we got up at 6 on saturday so we could make it to the station on time for our 8 00 train to Torino. we had first class tickets which was nice, so we had bigger more comfy seats, and they served us coffee and biscotti. everyone around us on the train spoke english as a first language, either being American or Canadian, and also heading to the games.
we arrived in Torino and the first round of trying to decipher the transportation system began. we managed to buy bus tickets and take the proper bus to the Esposizione arena to try to buy tickets for an earlier event, probably hockey, since our curling tickets were for the 7 pm matches. we stood in a long line, and were at one point approached by a scalper who i'm guessing from his accent was dutch. he offered us tickets at 50 euro a piece, telling us that the biglietteria would only have 80 euro tix remaining and the line would take forever. he was right on one of those accounts: the line was long but mostly moved at a reasonable speed, but the hockey games were in fact sold out of the cheap seats. we weren't about to pay $100 USD per ticket to see Russia vs. Kazakhstan. i proposed that we head to Pinerolo, the site of the curling events, early and try to get tickets to the 2 00 session. curling hadn't sold out all week, so why should it now?
naturally, upon arrival in Pinerolo at 1 00, the curling was sold out. we had 6 hours to kill in a little town halfway between Torino and the mountains. we set off in search of a place to eat lunch. we found the tourism bureau on the way and asked them for advice. they told us a trattoria to go to and gave us directions in slow enough italian and with enough gestures that we pretty much knew where we were going. we also got a guide to pinerolo restaurants as a backup plan. we found the trattoria, which was very busy. after waiting about 10 minutes, someone finally came to help us and told us that they were full, and wouldn't be seating any more customers. we were pretty miffed that no one told us that when we first got there. it was 2 00 by this point and many places were closing. we found a place in the book that usually isn't open for lunch at all, but was during the olympics. it was on the second floor of a new office building. we had to buzz to get in, which puzzled us, but we were desperate and hungry.
the Casa del Gallo was a marvelous restaurant. we were the only people there, which is usually a little creepy, but the service and food were both so wonderful that we hardly noticed. besides us it was just the waitress and the cook. our waitress was marvelous. she spoke excellent english and even went through the entire menu translating every item for us! we expected to fake our way through the menu, which usually isn't too difficult, but she insisted. i had an artichoke flan with the modern equivalent of garum, which was strong but very delicious. i also had a plate of gnocchi. they had a tv on in the restaurant showing the olympics. the waitress and the cook were also watching, and we were all cheering and exclaiming together. we stayed over two hours, eating, drinking, and having fun. we left a very nice tip since our hosts were so gracious. then we left to wander the town a little before heading back to the Palaghiaccio venue.
we only had to wait outside a little bit before they opened the doors at the Palaghiaccio. we went in and took our seats. i was so excited! olympic curling, in person! let the naysayers at the Centro say what they like, curling is awesome. (as i write this, Prof. Klaasen, our Canadion professor is back in Italy and will now be with me defending the greatness of the sport.) our seats were in the corner and not very high, so i was kind of disappointed, but we could get up at any time and walk around the top walkway of the arena for a better vantage. the best part about our location was that we were right in front of the Japanese cheering section
! man were they fabulous! Japan is not known for its curling prowess, but they had some of the best support in the arena.
we saw three matches (yeah we were kinda cheated since most sesssions had four, but they were all great matches). the US dominated Italy, winning 11-3 in just 6 ends. when they shook hands i said "it's over." my dad said "what do you mean it's over?" i said "they shook hands, it's over! they conceded. done!" the next sheet over was Great Britain and Norway, the match which i expected to be closest. they did play a hard-fought and close match, which Dordy Nordby's Norwegian rink wound up winning in 8 ends. the surprise match of the night was Japan vs. Sweden. the Swedes stood in first place in the tournament and were the favorites from the start. but Japan jumped out to a 5-0 lead after the first two ends and never trailed until the 9th. Sweden pulled it back close and was leading by 1 with Japan having the hammer in the 10th end. Japan was lying one with their final stone to come, so they knew they had at least forced the extra end. their shot for two
to win the match unfortunately overcurled and hit the guard, so they went to extra ends. but since Japan scored in the 10th, Sweden got the hammer. Japan did a fabulous job in the 11th, putting three in the house and blocking all the Swedes attempts to put a rock in the rings! Japan threw a final center guard with their last stone and looked to have clinched the match. but Swedish skip Annete Norberg made a perfect draw
through the only possible hole and hit the button for one, and the victory. i felt bad for all the Japanese who had cheered so hard, especially since Sweden was already assured a berth in the semifinals. they all seemed in good spirits despite the loss though: i think they knew what a great showing they had put up against the world's best.
after the event we caught the train back to Torino, on which i took a brief nap. because the night had only started...