Apr 14

An Emotionally Cold Winter!

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I am currently in Italy in Abruzzo overseeing the restoration project, making decisions on the interior, wall colours, bathroom fittings, flooring. I am truly amazed by the stunning work that has been completed slowly transforming my ruin into a home.

The winter was a difficult time away from Abruzzo. I departed from Italy near the end of November for the USA due to an absence of yacht work here in the Mediterranean. I managed a few days with a good friend and her family in Connecticut before heading to Fort Lauderdale in search of work.

My timing was not the best as the weather was quite unpleasant and unseasonably wet. However, I managed to find a few days’ work on a yacht in Miami for the annual Art Basel show.  The following week, I was offered a position that ended up falling through a few days later due to the owner’s preference for a Brazilian Chef. Later on the same day I was asked to join a yacht further up the coast in West Palm Beach that was about to depart for The Bahamas.

As glamorous as the destination sounds I managed to get off the boat once on the evening of our arrival, once on the evening of our departure and two very quick provisioning trips to the local supermarket. We were in and around the Bahamas from 14th to 30th December. The rest of my time was spent below decks in the galley preparing meals for 15 hungry crew and 10-15 hungry guests without so much as a minute to even feel the sea breeze on my face or take some photos of pristine desert islands with a few token palm trees adorning them!!

Bahamas 2013

Bahamas 2013

Sunrise at Sea

Sunrise at Sea

 

On the day of our departure I managed to take a few candid pics (see above) as we headed back towards West Palm Beach anchoring overnight in a spot which turned out to be in the middle of nowhere without an island in sight! While we were hoping to complete another trip with the owners in February to Cuba and Belize we were disappointed to find out the trip was cancelled due to repairs being needed on the vessel. We then moved from a rather pampered situation where we had gym, pool and bar/café facilities at our disposal as well as a free shuttle service to/from town and shopping centres to a remote shipyard requiring a US$20 cab fare to anywhere of interest.

Late February saw our captain retrenched due to a personality clash with the owner’s PA and a week later, we were assured of our job security and of extended contracts for another 2 months. Another week later, we were told ‘sorry we’ve changed our minds’ and just before lunch on the 4th March 5 interior staff including myself were asked to pack our bags and be off the vessel before nightfall! Exterior staff were kept on to complete the urgent works to prepare the vessel for a journey to Asia and those of us deemed ‘non-essential’ were kicked to the curb!

I had hoped to gain a few month’s employment on foreign-flagged vessels or ideally a sailing yacht competing in one of the regattas held in the Caribbean but alas, this did not occur. Between jobs I stay in Crew Houses – shared accommodation designed for those working on yachts usually twin share basis. I was lucky to have 2 very good roommates during these stays in the USA. I found a cheap flight departing Fort Lauderdale to Rome with Norwegian Airlines and returned to Italy on the 4th April after almost 4.5 months away!

While there is a ‘glamorous air’ to working on yachts of millionaires, the reality is the work can be uncertain and there are no real guarantees or protections although this is slowly changing with recent Maritime Laws. Unfortunately, many yachts operate without strictly observing these laws. Last year was particularly stressful for me with Employers not paying wages for several months at one point I waited almost 6 months to receive €12000 of unpaid salary. It can lead one a little jaded.

I am looking forward to a time when I can pick and choose when and where I work. I look forward to my house becoming the home I have dreamed it would become. I look forward to entertaining friends old and new along with my family in its sacred walls. I look forward to focussing on my dream of becoming a published writer and living my dolce vita in Abruzzo!!

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

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Nov 13

Vasto & The Heart of the Vastese

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Some time ago I started to tell you about my friend’s wonderful business ‘Italia Sweet Italia’ http://www.italiasweetitalia.com/ .  Fabrizio Lucci has made it his business to take you into the heart of Abruzzo and to let it speak to you!

In June of this year myself and a small group of fellow bloggers were invited to experience Fabrizio’s heart in Abruzzo! Day One we enjoyed the wonders of the Trabocchi Coast and the Sea’s Bounty as we cooked traditional seafood delights in the small kitchen on the sea that is Trabocco Punta Tufano and tasted some perfectly paired wines before spending the evening in the small seaside town of Vasto.

