With the best intentions to write everyday, I set up my blog. Unfortunately, the umbilical cord that keeps the lifeblood of our internet addiction flowing – wifi – has been unreliable.
I arrived in Geneva mid-afternoon on Tuesday, March 19th, after a long journey from Denver to Washington D.C. onward to Frankfurt – now there’s a marathon of a flight connection! – and finally Geneva. It was my intention to jump into the rental car and drive either to Chamonix or Courmayeur since I didn’t believe for a moment I could survive the long drive – particularly through Torino – after such a long plane trip. But the weather was so beautiful and the roads fairly empty that when I popped out of the Mont Blanc Tunnel at 4:30 in the afternoon, I kept going. And yes, it is possible to drive for four and a half hours without radio, CD or MP3!
Snow had fallen in the Alps the night before, treating me to stunning views of trees covered with fresh snow and soaring alabaster peaks against a bluebird sky. I’ve seen Mont Blanc from nearly every angle, including once from a low-level flight in Swiss International Airline’s brand new A340 on a journalist’s junket, but never quite so unforgettable as this.
Anyone who lived in Europe when the 7-mile long, two-lane tunnel was transformed into an inferno the morning of March 24, 1999, can’t possibly enter the tunnel without a little uneasiness. I can’t. This was the part I worried about the most as I drove through the Arve River valley to the tunnel. If I had felt the least bit tired, which I wasn’t, I would never have taken the risk of entering the tunnel. Not fair to anyone. Driving through the Mont Blanc tunnel is one of the few times I witness restraint on the part of Italian and French drivers as they respect the speed limit and the 500 foot distance required – and monitored – between vehicles.
Once out of Valle d’Aosta and into the flatland between mountains and hills, the Alps bordering France and Italy appeared, drenched in the rose-colored light of the setting sun. Monte Viso, the triangular peak that is the highest in the Cottian Alps, soars above its neighbors. A solitary soldier, seen from miles away.
The remainder of the long drive was fairly easy, even the rush hour traffic of the frequently maddening tangenziale circling Torino to the west. The Asti Est (east) exit that used to be a transition from the relative ease of the autostrade to the confusing maze of construction zones and then onto the Asti-Alba road, lined with prostitutes and slowed by gawking truck drivers. But now, with the autostrade completed between Asti and Alba, the once 30 minute drive is reduced to a quick 10 or 15, depending on how brave one is push the speed limit. Something Italians generally have no problem with doing!
Arriving in Treiso and finding the Argiturismo Il Bricco beyond the church, high on the bricco (hill), was easy. So many times before I had driven through the square. Nothing had changed in the past 14 years except for appearance of the restaurant and bar Profumo di Vino, the successful brainchild of Mexican chef, Guillermo (Memo) Field.
Plates of local cheeses and tender, tasty salami with a basket of feather light grissini helped down my throat by the family’s Barbera d’Alba was all I needed. The 28-hour journey was over, but the adventure was just beginning.
It will take me a few days to catch up on my writing, but I will. So much to process after 9 interviews!