Turin: Day 2 – Giocondas, Pan Galactics and Sweet Sweet Victory

Our minds instructed us to rise at the crack of dawn, pack our things quickly and get out on the town in order to see as much of Pinerolo as we could before having to leave the following day. Our bodies however, suggested rather a different strategy – more of a delicate, almost subversive start to the day – consisting primarily of staying in bed until 10am at the very earliest, and then putting forth only the minimal amount of energy possible to get ourselves up and out the door.

I leave it to you to deduce which of these equally tempting options we went with in the end. A hint – KING sized bed. Extra pillows in the hall closet.

The first task of the day, once we could deny the reality of morning no longer, was to meet up with Heather (our Canadian friend who had kindly offered to translate for us at the B & B) at the home of Signore Giovanni Gros, landlord and proprietor of one of the quirkiest little B & Bs you’re likely to find in Pinerolo.

We had originally planned to walk from the Hotel to the B & B, knowing from Heather’s description that it should be within easy walking distance. However, after failing to find the street on any of the maps we had on hand, we resigned ourselves to walking back into the downtown square and catching a taxi. We had a momentary panic when we realized that we had no idea what taxis looked like in Pinerolo, or what the policy was with regards to hiring one. In the end, we found a cab (a black Aston Martin driven by a man who, by his clothes, would not be out of place at a banker’s meeting on Wall St!) who, as we had suspected, drove us back up the hill and parked us about four blocks from where we’d started that morning.

Actually, on our first pass, our cab drove right past where we wanted to go. We came over a hill, and saw Heather waiting for us at the side of the road. We waved, she waved, we…drove right by her without slowing, and watched her shrink rapidly in the distance as we stared back at her from the rear window. Cabbies are, however, trained to understand the “universal language” of tourists, and our shouts of “Nonono! Arreto! Arreto?” quickly explained the issue clearly enough for him to stomp on the breakers and take us back to Heather, who looked a bit relieved to see us reappear.

And so it was that we met Giovanni, a wonderfully friendly old guy who very clearly had a passion for everything he did. We were welcomed into his home instantly, and given a grand tour of the flat that would be our home for the night. I have never seen a single room filled with as much random kitch and collectibles as I did that day. The place was stuffed with African statuettes, brightly colored parrot figurines, bronze-cast decorative cookware… there was even a copy of the Mona Lisa looking over the room.

Giovanni had offered to drive us all to the curling match that afternoon, but announced that first, our arrival must be celebrated. We went downstairs to where he and his wife lived, and were there introduced to Limoncello, one of the most startling spirits I’ve ever had the opportunity to sample. The words to properly describe the taste of this stuff elude me at the moment. The best I can offer is Douglas Adams’ description of the effect of sampling a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, which seem surprisingly apt:
“..[L]ike having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.”

Recovering as best we could from the unexpected onslaught of lemony booze, we were off to the Men’s Bronze Medal match.

Game 3: Men’s Bronze Medal – Great Britain vs. USA:

GB 2 4 7 9
Score 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
USA 1 3 6 8 10

(full game statistics here)

We were surrounded by American fans for this match-up, and our quiet cheers for Great Britain were lost in the boisterous hootings and highly organized curling-oriented chants with which the surrounding fans came armed.

It was a sad game to watch. Great Britain played a wonderfully delicate game – soft shots and close draws, with tactical raises and bumps in place of stronger shots – but it was no match for the raw power of the US team, who threw takeouts with a huge percentage of their stones and kept clearing out their opponent’s opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, they played extremely well and deserved their win. But I couldn’t help but feel as if I were watching a David & Goliath match-up in which delicate strategies and careful planning were continually crushed by pure force.

Also, it didn’t help my mood when one of the fans directly to my right began to cheer the mistakes of the other team. Curling is a gentleman’s game, and such a thing is simply not done. Poor taste, frankly.

A slight moment of levity during the game was delivered in the form of a fan who jumped over the boards, ran out next to the ice and proceeded to shuck off all of his clothing to leaving only a strategically placed rubber chicken (in place of the more traditional fig leaf) to, erm, protect himself from the elements. The enormous tattoo of “GoldenPalace.com” on the gentleman’s posterior helped explain his actions. For those that missed this one, Golden Palace is an online casino that offers some fairly substantial rewards to idiots willing to put themselves in the public spotlight with the company’s website address somewhere on their person. The jackass who went off the diving board during the Summer Olympics was doing it for similar reasons – luckily, this guy had the wherewithal to stay off the playing surface.

After the bronze medal game, we went into town for a bite to eat and to make dinner reservations at the restaurant we had attempted to visit the night before. We would not be denied a second time, no sir. We walked around the downtown core for a few hours after our meal, until it was time to head back to the arena for the main event

Game 4: Men’s Gold Medal – Canada vs. Finland:

Canada 2 3 4 6
Score 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Finland 1 5 8

(full game statistics here)

What a game, and what an experience.

The stadium was packed with Canadian fans. You would never know the event wasn’t being hosted on home soil for all of the maple leafs on display that night. And the raw energy of the fans that night was absolutely infectious. We sat in the “gold” seating section at the end of the sheet of ice amongst other rabid Canadian fans and Olympians who had come out from Torino to watch our boys try for gold.

The game was fantastic to watch. Both teams played with an amazing level of skill, and at the finish of the fifth end, it was anyone’s game. At that point, the Canadians led the Finnish team by a single point.

And then there was the sixth end, in which Canada scored 6 points. To put this in perspective for you non-curlers, a six-ender is nigh-on impossible in a competitive match – or at the very least, highly unlikely unless the opposition makes a number of grave errors with their stones. But throughout the end, the Finnish team played very well – or at least, did not makes any visibly huge mistakes. The result of that end came more, as I would later hear an announcer describe it, from a combination of genius tactics and deadly-accurate shot making on the part of the Canadian team.

It was all over after that. Two more ends were played by requirement of the Olympic competition, followed by the hand-shake. Shortly after the game came the Men’s Flower Ceremony, where we saw our Canadians on top of the podium, absolutely beaming. We had learned from a fan during the match that the skip’s mother was currently in hospital battling cancer, and wasn’t able to attend the game. So when we saw 25 year-old Brad Gushue wave to his Dad in the first row and mouth “Hey! You should call Mom,” it was nearly enough to get us all weeping.

Said it before. Sayin’ it again. Canadians are cool.

We were, quite understandably, on cloud nine as we walked out of the venue that night, and had ample time to stroll back into town for our dinner reservations. Upon arrival at the restaurant, we were asked to wait for several minutes while a table was cleared up for us. Finally, we were seated, though menus had not yet been delivered.

And we waited. And no menus arrived. And Ally and I started to get the funny feeling that perhaps a message was being delivered. We both suddenly felt quite awkward and uncomfortable sitting in a fancy restaurant surrounded by well-dressed locals, while we were both dolled up in our Canadiana and couldn’t even speak the local language.

In the end, it was our own preconceptions and fears that had gotten the better of us. After watching the treatment given to other customers, we realized we were not being snubbed or neglected – rather, it was our concept of quick dining that had rushed us to an incorrect conclusion. As soon as we took pause and relaxed, all was well – and we had a dynamite meal. (Our change of mood was likely also aided by the fact that my order of a demi-litro di vino della casa was incorrectly understood as a litro, and I didn’t have the vocab to try and correct the error.)

The night ended much like the night before, as we walked along the quiet dimly-lit streets of Pinerolo back to our flat. We would not, however, have the luxury of sleeping in a second time, for tomorrow morning we were headed to Torino!

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