September 18, 2009

Super Mario

Southbound through Chambéry, we headed west at St-Jean-de-Maurienne, and sat gaping at the alpine scenery as we sped through the mountains. Great cliff faces loomed over the tracks, skirted by forest that thinned the higher it got, until the tops were void of all vegetation. The snow that usually capped these peaks had melted, such that the rivers alongside the rails flowed fast and full. Our third stop was Modane, where the douane (customs) came aboard. We left France through a tunnel, and arrived in Italy on the other side, in Bardonecchia. The douane had a catch:

“Monseiur, is this your passport?”
Cue nervous twitching and shifty eyes.

He left the train with the douane and then the train left the station.

We arrived in Turin and were met by Mario Panero, who was not actually related, but without whom our trip would have been fruitless. Secretly, I was hoping he would wear red overalls and have a brother named Luigi. Instead, at 74 years old, this retired IT pro was into computers when they took up a whole room and had less technology than your iPod. Dad found Mario’s son on Skype, with a simple surname search, and it started a domino effect, eventually leading us to actual living relatives. He’d put notices in the local paper, spoken to Panero-s around the region and organised our stay with the care my own grandfather would have given us.

Mario took us to the hotel he’d arranged, outside Turin in Cambiano. Then he took us to Chieri, where he lives with his wife Miranda. They insisted we join their family for dinner, which we did despite the language barriers. Mario speaks quite good English, but Miranda practically none. She studied French, as did her daughter, who also knew a little English. Fortunately, the local Piemontese dialect is very similar to French, so the dinner conversation was a little Franco-Italiano-Anglo, but we were all laughing as they described local opinion of the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

In true Italian fashion, Miranda encouraged us through ten dishes including (but not limited to) local paté, stuffed endives, mushroom pasta, rabbit, three different desserts and fruit to finish. Frankly, I was surprised I didn’t explode on the way back to the hotel, but decided it was all energy for the day to come, and what a day it would turn out to be.

Reading #FrenchSafari: Super MarioTweet this!

No comments:

Post a Comment