On arrival in Vasto we were shown to the lovely Hotel San Marco where we would spend 2 nights. The hotel was located close to the heart of Vasto and was very well appointed. The hotel has very friendly hosts, crisp clean rooms and a good breakfast for the active traveller. I would certainly stay with them again in the future and recommend them to other travellers as a pleasing and value for money accommodation option; http://www.hotelsanmarcovasto.com/

In the evening we went for a delightful passiggiata around the town stopping first to enjoy the view from the beautiful gardens of the Palazzo d’Avolos overlooking the stunning Coastline and then enjoyed the wonderful Art that adorns some of the walls within the palace.

Vasto from Hilltop to Sea

Vasto from Hilltop to Sea

Il Muletto by Filippo Palizzi

Il Muletto by Filippo Palizzi

We heard about the art of the Palizzi brothers – all offering a different way of seeing their world. I especially liked The Mule pictured above.

Saddles and tapestries showed us a little of the Craftsmanship of years gone by.

Saddles & Tapestry

Saddles & Tapestry

 

We then went to a local Ceramics Studio ’Creta Rossa’ and treated to seeing the artist at work hand painting ceramics in her lovely studio.

Creta Rossi Ceramics

Creta Rossi Ceramics

Hand Painting - Ceramics at Creta Rossa

Hand Painting – Ceramics at Creta Rossa

As the day was coming to a close, the warm Summer air enveloped us and sun began to cast it’s elongated shadows we stopped for Aperitivo and some surprise local entertainment with local celebrity Peppino Giannone. Wine, laughter and stories flowed as we enjoyed the end of what had been a very busy and most enjoyable day of Food, Art and Culture in Abruzzo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmwKooiOH6c

Another local celebrity posed with us earlier in the evening also – the hospitality of the people in Abruzzo is simply the best. To getaway from Touristic Italy and to experience it’s heart is an unforgettable experience and more powerful than throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain – once you’ve been it will be hard to stay away!

Fiat 500 Celebrity Pose

Fiat 500 Celebrity Pose

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Nov 03

Before & After – the story so far in pictures

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I recently started posting before and after pictures of the house on my Facebook page Dreamlifeofmine.com – I think it really shows what a dramatic change a building can go through and what is possible with reliable and open minded contractors.

I still laugh when I think about how little Italian I speak and my contractors have virtually no English language between them yet will still understand each other, we get the job done and we consider new options and alternatives along the way and talk through the pros and cons of each. Many stories of major work between non-Italians and the locals are not always so positive.

When I first met my house this was the view of the frontage

The Ruin March 2011

The Ruin March 2011

I think everyone thought I had gone completely insane when I declared I was going to buy THIS house which I saw by chance on the internet in December 2010.

But look at what it looks like today;

La Casa Mia 31 Oct 2013

La Casa Mia 31 Oct 2013

My bedroom is located on the top floor and has had a lot of work needed – new roof, earthquake strengthening and eventually will have new flooring. It also required a new terrace to be built.

Here is the bedroom in it’s original condition;

My Bedroom March 2011

My Bedroom March 2011

As you can see above the ceiling was much in need of attention but not surprising after more than 40 years of neglect!

 

Just a peek

Just a peek

Sorry for this only being a corner of the room – the builders were busy in the other corner leveling the floor. You can see here the iron rods put in to reinforce and the new roof looking splendid from above.

The terrace was mostly non-existent when I bought the house – the clever angle of the publicity photos implied it was still there! This was the view of the terrace when I first viewed the house.

The Terrace March 2013

The Terrace March 2013

As you can see – terrace is a very ‘loose’ description here!

Step forward into time and I can finally step on this terrace.

The New Terrace

The New Terrace

And the view from here is spectacular!

Terrace View

Terrace View

The side exterior of the house was already exposed and without plaster but had bits of old weeds growing out from it and it really showed as a rather neglected unloved house.

Corner of House March 2011

Corner of House March 2011

And now you can see the transformation with restored window architraves and the new terrace above – it is astounding the difference it makes!

New Exterior Corner View

New Exterior Corner View

You can see here the beautiful new terrace above replacing the crumbling exterior walls and my beautiful copper spouting too!

With that I shall bid you all a very good afternoon and thank you for your continued interest in my little ruin! Even though I’ll not be able to call it ‘my little ruin’ for much longer!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oct 18

Travel Your Way

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Some time ago I received an invitation via email to participate in a photo competition.

