The year has gone by exceedingly fast and I am afraid with that I lost my weekly updates to you all and I am sorry about that!! But winter is approaching and before I update on how the house plans are coming along I thought a few of you are waiting to see some of my little ‘finds’ from the house.
One thing about eating in Abruzzo is that you will be surprised and even embarrassed at the bill when it arrives at your table. Eating out in Abruzzo is cheap – cheap as in you probably couldn’t eat cheaper if you made it yourself – not compromised ingredients. Flavours are fresh, vibrant and delicious!!
Last Friday night I ate at a Pizzeria in Bominaco for the princely sum of €13.50, for which I received; 1 woodfired pizza, a large mixed salad, 1 litre of sparkling water, 1 non-alcoholic beer and 1 espresso! On paying I was rewarded further with complimentary chocolate liquor.
Saturday afternoon I hesitantly stopped at a touristy looking bar in Sulmona called Bar Centrale di Agostino Pierluigi in Piazza Annunziata for a quick bite to eat. I chose a bottle of water, bottle of Coke Zero and their Caprese: a generous plate of fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella (not the industrial variety) and chargrilled bruschetta drizzled with quality olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Total price €11!!
Ristorante Il Castello in Fagnano Alto, Abruzzo
A last minute invitation to dinner had me at this wonderful out of the way yet ‘close by’ restaurant in a town largely uninhabited since the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake. The restaurant is run by 2 husbands who were our hosts and their wives who do all the cooking according to methods handed down through their families.
We received 4 dishes comprising of the following:
Plate of charcuteries
Truffle salad: rocket, shaved truffle & shaved grana padano
Fritto misto: zucchini, aubergine, zucchini flowers, sage & cherry tomatoes fried in a light batter
Mozarella and bocconcini with grated black and white truffle!
I think there were 5 types to choose from and we were able to have half portions in order to try 2 types – we had no idea the portions would be so huge!
Ravioli – truffle & funghi
Spaghetti – sundried & pomodoro fresca
Gnocchi – saffron & local chickpeas
We struggled at the thought of eating any more but agreed we just had to TRY one!!
Chicken breast – almonds and saffron
Porchetta – calvados and roasted apple
Veal – vino bianco
Reaching the outer limits of what is possible for any person to eat in one evening we persisted scared of missing out on something wonderful!
Chocolate mousse with raspberries and mint
Peach torte with meringue and pistachio
Yoghurt semi-freddo and peach
I nearly exploded!! Generous portions, fantastic simple flavours and at a ridiculous price!! Including water and wine our meal came to €30 per head! I could not believe it – just 2 weeks earlier I paid €75 in France for a very nice but certainly of a similar quality meal of 3 courses, wine and water!
After reliving this meal I feel the need to rest and eat no more! Happy and content!
I was surprised and excited to find I had received a nomination from fellow blogger Cathy Powell at http://www.anitalophile.com/ for the ‘Capture the Colour’ competition organised by http://www.travelsupermarket.com/c/holidays/capture-the-colour/ .
The rules state that I am to post and provide stories of 5 photographs: BLUE, GREEN, YELLOW, WHITE & RED and at the end of my post nominate another 5 fellow bloggers for the award.
Not such an easy task to pick out pictures that represent a colour and give a new expression to a colour but I will do my very best!
I was working in Turkey and Greece on a luxury sailing yacht and we found ourselves on the little known Greek Island of Kastelorizo. We had heard about a blue grotto that was one of the islands must sees but it was also a very well kept secret by the locals who would charge a fee to those looking to view it. We awoke very early morning around 6am as we had guests on and escaped in search of the grotto. We came across a tiny hole in the cliffs on the western side of the island and wondered ‘could this be it?’. As we approached we doubted out tender could even fit in the gap and we all ducked as we surprisingly managed to enter through the tiny opening. This is the last I saw of the blue grotto as we left after swimming in the azure blue waters – as you can see the white of the grotto walls are very close to the motor of our tender!
While driving through the Champagne region I came across this war cemetery rather unexpectedly. People travel for many reasons, to see and experience other cultures or to see the past and where man has come from. I had no thoughts of visiting War Memorials on my first ever trip to Europe in 2006 however, I was struck by this vista: the perfectly manicured green laws, the perfect symmetry from where the crosses sprouted from the lawns. But most of all I was struck by the sadness of lives lost and grateful for the respect shown to these fallen soldiers more than half a century later.
