spring

Finale

Victoria Day

Monday May 21, 2018

It was a fine day to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, even if we were not in the right country and we worked all day and we did not have fireworks. Sunshine and 24C is always good in my books. It was a good day to be outside and that is where we were.

While the family went to school or work, Brian and I worked on the deck. It took us a mere four hours to figure out then install a thirty-three inch stair railing. It only took a little over an hour to install the second one. We can now be hired as consultants for installing Trex railings. Just don’t ask us to install any! We are done. Actually we are not. We will install the longer two stair railings when we return in July. Shawn needs to return some railing sections and order some that will fit. As it is, we were surprised to learn that when you take a section of railing out of a box that describes it as six feet, you only have a railing that measures 67.5 inches. This is new math for me!

 After cleaning up, we each did some grass cutting. This hilly lot is good for an aerobic workout. We put the deck furniture back on the deck and it looks good.

Brian went to pick up Alex from track practice and I waited for Julie to arrive home by bus. I opened the windows wide to breathe in the spring air. The cats were quick to each find a window sill.

Julie practiced her piano pieces and I enjoyed the recital. Julie is making good progress.

Alex, Julie and I played three rounds of Blokus and took turns winning with a three way tie on the last game. Brian and Agnes managed to find time to play Carcassonne this evening. This is the only game Brian played on this trip, but he will go home happy because he won. He will even come back to play another day.

Brian barbecued salmon on the new deck. We devoured it along with rainbow chard and quinoa.

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Not Done Yet

But Getting There

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Another busy building day! The good news is that the rain held off. It became very humid in the afternoon. But in spite of a busy schedule for kid events, progress was made on the deck. Only the stair railings remain to be done. Sadly not all of the right materials were delivered; so, it is highly unlikely that we will be able to complete both sets of stair railings tomorrow. The deck is looking good although it needs to have our dirty footprints sprayed off. I delivered boards to the deck builders then helped Brian when Shawn had other duties.

Julie was “flying up”from Brownies to Junior Girl Scouts followed by bowling. Agnes took Julie to that. Alex and Shawn went to a Scout meeting regarding a July Scout trip to the Florida Keys. Alex also had his cello lesson. Shawn is leaving first thing in the morning for San Francisco; so, he had to get ready for that. Agnes found time for grocery shopping and making meat loaf, one of Julie’s favourites.

Alex and I found time to play Ticket to Ride. Alex won. Alex and I also fit in a walk around the neighbourhood. I always enjoying walking and talking with Alex.

Rainy Saturday

Rainy Day

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Saturday morning is always a pancake breakfast in this house but I used the last egg in the muffins. Although Agnes was ready to go buy eggs, I looked up an eggless pancake recipe online and that is what we made. I really could not tell the difference.

I am sure that Meghan and Harry were delighted to have blue skies for their wedding, but on this side of the Atlantic it was a very rainy day with only a few minutes of no rain. This did not stop our deck builders. Brian and Shawn worked in the garage to build a step for the deck. They went in search of more materials and they did work in the rain to install several boards.

The rain never stops Shawn from going for a run. He fit that in too.

Alex worked on some language arts homework while Julie and I had reading time. I am reading and very much enjoying Coventry by Helen Humphreys, one of the books that Gary Draper recommended in our Bluewater Association for Lifelong Learning lectures. Agnes went grocery shopping so that none of us would starve.

This afternoon Alex, Julie and I played several games of Blokus and had Agnes join us for one of them. Since our builders were not wet enough they decided they would take time out for fishing. The best time, according to Shawn is when the tide is going out. Alex, Julie and I went too. Julie and I took an umbrella and went for a walk, admiring houses, flowers and the shore. Julie was back in time to cast a few but no one had any bites. Shawn drove us to another spot where he cast a few and caught a twenty-two inch striper. Unfortunately the rule is that you can only keep them when they are at least twenty-eight inches. No fish for us!

Agnes was home cooking Coq au Vin; so, we not only did not go hungry but had a great meal.

