A little bit of this…a little bit of that…

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I should have written this blog about Venice a while ago…in the middle of May in fact, but as so often happens life and other business gets in the way. My feet hardly touched the ground after our Venice trip as I only had one day at home in Petritoli before rushing back to England for the final show of the Hartley Williamson School of Dance. A North Devon Dancing school that I began over twenty-five years ago and which has been running ever since. When I left the wonderful Maralyn carried on without me and then Davina, a former pupil of ours worked first with Maralyn and carried on to run it on her own for a few years. It was an emotional day with lots of flowers, ballet shoes, tutus and of course tears. But all good things come to an end and we hope all the little ballerinas will find somewhere else to follow their dreams.

Before I go back to Venice I must mention something I forgot to tell you about on our road trip from England to Italy. We went to visit the Bayeux tapestry, a truly magnificent sight and well worth a detour if you’re in the vicinity. They have the whole tapestry behind glass and you follow the story via a recording on a personal handset. I remembered so well being taught in school about this famous tapestry and the killing of Harold with an arrow through the eye. It was amazing to see the REAL thing. Sadly, the weather was atrocious that day so we didn’t really get to see the town at it’s best but I can say the bit we did see made us want to go back one day. Sorry no photos…like I said it was raining, but I have put a link for the museum. Click here

Now to Venice! If you have never been to Venice then it should be on your list of places to go. I have now visited twice and will be happy to return again. You need to get out of the main tourist areas and into the back streets which twist and turn and weave their way over tiny bridges crossing the many small canals that network their way through the town. It’s a place where people live normal lives and go to work. So many tourists, it seems only go to St Marks Square, drink a coffee at one of the famous cafes and queue for ages to go up the Campanile, into the Doge’s Palace or the Basilica…all of these things are great to do but there is so much more to Venice. Also, eating or staying anywhere near this popular area will cost a whole lot more than off the beaten track. It’s the most wonderful city. We travelled this time by train and when you arrive at the station and walk out of the main entrance the first thing you see, apart from a mass of people, is the Grand Canal.

There are no cars, taxis or buses…but there are, of course, plenty of boats! Everything is done by boat so all the services, the police, the ambulances etc., and all the tradesmen travel by boat everywhere. It’s like nowhere else I have ever been. We took the water bus (Vaporetto), you can buy a weekly season ticket for 60 euro which is worth it because otherwise each trip costs €7.50. As the bus is the quickest way to get around then you soon get your money’s worth.The Grand Canal is also serviced by Traghetti, these just cross from one side to the other. They are the same shape as a gondola but have two boatmen on board. It costs around €2 per person.

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A Tragetto

I have never been on a gondola and really don’t wish to. There are so many of them now there are often gondola traffic jams. I think maybe, a hundred years ago it would have been a romantic and inexpensive thing to do but nowadays, it very much a tourist attraction, and I did see more than one gondolier on his smart phone…enough said.

We walked a lot in Venice, mostly around museums. I liked the museum of Modern Art (The Ca Pesaro) which housed some famous works, it gave me a bit of a buzz to see Rodin’s The Thinker and actually touch it, when I had seen it so many times in books and like the Bayeux Tapestry I had been taught about it at school. There were a few modern pieces I couldn’t ‘get’ at all, one that was deliberately unfinished and another which was just a slab of granite on the floor…I’m sure I should understand this stuff but it does nothing for me. I suppose at the very least I’m discussing these pieces!

We did do a couple of touristy things, we took a guided tour to Murano and Burano and I would recommend this to anyone thinking of visiting these two islands. For one thing, if you get a good guide, which we did, then you will learn a great deal about Venice on the boat trips and secondly you will get to visit the glass factory in Murano and watch the masters at work. It was fascinating to watch a ball of hot shapelessness turn into a delicate rearing pony. Most of the glass work on sale at the factory was out of our price range, one beautiful sculpture in the style of Picasso was €28,000 – hey ho…not for us I fear.

Burano is known it’s quaint multicoloured houses and  for it’s lace making which, is sadly now on the decline. There are only a couple of ladies still stitching, it seems the younger generation have no interest in carrying on the tradition. Shame.

