Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Who had the Bright Idea of the Alps in Summer?

June 11, 2005, 11:35 pm, Grangesises, Italy

You ever had a day start out really good, and as the hours pass, it gets better and better and then suddenly…things go downhill with the speed of an Indy racecar? Well, that’s kind of what happened to us today.

No, we didn’t get kicked off the train, or even get moved to a 2nd Class compartment. In fact, we met a very nice Italian lady, Giana, who lives in Torino (Turin) and she helped us find the right platform for our change of trains in Milan. Things were looking up. Then, on the train to Torino, the conductor, Vittorio, befriended us—even sat with us for the last half-hour of the trip, and told us about his adventures in America. He gave us his telephone number and told us to call him if we had any trouble while we were in Italy. Now I’m wondering if he was clairvoyant.

Okay, things started taking a turn for the worse in the village of Oulx where we learned that the bus didn’t go to Grangesises, but just to Sestriere, three kilometers away. No biggie, we thought. And it really wasn’t because when the bus actually arrived and took us to Sestriere, the bus driver was nice enough to take us to Grangesises, anyway. And for that, I gave him a ten Euro bill. (But now that I'm thinking about it, that was probably way too much for an extra three kilometers.) He drove off, leaving us at this “village.”

I guess it was as we entered the village that the alarm bells went off. It looked like a ghost town. We were the only two people around. I mean, the place looked totally deserted. (Remember the movie, "The Shining?" That's what it reminded us of.) We kept walking and finally came to a place that said “Residence.” I stayed with the bags while Kathy went up the stairs. I could hear her talking to someone, and at first I was relieved. But I knew something was very wrong when she called to me to leave the bags and come up. And that’s when she broke the news to me. It was essential to have a car here because none of the restaurants and shops were open in the summer, and we had to go into Sestriere—which, by the way, wasn’t all that big, and also didn’t seem to have anything open at eight o'clock in the evening. So, here we were, stuck in a seemingly deserted mountain village with no food and no way to get to town without walking (3 kilometers—2 miles--and up the mountain) and of course—nothing is open tonight so even if we did have a car, we couldn’t get any groceries tonight. And we hadn't eaten since breakfast in Venice.

Paolo, a young man who works at the resort, came to our rescue and drove us to Cesana, another village several kilometers away for pizza. He ate with us, and we treated, of course. He really was a great conversationalist—spoke excellent English, and we had a good time, almost forgetting about our situation. We were talking about options, and Paolo said, "Well, you could always hijack a ride. It is safe here." Kathy and I kind of looked at each other, but didn't say anything. But later, when Paolo again mentioned "hijacking" a ride, Kathy told him the real term was "hitch-hike," and we had a good laugh over it.

It was fun getting to know Paolo, but the fact remains, we’re in a difficult situation. First of all, the accommodations at this place are incredibly awful. Bad mattresses, a refrigerator that won’t close, no coffee-maker and oh, yes, no heat. And it’s freaking cold up here in the Alps. I’m praying we’ll have hot water for a shower tomorrow. I don’t know what we’re going to do about the rest of the week—a very long week, it could be. If we rented a car, it would cost us 60 Euros a day, which would, no doubt, be cheaper than a hotel for seven nights, if we decided to go on to Tuscany now. But we just might do that. Kathy isn’t excited about driving on mountain roads, and I can’t drive a stick shift. (No such thing as automatic transmissions around here, apparently.) Anyway, we’re going to sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow. This could turn out to be a substantially more expensive vacation than we’d planned.

I wonder if we dare call Vittorio?


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