2021 Travels Part 7
Francesca’s Post Truffle Post
Then we wandered the fashion district for a postprandial sort of passeggiata and that was very interesting. We appreciate creativity in all its forms. Often just the window displays are real works of art. But no! This was the very first time it ever disappointed. Most subdued window arrangements I have ever seen. Nothing vibrant or explosively creative in any of them! Is this covid effect!?
A few nice dresses that were dead 1920 inspired. I loved them, oh course. But even the majority of shoes and boots were just boring. I can hardly believe I’m saying this.
Can’t wait to see if Paris is suffering the same malaise. Why would covid make it all so dull?! After WWII it was spectacular fashion houses and design that burst to pull people out if the hardship and trauma and sacrifice of war. Why is fashion not bursting with fun now? The world needs oomf again. Even Gucci was dull! And ever since the guy was killed and his crazy sister inherited his fashion house it has been utterly nuts – even to me! But nope…toned down.
(My pic. This is about as good as it got.)
End of truffles; Me Again
A couple of years ago I snapped my favorite picture of that year’s trip in Milan’s Galeria (amazing bookstore there, as well as excellent cafes for a man to have a beer while waiting for his wife and his old girlfriend while they shop). That picture was of a police woman in high heels looking absolutely amazing. You probably didn’t get my travel memoir of that trip, so you don’t know what I’m talking about. I have no sympathy.
Anyway, the picture below, taken at almost the exact same spot, may be my favorite picture from this trip. (In future, I should just hang out at that spot and wait for the perfect photo opportunity to arise.) A fashion shoot was taking place, and the model is changing shoes. It reminds me of the scene in the film Red when Helen Mirren, dressed to the nines for an important political soirée, and she’s just completed some spy stuff and is no longer in sight of the other guests, and she has more spy stuff to do, and unlike the vast majority of films with female spies in high heels who run around doing their spy stuff in entirely impractical footwear, Helen is handed a pair of very practical boots and immediately dons them, for she is a professional, and she has spy stuff to do that involves guns and punching. So, yeah, I love this picture, and the juxtaposition of practical and sexy footwear.
T plus 13 days
Yesterday we left Milan, got to our rented VW, and spent a relaxing and glorious 2 plus hours skirting death with Italian drivers. And I am reminded of something worth saying. We travel with a wifi pod, the SIM chip in which was activated prior to our flight from BOS to LHR. When we arrived in Milan it crapped out, which was unfortunate, as it gave me access to the frequently useful femmebot, and she was supposed to guide us to Fiumelatte. But no. We had to resort to the German GPS that came with our car, a domineering and unfriendly mannbot all of the instructions for which were in French (the car had an F plate). Anyway, later I discovered that Milan itself was the problem. Our private wifi pod functioned (so far) everywhere that wasn’t Milan.
So, still yesterday. Got to Aosta, got into our new apartment. It is comfortable, and the stove works. (That new stove in Milan petered out after 2/3 of a use.) However, we need to climb 50+ stone steps from the street to our door, and probably because this building was constructed in 1748, the steps are of random heights, hence require constant attention. Getting our things up the stairs left us drenched and exhausted. Cool showers were needed.
Later we ventured out into the picturesque town surrounded by snowy peaks. The town itself, however, was warm, and throngs of Italian tourists mobbed the pedestrian ways. At this point I started to realize something. I had always heard that Paris empties out in August as Parisians take to the cooler countryside to vacation. Clearly the same is true in Italy, and Aosta is a prime destination for those escaping northern Italian cities.
This fact crystallized into certainty when we later went to dinner at one of the better restaurants in town. We arrived relatively early (19:30), got seated after our American vax cards were perused, and then I made the huge mistake of ordering the 3 courses on a page of local mountain foods. I find Italian menus perplexing in the extreme, and I was getting increasingly frustrated trying to order just enough food for me, and not a battalion of hungry soldiers. Well, that battalion would have eventually pushed their plates away un-emptied having been served what we were served. As to that, unlike better Milanese restaurants, there was very little pause between the courses. They were happy to have us finish and leave, and seat some later arriving Italians at our table. (This was not the rule, and in the off season it is never the rule, in our experience. You sit down to dine, and the table is yours until you crawl away from it. But that restaurant was touristy from the get-go, and we were the wrong sort of tourists for that season, and patrons were waiting. Ciao.)
