Sorry about that – I had to and now I can tick off that obvious title from my list!
As promised for some time now…
This is an addition to my origonal post, Grom, But Not forgotten, from the legendary Italian Cheese Diaries. You might ask how I was able to post on such allowed ground – well its a family thing!
I spent 3 days in Turin, one of which was spent skiing (well some of it was).
Firstly I would highly recommend Turin, it is a great city. For me there was one big reason to visit – one of my favourite films is The Italian Job, obviously on top of that Italian food and its the home of of Lavazza coffee. High speed car chases, pizza and coffee – what more could a man want? Oh yes, the home of Fiat…
Well there is Grom for a start – I do like Ice Cream and for 20 some years now I believed that Burgess and Ben & Jerry’s were responsible for almost all the great Ice Cream, my how wrong I was. Grom’s has to be tasted, it’s a life experience not to be missed – and unless you have no soul you will be back to try more… There are a large number of regular flavours, 15 regular flavours and a special ‘flavour of the month’. The real fun is combining flavours, just go for it – if you are feeling ambitious go for Caffé espresso, Cioccolato fondente and Cioccolato extranoir (not for the faint hearted) but well worth it!
Turin has the the most wonderful covered walkways, arcades along wide streets – so despite two days of rain I was mainly dry. The shops, cafés and ice cream shops open up along them with far fewer chain shops than you would expect for a major city. It is a wonderful thought that there are hundreds of shops, selling a limited range of products and surviving, I was told the only place to get stamps is the post office, none to be found in the local newspaper stall or newsagent.
There are supermarkets which are useful, but the central market is simply fantastic – I was told about it by previous visitors (my parents), in fact most of what they told me was Grom and Market based. I can see why now – its a cramped and frenetic space, even passing it one evening when they were clearing down it was all action. The central mass was fruit and vegetables – the array and quality of it all was tempting even to me and the freshness of the produce I tried was amazing – but it didn’t end there. Around the edges of this madness were sections dedicated to home wares (where I finally bought a stove top espresso pot), clothes and the usual market fair. There are some buildings to0, one dedicated to fish – a slightly curved, wide uphill drag with boisterous sellers trying to temp you to buy an amazing array of sea food – it was a fantastic experience moving though it and buying some for the evening meal. The other two (I think there were two more) buildings concentrated on meat and cheese. Stalls groaning with so much hanging produce it was sometimes challenge to find a space to get though to buy it! The cured meats and sausages, cheese and occasional enclaves of bread pastry and sweets took nothing away from the fresh meat – from whole chickens with head and all, to pigs trotters, tripe, offal galore and expertly prepared cuts of meat and even mince. I could imagine dropping by every day or two to stock my kitchen and cook for hours.
With a local market like this I would not be heading to the Supermarket on a Sunday morning much.
Back to fast cars – I wanted to see as many Italian Job locations as possible and the link at the top outlines most of these so I will focus on the Old Fiat Factory (Lingotto). Now first off I will outline a little mistake which my sister may hold against me for many years to come (maybe a large number of strawberries will help her forget). There was a little confusion between which factory we headed to – which resulted in a long walk down a deserted street on a wet Saturday afternoon next to the very unremarkable new Fiat Factory and subsequently a frantic call to the Dr. for more accurate directions.
We got there in the end and it was seriously impressive – I had no idea how big it was – I was under the impression it was now a hotel – well some of it still is – the rest is a huge entertainment complex with a retractable glass roof one side and a big garden at the other.
I’ll skip past this to the “Arco Olimpico” bridge that leaves it to head back to what turned out to part (or all) of the Turin Winter Olympics Village, a now deserted strip of buildings that look a little dated. The bridge looks fantastic its a huge arc of metal and supporting wires, with for me only two problems. After a nice long solid covered walkway over the grounds outside the old factory there is a long section which replaces the solid floor with mesh – the sort that allows you to see the floor, many meters below. At the other end a spiral staircase made from the same vertigo inducing material made even less fun as it was wet and slippery. The bulk of the bridge isn’t like this by the way.
One thing to note, as the bridge crossed the railway lines linking Lingotto Station with the rest of Italy and beyond there was a mesh fence on both sides. Anyway there were loads of padlocks with names on attached to the fence on both sides, most single ones, but some linked to others and into the fence too. Now my first thoughts were unfortunately quite macabre, memories of those who decided to jump. I am pleased to find out this is not the case, they are “Love Padlocks”. One article I have read since lays blame to a film, but a certain all knowing wiki states older occurrences across the world.
Montgenèvre is a French resort town a few miles from the Italian border. Getting there is an drive though many tunnels and a stop to put on snow chains (a first for me and almost a first for my hosts). The snow chains are a bit of a challenge – you can’t drive with them unless the roads are bad and by the time they are getting bad enough you are (well the driver is) challenged with finding a suitable space on an alpine road to stop a put them on. Now the roads are quite wide but the snow ploughs fill the edges with a deep bank of snow, a kind of half pipe! Other cars continue to pass in both directions. Add this to the devilishly hard task of putting on the chains, remember our combined experience is managing to put on one. It took 40 minutes. On the way home it took 10 to get them off!
Skiing is well known as an alpine sport and less know as a form of medieval torture, well the boots are at least. I did enjoy my first tentative steps on alpine snow, then I feel over, at least I’d got both skis on. I then had to take them off and get back up. I managed a few runs down what can only be described as a baby slope, a small piece of piste in front of one car park before lunch. However a combination of poor fitness (my hosts forgetting to mention ski exercises until after the event) a kamikaze ski baby and fear I was pretty knackered and quite injured by lunch. I had a restorative hot chocolate while my hosts went to a proper ski slope and rested my broken body. I will point out now that I enjoyed skiing and intend to go again. On their return we at a wonderful feast of chicken and chips. Afterwards I took and another restorative hot chocolate while my hosts had a proper ski and set out for more. This time I managed to fall before I got the skis on. Anyway as I was now ready and set I managed a final run before the afore mentioned ski boots forced me to stop – my left leg was on the verge of collapse. I must admit part of me was very happy to stop – a larger part of me wanted more – I had got down the baby slope without a fall and managed slight turns, in the direction I intended too.
After struggling off the piste, returning my ski’s boot’s and sticks, sorry poles I retired to a bar for a drink. Then enjoyed a walk up and back down the main street. Now I may have in the past been unlucky, but the vast majority of French people I have met have not been very understanding of a scruffy English man with the linguistic skills of chimp – for some time I was pronouncing the name of the resort Montenegro! The locals where a revelation – happy, open, helpful and able to and more importantly willing to speak English! I apologise to anyone I may have offended here – but I can only speak from my experience and from stories of others experiences, including someone who lived in France for a year!
After an ill advised but very enjoyable adventure day last summer I suffered considerable aches and pains, skiing also delivered on this – the brandy on my my return to Turin was much appreciated as was a fantastic lasagne and tiramisu! Both home made and very tasty.
All in all Turin come highly recommended as does Montgenèvre, especially for beginners.
More to come soon as I am off to Stuttgart for a stag weekend soon.