Thursday, December 25, 2014

Twas the Day Before Christmas and...

Wednesday market was for last minute gift shoppers!

This post is about life in the village yesterday, the day before Christmas. It started out badly for Di. While I was walking around the village, our favorite stray dog, Raggedy appeared at our door sick and trembling. Di called me for help, but when she returned to the door, Raggedy was gone. Di worried and we looked and looked around the village but could not find her. All we could do was hope she would be OK.

Meanwhile, I wandered around to see what folks were up to and how things looked.  It was a workday for many, some last minute shopping for others. Overall a relaxed day before midnight mass, Christmas lunches, and not so relaxed waiting for some sign that "our" dog was alright. 

Clivia plant in bloom for Christmas

Babbo Natale and la Madonna
Bringing firewood before winter strikes later this week


Finishing a stone facing job

A quiet garden

Christmas is a weird time for us here weather-wise, but there are still natural joys to be enjoyed without snow. The other day there were about 20 people talking and pointing out to sea. A neighbor told us to look at the 4 islands visible in the distance. I looked again and sure enough there was Stromboli and 2 small islands to the southwest, but also another volcano shape to the east that I’d never seen before. Long story short – what we were looking at was the top of Mt. Etna in Sicily maybe as far as 140 miles away. My reasoning: there are no islands east of Stromboli! Only Stromboli and Etna are cone shaped. That day, my gauges told me the relative humidity had been as low as 8% making for remarkably clear air. When I lined-up a ruler on a map between here and Stromboli, then moved it east – yep, it lined-up with Etna. Amazing. 

28 December update: The photo above was made yesterday evening with similar clear conditions looking at the islands. Di also did a better job of computing distance from a map.  Stromboli is 75 miles/120 km.  Mt Etna (far left) is 145 miles/232 km.  Stromboli was also smoking!

Christmas morning we were happy and relieved that Raggedy the dog appeared at the door hoping for a treat. Her healthy visit was our best gift.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Festa Degli Alberi-Arbor Day Italia












Could you resist an invitation from these kids? You may remember that we watched the tree planting last February and got the invitation to celebrate the official National Festa degli Alberi (Arbor Day) on November 21. After the kids listened to the adults speak about the importance of the day for the environment, they got to help plant some more trees and shrubs and check on the trees they planted in February.

As a bonus for good deeds, it was the most beautiful day you could ask for and the sunshine added a lot to the proceedings. 













It's a challenge to live up to the hopes and expectations of youth. There were what we had to guess were hazard trees marked for cutting (big red X) along the section of highway where this celebration was located. They are the type of tree used for pulp in these parts so we don't know what their ultimate fate will be or whether they are on private land in the park. There's a lot to learn about the organization of the national forests here. 








The folks who invented Arbor Day in Nebraska (way back before Earth Day)  hoped that the idea would spread. It's something to be proud of, Nebraska! The day ended --as many have this month-- with a beautiful sunset that made us hope that maybe someday everyday will be Earth Day or Arbor Day on the planet.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Napoli by the Sea

Piazza dei Martiri near the hotel

We are no longer gainfully employed, but  the equivalent of business trips remain in our lives. For example, our passports were about to expire, so we went to Napoli to renew them at the American consulate there in person as we do not trust Italian postal service for sending such important documents (to tell the truth, we weren't all that confident when we applied by mail in the USA). Our distrust was a good excuse to check out Naples, so off we went by train to mix business and pleasure.

Napoli, on the Intercity train, is a 2 hour 10 minute journey normally, but for the second time this year, our train was stalled for 30 minutes in the area just south of Battipaglia. At least on the way in, we were lucky to sit out the extra time in good seats. On the way back the train was on time but we got the seats where you face each other (or strangers). Very uncomfortable.

We found a 4 star hotel within walking distance (1 mile/1.6 km) of the consulate which is located on the shoreline about 2km north of where the large ferries and cruise ships dock. The hotel Palazzo Alabardiera is a 10 minute taxi ride from Stazione Napoli Centrale. At €150 a night, it was typical for a large city quality hotel. We have since learned of a hotel very close to the consulate, but further from shopping. One must have priorities! Taxi stands are all about in case you don't feel like walking.



Castel dell'Ovo


There is a nice park area on the lungomare. Our one bad experience in Napoli was being gouged as foreign tourists at a bar there. We bought our normal double caffe’ macchiato and a gin tonica and they charged us €10,60 compared with €4,60 around home. They also used cheap Italian gin for the drink. Italians are good at some things, but making gin is not one of them. The drink was left behind.

