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.
My neighbour asked me if I knew anyone interested in purchasing an old barn that she has for sale. It is not listed with any agents and she is asking 8000 Euros for it – I can’t tell you the exact size of the property I would guess 70sqm It is located on the edge of the town of Ofena and therefore easy access to services. It is a barn and may or may not be able to be converted to a living space.
Here is the link to some pictures I took – I apologise for the quality. The owner speaks French and Italian no English so if you are seriously interested you would need someone to liaise with her on your behalf – presently my Italian is not at that level to assist.
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!!
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
Today I received an email from my lovely Architect Maurizio. He has completed his plans and is meeting with the engineer to discuss it tomorrow. One slight problem no bathroom has been factored in so I sent a reply with the help of google translate to offer my suggestions. I also decided to flick a copy of the email to my friends to have a look at what I had sent. Unfortunately I was told it made no sense so have followed up with a very very basic email and hope he understands me.
I have a few sketches of what I was thinking to do that I will email him tomorrow and see what he thinks.
Wish me luck!
ps – apologies for the lack of a post last week a few dramas on the high seas as it were which I’ll tell you about soon… Thanks for your patience.
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!
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!