A Slow Drive to Guilford

On the Road to Guilford

Thursday, May 17, 2018

When we turned out the lights last night, it sure was dark! When you are in the forest on a moonless night, there is only blackness. And it was quiet: no spring peepers, no owls, no coyotes. 

Our breakfast was awesome. Wanda prepared blini with fresh fruit and blueberry and strawberry jam with scrambled eggs on the side. Delicious! A healthier repast than what we had at the Country Diner. Supper was good, not gourmet, but the amount of gravy on our ground chuck steak with mushrooms and onions was heart-stopping. Brian also had gravy on his fries; I declined. The vegetables offered were peas, cole-slaw, cheese or applesauce. I do not know when the last two became vegetables but we both chose cole-slaw. We were so full we had no room for the enormous ice cream cones being served at the dairy bar next door.

Back at the log cabin, we walked the hilly dirt road, hoping to burn a calorie or two and aid digestion.

We decided to not drive back to Lucifer Falls; we will save a repeat walk there for another day. The first few hours of driving through forested hills was uneventful but refreshingly green in many shades. Sadly after we crossed the Hudson River, we had many, many miles of stop and go traffic on Highway 84.  Very short sections of construction were responsible. Our six hour trip took us nearly eight hours.

We listened to the end of the West Cork series of podcasts about an unresolved murder case in Ireland from twenty years ago.

We were happy to arrive in time for pizza. From the dining room Brian spotted an indigo bunting at the feeder. Shawn did not think he had ever seen one here. The azaleas are dazzling! Agnes is happy to see them getting bigger every year. The hellebores are also very content in this environment as they spread throughout the garden.

This evening we were fortunate to take in Alex’s cello performance in his school’s orchestra concert. Although we concentrated on our grandson’s performance we were very impressed with all of the talent in the grade seven and eight orchestras. Alex also performed with the select orchestra. 

Pescara to Roma

200 kilometres by train across Italy

Saturday, May 5, 2018

After an excellent breakfast including a plate of sliced fruit with a banana decorated as a dolphin, the symbol of Pescara, we hoisted our packs onto our backs and walked down the stairs and to the nearby train station. The station was not at all busy. We easily found our train on Platform 7, walked around on the platform until closer to boarding time at 9:23 AM. Several cars on this train but they were mostly empty.  We were in second class although it does not look much different from first. Train travel is cheap, 14 euros for a three hour twenty minute trip to Rome.

Brian cleaned our window on the outside with a tissue so that we could see better. I took a few photos of our mountain scenery as we flew along. Many trees with white blossoms, snow on the higher mountains, tunnels to glide through, rails and road follow river valleys,  villages cling onto mountain sides or hill tops, fields, gardens and orchards on flat lands, forested hillsides, stony outcrops, castle ruins, church steeples, white clouds making beautiful patterns against bright blue sky. It poured for about a half an hour near the beginning of our trip.

Our train was only a few minutes late then we walked the kilometre to our B and B, Alla Locanda Malandra in the Sallustiano neighbourhood where Roberto was waiting to show us to our elegant eighteenth century style room with a large beautiful recessed oval light in the ceiling. His sister will be around to prepare breakfast for us in the morning. They have three rooms on the first floor of this interesting building across the street from the Porta Pia in the city wall of Rome.

Then we wandered for seven kilometres. We went looking for the Margherita Palace as it did not look too far from here. That was for you, Margaret! I did not get great photos of it since there is a very large wall with iron work above it and enormous magnolias that hide the beautiful statues and building. The palace is enormous and is now the American Embassy. The guard at the gate looked bored.

There are many beautiful buildings in the area as there are throughout Rome. I added to my collection of photos of door knockers. 

We walked along many pathways in the Borghese Gardens. I love the tall pines. I was hoping to also see some interesting flower gardens but the gardens where an aviary once was, looked weedy, sad and locked up. Maybe it will garner some attention for the summer season. As soon as the rain began, the people began to disperse. People were strolling, using inline skates or segways, driving four person golf carts or riding in a sightseeing train.  We took our time walking back to our room for a rest.