Also on my first visit to Europe I found myself visiting the ruins of Pompeii, the striking imagery I viewed inside Pompeii of frescoes depicting Vesuvius billowing dark smoke and knowing everyone remained despite this constant threat. Outside you get a sense of WHY the people stayed there, these enormous lemons as big as a man’s head show you the bounty of fresh produce that was available in the area and still today! Lemoncello is an art form as are the lemons grown in the region!
It is difficult to think of anything BUT white in the Greek Islands – but I will always remember looking up this lovely street and seeing a young girl consumed by her own thoughts and fantasies as she goes on her way; perhaps home, perhaps to friends but with a spring in her step and happiness in her heart.
I was torn between two pictures for the colour red – both were taken in Dubai. This one of the local Taxi ferries where for as little as 1 Dirham one could cross from one side of the canal to the other. The rich colours and the oppressive heat blended well together – I was surprised how this particular ferry had so few people on it. My friend and I hopped on one for the experience later in the evening and their was barely enough sitting room for everyone!
So this concludes my colours expozay!
My Nominees for CAPTURE THE COLOUR in no particular order are;
- Toni from http://orvietoorbust.com/
- Emily at http://inspiredinitaly.blogspot.fr/
- Di from http://www.dimackey.com/
- Sam at http://www.lifeinabruzzo.com/
- Pete from http://www.lazioexplorer.com/
I hope you have found this wander down memory lane as enjoyable as I myself have!
The Guitar - La Chitarra
La Chitarra or ‘the guitar’ is used to form a traditional Abruzzese pasta which is probably best described to you as a ‘square’ spaghetti. Pasta dough is rolled through the strings of the Chitarra to produce the unique shaped pasta. Traditionally this pasta is served with a ragu usually with a meat base.
An Old Washstand & Basin - Un lavabo Vecchio e del bacino
On my last visit to Abruzzo my neighbour informed me that during strong winds the unsecured window shutters on my house would bang loudly keeping her awake at night or during her siesta. In order to rectify the situation with what little means I had I went around the house securing the window shutters as best I could. This included going into my ‘bathroom’ which has been filled with rubble from the terrace which fell in on it due to water damage and 40 years of neglect. I used the old terracotta bricks to stack behind the shutters on the window ledge to keep then closed as I had no other means of securing them. In the process I noticed some ironwork underneath my feet and decided to investigate further. The result was that I excavated the wrought iron washstand and enamel basin. A few days later I was introduced to some more neighbours and they have a very similar washstand but one that is more ornate and has a jug with it that sits in the bottom ring. I was impressed with theirs and my neighbour has offered to restore mine as a housewarming gift!
Old Bottles: Different Shapes & Colours - Vecchie Bottiglie – Forme e Colori Diversi
I found quite a collection of old bottles – not on my last visit but I thought I would share these with you. I found traditional wine casks in wicker (bottom shelf), old soft drink bottles, glasses a jug and storage bottles with stoppers on them. Some are clear, some blue, some green and some brown. I am not so sure of what I might do with these – maybe I will clean them up and display them somewhere as they are really quite pretty and they were part of my home before I arrived.
Old Keys – Vecchie Chiavi
I found some old keys around the house also – but what they unlocked no longer appears to be held within the house at all.
An Old Quilt - Una Vecchia Coperta
You will have to wait for a picture of this I am afraid. I was looking at the mess on top of the iron bed in the room that will be my master bedroom and I had previously thought the old bedding was completely ruined. At one stage there had been a small fire on the mattress, however I was surprised to find a hand made quilt in a very pretty red colour and as I pulled it out from underneath the other covers I realized that perhaps it would be possible to have it cleaned and given life once more. I will keep you wondering about this one as I need a few days to be able to give the quilt the attention it needs and to take photos.
Plans Coming together
Gosh it really has been TOO long since my last post!! Many apologies!! Well a lot has been happening. Back in April I thought my architect sent me his ideas for the renovation but I was mistaken he sent me the ‘current layout’ of the house and I was panicking about there being no bathroom!
Approximately a month ago I received 2 new plans – both with bathrooms! His ipotesi (proposals) were both very good. One was based on my own idea for the use of the space and the second was more his own thinking and an option I had not considered at all. Unfortunately at the same time I received the plans we were getting extremely busy on the yacht and it was only this weekend just passed that I was able to return to Abruzzo and meet with my architect.
We had a very busy 3 weeks with guests on the yacht and we worked 18-21 hours every day during this time plus the week leading up to and preparing was very hectic too! While our guests are fantastic and lovely they are on holiday and quite easily forget that you are actually working while they are enjoying themselves.
