two days. (by far the longest entry - cheers if you read it!)
two days until i make my way back home. bittersweet, si.
in january i left seattle and flew to london. arriving in the evening, i checked into my hostel, called my parents and set out for something to eat. i walked around the areas near leicester square and recognized the apple market from a previous journey i took to london. it’s funny how life brings you back to places, to memories. i grabbed a bite to eat at a vegetarian hole-in-the-wall called food for thought, walked back to the hostel and rested for a couple of hours before catching an airport coach in the middle of the night.
i often think of the winter; of this year’s january and february - the nights spent in the bothy in southern ireland. i realize how gorgeous those times were, when i’d slip on my wellies in nothing other than my undergarments and walk outside to use the loo. the night sky there felt low and dark and pure. the stars shone above me and sometimes i would just sit out there for a few minutes before retreating inside to the warmth beneath the electric blanket. the crisp irish season was the beginning of the endless cups of tea i’ve sipped on this journey. it all started with loose leaf double bergamot and a coconut pouchong that i brought from home. the electric kettle was forever boiling.
the mornings in southern ireland were like waking for school and wishing i didn’t have to go outside after a warm shower. but the walks from the bothy to the little’s house were cherished moments indeed. watching my step on the stone pathway so as not to slip on the dew or the ice. the white white sky and the bare trees. greeted with toast and raspberry preserves, maybe a cup or two of tea before beginning the work of the day.
the bike rides on sunny, but still cool, days. those were spectacular days. riding on the main roads along the fields and creeks. the little church that would mark half-way from home and liss ard, where aurthur and sometimes i would work. i remember the first rainbow i saw, arching and ending somewhere lower than the horizon line. riding on the backroads and not realizing that some do not simply loop around.
the outings to other villages and towns. schull, where the coast laps up against the stones that you would always imagine at the thought of ireland. loch hyne - the phenomenon of the atlantic spit, waves crashing in the cold. barley cove - where the atlantic reigns free and the grasses sway with the wind. lydia’s calls to the dogs - lily and ellie - will forever ring in my ears.
nearly a month later i headed north. i took the path from ballydehob to kinsale - east along the southern coast and met up with paul who drove us through the night to a village near athlone. before we set out, there was of course an offering of tea. i accepted.
i felt like i was on a roadtrip - indeed, i was - but i really felt like it too. the whole ambience of a packed car and frugal spending and snacking on peanuts and just rolling down the window and feeling the wind in my hair, not knowing really where or what i would wake up to in the morning. i felt free like the atlantic.
i learned a lot in central ireland - planting a field of trees, grafting them, some facts about seasonal vegetable gardening. i learned how to milk a cow. i learned how to kill a chicken - that’s not really something you learn every day. i also learned how to pluck the feathers of a dead chicken, hanging from a beam in an old barn. i learned too that i did not really enjoy this feeling of yanking quills from warm flesh. not at all.
i cooked on the wood-stovetop and when we didn’t have water i tried not to care.
central ireland is where i grew into a deep affection with soda bread. paul’s mom would make a batch or two every day. it was the best after coming in from a cold day’s work. the smell would waft around the kitchen - i could barely wait to spread that golden yellow butter all over it and sit down with a cuppa.
at paul’s i painted a few small murals inside the house. they brought a bit more life to the place.
i remember one of the walks joshua and i went on, the way the sun pierced through the cold and onto the low hills. i remember yearning for italy. ireland is breathtaking in another way though.
two weeks passed and i found myself on achill island, on the west side of ireland. here there lies a little piece of bliss, where charred looking hills surround blue-flag beaches and marshlands preserve the beauty of the island.
pat, alice, and their two children welcomed me into the hostel i would be working at as if i was family. the hostel was really an ancient house, which had been owned by pat’s father. the inside was full of wonderment - the dark oak staircase and railings, the checkered entrance, the piano in the dining room, the fireplace that would be stoked nightly before the pub opened. and the pub! how charming - the rich red walls and wooden bar stools, the booths where pat and alice and whoever else would sit and play guitar and sing. the many pints of guinness pat would pour, perfectly.
sometimes the house was quiet. when i first arrived it was still low season and sometimes it was just joshua and i in that big house. when the guests did come, i welcomed them and suggested walks to take since there were so many beautiful ones. i made the beds and changed the duvets, did the laundry and set out breakfast. whilst i set out breakfast for the guests, i would make myself a cup of tea.
joshua and i worked on rooms that needed a little tlc and had them up and running for the summer guests that would surely be arriving.
on my twenty-first birthday, i walked to the shore and sat watching the tide roll in and out. the beach was near to the valley house, and rocky, but still comfortable. joshua made me breakfast, lunch and dinner. i spent the early part of the evening at the pub where pat served me more guinness. i thought of my friends and family at home and wished that they were here. it seems childish but i was sad when i went to bed that night and although i’m sure it was for reasons of homesickness, the idea that this was my first birthday without a cake topped it off. when joshua left the room, my eyes were welling. i heard footsteps up the stairs and wiped my cheeks to hide my moment, and then the music began.
joshua entered with a platter - a beautiful cake and shots of frangelico, an italian hazelnut liquor. alice strummed the guitar and sang happy birthday in that pretty voice of hers.
i delighted in my carrot cake with blueberry frosting (two of my favorite things) and knocked back the shot. i was warm again. i had a wonderful birthday on an island in ireland.
as for the walks i had mentioned…there were a few in particular that i will forever remember. joshua and i walked to keel the evening of pat’s mother’s wake at the valley house. it didn’t feel right for us to be there. it took nearly three hours to walk to keel, where there is a blue-flag beach and a small convenience store. the shop was about to close when we arrived, but the attendant let us in. i bought a popcicle - a strange purchase for the chill of the evening, and probably not the best idea of the night.
the sky was dimming and we decided to take another route back to the valley house. we didn’t really know where we were going, and soon enough we couldn’t see where we were going either. i walked along the road and with every set of headlights i stuck my thumb out. but there weren’t many headlights, and no one stopped. we walked for two hours until someone did. she drove us about ten minutes up the road and said we had a while more to go to get home, but that she was heading the opposite way. we trekked on for another hour. i was shivering when we got back and it was nearly eleven by the time we did, but the silence out there was something to experience.
the walk up the charred hill closest to the valley house went a bit smoother, but the way down not so much. joshua nearly had to drag me to get down before any major rain or wind hit. but the view from up there - the atlantic looking even more amazing.
pat took us on a few drives that were quite fetching. he told us stories of his childhood on the island, and his time in dublin and how it felt to come back to the island. he took us to the places he said we needed to see, and more places that he had always loved. the cliffsides were awe-inspiring. the hilltop view of keem beach, even more.
at the end of the month-and-a-half i spent on achill island, i was ready to stay. i had already booked a ticked to portugal for a date in early april, and now it seemed bittersweet to depart. i knew then and know still now that i will have to return.
