We have been in Vitoria since May. The weather has been good and I’ve made some friends who are local triathletes in Vitoria: Deigo, Ele, Oscar, Borja, and Guzman. They have welcomed us with their families to the Basque Region. Ele had Patrick and me over for home cooked paella. Ele is from Valencia where paella originated. Paella is often associated with all of Spain; however, it is not a dish that originated in the Basque region and paella is often harder to find in Vitoria than one might think. Ele has mastered the dish after years of practice with his mother. In Valencia it is a tradition to have paella every Sunday, so Ele has had lots of time to perfect his dish. We had a great time at his house and I am very thankful he invited us. Months later, my mouth still waters thinking of the smells and tastes of the rosemary and other spices of the paella Ele cooked for us. It was amazing.
A few weeks later, Ele and Diego set up a field trip for all of the Wollongong Wizards to a winery. Vitoria is about 35km from the Rioja region, which is famous for wines. We all ventured to the winery Eguren Ugarte for a tour, wine tasting, and menu del dia. Eguren Ugarte is in a cave built into a mountain. We had to duck to get through some of the low ceilings, but it was unique and fun to walk underground in a cave full of wines. Usually, I’m not a white wine type of person, but I absolutely loved the white wine we tasted. We also tried an Ugarte Crianza (92% Tempranillo, 8% Garnacha), a Martín Cendoya Tinto Reserve (80% Tempranillo, 15% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo), and a few other wines. My palate wasn’t good enough to taste the difference between the younger and the more mature wines, but I enjoyed every one I tasted.
My parents came to visit us in Vitoria after Chicago. I do not get to see them very often, so I was thankful to have them around. They also traveled to Hamburg and were able to watch me in both the individual and team relay races. It is always enjoyable to see them and talk to them without the internet cutting out our FaceTime.
After Hamburg, Patrick and I flew to Milan. Each year Jamie has given me a three day break in the middle of the season. It is a great opportunity to see and travel to places abroad we may never get to see again. Patrick and I spent a couple days in Monforte d’Alba (in the Piedmont region of Italy). We stayed at a Villa on top of the hills overlooking wineries. It was beautiful, amazing, peaceful, and relaxing—and it was exactly what I needed! We visited Elio Grasso, a winery that Mark Holowesko and Chris Farnum recommended. We spent three hours learning about and tasting the wines of the region. The tour was different than the tour of Eguren Ugarte. At Elio Grasso we learned about the types of grapes they grow and how their wines are made and certified. Elio Grasso do not mix grapes. Every bottle of wine is 100% the same type of grape. We tried five different wines, including Langhe Nebbiolo (made of nebbiolo grapes) and Dolcetto d’Alba dei Grassi (dolcetto grapes). We also tried a Borolo wine that was not ready to be released yet; however, my taste buds failed again as I thought it was perfect and ready to be enjoyed by all!
Our days in Italy did not include much and we didn’t have an itinerary. We leisurely woke up and planned the rest of our day around food: pasta, bread, wine, buffalo mozzarella, and olive oil. I am not normally a huge fan of pasta, but I couldn’t get enough of it in Italy. If only I could replicate the pastas we ate…On our last day in Italy, we went to Patrick’s old teammate’s house (Luca). Luca and his wife Francesca welcomed us with a delicious home cooked meal and tour of the city. Luca lived with Patrick and me for a few months in Minnesota. It was great to see him again.
I am now back in Vitoria training for the final race in Edmonton (August 30th). We are putting in a big block of training. It’s hard to believe I only have one more WTS for the year.