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The gorgeous tablecloths and napkins were however, more in our price range so I bought a set plus a table runner. Very pretty. We were told by our guide that the houses were painted different colours so that when the fishermen came home on a friday night, went to the bars and got very drunk they would be able to find their way back to the right house by virtue of which colour it was painted!

 

We took a trip to The Lido and on the boat trip across The Lagoon, (La Laguna) we saw two ships that could not have been more different. One was a beautiful three masted, tall ship, an Italian training ship I believe. It was tied up alongside the Arsenale, it was a sight that draws one quickly back into history and nostalgic for times past. Just after we had passed it by, I turned to look on the other side of our boat and there, I saw it, an absolute monstrosity. A cruise ship looking like a block of flats on the water. It was so big and ugly I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was being guided in by two tugs boats, one pulling from the bow and the other tied to the stern, presumably to keep it on course. It passed us and headed in towards Venice and as I watched it turn the bulk of the ship dwarfed the buildings in St Mark’s Square, in fact the ship blocked our view. No wonder there have been many complaints from the residents of Venice about these cruise ships visiting.

 

The Man decided it would be a good idea to walk the length of the Lido…actually we managed about two thirds of it. I’ve been walking a great deal lately and keep my eye on the ‘steps app’ which told us at the end of the day that we had walked over 23,000 steps!

I LOVED a particular place on The Lido (even though it had cars, buses and trucks on it) We had walked through the main town and out through a bit of an industrial area along the footpath until the footpath no longer existed and then we were walking on the road. I was in the mood for turning around but then we arrived at Malamocco. A gem of a place, away from all the tourists, clean, pretty and a bit like a film set. We found a trattoria for lunch which was busy with local people and a few visitors like us. The waiter was a short older chap with a quick and friendly manner, ‘we got mussels, we got fried fish, we got pasta with fish sauce…’ he actually spoke in Italian though…It was a take it or leave it menu, which we love, so we took it, along with a quarter carafe of white wine for me and a litre of fizzy water for The Man.

At the end of our walk we came upon the Film Festival venue, an ugly looking place…why do the powers that be have to do that? Why could they not have built something classical and attractive instead of a concrete monster? Perhaps I’m a bad judge of architecture…but it wasn’t to my taste.

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The food in Venice was great but expensive even though we ate outside the main tourist areas. I think one can expect to pay between €30 and €50 a head for a decent meal. It was our wedding anniversary one evening, so we felt that splashing out was perfectly acceptable. We arrived at A La Vecia Cavana by accident and it turned out to be one of the best places to eat according to our guide book, (which was ten years old – sorry). I think the reason we liked the restaurant so much was not just the excellent food but the service, our waiter made us feel important and he did all the right things to make sure our meal was the best experience it could be. The walls of the restaurant were covered in photos, some famous people and some family and they had a great piano player which added the final romantic touch to the evening. My mother would have loved it, all the old familiar songs.

One of my sons has an Italian girlfriend and her sister works in a bar in the San Polo district of Venice and after many wrong turnings we eventually found it. It was packed with young local people, not a tourist in sight and we enjoyed a drink for a normal price, a glass of Prosecco and a glass of Crodino for only 5 euro. It was supposedly called La Poppa, but that was one of the problems we had when looking for it, the name was in the process of being changed either from or to La Poppa but no-one seemed very sure. Typically Italian.

I took hundreds of photos of Venice and I would love to upload them all but that could be boring so I’ll leave you with these…

 

We’re now in Puglia so I’ll let you know about this area of Italy in my next post which I hope won’t be too long away.

Back to Le Marche…

If I’m honest, I wasn’t ready to return to Italy and our townhouse in Petritoli, not quite – I was still in honeymoon mode with Dorset and Bridport. But, once in the car and heading towards Poole to get the ferry to Cherbourg I became preoccupied with the ‘road trip’ and excited about travelling. I love a good road trip with the dog and The Man – we are all good travelling companions… something that The Man’s daughters could never quite understand… ‘you mean you’re going to spend five days in the car with…HIM? How could you do that?’ But, we rub along fine and always have plenty to talk about and when not talking we listen to audio books.