did i mention the amount of potatoes i consumed in ireland was probably more than i have cumulatively in my entire life?
portugal was a whole different world, especially coming from the little tucked away, secluded heaven of achill island. i arrived in early april and the sun was searing. i waited around a bit after taking a cab to my friend gabi’s - who i met last year whilst traveling. i was early, and i knew she was still at work. i peeked around the corner of her apartment building and could see the beach. i took my bags with me and found a spot to lay down in the sun. the weather was much different than that of ireland.
i walked back up the street around the time gabi and i had decided to meet and saw her coming in my direction. it was good to see a familiar face, but funny to know that it was not so familiar anyway.
days spent here were mostly on the beach in mastosinhos, going to the supermarket around the corner to pick up beer and fruit and ingredients for dinner. spending time with gabi and her children when they were not at work or school, and walking into the historical part of porto on the boardwalk that borders the delta. the promenade seems as if it never ends, and i like this. the two hour walks into town were worth it, even in the heat of the day. the colorful old buildings were always waiting to greet me. revisiting the photo museum was a good time as well. the town brought memories i had made there last year with my cousin, sophie.
sitting on the balcony drinking lager or juicy lambrusco and sipping sweet smoke from the hookah while looking out onto the beach made for pleasant afternoons.
two weeks later, i hopped aboard a train for lisbon - about three hours south. here, joshua and i would be staying with a family on the outskirts of the city. beforehand, we had agreed on helping out around the house and cooking, doing some other odd jobs here and there. but when we got there, maria eduarda had just purchased the 1950’s apartment in the same complex as her’s and wanted us to fix it up. there was a lot of fixing up to be done, there was no electricity or water, and the place hadn’t been touched in ten years. this is where joshua and i would be living…
the good part about this whole scenario, was the british couple who were also helping out there. sam and kate! we spent good nights with these two - complaining about work and cold showers (once we had water) and maria’s shady electric wires from her apartment out the window to ours. we had many evenings of playing beer pong and shuffling cards while drinking bison and apple juice. the four of us scoped out bar old vic which became the highlight of our stay in lisbon; it’s maroon velvet booths and oak bar, table snacks and wonderful drinks, the dim atmosphere where kate was allowed to smoke.
we spent some time in the city of lisbon and in belem. we took a day out to go to cascais, a touristy kind of beach that was still quite nice and not yet too crowded.
back at the apartment, we were still drinking tea, but not as much since we didn’t have an electric kettle or stovetop in our apartment - we had to venture to maria’s. there was a nice balcony for sitting on with a cup of tea though, especially when the sun was setting.
we were ready to leave lisbon a couple days before we were meant to, but we stuck around. we said a sad goodbye to sam and kate, but hoped we could meet up with them if they came to italy.
we traveled back to porto on the train and made our way to the airport with gabi’s help. and now, we were italy bound.
i had waited for this moment since i left italy last year. if you’ve been reading my previous posts, you know how in love i am with italy.
i flew into bologna, and reminisced on sitting in a courtyard nearby the train station with a slice of pizza and some good company last year. it was nearly eleven at night now, and i had missed any night train that would be at all affordable so was destined to hang around bologna for the night. i went for the pizza and oh, was it good!!!
i found a concrete bench to sleep on that night, right beneath the train intercom…and somehow i slept through those italian announcements.
my train left at six that morning and took me back to florence. i met with a friend who was studying in the city, showered, and spent the day walking on my old stomping grounds. i went back to via ghibellina and gazed at the facade of my apartment. i had gelato around the corner from the building where i went to school every day. i went to a service at the duomo that evening. i miss that day. i miss that city.
that night i arrived in chiusi, where ulrike picked joshua and i up. we spent a month-and-a-half at her lovely home near panicale. we gardened in the heat, worked in the olive groves, around the house, rebuilt the pool deck, and restored a bit of her workshop, among other things. we worked hard. we ate well and we had a lot of tea breaks. and, consumed about six italian easter cakes in total. delicioso!
ulrike was a woman who lived and still lives a full life. the stories she could tell - and retell! she was excited to take us to different towns and beaches and to the termes which were great after a long week of work. biking to maremma, bathing in the mediterranean, and biking back was one of my favorite outings. the wind in my hair again, in the summer heat.
i loved the way the sky above the hills across from her home would change throughout the day. i would sit in the gazebo and find that in the morning the sky was a gorgeous blue and around two some clouds, in the evening a thin mist of dimming daylight.
there were dozens of insects and snakes and wildlife you might not think of when you think italy. the sounds that they would make! buzzing bees, and pheasant calls, ribbiting toads and wild boar snorting.
walks to panicale along the olive groves in the evening - ahh, lovely. the poppies in the groves were my favorite from the beginning. and of course, the gelato!!!
i remember going to siena just to stop in for gelato one day and thinking how big of deal it was to make a trip there last year. i now felt like a local. and i was speaking some more italian.
joshua and i took a weekend out to see a family who was hoping to hire us as au pairs near florence. we stayed with them in the hills that face fiesole and i imagined myself living there; the trips to florence i would take and the times i would just sit and look at the hills. in the end, it was our visas that didn’t permit us the opportunity to consider the position.
i took another day trip to meet up with a friend from nearby seattle. funny how paths collide across the world.
mugnano might be an ideal town to reside in - its tasteful murals scattered throughout the village.
for two straight weeks at ulrike’s, we had torrential rain. on a drive to cortona it just hailed and hailed - bigger hail that i’ve ever seen. while i was sitting in the car waiting for it to stop, i thought that if i plugged my ears it might just look like the poplar seeds floating in the air. but they were free-falling fast, and even when i plugged my ears, i could still hear the weather.
we left ulrike’s when our plans with sam and kate were finalized. i found an english couple that owns a bed and breakfast on the east coast of italy that would take the four of us on as helpers. i had never been to the east coast of italy. i was thrilled as i hopped aboard the overpriced train and began my journey through the sibillini mountains. they were splendid and mossy and tall, unlike any other scenery i’ve witnessed in italy. it was nice to discover something new.
lynne, of lynne and rupert (the english couple), met me at the train station. she drove back through the hills and this was the first time i had seen so many gorgeous plains and hills without a house in sight. i felt like i was in what umbria is supposed to be - the green heart - but i was, in fact, in le marche.
the bed and breakfast was amazing, pool and wine and wine and all. sam and kate met joshua and i there the morning after we arrived and together we stayed for three weeks. our days consisted of half-nine starts. we’d sit outside in the wicker chairs with the cappuccini i’d make for everyone, eat our toast in the warmth of the morning and wait for lynne and rupert to arrive.
we painted and touched up some rooms, hung curtains, finished the work of transitioning an old pig sty into a livable little cabin. i would like to live there - a small square layout with a bed and a table, and awning outside and an outdoor bathroom and shower. the windows made up the majority of the front wall and look out onto porchia, a nearby village. in the vegetable garden, there were sunflowers that opened up facing the hills and porchia - they have a gorgeous view.
