This post is also available in: French
I’ve always dreamt of visiting the Universal Exhibition one day. It was difficult to go to Shanghai in 2010. But when I found out that the 2015 exhibition would be in Europe, in Italy, I couldn’t resist. Especially because Milan is only a 4.5 hours drive from home.
That’s how I embarked my whole family to Italy during four days. And it was well worth the trip.
For those of you who don’t have the chance to live near the Italian border, the French railway company has launched specific train tickets to go to Expo Milano with attractive prices and a direct access to the Rho-Fiera train station (at the Expo entrance). Otherwise, Milan is located between one or two hours from any European airport. So, what are you waiting for, jump in !
The theme for this year is “Feeding the planet, Energy for life”. I wasn’t too thrilled by this theme. Agriculture and sustainable development are not my favourite subjects. I am aware of our planet’s issues, I apply the basic rules and respect the environment but I am not a passionate ecologist nor an agricultural engineer. Whatever, we’re talking about the Universal Exhibition. Whatever the theme, it must be spectacular. I must see it at least once in my life. And I was right not to back off because of the theme. It was absolutely AWESOME.
Following my visit to the Expo and my own experience, here is what the Expo is like and what it represents:
The Universal Exhibition is an open-air museum, even the biggest museum in the world. We mainly see modern art.
The Universal Exhibition is a design and architecture exhibition.
The Universal Exhibition is a mix between the Futuroscope theme park and the Science Museum.
It reminds me of the Futuroscope for all those buildings with a modern architecture and unusual constructions. Also for the giant screens, the presentation films and 3D animations.
And the Science Museum for all the educative and fun part: I’m talking about the activities you can do in each Pavilion, the experiments which call your five senses into action and those small inventions that you can test on-site like producing your own energy or grow your own vegetable garden on a small surface and with a minimum of water.
The Universal Exhibition is like spending a day in a theme park: there even is the characters parade (for this year’s theme, the characters are fruits and have been created by Disney).
At the Universal Exhibition, you can do a round-the-world trip in one day. You can taste the local foods of each country and bring back a souvenir or typical object. Yes, all of this in just one day.
For example, we got the chance to see a beautiful lady roast coffee beans in front of us at the Ethiopian Pavilion. We literally saw the beans going from green to brown and could smell the fragrance of a pure coffee. We then tasted the local coffee.
At the Russian Pavilion, we tasted a local drink, the Kbac, a kind of Russian Coke but very bitter. They also have a Vodka bar with a distillery. In Belgium, we tasted Speculoos biscuits and chocolates which were made in front of our eyes by a choclate maker from Godiva. In Mauritania, we attended the preparation of the couscous. As you can see, it was a culinary round-the-world trip.
The Universal Exhibition gives you the opportunity to discover new countries, new cultures and traditions. Because even though the theme is about nutrition and energy, we still talk about tourism in this Expo. Each pavilion promotes its own country. On top of that, we also meet hostesses in traditional costumes, craftmen, shows or some typical settings (family kitchen, spices seller).
We encountered a traditional dance show at the Vietnam Pavilion and observed a silk weaver at work in the Laos Pavilion. Finally, a lady was hand painting Russian dolls at the Russian Pavilion. So pretty.
In the end, the Universal Exhibition is all of this. In one day, all your five senses are blown away. You will live a day full of experiences and leave with lots of memories, thinking about the next Exhibition in Dubai in 2020. Why not !
Now, I’m going to talk about the French Pavilion. Yes, as a French citizen, I cannot not talk about my national Pavilion.
The French Pavilion was designed like a big market, what we call the “Halles”. Hosts and hostesses welcome us wearing striped jerseys (the famous “Marinière”) and we are lured inside the Pavilion thanks to the smell of the baguette cooking in the oven. Inside the Pavilion, flat screens with animated movies explain how to optimize productivity and reduce energy. But all the action is actually taking place on the ceiling. Fish, saucepans and lavender bouquets cover the ceiling.
Then, we enter a second room and what a pride !!!! Over half of the French Pavilion is about the Rhone-Alps region, my home region. I always said it was the most active region of France and the most beautiful (sunny Provence, mountains, wine region, amazing gorges and rivers…). In this Pavilion, our wines, our cheeses, herbs and spices and even our Michelin star chefs have a place of honor. Rhone-Alps is the only region represented in the French Pavilion. None of the other French regions are even mentionned. It is a shame because I’m sure other regions would deserve a spot at the Exhibition regarding this year’s theme. Whatever, I’m so proud to have my native region in the lights and knowing the visitors of the world will get to discover this side of France.
On your way out, you will be able to buy a typical French baguette as well as croissants and pain au chocolat at the bakery. 2€ for one baguette and 1,60€ one croissant, that’s very expensive but maybe it’s your only chance to taste the real French bread.
In conclusion, it is a pretty Pavilion, but let’s face it, it’s not the most beautiful Pavilion of the Expo nor the most original. Regarding the theme, they could have presented the things in a more entertaining way (other than animated films) and they could have highlighted our innovative industries (solar, wind energy), explain how our agricultural cooperatives work together or how our innovations can be used in other countries to feed the planet… In fact, this Pavilion is a good introduction to French gastronomy and especially the one from Rhone-Alps.
I hope this tale of my visit has convinced you to finally visit the Universal Exhibition. It’s happening in Milan from May 1st to October 31st 2015, so you still have time to plan your visit.
I am writing a Complete Guide to visiting the Expo, trying to answer any questions you may have. I also wrote about my personnal Top 10 Pavilions I have visited. Buy your tickets now because you won’t be able to resist the call of the Expo Milano 2015. It’s just super FUN.