The ferry left Poole at 8.30 a.m. and we had to be there by 7.30 because of the dog, we decided to leave our little Dorset hamlet on Wednesday evening and stay the night at the Thistle Hotel, only a few minutes from the port. The weather was atrocious…rain falling in biblical proportions – very unpleasant. It was difficult to appreciate the close proximity of the hotel to the water until, also biblically, the sky cleared and sailing boats came into view… however, it only lasted long enough to walk the dog before bedtime.

Jpeg is a star traveller. She never complains and as long as she has her own bed, food and a chance to smell the local area, pee accordingly, then she will settle down anywhere, as long as we are there too. We have only been on Le Shuttle with her previously and the ferry was going to take 5 hours (should have been 4 but the French dock workers at Cherbourg were on strike so…). She was so good in the car. I gave her a herbal tablet to calm her down, (should have taken one myself) and thank goodness, they didn’t enforce the use of the muzzle…all that effort getting her used to it and then we didn’t need it. You’re allowed to visit your dog half way across the channel, which I did and taking advice from other experienced ferrying dog owners, I only crept up to look into the car without her seeing me. She was fine, sitting up looking out of the back window of the car across the blue, flat calm sea to the horizon. We were the last car parked, facing aft (get the nautical term?) and there was a wide opening through which she could see. I think she had a better view than we did.

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Leaving the ferry behind us for it’s return trip to England we headed for St Vaast La Hoogue – twinned with Bridport, which is of course our hometown in the UK at the moment. It was a pretty little place with plenty of still busy fishing boats, the main catch being oysters. We wandered around the town in the French sunshine and from one lookout point it was possible to see the age old fortifications of Vauban along the coast, erected in the 1690s.

TheManon the Beach

Utah Beach

The Man wanted to visit the Normandy Beaches, I was interested but knew little about D-day except for scant history lessons many *coughs loudly* years ago.

There are many D-day attractions (that doesn’t seem quite the right word) to visit but for The Man it was a must to go the Pegasus Bridge the sight of the first landings by glider and parachute. The museum was full of original artifacts, photographs and so much information I couldn’t take it all in. A film was shown in English which made things clearer for me. I came away at the end of two days knowing so much more about the occupation and the liberation of France. It was of course both moving and upsetting. All those young lives lost and what for?

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It broke my heart to read the headstones at the cemetery in Ranville just a few miles from the Pegasus Bridge. English, French, German, Irish, Canadians and more, the majority of them under twenty-five.

Because we had taken the early ferry we had plenty of time to wander down the coast before arriving at our first night’s accommodation in Courseulle Sur Mer where we stayed for two nights. A fabulous spacious apartment, all brand new it seemed. We had to get there before 8pm because everything was locked up at eight…unusual for a hotel/accommodation until you realise it was actually an old people’s home. Well, an establishment for the retired, Domitys La Plage de Nacre – check it out. Great food taken in the town square at La Pecherie – so good we ate there two nights running. We love French food.

Next stop was Cahors a 770 kilometre drive – we listened to one of our audio books, The Elephant to Hollywood, written and read by Michael Caine. We can recommend it – loved his voice and his manner of speaking, he even laughed at some of the stuff he’d written. We felt, after several hundred kilometres, that he had been travelling in the car with us in the back seat. He’s now my best friend.

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We arrived just after six and as it had been a long drive in dreadful weather, we thought we would eat in the restaurant attached to the hotel Terminus. It is a wonderful art deco building with furnishings and décor to suit. We should have guessed that it was not going to be an average meal when the barman turned out to be a sommelier, who’d written a book, with his son, (a chef) about local wines.

It was one of the best meals I have ever eaten, but the bill for food was twice that of the hotel room! I had a half bottle of Sancere with the meal and The Man had the best quality sparkling water, (he doesn’t drink alcohol you see).

We slept well that night which was just as well because the next hotel room in Carcassonne was not quite what we expected…

Approaching the medieval city of Carcassonne is the most amazing sight… from a distance that is. It appears in the midst of the green valley rising up above the trees, a Disneylike castle with turrets, arrow slits, high walls and well…really quite magical.

