January 14, 2011

my name is brad, i'll be your sommelier this evening

Sometimes a Swiss Army Knife can make you the most popular guy in your hotel corridor!  Some of the students have discovered that when you are in italy, and close to France, wine is much cheaper than beer.  What do you do if you are not a wine drinker?  Choose an inexpensive wine at random from a store and bring it back to the hotel.  Step 2, after realizing that wine bottles have these things called corks, and corks require a special tool to remove them from your bottle, you wander around the corridor wondering how you are going to find a cork screw.  This is where I came in.

“Do you know where we can find a corkscrew?”  I was asked.  Being a leader makes me the font of all knowledge of course, so I must know.  ”Well…” I said, “I have a corkscrew on my swiss army knife.”  ”Great!  can you open this for me?”  Why not, I thought… Somehow the idea of me opening a bottle of wine for a student wasn’t anywhere on my list of duties as a faculty member, and I’m not sure its one that the administration would want to cultivate, but here we are in Italy, I might as well be helpful.  So, I cut the foil and pop one cork.  Its as if the sound of that cork sliding out of the bottle was like some kind of whistle.  The next thing I know I’m surrounded by students holding bottles of wine.  One or two of them decided it would be a great idea to take a picture of me opening wine bottles.  I think the picture below really captures the moment.  You can see Craig laughing in the background as if to say,  ”ha ha, there goes Brad’s career.”


Thus began our first night in Torino.  It was another long train trip from Lausanne to Torino, made a bit more exciting by the fact that just after we crossed the border into Italy the train got behind schedule.  What had been a 40 minute layover in Milano Centrale turned into a 10 minute dash from one train to the next.

Once we got to Torino, we had lunch, our first at McDonalds since the trip began, because we knew we were too early to check into our hotel.  I had a McBacon and fries.  It tasted quite good.  The Hotel Artua Solferino is a nice old European hotel.  Each room is very different.  My room is up the stairs at the end of the hall, and has the smallest bathroom in Italy.  Right over my shower is a skylight that leaks cold air like crazy.  This morning as I tried to take a shower, I could not get hot water and so the combination of the cool breeze and the luke warm shower water (with approximately zero pressure) was pretty pathetic.

After orienting the students to the area, we turned them loose to see what they could find for dinner.  Craig and I waited a while and then took off for the city centro.  We walked around and investigated a lot of restaurants.  We looked for some that might be able to accommodate our entire group, and some that looked like they might be nice for us.  We ended up finding a great little neighborhood restaurante.  Not a tourist place at all, and not pretentious.  They had a three course chefs menu that looked great.  I had awesome risotto, a green salad, and delicious veal arrosto.  The meal came with 3 dl of wine which was perfecto.

With dinner done, we made our way back to the hotel.  Its amazing how tired I get each day, worrying about the 24 welfare of 24 students traveling in a foreign country where none of us really speak the language well is very tiring.  This seems to be especially true here in Torino.  Although we have heard that the city has made great strides in welcoming tourists, we find that there are not all that many people that really speak English.  Despite that , it is a good beginning to Torino.