Bra & Alba: Welcome Back

After the Torino Toro Rally, I met up with Rachel and Denis and my cousin Eric for dinner. Talk and fellowship were had, with gelato for me and Eric afterward. There is nothing like feeling at home, feeling accepted the way you are and spending a convivial evening with kind people. Perhaps it’s odd to have it happen thousands of miles from home, but I am happy however those evenings are possible.

The next morning, I got myself packed and on the train to Carmagnolo (about 30 minutes’ drive from the town of Bra, where my cousin lives). It was still pouring rain and I had to get my suitcase and camera bag schlepped up and down some stairs at the station. I went to the café across the street and got a cappuccino while I waited for him to arrive. Eric got there and joined me in my caffeine consumption. This was to be a theme for us over the next couple of days, as it turns out, and it meant I was *really* wired for the duration. I suppose perhaps that’s normal in Italy – but I don’t know how they drink that much espresso. I really don’t. How could you ever get to sleep for more than three hours at a time? I couldn’t. It’s one of those little Italian mysteries, like the one where people manage to look perfectly coiffed and wrinkle-free in high humidity and sweltering heat.

We got into the Fiat and drove into Bra for lunch, then out to Alba since there was some banking business to attend to. We went past Radio Alba to say hello (Eric is in the radio business) and it was just my luck that I was asked for an interview for later that afternoon. Yes, that’s right folks, the “NASA girl” was live on Radio Alba for the second time! We talked about the existence of aliens (again). Dieghito, the DJ, seems to like this topic and I think he was hoping for a more definitive answer. The best I could give him was “maybe”. From Alba, Eric & I went back to Bra for a little R&R and then dinner where Marisa was working. It was wonderful to see her again, even though we don’t yet speak the same language. My Italian is improving to the point where I at least understand a few things that people say to me and if it’s in context, I can pick up what is being said. I know what the food words are, too, which is always useful. It’s hard for me to express myself with any kind of nuance, unfortunately, but at least I can basically make myself understood in a pinch. We had a lovely supper, complete with coffee and a scrumptious cake for dessert. The next day was spent running errands and conducting social visits around Bra, touring Eric’s favorite coffee spots (they really were great), and finally enjoying one of my favorite activities: shoe shopping. Marisa remembered that I loved the shopping at Le Firme discount shoe outlet and Eric waited patiently while I picked out a couple of pairs. We finished up with a great afternoon walking through the streets of Alba, having another coffee with friends, and driving home through the countryside. It was a rare day because the Alps were visible around the valley – you could see them in nearly every direction framing out Piemonte. What a treat, and what a fine note on which to end the journey. It was that kind of visit. Everyone remembered me and was happy to welcome me back to Bra and Alba. They tried to help me with my rickety Italian, made sure I got the right coffee, and everyone looked after me. Sort of like home, but 10,000 miles away.

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