The satnav took us down some very narrow streets to the door of our ‘hotel’. It was outside the old city walls, but only a short distance for us to walk and discover the enchanted city, the situation was the best and only good thing about this accommodation.
First we had to unpack, take the dog for a quick look around and settle her down while we had lunch. We parked and carried our bags up the four flights of winding dark stairs into a garret apartment which smelled of drains – dirty ones at that. Not a good start.

Lunch was wonderful though, in a busy French Taverna serving Cassoulet – excellent. Fully satisfied we began our walk into the fairy-tale town and anticipate the best – always a mistake. The wind was blowing like a giant’s parp in a drainpipe, we could barely stand up, but we made it up the hill and in through the main gate, to discover that the outside of the castle is most definitely the best thing about it. Once inside the streets are full of swag shops, restaurants and little else. There was a torture museum which I cannot comment on because we didn’t go in. Street after street looking exactly the same. We searched for a tea shop selling fancy French pastries but couldn’t find anything so ended up in a restaurant having a cup of tea and apple tart with ice-cream (a dessert). There are only fifty permanent residents inside this town, according to the man in the only shop we entered where we bought a teapot…we like teapots.

 

The accommodation, Residence Saint Simon, in Carcassonne was truly dreadful and The Man has entered a review on Booking.com accordingly, but it’s still in moderation a week after writing it so I suspect it has been blocked by the owner.

The apartment was advertised with ‘toiletries supplied’ above is the sum total of those toiletries. Not even a bar of soap. Oh and the fridge had a welcome pack of stuff that were leftovers from the last visitors! 🙂

 

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Next stop, San Remo and we drove there via the Camargue. I tried to photograph the famous white horses but whenever there were plenty of them grazing I didn’t have my camera at the ready so you’ll have to make do with a couple in the distance. We only saw a few black bulls, also famous in the area, but we did see what looked like several rice fields and on investigation, discovered that they do indeed grow rice in the Camargue. We took a detour through Arles hoping to get a glimpse of the famous bridge painted by, among others, Van Gough, but we hated the town, the traffic and gave up looking for the bridge pretty quickly and drove on to Aigues Mortes where we picked up a coffee in the pretty square. A medieval walled town that we would definitely visit again when we have more time.

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Square in Aigues Mortes

San Remo was fantastic! We loved the place and it was 27degrees, sunny and friendly. Our apartment was superb, central, clean, modern and equipped with everything we could need for a one- night stay. The owner, Alessandro, could not have been more helpful and welcoming. He certainly knew how to treat a paying guest. We can recommend Colombo Apartments in Piazza Colombo, San Remo.

As usual the dog behaved impeccably, as mentioned before, she is the perfect traveller. Her only problem is little white poodles which, when she sees them, turn her from the placid fun loving dog into a teeth bared, growling monster (I exaggerate of course). I leave you to imagine what our evening stroll by the port in San Remo was like as every other dog was a white ball of fluff either tucked under the arm, in a handbag or prancing along the pavement in a taunting fashion…

We said goodbye to San Remo and Alessandro and set about getting back to Petritoli on the last leg of our journey. We only stopped to empty ourselves and the dog and take on more water, coffee and fuel – it was another 700k drive.

Happy to be back on her own turf, Jpeg rushed immediately out of the back door to chase the local cats as though she had never been away.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog – I certainly enjoy writing it.  You may like to know that I have published a collection of short stories, The Cherry Tree and Other Stories, available here from Amazon.co.uk

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And…here we are in Dorset…

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Wonderful crisp morning walk in the fields 

Olivespastavino is taking time out in England. You might wonder why I would choose to come to England at this time of year when the sun is shining in Le Marche, Italy and people are flocking to the beaches for lunch (but no ice-cream as it isn’t the season for it). The Man is also wondering why he’s here, as his most favourite thing to do is ride his road bike and since being in England the weather has been…shall we say…challenging?

