Day 5: Alpine Adventures


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Europe » Italy » Aosta Valley » Aosta
June 25th 2011
Published: June 25th 2011
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Last night I dreamed in Italian. I think it is a good sign.

Rise and Shine
For the third say in a row I stuffed myself with cakes and fruit at breakfast. I was careful to avoid the cheese plate this time. My cappuccino was better than yesterday, possible from acquired taste. I left the hotel much earlier than the last few days in an attempt to get some mountain trail walking accomplished before the heat of the afternoon set in.

Expectations versus Reality
Above Aosta on the mountain slopes is the little ski village of Pila (Pee-la), accessed by a quiet 20 minute gondola ride. From its website and general description, I figured Pila was similar to Whistler. Upon arrival, I found this was not the case. Winter must be its main season, because the whole place was pretty much boarded up. Semi-abandoned hotels have always made me nervous since watching “The Shining.” I can’t say the resort was all too pretty either. The first hotel complex I came to was concrete and yellow, with stalled repair jobs all over. The village probably looks much nicer in the winter, when the snow covers the flaws made so visible in the summer.

Outdone by Old Men
There were lots of mountain bikers on the slopes, almost completely men. Age did not appear to be an issue, for I saw several men who were completely grey speeding along on their sport bikes. This, of course, made me feel somewhat physically inadequate, since I was struggling just to get a good breath of air. In my defense, walking on any trail where the elevation rises 300 feet in 30 minutes is a lot, and doing it at 2,700 feet in elevation is even more strenuous. Happily, there was a flat path cut into the Alpine woods specifically made for unambitious tourists.

Ordering Something I Forgot I Didn’t Like
Lunch was a simple sandwich at one of the few open cafes. The only complete sentence I know is, “Sorry, I only speak English.” With that as the first line out of my mouth, most people dumb it down immediately. Another important thing to remember is that just because I recognize a word on the menu, doesn’t mean I actually like what is being offered; a fact I discovered midway through my sandwich. Gorgonzola cheese is
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On my way to Pila
best in smaller quantities, and the folks at the café were more than generous with what they served. I scraped it off when they weren’t looking.

Weather Woes and No Pants
Every day I’ve been here so far has had blue skies and sunshine. Perfect vacation weather, except my comfort exponentially declines the hotter it is past 75 degrees. Yes, I am probably a wimp, accustomed to the “summers” in western Washington. It’s been in the 80s all week, but the sun feels so much more intense. When I’m outside, I am literally melting into a puddle. I’ve been taking two showers a day simply because when I come back to my room in the afternoon, my clothes and my skin are soaked, and half of me is slathered in sunscreen. It’s an icky feeling.

In response to this, I have decided there shall be no more pants. My sweatiest, smelliest days occurred when I was wearing pants, and the more comfortable days happened to be when I was wearing skirts. So, with the exception of any rural trekking, I will be completely in skirts. This means that my Milan shopping quest will not be aimless, but purposeful. This may mean I should get a new pair of shoes too. Huh, funny how that works out.

Daring to Dine Out
This is the fourth night I’ve been in Italy and so far I have not mustered up the courage to go anywhere for dinner. I would like to let any Rick Steves fan know that when he says it’s easy for non-Italian speakers to visit the country, he means it’s easy for him. It was terrifying my first couple days, trying to get a pizza or gelato, let alone the idea of ordering from a foreign menu with all the locals staring at me. The latter still makes me uncomfortable, but I’ve come to accept that whenever I try to speak with someone, there is a strong possibility that I will embarrass myself.

My First Dining Experience, at Last
By 8pm the temperature was comfortable, and I strolled down the main pedestrian path in search of dinner. I came upon an uncrowded restaurant next to the East Gate and perused their menu, posted outside. The dishes were listed in Italian, French, and English. I would disagree with the statement that restaurants with English menus are in business for American tourists. There was a Spanish couple at the table next to mine and they had to use the English menu because neither of them read the other two languages.

With some pointing and stumbling over my words, I ordered spaghetti with monkfish and vegetables. It was absolutely delicious and filling. I ate as slowly as I could, stretching my time to an hour, but that’s all I could manage. I think the staff expected me to hang out with a cup of coffee or something, but I broke president and took off after my payment was collected. I was just thrilled that I finally managed to go into a restaurant and order food. No wine with dinner, although that would have been preferable. I want to learn “inexpensive” first.

Ending the Evening
Upon returning to my little room, I flung open my suitcase and began repacking. It doesn’t matter how neatly everything goes in, after four days it’s all a mess. Tomorrow morning I’ll make my way back to Milano, a 3-4 hour commute. At least this time I will be a little more aware of how to use the train.


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LunchLunch
Lunch

Coca Cola mostly tastes the same here
Original Roman bridgeOriginal Roman bridge
Original Roman bridge

The river has since moved, so now it's just for looks.
Me on the Roman bridgeMe on the Roman bridge
Me on the Roman bridge

I'm literally melting in front of the camera.


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