in the afternoons we would have the lunch that lynne would prepare - always amazing - then get back to work for a couple of hours. we’d cool off after work in the pool.
it was forever hot there, but there was forever tea served as well. the english are big influencers on their drinking of tea.
on days off rupert would take us to towns or places he enjoyed. he’d tell us bits of history and i always knew that i would never have come across these kinds of treasures on my own. he also took us to the apartment lynne and rupert share in montalto - the small stacked apartment of three stories. everything inside was perfectly laid out and the top floor as a room solely for the bathtub is a dream…the french doors open up to a balcony with a view of the hills. imagine that.
kate and sam and joshua and i walked to the nearby village often - for gelato mostly. and once we went out to eat at quatro stagoni - amazing pizza, which we also had at the house after pick-up orders.
one day we went to the piano grande - this amazing plateau in the middle of a valley that is full of wildflower fields and hilltop towns, not to mention the local and delicious pork sandwiches.
there were insane hornets at the b&b. larger than the size of my thumb, and i know i have small hands, but still. they would buzz like no other and it was amusing to watch kate so alarmed sometimes.
picking cherries and handing them off to lynne to be made into something tasty was always a treat. rupert and her could cook like no other. at dinner, i always knew i was in good company; the wine from the local cantina that was poured and the conversations that went on!
there were a sets of guests along our stay and all of them were people that lynne and rupert knew. we had fun getting to know them for a few days, learning and playing poker, and sharing time at the beach as rupert let us borrow the car. the adriatic sea was to die for - i think it is my favorite. kate told me last week that my eyes are the color of the adriatic.
the last day of our stay we all spent by the pool, relaxing and playing cards, drinking buck’s fizz and leftover beer from the day at the beach. one last cup of gelato in town in the evening. and, one last game of poker. at one in the morning, there were the four of us laying on the rooftop, stargazing.
i could have stayed at the b&b for a while longer, and like i said, live in the old pigsty. but there would be large groups of guests to arrive as summer continued on. this would be another place i’d have to return to, and as we all packed up the little red car, rupert welcomed us back whenever.
on the coach to rome, it hit me that i would be leaving italy again.
we parted ways with sam and kate and then things got complicated at the airport and at one point it seemed that perhaps i might not have to leave. but, around eight at night i was flying to england. as we took off, i could see rome all lit up and it reminded me of landing in bologna two-and-a-half months ago.
it was another night of sleeping in a train station, but this time in london. at five am, i hopped aboard a train to folkestone and penny, the owner of terlingham vineyard, arrived to pick joshua and i up.
when we got to the house, she offered us each a cup of tea, but all i wanted was sleep. i curled up in the cozy cellar of the house and slept for the remainder of the day.
i stayed at penny’s for about a week over a month and learned quite a bit about wine and the vineyard. when i first arrived i wondered why i was here. why was i not in italy in the sun? why was i here in the cold and the rain? but over time, the sun came out a little more, and i realized how close to home i felt, even though i was still so far away.
i think heading to england was a good transition stage. last year when i came home from traveling for six months, i had spent time with sophie in the warmest parts of europe and then was all of a sudden home. it was a shock to my senses, my climate, and my emotions were already out of control after having that experience and then returning home. i think it’s hard to realize that whilst others are at home, time goes by so quickly. whereas, whilst traveling, and whilst everything is new and stimulating, time slows down a bit. there isn’t a strict schedule to follow, you are free. you can leave a place if you want to leave or stay longer if you want to stay longer. there is always a way. but, honestly, if there is one thing that traveling has taught me it is that - there is always a way. i am young and have the ability to make choices that can direct my life in one way or another. it’s hard to realize, but you can leave or stay whenever or wherever you want, you can not follow your schedule - and although it may have different effects at home or at a job…there is always a way. there is always another job or another place. a friend once told me, ‘as important as you are, you get to a point in life where you understand that the world will still spin if you’re not there.’
anyway, my time at terlingham vineyard was very valuable - both in the things i began to realize about myself and about life, but also in the knowledge that i gained. i was back to working in customer service (a good transition to getting a job back home), giving tastings and offering tours of the vineyard. i learned about and participated in the process of bottling and labeling wines. i learned a lot about having a small business and making or not making money from it. i learned that keeping up a vineyard - even a ‘small’ one - is hard work. however, i was reassured in my interest in wine and my eagerness to learn more about it. i could see myself working in a winery or having my own wine shop one day.
the bike rides here were beautiful too. down to the folkestone harbor or just to the community center to hop on the internet for a few minutes. i walked along the hills that stand above the main city center and got a whole different view of the town. i took buses upon buses to visit other areas in southeast england. i walked to the point at the end of the warren - or at least as far as the tide permitted. i had fish & chips in england!
you know when you live somewhere and you, at some point, learn how many stairs there are to walk up in the dark, or how many steps it is to the bathroom? i had just got the hang of that at penny’s. i would count eleven stairs up from the cellar and then feel my way across the kitchen floor. i would always stop though and have a break in my count. the view from the window, of france across the english channel, all lit up at night - sometimes i would just stand there. and pick up my count where i left off.
in early august i was feeling a bit down. the family vacation that i go on every year would be missed this year. this would be my first time being absent from our two week stay in the san juans. there have been many times on this journey that i have wished my family were here with me - to see and experience the things i am. to share memories with. even just to have a cup of tea with. to have them be able to understand. but this time i wanted to be at home. i wanted to be on the boat with my dad and my mom and my brother. eating mom-cooked and dad-caught dinners on the deck. crowding around the campfire. sitting on the couch inside the cabin or in a wooden chair outside on the beach, walking down to perriwinkle cove, dipping my feet in the pacific. time and time again, i reassure myself that i will be there next year, or maybe even visit before then. time and time again, i hope to share journeys abroad with my family in the future. there is always a way.
in mid-august, i heard from sam and kate. they had arrived back from switzerland and were ready to have us whenever we fancied. joshua and i chose the 18th, which was the day following the venetian fait in hythe.
since sam and kate had not yet gone back to work, we’ve all been putting in some work around their house, which sam inherited from his godfather a few years back. it’s amazing what some new layers of paint can do! it makes me excited to one day have my own place that i can fix up and maybe rent out or do a house exchange sometime if i get that urge to travel - i will. i have learned so many new skills and thought up so many new ideas on this journey that i think need to be put to good use!
we took a day-trip to cambridge in some sunny skies and a few trips closer to the city on greyer days. have taken some walks through the forest and a lovely park. we visited the science museum and the natural history museum and, my favorite, the tate modern, along the thames embankment. they had a rothko room there that i wanted to sit in forever.
we’ve met lots of sam & kate’s friends. and even set off chinese lanterns up into the sky! we went to brick lane and frequented the vintage shops, and the international food market. we’ve ridden the underground and the overground, and been to chinatown where the lanterns hang pretty in the sky. we’ve been drinking shandies galore. we went out to the pub the other evening and danced the night away to good ol’ tunes like ‘brown eyed girl’ and ‘all night long’. while dancing, i was told by some guy that i was probably the happiest person in there.
