Torino to London – Back to the Hack!*

Monday, 5 December, 2018

Things went really smoothly for leaving Turin. The cab showed up exactly as we got downstairs with our luggage, the train came on time, and our seats were great! This time first class felt a lot more like first class. Don’t know what happened the last time.

Porta Susa - waiting for the platform announcement
Porta Susa – waiting for the platform announcement
From the platform, Porta Susa
From the platform, Porta Susa
Half a sandwich and a chocolate on the train. The menu had a lot but I ordered only a sparkling water
Half a sandwich and a chocolate on the train. The menu had a lot but I ordered only a sparkling water

Anyway, the seats were comfy and we had our first forward facing seats of all our bookings (all requested that way but none except this delivered) Toilet is still disgusting. I think they must use a septic tank method. Not sure. Even the plugs were accessible and working. I watched two movies and then my battery died. Both fluffy and forgettable.

Oh and the scenery was gorgeous. Low and higher mountains (the Alps) usually draped with clouds at several levels, and snow covered (see the videos at the bottom). None of my photos do it justice, with the reflecting train lights etc. I thought, as I sat on that train, if I couldn’t have a sea or river view, I’d choose mountains.

I loved how the clouds floated across the mountains like they were draped
I loved how the clouds floated across the mountains like they were draped
Not much water but this big lake
Not much water but this big lake
And the scenery kept delivering
And the scenery kept delivering

Paris was another story. Arrival was on time and it was looking good until we tried to get down to the RER level so that we could get to Gare du Nord. The down escalator was broken. I suppose they opted to keep the only working one as the up, and I get that but when you have two heavy suitcases and a carry on, even down is a real challenge.

First I, then Krish, tried to find an elevator – no luck. It was a long way down with a landing in the middle. No choice but for Krish to bring each large case down in turn, me carrying the not-so-light carry on plus my CPAP and bags. Once down there we then had to get into the metro for the RER and again, there was no working escalator and no elevator anywhere. This time Krish had to bring each case down three levels. How the very elderly or disabled would manage it I have no idea. Never anyone around to ask questions of either. This seems common all over Italy and France, no station staff…

On the Paris RER - Krish waited with the cases on the platform level car
On the Paris RER – Krish (off camera) waited with the cases on the platform level car

After that, all went well. Krish and I took turns popping out of the station to look around. I didn’t go far. I thought about crossing the road and venturing further but the traffic was terrifying and the area around the station isn’t inviting.  Instead I found a Five Guys and got some Cajun fries – 3.50 for a small one. It was nice to have something hot and spicy after two months of under-seasoned food. We also had a messy but satisfying cherry clafouti for our evening Eurostar snack.

Paris, Gare du Nord
Paris, Gare du Nord
Outside the station, a familiar view by now
Outside the station, a familiar view by now
Rainy and dark in Paris too
Rainy and dark in Paris too
Cajun fries at Five Boys
Cajun fries at Five Boys
Two tiny children had fun rolling their family suitcase along at the Eurostar waiting area
Two small children had fun rolling their family suitcase along at the Eurostar waiting area

Paris still wins no prizes with me. They cleaned the station up but the streets around it still smelled like a toilet. So we waited for the Eurostar train and then had a swift journey towards London in the dark.

At St Pancras I ordered a mini cab and we had another swift and pleasant ride to Hackney.

Always weird to come home after being away, staying in somewhat more luxurious places. Still, it looked tidy and familiar – bigger than I remembered – and very cold! On with the heat, cup of tea and some soup and sausage rolls (that I picked up at M&S at the station) and eventually to bed.

Sunday we unpacked. Everything is out of the cases but the bits and pieces aren’t all put away yet. That will take some Krish Tetris skill since the cupboard looks quite full already and a food order on its way this morning from Ocado. We had booked to go for Sunday roast but Krish asked if we could put it off. Instead I got a little steak pie (for one but split between us) and some cole slaw for lunch and we got some Indian food that was dinner and then lunch yesterday.