We plan on dining just around the corner at La Cantinola, recommended by Roberto as good food, not expensive. Our last dinner in Italy will probably be pasta.

Pescara, Abruzzo

Pescara, Abruzzo

Friday, May 4, 2018

By the sea, by the beautiful sea. After an egg, cheese, prosciutto and croissant breakfast we were driving again for the last time. As we drove north we were never far from the Adriatic. Sea green, turquoise, aqua, azure, Mediterranean blue: take your pick! We saw them all today. So peaceful, so calming even with big waves. The sky had its own wonderful blue with large cumulonimbus clouds to the north and wispy white streaking overhead. 

Most of the coastline north from Termoli is sand beach with many resorts, holiday homes, campgrounds and mobile home parks along the shore, but only one set of buildings deep, not blocks and blocks of constructions. Most buildings are not more than four or five storeys. On the other side of the road, olive trees again gave way to vineyards terraced up hillsides.  

We drove straight to the train station where we handed over the keys to our Citroen and Brian especially breathed a sigh of relief. Surviving 1080 kilometres of driving in Italy with drivers who do not obey traffic rules or speed limits is nothing short of a miracle. From the train to our lodging was an easy five hundred metre walk.

Not many places to pull off the road for photos on our drive but we took some while we walked the beach after arriving in Pescara. Pescara is the capital of the Abruzzo region, with a population of about 150 000 but 500 000 when the surrounding metropolitan area is included. I don’t think there are any buildings more than eight storeys. The room we are in is on the seventh (top) floor on main Corso Umberto 1 street. There are twenty-eight steps per floor. So far we have taken the elevator! We have a view to the sea from the balcony and as normal at three in the afternoon this pedestrian street is pretty much deserted.

A Cuban family runs this three room B and B called uPPer. Daughter and mother-in-law greeted us and showed us the kitchen, lounge and balcony available to us as well as our comfortable spacious room with ensuite and balcony. Every room in the past week has been tastefully decorated in grey and white usually with black and white photos or paintings. This is the first room with colourful paintings. It also has a large screen tv with Netflix. Brian and I have watched a few shows on his iPhone. A big screen might overwhelm us!

We had lunch at Bavaria American Food Bar. We split a chicken club sandwich with fries. Brian ate most of it. That was a huge sandwich. Brian had a beer and I enjoyed an “energy” slushy.

Rest time after only five and a half kilometres of walking. We must be slowing down.

We went back out for more walking and found the Museo Villa Urania which featured ceramics from the fifteenth through the nineteenth century. There was also a special exposition of nineteenth century paintings.

Another walk to the beach and restaurants began their 7:30 PM opening. We dined at Locanda da Pia and we are full! I had a huge bowl of minestrone soup with pasta. It was twice the size of Brian’s first course of spaghetti with tomato and meat sauce. Even Brian could not finish my soup for me. He then had steak with salad and I had grilled veal with salad. All very good with friendly service.

Before supper we walked down our seven flights of stairs and after dinner we walked back up. We probably should still be going up and down.

During the Second World War 78% of the city was destroyed by bombers. That explains why there are relatively few old buildings and many apartment buildings that look as if they were built during the fifties and sixties. it is so young that it is known as the “city without wrinkles”.

Based on the prices we have seen in shop windows it is now a shopping city for the wealthy.

Termoli, Molise

Termoli, Molise

Thursday, May 3, 2018

While in Vieste we stayed close to the centre on the first floor ( that still means up twenty steps) at I Cordari where Rosella and Pietro have eight rooms with ensuites that they rent out. We had the lovely Margherita Room with comfortable bed, two pillows each and extra large fluffy towels, very good WIFI. It was lovely walking around Vieste, back to stair exercise after a couple of flat days.

Rosella put out a wonderful breakfast: specialty nut pastries from the area as well as her own homemade baking, two kinds of pizza, rolls, croissants, almonds, salami, cheese, fruit, freshly squeezed orange juice, cappuccino. No one could go away hungry!