as funds are dwindling on this last stretch of the journey, its another good transition to going home. we’ve been cooking homemade meals. we’ve scoped out most of the free things to do in london, and taken part in them. there is so much that is accessible on a flat wallet. i plan to do the same and scope some things out at home. it will be good to have a paycheck, but it has been amazing to see where i’ve gone and the things i’ve gotten to experience on such a small amount of money. there is always a way.
kate went back to work on monday (this has cut down my tea drinking from about ten cups a day to seven), and sam is on call. i’ve been taking it easy here at the house, just sorting out some packing and doing some things i’ve said i’d do but hadn’t gotten around to. another good transition. i’ve been cherishing the moments i’ve had while traveling, cherishing the many people i’ve met and enjoyed spending time with, cherishing an amazing friend and partner in travel. i’ve been looking forward to going home and seeing family but not dwelling on it. my time here is still my time here. time at home will come soon enough and then i will focus on that new journey.
our last venture into london brought us into leicester square, unplanned. here i saw the apple market. here i saw the vegetarian hole-in-the-wall, food for thought. this is where i came the first night of my journey - unplanned- nearly eight months ago. and here, as i realized my time on this journey is coming to an end, i began to reminisce. it’s funny how life brings you back to places, to memories.
when in south-eastern england, take advantage of the stagecoach public bus system especially when traveling with another person or with a family. it’s ten pounds for a “family explorer pass” which entitles two adults and up to three children access to any bus in the east-sussex area for an entire day. and for an individual traveling solo, the fee is five-pounds, eighty-pence. oh the places you could go!
i choose rye. a woman in a women’s institute group that i had given a tour of the vineyard of earlier in the week recommended i make a visit to the town. and i feel like quite the tourist snagging the front seats on the top level of the double-decker. but what a great way to see the coast! two hours west of folkestone, the wednesday rye farmer’s market is shutting down, but the town is still quite engaged with activity.
the canal is flowing beneath the sun, and beyond the main square of town where cafe and tea rooms are bustling with afternoon traffic, mermaid street stands calmly sloping upwards. the cobblestones feel good and cool beneath my feet as i walk up the lane that i have read about just previous to making this trip to rye. supposedly this is one of the most photographed streets in europe, and i snap a few more to add to the count. the architecture is truly english and possesses traits from the late-medieval style. each house has an uncanny name posted on it’s doorway or porch railway. “house with the seat” and “house with two doors” and “the house opposite” are all names that strike my fancy.
in a book called “the hidden places of the south east” (see new edition here) that i had happened upon in the rows of penny’s little bookshelf, i read about the way that rye was once a quite flourishing fishing village. the book goes further to explain that “…the silting of the harbour gradually denied the town a means of earning a living…” and thus, rye faced a “period of decline”. this recession however, preserved “the buildings which would have been updated in more prosperous circumstances.”
walking out of mermaid streets cobble-stoned delta, i stumble across the old cemetery and the cathedral, a castle that overlooks the canal. i also come upon the lamb house where the author henry james drafted up many of his novels. i can imagine the walled gardens and this charming enclave an inspiring setting to compose language.
the further into the small town i go, the more i envisage those from hundreds of years ago fitting right back into rye in the present day. i would also expect them taking great pleasure in the weather today, and i decide it is too nice of a day in england to spend indoors and so i skip the tourist sites and make for a neighborhood footpath. the town is small and i end up back in the main square with a good remainder of the late afternoon to occupy. though, i am happy to have encountered rye and all of it’s history that is still so very apparent.
aboard another bus i hop with my explorer pass and i disembark near to dymchurch which a friend of my host’s son has recommended. again, i think it is too nice out to spend walking in and out of each shop and so i find the stairs to the promenade that runs along the shallow beachfront and begin walking. just over the cement ledge i can see heads bobbing in the water, children splashing one another with the waves that have gathered sand as they roll in and out. i see an older couple swimming together on a part of the beach where no one else is. as the man plunges into the sea and makes his stroke toward his missus, i think they are gorgeous. i hope to have someone to swim with on a sunny day when i am that age.
the promenade continues on and on until it hits the hythe firing range. i make my steps away from the beach and off of the cement, onto the grassy pathway and across the street. there is a sidewalk and further ahead i can see a bus stop. there are no times listed but as i read another section of the orange and blue sign, i can hear the bus pulling up behind me. perfect timing, and the neon letters claiming “dover/folksetone” as this bus’ destination reassure me that i am in the right place at the right time. i flash my pass once again and climb aboard.
the upper deck is full of clammy beach-goers. well, i guess beach-leavers now. the a/c is low but the chance of catching the bus and the general feeling in the atmosphere that everyone on board is simply exhausted from a beautiful day in the heat makes me think to myself it’s just one of those summer days to remember and treasure.
(might i add that on the way to rye i spotted a little beachfront cottage with driftwood letters spelling out Beach Haven - the namesake of one of my most cherished places on earth, but in the san juan islands in the puget sound which is seemingly a million miles away right now! it’s nice to be reminded of the places one thinks of often and holds dear to their heart.)
the sun is out and beaming, and it’s my day off. i sleep in and eat breakfast while watching the bbc news. the weather report reassures me that the sun will remain throughout the day and so my plans are set in stone. my legs are tired from walking along the victorian promenade in brighton yesterday and from the evening trek home from the train station, but i think i will go with the feeling, and make some more headway on destroying the soles of my beloved leather sandals.
out the door i go, following gibraltar lane and canterbury road into folkestone and down to the sea. there are many people out; too many for a monday. don’t people usually work on mondays? no suits or nylons today; the brits are in their shorts and bikini tops, following in the same direction as i, toward to beach. i grab a soft serve cone and in the heat, am instantly committed to chasing each and every drip.
penny has suggested i make a visit to the warren, which is a bit more off the beaten path than the small triangle of a sandy beach that is easily accessible and completely packed. i walk along the clay path, being ware of the nettles that are at my sides.
there are considerably less bodies on this beach and as i step along the seaweed covered stones, i keep an eye out for fossils like penny has told me to. but the water catches my eye, and distracts me from my fossil hunt. it’s more turquoise than ever and i feel like i should be in greece or somewhere gorgeously crisp and equatorial. the sea is calm and the water lulls up onto the pebbles, making a delicate white foam.
there is a cement esplanade that follows the shore and the cliffs out to a point. the point that is now my destination. the tide is in and there is not much beach to be seen. but the slow waves that are waking against the cement thrust their sound up against the cliff-sides that are to my right. it is like holding the largest seashell up to your ear, and the resonance makes it seems as though another volume of waves could spill over the top of the crags at any minute, turquoise and milky froth churning - overflowing into the sea.
