Europe Day 3: From Milan to Marseille

On a Tuesday morning, we packed up our bags in our Milan AirBnB.

We grabbed a pastry breakfast at a local cafe. By the way, we noticed cafes are known as bars or caffetterias everywhere we went. At the cafe, we picked up two bus tickets for 1.50 euro each.

After grabbing our luggage, we walked six minutes to the bus stop and hopped on a bus straight to the Linate airport, 15 minutes away, for a local flight.

As we landed in Marseille, everything was quick. No lines. You could make a beeline straight out of the airport. We walked to pick up our car. I was taken by the sight of the countryside hills.

Sajan had reserved a standard (stick shift/manual) car, since automatic cars are two or three times the price.

When was the last time he had driven a standard car? Maybe a handful of times in college. The story of getting in the car and getting out of the airport parking lot and even making the 45 minutes to our Orgon hotel is a harrowing (and now rather amusing) one.

Let’s just say there was smoke coming out of the car and a nearby driver trying to alert us to it at one point.

When we got to our little Orgon countryside hotel, the landscape was stunning. The owners/concierges were so kind. They made some phone calls for us regarding our car. We were stressed out. Finally, they said, “You just go enjoy the pre-wedding festivities. We will take you there. Don’t worry about it for tonight.”

The whole reason for our trip had been to attend our friend Sarah and her fiancee Kash’s wedding.

At that moment a wonderful man named Joe (and later his wife Jas) came down from their room. He said hello and offered us a ride, as he was headed the same direction.

We quickly got ready and headed out. Google Maps took us to a person’s home instead of the vineyard we were looking for. A kind lady and her two sons gave us directions. Sajan said one the boys lit up when he heard Sajan was from Texas, where cowboys live!

We arrived at the vineyard, where the wedding party was relaxing. It was great to see our friends. There were also new faces. By the time we arrived, they were serving olive oil in little tasting spoons.

Our friend Sherene talked about vlogging the trip. We can’t wait to see her vids.

Next, we headed to the rehearsal dinner, in an enchanting French countryside restaurant, Bistrot La Aubergine.

Appetizer: Croquet and sauteed green pepper on bruschetta

First Course: Creamy risotto with black truffles.

Second Course: Chicken with little potatoes and a purple carrot.

Dessert: Chocolate mousse with a crispy wafer.

We got to know some of Kash’s friends. Meals are the best places to have great conversations.

Then, we headed back to our hotel for some rest.


Europe Day 2: Milano, Italia

Our plane landed close to midnight. 

Our gracious AirBnB host Mila picked us up. She had told us to look out for her little red car. We drove about 45 minutes from Malpensa Airport to her place across town. 

She pointed out the monuments we passed on the drive. Her place was on the seventh floor, and a little elevator took us up. She had two rooms that shared a bathroom. I did not tell her in time that we needed a double bed, so we slept in two single beds. It was a cozy, comfortable room. 

We did share a bathroom with whoever was in the other room, but we rarely saw them, and it felt like we had it to ourselves. 

Mila left snacks out and had a helpful map up in the hallway. 

We probably fell asleep around 2 a.m. We woke up at 9. The first thing we needed to do was exchange money. We visited a few local banks and quickly learned you’ve got to go into the city center tourist areas for that.

It was a 20-minute walk to the inner loop of Milan. We passed up high-fashion stores. The weather was perfect. We got to the Piazza Del Duomo, the main city square with the country’s second largest cathedral. 

It was 11 a.m. Instead of eating breakfast, we sat at an outdoor cafe and ordered bufalina pizza. Then we realized everyone else was ordering coffee and pastries. 

Our bottle of water cost 4 euros. And I saw another charge for 4 euros, which I think was for the luxury of eating outside and having two glasses for our water.

We walked across town. My plan was to hit up Santa Maria delle Grazie, where the Last Supper is. But we stumbled upon an old castle first, Castello Sforzeca. We walked through Parco Sempione. 

Then we made it to Santa Maria delle Grazie and took pictures outside. It was Monday, so it was closed. You have to book a visit weeks or months in advance to get in. And then you get 15 minutes to see The Last Supper. It was funny to stand in front of this church on a Monday and see no crowds or fanfare. 

After all this walking, we trekked toward home. We stopped at a caffetteria for coffee/tea and pastries. 

We got to the AirBnB and called home. The kids were getting ready for school. 

We had only a few minutes to rest. Then we caught a bus to il Duomo for our 4 p.m. skip-the-line tour.

 I was a little panicked about making it on time. We were supposed to meet our tour at United Colors of Benetton. But the one Google maps showed me seemed like the wrong one. We asked a guy in a rickshaw. He generously drove us down the piazza to the right location. We made it. They gave us earbuds, so we could hear our tour guide. 

