And so it was, that I met my wife at the airport on Friday afternoon and discovered that my birthday present was a new pair of shoes! I just had to go to Milan, Italy, to get them.
Oh yes, we'd be having the special birthday dinner too. But up in the mountains of northern Italy, at beautiful (and oh so romantic) Lake Como.
And for a February weekend, we couldn't have had better weather. It was like Spring already.
About two weeks ago I mentioned to my wife that a favourite old pair of shoes of mine, had gone to meet the great cobbler in the sky. She has always believed that Italian footwear is the best in the world. And so she hatched the plot to take me to Milan, one of the style capitals of the world, to buy a new pair of shoes.
Now style is almost a middle name for my wife. In her heyday, very much a catwalk type. So how she managed to end up with someone more of a duck walk type, I'll never know. Style is not something ever associated with me in the sartorial sense. For a person who has been wearing Levi's and a T shirt since I was able to dress myself, practical/casual is closer to the mark. But, stylish? Nope!
And as my BCB (business-class belly) as my wife fondly refers to it, continues to grow, to the point where the only thing that fit me snugly in those Milan designer stores, was the actual cubicle in the changing room... Style and I grow ever further apart.
So, we had been recommended by a friend to visit a very fashionable shoe emporium in the Via Brera shopping area. It was shoe heaven. Nothing less.
I tried on a few pairs and eventually decided which I preferred. My final question, of course, being: "how much?"
It didn't take me long to break this figure down to the unit price i.e. a pair of shoes being two units. With each unit at about $450 each, this was about the price I had been thinking of paying for two units. And much as I liked the shoes, the idea of wearing just one with two thick socks on my other foot, also seemed less than sartorially appealing.
I left the shop a little disappointed. But even I believe that $450 for a single shoe is expensive. After all, I'm not Fredrick Marckini!
So, my wife, being the top-to-toe kind of person she is, suggested that while in Milan, I should visit a top Italian crimper and have a change from my usual birds-nest look.
After just under 45 minutes of snipping with his renowned golden scissors, he looked at me in the mirror and raised an eyebrow waiting for a look of approval. It's very nice, I said, not knowing, in all honesty, quite what to think.
I asked for the bill, glanced at it, looked at the top Italian crimper and asked him: "Do you have a brother who runs a shoe shop?"
And so, we left the metropolis and headed up into the mountains and the calmness and beauty that is Lake Como.
This is such a pretty place. The famous funicular railway takes you high into the mountains where there are breathtaking view back down onto the lake.
It's a very steep ride and not for the feint hearted if you have a fear of heights. But the views of the snow-capped Alps was wonderful.
At the very base of the funicular is a restaurant aptly named Fenicular. Here we were able to sit outside on the piazza and enjoy the view over the lake with a wonderful lunch. The Salmon ravioli with saffron is a must.
I have to hand it to my wife, she certainly knows how to organize a surprise birthday trip.
So cheers and thanks, Tatjana!
Okay, that's another birthday over. And at the age of 51, I guess that probably makes me the oldest SEO around. So let's a have a little respect for one of the industry's elder statesmen... and be sure to buy me a belated birthday drink at SES New York in a couple of weeks :-)
Just quickly. I made a point of paying a visit to Milan's famous Duomo Cathedral, on Sunday morning. It is the biggest and greatest late Gothic architecture in Italy. My UK pal Brian Turner and I, swapped some email recently about architecture, in particular Byzantine and Romanesque. So, as a favour I thought I'd take a couple of shots for him to have a peek at. And would you believe it... It's completely hidden by scaffolding for maintenance work. No doubt to remove the 30 tons of crap that gets dropped on it every year by the local inhabitants (those are the Pigeons by the way - not the Italians).
Anyway, Brian, believe me when I tell you, it has a very much of a Gothic, Notre Dame, Paris, look about it.
And finally, one quick view of an unremarkable building with an absolutely remarkable history.
Standing behind that old fashioned tram is LaScala, one of the most famous opera venues in the world.
(Is it just me? Or has lunch-time now been replaced by blog-time?)