about half-way through my roam to the point i begin to notice curious pathways that lead up some of the cliff-sides. and, a bit further on there is a tiny - really tiny - path that leads about ten feet up a rock. the path is made of carved out steps, and there are flowers and a makeshift trellis archway small enough only for one person to fit through. beyond the archway is a charming improvised lean-to, with a wicker chair outside its door. laundry hangs and blows in the breeze from the sea behind a tiny tree on the rock’s ledge. oh, how i’d love to make a place like this for myself; just the right amount of cozy space and a front yard of the sea. i can only imagine the character of the interior bits of this fantasy sea shanty.
further along still, is the first patch of pebbly beach in a long while. the cement esplanade runs out before it starts back up again, and the pebbly beach is a refreshing intermission to the stiff-stepped demeanor my walk has begun to take on. my feet and sandals sink into the slopes of the tiny beige stones, and once around a small corner, i find another beautifully built beach cabin. this one really looks like it took some effort to erect - with a hip-high stacked-stone base and pieces of driftwood to build up the rest of the facade. there is a stout decorated-style window fitted into the front, and a larger rectangular opening that almost looks as though it could serve as a kiosk counter for a little beachside bar or ice-creamery. the roof is thatched and has eaves that overhang and protect the shelter below. the beached boat beside it looks as though it is being lived in as well and i think of the abandoned june burn bungalow on waldron island in the san juans that i adore visiting every summer. perhaps this will have to be my abandoned cabin fix for this year. i would dare to enter but there are people picnicking and looking as though they are enjoying their privacy and company in the occasion of heat in this english summer. (at times i just dream of living life like the children of the book my mother used to read to me when i was younger, “we were tired of living in a house” [see some of the original illustrations/pages here on a blog that i found recently] by liesel skorpen and illustrated by june burn’s family member, doris burn.)
i continue on until i realize that the tide is too far in to actually get around to the point. i’d either have to take my chances of hypothermia in the english channel, or conquer the jagged rocks above the sea’s surface in my crumbling sandals. instead, i stake out an area of this secluded end of the beach, where people are sparse, and those who are, are even more sparsely clothed. i bask for an hour and revel in the grace of tiny yellow blossoms atop thick green stems that shoot out of the white stones and lay so beautifully before the backdrop of the hot blue marine.
i pack up so as not to burn before making the returning walk. and with each step back toward the folkestone harbor, the tide rolls farther and farther out. beaches lower than the esplanade that were once hidden beneath the sea, are now visible, sandy with bulges of barnacled boulders and ruins of wooden boardwalks or docks. the beauty of nature is in that enigma, that chameleonic habit that it embodies - the way that at one point in the day a landscape can look so extraordinarily different than at any other time of day, be it the light that is shed upon it, or the lack there of, creating and moving the shadows in the escarpments, the cycle of the ocean undulating in and in and back out again perhaps determining if a seaside shanty owner has a front yard or not, the petals of flowers opening or closing either granting a scape with the vibrance of color or concealing themselves and giving another aspect of the picture a moment to be proud; maybe the celestial luminosity in an inky night sky, or even the simplicity of the sounds of the sea echoing against a craggy wall. is the mystery not so completely gorgeous?
on my walk back home i think about the way that i can feel everything that is on the ground’s surface with the soles of my feet. it is as though i am wearing a thin sock, or walking on a piece of worn card-stock. i think about the places i have been and that my sandals now tell a story in a way, of my explorations and my journeys. the leather soles have been a part of every cityscape and landscape and wonder of nature i have encountered which are memories i feel blessed to have and will continue to enjoy; they are dear to who i have and will become.
and with the sun dimming i tread back up the hill of gibraltar lane, smiling with every bit of gravel i step on, every new scar that is being created on the soles of my sandals.
after many camera shops, electronic stores, etc. i found my new gem - the fujifilm s2950! it’s a bridge camera which is a step up for me, and perfect for the budget i was able to have thanks to all of my lovely friends and family who donated. so appreciated! i’m thinking up a thank you collage of some sort that i can create with photos taken on the new camera. i was even able to purchase a nice case for it! perhaps i’ll snap a photo of the camera with joshua’s and post it up here. thank you thank you!!!
these little buds will someday be grapes which will someday be wine!!
the english channel afar.
in the gardens.
the wheat fields on gibraltar lane.
folkestone beyond the pinot nior.
one more of the lower vineyard & the farmhouse to come!
map of the folkestone area. i marked some key points of where i have been so far and where some of the photos below were taken. the yellow diamond is where i live, and where the vines are. i’ll try for a photo of the house through the main vineyard when the weather warms up and lends me some nice lighting.
my nook in the terlingham farmhouse cellar. my stack of books that i’m working on: love story (now finished), the hobbit, fanny hill or memoirs of a woman of pleasure, and a traveler’s life. the creme de la creme when the aroma of my smoky lapsang sochoung tea wafts around and lingers while i’m flipping pages beneath the sheets.
down by the harbor on the first day, biking along the east pier (see the pink diamond on the map). lowered the bike seat and i’ve been riding ever since. the english channel is near and a fairly easy ride from the house. it is similar to the shores at home, rocky and coated with slimy seaweed, the water a deeper bluish-green as it lashes the pier with the wind and rolls up onto the coastline. seagulls cawing and flying overhead.
boats situated to the west of the main pier (closer to the green diamond). further along, there is a pebbly beach made up of strange beige and almost orange colored stones, that forms a little mound before sloping down to the bayfront. it lays out past the main pier and the water looks murkier here, but the ride along the pavement is nice as the bluff disguises grimier parts. there are strange buildings and i think if i was placed into the scenery and had to guess where i was, it might be mexico. the paint is peeling back and the decorative awnings and terraces look aged and abandoned. i think at once they may have appeared quite posh, crisp white and with a hint of grandeur along the seaside. there are stout palm trees scattered along the pavement. it seems like part of a mystery movie set where there is some convict pacing back and forth along the crumbling floorboards inside one of the rooms in the old hotel, red-handed. the camera pans to his view from the window, where he observes the extras as bicyclists and daily passersby in the sunny breeze of the afternoon, scheming his next move. oh, i miss my law & order!
walking beside the wheat fields (blue diamond!). there are wheat fields everywhere along gibraltar lane on the way to the farmhouse. swaying in the gales and creating a most gorgeous foreground for the town of folkestone and the english channel beyond.
the sourest of sour from the sugarboy in canterbury (up past the purple arrow). spent 5 pounds to get into canterbury (i also found 5 pounds in the change receptacle at boots, the neighborhood drug store). the town was nice, full of sidestreets and colorful old english style buildings with the famous cathedral towering over. in the main plaza were lots of tourist groups and some guitarists strumming away. the day was pleasantly warm, good for walking. after trying to figure out which camera to purchase (still haven’t…have just been using joshua’s, though i’m DYING to get one of my own!), i stopped in at the local sweet shop - the sugarboy - to find sour strings. instead i picked up 100 grams of mega sour balls that were MEGA sour. the shopkeeper had warned me, but i honestly think all of the taste buds on my tongue have been burnt off by the citric acid. even just thinking about them makes my jaw hurt and my mouth salivate. of course, i have still been eating them!