Our captain who had been a concern and a real problem for me had his employment terminated within the first 5 days of the guest trip. Therefore we had a new captain starting who was thankfully not new to the boat and I was charged with arranging 2 new crew members within a very tight timeframe. Needless to say we rose to the challenge and it was a virtually seamless transition with very happy guests!
We were in Cannes briefly during the film festival and with changed traffic conditions and the influx of crazed tourists I admit I had quite the job trying NOT to run them over as tempting as it was as they walked anywhere and everywhere with scant regard to traffic as I drove to the Fortville Market and the Boulangerie for early morning croissants and baguettes! We were also in Monaco for the Formula 1 Grand Prix and this was my first time there. We were in ‘lock down’ every day during the racing so it was a challenge whenever something was needed or I ran out of anything as the means of getting them (launching the tender and heading to Fontveille to markets) was a bit of an ordeal! We had several changeovers with various guests coming, going and returning but it was enjoyable despite the hard work! We had a few nights at anchor in St Tropez too which is nice except we have to do anchor watches which makes for broken sleep and adds to exhaustion.
After 3 weeks with guests and the changes in crew I spent last weekend in Italy enjoying a long weekend and taking a few more steps towards living my dream in Italy!!
I hope I can keep you updated more regularly but as you may be getting some idea of the way my work is it really isn’t always possible as sleep is the one thing one catches up on first given the opportunity!!
It’s funny – I have written about my house and my work but have yet to say anything here about my writing. I currently have 3 novels commenced as ‘works in progress’ but until recently had published nothing.
At the end of March 2012 I decided to experiment with e-publishing and delivered a short story via Smashwords. My short stories are quite different from my novels they’re quirky human interest I suppose whereas my novels are more Thriller/Mystery genre.
Please feel free to download a copy of ‘The Birthday’ using the link below, reviews are welcomed also.
I must apologise for jumping the gun on telling you about the architectural plans before finishing telling you about the rest of my trip to Abruzzo in March! It seems apologies are ‘de rigueur’ at present so I will try to resist my compulsion!
My last Sunday was of course quite hectic with the architect in the morning then a catch up and meeting with an expat in nearby Capestrano where we showed each other our houses. We then had an unscheduled visit to another expat couple who were suddenly setting the table for dinner with us and so it was much later than expected return to the house for a good night’s sleep!
Monday morning the weather turned quite cold and wintery, so with little I could do at the house and no pressing appointments I jumped in the car and went off for an exploration of nearby Santo Stefano di Sessanio a partially restored mountain village. At times it was attempting to snow but managed to avoid any contribution to the piles of snow littering the streets from the month of February.
Here are a few pictures of the town.
On my way back to the B&B I drove via Rocca Calascio and took a few pics there also.
After lunch with Jimmy & Francesca I headed to the Pasta Factory near Rocca Casale called Pastificio Masciarelli. Abruzzo has some of the very best pasta in Italy due to the fresh mountain water which is a key ingredient in all pasta production. I bought a 2 packets for myself to take home and a gift pack for my lovely friends and hosts at Abruzzo Segretto.
Tuesday was another busy day as I first went on a quick excursion to a nearby chocolate factory then headed to Ortona to meet with a friend for lunch. We had a superb 3 course meal and some very nice local wine to accompany it. Lunch consisted of some amazing home baked bread and olive oil, an array of antipasto dishes including mussels & calamari followed by a seafood pasta starring the famous chitarra pasta I spoke of in an earlier post and for dessert a tasting plate of no less than 4 treats each!
Feeling very relaxed and mellow after the leisurely 2 hour lunch I said my goodbye’s and headed north to Pescara to meet with the Architect. Maurizio had decided to rush through the paperwork for me so I could sign the planning permission requests before leaving. On arrival I met his wife and son, his 15 year old son had been called in as translator although surprisingly between google translate and my small understanding of Italian we managed to complete the necessary paperwork in about an hour. I was advised the planning permission for the commune (village) was a simple process but following the L’Aquila earthquakes there was another office that also required consultation and would take up to 8 weeks to complete.
I am so grateful for finding Maurizio to undertake the project – he renovated my neighbour’s house and I was looking to find him originally to complete the restoration but was searching for his details in L’Aquila where he was not. Sometimes things just fall into place – and somehow it seems that my landing in Abruzzo was more than serendipitous!
Wednesday morning I fare-welled my friends and picked up an expat also heading to Fiumincino for a flight. It was nice to have company on the just over 2 hour drive as it made the time go much quicker.
I returned to Beaulieu sur Mer looking forward to the next phase of the renovation process.
