Saturday, 5 November 2011 – Part III of III
Hotel Diplomatic immediately strikes me as a place desperately trying to hang on to an opulent past. Dark woods, a lot of open space, a maitre d’ counter with an elegantly designed menu (with prices to match) and a late start to dining, and a nattily uniformed agent behind the elaborate counter. I approach, give him my name, and tell him I have just booked through Booking.com. He indicates they have no record, and I emphasize that I have just booked online. He walks to the printer and pulls off a sheet of paper, raises his eyebrows a bit, and relates to me the exact number of minutes since I booked. Okay, now that we’ve got that settled, can you please get me my room? I have an urgent matter to attend to.
I get checked in and head to my room. This place certainly seems deserted compared to others. The room is a decent size, a little worn but fine for my needs, even though the smell of hair spray is a bit overwhelming. I pull back the curtains and open the window, in hopes of airing it out a bit. I forget how smells have a tendency to hang around in a damp climate, so used to the desert am I.
I still need to figure out a train to Nice for tomorrow. The desk clerk said I could look on the Web site, but I was just anxious to find my room and get settled. If it weren’t for the weather, it might be nice to just spend an extra night in Turin, maybe go in search of the Shroud. I’ve got the time in my itinerary, but exploring in pouring rain is not really my idea of fun. And it definitely interferes with my new found passion for photography. At this point, I am more inclined to move on in hopes of traveling past the bad weather that has so thwarted my original plans for Italy. I’ll wait until tomorrow, after I’ve checked out the weather and firmed up my travel plans, to call on the car reservation and let Nicole know when I will be arriving.
I call Mom and the floodgates open. She’s at her bazaar, selling her hand-painted wares, but that does not deter the flow of self-reflection spewing from my mouth. I just can’t seem to stop. First, I explain that I put too much pressure on myself and this trip to figure out where my life should/would be headed (think Eat Pray Love). I am not feeling particularly comfortable in my own skin these days. I lack a sense of direction and feel like a loser, given I am trying to short sell my home and can’t find a real job and don’t have a significant other in my life. I was hoping (more like expecting) to get my mojo back on this trip and have some kind of revelation about where to head in my life. I’m two-thirds of the way through and ready to give up. Who am I these days, anyway? Instead of finding myself, as I had hoped for this trip, I seem to feel more lost and alone in the world than ever.
Part of what’s getting to me is that, everywhere I go, the world seems filled with couples. I feel like such an outsider. In fact, most of the time, I feel invisible. Doesn’t anyone find me attractive? There really must be something wrong with me. Thing is, I’m not sure I can even imagine being part of a couple at this point, unsure I’d even want to be.
It has been interesting how people think I’m Italian – the waiter pointing to the Italiano menu instead of Inglese, multiple women in my age range asking me something (directions?) and having to say “no parlo,” the ticket taker commenting on the hustler he was shooing off (which I forget to even mention to Mom). The trip has really been a rollercoaster. It’s great being alone to keep my own schedule, but it’s hard not to have anyone to socialize with when I want, which is my comfort zone. Part of the reason I so wanted to do this trip was in hopes that it would break me out of my comfort zone, but that always involves a certain amount of discomfort (which is probably just what I’m experiencing at this point).
I tell her about all the differences here – the key card used for entry and power, no kleenex, ‘sanitary towel’ bags, no washcloths, awesome breakfasts, Coca-cola in tall thin cans like Red Bull. On my next trip, I will stay longer in one place to make connections and relax, so I’m not packing up almost daily. Boy, I am really rambling now and end up talking for longer than usual – I MUST be lonely. I hope it doesn’t cost too much or that I didn’t worry her too much talking about being ready to come home. I know she too had high hopes for me on this trip.
Now that I have all that off my chest… I check the train schedule for tomorrow, clean (dry) up a bit, and head out in search of food. This area is mostly closed up; there are only a couple of places open that I can see through the mists, and I know I don’t want to wait and eat at the overpriced hotel restaurant. I finally notice a pizzeria across the street, with seating outside in a clear tent of sorts. Hmmmm, if I can just make it across safely, I’ll be in business. The street is very wide, and there are multiple tracks running through the streets for the public transportation which moves at quite a fast pace. Don’t want to end up flattened in the streets of Turin on a dark and stormy night.
Finally, after zigging and zagging to marked crossing points, I make it to the other side and then backtrack to the pizzeria. At least throughout this ordeal, it was merely drizzling. As soon as they seat me inside the clear tent, the deluge begins. I cannot believe how hard the rain is now coming down. After much deliberation, I order Focaccia Bruschetta and some rosso to calm my soul. Being as I’m not much of a pizza eater, I figure I’ll at least get something close since I am in Italy. Otherwise, it will be like when I went to Vegas on business in my youth and left people incredulous when they asked if I’d won and I said I hadn’t played. Who would go to Italy and not eat pizza, right? My food arrives, and I am quite pleasantly surprised. It’s a simple flatbread-type dish, with a nice thin, crispy crust – just the way I like it. And I’ve intentionally ordered something with no meat, which again makes me wonder, “Who am I?”
After my meal, I am thinking it would be nice to have a smoke as I finish my wine, but I am certain smoking is not allowed in this enclosure. Wait – is that an ashtray up on that shelf? Maybe I’m wrong. At that moment, one of the servers retrieves the ashtray and takes it to a table just a few away from mine. So, when my server comes by, I ask (like a mime) for one of my own. She isn’t sure smoking is allowed and goes to ask someone, then comes back and confirms that it is not. She then tells the other server, who promptly goes to her patrons’ table and relays the message. Sorry, lady, I didn’t mean to ruin your after-dinner smoke.
I get my tab and realize this place also has a coperto (seating fee), first I’ve seen in a while. Still, not a bad price for a good meal, 8.50 euro (including the two-euro coperto), or roughly $11.
Just as I’m ready to leave, the rain lets up, enough that I can actually cross back to my hotel without using my umbrella. At least the weather is cooperating as best it can. By the time I get to my room, it’s pouring down again. I get ready and crawl into bed. It’s a bit noisy in the hotel, but I am exhausted and quickly drift off to sleep.