Our little corner of the Alps

by Laura A

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Time to add a new post, is it not?  We’ve been back for a week.

Last week was the first time flying back over the mountains that it seemed a bit like we were coming home.  Maybe it’s because the trip was so long, 20 hours with stops in Chicago and Frankfurt.  We arrived back in Europe at 5:45 a.m., also known as 11:45 p.m., feeling a bit stiff and fuzzy tired. The plane taxied past section after section of spotless German glass, revealing a cross section of a clean, gray interior punctuated with orange. Sarie and I had never been to Germany before this trip, and though we never left the airport, we enjoyed watching the other passengers and even appreciated the free, watery macchiato hidden away behind the Lufthansa gates (or I did).

We were really looking forward to the flight back over the Alps. Before Christmas, during the first leg of our flight to the US, I had noted every lake and creamy mountaintop as we flew across northern Italy and then to Germany in a prop plane, chased by the sunrise. On the way back, ragged clouds covered many of the mountains, but occasionally they opened up to reveal dramatic views.

Tolkien based his Misty Mountains on the Alps.

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The first photo above is from a previous trip, but it approximates the altitude from the prop plane.  The second photo is from last week.

Shortly we were over to the Italian side of the Alps, seemingly back in the land of the sunrise (in winter the sun always comes from the south) and as the landscape flattened out, the pilot said, “To your left you can see Milan.”  This is what we saw (a little blurry because of the plane window).

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Almost immediately we banked right, flew just south of Torino, banked right again, and flew into the Valli di Lanzo between Torino and the Alps, towards the airport.  As we did so, I could see all the small towns along the Stura and on up into the mountains. I had never realized the whole plain was so utterly full of houses and towns. And the Alps seem to form a corner there as they turn south towards the Italian-French border. We made yet another turn so sharp that I thought the wing was going to do a cartwheel in the pasture below, and we were home.

(Too bad I didn’t get a picture of the valley, but you can get the general idea with Google Earth.  Maybe next time!)

Piemonte–home to robiola, toma, gorgonzola dolce, dolcetto, arneis, gavibarbaresco and in general the biggest list of DOCG wines and cheeses in Italy.  Home to hazelnuts and gianduiotti and hot chocolate so thick you could walk on it, to vitello tonnato and bagna cauda. Home to a Frenchy sort of Italian known as Piemonteis. Home to charming old men in loden coats and checked berets who sometimes still hold hands with their wives on the street. And now, home to us.

There’s graffiti across the street from our building that says, “Leggi Hobbit.” (“Read The Hobbit.”) If the Misty Mountains are the Alps, the cozy valleys of Piemonte must be the Shire.  It’s a second breakfast kind of place.

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