I'm slowly restoring the downstairs to its new "norm" and sorting stuff to take to the charity shop, hopefully sometime this week. Already it feels easier to breath, even though there is still a lot to be done. The basement can wait till later but that will also have to get sorted at some point too. Still, when you have visitors you don't all sit in the basement do you, so it is, at least, a horror I can hide!
Anyway, on Saturday we had the latest of our jaunts to Italy, this time to an outlet village near Turin. We again went with GAL Voyages as we have been very happy with them every time. That being said, it meant getting up at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. to be ready for the "off" at 6 a.m. I knew there would be a lot of interest in this trip - "shopping", you see - so it was no surprise that they had laid on four buses and each one was full, so over 200 people! We made good time, hitting the Italian border an hour later, and positively waltzing down the Aosta valley with virtually no traffic! It was amazing - the snow held off and Italy seemed to have closed up shop for the day! Once through the valley we always stop for breakfast - a quick 30 minute potty stop and a chance to grab a coffee and croissant - and by 10.30 we were pulling into the parking lot of the outlet village, where ours were the only buses there! There were obviously cars in the parking lot but I was really quite amazed at how empty the place was, bearing in mind this was the weekend of "Black Friday"! There is such a push to introduce Black Friday into Europe and while some places are following like sheep, in my experience many people just can't be arsed, and that certainly seemed to be true of this mall! It was a Saturday morning and I would say it wasn't even as busy as an English high street on a Monday morning! In fact, when my friend and I stopped at the information centre for a map they asked us which travel company we had used because they were obviously keen to encourage more visitors! (I did a quick calculation in my head and if everyone on our buses spent an average of just €200 like we did, our French contingent alone would have spent €40,000 in one day - but many people will have spent more of course! And again - and I always do this - put that into the context of Brexit and the effect reintroducing borders will have on the French markets if/when the Brits can no longer shop freely just across the border in France!). Anyway, back to the plot! The thing is, most of the shops here were all designer and high end fashion shops and there was, indeed, a queue to get in to the Michael Kors shop, not because it was full but because they were only letting a few people in at a time. Other than that, it was extremely uncrowded and pleasant. What's more the sun was shining and the temperature was warm enough to leave our coats behind - now that in itself was heaven after what seems like non-stop rain for the last month!
As I said, it was pretty much high end fashion, although with the Black Friday sales on, so a three inch handkerchief that passed as a skirt went from €350 to maybe €200!! Oh I'll take two then shall I! Anyway we had a wander but the clothes shops were rather lost on us because (a) neither of us are in to "that snobby stuff", (b) we didn't even like most of it, but (c) even if we were, neither of us exactly have the figure for it - and that must be the understatement of the year! I swear most of that stuff was created using a stick of spaghetti as a pattern! In any case, even when I did have a good figure I always looked at that kind of money as "another holiday" rather than a €300 handbag. Some people can and do carry it off well but that was never me. But do you remember my colleague berating me recently about how it was all right for me being able to retire as I was a higher grade than she was (despite the fact that she had over 30 years in the pension fund to my 20), and then telling me in the next breath that she goes down to Italy every weekend during spring and summer to go clothes shopping! Not that she has the figure for Italian clothes either - she's much bigger than I am - but she spends all her money (and then some, I imagine) on clothes. She's what I would call a "blousy blond" (except she's not blond) and spends a ton on make-up, hair products and clothes (or "on with a trowel and off with a blow torch, as my dad would have said) so no wonder she has no money and "can't retire"! Still, each to his/her own in that respect I guess, but don't come complaining to me that you can't retire please!
Anyway, just beyond the designer clothes shops we came to the Lindt chocolate shop and bugger me if you didn't hear a collective orgasm as people walked into that shop! Just the smell of the place was divine and the set-up fabulous. The interesting thing is I counted 28 different flavours of Lindor chocolate balls and yet in Switzerland, the home of Lindt, I have only ever seen three! Go figure! So I bought a few ready-packed bags of mixed chocolates to give as presents, then set about picking out my favourites as I want to scatter them on my dining table at Christmas, they look so pretty!
|Turin Outlet Village|
On an only slightly related note, I remember many years ago - maybe around 1981 - my mom was taken seriously ill with pleurisy and ended up in hospital. I was living in Switzerland already and couldn't do much from my end except phone every night to see how she was doing. Lindor chocolate balls were not available in England then so I bought a huge box of them and mailed them to her. She said afterwards that she got the equivalent of private treatment on the NHS as the doctors and nurses kept buzzing round her bed to see if she "needed anything"!!
Around 12.30 we stopped and went to a restaurant for lunch. We weren't particularly hungry so I just had a beautiful salad with tuna, mozzarella and so on. Their menus were in Italian, English and French (and everyone spoke at least Italian and English), but it tickled me to see on the English menu that my salad consisted of "fresh tuna salad with tomatoes and a buffalo"! Little things please little minds I guess! But since I was indeed being good and not having any wine I decided to have desert and ended up eating the most delicious meringue glacé I have ever eaten in my life! Seriously! It had chewy meringue on the outside with solid ice cream on the inside and a little jug of hot chocolate sauce to add to the decadence! Honestly, I would have licked my plate if no-one was around!
My friend had the tiramisu and also said it was the best she had ever eaten! When the waitress came to take our plates (with me desperately hoping I didn't have chocolate sauce and icing sugar on my nose), I told her how wonderful it was, so she pointed out the young chef who had made it and I gave him the thumbs up! I've been scouring the internet today for something that might resemble it as I think I might give it a try sometime soon! When we paid we left a generous tip (although tipping over here is not even mandatory), and as we went to leave the girl at the cash register shouted out "mancia" (tip) and all the wait staff shouted back "mancia". Seems that's what they do when someone leaves a good tip! We just laughed and thanked them for a lovely meal!
I managed to choose a couple of nice things for my sons for Christmas and a good quality pair of winter boots for myself - fur lined and with 4 wheel drive tracks on the soles in anticipation of the snow! Ha, and to think I used to wear short skirts and high heels! They were on sale and they were giving an additional 30% for the second pair, so since my friend also bought a pair we put them together and got an extra €20 off, which we split, thus both getting a pair of excellent quality boots each at a very good discount!
I have to say that there is a certain joie de vivre about Italy. Of course it's not all pink clouds and kittens but they do seem to have a lust for life that I find very appealing. Certainly anything relating to food and drink always has flair and since we are all born and we're all gonna die sometime, I think it's lovely to make the bit in the middle as full of joy as possible!
We headed back towards France at 4 p.m. and stopped again at a service station just before the Mont Blanc tunnel in order for people to use the bathrooms and get a coffee and so on. But get this, there then ensued a veritable stampede of our fellow travellers heading for the cigarette section and while we were supposed to be back on the bus in 40 minutes we ended up leaving late because people were still waiting to pay! I have no idea how much cheaper cigarettes are in Italy than in France, but I have to say I'm just so glad I don't smoke as I would have hated to be caught up in that stampede just to buy a few cancer sticks!
With yesterday turning into a really long day, I was glad of a lie-in this morning, but when my friend told me that she was going up to a craft fair at Passy (to support our yoga teacher who was selling hand-made jewellery there) I said I would go with her, despite the renewed rain and mist. But this little fair was also very good - better than I expected actually. I picked up a dream catcher (I've always wanted one), some maple syrup, a Christmas tree ornament, hand-made Christmas cards and bought a pair of earrings from my yoga teacher. There were a few men and women dressed in traditional costume too. On the way out we bought locally-produced goat's cheese and again, it was just fabulous! (As you can see, one of my main interests seems to be food so it's maybe no wonder I can't fit into Italian designer clothes is it)! But tomorrow I'll be back on track with my various classes. Even having missed yoga for only one week, I am really looking forward to it!
They almost look Amish don't they. And you can just begin to see
the snow line out the window behind them!