Some reflections are in order. I love Hackney. Krish says he misses the view of Superga and the Alps (when we could see them) and the market and the people. And, of course, I do too really. But then there are so many things that are good about here. The light is different, and the weather, the people, the transport, the language, the attitudes, the food, the architecture… but I sense a lot of freedom and opportunity. And I suppose that’s what brings the Italians to countries like this anyway. Italy again next year? Who knows but for now, this picture says it.

* Krish said I should coin this. I’m sure someone already has!

The rest

Saturday, 3 November, 2018

The last week in Torino the rains started and it was hard to find a day when it felt OK to be out. It rains in London, of course, but it’s a manageable rain – with few exceptions. In Turin the rain is incessant and heavy, with only short breaks.  We did wander, when we weren’t indoors keeping dry and slowly filling cases.

The streets of central Torino – Centro – can be grand but in between these wide boulevards are the quiet narrow streets.  Imagine this in central London – even in the back streets and alleys!

I’m also fascinated by the inner courtyards. Just off via Garibaldi there’s a courtyard that leads into other courtyards, each with its own shops and apartments and little cafes. It was raining this day and things were very quiet. It’s like a hidden oasis from the mad shoppers, who are never stopped by rain.

The Piazza San Carlo is a very grand square. Krish was amused by the statue since his favourite crisps are the San Carlo brand. He said that every time he saw the statue he needed to thank the man (is it even San Carlo?) for this taste treat. The square is used a lot for events. In this case they are getting ready for the Chocolate Festival that was taking place the week after we left. Bad timing!

The annual festival of artists’ lights was starting to take shape. We saw a few as we left. This one had projections of lacy patterns over the paving stones. It looked so pretty. In fact, Piazza Carignano is the prettiest square in Centro. If I return, I want to explore it better.

Continue reading “The rest”

Magic and Halloween in Turin

Wednesday, 31 October, 2018

This would be my third Halloween in Torino. The first one I was too tired to go out but Krish and Adrianna did and came back telling me tales of candles, lights, costumes… apparently, Torino was mad for Halloween. The second, last year, I went out too and saw many people in costume wandering about the streets and squares. So this year I was prepared but also curious.

Why is Torino so obsessed with Halloween?

While I was doing research about this, I got sidetracked. Were it not pouring with rain every day and so close to the day I had to pack up and leave, I’d have made this a larger, more elaborate, project – to go visit and photograph all the things that make up this history, part fact, part legend.

The research is a bit overwhelming, to be honest. You need only Google Turin and magic to see the sites which will give you more information. I’ll try to get the main points down. (Edit: I’ve also read this  blog entry that slams the whole thing. Decide for yourself. Personally, I’m not unhappy because, as I’ve said above, this is part legend and an entertaining one it is.)

The reasons for Turin’s recognition are rooted in the legend of the founding of the city, born after Zeus had hurled Phaeton, Prince of Egypt, in the river Po. H landed where is now the Fountain of the Four Seasons, located on the banks of the river in  Valentino Park. So was founded an Egyptian Turin and Egypt is where magic is said to have begun.

Historians tell us that the Savoy family were always interested in alchemy and the art flourished in Turin. There are said to have been three alchemic caves below the city and the alchemists told Cristina (Maria Cristina of France, the daughter of Henri IV and wife of Vittorio Amedeo I of Savoy who ruled after her husband died) where they were. She never betrayed their secret.  Some say they are below the Palazzo Madama, while others locate them in the park of the palace itself. They’ve actually never been found.

Then it seems there are magic triangles. Three points on the map where major cities of magic are located. Torino is in both. The white magic triangle is  Prague, Lyon and Turin. The black magic triangle is San Francisco, London and Turin. Turin is the city that has both – of great significance in the world of magic. The statues that mark the points in Turin are for the white, the statues of Castor and Pollux at Piazza Castello, and for the black the Caduti del Frejus n Piazza Statuto, These statues stare at each other across the distance and each has a pentagram on its head.