Consulato degli Stati Uniti d'America

The American consulate sits near the sea. It has Italian military guards outside with a belt-fed machine gun, and private Italian security. After 5 years of dealing with Italian bureaucracy, this place was soooo nice and efficient. We were in and out in 20 minutes and served by a humorous American man who joked about a man from Cleveland and a woman from Chicago living in Calabria. We’ll return in about 2 weeks to pick-up the passports that are sent from the USA.


We didn't know there were hills on the northern part of Napoli


A Greenpeace boat anchored offshore


The return walk to the hotel through the shopping area showed us many stores to look into in the future. We both were exhausted and figured it was because of all the dodging of motorini on the streets and walking on the rough stone pavements. On yet another visit, we might try the historic district with its underground tunnels, etc.

The hotel is situated off main streets, so is pretty quiet. Although there is a restaurant/pizzeria within 50 meters (where we had a pizza--because we were in Napoli!), we only spotted one other restaurant in the time we were there. That is surprising as most Italian cities seem to have restaurants every 2 blocks or so. Anyway, the hotel is in the middle of the famous CHIAIA shopping district for those into shopping for upscale clothing and shoes. We might take more time to shop when we return to get the new passports.

FYI, the historic district of Napoli is between this neighborhood and the stazione. There are cheaper hotels nearer the stazione including (God forbid) a high rise Holiday Inn!


Oh, contrary to all you hear about Napoli being filled with bandits ready to pick your pockets or steal a purse, at no time did we see or sense anyone paying us the slightest attention on the streets. Another urban myth--or do we finally not look like tourists? However, the traffic was as bad as people have said.

Ciao a presto, Guido


Shopping!!

A church almost every 3 blocks

Residences in the Chiaia District

Friday, October 10, 2014

Beauty and the Vendemmia


I was looking forward to starting the Stagione di Vino (wine season) with a report on a typical local vendemmia d’uva (grape harvest) and then the pressing and making of wine. I was a little late asking around, but I found that no one had a good grape crop this year and some had no oil olives at all.  I read in a paper recently that all of Europe is expecting a poor wine year. Too much rain.

Table olives and table grapes are still available in the markets, but they come from Puglia, Sicilia, ecc. We also had great plums (prugne) this year from Puglia, so who knows what affected the other fruits. 

One of the final evening events of August in our village piazza was a fashion show (sfilata) starring local teenage ragazze. Many folks gathered to watch-- close to the judges and a local bar had seating for people eating gelato or drinking cool things. I was squeezed-out of my spot behind the chairs, so made my way to a roof terrace over the bar.




Rita was the hostess and one of the key organizers. There was also a panel of judges with experience in the industry. Each girl had to choose the dress of a certain country/culture and create the outfit (probably with a lot of help from mamma or nonna and the local clothes shops!)

I didn’t have a way to record the country each young woman was representing, so am missing some info here. The Japanese outfit is obvious. Some of these ragazze went all out in their outfits and also the presentations -- some had obviously been practicing the moves of models on the red carpet! The crowd loved them all. They were bellissime.

Good memories of the recent summer as we slip into a very nice autumn. Enjoy:





Monday, September 15, 2014

Time Flies, Change Happens

Trumpet Glory 2014
Dreams and Reality
My neighbor and I came home from our morning walk and she said I should take a picture of this trumpet plant. That's how this post started. I was going to tell you about my dream to own a trumpet plant ever since I saw one in a Park's Seed catalogue. I knew better than to order one for Oregon. Park's is located in South Carolina--but I saw them growing all over the place here. So I bought one and took a cutting to grow another and now I have two!

How they looked when I set them out to grow


Being me, I couldn't leave it there. I also wanted to write about how dreams change when they become reality and how time changes everything. Yes, these things grew--they look glorious for about a week at a time (fortunately they do bloom more than once a year) but they also do nothing but cry for water, water all summer long. I'm learning how to manage them and my expectations. Just a few weeks later my neighbor suffered a stroke (she is fine now--thank goodness) and I don't know when we may walk together again but for now we talk and drink coffee. 

We need to appreciate beauty when it's there, not to expect perfection, and to accommodate change for good or ill, don't we?

Tastes Change, New Priorities

Guido learned to take a better picture and to warn me before snapping, I learned to love Italian black and white



Me dressed in remnants of Oregon not-so-chic 
Let's face it, working for the Forest Service does nothing for a woman's sense of style, even if, like me, you're a graduate of the design arts. Long story short, tastes change, hopefully for the better and life takes on new priorities. I'm taking more time with dressing these days and even now have more than one pair of everyday shoes. 