Last night’s dinner at Osteria degli Archi was fabulous. We shared our dishes. We had a platter of five different local cheeses from fresh to old, orecchiette in a white bean sauce with shredded cheese and bacon, a plate of seafood: deep fried sweet shrimp, the best calumari ever, tiny squid, mixed grilled vegetables, a large mixed salad with fruit and vegetables and roasted beans. No room for dessert. The service was excellent. We learned about the area and bought a tin of their locally produced all pressed olive oil.

We finished supper at 9 PM just in time for the concert at the cathedral. I guess the organ tuning was for another day. We had an older singing priest with a rich voice.

It rained last night then stopped for us to walk to our car then it poured. Our first daytime rain since our arrival. We drove the switchbacks on the north side of the Gargano Peninsula past many olive groves. Our GPS took us steeply up one particularly narrow road. Even in first gear our Citroen was struggling. Happily we did not encounter too many cars. One was enough. It forced us to the lip of the precipice. Our windshield wipers are not great.

We left Puglia and are now in Molise region. We arrived in Termini with a little sun and parked on the street a block from our six storey apartment building. We did not quite picture the Anemos B & B in blocks of apartment buildings, but our second floor (40 steps up) room is comfortable and Stephania welcomed us and is planning on eggs for breakfast. She sent us off walking with a map.

We had not gone far when the rain began in earnest with thunder and lightning. We took shelter under arches pathways and made it to Il Gordini  where we made our lunch a sampling of deep fried items: potatoes, fish, chicken, rice and cheese with a beer. The rain let up a little and we kept walking. Only one other couple was in the streets. Everyone was having a siesta. Nothing was open, not even the Duomo but we kept walking. The sun eventually came out and the Cathedral dedicated to the Purification of Mary opened at exactly 4 PM as the sign said it would. As with many churches this one was built on the remains of a previous one which was built over a temple. Because of earthquakes and raids this thirteenth century Roman style church has been renovated many times. It was unusual to see so many steps up to the altar.

We observed pigeons and rooks darting in and out of the many drainage slots on the fortified red and yellow brick town walls. We saw little birds peeking out looking for their dinner.

The lengthy sand beach has been almost completely raked. There is a substantial stone break wall protecting the swimming area. Lots of interesting views from the upper town and castle.

We descended to the shore to check out the large fishing boats. We think they may have been rigged to suck up clams. There are also ferries here which travel to the Tremiti Islands and to Vieste. Not for us on such a wavy day! We made our way back up to our room for a rest after 8.2 kilometres of walking with 145 metres of ascent. Many more people came out as shops opened and clouds dispersed.

The Gargano Peninsula

Vieste, Puglia

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

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Brian got up at midnight to open the patio door to let in some fresh air. There were still people eating pizza in the alley below.  Brian put his earplugs in. I did not hear anyone. The bed was extra comfortable. Our breakfast was waiting for us outside our door. Brian made his coffee and a cup of tea for me, my first morning tea! Juice, yogourt, fruit, muffins, chocolate cake, chocolate tart: a standard Italian breakfast, at least what is usually offered to tourists.

What a difference walking in Trani this morning! Just the fishermen, a few people shopping for fresh fish and us.  The harbour was no longer for pedestrians only but there were not many vehicles and there were plenty of parking spaces.

When driving yesterday we passed olive groves and cherry orchards. Some of the cherries looked like our sweet white ones: Victors! I would love to have tried them although they were probably not quite ripe. I have not seen any for sale.

For the first half of our 130 kilometres today we started seeing cherries then peaches but we were soon on an isthmus along the Adriatic. To the west of the road were large salt pans. Any land on either side of the road was filled and planted with vegetables. The asparagus was finished. New carrots were up. Tomatoes and potatoes were blooming. The air was redolent with garlic being harvested, rows and rows of white mounds of garlic were being loaded into bushels and then into trucks. Red poppies and yellow sow thistle grabbed any ground they could.

Homes were much more humble, small concrete rectangular prisms, many in need of repair. There were also many, many abandoned houses, many of which were two storey, probably abandoned since the war. The area had seen more prosperous times.

