Monday, December 14, 2015

Housing Trip to Torino...Days 5-7

We received great news this morning! The house we selected has been settled and we still get the surface shipment to move our stuff. Praise God!!!

Back to the trip...After settling on the Pinerolo vicinity, we decided it would be a good idea to check out the area a little more in-depth. So, we drove past the house and just walked along the outside (it is fenced and gated so this is all we could do). We then drove to the small village center that will be our stomping ground for the next 2 years. It is quaint and small. We will probably frequent the market and maybe the pizzeria. It will depend on how everyone reacts to gluten in Italy.

Luckily, Pinerolo city center is only a 5-10 minute drive from our house. We parked and walked the shopping district, buying Italian meringue cookies along the way. We then walked the cobblestone alleys toward the piazza, deciding to attempt some real, Italian pizza. Oh my goodness, it was divine. An individual pizza was way too big for me. Joe had to assist me. It was so good! We also got our first taste of solicitors in Italy. They target Americanos, apparently. Joe gave him 1.50 EU, but he wasn't satisfied. He wanted us to pay for an entire spaghetti dinner. He would not leave our table until we completely ignored him. It was quite uncomfortable and quite sad. He knew to come to us since we were his best chance for getting something. We also knew we couldn't start a habit of throwing money at everyone we see in need. We don't have enough money to cover that. It is heart-breaking tho. We want to be the light of the world...but having discernment in that is difficult. We are praying that God shows us the people He desires we help.

Since it was lunchtime, everything was closed! If it isn't a restaurant, it is closed during the lunch break. And the lunch break goes from 12:30-3:30. So we just window shopped and went back to the car to hang out until 3:30. Joe napped, of course. That guy can sleep anywhere. He claims it is lack of sleep. I think I got less sleep than he did on this trip, and yet he could fall asleep instantly while I could not. At 3:30 we head out to find some gelato. It was soooo good. It was so much better than the gelato we had at Eataly. Not sure if it is a good thing or bad thing that it is so close to our new home!

At the pizzeria

Best gelato I've ever had

We then headed back to the hotel to Skype with the kids and get ready for dinner. We went to a gluten free restaurant for dinner and it was very good. We even got dessert and loved it! I will say one thing, our entire family will be in much better shape after moving. You do a lot of walking! Often, the place you want to go is not just a few parking spaces away. You have to walk to your location, unless you want to figure out the bus lines. Even in Pinerolo, we will likely park and walk. Supermarkets do exist, but we'd much rather go to the open air market, frequent local restaurants, get the full Italian experience. I'm sure we will hit up the supermarket for the big stuff, but most things will be bought locally. I am really looking forward to that!

The next day we packed up and headed to Ikea. At that time we thought we would not be getting our surface shipment. We looked at mattresses and kitchen gadgets we might need. Luckily, we will not need them. Our surface shipment will move all of those items for us. Still, it was fun to walk around Ikea Italy style. We then went back into downtown Torino to have a bicerin at Al Bicerin. It was the real deal, with coffee, melted chocolate syrup and cream. It was exquisite! I think the bicerin is the reason I've been craving coffee since we returned. I've always despised the taste of coffee. Add some chocolate syrup and cream, and it is soooo good. I really didn't plan to get an addiction while there. ;)

Close to Al Bicerin was a local cathedral, Santuorio della Consolata. It was gorgeous. Words can't describe its splendor. A picture can help, tho.

The altar

We decided to check out the souvenir shop. I won't tell you what we bought, because that might be a Christmas surprise, but we thoroughly enjoyed the lady that worked the counter. Although we told her we speak English, she spoke only Italian. She had long conversations with us, pointing and showing. We only picked up enough words to sort of understand. It was great fun, tho. Joe said it was his favorite 15 minutes of the trip. I must say, we were there longer than 15 minutes. This lady was a saleswoman! :) We then decided to drive past the location for the International Church of Torino. It is in a sort of technical school. So we just drove by to see the location. It will be a 1-hour trip each way for Sunday service. We figure it will be a chance for us to do things in downtown Torino on Sundays. 

At this point, we figured we should head to Milano to get checked in to the airport hotel and eat dinner. We just did dinner in the hotel restaurant, as we were not close to anything but the airport. It was tasty and several courses.

Driving to Milano - I'm exhausted!

