Monday, 12 July 2010

Cooking Lesson

Once I'd recovered from the long drive I treated myself to a well-earned Full English breakfast. It was well worth the effort I had to go through to track all the ingredients down.

Finding baked beans and bacon in this country isn't easy (or cheap), and the sausages were of the local type rather than the short and chunky variety we eat in Blighty.

Gran Turismo

I've been on a road trip through Italy this week - something like 1800km in 3 days!

One of the guys from the office had to take one of the large sensors (about half the size of an upright piano) down to the most southerly region of Italy and since I hadn't seen this particular piece of hardware in action I got permission to tag along.

We shared the drive down from Milan to Bologna, onto Florence in Tuscany where the landscape is exactly like the pictures in the brochures, passed Rome and Naples (and the mightily impressive Vesuvius), and into the mountains of Basilicata to a small town called Villa d'Agri - 10 hours and 800km on the A1.

After overnighting in the lovely Kiris Hotel we drove up into the mountains to the rig, perched on a clifftop. Unfortunately my interaction was limited by an inflamed muscle in my back which prevented me from doing any heavy lifting, and by Italian Law which stopped me from doing light lifting. Without my assistance the mudlogging crew went about installing the cuttings weight sensor that we'd carted down with us,
and I returned to the hotel to rest my back.

The job went well, and on the next day we drove 250km north-eastwards over the mountains, covered in olive groves, and on to Lucera, a large town with a stunning medieval core, in the breadbasket of Italy. The rolling hills of lowlands were covered by lush fields of grain and plopped in the middle of a field was the second rig on our grand tour. We had a brief visit to the mudlogging unit and performed an inspection on a prototype filter that is part of the gas trap. Since there was plenty of daylight left to the day we decided to drive the 750km back to Milan.

The route along the A14 was 750km from start to finish and took us up the eastern side of Italy, following the coast of the Adriatic Sea and along the way we spotted half a dozen offshore production platforms diligently sucking hydrocarbons out of the bedrock. After so many years working in hundreds of kilometres out in the North Sea it was surprising to see so many rigs close to the shore. Surprisingly the entire coast is given over to bed resorts, and in the last rays of sunlight we could see the beaches were still busy so I suppose that the safety record on these rigs is admirable because any spills would be sure to wash up on the shore. It was almost the next day when we arrived back in Milan, and I got to enjoy a full two day weekend for the first time since I moved here. Good job too - I slept through most of it.

Lakes of Milan

I didn't make it to the Italian Lake region - it was too far, it was too hot and I was too lazy. But I found the next best thing. Not far from the office is the Idroscalo, a large man-made lake that was built to allow flying boats to land at Linate airport.

Nowadays it is a centre watersports activity and has a beach for bathing. I made a quick recce of the lake, sat down for half an hour to watch some guys with RC motor boats, and then went back to my apartment.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Komodo Dragon?

Not quite. I spotted this little devil crossing the tiles in my flat. My deft lizard wrangling skills quickly drove it out the door, but not before I managed to snap this award winning photograph of it. I'm sure you'll see this image gracing the cover of a National Geographic soon.

Aside from the very rare mosquito I haven't been bothered by the wildlife of Milan, though I'm given to understand that during August there is such a population boom in mosquitos that most of the locals head for the Italian Lakes to the north.

I hope to make the trip tomorrow in an attempt to reconnoitre the area for day trips when Rachel and Oscar come to visit for a long weekend at the end of the month. Armed with TomTom on my iPhone and Lonely Planet's Italian Lakes guidebook I plan to brave the autostrade, overcome my fear of foreign toll booths and solo the 45 minute drive north. Wish me luck.