I have enjoyed frosty morning walks with Jpeg who is getting to grips with the England language, rain, narrow muddy roads, horses, badger sets and sea gulls. I am getting a great deal of use out of my Wellington boots acquired on our last visit back in October and I’ve had to add a pair of waterproof trousers to my wardrobe.

Since I’ve been here I have rediscovered the joys of the English pub lunch, pub quiz and pub darts. I have not seen a single pasta meal on any pub menu, but pies, fish and chips or curry are regular daily specials on the chalkboard.

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Cottage Pie…good English pub grub

I’ve enjoyed visiting the farm shops, Felicity’s Farm Shop   and Washingpool Farm Shop and buying fresh farm grown vegetables, organic meat, eggs, milk etc.,

Bridport, our closest town is thriving, it has a market twice a week, lots of book shops, antique and second hand shops, cafes pubs and more.  The Man thinks the town stays busy because there is no ‘out-of-town’ shopping mall (thank goodness). More about Bridport on the next blog post.

The banks are full of daffodils and wild primroses. It makes me smile to see them.

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Italy and England are diverse in terms of climate, culture and cuisine…

The people in Dorset have welcomed us with smiles and encouraging words, they couldn’t be more helpful…and it was the same when we arrived in Italy some years back…the only difference is I don’t have to a phrase book here.

The coastline here is fantastic…the Jurassic Coast, where you can find a fossil with every footstep you take. It was a bit windy the day we went…

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Rough sea. A bracing walk along the beach.

I have enjoyed the close proximity to London – well not that close but two hours and fifteen minutes on the train.  About the same time it takes to fly from Ancona to Stansted, but then there’s a lot of hanging about and checking in, boarding, walking, customs, passports etc., etc., it’s much easier to hop on a train.  Our closest station is Crewkerne, it’s a country station which could be used as a film set for the Victorian era with only a few alterations.  I love it.  There’s only one platform in use, so it’s impossible to get lost but I suppose you could get on a train going in the wrong direction if you’ve left your sense of direction at home.

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And finally, The Man has a shed in which to keep his bike when it’s not in use, which seems to be most of the time right now. That’s a bit mean of me, he did go out today for an hour and a half, in search of a Roman road which sadly he didn’t find – he did bring back enough mud on the bike to pot up a few plants though, so it wasn’t a wasted trip.

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I haven’t turned my back on Italy – far from it, but when I go back (which will be often) I want to be a tourist.

Gubbio for R&R…

Our Hotel in front of the main square

Our Hotel in front of the main square

The Man and I were feeling a tad fed up so we thought we would spend a couple of nights in one of our favourite Italian towns – Gubbio. If you remember we visited there last year and were pretty impressed and promised that we would return. We had hoped to go back in June 2014 but it didn’t happen so this June (2015), finding ourselves in need of a little R&R we toddled off in the VW Polo just after lunch on a rather miserable Wednesday last week. Jpeg and Mickey (the dog and the cat respectively – you should all know them by now) were given strict instructions to behave themselves while we were away, Jpeg was left in charge – it was her turn. A kind neighbour was going to pop in several times over the two days to deal with food and exercise etc.,

Oh the freedom of the open road and no responsibilities – for a short while anyway – it recharges the batteries like nothing else can. By the time we arrived the clouds had cleared away revealing blue skies and a warm evening.

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The Man Relaxing with a cuppa after a two and a half hour drive – By the way, I did the driving!

Our choice of hotel was the Relais Ducale – same as last time but a better room than before – a suite no less and with a the private terrace with stunning view. If you’re going to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights for a break then I think it’s a good idea to go for the best.

View from Terrace and Me!

View from Terrace and Me!

The first evening we went to the Taverno Del Lupo restaurant, we’d visited it before and found the ambience pleasing, if a little old fashioned and the food excellent. We were not disappointed for our second visit. The lamb was as good as ever.

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During the day on Thursday we took in the town, it doesn’t take long – beautiful architecture and The Man has a fascination with the doors – which meant I had to take lots of ‘door photos’ with my iPhone as The Man doesn’t have a camera and has an old fashioned brick for a mobile – which by the way he never carries on him!