The next day was the flight home. We really missed the kids, at this point, and just wanted to wiggle our noses and be home. Unfortunately, I'm not Tabitha, and I was stuck on flights for 15 hours. At least I was with Joe, and we made the most of our flights...when he was awake. I never watch much tv at home. On a flight is a different story. There isn't much else to do. Watch a movie or 3, eat some lousy airplane food, read a book or magazine. I, unfortunately, forgot to bring any reading material. Oh well! Lesson learned for the next flight, which will be soon! 

I am hoping to keep up with this blog while we are gone. This will be the easiest way for us to keep in touch with everyone at home in KY and to show you what we've been doing in our travels. Arrivederci, for now!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Housing Trip to Torino...Day 4

Today is the day! We finally get to view our home for the next 2 years! Well, we didn't wake up knowing this. We woke up praying that we would find our home on this day, but we had no idea it would happen.

As always, we start the day with a breakfast buffet. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm getting a bit tired of a huge breakfast buffet every morning. Then, we meet Mariangela and Aureliano at the road. The hotel has a private entrance, and there is no sense in Mariangela walking to the lobby so we can all walk to Via Nizza together.

Our first stop is a multi-unit property near Pinerolo. The grounds are gorgeous, the area is quiet, the unit is quite nice, it seems perfect. It would have been perfect except the landlord lives on the property and has fenced off many parts of the "park" so tenants can't even walk the entire grounds. We would have had a small rectangle of private yard, which would not work with 4 kids. They'd go crazy! The landlord did not seem very keen on renting to a family with 4 kids, either. This place would be perfect for a couple or a couple with 1 small child. It appeared idyllic, yet was not.

Next stop, our new home for the next 2 years, hopefully. We are still in negotiations. Praying this house works out for us. It seems perfect for our needs. On to the house...It is 6BR, 5Ba (I think...can't remember all the baths!), 2 kitchens, living room, dining room, 2 sitting rooms, a roof terrace, a room for school and a study. It is very close to the area we wanted to move to, Pinerolo. It is gated and fenced, we would be the only people living on the property, it has a nice view of the Alps, the landlord speaks English and seemed excited about having kids on the property. There is a laundry room with 2 washers (they don't use dryers in Italy) and a garage for 2 cars. It is an unusual shape...and I love houses with unusual shapes. If there is a round part to a house, I love it. Ironic since I've always lived in a ranch. I just really enjoy the architecture and structure of circles in buildings. Well, this house has circles in spades! The overall shape is a snail. It spirals up to a point and has a rectangular part at the back end. As we looked through the pictures, the kids pointed out all the circles. Circle beds, spiral steps, light fixtures, lamps, chairs, bar stools...lots of circles! So without further ado, here are a few pics of our new house (hopefully!).

Spiral staircase to the balcony and second sitting room 

Circle bed in master bedroom...this is going to go

Outside pic that shows design of the house

So we had to be pulled away from this house to see the remaining properties. The next property was within walking distance of Pinerolo city center. Let's just say, I stepped out of the car and almost told them not to waste their time. No yard, small house, on top of several apartment buildings. After seeing a house that felt like home, this was dismal. The owners had removed everything from the property. When I say everything, I mean everything. The kitchen was empty. No cabinets, no appliances, no light fixtures, nada. The entire house was void of light fixtures. They had even removed some of the panel boards from the walls! Joe noticed a place in a bedroom where they had ripped the wires out of wall...through concrete! Yikes. No thanks.

We had a little bit of time so Aureliano took us to the market on Pinerolo square. It was amazing! Prices for fresh veggies were incredible ($0.10 per pound of apples because they had a slight blemish...applesauce anyone?) and they had lots of fresh seafood. They are open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Joe already knows where I'll be every Wednesday and Saturday. There was a man from South Africa trying to sell me something in Italian. Once he learned we spoke English, he just wanted to know more about where we were from and why we were there. We are going to learn so much when we move. It is going to be wonderful for our family. Aureliano took us to a small, local diner for lunch. The atmosphere was incredible. The polenta was a little bland, but the atmosphere made up for it!

The next house was incredible. It was a bed and breakfast that he was switching over to a rental property and is on a working horse farm. The landlord competes in carriage riding or races or something like that. There were plenty of bedrooms, bathrooms, sitting areas, open spaces, sunroom, etc. We did like this house. It is number 2 on our list. But, alas, there can only be one number 1. If negotiations for the snail property do not work out, we will start negotiating on this property. Aureliano was not impressed. He much prefers the snail property. I asked. I figured the opinion of an Italian would be priceless.