This explains the mysterious Grotto di Merlinho magic shop is in Piazza Statuto! It’s never been open when I’ve walked by but it’s always intrigued me. (And that’s when I discovered how many magic shops there are in Torino.) Many feel that under the statue – topped by who some believe is Lucifer – is a portal to hell. This is probably connected with the fact that the tunnel that linked Italy to France was there – as well as the entrances to the Alchemic caves. But more about those in a bit.

At the beautiful round Gran Madre church The Holy Grail is said to be buried, pointed at by the gaze of ‘Faith’ holding a chalice.  This and the Shroud, then. The plot thickens…maybe.

I also read about the Palazzo Trucchi di Levaldigi  (40 Via Milano) also known as Palazzo del Diavolo, the devil’s palace. The legend says that an apprentice wizard tried to summon Satan here and was turned into its ornate creepy door with the devil’s face as a knocker.  There are mysterious deaths and ghosts here, they say.  The building is now a bank, and it has the highest turnover of night guards in the city. The Torinesi believe in magic. The door is magnificent, with many carvings – the knocker slightly disappointing, not as large as the legend! 

Turin has attracted many philosophers, magicians, and authors – Nostradamus, Apollonius of Tyana,  Bartolomeo Bosco, Nietzsche… and now me! If I return to Turin, some magical exploration is necessary!

But, anyway, it’s time to move on to the present day Halloween in Turin! And if you want to read more:  The New York Times and The Washington Post have articles. Just click!
Continue reading “Magic and Halloween in Turin”

Torino – Thoughts about leaving

Sunday, 28 October, 2018

Today is the first ‘last.’ This is the last Sunday I will be in Turin. I don’t like countdowns. I struggle with mindfulness but I think, despite all my anxiety, I tend to be more of an ‘in the moment’ person on the whole. I’ll think about that some more.

There are no cohesive themes here. I’ll drop in some photos and see what comes to mind.

When I was free on Friday, I took myself to Cianci Piola. I know it’s not fancy but so far all of the places I’ve been, no matter how much or how little I spend, this spot hasn’t really let me down. I’ve vowed to come back at least twice before we leave. I’m looking forward to my Hackney meals and discovering new places, as well as tasting things that aren’t Italian and predictable. However, I will miss this restaurant.

Following is the daily menu mini blackboard they bring to your table, then my meal. Anchovies with green sauce, Tripe and beans, and Apple Mousse with amaretti and cream. I sat inside today because, beleive it or not, it’s quieter. It’s going to rain all week and I hope I can still sit aside, that they have an awning.

I’ll miss this square too. It’s the nicest in Torino. It’s peaceful but there are always people here. Especially at Cianci Piola. There’s also some history, and a great ice cream shop, as well as a view of the Duomo, which is still also on my list for these rainy days. Will I fit it all in? We’ll see.

I went looking for the Lavazza original places. It took a while, since the numbering is a bit obscure. Via San Tomasso is in the very centre of town near Piazza Castello and just south of Via Garibaldi. I found number 5, the original shop but it was an apartment building with four shops at the ground floor. No plaque anywhere so quite difficult to figure out where it might have been. Number 10 (the second shop when Luigi needed to expand) was easier. I knew that it was near the junction of Via Barbaroux so I looked around there. Surprise, there was no plaque but there was a notice in the window. I will go there and have a drink…for fun.

Number 5
Number 5
Number 10
Number 10

I’ll miss these streets. These old towns comfort me and I’m not fond of wide avenues. When I’m back in London I’ll find my City alleys and I’ll be myself again.