It's a surprise that it didn't go the other way with me saying "who cares how I dress?", but life is always surprising. We are still learning to get the best out of each day. This is hard when illness strikes or when the water heater keeps giving us trouble but it is now a priority to at least try.

Some changes actually went against my nature. Practicality over beauty? Or can one really have both? I'm still willing to do more work than most to have my plants on the terrace, BUT I'm thinning out the ones who really don't like being there (don't want to cooperate with gale force winter winds and summer sun).

I still love this table, just didn't work on the terrace, Umbrellas are History

We also dispensed with the beach umbrellas on the terrace and found a giant rectangular one that is actually meant for the job. The wood table went inside downstairs after we valiantly tried to protect it from the weather on the terrace and failed miserably. 

So, Father Time, march on, we are not ready for you but things will work out!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ferragosto 2014

Ferragosto Friday dawned quietly and gorgeously in Santa Domenica Talao
My life partner and intrepid blog writer/editor thinks it's funny that someone who avoids crowds of people wanted to go report on crowds! In Italy, like France, August is when much of the population takes its annual holiday. Our neighboring town of Scalea (where we do much of our business and shopping) has a permanent population of about 10,000 inhabitants. In August, another 20,000 people arrive from Napoli and Roma to use their holiday apartments that sit vacant for 11 months.
Coming down the hill into Scalea ..great view of the Beaches in full summer 

I went out Friday morning to record some beach scenes. Many people actually reserve spots at their favorite lido a year in advance and space can be limited.  The beach was not as busy as I anticipated, but it was only 28 degrees and the sea had big swells breaking. I believe that many Italians are afraid of the sea, so when it gets choppy or with swells, they shy away instead of playing in the water. 


Only a few souls were playing this day. We would have enjoyed it had we gone to swim Friday. You can get an idea how the free public beaches look as well as the many commercial lidi.

I was going to comment on the variety of male and female bathing costumes, but for once, I kept my mouth closed.






Beach vendors are found everywhere we have been in Italy. They normally are from Pakistan, India or Africa. Some have been in our language class briefly. Walking up and down the long black sand beaches all day has to be a very hot, tough job. 



Over the years, we have never been to Scalea on Ferragosto when many people are out playing until the wee hours, so we decided to try it...the most important summer day in Italy. All August nights in Scalea are busy say some people we’ve heard from. Because we are morning people, the question was how to stay up late to see Scalea nightlife? We finish dinner about 20:00 and most entertainment begins at 22:30.

We decided to try going to bed, then wake up for the peak of the evening. 23:30 was probably a bit late because as soon as we awoke, the big fireworks display in Scalea began, followed by about 7 others done by other communities or beach lidi. Great to view from our terrace, but we didn’t get close-up photos.

The piazza 58 steps from our house in Santa Domenica as we walked to the car. We missed what probably was a nice mellow concert there judging by the number of older folks leaving as we headed out!



The Beach Scene in Scalea at Midnight























There is plenty of nightlife in Scalea and every other town on the Calabrian coastline in the summer. Small towns like our’s also put together a range of entertainment for citizens and visitors in August. It truly is a time for enjoying the outdoor evenings.  At my age however, staying closer to home - in walking distance of the bed - is piĆ¹ oculato (more prudent). Di had to remind me that we were looking for the crowds, so she pointed me to the most crowded streets on the way to the beach area from the downtown pedestrian mall. I intuitively started for the roundabout route. I'm normally very good at avoiding crowds.


These are scenes from the pedonale near Piazza Calobrese. Folks were relaxing at bars, gelateria, looking at the stuff for sale on the street, walking children in strollers, etc.





The more active and youthful restaurants and bars are on the beach. This kidee carnival remains in place most of the year, but is used only at nights  in the summer. It’s a good training ground to teach kids how to stay up late! Virtually every party, dinner or event that we have been to includes kids even if they are still up after midnight.



Ahhh, such a nice wholesome gathering of teenagers on the beach. I don’t know if they could see their phone screens in the dark! The point here is that they were not drinking anything other than water. I’ve been told that the drinking age for beer and wine is 16, and for spirits it is 18. 

Occasionally we see kids sipping beer, but not often. I won’t tell you how bad I was at that age with a group of my peers.  

The same minimal drinking thing can be said about the adults. I didn’t push anyone’s privacy with the camera, but the majority of folks at tables were enjoying gelato or drinking caffe’. A few had empty beer bottles or wine glasses. 

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