The final house on our trip was confusing. It was up a huge hill, where the driveway wasn't even passable. So we hiked up the driveway to the house. It is basically set in a forest. Joe said J Jr. would love it. It looked like the Shire from The Hobbit. The house was very large with bedrooms everywhere. It had a cool fireplace with a leather bench in front of it. Huge negative - it hadn't been updated in forever. No one had even lived in it for 10 years! The wallpaper was textured, peeling and all over the place. There was carpet everwhere, which is quite unusual for an Italian abode. The snail house has some in the homeschool room. Everywhere else is brick, tile or hardwood. Our relocation specialist was appalled at the state of this property. We later found out there could be wild boar roaming through. Although I'm all about wildlife, an animal that could potentially harm the kids while they are playing in the Shire is not appealing. For many reasons, this property was given the boot.

We were scheduled to visit properties the next day, as well, but Joe and I knew our new home had been seen that day. Mariangela suggested we sit down at a caffe bar and discuss our thoughts. We were all in agreement. This family should live in a snail for the next 2 years.

View from the driveway 

There is a palm tree! I <3 palm trees!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Housing Trip to Torino...Day 3

In the last post you read how our first 2 days in Torino involved lots of food and lots of getting lost, courtesy of me. The next 2 days will involve lots of houses! (Sorry...Joe deleted every picture of these houses...he only kept the pictures of the house we chose)

The first day started with the breakfast buffet (as every morning did) and waiting for our relocation specialist to arrive. She is Mariangela, and she is amazing. I wish we had gotten pictures with her and our driver, Aureliano. They were both so great, I can't even express how grateful we are to them. Mariangela warned us of Aureliano's need for speed and tactical driving skills. He did not disappoint. I kept my nose in the binder she gave us with all of the properties listed. It was safer this way.

The first house we viewed was pretty amazing. It had gardens that were huge! It was 3 bedrooms, 1 of which was the attic floor. It had 2 sitting areas, dining room, kitchen, party room in the basement, a deep freeze, and those beautiful gardens. Unfortunately, it was in a remote area and we would struggle to communicate upon arrival. It was still on our list of properties to consider.

The second house was very nice, very close to Joe's work and well within our budget. It also had a teeny, tiny yard, a small city center, and just didn't feel right for our family. I think I liked it more than Joe, but you have to go with your gut. It had marble throughout and was extremely cold...I just saw busted heads and 15 layers of clothes to counteract the marble.

The third house was quite far from Joe's work (in Moncalieri), up windy, narrow roads, needed a good cleaning, had no yard and was extremely close to the neighbor. There were huge, dead bees everywhere! Can you tell I didn't like this property? There were a few features we did like, but they did not counterbalance the negatives. It was immediately off the list.

The fourth house was in an area that is close to Joe's work and I really liked it. When we first walked in, I would have crossed it off the list. Musty smelling and you could tell it hadn't been opened for quite some time. It had a bathroom and some bedrooms in the basement and I internally groaned. But then we ascended the stairs and the house got so much better for me. Open spaces, a cool balcony overlooking the dining/living area, a spot for a veggie garden, bookshelves galore...I was pretty smitten. Unfortunately, Joe didn't get bit by the love bug for this house. He mainly saw the missing light fixtures, unpainted walls, grumpy landlord. What a killjoy! LOL. That is why we make a good team. We keep each other realistic.

The final house of the day was back in narrow, windy roads. This house was much nicer than the first Moncalieri house. It had some positives (outdoor BBQ, open living room, updated and Americanized kitchen), but it had some definite negatives as well (smaller rooms, funky tile in all the bathrooms, did I mention the road?!?!). Other huge negatives for me were the landlord living directly behind the property, an attached apartment to our unit and there was a platform above the driveway where I saw many broken arms.

Just some logistics information...Aureliano is a great, Italian driver. If we had an appointment and his GPS said we'd arrive 7 minutes late, well, that didn't happen. We were on time to every single appointment. He also took us to some amazing restaurants for lunch and to real caffe bars. He didn't speak a lick of English, but we communicated through Mariangela. He became part of our Italian family. If you come visit us, we might have Aureliano pick you up from the airport. Nothing like a big dose of Italian driving off the bat. If he likes you, you will also visit a caffe bar. It is what he does. OK, you might visit a caffe bar even if he doesn't like you.

So our first day looking for a house near Torino wasn't overly successful. We still had the first property on our list...and it is still the third property on our list currently. But we hadn't found "it" yet...the place we felt we could call home.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Housing Trip to Torino...Day 1 and 2

Joe and I just returned from our housing trip in Torino, Italy! It was a great time learning about a different culture, seeing how people live in other parts of the world. It was an exhausting trip flying halfway across the world, dealing with jetlag and walking many, many blocks over the week. This will probably be a several post presentation. I don't think I will be able to fit everything in one post and I don't have the mental capacity right now to make that happen, anyway.

