I thought I might take the opportunity of sleeplessness to describe a day at the Italian Cycling Center in Borso Del Grappa. Yes, yesterday Sherie and I succumbed to a temptation of an afternoon nap. Really, a nap is hard to resist after a 6 AM rising, light breakfast, morning ride at a pretty good pace, and full lunch four course lunch. Did I mention that we are served all the water and wine we want at lunch?
The Locanda Montegrappa hotel is probaly the best in town, not that we have seen the other. The restaurant is apparently known around the region, as the Saturday evening dinner crowd was larger, better dressed, and lingered over several courses. George Pohl, who is the ICC, acts as an agent for his clients with the hotel. We had made our reservations with George over email, and when we arrived the hotel staff did not check us in using the procedures one would normally expect. They gave us a room key, and had Matteo the driver show us our room, without ever seeing our passports or asking for payment. Later George gave us a small piece of paper with our bill, I gave George cash, and I had the paper for my receipt.
When we appeared for lunch, George found us and moved us from the table the waiter showed us to his own. I noticed there that his table setting was slightly less formal than the others, and George himself took our orders on a small piece of paper with the abbreviated menu that was offered to our group. There are three choices each for Prima, Second, and Dessert courses, with something for most any taste. Plus salad at both lunch and dinner. Endless mineral water (con or sin gas) plus house wine is available to us as well. The breakfast includes a buffet or cereals, breads, and fruit along with the coffees one would expect in Italy.
Carmen is our main waitress, and sometimes cooks. Last night she had prepared a special dish for George, cabage stuffed with meat and rice in tomato sauce. When I realized she had cooked this, I ordered it, as it seemed different and not bad politics to flatter our waitress. She apparently is Romanian or Bulgarian, or such, but has been in the hotel a while. Because George organizes our food orders, when the wait staff appears with our food and announces the dishes in Italian, we must claim our plates. I found it helpful to sit where I can see the dishes, as it is hard for me to understand what is offered when the waiter is behind me. Already fine choices have been several of the pastas, the rabbit with polenta was great, the first night’s fish was excellent, and I really did enjoy a bean soup. Sherie will attest that the desserts were fine, with pastries, gelato, panne cotta offered at various times. Fresh fruits, cherries, apricots, melons, and such are always offered as well.
The dining room takes up the rear of the ground floor of the hotel; the front includes the bar, the kitchen, a small hotel desk, and the “veranda.” Still indoors, the veranda is an extension of the bar, where I have seen some food served as well. Here one can hang out and read the paper, magazines, use the wifi, etc. And just outside, in front of the small parking area, is what one would expect in modern Italy: the smoking table.
The daily routine at the ICC is such:
- rise and dress in bike kit
- ride bike the 500 meters uphill from the residence to the hotel, park bike in back
- 7 AM breakfast
- 8 AM ride begins. George decides where we ride, with some give and take from the group from the previous day. As there are only four customers right now, we are one group.
- Ride through the countryside (mostly avoiding busy town centers), following circuitous routes that only locals would really know. This avoids most main roads, except for some short unavoidable sections. I certainly could not repeat these routes without an excellent cue sheet.
- Around 10 AM or so, take a cycling break at a cafe. Pastry and coffee drinks, soda for a lightweight like me.
- Ride back to the hotel for lunch. Hotel staff likes us there by not much after 1 PM. Eat and drink.
- 14:00 or so: time on ones own. So far, Sherie and I have used this to get settled, maintain our bikes, and nap. Ben would like to have the strength to explore the town and area by foot, bike, or bus, instead of napping. Of course, that might mean I could eliminate the 3 AM wakeup and miss writing sessions like this one. One could also hang out at the veranda and use the computer, or show up early for before dinner drinks.
- 19:30 dinner. Eat too much again unless one is very disciplined. And because so much is offered at lunch, it is actually easy to show up for dinner not too hungry. One good choice for the Secondi at dinner is the antipasto bar. It includes at least a dozen selections of all food groups, all spicing levels. Ben just might try that tonight.
- 21:00 leave hotel to walk to residence. Sherie and I have used the lingering twightlight and cooling air to stroll around the small town. Dogs greet one with barks from small fenced yards, and both older and new homes are arranged compactly between gardens. Everyone seems to grow tomatoes, greens, herbs, etc. in plots from small and simple to extensive. We have seen small shops with the basics of daily life, and strolled past the old church, schools, and cemetery.
- 22:00 sleep so you can do it again tomorrow. Hope to sleep through the night.
I have asked George for maps, he forgot to bring them to dinner. I do love to look over maps, will likely buy some if they meet my expectations.
So far, I have written three blog posts without posting them to the internet. And we have not yet checked email. To log onto the wifi network at the hotel, one must register with the provider for free. But to get the code, one must enter a cell phone number and get the code by text message. As our Verisign phones don’t work here (even on a roaming network), and we have yet to buy a throwaway phone, we can’t get in. George gave us a key from someone else, but it has either a typo or some new password. I hope today (again) to sort this out.