pretty little wine bottles that i may have to purchase at some point. also in canterbury. found them in the main supermarket called sainsbury’s and just had to snap a shot!
chips at the folkestone harbor yesterday evening (green diamond). found myself here after the day spent in canterbury since i wanted to get the full value of my 5 pound bus pass. i had noticed the fish ‘n’ chips storefront on the previous bikeride by the harbour and this time i stopped in. a pound-seventy for this take-away box piled high! i did NOT go for the vinegar the man asked to pour on top, however did sample some tartar and ketchup. an agreeable way to end my day off, sitting on the bench looking out over the marina of little motorboats and dinghies.
the orange arrow leads to france! i’ll try to take a good shot of the horizon line soon (hopefully with a new camera in hand).
photos of the work in the vineyard and the winery to come soon as well!
leading up to & leaving italy. (seemingly the longest post yet)
2 july, 2011.
rupert & lynne’s son, max, arrives with a group of friends on saturday afternoon. the bed & breakfast is full now and i move my luggage to the library where there is a fold out sofa. with the movement of my luggage brings a bit of packing and an emphasis on the reality that in a couple of days i will have to say goodbye to italy once again.
thunder and rain throng the sky in the distance and kate and i are standing poolside. we can hear and see the curtain of showers come over the hillside en route to us. it is the strangest thing to watch it shifting closer and closer and finally surge above us. we make a dash for the covered terrace!
3 july, 2011.
sunday brings back the sun, along with a big game of pool volleyball. members of max’s group are making mimosas with prosecco and amarettos, and we join in. i am happy to spend my last day lounging in the sun.
after lunch - made up of sliced figs, caprese salad with wafers of avocado, a cheese board, and fresh bread - rupert stands an easel and his drawing toolbox in the shade. i sit for him as he draws. when he asks me to focus my eyes on a point above him, i choose a leaf in the bushel of trees. the branches are swaying with the breeze but this one leaf is sticking out and staying still in the blue of the sky. dandelion seeds are dancing in the air, and a friend of max’s is strumming a guitar on the patio.
rupert is frustrated with the drawing but says it is good for him to get back in this mode as he is preparing for an exhibition in august. he decides to finish for now and reveals the other side of the paper to me. he has sketched most of my face and a bit of my torso. the detail in the drawing lies solely within my lips.
dinnertime rolls around and the table is set with bowls full of pasta coated with sauteed zuchinni, creamed mushrooms and roasted red tomato sauce. lynne has prepared our favorite bread - ciabatta rolled with mozzarella and pesto rosso, garnished with rosemary and sea salt. before we devour our meals, rupert and lynne stand to give us a toast. it is a gratifying feeling as they thank us for our work and our stay and welcome us back whenever we may be in italy again. each of us are presented with a card and the promise of a book posted to sam and kate’s home in england. mine is the history of aegean art.
we eat and sip wine and chat with the others about the remainder of their time here at casa bella fonte. as the eating dies down, sam clinks his fork against the stem of his flute and gives a toast to lynne and rupert for their hospitality, the wonderful meals, the day-trips and the experience as a whole. we stand and gift them a handmade card. on the front is the facade of casa bella fonte, with shutters that pop up and uncloak our self-portraits.
oh, i don’t want to leave italy.
in the balmy breath of the night, rupert drives us up to montalto for gelato and i go for a grande coppette chock full of limone, amarena e ananas. dolce, chilled, fruity bliss!
back at the house, we spend the rest of the night playing poker. the game lasts forever, it seems, and with eleven players to start the game i am fourth to last to be out. one of max’s friends takes the pot. it is nearly two a.m. and i remember that i have not yet seen the stars from the rooftop.
we climb out through the window on the top floor and lay down on the tarmac. the sky is clear and the stars are bright. the wine we have been drinking is amplifying the ambience of the moment. each star replaces a dandelion seed that had been dancing earlier in the day.
it is heartbreaking to crawl into bed knowing that i will be losing my italy tomorrow.
4 july, 2011.
the sun is bright and shines its heat and light through the library window and onto my pillow in the morning. i shower and take a walk down past the orto and to the fields. the sunflowers are open, but the cherries that remain on the trees are withering in the heat of this early july. the water in bella fonte is flowing clear now after mine and rupert’s efforts to fix the pump earlier in the week. opposite to my whereabouts, the little village of porchia is just waking up.
i take my tea and porridge with slivers of nectarine at the table inside with sam and kate and joshua. we talk about the final packing that is to be done, the journey that we will make to rome, and the fact that this will be our last breakfast together for a while.
rupert comes by around ten and we load our luggage into the boot of the little red car. max’s group bids us farewell as we latch ourselves into the seats. and, off we set to grottammare to catch the coach to rome.
rupert drops us at the bus-stop and we all kiss cheeks.
the four of us wait for ten minutes and the whole time i am wondering if there is anywhere open for one last bit of limone gelato. but, the coach arrives and so we stow our luggage and hop aboard. i’ll be longing for gelato until next time!
we ride through the mountains and from east to west, and along the way we stop at a petrol station where we purchase a baguette and a focaccia primavera panini. (little do we know that later this evening we will be quite thankful to ourselves for stashing away a bit of these provisions!)
sam and kate make their departure from the coach at castro preteroa in rome and we share hugs and temporary goodbyes as we will see them again in england at the end of summer. (we had thought about spending the day in rome with them but decided that we should get to the airport earlier than later.) i wish them a wonderful stay in rome and the best of adventures in switzerland and paris. i know that i will miss them even if only for a short interlude.
the drive continues through the outskirts of rome and to the fumicinio airport where the two of us hop out and collect our luggage. we are rather early for our flight and know that we won’t be able to check in yet, but we survey the departure boards anyway. our flight is nowhere to be found, though all other flights well into the night are posted.
at the information desk, we hand over our printed ticket. the man behind the counter does some typing and finds it strange that he cannot find the flight number in the system. and as i slide the ticket back toward myself, my stomach flips when i see that our ticket is for wednesday, july 4th, 2012.
it is not a wednesday and it is not 2012. it is a monday and it is 2011. well, we would have had a whole year to spend with sam and kate in rome.
the scramble begins since there is no flight that is similar to the one we had booked on this date for next year. we will have to find a flight into london instead of birmingham. we spend some time on the internet searching flights and joshua speaks with a woman at the ticket counter in terminal two. as i sit upstairs, i remember my time spent at fumicinio three years ago. sitting at the cafe i am now sitting outside of, and speaking with a man from ireland about his daughter and his home and the book that he would be writing. departing from italy to england just as i am now, but with more of a plan…
we book an unfortunately more expensive flight to london that will leave at nine-fifteen tonight and hopefully get us into gatwick on time to catch our night train. tummies rumbling, we finish off the baguette we had bought earlier on.