Our week started with our flight on Saturday into Milano-Malpensa airport. Luckily, Joe had taken this flight and drive previously for work. He knew where the car rental place was, sort of how to get to Torino from Milano, and what to do in a roundabout. I, on the other hand, had many new experiences in this first day! Joe knows me well enough to know that I needed to navigate and keep my nose in the iPhone so I wouldn't freak out about the insane driving situation. Ok, ok, it was only insane to me. Everyone else on the road thought it was all normal. A 3-lane road with 4 cars across, maybe a Vespa or bike in the mix as problem! Did I mention I'm not very good at navigating Italian roads yet? Yeah, Joe was patient and didn't get too frustrated with me. Luckily, there is always a roundabout somewhere to do a 360 and come back the opposite direction. Normally, I'm quite good with directions. I promise. Pinky promise, even. This was a whole new world for me. Apparently, google maps likes to show the roads after you've already passed them. Good times!

Me navigating...oops, taking a selfie. I think we missed a turn. ;)

We checked in to the hotel early. It was a nice room that overlooked the mall. Scenic, I know. Much more scenic than the hotel that we had the final night in Milano. It overlooked a parking lot. But back to our hotel for the week...the staff was delightful, room was nice and clean, we were close to shopping and restaurants. What we couldn't walk to, we could drive or take a subway. So we dropped our stuff, I freaked out a bit about the toilet (I had no idea that flushing a toilet would require a degree! Every place we went had a different way to flush the toilet and turn on the is exciting!) because I didn't know the huge panel on the wall was actually a flushing mechanism. Joe laughed at me. Truth be told, I would have laughed at him had the roles been reversed. Also, there is a bidet in all private bathrooms. All I'm gonna say about that becomes accustomed to the bidet. It is something we should start in America.

So we set out...I was starving! We checked out the mall and didn't find anything appealing there so we walked across the street to Eataly. Oh my! The food was delicious! So tender, so fresh, so delicious. After getting frustrated in yet another bathroom, we left Eataly for downtown Torino. Subway, here we come! We headed for Porta Nuova and the life of the city! We walked around a park and down a few shopping alleys before we popped out into a piazza where they were having a Chocolate Festival! So, I was in Heaven and so was Joe. We bought many different chocolate bars and wafers, Joe had some hot chocolate (ok, I didn't enjoy this. Shoot me, but it was a weird texture and not my thing), and enjoyed seeing the people of Torino in their natural environment. There were dogs everywhere! All of the Torino pooches seem very accustomed to humans...put another dog in front of them and they go ballistic. It was hilarious!

Joe with a giant chocolate shoe

Me enjoying some Chocolate

After enjoying the Chocolate Festival a little too much, we walked to the Palace and got information on yearly passes. I think we are gonna do it. It would be nice to have somewhere to take the kiddies while we are waiting for the house to be ready. More about the house tomorrow. We then decided to head for the River Po and check out the extended stay apartment we will be living in when we first move. Big mistake. It was a long walk, we were already exhausted and my body gave out on me at some point. Positive note, our extended stay place looks quite nice. Negative note, it is not very close to the subway or much of anything. It is close to a park and the river. There is also a castle within walking distance that we can take the kids to see. I am so excited about the schooling opportunities in Torino! Anyway, we saw the ground floor of the extended stay place, used the restroom (notice the theme?!?!) and headed out for our hotel. On the way to the hotel, my foot gave out on me. I had to keep stopping due to the shooting pain in the side of my foot. I guess my body isn't accustomed to all this physical exertion. I'm getting old.

Us by the Fiume Po

That night, we decided to just eat at the hotel. The staff was amazing and gave us many gluten free options. They even provided a gluten free option for a local coffee favorite. It is called Bicerin and is typically coffee, chocolate syrup and whipped cream on top. Well, the chocolate syrup they had was not gluten free so they put Bailey's in instead. I didn't complain. It was delicious!

The next day we headed out to explore the city centers of the villages we were considering for our home. It was a lot of fun and I got us lost more times than I'd like to admit. We explored a large grocery store, a Home Depot store, of sorts and walked through many, many village streets. We loved every second of it! I got to see where Joe will be working, how far each village is from his work and how far it is to Torino. A productive day, all in all.

Breakfast buffet at hotel. Joe was impressed with my spread.

Overlook at castle in Rivoli...ohh, the Alps! So scenic