And now we get to meat and cheese, and today, specifically at 2am = 02:00. I have written in the past of an experience with Camembert, which is (to me) basically cheese LSD. Last night’s dinner was laden with tasty mystery cheeses, which had me awake (and angry as sin, for the first time, at Italy’s inland diet) for 4+ hours. MSG only does 2 hours, so Francesca thinks the culprit was formaggio. Fuck.
By the way, in the dozen days of our Italian journeys, we have seen fewer than ten – if that – Americans. It’s a blessing, and a sign of how hard it is to travel to Europe from the USA in a plague year.
(We occasionally did see a fair number of Americans, but without exception we did so at crux points – places where they needed to congregate in order to get through some official barrier, like at airports.)
Below the steps leading up to our apartment, Even individual steps were not uniform. A route had to be learned from top to bottom that would minimize the risk of injury. The top two steps pictured are particularly bizarre, and I conclude from this that they were not intended for elites – the kind of people who would have you incarcerated (or worse) for discommoding them in any way.
And speaking of elites, people who swoon over castles and their often elaborately furnished and decorated interiors, are idiots. 99% of those people, were they transported back to the time of the castle’s construction, would have been minions: laborers, lackeys, serfs, etc. (Not me, of course.) Their lives would be full of hardship, a fair bit of pain, and short. Well, yeah. But ok, so the swooners maybe don’t care. The British to this day doff their caps to their pedophilic betters. Stupid of me to even bring it up. Skip this paragraph and carry on.
We saw a Roman theatre ruin today. Cool. There was an even more ancient site, a 7000 year old megalithic ruin, consisting of some sticks in the ground indicating positions of some megalithic crap. It was a trek. The day was hot. Francesca failed to convince me of its worth. Wasn’t on my bucket list; still isn’t. I hate bucket lists. I’ve always hated them, but now – the big C looming over my future – I loath them with added fervor. We did not go see the sticks. (That’s the trouble with the majority of archaeological sites of the order of 7000 years old. Their building materials tend to rot away, and special devices are required to figure out the outline of settlements from such times. Once the outline is determined, you put away your devices and put sticks in the ground to indicate important corners. Maybe add a plaque with an artists rendition of what the place may have looked like. Add a goat to the scene, and voila!)
Today is day 1 of a several day heat wave which will haunt us in Annecy and Lyon, our next two stops. Tomorrow we hope to take a gondola up a nearby mountain. If we succeed, I shall write about it. If we fail, I shall sit on the toilet all day and try to rid my body of dudgeon.
Most of the pleasures of this trip have been of this sort, the sort I’m about to write about, if you’ll just be patient. She – pictured below – and her brontosaurus, saw us looking in the door of a shop at her; oh, these people are looking at me; I will go over, say hello, get cuddly scratches, and the world will be a better place. Fortunately she wagged in English. Dogs.
(Remember the dog in Matera I wrote about to which I gave my Dog Whisperer look from some distance, and who immediately recognized what the look meant, and was all gung ho to respond, and almost pulled his owner off his feet in his/her effort to fulfill the promise of the look I’d given him/her/them? Remember? I recently had a similar experience at my favorite local surf spot. I was sitting on a bench atop an embankment watching the sea, and a girl was walking by beneath me with a smallish bulldog kind of beast, and evidently I must emit some sort of magical dog friendly aura by this point, with a range of 50 meters or so, because even prior to me doing more than just noticing the boofy, it stopped, and resisted being pulled further away. The girl turned around, and I said to wait just a second. I walked down the embankment, the dog waiting patiently, refusing to budge, and we shared a priceless moment together. I almost felt that the dog had turned the tables, and was doing some Geoffrey Whispering, for I really felt drawn. The girl said I must be a dog person. I replied: “you have no idea.”)
(Francesca has reminded me of a detail of the brontosaurus dog encounter of which I was unaware, for I was so focused on the boofy. She – the dog – approached us full of hope, but as I had made the eye contact, the boofy was locked onto me. When she reached us she handed the brontosaurus to Francesca, then turned her attention back to me. She clearly knew we were together, and just as clearly felt Francesca looked trustworthy. “Would you hold my brontosaurus for a moment while I commune with your husband?” And then, communing done, she carefully took her brontosaurus back, and retreated into the shop, as pictured below.)