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A selection of Doors – Interesting – maybe

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Beautiful little Alleyway with Flower pot in the centre

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The view from the main piazza looking down over the town and into the distance.

Gubbio has a Funivia – a cable way is the direct translation but one could expect a cable car or chair lift. What this is actually is a cage which holds two people and maybe a child but you have to stand up. We watched the ‘cages’ coming down and round and there seemed no time at all to get on or off. We agreed to give it a miss this time and save it for the next. I’m not good on those sorts of things but know that I must do it sometime. I blamed the windy weather this time, not the sort of thing to do in a force 10. (Sorry no photo but you can google it to see one!)

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre

Our second night found us wandering around and leaving the city walls for a look at the Roman theatre. There’s not much of it left but enough to imagine a few Roman actors strutting their stuff.

On our way back up to the town we came across a restaurant we’d not seen before – it was the Officina dei Sapori (Workshop of Flavours although I prefer to translate it as the Flavour Garage). It was a real find. We were treated well, shown our seats and immediately given a glass of sparkling rosé and the menu card, which reminded me of an old telephone numbers pad we had in leather when I was a kid. You run your finger down the index and flip up the course you wanted to see – interesting.

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Restaurant

Menu Card

Menu Card

We are spoilt for local restaurants back in Petritoli but this had just that something different. Modern décor, unusual menu, good food and excellent service. Three courses and wine (which was organic) for a total of 67 euro. Wonderful – we’ll be visiting there again! Although not many people were there when we arrived at an early 7.30pm by the time we left they were queuing for tables.

On Friday morning we made our way back to Petritoli but made a stop in Jesi something The Man had wanted to do for a long while. I’ll blog about that next week but here’s a photo for a taster.

Jesi - Anyone know the name of the square?

Jesi – Anyone know the name of the square?

Weather…

Out with the dog this morning...

Out with the dog this morning…

Whether the weather be fine Or whether the weather be not, Whether the weather be cold Or whether the weather be hot, We’ll weather the weather Whatever the weather, Whether we like it or not

Anon.

It’s been a long winter this year in Italy, even though we managed to escape for a couple of weeks to Thailand in December where the sun shone and the temperature was warm on most days.

The sun shining on me in Thailand...

The sun shining on me in Thailand…

Last week in Le Marche at the end of March the sky was blue and I thought the winter had ended. It’s now April and today is Easter Sunday…and…it’s pouring with rain, misty and cold…at least 10 degrees colder than last week.

Blossom and blue sky, March 2015 Italy

Blossom and blue sky, March 2015 Italy

I know it is widely said that the English are obsessed with the weather but the fact is the weather determines your mood – well I think it does. So during the winter or bad weather you have to work hard to make yourself feel happy. That’s what we’re doing today. I’ve been out with the dog, she got wet and so did I but the pleasure in that is coming back home, drying off, having a hot drink and being glad you are lucky enough to have a lovely home. I am very aware that there are many people in this world who are not as lucky as me so complaining about the weather is very petty.   You can’t change it so go with it… Now the lunch is cooking (slow braised lamb in red wine), the fire is lit and it’s time to relax, read, write, play cards and enjoy our one chocolate Easter egg – The Man and I are sharing; sharing is caring. The forecast for next week is changeable, so my mood will be too. Friday’s looking good! News on the writing front is that I was short listed in the Fish Publishing Memoir Competition – down to 90 out of an original 780. A boost to my confidence for sure. I’ve written lots of ‘bits’ of my memoir, the test now is to find a common link, join it all together and make a book of it. The novel is coming along. That’s what I plan to do this afternoon, at least 3,000 words…after lunch and chocolate of course… Happy April everyone, wherever you are and whatever the weather… PS I was in New York a couple of weeks ago and there it was still extremely cold..it even snowed! SnowNYC

January, February…soon be March…soon be Easter!

