Monday, February 20, 2006

To The Mooooooole!

The last few days we (a handful of relief crew) have had two goals in mind. Go see the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at La Biblioteca Reale and the Mole Antonelliana (which is pronouced "Mole-ay" but we've been calling it the "Moooole" from Austin Powers). But in both cases it's been a no go with us ending up at Via Po doing shopping/window shopping.

Last Night
We arrived,
in the pouring rain, at the Medals Plaza which is really close to where the Biblioteca is located. But Ed, fellow VTR relief person (who's worked the Medals Plaza from day 2), said that that area has been closed off. We stopped in to an information kiosk to ask the girl inside how we were supposed to get in. That was obstacle number one. She didn't speak English, but tried telling us what to do in Italian and French. She'd swap languages every few words; she couldn't decide what language to speak. All we needed her to do was mark an X on a map and we'd be on our way. She didn't understand what we needed her to do, but she managed to squeak out the fact that the biblioteca is actually CLOSED at 3pm and it was 2:55pm. So we gave up on that and walked to The Moooooole. There was a long line up of people waiting to enter the Mole and we decided to go Monday instead.

Then it was time to find a place to eat. By this point it was 3:45pm and I hadn't eaten since the morning and was starving (and starting to get grumpy from a lack of food). I forgot, though, that in Italy, you eat from 12pm to 2pm and then you're supposed to sleep from 2 to 4. We tried a caffe (yes that's how it's spelled) and there wasn't much for food left. There were some customers inside that were just leaving who seemed to be friends to the girl working behind the counter. They were telling us that in Italy this is considered a bad time to eat and they tried to convince their employee friend that she should make us some spaghetti or something anyway. What seemed to be an argument in Italian ensued and the customers shrugged their shoulders, said "Good luck" and left. The woman behind the counter said she'd make us gnocchi if we wanted it. So we stayed and ate.

After we ate, we left to explore other parts of downtown. Ed departed our little group to head to work at the Medals Plaza leaving Bill, Roger and myself behind.

The three of us thought we'd stick around Via Po for a while and do some shopping/window shopping. That was a mistake. The street was packed with couldn't move. The photo on the left was taken in a small break in the traffic. But since the sidewalks on Via Po are boxed in with archways, it packed us all in like sardines. We pushed our way through the crowds and somehow ended back up at the medals plaza. By that point the rain had turned to snow.

Bill and Roger said they wanted to try Bicerin (the chocolate coffee drink I mentioned in a previous post). So our focus changed from beating the crowds to getting the hell out of them and heading to Al Bicerin. Along the way, we passed the Museum of the Shroud of Turin. Roger and Bill hadn't seen it either so we stopped and took a look inside again.

Al Bicerin is only a few blocks from there but it felt like longer with the snow coming down hard. We arrived to with a long lineup of people outside. (I snapped the photo to the right there and so far it's the best photo I've taken here so far.) We only waited about 15 minutes to get in, drank our Bicerin and left.

Later that night we met up with Vision Mixer Dom and A2 Wolfgang (from Munich) and ate at "Stars and Roses" a restaurant recommended by locals and Lonely Planet's book on Turin. This time we made a reservation and got a seat. But it wasn't as good as we would have expected. Maybe all the good Italian food is turning us into food snobs.

In the cab ride to the restaurant Bill said something about WWII at which point Wolfgang started to proudly defend his homeland. I felt bad for him, the only German explaining his position to a Canadian, an American and two guys from Britain.

We took the tram home and met an American guy who told us he is in the process of dropping his American citizenship for a Canadian one. "I have nothing to tie me to the US," he told us. He lives in Winnipeg and said he loves Edmonton. I think he's crazy on both counts.

This Afternoon
Steve, Dom, Bill and I too a second stab at getting into the Mole. Attempt #2 was unsuccessful again...long line...again. But the weather was nicer and we stopped in a restaurant near the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento (left). It was a theatrically-themed place, where the washrooms seemed more like dressing rooms. My sister, Marcie, would love it. The service wasn't great, but the food was delicious. It seems to me that in Italy, restaurants with good service are far and few between. People here go there for the food, not the service.

Back to Via Po we went, did a little shopping/window shopping (pictured right). I snapped some photos (not featured here) for Leah, Jenn and Cindy (girls at work) so they could do some window shopping from their computers in Vancouver. At one point, we stopped too look a a display of some vintage posters for various ski resorts in Europe. An arrow pointed to the entrance to what looked like an apartment building. We followed the arrow to a door where a man buzzed us in and sent us to the second floor.

