Anyhow, onto the trip! We left the US from Chicago and flew into Frankfurt in serious cattle class on an American Airlines plane. Don't fly with them. They've taken everything bad about flying and concentrated it into one high definition experience. Blergh. Frankfurt was my first ever experience of Europe and consisted of a spunky elfin boy at the check in telling me I wasn't on the flight to Turin and security guards barking commands at me in German then pulling me out for a full on body search in which they attempted (vainly) to find my bra and after giving up proceeded to stick a very cold metal detector down the back of my jeans 0_o When we made it to the gate we discovered that the flight was overbooked (leaving me off the list) but thanks to Jo's magical people charming skills I not only ended up on the flight to Turin, but in first class! So my entry to Italy was with champagne in hand, prawns in my belly and a stunning lemon panna cotta for dessert (while poor Jo got water and a tiny toblerone).
Turin was gorgeous. It took us a while to realise that the Winter Olympics were there last year (slow I know) but that meant the city was all spanky and cleaned up still. My boss quickly moved us from our nursing home style conference hotel to stay with him at the stunning Principi de Piermonte that was opened the same day as the games! It felt like rags to riches, but there was surprisingly little difference in price between the two...and a whole lot of difference in quality. The conference hotel had camp beds and a shower the size of a coffin! The best moment was when Jo opened the curtains and let out a little involuntary scream!
I won't go on about it too much, but the hotel was a big player in making out time in Turin so wonderful. The room was gorgeous and so lovely to come home to after spending all day at the conference (which was held in some industrial hotel on top of a hill on the edge of the city so you were trapped there) and had the most incredible bath.
The other brilliant thing about the Principi was the barman, Flavio, who not only made incredible drinks and great conversation (like the time he visited Australia and ended up in the middle of Mardi Gras) but he also had excellent food recommendations. Flavio got us in to a couple of different restaurants that specialise in local cuisine and we had some wonderful meals as a result. The highlight for me was a dinner we had with some friends we'd made at the conference, great girls from Norway and Finland who were so much fun to hang out with, as well as my boss John and his partner Jo. We went to a little restaurant called La Campannia where the owner, a little old Italian man, took charge of us and planned our menu for us. We started with an incredible raw sausage (yep, raw, but amazingly well spiced), followed by a range of meat based antipasto that I wish I'd taken pics of but I was too busy devouring, followed by multiple pasta bliss then a dessert trolly that made my eyes bulge! Throughout we had wonderful local wines and we, of course, ended with homemade grappa and lemoncello. Every meal we had in Turin was good! IF anyone is heading to Europe and wants to sidetrack for a little R&R and some great eating, I'd highly recommend hitting Turin and the Principi for a few day and let Flavio be your guide (he also makes a wonderful aperol and champagne cocktail). Although every time he recommended a restaurant to us he sent us there with a little blue envelope addressed to the owner and we still have no idea what they said!
Believe it or not, this one was the lowest on our list of good meals we had in Turin!
The other place he sent us to was the Museo Nationale Del Cinema (National Cinema Museum) which was just wonderful! It's housed in a wonderful old building (the Mole Antonelliana) that is one of the icons of the city. The museum is basically a mass collection of installations that progress you from the earlier forms of moving image (shadow puppetry, magic lanterns...) through to dedications to modern film genres and mechanics. There's a lot of interactive stuff including a bike you can ride that bluescreens you into ET along with the other flying kids! We were pretty over stimulated by the time we got to the end, but it was a great experience.
On our second day in Turin we had an amazing moment where the skies, that had been gloomy and overcast since we arrived, slowly cleared to reveal the snow capped Alps all around us!
Anyhow, that's probably enough about Torino for now! The conference well, my talk was ok and we had a wonderful and relaxing time (I guess that could have been enough of an entry right there!) I'll leave you with the usual mug shot :) More Italy coming soon so stay tuned!