It was a large gothic cathedral, with every inch, it seemed, covered in symbolic sculptures or stained glass stories. Every element had been designed as a way to remember church history. 

We climbed to the terrace. You could see all of Milan, even some of the Alps, on this clear day. 

On the way home, we stopped by a restaurant recommended by our host Mila. 

They picked appetizers for us, which were extremely good. Some kind of raw tuna with vegetables. 

Sajan had seafood ravioli, and I had seafood tagliatelle. Mine was overwhelmed with little baby squids. 

We headed home and edited videos. I fell asleep at 9:30. Then I woke up for two hours in the middle of the night editing and reading. Throughout the trip, my sweet spot for sleeping was 3 a.m., which equates to around 7 p.m. in the states. 

I should have asked how to turn on our room’s air conditioner. It got warm and stuffy at night. 

The Day we Disappeared Off to Europe

We disappeared for a week to Europe. 

We had 20,000-step days. 

We ate gluttonously. 

Our eyes witnessed astoundingly-sized cathedrals. 

But the best part was the relationships formed and forged along the way. 

Traveling is adventurous and magical. And over the next seven days, I’ll tell how it was so for us. 

On a Saturday in May, we dropped our two children and a stuffed suitcase of school uniforms and play clothes with Sajan’s grandparents.  

That night, we sat in a plane for 12 hours until we landed in Istanbul. 

Sajan had purchased two e-visas and identified a seaside eatery we could sneak away to 20 minutes from the airport. 

But we never made it there. 

Our plane must have touched down a little late. First, it seemed like we were trapped in the airport, like they hide the exits from you. One guy said we had time to quickly explore, but the lady close to the exit doors gave us a cold no. 

As time ticked, our confidence that we could make it out and back dwindled. And all the serpentine security lines entering the airport seemed like a red warning flag. 

No big deal. It was a big beautiful airport. During our layover, we browsed the Turkish delight, baklava, and local soaps in the duty free stores. We ate Italian food. 

I had chicken Milanese and Sajan had chicken with prosciutto. They both came with a delightful green salad that tasted homegrown with a light vinaigrette. 

Our waiter was both friendly and a thinly veiled jerk. 

Sajan had his Go Pro out on the table. The waiter admired it almost solemnly. He delicately picked it up and asked about the tripod and mic and where to find them. But twice he walked away with the Go Pro a few feet, joking he would take it as a present. 

Wrong thing to do, buddy, when your diners are in a foreign country and on high alert!

Anyway, we enjoyed our food and continued exploring the airport. 

We ate Turkish ice cream. I had pistachio, which was meh, and Sajan had chocolate, surprisingly rich and yummy. 

We sat at our gate and edited the day’s videos. 

Then, we boarded our plane for Milan. 

That time my phone told me what it wanted to do

The robots…you and I are training them as we speak, move, and think.  

I pulled into work yesterday. My phone, I didn’t ask it to, it popped up a map of my car’s exact location. It told me it would mark the location as “work” and remember the parking space for me. 

This felt like a movie, but it was real. 

Most of life feels like a movie these days. 

It feels like when God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 

I stand in my kitchen or sit in my car and say, do this do that, to Alexa (newest electronic member of our family) or Siri, and it happens. “Tell me the weather.” “Play me that song.” And the like. 

So anyway, when I pulled into work and my phone started telling me what it had decided it was going to do, unprompted by me, it reminded me of what I had read the day before in The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly. 

It’s 2002. Kevin Kelly asks Larry Page, the Google cofounder, why he’s doing a free web search company when there are others out there. “Where does that get you?”

Page says: “Oh, we’re really making an AI (Artificial Intelligence).”

Kelly writes he’s thought about that a lot since then. 

“Rather than use AI to make its search better, Google is using search to make its AI better.”

Every time you type or select something in Google, you’re training the AI. 

Every action I take on my phone, everywhere I drive, I’m training the AI. 

Nothing I’m doing is going unnoticed by the AI embedded all around me. 

Kelly’s prediction: “By 2026, Google’s main product will not be search but AI.”

If you read his book, the future freaks you out, but it’s also intriguing and hopeful. 

India Trip Day 15: Vallamkali Boat Race

This (September) was the perfect time of year to visit. A wedding, Onam, and boat race season.

We watch the boat races from my cousins’ house off the river in Aranmula. We eat lunch on a banana leaf. We drink fresh juice at St. George’s Bakery. We take a rickshaw home, then eat dinner at my cousins’ home in Kozhencherry.

This was our last day of activities before resting, packing, then heading back to the states!

India Trip Day 13: Layla’s Birthday

Layla turns 5. We head out to watch kids play Onam games. The work commences on a giant pot of biryani for the birthday dinner. My mom has a whole suitcase full of birthday decor and goodies. Layla makes her own three layer cake, with help from my mom. My mom put the finishing touches for some level of surprise.

The whole family made Layla feel special!