Me, Dom and Bill jammed into the oldest, tiniest elevator we'd ever seen and made our way up to the "piano secondo" (second floor)

Exiting the elevator, we were greeted by an older Italian woman (this part of the world seems to have an abundance of old Italian women) who showed us in. Inside was a huge collection of vintage posters and paintings. It turns out we are in her apartment and she uses the living room as a showroom.

She learns that Dom's wife is Swiss and she tries to convince him to spend €5000 on an old poster promoting Swiss skiing. She said it was an original. Dom in a nice way let her down. There was another one close by with Austria written all over it. She said "Someone from 'Casa Canada' bought this one for €4000" to which Dom replied "Was his name Wayne by any chance?"

The more she tried to sell us something, the more she started to foam at the mouth...almost literally. So that being said, with €5000 still in our bank accounts, we left the little art place and headed back to the IBC.

In the bullpen/relief crew room, Dom did a little surfing and found the same Vintage Swiss Poster on for $20.

And that's the kind of day it's been.

The Bad Things About These Olympics

Sorry about the lack of posts the last few days. I had the laptop stashed away for a few days. Despite what some have thought, I actually still haven't been assigned to anything. But I have done a little more sightseeing. But one of my installments today is a little different...

While my experience here at Torino 2006 has generally been a positive one...I do have some gripes about Turin and these Olympics that I haven't mentioned yet.

1. The Media Village
These buildings aren't meant for human occupation. Our Media Village "Verolengo" is a brand new building but was definitely rushed to completion. It looks good to the outside and even the hallways are fine. But once you get into the actual rooms it's a different story.

You share a bathroom with one other person, you get your own private sleeping quarters that's about 100 sq ft. There's a twin bed, a desk, a large stand-alone closet, a coat rack and a small side table. if you're lucky you get a patio. I have one, but the view is a big hole in the back where they're starting construction on another building. There is no kitchen of any kind, or even a fridge for that matter. I use the patio as my fridge. (It's cold enough to make my water cold)

The washroom you share is tiny. The shower stall isn't built properly and the shower curtain is sketchy at best. The curtain rod wasn't installed properly so it sags and the little drain thingy isn't set up properly. When I shower the bathroom gets flooded. You spend a lot of time mopping up afterwords unless you can cleverly tuck the shower curtain into the shower thingy. I really should just take a photo of it.

The locals that I've been working with here say that this area of Turin has developed in the last 6 months. Hastily built and rushed for the Olympics. After the games, they're going to be developed into rental apartments. I couldn't see that until they gut it and rebuild the interior.

2. The Food...At The Media Village
This is where I the Italians have really surprised me. Every morning we get a free breakfast. Actually they refer to it as "American Breakfast." It's basically their feeble attempt at bacon, eggs, sausage etc. It really is just runny liquidy egg like things, bacon that's barely cooked, weiners disguised as sausage, crousants that are dry and hard and toast made on something called "RotoGrill," where stick your bread on a roundabout with heaters under it. After several minutes, your toast is made. It's all self-serve.

The coffee is like mud. But this is my theory. In Italy, they make coffee by the cup. Rarely is a cup brewed in a pot and poured. I think they just don't understand what an "American Breakfast" is supposed to be like.

Those aren't the only options. They have various yogurts, jams, fruit cocktails and cereals. But it's the same stuff EVERYDAY. You'd think they'd change it up a bit with waffles or pancakes or something. But someone dropped the ball on this and figured this is what we'd want to eat for 20 days.

They offer something in the evenings, but it too is sketchy and costs €12. There are two positive though:
- In the morning they have a juicer machine. You put your cup in and take some Sicilian Blood Oranges from a basket and throw them into the machine. It spits out a cup of fresh squeezed Blood Orange juice. Really good.
- And in the evenings, they have free Italian white and red wines with Italian cheeses and meats to snack on. While you munch and drink, two really hot 20 year-old Italian girls who barely speak English tell you about Italian food and good Italian products to eat.

3. Traffic
There is no logic to the streets and the transit system of Turin. They have trams running up and down streets with cars cutting in front of buses attempting to mow down pedestrians. I'm shocked I've only seen 3 crashes here.

They split up their main streets with "express lanes" on the inside with regular traffic moving in lanes on the outside. But they put all the buses in the outside express lanes so the only way for someone in a little Fiat to get out of that lane is to cut the bus off. Keep in mind that this happens at 60-80 km/h.

Red lights and pedestrian crossings are mere suggestions. But apparently this is quite tame for Italy. Rome is supposed to be a complete mess!

4. Pollution
Italy still uses leaded gasoline for it's older cars. Add that to the industry that makes Torino a viable city and the extra diesel buses and trains in town for the Olympics and you get a nice brown cloud over the city. Several of us have had actual soot come out when we blow our nose.