Monday, August 17, 2015

A Series of Firsts in Cervinia

When I ask my Italian students their weekend plans during the winter, their enthusiastic answers are often, “Going to the mountains!” The mountains in northern Italy and Switzerland are stunning, and close enough that many have weekend chalets or are part of racing teams. Even our February break is called, “White Week,” because everyone uses it for skiing!

Three friends and I booked a weekend in the snowy mountain town of Cervinia, 

Started out with such a positive attitude...
So cold :(
Bus stop selfies

and left after work on a Friday afternoon in January (I know it took me forever to post... don't judge me!). Everything went smoothly at first- we took a taxi to the bus station with (for me) newly-bought snow pants and jackets stuffed into overflowing bags, and were on our way. 

Our bus ride had two stops, so we got off at what we thought was the correct first stop only to sit at the bus stop for an hour. It was FREEZING! And late. And a little creepy. We called one of the girl’s boyfriends, he found us a taxi (he called a cab for us from all the way back in Milan… whatta guy), and we spent the last hour in a cushy cab. As it turns out, we got off a stop too early and missed our bus L But, it ended up being lucky we had because the snow was falling heavily, the roads slick with ice, and it was late and dark at that point. Our driver told us that even if we had gotten the bus, he wasn’t sure it would have taken the winding mountain road in this weather and we may have been stuck!

By the time we arrived it was late, and we were exhausted. 

Stepping out into the town was like stepping out into a winter wonderland. It was unreal how precious it was. The main street was completely covered in snow, and the windows full of twinkling little lights. Everything was rustic with evergreen accents and festive decorations. I loved it! We checked in at our hotel, had some pizza, and then had a debate with ourselves- do we take advantage of one of our two nights in town, or give into our exhaustion and go to sleep We ended up going dancing, cracking ourselves up at how weird it felt dancing in snow boots. Though we stayed out late, one or more of us were typically sitting off to the side, nodding off, and would perk back up only when someone else came over to take a break! 



The next day was perfect. 

Though we were freezing throughout the entire trip, the sun was shining and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. Only one among us was a skier, so we went with her to rent skis, then took the lift up the mountain for lunch. I can’t even begin to explain the magnificence of the view. No matter which way you looked, there were mountains. Look one way, perfect view of the Matterhorn. Look the other and we were looking over the Alps, jutting up in every direction for miles. The soup and mulled wine warmed kept us warm, though the sheer joy of being in such an incredible place could have kept me outside all day! This was my first ‘first’ of the weekend: being in the Alps for the first time!


While Laura skied, the rest of us went back into town for an afternoon at the spa. 

It was a quaint, lodge-like hotel with cozy, wintery details (beautiful quilts, tapestried furniture, etc.), while the poolroom had mountainous stone accents and a huge skylight on the roof, letting in the glorious mountain sunshine. This led to my second ‘first:’ A massage. Ugghhhhh I hated it! It was the worst! First of all, I can be a little shy (shocker, I know), and the idea of a stranger touching me made me nervous. We booked these, “invigorating, toxin removing” massages that sounded wonderful and very beneficial, but they were lymph draining massages, and apparently your lymph nodes are mostly on the front of you. So it was mostly a front massage, largely focused on the stomach. Problems with this stomach massage: a) That isn’t a part of my body I really want anyone focusing on, b) I’m ridiculously ticklish so it was pretty much torture, and c) I’m so awkward and didn’t even know what to do with myself. I was trying so hard not to laugh, but I couldn’t even hide my face! Ughhhhh I was so happy when it was over!!! Now, if you ever are in Cervinia and looking for a fabulous spa, I wouldn’t even hesitate telling you to go to the one we went to (Albergo Bucaneve) because it was mostly wonderful. However, if you are super ticklish, haven’t ever had a massage, or think having a weirdo stomach massage would bring your awkwardness to new heights, maybe get a deep tissue massage or something instead!

‘First’ number three was much more wonderful. 

The next day we rented skis and took lessons! I went skiing for the first time!! It was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. As most who know me can attest to, I am not even a little bit athletic. When I did Ski Club in high school, I mostly just fell down the mountain with a snowboard attached to my feet for an hour or so, and then hung out in the lodge the rest of the time. Who even knew that being sporty could be so much fun! I had no idea it would bring me so much joy or feel so exhilarating! Not going to lie, I was pretty bad at it. At the beginning, I couldn’t get the hang of stopping and kept leaning forward too far, then leaning back thinking that would slow me down (it doesn’t, I guess). But our instructor, an Italian man with deeply tanned skin, other than bright white mask where his goggles went, was wonderful, and each time we went down the hill gave us a little more to practice. While I wasn't a natural or anything, we all left feeling confident and eager for a second lesson. In the end, I never fell once while moving! I did fall while standing completely still at the top, and then fell about six more times while trying to recover from that, but I don’t think that says anything bad about my skiing abilities, just my general lack of grace and coordination.  Anyways, I completely loved skiing and can’t wait to try again next winter! In April we made a second trip back, though didn't ski-- mostly just high-altitude eating and drinking :) (Pictures are a mix from both trips).

The Matterhorn!

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