The competition is: Travel Your Way by Rhinocarhire.com

At the time I was juggling quite a few other things on my plate and I revisited the email and was surprised the deadline had been extended until the end of this month! So I trawled through some of my photos and found some that I felt reflected the way I travel and perhaps one that was a bit whimsical!

Travel By Road

I had the opportunity to spend some time in Austria last Winter. One thing I never imagined was how much snow could fall and the importance of being able to shelter your vehicle. In Austria they are adept at getting you out of the snow but it’s quite a surprise to find yourself practically buried! Sometimes it pays to take note of the weather reports!

Snowed in Austria 2013

Do I really need to see where I am going?

 

Travel By Air

I have the weirdest habit – I never seem to take photos from the air. But what better view than that of a Bird’s Eye View parapenting above Lake Geneve in Switzerland!

Parapenter, Lake Geneve, Geneva, Switzerland

Parapenter, Lake Geneve, Geneva, Switzerland

 

Travel by Rail

My very first trip to Europe found me in sub-Zero temperatures on the 1st June 2006! I was unprepared for the cold and also the intrinsic beauty found there. We took a cable car from the bottom of the hill and found ourselves in a Winter wonderland! Fresh snow dropping from the sky fascinated by the intricate snow crystal designs that landed softly on my lightweight jacket. The wheels you see here are part of the mechanism that pulls the cable car along it’s railway tracks.

Switzerland - Stanserhorn

Cable Cars, Snow in Summer form a Winter Wonderland

Travel by Sea

For those that are familiar with my blog it is more familiar to see photos I’ve taken from the perspective of the Sea. A truly unique experience is that of the Corinth Canal in Greece the most direct path from the Strait of Messina to Athens. I have had the opportunity to pass through it 3 times so far. There are several bridges over the canal and you often see people looking down on you – it was not until my last trip that I realised those on the bridge can get a unique view themselves by bungy jumping off one of them! Fortunately they are not able to jump when there is boat traffic s I can’t enlighten you further!!

Corinth Canal Greece on SY Geronimo

Corinth Canal Greece on SY Geronimo

The final part of the challenge is to nominate other bloggers to participate in this competition and I would like to nominate the following bloggers:

  1. http://www.wanderingsheila.com/
  2. http://dimackey.squarespace.com/
  3. http://www.renovatingitaly.com/
  4. http://laavventura.wordpress.com/
  5. http://www.aroundtheworldin80jobs.com/

Competition ends 31st October 2013!

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Oct 14

THIRTEEN 13 thirteen TREDICI 13 tredici

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What is it about a number you wonder perhaps? I found myself pondering the number 13 last Friday as I left my house. I was leaving having taken 13 photos of the latest works completed on my house.

 

The house was out of view as I walked to the car hesitating at first but then remembering in Italy the number is not dreaded here in fact quite the opposite it is a lucky number! Just to be sure I asked Roberta my architect’s sister-in-law and she confirmed that indeed it was lucky!

Thirteen photographs, so what you ask. Well, this got me thinking about the number and how auspicious it has been for me in finding Ofena and my house! When I first came to Abruzzo to look at houses to buy, I was shown 13 houses in 2 days.

However, it was always THIS house THIS casa in Ofena that stole my heart when I stumbled upon it by chance on a wintery day in Palma di Mallorca. I knew when I saw it that I would buy it, as dishevelled and unloved as it was I knew it had great bones and just wanted to beloved again.

Ofena la casa

The view I was greeted with back in March 2011

Last Friday after I had taken my 13 photos we drove up through the village and as we were leaving a small murmuration of birds followed us briefly along the road – it was the first I have ever seen myself and it was quite a treat to watch them dancing together in the sky.

La Casa mia - revealing it's beauty

La Casa mia – revealing it’s beauty

I feel very lucky to have been found by this wonderful house, in a wonderful town in one of the prettiest regions of Italy! I also feel very lucky to have lovely neighbours, an amazing/patient architect and a hardworking team of builders.

 View from the new terrace

View from the new terrace

Perhaps it is all down to luck or perhaps it is all just serendipitous? Have you ever be drawn to something not knowing why just knowing that you absolutely HAD to do it?

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