signing in, checking our bags, proceeding through security and getting admitted through passport control seems - and is - too simple to be true.
i stand in line at our gate and five minutes before boarding begins, our gate is changed. people are literally herded to the other gate, and i have lost my place in line. as boarding begins, flyers are being searched before getting onto the airplane shuttle. i am not sure why, as everyone has just gone through security and time is ticking. this whole situation seems way too chaotic.
eventually, we have all boarded the plane and it is hotter here in my seat than it has been the entire time in italy. an attendant comes over the intercom and informs us all that the flight had been in consideration to be cancelled and so the air conditioning had not been on.
ten minutes pass and there have been three attendants up and down the aisles click-counting how many people are on the flight. static comes over the intercom and is followed by the voice of the pilot. he reports that there are one-hundred-and-fifty-five people on board, but only one-hundred-and-fifty-four people that have checked in. goodness!!! words stir about the plane - how did someone board the plane without a ticket? or with the wrong ticket? how did they get through the check-in, the security, the boarding, the second search, the flight attendant at the entrance of the airplane?!
everyone’s boarding tickets are investigated by attendants and there is a young man seated in the middle of the plane that has a ticket for tomorrow’s rome to gatwick flight. the air conditioning still has not started up. the man is escorted off the plane and the pilot thanks us for our patience. we sit through the normal safety instructions in english and italian, and finally, the plane moves forward. there is congestion on the runway now, and we are fourth in line for take off.
the air conditioning starts with the engines, and into the air we fly. rome is lit up in the twilight of this fourth of july. i am exhausted, but not too exhausted to be sad about leaving. shortly after we fly over the coast and the darkness of the sea blends into the black of nightfall, i let myself fall asleep as my italy is no longer in sight.
it is well after eleven when i wake up in england. my passport is stamped and i collect my luggage from baggage claim. the train station is connected to the airport and we are able to use our tickets that were supposed to be from birmingham to folkestone, to get to london bridge in order to make the transfer to folkestone.
5 july, 2011.
at the london bridge station at half past midnight, it is fairly empty and quite chilly. we have four hours to wait for the train that will follow southeast to folkestone. we sit against our luggage and play some cards until at some point we fall asleep.
our train arrives on platform six at 5:39 in the morning and we board sleepily. i nod off now and again, although when i am awake i am pleased to notice the sea in the distance.
penny, the owner of terlingham vineyard collects us at folkestone central station an hour and a half later. we make the drive to her home where the vines are, and i think i am too tired to realize how gorgeous it is. after tea, she shows us to our room in the cellar. it is like a secret chamber (and maybe i would be uneasy about it if i wasn’t so tired). but the temperature is pleasantly cool and wine bottles fill the nooks and two beds fit perfectly below little windows, with wooden beams overhead. nothing sounds better than a pillow right now.
i pass out for nine hours, undisturbed. when i wake i feel estranged from everything i have known for the past few months. i creep up the stairs and unlatch the wooden door. i fix myself a cup of chai and sit for sausages and potatoes that penny has prepared. for some reason i feel like it is autumn, cozy with warm food in my stomach.
outside i take a little walk around the property. the vineyards intrigue me and i am eager to find out what tomorrow’s work will bring. i crest an incline on the property and realize that there is a town out in the distance, and further on is the sea. but it is not all that far, really. the sight brings a grin to my face as i was unaware that i would be situated so near to the coast. it looks as if it is in walking distance, and later when i speak to penny she tells me that it is, and is also easily reachable by a bike that she has stowed in the garage free for my use.
the mist that is in the sky hazes over a body of land that makes up part of the horizon line. i wonder if it is an island or if it is still england, wrapping around. but, penny informs me that it is france.
yes! i can see france afar and this makes my mind kind of cycle with thoughts - “…france is close to italy and…i love italy! and perhaps this means that i am not so far away from italy…and the vineyard is reminiscent of italy…and i can still have wine with dinner…and better yet, a plethora of tea…and the sea is in the backyard…and there’s a bike for me…and maybe things are just working out bloody well!”
in better spirits, i make up for some eating that i had missed out on in transit. vegetable curry and lemon tarts before yet another cup of chai. i step down into the cellar careful not to tip my tumbler brimmed with peppermint tea and set it in the one empty nook that is adjacent to my bedside. asleep i fall, once again, after sipping down my tea and reading the first quarter of love story by erich segal that i’ve snatched from the bookshelf upstairs.
i’m drinking almost as much tea as i did last summer with sophie.
i miss sophie!
i’m starting to really dislike duvets. duvets seem to be a theme on this journey - changing them constantly for others and then for myself.
a group showed up at the b&b today. it is raining and i thought about how it would feel to arrive on holiday in the rain. we all sat outside on the terrace drinking tea and beer (not simultaneously), chatting and laughing, and even in the rain, i bet it would feel like any other holiday. i kind of long for that feeling. for me, this is not simply traveling as a holiday - this is living and settling for a bit and then getting up and moving and then repeating. i think i long for a sense of permanence sometimes.
i read the reader and am now dying to read and live more love stories that are on par. any suggestions? (i am dying to read lolita).
it is strange to have my most recent memories consist of people and places i have only recently encountered.
i’m a poker fiend…except when i’m losing!
i have so many ideas about being home. projects to start. things to do. it’s hard not to think about it, and i kind of don’t like that my mind wanders that way sometimes.
i am obsessed with limone gelato. i don’t know why i even bother with other flavors anymore.
i am also obsessed with the song ‘mango pickle down river’ which i will post here. it will now always remind me of cleaning with kate, dancing around and laughing every time “my name is keith” starts up.
i’ve got to start drawing more. i made a card for sam’s birthday which was yesterday - will post that too - and i was rather pleased with it. good vibes.
i’ve got to thank everyone that has helped me out with my camera fund! i’ve got nearly enough to purchase a new one, and will be doing so when i arrive in england on monday night.
it will be weird to find myself in england. after a while, i’ve stopped expecting which i suppose is good. i wonder what things will be like at the vineyard - the workload, the food, how easily accessible civilization is…
the narrowest alleyway in italia & one very unfortunate event.
after spending the major part of the day in grottammare, we drive for a quarter of an hour, and rupert stops off on the side of the road and asks if we want to see something secret. we accept the offer, of course, although we are all quite sleepy. here in ripratransone, we walk downhill and uphill and uphill and uphill, it seems. through stone alleyways and views of tiny towers and brightly filled flower-boxes. i snap photos now and again, each time being careful to strap my camera around my wrist or place it back into its case.
we are confused as to where we are going, as rupert walks ahead of us and stops in at a gelato shop. he leads us again and there are signs along the way with arrows, claiming the direction to “the narrowest alleyway in italy”.
