Le vent nous portera

With age

May 2023. Our BA flight from Boston to London was late, threatening the comfortable gap we had at Heathrow prior to catching a connecting flight to Turin, but that flight too was late, so we managed to board a very few minutes before they shut the doors and taxied to the runway. The weather in Turin and the surrounding region was forecast to be biblical, and indeed the Italian Gran Prix had been canceled due to flooding, none of the Formula 1 cars being equipped with those cool exhausts that are raised above the vehicle itself, this enabling vehicles so equipped to drive through high water. (Remember my story of driving a VW-Bug through 2.5 to 3’ high water in Zihuatanejo? In that case, to prevent the engine from shutting down due to my exhaust being well below flood level, I had to race through town on roads I could not see. My passengers must have been thrilled.)

A family of Swiss friends (Macé, Lidia, and two sons) trained down from Winterthur to intersect with our stay in Turin a couple of full days. During those days the weather – as mentioned – was frightful. Wind and rain during all of their stay. Fortunately Turin – which Francesca and I had never visited (she had the impression gleaned from some online source that the city was entirely vegetarian; I had my doubts, ultimately well founded) – was plentifully supplied with covered walkways in some of the major shopping areas.

Macé, exercise his mantra, proceeded to death march us through this maze of colonnades. Being 18 years older than Macé, and presumably Lidia, and even Francesca, I grumbled. Still, it was a pleasant visit, as always, and we bid them warm goodbyes as they boarded their train back to Switzerland … at which point the sun came out, and remained out during the rest of our stay. This weather change enabled us to discover Turin’s large piazza by the (very high) river Po. This pleasant space is bordered by several outdoor cafes (my favorite kind), and we spent much time there not death marching over hot coffee and pastries.

Le train nous portera

This trip was our first in which we traveled strictly by train, and it was by train(s?) that we wended our way from Turin to Rapallo, at which place we were picked up and transported to our fav place on the Italian Mediterranean coast. We were looking forward to visiting our favorite restaurant, one we had visited many times before. The owner, Matteo, was one of our fav people in this town. Alas, someone new had purchased the restaurant, and we were told Matteo and his sister were running a new restaurant up in the high hills (small mountains) surrounding the town (which I shall no longer name, as it has so far avoided being despoiled by loathsome people sometimes disparagingly called tourists; Francesca and I are NOT tourists, rather we’re peripatetic residents). The new owners claimed to have no information about exactly where Matteo had gone. Pfft.

We told our friends at the nearby grocery store (where we were recognized and warmly greeted) that Matteo was gone. “Ah, si, Matteo … here is his phone number! He has a new restaurant in the hills.” (Gods I love this town.) We called, explained who we were, much to Matteo’s delight, and made a reservation for the next day. A pleasant lunch was had, one of three during our 2 weeks stay.

We taxied to the restaurant, about 500 feet (152m) above sea level, along very windy roads. Matteo informed us the taxi had likely overcharged us, but he had a suggestion. And as his knowledge of this region was still spotty, he is not to blame for what occurred as a result of following his suggestion. But before that, we had an enormously pleasant meal with an enormously pleasant view down to the Mediterranean from our table. And there were dogs with whom I gained a rapid rapport.

Anyhoo, the meal over, we prepared to depart, this time avoiding the villainous taxi option, and instead decided to walk back to our lodging, for Matteo had heard that in the town up the street from his restaurant there was a path that one could follow back to the coast. Well, that sounded potentially delightful.

The walk up to that town was not without its hazards, as it consisted of what can only charitably be termed a walkway, varying in width between 0 and 12 inches (0 to .3m), and this walkway ran along the edge of a curvy road upon which one frequently encountered careening Italian drivers. (Matteo’s restaurant had no parking, and 5 cars were creatively parked on the street, a hazard to all but those same Italian drivers, who avoided these vehicles with self-assured aplomb.) Still, needing only occasionally to hug the railing running next to the road as some driver flew blithely in our general direction, we made it to the town, the first building encountered being a church, and next to that an opening in the foliage indicating the start of the rumored pathway.

This picture of the pathway puts a light on it that is scarcely deserved. Most of the steps were dissembling; the flint walls along the side were giving up their fight with gravity and dumping shards on many steps; the foliage along the verge had decided, as no one seemed to care anymore, that it would grow out into the way of passersby with complete abandon, most frequently sporting thorns of surprising length and ferocity. The thorns doubtless helped protect the plants from the wild boars we later learned roamed the area.

It was hot; the path seemed endless; Francesca, at the best of times displeased with the habit of raw Nature’s desire to brush up against her, especially if said Nature is painfully pointy, grew increasingly frantic as we descended into this hellscape. I did my best to hold the brutal greenery at bay, but I too found this endless bushwhack walk onerous.

Eventually the horror diminished when we encountered a paved road-like thing. We were still quite far from our ultimate destination, and wearing out rapidly, but for a while we didn’t wish we’d had a machete. Finally the road-like thing met an actual road, albeit still far from home. I was ready to collapse. Francesca was having even less fun. Just about to trudge the remaining miles to the coast on this asphalt, the gods took pity. An automobile approached from uphill, heading downhill. In desperation I stuck my thumb out. The deities monitoring our pathetic progress caused the macchina to stop, and a lovely middle aged Italian couple enquired if we would like a lift and signaled their willingness to have us board. And so it was we cruised the remaining windy miles to town in air conditioned comfort.

We ate at Matteo’s twice more during our stay, each time using a bus. The second time we regaled Matteo with the story of our adventures on his path. He apologized profusely, and we all had a good laugh when I suggested he’d meant us to perish on the path. LOL.

The remainder of our stay was uneventful, consisting of walks along the Mediterranean, occasionally watching the fishing boats come in – like this one – so, yeah, and cafes, walks in town, food shopping, and sitting in our spacious apartment watching the old men on the park benches share stories – one assumes – of old times.

Our whole trip was about 6 weeks, but with each passing year our interest in seeing the sights/sites grows ever smaller. This trip, more than any previous, we relaxed, leisurely melting into the places we visited (Nice and Paris were yet to come). I chatted up a waitress who wore an almost steampunk apron, and she was delighted when I mentioned one of my favorite singers was Biagio Antonacci. She expressed her approval by hitting her fist against her chest, at her heart, with 2 fingers extended. That was such a cool gesture. Pity I’m a goofball and couldn’t respond appropriately.

People recognized we had a routine: breakfast at the cafe next to our apartment; Negronis in the afternoon at the cafe across from the big church; etc. We were attempting to live there, and that changes the way we were perceived. We really love it. We dream of something more permanent, at present rendered unrealistic by the requirement that I visit Boston every 3 months to have my cancer monitored, and by Francesca’s professor position which she really likes. But we dream.

Meanwhile …

The mainstream of theoretical physics becomes with each passing day increasingly ludicrous. They have their wagons circled in the middle of a vast desert, keeping their focus on each other, prisoners of their own inanity.