I went to the Museo del Risparmio on my way to a photo exhibit I’m interested in. It’s the Museum of Saving. That’s an odd concept. There were a lot of interactive exhibits and I sat for about an hour watching short videos about how today’s economy was shaped. I actually learned something. Somewhere in there was a viewing room where I saw a Three Stooges type video about forging money – I missed the point somewhere. Too Italian? At the end was a big room that had two videogames – in the first you chose a person and followed their lives to help them spend wisely. In the second you had capital to invest in properties and grow your financial empire – I was terrible at it and lost everything. In the very last room there was an exhibit of piggy banks. I enjoyed that. I must have spent about two hours in the museum. It wasn’t exciting but enough to stir some curiosity about the origins of money and all that followed.

What will I do in London? There are more museums to visit. Perhaps I should give some old ones another go. It’s been ages since I’ve visited the National Gallery. I’ll go back to the British Library and discover a few of the smaller ones I’ve had on my list for a while – like the Comedy Museum. I’ll miss the Geffrye Christmas rooms this year but hope for some events on the front lawn during the Christmas season.

Ant theme at the museum
Ant theme at the museum — No photos, Signora

The captions tell the rest of it.

London's squares are less casual, less accessible - different
London’s squares are less casual, less accessible – different
Will miss the architecture and doors opening into vast courtyards - like hidden cities
Will miss the architecture and doors opening into vast courtyards – like hidden cities
Absolutely will miss the grand doors of Turin
Absolutely will miss the grand doors of Turin. I plan a page of them
Loved this Torino symbol, the bull, bursting out of the wall at 20 Via Orfane
Loved this Torino symbol, the bull, bursting out of the wall at 20 Via Orfane
Piazza Consolata
In the Piazza Consolata. Built towards the end of the tenth century, perhaps by the Benedictine Bruningo, the tower belonged to the church of Sant’Andrea, the refuge of monks from the novalese escaped the Saracens. One of the oldest buildings in Turin
Piazza Consolata - I haven't visited the church yet, or the bicerin cafe
Piazza Consolata – I haven’t visited the church yet, or the bicerin cafe
Drogheria near Porta Palazzo
Drogheria near Porta Palazzo
I'll miss the market, the ease of it, despite the horrible crowds and sometimes grumpy merchants
I’ll miss the market, the ease of it, despite the horrible crowds and sometimes grumpy merchants

Superga – what a difference a year makes!

Thursday, 25 October, 2018

Last year (7 November) we went up to Superga and were blown away by the Alpine scenery and the view of Torino below.

This year I went up alone. First, I got totally confused with the buses and, although I found a perfect bus that went all the way to the funicular, it turned out to be a coach and my BIP card wasn’t accepted on it. So I walked and walked and puzzled over the map and backtracked until I found a bus that would take me to the same spot. And of course I arrived just in time to see the hourly funicular train leave. Last time we were completely alone at that little station. This year a crowd started forming – mostly Italians, a couple of English, and a small French family.

Its not actually a funicular but was originally a little cable driven rack system train. Its name is the Sassi–Superga tramway (tranvia) and it climbs a steep grade for 3.1 km (1.9 miles) up to Superga from the Sassi area in about ten minutes. The altitude at the top is 650 m. (The basilica is a bit higher, at 672 meters above sea level.)  The railway was opened on 27 April 1884. The cable driven rack railway system uses cables that run along the side of the track and passed around two large pulleys on each side of the cars, which in turn drives the cog wheels that propel the train consisting of the driven car (occupied by the driver and a brakeman) and up to three passenger cars. This was driven by a steam engine in the upper station until 1922, when it was replaced by an electric motor. After an accident when the cables broke in 1934, work began to convert to a conventional electric rack railway using the Strub rack system and it reopened on 16 April 1935.

Revisiting this Roa art on the way to GTT Torino to take a bus that wouldn't let me on!
Revisiting this Roa art on the way to GTT Dora to take a bus that wouldn’t let me on!

On board the tranvia
On board the tranvia
At the top
At the top
View of Superga from the Tranvia exit
First view of Superga from the Tranvia exit

Review of the tranvia: Well, it’s a great experience to have done it but for more thrills and a way better view, take the bus from just to the left of the station!
Continue reading “Superga – what a difference a year makes!”