2014, China and India continue to grow, and there are no new military conflicts (Kim Jong-Un, are you listening?).
2. Messe Berlin will be able to cope with a bigger show by 2014 when new buildings are completed at the fairgrounds.
3. The European IFA is a better Consumer Electronics Show than that American upstart, CES in Las Vegas.
Anyways, that didn't stop me from checking out some of the booths set up for the event. It was not very big but we got to see a few products (I guess everyone is holding back for the actual IFA in Berlin, in September).
Of course, I had to try the new Samsung S4 for a bit. Then gestured like a silly person in front of the Samsung Smart TVs that can do gesture and voice control. That's an upgrade kit for their TVs, the Evolution Kit, in my hands, meant to ensure your TV, or UHD TV doesn't get obsolete so fast.
I popped over to the Philips booth to try their award-winning Philips Fidelio M1 headphones. Very nice, I have to say, for the money. The tone was balanced and the bass was weighty without being in your face. I thought the bass needed a little more punch though. Sound stage was decent and controlled, and the cans were comfy to wear too. The M1 doesn't fold.
I even found myself interested in the fancy Miele household products from Germany. Their line of microwave and coffee maker looked really nice with their iPhone/Android user interface. I had a nice Macchiato from their machine, my I-have-lost-count cup of Italian coffee since this morning.
Then I tried out the Loewe docks and looked at their high end TV. I still fumble over the German name of this premium TV brand to this day.
I spotted the Panasonic GF6 camera on display at the Panasonic booth and gave it a go. It has wifi built in and takes my (now very large) collection of Micro Four Thirds lenses. It's biggest feature seems to be the new 180° tilt-able 1,040,000-dot screen that is perfect for the zipai camwhore.
The GF6 has the same 16-megapixel sensor from the GX-1 and the Venus processing engine from the new Lumix GH3. The auto-focus is supposed to be faster, especially with low light, but I couldn't switch off the lights at the event hall so I couldn't test that part. Seemed nippy in regular light though.
I wished there were more products to see but hey, that's what the IFA in Berlin in September is for, I suppose.
We visited the small town of Pula on Sardinia, and the mayor really pulled out all the stops to make us IFA 2013 Global Press Conference journos feel welcome. We had a blast eating everything offered at the town square. They even had opera singers performing.
Firemen on standy.
The bread sold here was lovely.
I had gelato here. TWICE. It was THAT good.
I also enjoyed exploring the rest of the town on foot, away from the festivities. Here are some photos from our little walk.
I felt like the Pied Piper of Pula in this Instagram taken by a friend…
But I do hope I will have a bit of time to do what this fellow did at the beach back at the resort…
We are well into the IFA 2013 Global Press Conference in Sardinia, Italy and so far, I have attended quite a few of the "power briefings". Of course, you will remember some things more than others, like Miss IFA, the redhead "mascot" of the European consumer electronics show.
Briefings by the likes of BSH Bosch Und Siemens Hausgerate, Kobo, Samsung and Philips were happening all morning after an epic breakfast in Forte Village Resort. Some revealed new product (like the Kobo Aura HD eReader and Samsung's UHD Smart TVs) and other spoke of future plans.
But the highlight so far has to be drinking the coffee from the premium more-than-€1000 Delonghi PrimaDonna XS coffee machines outside the meeting rooms, served by lovely Sardinian ladies.
I thought you may like this iPhone photo I took as we flew over the Swiss Alps en route to Milan from Amsterdam.
It was a long flight but we finally reached Cagliari, an Italian municipality and the capital of the island of Sardinia, Italy. The flight took more than 20 hours from Singapore to Amsterdam to Milan to Cagliari, but the destination was worth it.
I shall post more photos as I wander around our resort.
Ryan and I are heading to Italy for the European consumer electronics show, IFA Global Press Conference 2013 in Sardinia, Italy, courtesy of the Singaporean-German Chamber of Industry
and Commerce (SGC).
We are also heading to Rome after that for a road trip and cycling trip.
Big thanks to Hertz for sponsoring our car for the Rome leg, and My Bike Shop and onesport for sponsoring our Bike Friday Tikit and Moulton folding bicycles!
Stay tuned as we bring you tech and travel updates from Italy (and a few other European cities)!
I just came back from a project in the middle of Cambodia and I am just recovering from the eight days of carrying a load of camera equipment on my back in 41ªC heat. I reckon I got enough exercise from just the manual labour alone, but who knows what Miyagi has up his sleeve to beat me at this #healthyrivalry game.
Go ahead, check out your Healthy Lifestyle Index (HLI) at bit.ly/HLIsgBM and win some pretty awesome prizes, like a staycation in Sentosa.
Looking at the HLI leaderboard right now, the top player has only 37 rivalries. I am sure you guys can do better than that.
Remember, it is not enough just to issue a challenge to your friend/rival. Your rival MUST accept your request AND register to complete their HLI with a score in order for it to count. So make sure the people you challenge do the HLI too! And if you win the staycation for FOUR, your rivals can also go with you!
Frankly, there are some #healthyrivalry pair-ups I'd like to see. Maybe Minister Tan Chuan-Jin vs Minister Chan Chun Sing! Or Super Junior vs Big Bang! Or, as Miyagi suggested, Left eyebrow of Tay Ping Hui vs Right eyebrow of Tay Ping Hui.
Wow, that last one would be intense. I wouldn't be able to predict a winning eyebrow.