the stone walls run tight against a small slope, and i am amused by this peculiar treasure rupert is sharing with us. but he shakes his head, smiles and says “no, no this isn’t the smallest one.” again, we follow the leader and finally, we reach a sign without an arrow. this IS “the narrowest alleyway in italy”. 43 centimeters wide, the decline through the strait path is slippery, perhaps due to major traffic wearing on the cobblestone! however, the streets that the alleyway leads to appear to be empty of foot traffic, just streets occupied by the locals, where laundry hangs from lines outside the windows and ivy that has presumably been there for years climbs the facades. there are no shops or cafes along the streets in this section of ripratransone. i wonder if the community looks askance on the visitors that pass through to see the alleyway, or if people really even DO pass through simply to see the alleyway. perhaps it is a hidden gem that passersby just discover by chance or through a friend. nonetheless, i am appreciative to have had the occasion to see it and walk through it! also to take a photo of it…
we walk back toward the car and i snap a photo of sam and kate ahead of me. i shift the camera to snap one more, of the view that is beyond the area where we have parked. but the lens is jammed and the screen flashes RETRY ON, LENS ERROR.
i try and try again, but my efforts make no progress. i stash the camera into its case for the time being, because i cannot be bothered with it on the ride home.
rupert hands me a set of mini-screwdrivers to undo the outer shell of the camera, so that i might see if there is sand jamming the lens. but one of the screws is stripped and the camera cannot be fully opened. i can get to the lens but the lens is enclosed by other pieces. lynne tells me the same RETRY ON, LENS ERROR flashed across her screen a year ago, and her daughters as well. they had taken them to the camera shop without any luck - the cost for repair, if it had been possible at all, would be the same as a new camera and therefore not worth it.
(this is the unfortunate event!) at the end of the day i am cameraless. there are instances - well most instances, really - where i enjoy having a camera in my rucksack, to capture a memory or a moment and to have photographs to look back on and to share with others in the present and in my future. also, to work on art from photos when i am back home and have the time to do so.
honestly, i am a bit disheartened since i am on a tight (TIGHT) budget and have been the entire journey. this was something i was not expecting or figuring into my budget and so, i am asking for help from my family, friends, parents of friends, and readers on this one. i know a lot of you have enjoyed my photos and hearing stories about them and planning adventures of your own inspired by some of them or the areas they were taken in. i want to keep snapping shots that inspire me and you, both! so, on the main side-strip of my blog, i’ve installed a donate button that is linked to paypal. anything, even kind words, would be SO VERY greatly appreciated - and i can promise you some prints when i return, mailed or personally handed to you! your choice of photos!!!
on sunday we make our way to the east coast of italy, to a town called grottammare. rupert drops us off on the beach, and we lay our towels out and stake our parasols into the soft sand. it is HOT, and i bask in the sun for only a few minutes until i tread across the sand like a coal-walk and into the adriatic. the water is clear and warm and shallow enough to walk out to the rock barriers and still have my shoulders exposed. in my mind i keep thinking i should be able to see the shore of croatia from here, but the sea is wider than i imagine it, and the blue just keeps out stretching out and out until it meets the blue of the sky at the horizon line.
back on the sand, we plays rounds of cards and make caprese sandwiches, munch on salami and apples and bananas.
after some sunbathing and another long swim, we pack our things and walk along the promenade nearing the actual town of grottammare. here, we find a corner gelato shop where i order mango and limone, and due cappuccini for sam and kate. we take a seat outside and as i finish my gelato i decide it might be nice to walk along the little strip that heads toward the main road. sam and kate stay at the cafe and i stroll through the lanes that are mostly vacant since it is siesta time now. i do pass by a small ristorante that is themed after the ratatoullie movie and i get pretty excited.
from the main road, there is cliff that towers over the rest of the tiny city, and atop the cliff are a strange row of palm trees. it all seems out of place, but i look back toward the sea and don’t mind.
we trace our steps back to the beach and i notice all the sunbrellas and little huts that people are renting out. it looks picturesque and expensive, though i prefer the spot we’ve beneath the palm tree we’ve claimed on the free beach down the esplanade.
i lay on the shore submerged in the sea, the way i had in the mediterranean a few weeks ago. the sun feels different here, and there is a stoney area in the shallowest part of the water that i like to run my hands through, sifting for delicate shells and squishing the saturated sand through my fingers.
sam and kate lay beneath the palm tree, both napping and looking quite comfortable. i think we could adapt to the beach lifestyle pretty easily. in fact, there is a vacant building across the street with VENDESI signs tacked to it. we all decide we should co-own it and renovate it into a bed and breakfast on the seaside, where we could live and run together whenever we please. oh, che bella idea!
rupert collects us where he had dropped us off six hours earlier and again we shuffle into the car, slightly sunburnt and very relaxed.
a day off, a tour from rupert & a porchetta panini.
sunday is our first day off. (have i mentioned that kate and sam - the british couple i helpx’ed with in lisbon - have come to stay at the b&b as well? they have!!) rupert picks us up around ten in the morning and the four of us cram into the little old red car. back west we head, and on the way we stop into one of rupert’s favorite villages, montfalcone. the city perches high on a small mountain and overlooks more quilted land. there is a piazza bordered by a stone ledge where one can really take in the views. i hoist myself up onto the ledge and sit, deciding which patch of land i favor the most. i choose a rectangular slope of beige that is undisturbed save for an old farmhouse in the center. i move to the other side and gaze at the tower that looks like it is barely clinging to the cliffside.
stepping down from the piazza, there is a woman arranging flowers outside her cafe. i bid a bongiorno to her before hopping back into the car.
rupert drives us through the aso valley and up into the sibillini mountains, back onto the eastern edge of umbria. here, the piano grande (“great plan” in english) sprawls out across the valley. allotments of yellows and greens and soft purples make up the piano grande and line the plateau that is created in the core of the ravine beneath the hills.
we park atop of hill in the village of castelluccio and meet a few of rupert’s friends before strolling earthward again. rupert suggests we try a porchetta panini, and for three euro this crisp white baguette with thick shavings of rosemary seasoned, smoked pork is definitely worth it. i smear a bit of mustard inside the baguette and we all take a seat on the hillside to take pleasure in the scenery and our lunch.
rupert drives us out to a small road and pulls over to one of the most gorgeous vistas. there is no one else around, and flies are swarming the roadway, but standing at the edge looking down into the ravine we had just spent the day in is quite spettacolare.
on the way home, we make a stop in the old town of ascoli for a sip of cafe latte and un piccolo copette de gelato! we take a slow saunter through the antique markets and i smile adoring every group or couple of old men sitting out together and chatting on the streetside. there is one signore scooting along, sitting atop his bike seat balancing with the tips of his leather shoes touching the cobblestone. his bike is turquoise and white and old like one of the first schwinns, but italian, and i am happy every time we encounter each other inside the small town.
back at the b&b we hop in the pool for an hour or two before sitting down to revel in dinner together and a couple pitchers of wine in the warm evening air.