My Map of Berlin in 1913, had to print it out in 9 sections and stick together. You of course can only see this tiny version

My Map of Berlin in 1913, had to print it out in 9 sections and stick together. You of course can only see this tiny version

Getting a bit behind with my posts this year and it’s only February!  It’s amazing how time flies when you’re doing nothing. Well, doing nothing isn’t strictly true, I am trying to write a novel and now wondering whatever made me start, but start I have and finish I must. It does take up a lot of my writing time though. It’s proving to be much harder than I thought, mainly because I’ve decided to start the story in Berlin at the beginning of 1914 and this means lots of research.  So every five sentences or so I have to look something up. ‘Why not look it all up before you start,’ I hear you say. Well, it’s not that easy because things pop up that you don’t expect to pop up and then you have to check out things and change things…It’s a learning curve. The Man is quite helpful, he does have a great deal of historical facts and information stored in his head which has come in pretty handy for me lately.

But, back to Italy and Le Marche.

In January we went from this….

The Man strolling in the warm Thai sunshine

The Man strolling in the warm Thai sunshine

To this….

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Snow and ice in Italy January 2015

We were welcomed home by the animals….

Jpeg now always waiting by the door in case there's a chance we might leave without her and pop off to Thailand again.

Jpeg now always waiting by the door in case there’s a chance we might leave without her and pop off to Thailand again.

Mickey the cat making himself comfortable...

Mickey the cat making himself comfortable… he missed The Man I think. 

Of course we have more than just animals in our family and my son Will joined us for a few days at the beginning of this year.  We took him for a day out…as you do with your kids. We first went to Porto Recanati, which was a little bit of a disappointment. Like any seaside resort, out of season it lacked a certain liveliness and colour. The restaurants were almost all closed and the sea front (lungomare) was cheerless. But we did find a place serving a 2 course lunch with wine for about 12 euro a head. Pasta followed by fried fish. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant but I can’t… and it appears I didn’t take a photo…perhaps Will did. After lunch we went to Castelfidardo to the accordion museum, which was very interesting. I had thought that it would be a little boring but there were show cases housing many different types and styles of accordion. Paolo Soprani, a farmhand from Castelfidardo, early in the 1860s began what was the first industrial production of accordions and a model of his workshop is in the museum and a video showing the history of the instrument and clips of bands, orchestras and even the Beatles playing the accordion in many different styles of music.

Wills, who plays himself, was able to give a quick demo while in the museum, interesting because apparently he plays it upside down, but it didn’t seem to make any difference to the tune.

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After the museum we went to a shop selling accordion…not cheap.  Castefidardo is apparently THE place to buy an accordion if you are a professional player or know your stuff.  People come from all over the world to buy in this small town and probably in the very shop we were in – Victoria. We didn’t buy one, not on this occasion anyway.  We did however, get the change to play the biggest accordion in the world – well we posed for a photo anyway.

bigestpiano

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided, The Man and I, that we would go for an outing once each week… get out and about more, you know what I mean?  Needless to say that didn’t happen but we did manage lunch in January in Smerillo in a fab restaurant called  Le Logge. We dined in the typical Marche way, several courses including an unusual one of bacon and egg.

baconandegg

wine, coffee and vino cotto, plus a drop of mistra (very strong aniseed liqueur locally distilled) served in an edible chocolate cup! Fantastic.  We’ll be going there again in the summer when we’ll be able to sit outside.

liquerinchoc

Lovely waitress pouring my mistra into the chocolate cup!

Since then we’ve been pathetic in attempting our day out a week – well I AM writing a novel…we did manage to get to the White Bakery in San Benedetto last Friday (13th)  to enjoy  burger and chips.  Grand stuff.

burger2

finished

We didn’t enjoy that much!

Looking forward to some warmer weather in March and our next outing, which will be to Jesi….watch this space.

Eating Out Is Not All It’s Cooked Up To Be…

Pasta....

Pasta….

I expect many of you will disagree with this post but having had a summer of too many restaurant meals I have been giving some thought to this area of our lives.

