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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

rome is a blur

Time moves through Rome in tracer fashion.  Its raining, its cold.  The sun comes out and the world is ablaze.  A chance run in with an American teen pop group in TAD.  Hearing Pink Floyd blare above pieces of the Berlin Wall on the Spanish steps as night sets in.

If at the point of trattoria overload head over to the perfect bun.  Burgers that are hard to resist but also perhaps the only place in Rome to find a burrito.  True to form, amazingly fresh ingredients and good company A meeting spot for Rome's film industry.

  A TNT package arrives.  The lads have sent a prototype of our driving pants.  I quickly change and hop in the car for the long drive up the A1 towards Milan.  Flashing through tunnels I make my way through Perugia and onwards.  Its sunny for once and I spy hill top towns and crags in the dolomites.  No time to slow except for the "Speed Teacher" radar system.  Five hours later and I'm in Parma.  Pants still comfortable and look as out of the box fresh as promised.  Now it's Milan.  Change shirts (Auto Grill espresso mishap),  keep pants & don moleskin coat.  Just in time for dinner meeting.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Updated Carrera shots- Porsche #152

Thanks Andy.  Hope that you are recouperating.


Venice Recomposed

"Don't go to Venice.  We know you, you'll hate it.  Too crowded, too touristy.  It's a theme park."

A Friday night in November and the wind off the Adriatic is brutal.  The rain pelts our backs as the water taxi driver takes our bags below.  We follow and as the door slides shut we are out of the wind.  The smell of varnish, leather, and a base note of the sea coddles us.  It is quiet save for the burbling of the motor.  The boat is pushed away and we are off.
 The rain spattered windows give glimpses of buildings rising through the darkness of the Grand Canal.  Twenty Minutes later we are moored next to The Bauer and we are quietly whisked to our room.

Coddled is a good word for Venice in November.  The rain empties the streets, the low sky brings the infamously narrow alleyways together at a tighter angle.  You walk a bit closer with the one you are with, lean in a touch more than usual to speak a thought.  The canals are there, the architecture is there but the slow burning thrill is in the walking.  A cup of coffee at a newsstand leads to a perambulation that lasts hours as you tuck yourself into your scarf and get lost,  amazed as one achingly beautiful square after another opens from the slanted streets.  In the afternoon you are hungry and if you are lucky you find yourself on Frezzeria and standing in front of Osteria Enoteca San Marco.  Get the cuttlefish- you won't be disappointed.

Harry's Bar is where the Americans go.  It's a rip off.  It's been franchised.  Probably true but when you open the door and squeeze into the small and crowded room there is indeed something different going on.  The opaque glass of the windows and the warm wood gives you another layer to put on- drawing you inward still more.  Everything seems to retreat and you sit.  Content to just sit and people watch and to sip your Bellini.  The Ciprianis may be currently on the lam but this seems to give Harry's even more of an outpost feel.

Before the hordes of tourists moved in to complain about the prices Harry's was and still is a nook of a hideaway with a grand expat pedigree.  Hemingway and Welles had it correct.  Sit against the wall, watch the people and see what happens.  A Bellini and a grilled cheese are the way to go here.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

the dinner guest that never left

I stumbled across Silvia's great place Mamma Ciccia while in Mandello.  A couple of lefts and a right down some tight alleys and you are there.  Silvia's brother cooks an ever changing menu (perch from Lake Como,  pastas the lightness of air, and a mean apple torte).  Their cousin, could tell us a thing or two about shirts and quietly presides over the 5 tables and bar.   Pouring beautiful local wines and the odd glass of Laphroaig he joins me at the table and talks about the best places to put a monogram. 

Silvia et al are in the midst of re-doing several rooms in the apartments above.  Just like the owners, the rooms are smart, stylish, and impeccable.  What better place to sleep off the kitchens labors than upstairs?

A quick walk down to the quay and its back to the room where I fall asleep to bells ringing in the square.  Not quite the excitement of a mixed route in the Cham valley but we do what we can.  This might be in my top 5 of places to disappear for a week.  On a rainy and cold Northern Italian evening I can't think of a better place to be.  Have a look at their site about "the idea".  Lovely words.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Plan B- A Pilgrimage of Sorts

By now its lashing down with rain and I vaguely follow signs to Como where our seven fold ties are being made (save that meeting for a later date) and beyond to the farther reaches of the lake. 

When I finally stop and ask for directions in Lecco, the attractive girl at the Agip station doesn't understand me entirely (who does?) but the way that she say "Mandello del Lario" and points to the north absolutely floors me.  In my mind this is how the name will always sound, in a soft, hushed, reverential manner.  I race through the lakeside tunnels, watching the cliff tops drift in and out as the clouds roll by- and then I am there.  The building seems implausible, who would put a motorcycle factory at the base of a Mountain and at the shores of a beautiful lake?  The Guzzi folks of course: Moto Guzzi

It is an old world factory in every sense of the word.  From its Italian airforce Eagle flying overhead to its vaguely Wonkaesque red door.  It is everything that it should be and so much more.  I know that supposedly old men in smelly leathers ride them,  that Guzzi appear to continuously  flirt with insolvency,  and that replacement parts are the stuff of myth.  It doesn't matter.  This place oozes soul and history.  I keep waiting for a mad hatter to stroll through the gates.

Instead I get Burtie(?) in a red jumpsuit who informs me that the gates close at 3:00 as does the museum tour (its now 4:00)  He then tells me that they haven't used their much lauded wind tunnel in years as it makes the lights in the town blink on and off.  I still stare at the doors and I am that much more mystified by this quiet town and its quiet brand as dusk and rain settle in.  For a brief Guzzi History:guzzista


24 Hours to burn in Milan

Flying into Malpensa, I find myself with 24 hrs between commitments.

What to do?  Grab the rental car and head west as fast as possible, through Courmayeur, the tunnel, and into Cham proper?  I look down at my Crockett & Jones cap toes- not exactly front pointing material.
  My Imperial Black moleskin jacket seems an ill companion for the winds funneling down the Mont Blanc massif. I think of the rust specked and dulled ice tools in the garage at home and my pathetic lack of shape.

I don't think that making a go of the Twight/Backe testpiece "There Goes the neighborhood" (ED+, 5.9,A3, 90 degrees) on the north west face of Aguille Sans Nom is in the cards this trip (or ever).  Hell seems to search me out these days rather than my trying to find it amidst spindrift and rime.

Plan B with the clock ticking then.