October 18, 2015

A long day at the Expo 2015

The Universal Exhibition in Milano was reason enough for me to take the kids out of school for a day and travel to Italy hoping we'd enjoy an unforgettable experience. It sure was memorable but not entirely as expected.

Having bought the tickets online a year ago, reserved a place in the parking garage, even booked entry vouchers for the Swiss stand, I felt I was ready to face the humongous site showcasing more than 140 participating countries. Each pavilion was asked to present - through some mind-googling technology at times - a concrete answer to a vital need: being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium.

I might be biased but I do feel the Swiss managed to visually and emotional defend their case. They were by the way, the first country to join the Expo Milano 2015.

Its pavilion was made up of four towers, full of local food products which the visitor could take away. But there was a limit to the resources available, to exceed that limit meant depriving other visitors of the same opportunities.

Thanks to the modularity of the structure, the platform on which the towers stand is lowered as they are emptied, allowing everyone to see for themselves their own habits of consumption. The project, which focuses on the availability and distribution of food resources in the world, invites visitors to reflect on their behavior as consumers.

Apart from curing our home-sickness, however, we had to fight the hoards of visitors. It started at the parking house where we queued to find a place, despite the reservation. We were asked to take the shuttle to the main exhibition entrance, walked across some bridges for another 10 minutes, stood patiently though the security check and when the finally the gates opened in front of us (about 50 minutes after having driven onto the site) we felt like we had entered an International Disney Land!

Where to start? Argentina was Expat boys natural answer, he was born there. 50 minutes of queuing for a very disappointing slide show. Spain's slideshow was slightly more entertaining and only 20 minutes of waiting in line. Guess what? Haiti, Venezuela and Kenya had no queues. We skipped Japan's stunning pavilion, apparently 6 hours of patience was required for that visit. No way!

The US contingency which was trying to sell placemats, mugs and t-shirts was very disappointing, especially since their entrance looked to be the grandest one of all. The kids could not even get excited about the food trucks out the back given we were - after all - in Italy!

Qatar's building tempted us with images of 1001 Nights and after standing in line under the pouring rain for 40 minutes the presentation of a typical local feast made out of some sort of plastic did not live up to our expectations.

So, the message about respecting the planet and its food sustainability did get lost in whirlwind of country-hoping. Tourist promotion would be a more adapt term. The crowds were un-imaginable. Picture Heathrow airport at Christmas then imagine it 10 times worse. The day we visited the Expo we were 4 of 178'000 battling our way through the crowds from 12:00 to 21:00! The next day, the event hit a record number of 272'000 visitors!!!!

The best part in the kids opinion was the food! We enjoyed many different regional delicacies and despite the queues for drink and food, once we found a little spot in the sun, we had a smashing time eating our way through the continents!

It's a challenge!

Going with the flow... 

Argentina's pavilion looked very promising.

Spanish creativity

Guess what? The auditorium is PiNk! 

Casa de Italia: 3 hours of queue. Not happening!

Impressive architecture...

... everywhere you turn.

American Food 2.0 ???

Welcome to Switzerland

It's all about sharing

Quantities are calculated to last for the entire 6 month of the exhibit...
... IF every visitor only helps himself to one portion!?!

The last two cartons of dried apples...

... which are rapidly diminishing!

If I share with my daughter, the portion of apples might last another 52 days. 
Sadly, the apples lasted only additional two days!

Switzerland is rich in natural water thanks to its many mountain springs.

Expat girl was inspired by the Swiss pavillon

Hitting the crowds AGAIN!!!

A well kept secret: Haiti!

Qatar from the outside looked much more promising than...

... from the inside!

The French pavilion was a nice surprise: creative and welcoming. 

The Dutch had no budget for a pavilion so a backstreet food market was mounted
which totally felt like Little Amsterdam: good job!

The tree of life granted a well deserved break from all the chaos.

We ended the day with a well deserved Neapolitan dessert: la sfogliatella!

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