Friday, October 31, 2008

A few days in Monferrato

I Mandorli, Cardona di Alfiano Natta, October 28—
WE FLY THIRD CLASS, excuse me, "Coach." Though I stand six feet tall my legs are a little short; I'm not disfigured, I like to think, just a little long in the waist; in any case my legs don't mind the cramped airplane seat on a reasonably short haul, say nine hours.

This, though, was not a short haul, and we were lucky to be boosted into "Business Class." I'd never realized what a difference it makes. The flight from San Francisco to Milan began well enough, a smooth ride halfway across the States to JFK where we'd change planes. Over the Great Lakes, though, the weather began, and by the time we were approaching JFK it was pretty rough.

We circled so long waiting for weather to clear enough to land that fuel was running low, so we touched down at Dulles, Washington D.C., to refuel; then, after more delay, flew on up to JFK where we landed in the roughest weather I've flown in, fishtailing our way down the slick runway.

We were four hours late, and the Milan plane had left, of course. There wouldn't be another until the next night, so we were put on an oversold flight to London, where British Airways would pick us up for the short hop to Milan. We had no seat assignment, and were not given one at the gate. Don't worry, we were told; we'll page you.

We waited. Boarding began. Passengers were paged. Standbys were seated. We were left waiting.

I went back to the desk, where the clerk drew me aside with a conspiratorial air, beckoning also to Lindsey. She whispered, as if afraid others would hear: We have two seats in Business, but they aren't together. Will they do? Yes, I assured her, and we finally boarded, to be greeted by a glass of Pommery, a menu offering various meals, white and red wines poured from real bottles — and, best of all, noise-cancelling headphones, and a seat that reclined fully. I haven't slept so soundly in years.

Arrived finally at Milan Malpensa, nine hours later than expected, we found our baggage had not accompanied us. We were not the only ones, of course, many Milan-bound passengers had missed flight 198 out of New York. Niente a fare, nothing to be done about it: we got into our little rented Panda and drove here to Cardona, in one of my favorite corners of the world, to I Mandorli, where though we'd missed Sunday dinner's bollito misto its soul was awaiting us: see Eating Every Day.

The weather has been foggy, autumnal; the colors muted and deep though subtle. White truffle weather; knit sweater weather. Richard and I took an hour's walk to the next town, Alfiano Natta, along an unpaved country road past modestly imposing farmsteads, big sturdy buildings that are homes at one end, haymows and corncribs at the other, with elegant brickwork and molded stucco decorations, and beautifully tended gardens whose lawns are set about with pines, elms, poplars, cypresses.

The days are devoted to conversation at breakfast, drives in the country, conversation at lunch and dinner, and the occasional fretfulness at missing baggage.

Ah! Here it is! The poor deliveryman had been detained by little "incidents", foggy weather, and mystification at the many hamlets and winding roads here in Monferrato. Did I mention the telephones (and therefore Internet) have been out for days, victim of a mouse attack on the trunk line?

No comments: