On my return to France I found that there had been little progress onboard the yacht and it remained inaccessible to all crew and would remain so for at least another week! As there was not really much that I could do work-wise I checked whether I could get to Abruzzo again to ensure momentum on the house was not lost. When one has opportunity one must seize it!!
So I booked flights to Rome and car hire for the 9th returning on the 14th and advised the architect I would be available to open the house for them to complete the measurements they needed to get the ball rolling.
As always I stayed with my lovely friends at Abruzzo Segreto in Navelli and as I was arriving late we decided to meet at a local restaurant called The Crocus where they were meeting other expat friends. I arrived at the restaurant close to 9:30pm after a few glitches with picking up the car and heading out of Rome in peak traffic. It was nearly 10pm by the time we were seated in the restaurant and we ate very well on a selection of local products – everyone having something they enjoyed mixed bruschettas, pizza, mixed grill, veal escalope and pasta with cinghiale the local wild boar. The two new faces I met were professional photographers from Ireland – one has a house in a town called Carapelle and another in Capo d’acqua to be restored and the other was experiencing Abruzzo for the very first time! We talked late into the evening and I was more than shocked as I glanced at my watch to see it was nearly 2am as I headed to bed!!
The next morning Maurizio called and advised he was still in Rome on business but would head to the house Sunday morning and start measuring and taking photos. I was quite happy to have a quiet day after the late night out and spent the morning reading. In the afternoon our expat friends arrived and we had a few coffees then headed to the house to be restored in Capo d’Acqua. I looked through the property eagerly as it also needs quite a lot of work done to it and as yet there are no immediate plans for the restoration except for an idea of what will be where.
As we surveyed the outside of the building and were surrounded by many Italian hounds with the longest ears I have ever seen on a dog in my life we were waved over by a neighbour. The neighbour Toni or Antonio insisted we come inside and sample his wine. We were overwhelmed by his and his wife Angela’s hospitality and enjoyed homemade orange cake and espresso as well as a very nice vino rosso. It was a little hard to leave as they enjoyed the company as we did their’s.
We headed up to my village and I showed them my ruin. Both photographers armed with their professional cameras immediately took to the house photographing different aspects which caught their artistic eyes! As the light was slowly waning we headed up to the Bar Aufinium for a quick drink before returning to Navelli and then another meal at The Crocus which we proclaimed would be pizza night! There we bumped into another expat living in the nearby town of Capestrano and invited them to share our table for some further conversation. Another late but interesting night, I was grateful for a good night’s sleep and a not too late start.
Arriving at the house I was met by Maurizio’s lovely wife and assistant as she sketched the outside of the house and I found Maurizio next door on top of the winery taking photos of the house. I unlocked the house and set to tidying the garden further and removing rubbish from the garden. Then I sorted through the beautiful collection of old bottles left in the house and put them neatly away in a cupboard so as not to be damaged should renovating commence in my absence!
As I fossicked (kiwi for rummaging) under the stairwell for any other ‘treasures’ I found an old sack and was surprised I had not noticed it before. Inside I found a traditional Chitarra for making a traditional pasta a square shaped ‘spaghetti’ for lack of a better description. I showed the architect and his wife and they were very excited by my find and suggested I keep it and rewire it for future use!
We stayed at the house together until around 12:30 before parting ways happy to have completed the measurements to be able to complete the next stage of the process the planning permissions. We agreed to speak before I returned to France and I offered to meet them in Pescara.
Stay tuned for updates and photos tomorrow!
I must apologise for this late post – but it is for a good reason. As you are aware I cannot afford the luxury of renovating full-time and as such I have a day job. Last Monday I dropped my captain off at the airport and due to the slow progress of painting the yacht we work on he advised I could ‘do a course this week’ if I wanted. It was rather short notice to say the least but I managed to arrange flights, classes and to stay with a very dear friend in Paris.
As a Yacht Chef it is often difficult to take the time to find suitable professional courses that are convenient to the yacht schedule. I was fortunate enough to find a Paris based school aptly named ‘Cook’n with Class’ run by professionally trained Chefs: http://www.cooknwithclass.com/
So Tuesday morning I was up frightfully early (5:30am) to fly to Paris, arriving just in time to grab some lunch and head to a French Dessert Class at Cook’n with Class with Pastry Chef and Tutor Briony Laberttoniére. Despite participants being a mixture of cooking abilities the class was fun, interesting and informative. We made classics such as Créme Brulée, Financiers & a Strawberry Tarte. Briony also teaches other classes at the school and has her own business if you are ready to dream why not take a look at her website: http://pretarever.fr/
Wednesday Evening was spent on an introduction to Molecular Gastronomy by Chef Alex Dreyer who was found to be a very talented and energetic teacher. We learnt to froth, foam and ‘caviar’ a range of ingredients in the very popular and fashionable Molecular Cuisine. The menu included a Sidecar cocktail with Picon Foam, Carrot Ravioli with a pea puree, Eggwhite Foam with Mushroom Velouté, Herb crusted Tenderloin with Apple Foam and Chocolate Mousse with Mint Caviar.
Thursday was a free day enabling me to spend time with a very dear friend in the city as well as catch up on some retail therapy!
Friday was extremely busy with an Advanced French Desserts class from 9am to 1:30pm with delicious desserts including a Chocolate Sphere with Mousse Gianduja, Paris Brest, Raspberry Mille Feuille Napoleon, and a Charlotte aux Poires. This I followed with a Bread Class from 2pm – 6pm spent making traditional Baguettes, Brioche, Fougasse with the knowledgeable and fun Chef Pino Ficara and while being experienced in breadmaking techniques I certainly learnt a lot from Pino.
Saturday was spent with Chef Alex taking a Market to Table Class where we toured local specialty shops Fromagerie/Cheeese, Boucherie/Butcher & Poisonniere/Fishmonger before returning via Boulangerie/Bakery and Fresh Produce stall to Cook’n with Class. On arrival we donned aprons and had a quick espresso while sampling a local olive bread before launching into a very busy period as we prepared our lunch. Our lunch included Monkfish with Scampi and Seafood Bisque, Pork Chops with Smashed New Potatoes, Garden Fresh Peas and a delicious reduction, Cheese Board (a selection of 7 cheeses to acclimatize the taste buds to the wonders of French Cheese) and ending with a perfect Tarte Tartin! All courses were accompanied by some very good French Wines.
Whatever brings you to Cook’n with Class you are most certain to learn something no matter how knowledgeable you think you are about cooking and/or French Cuisine. Others who took a class with me and shared their experiences from other classes attended at the school all spoke highly of their experiences. Class sizes are kept small to ensure you get a hands-on experience and a chance to ask questions. Next time you are in Paris and have a little time on your hands why not book a class or two?
Apologies for not updating you over this past week as I had an unexpected trip to Paris and returned only yesterday. Be assured there will be an update tomorrow afternoon and another on Friday.
Have a wonderful week whatever you are doing – life is too short not to!
Arriving back in Navelli after a day out Francesca called the alternative engineer. He understood the project was a restoration and that he was available and was to come and view the house on Saturday at 9am. A sense of relief flooded over me – checking emails I had not heard back from any other potential project managers for the house.
The next morning I headed off to the house armed with my newly purchased pruning shears and arrived about 10:30am. My neighbour was impressed with me as she spotted the large roll of garden mesh for utilizing for the fence and brought out a bottle of water for me. I spent some time removing the old wire netting that had all but disintegrated around the garden and snipping off the old metal ties to make room for the new improved fence. The roll of new mesh was quite weighty and I must admit I struggled somewhat unraveling it and placing it on the concrete edging, but once up and tied it looked markedly better than its predecessor!
I then set to cutting my prunings into shorter lengths to tidy up a little. My neighbour Ida came out in the afternoon with a small axe to help me strip off the leaves from some of the prunings to make a neater pile. I also planted a little bit of colour and following advice from Virginia to protect it from cats and to put it where she could water it for me we put up a little fence around that too. By the time I finished it was late afternoon and I was getting more than a little hungry. I packed in my tools and headed off to the supermarket in San Pio. I bought some cherry tomatoes, bocconcini and prosciutto crudo to prepare a small anti pasti platter for a late lunch/early dinner.
Jimmy and Francesca arrived at their home around 8:30pm with news that the engineer had cancelled the meeting in the morning but that they had some other news for me. An architect had been in touch and would meet us at the house with an engineer at 11am the next day – all was not lost.
Saturday finally arrived and I headed off to the house via the hardware store to pick up some lengths of chain and padlocks. When we arrived in the village the architect Maurizio was already waiting for us and was conversing with my neighbour Virginia – as it turned out he was the same architect that had restored her property following damage from the April 2009 earthquake (terremoto). I was thrilled the work they had done was excellent and I walked nervously down to the house wondering what his assessment would be.
Maurizio was positive regarding the house – there were some aspects of safety he was concerned about due to the property being neglected and affected by water damage via nearly 40 years without habitation. The presence of the vaulted ceilings was a positive aspect – it seems these are much stronger than regular flat ceiling/roof construction. The window on the first floor had been pushed out further following the harsh winter conditions – the extremes of temperature in the area causing larger cracks and fissures in the construction and I was also surprised to find water had collected in a bowl under the stairs. With Maurzio’s favourable murmurs we headed up to the Bar Aufinium for an espresso while we waited a half hour for the arrival of the engineer. Bar Aufinium was buzzing with locals as always friendly and welcoming.
Paolo the Engineer was waiting for us on our return to the casa (house) and he and Maurizio reviewed the house again and discussed the various potential aspects of the project. The engineer believes the house can be restored independently of the houses at the side and rear of the property including the strengthening work which will be required. We exchanged our full contact details and I was advised they would return the following week to measure the house and prepare a quotation for the work.
I felt somewhat relieved with the positive assessment of my casa – there was no possibility that I would ever consider pulling it down and I knew in my heart the property was sound. I wondered when I would be able to return to initiate next steps.
Sunday I drove nearly 3 hours to friends in Umbria for a lunch and wine pairing with a group of some 18 expats whom I had meet via Facebook. We had a wonderful lunch and conversation and found many of us were somehow connected by 6 degrees of separation! A few of us continued on to have dinner together cooked by our lovely hostess Giselle, we were plied with further delicious wines by our host Mark and entertained by their delightful dog Stella – what a fantastic day to remember!
Monday I awoke wondering whether the protests blocking off the ring road in Rome would be cleared. Thankfully it was and I had a smooth drive to Rome’s Fiumincino (Leonardo Da Vinci) Airport for my flight to Nice, France. As always I left a little more of me behind in Italy – each journey makes it a little harder to leave as I make a home for myself there.
Serendipity would have me back for the weekend!
Earlier this week I told fellow blogger Lisa from http://www.renovatingitaly.com/ that I now blog every Friday without fail and this has been the case since Christmas. However, I must now EAT MY WORDS as yesterday hell froze over and the blog post did not make it!!
I should be telling you all about what happened after the failed meeting with the engineer – ooh so much to tell you all!! But today is a little aside from this. I have been fortunate enough to return again to Abruzzo for the weekend – I was here the 23rd February to the 5th March and now back from the 9th until the 14th as we are unable to work on the yacht while it is being painted.
Yesterday (the 9th) proved to be more hectic than I could have imagined! I was casually preparing for my trip and decided I would have plenty of time to update the blog at Nice airport while I awaited my flight to Rome. I was on the train at 1254 from Beaulieu sur Mer then waited patiently at the bus stop for the Terminal 2 bus – for 40 minutes! Feeling a little perplexed I decided to board the Terminal 1 bus which had come and gone earlier. I stepped on at 1345 and what should have been a 20 minute journey took an hour!! The bus slowed to a snail’s pace as we passed hundreds of police vans and police in riot gear shields and batons at the ready. A French woman murmured ‘pour la presidente’ to me ‘ah d’accord’ I replied thinking ‘ooh la la’ and ‘mon dieu’ to myself wondering if I would make my flight! Finally I arrived at Terminal 1 and after taking the complimentary transfer shuttle to Terminal 2 was awaiting check-in nervously at 15:00 knowing the gate closed at 1530. Also to my horror there were hundreds of people queuing somehow Easy Jet had 4 flights leaving between 15:55 and 16:10 and I think we had all been caught up in the Sarkozy fiasco! By 1515 I was through security clearance and thankful I would make my flight albeit a little anxious with so many flights that my luggage would fail to do the same!
Arrival in Rome: on time – last time I landed in Rome I waited over an hour for my luggage and cringed at the thought this time would be no better! To my delight the baggage carousel started to turn after a 30 minute wait and after 40 minutes I was off on my way to pick up my hire car. Arrival at the hire car desk was not without a little drama – the computer system had crashed and there were several people ahead of me. At the counter the process was quick – all my details in the system ready for me just a matter of finding a car with snow chains. No problem a Fiat Panda was issued and I headed to the car park a little dismayed I would now be leaving Rome in the dark. I ask where the car is and the lady replies number 12 and advises her colleague is just checking for the chains, I unlock the car and put in my luggage and return to the desk. Sorry there are no chains we have to change your car – so I return to the car pull out my bags and return to the desk. Upgraded to a bigger car – thankfully diesel so it should work out okay.
Just before 1900 finally out of the airport heading to Navelli. Received a phone call and I hate to answer the phone while driving but I decided it’s okay if quick. My friend Jimmy is calling to confirm my arrival time and can I meet at the Crocus (a little bar restaurant not far from Navelli), they are meeting with friends who are over visiting their properties post the winter snowfall. No problem see you there. Well dinner was ordered at 2130 and we got back to Navelli just before 2am!!
Needless to say Friday slipped away from me quickly and silently, what is a girl to do? My opportunity to tell you everything had gone in the blink of an eye! So in Italian fashion my Friday post had to become ‘domani’!!
Ciao tutti – I will update you all again soon – maybe even before next Friday!! Stay tuned….
I arrived in Abruzzo on the 27th February full of the excitement of finally making inroads on my restoration after a few days of rest and relaxation. First I picked up the completed paperwork that was awaiting me at the notaio, and then heading to my friends Jimmy & Francesca at Abruzzo Segreto in Navelli! It had been a long wait with so many obstacles thrown in my path preventing me coming in January; Work, Flu, Strikes & Snow/Weather! The meeting with the engineer was reconfirmed and all was well!
I arose early on the 28th to meet with my Engineer at my village at 8:30, I felt encouraged when I received a message advising he would be 10 minutes late – he was conscientious I thought. A quick espresso at the local bar and then down to the casa. He looked, said next to nothing took photos, took a phone call. Told me that he would have a plan the next day or an alternative, he shook his head advising restoration would be difficult with the house being uninhabited for 40 years, but the words impossible were not mentioned.
I spoke to my neighbour (we speak in French) and she advised me her son worked in the Uffico Technico (the Planning Office) of the commune. I was offered cake and espresso which I accepted and I was also given some of my prized figs which she had frozen. I was also instructed to fence off my garden so no-one could enter and introduced to another of my neighbours.
On finishing my espresso I headed up to the planning office and asked a few basic questions – a little English was spoken. For restoration work with a Project Manager appointed no problem – for a new building it would take a long time to receive the planning permission. I was happy I could see everything coming together – at least I thought I did!
I then headed for the hills and took photos of the local area including the very picturesque Rocca Calascio. I was amazed at the contrast between two valleys – the one where I stay and the one where my house is – lots of snow versus very little except on the highest peaks.
On the 29th I headed to my local hardware store and was relieved to find my English speaking sales assistant was available and I organized purchase of wire netting to fence off my garden, some wire to tie it to the posts, pliers to cut lengths and some gardening gloves. The pruning equipment I had borrowed from my friends. From 10:30am – 2:30pm I worked solidly in warm temperatures sawing and pruning stumps and branches and although it all looked a bit of a shemozzle I felt a true sense of achievement. My neighbours murmured their approval and we were all happy, except me when I found I had broken the pruning shears I had borrowed! I returned to Abruzzo Segreto in the afternoon with a little trepidation – I felt terrible for breaking the shears I’d been entrusted with – to make matters worse Jimmy advised he had given me the wrong ones – they were not his but his brother-in-laws!
The 1st March I was set to head back to the house but elected to go to the local market in Popoli with Jimmy & Francesca and also to buy replacement pruning shears! Before heading off however I contacted the engineer and asked if he had considered my options. He advised it would be better to consider a new structure for the property and could I meet him in the afternoon? I reluctantly agreed and spun into a panic! I discussed his assessment with my friends and we made a few other enquiries – it appeared the engineer had more than enough work to keep him busy and a builder who had some familiarity with my property advised he was surprised of the recommendation to pull it down and start again. I sent off an email to another Project Manager/Engineer and as yet have heard nothing from this one. We headed off to Popoli and had a quick look around the market, then headed into the tourist office where I picked up an English publication on Abruzzo and a few other brochures on the region. Francesca entered into the conversation with the Tourism advisor that I was seeking an Engineer to restore my house – a few phone calls were made and we left with a couple of names and phone numbers who were recommended to contact.
The day disappeared relatively quickly thereafter! We headed to a few stores to find the pruning shears I needed to replace and I decided to buy a set for the house – at €12.99 I felt I could splash out – I would need to prune my trees again anyway! Suddenly it was after 1pm and our stomachs were telling us it was time to eat! We elected to dine at a restaurant called Gaetanos & it turned out the steak came highly recommended and I decided to give it a go. Mixed bruschettas (tomato, truffle, artichoke & cauliflower) and antipasti platter to share was very good! Next a very juicy mouthwateringly tender steak with radicchio was a pleasure and naughtily finishing with the Tiramisu! About 20 children aged around 8 years of age drove us mildly insane during the meal as their table was next to ours – but at times proved to be a humourous distraction!
Barely able to move following the meal we took ourselves for a stroll at a nearby reserve with hot springs before heading back to Navelli. I cancelled my afternoon appointment with my engineer as we were running too late to make it and I wanted a second opinion before considering a new build.
Today the 2nd March was spent with another heavy duty labour intensive burst more pruning, tidying, planting and fencing!
Stay tuned for more news of my progress, photos from my days and the 2nd opinion!!