I love food, there is no doubt about that and we have a huge number of places to choose from to eat here in Italy and on the whole it’s not too expensive. What it is though is mostly variations on a theme. Antipasti, (cold meats, cheese, olives etc.,) Primo (pasta dishes) Secondo (meat or fish) Contorni (sides, salads, veg, potatoes etc.,) and dolci (desserts). The meals are humungous and it takes about three hours to get through them. We, that is The Man and I have come to the conclusion that if we eat out in Italy we want to do it at lunchtime so that by the time we go to bed the food has had time to be partly digested. If we eat out in the evening then invariably we can’t sleep and suffer from indigestion. I know we’re getting on a bit but that’s not necessarily the problem.

Apart from the lack of variety in the Italian restaurants there are very few if any other types of restaurant other than Italian in this area. Fine if you’re on holiday but when you live here? We need a little more choice and I did find something different in October…

I’m not a lover of burgers and American food but we had visitors who I took for a walk along the seashore at Grottamare one lunchtime. Neither of my guests wanted to eat seafood and most of the restaurants by the sea serve predominantly fish. I remembered I’d see something about an American Food place opening in San Benedetto only a few kilometres down the road. A quick phone call (thank you India) and off we went. It was brilliant. What a change it made to eat something different. I feared it would be quasi American with pasta definitely showing somewhere on the menu but no, Caesar Salad, burgers (real), pancakes, maple syrup, (yum) American Cheesecake, it was like being in New York and I was frantically texting my daughter in Brooklyn, I don’t think she could understand why I was so excited.

The White Bakery

The White Bakery

I really enjoyed my lunch and felt it was worth every cent…

Recently, last week in fact, we went to the UK. The choice was huge, Italian, English, French, Thai, Indian, Moroccon, Mexican and that was just in Lyme Regis! (joke). I suffered from indigestion nearly everyday, a full stomach, a few pounds heavier and an empty wallet by the end of the trip.

In Bristol we had; a disappointing curry (3/10), fish and chips, very good (9/10) it was in the top 100 fish&chip shops in the UK. One lunch was taken at the Waterfront, watery soup, salty mussels and not so good fish pie (4/10)

In Bournemouth a fish restaurant we went to was very good (8/10) but quite pricey and afterwards we decided they were trying to be too fussy and less fancy would have been preferable. A bit of indigestion kicked in around 11pm. We did have a fantastic breakfast though in our hotel, a Full English (10/10) from which we are deprived here and although I cook it at home, the bacon is not right, the sausages just not the same and baked beans are about 2.50 euro a tin!

Not only do I love food, I love cooking and have come to the conclusion that eating at home is actually much better than eating out at a restaurant. Years ago, eating out or getting a takeaway (only pizza takeaway here) was a special treat and now it has become the norm for many people. At home I can conjure up most things, I bring over spices from the UK so that we can have Thai curries, I make shepherd’s pie, roast dinners (with all the trimmings and lashings of gravy), soups and fish dishes. I also cook pasta. The Man loves my cooking, it doesn’t cost us much and we don’t get indigestion!

I’m not dissing all restaurants and I’m not saying I never want to go to any again. I love meeting up with friends and going out. But, I have to say that it’s mostly better if you meet up at someone’s house and take a dish or two. Sharing is caring. Also you get to speak to everyone that way. When you are at a big table and go out to dinner you can only really converse with your immediate neighbours. I think a romantic dinner in a restaurant is a great thing to do on a special occasion, except on Valentine’s night when they hike the prices up everywhere.

My favourite restaurants locally.

I Piceni (romantic dinner) Fab desserts.

Dessert I Piceni

Dessert I Piceni

Mamma Rosa’s (family and friends) Nutella pizza anyone?

Parco Galeano (family and friends) good homemade bread gets thumbs up.

Re Squarchio (family and friends, or romantic for two) quality cooking

Ristorante Roma (a must for Sunday lunch…although you won’t get roast dinner!) Definitely a family favourite! (their site seems to be down at the moment so I’ll add a link later)

Best meal out this year was back in April in Taverna Del Lupo in Gubbio where we had the tastiest and most beautifully cooked lamb we’ve eaten since being in Italy. Oh and of course the wine is good and soooo much cheaper here.

Taverna Del Lupo Gubbio

Taverna Del Lupo Gubbio

Off to Thailand in December, I cannot wait to sample the food. Maybe I’ll change my mind about eating out?