So onto Part 2 of my pictures from Expo "mini-series" (I'm assuming there will be more when we go again in the future... maybe?) and as promised, some tips on navigating its choppy waters!
- Prepare yourself for a long day of walking and standing outsideEach year, as summer descends on Italy, I am afflicted with a strange case of elephantiasis of the feet. My most trusty ballerina pumps will suddenly turn into cruel heel-eating devils and my sandals will somehow create blisters on parts of my feet I wasn't even aware could blister! As such I wore some trusty Converse which happily carried me through many hours of wandering and queueing and queueing and queueing (although even they were chafing by the end of the day). Unfortunately I also wore my black skinny jeans which was a huge mistake as the sun was beating down on us like an evil witch. So please, make sure you check the weather forecast as well! A sunhat might be your best investment!
- Go with an empty stomach and an open mind
Lots of pavilions have restaurants or take-away areas for you to grab international goodies from. I was initially planning on having something from one of the South America pavilions (fajitas anyone?) but swiftly discovered that vegetarianism was not part of their vocabulary. We stumbled across an Afghan takeaway and had some delicious rice with vegetables (better than it sounds!) and this incredible samosa-type thing with a cool yogurt dip. The Israel pavilion had delicious food too such as eggs poached in a tomato and aubergine sauce with feta.
- Take water supplies
We ended up drinking loads. There are water points throughout the site but the queues can be quite long. Also, pay attention to whether you're filling up at a fizzy or still water point. I accidentally filled my bottles with my arch nemesis, fizzy water, and could have cried had I not been dehydrated to the point of lacking tears.
- Plan your visit well
Search the internet for advice on which pavilions are worth visiting. For the record, of the ones we visited, the following stood out particularly: Japan, Switzerland, Austria, Brazil, UK, China, Slow Food and of course Italy. Then be strategic about when to visit. Some of them are packed out all day every day - we only attempted Brazil late in the evening just as it was closing as the queues had been phenomenally long all day. Switzerland is worth swinging by in the morning as you can pick up timed entrance tickets. Italy was busy right until when it closed at 8:30pm as was Japan, so some of them you will need to queue for no matter how sneaky you are (unless you're the first one in at opening and sprint to the one you want to see most!)
The site was incredibly busy during the daytime but began to empty out at about 4pm. However we went before the school holidays began so that may have affected it too. If you can, get there at opening and don't leave until it closes! There are plenty of spots to chill out with a glass of wine if it all gets too much midday.
- Be receptive to the concept
The Swiss pavilion was brilliant (except for the glaring access of Swiss chocolate - what was that all about?!) The concept is based on the finite resources of the world. You find yourself in a makeshift supermarket composed of four rooms - one for coffee, one for apples, one for salt and one for water. Any produce that you find is yours for the taking. But, you are reminded, whatever you take now means there is less for those that come after you. The first room (coffee) was still relatively full as people had just been given this message. However the second room was devoid of apples and the salt room was fairly empty too. The water room had been stripped of plastic cups and the water fountain showed that a large proportion of the water resource for the pavilion had already been used up. Despite the fact that we had witnessed what happens when people just take whatever they want without considering what they and others might need, people were turning the tap on to wash their hands and fill their bottles up as if they hadn't been listening at all.
So there are our top tips for visiting Expo based on our 12 hour day of wandering the pavilions. Let me know if you are going or have been and have any tips to add!
The Slow Food pavilion was a series of simple wooden huts filled with educational materials and displays.
And a great place for wine and cheese tasting too!
A glass of wine plus a tasting of four cheeses (they change every week) costs €10 - even better, you get to take the wine glass home with you! Additional glasses cost €4.
The Swiss pavilion was a brilliant concept and asked us the fundamental question: are you scared of going without?
Inside the Qatar pavilion and below, inside the Moroccan pavilion which was lovely and calming to wander about until you reached the boiling hot desert room! Not a bad gift shop either :)
Austria's concept of creating fresh mountain air was not lost on me and was such a welcome break from the heat! I really wanted to grab some apple strudel, it looked so tempting!
Spot the sign that made me laugh... immature, I know...
Inside the Italy pavilion where miniature sculptures of regional chefs stood proud and mirrored halls catapulted the beauty of the peninsula into 4D.
The Tree of Life, a water and light show to sit back and rest your poor legs at!
The UK pavilion, a huge bee hive made of wires and lights. Pimms is served here too but don't expect European alcohol measurements, this is a firmly British establishment!
Brazil: a canopy that stretches above a miniature rainforest (but really everyone just goes to walk across the big bouncy net - not to be attempted in heels like the poor girl we saw struggling with her boyfriend, although he fell down first!)
We only just brushed the surface of Expo, there were so many other pavilions we wanted to see (Cocoa pavilion and Lindt shop, I am looking at you).
Hopefully if we get time this summer we will head back - although there's so much coming up! I'll be graduating next month and then we're heading to Canada for an entire month! Once back, we're off to France with my family and then it will be near enough time to head back to Exeter to begin life as a masters student, eek!
We shall see, Expo, we shall see.