I feel guilty and must apologise for my absence in recent weeks! Working on yachts as I’ve mentioned previously is not an easy life. Yes, when it’s good it is very very good but when it’s bad it’s pretty rotten!
This Winter turned into a fantastic opportunity for me in terms of getting the ball rolling with the renovation. The schedule originally was to send the yacht via an ‘express’ delivery service whereby yachts are freighted on a larger ship across to the US. The cost of this service was set to in excess of USD$200 000 and the yacht would be shipped to Fort Lauderdale where it would be painted and redecorated before chartering in the Bahamas.
Due to the process of becoming a commercial charter vessel and time constraints it was decided the yacht would remain in the South of France for the Winter where all upgrades and refitting of the interior would take place.
We were hauled out of the water just before Christmas 2011.
Early January 2012 scaffolding started to be assembled around the yacht in preparation for painting of the exterior. Once the scaffolding was completed this was enclosed providing a tent around the vessel enabling a semi-controlled environment for painting.
The painting took forever and our captain was as is often the case conspicuous by his absence. Much of the time spent in the shipyard has been a waiting game. Often unable to enter the boat for several days while painting and preparation was undertaken. Times like this can be quite trying for those with a work ethic when there is little one can do and the air and the environment is filthy.
Approximately 10 days ago we were put back into the water and we have been cleaning and preparing the yacht for guests later this month. My hands are now cracked and dry, my fingernails have all softened and broken. I am wondering what the season will hold for me as it is likely we will have new crew for the Summer and there is still much to do on board!
WOW – my very good friend and fellow writer/blogger has nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award! Talk about honoured!
In accordance with the rules I must thank the person that nominated me, tell you 7 interesting things you may not know about me and nominate 7 bloggers and their links also.
7 things about me:
- I have a degree in Psychology
- I work as a chef for multi-millionaires but I am not culinary trained
- I am currently on my 3rd career and working on starting my 4th
- I hope to be semi-retired this time next year in order to spend more time writing
- I speak a little French, Greek, Italian, Japanese and Turkish while English is the language I can most easily be understood in!!
- My first ever full-time job was in a factory in Christchurch, New Zealand making suit jackets for men. I worked in the clothing/fashion industry for 8 years.
- My second career was in Workers Compensation specialising in rehabilitation and Injury Management – this I managed to do for 7 years!
I guess I am a long way from where I started!
Fellow bloggers I would like to nominate for the Kreativ Blogger award are;
- http://www.renovatingitaly.com/ Lisa is a fellow renovator in Italy she is inspiring and knowledgeable
- http://www.anitalophile.com/ Cathy is a fellow self-confessed lover of Italy, she is also a book lover and reviewer
- http://foodloversodyssey.typepad.com/ Kathy is a fellow foodie and shares a wealth of food info from France and Italy
- http://ars-opulenta.com/category/news/ Eugene is a wealth of information, has a wicked sense of humour and is your ‘go to’ man about Florence!
- http://becomingitalianwordbyword.typepad.com/becomingitalian/ Dianne provides a wonderful weekly introduction to the Italian Language and I look forward to her informative updates each week
- http://www.dimackey.com/blog/ Di is a fellow Kiwi living and working in Europe she has a great blog and is a fantastic photographer
- http://inspiredinitaly.blogspot.fr/ Emily has moved countries for love her blog shares her exploration of her new life inside the Italian Culture
I could go on but the rules are 7 bloggers so I apologise to those I have missed there are so many who inspire me. Thank you again Kim @ http://kimtalksbooks.com/
Grazie a tutti
On today’s Good Friday I remember the people in the Italian province of L’Aquila who lost family, friends and homes 3 years ago. I hope another year does not go by where they are left without relief, where they are left in temporary housing, where they are left surrounded by the rubble of the city that fell around them on the 6th April 2009.
As you enjoy the long weekend with family, friends & loved ones and whether you do so as a religious holiday or as a hard earned holiday break take the time to think of all that you take for granted. Indeed too remember those in the USA currently also in the throes of homelessness following destruction by more of mother nature’s fury in recent days.
The symbol of Easter is the Egg, symbolising rebirth in Italy rebirth is called riniscita. Whether you are religious or not the opportunity for new a beginning is indeed a tantalising one. If you are not loving the life you are presently living perhaps now is the time to seek out what you love in your life. Dreams can become your reality if you take the steps to make them happen.
May this Easter be the beginning of new joys and passions and may the pains of the past diminish leaving only the sweetness of fond and treasured memories.