ouray

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It's me doing a little posing while taking a break at the Ouray, Colorado Jeep Jamboree in 1995.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Italian Adventure Day 2: More Fish, More Bad Beer, Some Bocelli and Great Cars!


The all-new Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio unveiled at the brand's 105th anniversary celebration.
I'm not the kind of guy who always sees the glass as half empty. Usually I'm not...well, sometimes I'm not...oh, hell, all right already, the glass is nearly always half empty. As I rattled around in Milan's airport Sheraton Hotel on day No. 1 of my recent Alfa Romeo trip there, I was more than a little disappointed that we were staying some 30 miles from Milan. All I could see of Italy was the airport out one window and a crowded parking lot out the other.

Because my flight from Atlanta was delayed two hours (Click here to read more about this and some of my thoughts on the trip details.), I didn't arrive in Milan until about 11 a.m. I was all checked in and entering my hotel room by 11:30. The hotel is connected to the airport and its reception desk a brisk 5-minute walk from baggage claim.

I characterize my moving through the hotel as “rattling around” in it because it is absolutely huge. All I can imagine is that unlike the United States, where property surrounding airports is uber expensive, property around the Milan airport must be dirt cheap, or maybe Sheraton won it in a raffle. The amount of wasted space is nothing short of amazing. The guest rooms, as well as the reception area, are average size, but the corridors and walkways are immense.

Where I would expect shops, boutiques, and maybe a bar or two, there is just empty space. I tell you this as a way of explaining that there was simply nothing to do in the hotel except go back to your room, work, read or nap. I guess there is a train that runs from the airport into the city center, but I was worried that I wouldn't get there and back in time for the welcome dinner at the hotel that evening. I chose to hunker down in my room where I read and caught up on my sleep.

Dinner that evening was a sit-down affair in the hotel featuring Milan's favorite food: fish. When in Milan, don't expect to eat anything that didn't swim or at least dwell in the ocean. Despite being nearly 100 miles from the coast, Milan's main dietary staple is seafood. Hey, where's the lasagna; where are the meatballs? One must travel several hundred miles south to find that or just about anything else I think of as Italian food, I'm told.

The cocktail hour before dinner was a tease. There were no cocktails. In fact, the alcohol for this event and every other during this trip, consisted of Prosecco (an Italian champagne-like beverage), Italian wine and Italian beer. The Prosecco was fine as long as you like tiny bubbles in your white wine. The real wine was wonderful. The beer, however, left much to be desired. Italian brew is to beer what the accordion is to chamber music. I'd rather drink a Bud, and that's saying something.

The U.S. pavilion at Expo. Its examples of American cuisine were served from food trucks parked behind the pavilion. BBQ sandwich: about $12.
The next morning our Alfa hosts whisked us off to something called “Expo.” It's a world's fair-like event held in different European cities every few years. This year Milan happened to be the host. Alfa spent the equivalent of roughly $39 for each of us to gain entry to this event. Personally I would have preferred Alfa keeping its $39, taking us into Milan proper and setting us loose for a couple of hours instead. The Expo was basically country-sponsored pavilions showing off some aspect of their science or culture. After walking through each exhibit, visitors reached a gift shop and sometimes a little restaurant featuring the country's cuisine. Returning to the hotel mid afternoon, I broke into my stash of peanut-butter crackers that I always carry when traveling outside the U.S.

A couple of Alfas displayed at its museum.
By 4 p.m., Alfa had us on buses heading to its freshly renovated museum near Milan for the brand's 105th anniversary celebration. It was more Prosecco and bad beer as we wandered around the joint. It was fun, interesting and educational. The collection of historic Alfas is truly fascinating. 

The Giulia.
Part of the evening was spent at the unveiling of the all-new Giulia (pronounced Julia) four-door that will arrive in U.S. showrooms in mid 2016 as a 2017 model. The version they pulled the wraps off of was the top-of-the-line Giulia Quadrifoglio. It will get its go from a 510-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6. It will be rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission will be available to turn those wheels. Alfa was pretty sketchy with the details, but did offer that it will accelerate to 60 miles per hour in less than four seconds. It's 3,400 pounds is equally distributed (50/50) across its axles. An all-new double-wishbone arrangement up front and multi-link setup in the rear provides the suspension. And, of course, the emotion of the exterior design is typically Alfa Romeo.

Sergio Marchionne delivering his remarks.
We heard Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), speak to Giulia's role as the kick-off model in Alfa Romeo's rebirth. FCA will invest around $5 billion over the next few years in new product aimed at building Alfa world-wide sales to 400,000 units. That would be about a 600 percent increase over 2014's 68,000 sales.

Andrea Bocelli belting out a tune.
We were also treated to the voice of Andrea Bocelli who briefly performed at the unveiling. All things considered, it was an incredible evening. Of course, it was more seafood at dinner, but after hearing Bocelli sing, who was going to moan about another meal of damn fish? Not me.

The Aerodinamica: What must have been Alfa's first attempt at an Italian Weinermobile.
My flight from Milan back to Atlanta was delayed an hour or so. Apparently weather in Atlanta the previous day had delayed the plane's flight sufficiently to cut into the crew's required down time. My first order of business once comfortably situated in my business-class seat, wearing my Delta-provided booties was to order a beer. It turned out to be a Heineken, but was delicious when compared to the meager Italian attempts at the brewer's art.

Once on the ground in Atlanta, a three-hour slog taking me through Atlanta's notorious rush-hour traffic brought me to my back door.

A bottle of Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout and Chinese carry-out were the perfect cappers to my whirlwind, three-day Alfa Romeo Italian adventure.

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