[modified from the original, published Sep 24th, 2012]
Well we are now on the train from Chambery (France) to Torino (Turin – Italy). A good point is that we have brought on board a bottle of wine and consumed it along with a packet of chips and a crushed chocolate croissant that Julie found in the bottom of her pack. This was apparently the same chocolate croissant that Julie bought yesterday and which mysteriously went missing. Of course I suspected Julie of gaming as that was the second chocolate croissant she had bought and “lost” in a few days.
Another good point is that our seats have a power outlet in them, which we could have used to charge our i-devices if we had known it was there. Our neighbour across the aisle is using his for exactly that.
The bad points are that we got on the train about the last stop before people start getting off, meaning that the luggage accommodation was an issue. Not to mention the mayhem due to so many people apparently being in the wrong seats. Our seat was originally populated by the remains of someone’s lunch. But it is alright now, as about an hour into the trip, the owner has just appeared to reclaim them while I am typing this!
I seem to have forgotten all my Italian. Yesterday I tried to think of how to conjugate regular verbs and it took me about 15 minutes to recall how to do it (no kidding!). Julie’s French has picked up considerably but I think that she is noticing the lack of exposure for such a long time. We have resolved to return to France sometime to give her a further boost along so that she doesn’t loose it after all the effort studying it at uni etc. Since I have been turned to the dark side and now feel a trip to the French countryside might not only be survivable, but actually enjoyable, Julie is more positive about keeping up with her French.
Whatever else one feels in respect of the French, I have to hand it to them for their bread. It is so devourable, even without anything on it. The baguette is a national icon in my books! If you ever wondered why it is made in that silly shape, it is because the French figured out that it gives a near perfect ratio of crust to bread so that the flavour and texture experiences are maximised. It is also easy to hold when walking around!
Judging by the number of cyclists we saw with baguettes sticking out of the top of their packs, it is an icon/institution for everyone else as well. Its a shame about the “jams”. They don’t actually call them that, they call them confitures. The problem is they are all very runny. Sure they taste nice, but that is lost when one is flat out trying to catch the drips and squirts as they emerge from the baguette that is crushed in your mouth as you attack its divine being. It fairly ruins the whole French bread transcendence, as one is so busy trying to keep the confiture reasonably within the confines of one’s own baguette, mouth, hands and table, that the whole experience is diminished to somewhat of a sleazy transaction, best carried out in the privacy of one’s own home with the lights out.
Crossing into Italy brings a whole new experience when it comes to coffee and especially hot chocolate. Picture a bubbling mud pool from Rotorua and make it darker (and of course chocolate flavoured). That becomes your hot chocolate experience in Italy. What a delight. What the French have done for bread, Italy has done for hot chocolate drinks, in spades.
Our first attempt at interaction in Italian is a little off. Having just arrived, we are in a taxi going to the airport (don’t ask) and Julie comments “abbastanza umido” (= quite humid) to which the taxi driver replies “about 20 minutes”. His English wasn’t too flash, but that may have been the humidity getting to him! We certainly got to the airport pronto with no further mashups, linguistic or otherwise.
We have now met our tour guide, so all is well with the world again. Our group comprises about 21 walkers including us so there should be a lot of cameraderie. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately after our first experience) there will probably not be too much Italian interaction this week. C’est la vie, or rather, “cosi va la vita”.