The second half of our drive was going to the tip of the Gargano peninsula to the fishing village of Vieste. The Gargano is mostly national park with hiking trails, sandy beaches or rocky coves with grottoes. I would like to have done some kayaking but we are not yet “in season”. Today kayaking would have been a little difficult as there were waves. We have only seen very calm sea until today. 

To get to Vieste we travelled through four tunnels, on after the other, for five kilometres. The longest tunnel was 2.5 kilometres. When not in tunnels we were driving switchbacks up and down the mountain. We encountered a few transport trucks but no tour buses. We were glad that it was not yet “the season”.

People are getting ready for the season. As we walked up and down the streets of Vieste, people were busy repairing, painting, raking beaches, cleaning up litter, preparing campgrounds, setting out lounge chairs and beach umbrellas. We walked the long sand beach then I had a swim and Brian waded but even he said it was the warmest water yet.

The cathedral is richly decorated for the month of May, the feast of Mary. A number of evening concerts are planned. When we visited, video cameras were being set up and the organ was being tuned.

We will be looking for a fish dinner tonight with orecchiette pasta, a specialty of Puglia.

Trani, Puglia

Trani, Puglia 

May 1, 2018

The roads are crazy busy on this “Labour Day” in Italy. We had breakfast at Sweet Passion, a different bar this morning. Our lodging manager met us there and we gave him back the keys to Trullo Panorama. We had our cappuccino but this time we picked the croissant and tarts we wanted and stopped with much less than yesterday. Healthier!

Be aware that if you wanted to stay in Trullo Panorama. The one we had was on Booking but the other is found on Google. They are both near Locorotondo but they are not the same. Although the trullo we had was beautiful and very comfortable, I would recommend it as a rental rather than a B and B. Driving five kilometres to town for breakfast is not the best use of time. Although the house is spacious with extra pullout couches, it is really only suitable for two people as there is only one bathroom and that is through the master bedroom. There are two other buildings on the property which probably have a bedroom and bathroom in each. This would make it more feasible for a bigger group. A barbecue and Internet were advertised but we had neither. 

We drove to Trani, on the Adriatic Coast, north of Bari. The port of Bari is a major entry point to Italy on the east coast, also a stop for cruise ships. We avoided it, skirting the edge on a six lane highway. You know it’s a city when it advertises IKEA, McDonald’s and outlet malls well ahead of city exits. Not for us.

Trani is plenty busy. I suspect it was once only a fishing port, but sail boats and other pleasure craft now outnumber the fishing boats. There is one expensive looking sailboat that probably measures one hundred feet long occupying a central position in the inner harbour. Would love to sail on that one! The mast is all lit up tonight vying for attention with the cathedral bell tower.

The very tall large San Nicolas Cathedral on the edge of the outer harbour has a rather plain interior from a carving/painting perspective but it has a dozen pair of massive stone columns on either side of the central nave. The lower floor houses a crypt with the bones of San Nicolas and another full church. There are two elephants carved in marble on either side of the ornately carved vaulted front doors. Above the elephants are lions and above them more carvings difficult to discern without binoculars.

Finding a parking space was akin to winning the lottery but eventually we won. We entered the nearby Europa Bar to buy parking tickets. We needed to buy three tickets on which we scratched the date and time periods that would get us to tomorrow morning. Not pricey at 4.5 euros. Although our room was five hundred metres away from the car, we walked two kilometres around the harbour, without our backpacks, as we knew we were early for check-in.

We took the short route back to the car to pick up our packs.

Trani is a beautiful pedestrian friendly harbour even when the pedestrians number in the thousands. We always seemed to be walking against the flow. I think we were out of sync with the round and back walking of the harbour. I only heard one couple speaking French. Everyone else spoke Italian. We were the only obvious foreigners. Our relaxed fit Kuhl pants do not match tight fitting ripped jeans or tight fitting large flowered patterned pants, only 155 euros if I wanted a pair! I do not because I would then need matching bright pink stiletto heels and large matching leather handbag. The adolescent crowd tend to be wearing high top canvas Converse or Keds sneakers. More practical than stilettos on cobblestone but not as comfortable as my Keene sandals or Solomon hiking shoes.

We dined al fresco in front of a small fish shop. We each had a seafood sandwich made

with huge fresh buns. I had a swordfish one and Brian shrimp but we each shared half of the other’s. Delicious.

Imagine: we stayed out past dark tonight! We thought there might be fireworks as part of the festivities. Nope! We sat like locals on the harbour wall people watching. Brian spotted a school of fish in the water and that got the couple next to us speaking to us in Italian. I carried on a lengthy conversation with them. They did not speak English. They were impressed with my Italian, as was I! They were from Andria, ten kilometres away, have been married twenty-five years, have three children in university, and quizzed me about Canada. We talked about one another’s travels. Lots of fun!

A piece of pizza later and we are back in our room at Al Vico. Isabella has two rooms on the second floor of a very old house on a side street half a block from the harbour. Once again we have very high ceilings, but instead of fields we look into the alley below where there is a pizzeria and outdoor tables. We hope people are starting to go home. The music and street noises are decreasing.

Adriatic Sea, Puglia

Adriatic Sea, Puglia

Monday, April 30, 2018

To the sandy beach! Yeah! It was less than twenty kilometres to drive to the beach at Capitolo. Free parking. You only pay for parking from June 1st to September 30th, 1 euro per hour to a 5 euro maximum for the day. A lesson for Sauble Beach? Because of the holiday, there were plenty of people at the beach and in the water although more were wading rather than swimming. I swam. Delightful! The warmest so far! Brian waded. We walked the length of the beach and back in the water. There were not many seashells but I picked up four little ones. The beach is sandy but there are rocky shelves in patches just below the surface. The Adriatic is varying shades of aqua, turquoise and blue. There were about forty individual change houses and a couple of washrooms along the beach but they were not yet open for the season, which apparently does not begin until June. I think when the air temperature is over 25C the season is now!

We drove passing above Fasano to the beach. Fasano is a city in a valley surrounded by olive trees. Most of the groves (orchards?) have been filled showing a red pebbly soil. Many of the orchards have been planted with vegetables: row upon row of tomatoes, beans, onions, artichokes. The cherry orchard beside our trullo has been filled but not yet planted. By the size of the green cherries I think they will be ready for picking in three weeks.

We drove back by a different route, less traffic but more twists and turns also through many olive groves, past many trullis. We passed near Alberobello where we stopped for gas. We have done about six hundred kilometres on three quarters of a tank of gas. It cost twenty one euros to fill the tank. The newer houses that are not trullis are flat roofed and rectangular often with arches on an open porch, usually painted white, parged over concrete blocks.

We had to drive to Locorotondo this morning for our breakfast that is included with our accommodation it is not served here. We had been given tickets to turn in at a bar/cafe/gelateria. We were almost there when we received a message from our manager to go to a different bar as the owner of the first decided he would close for the holiday. Fortunately Bar Guida was just around the corner. Our server delivered our cappuccino and filled

The table with a variety of pastries, yogourt and muesli. We liked the custard tarts with kiwi, strawberry or blueberries best. With our second cappuccino the server brought more pastries. We said we did not need any more but she insisted. We took them for a snack later.

The bar had internet; so, I posted yesterday’s blog.

Last night we prepared our own supper. We had bought a roasted chicken. We fried mushrooms and added tomato sauce (from Sicily) to our sausage stuffed pasta. We had a prepared salad that included three greens, tomatoes flakes of parmigiana and prosciutto. We finished with chocolate ice cream. We still have some leftovers for tonight to add to our beef/sausage kebabs. Brian splurged on a red wine from Puglia for 2.94 euros. He wanted one red pepper to fry with the mushrooms but they came as two huge ones in a package. Lots of vitamins! We used the remains of the chicken in sandwiches for today’s lunch.

Back to reading on the patio in the shade of the grape vine that already has tiny grapes.

The full moon the past two nights has been magnificent. In Matera it was a bright moonscape flooding our room from above. Last night it spilled in through our patio doors. We left the wooden shutters open.