Monday, December 31

Light-switches...

...are really irritating me. I keep hitting the wall when I turn on a light here as my England home's switches are roughly 30cm higher than in my Italian home. An unexpected annoyance!



Wednesday, December 26

Christmas in Naples...

...merry Christmas one and all!

Today (and yesterday) I've eaten loads. I have thankfully taken a photo of everything I have eaten since arriving to the house I've been staying in so there will be a photo menu to follow when I've returned to Pescara.

But, as for my first Christmas away from the family I can say it went well. I've eaten a lot, been to Mass, walked around Naples in the morning, played the piano, eaten some more, met the Aunts and Uncles and Cousins of my housemates Mum's family, walked around Naples in the night time...and I've eaten a lot...a lot!

All in all, a great success. I hope yours was too!

Thursday, December 20

Nine Euros Ninety

Last night I actually had a spare evening which I dedicated completely to Christmas decorations.

The tree was eight euros 90c and the electrical tape I used to stick the ribbons and other things on the wall was one euro, making this years Christmas decoration expenditure a grand Nine Euros Ninety (which was then split between myself and my darling housemate).  The dazzling ornaments have been lent to us by my housemate's Mum, the gold ribbon is hers too!  All other ribbon I collected for my craft box and it just so happened it was all red, very fortunate.  A simple but effective style, if I do say so myself! ;-)

A red and gold theme

Monday, December 17

What do you want for Christmas?

I was on Skype to my Mum and I asked her what Dad would like for Christmas.  I bet your wish list isn't as exciting as his...

set of stubby spanners (metric)
molegrips individual or set
hat and gloves set
Robbie Williams CD
plumbers parrot nose grips
carpenters pencils [that was enhanced by a picture to ensure we know that carpenters pencils are FLAT] tyre and tube for my bike (atb)

There are only three things on that list I am able to visualise without seeing my Dad running around the garden with a pair of really "grippy" gloves, waiting for a "mole" to pop up from it's mole-hill...

...which brings me on to the Christmas plans.  I hope you all have lots of warm and tingly Christmas plans ahead.  My traditional Christmas has been delayed until the 30th December when I am in England with my family.  For the "real" day itself I will be in Naples, chilling with the flatmate and her family.  A very different Christmas but one that I'm sure will never be forgotten!  Watch this space to find out the antics Christmas brings this year.

Now, what shall I get my Dad for Christmas...and brother for that matter?!

Sunday, December 9

Stop and Start

I need to stop spending money and start studying. Simples.

If this does not happen I will:

A. Be unable to afford to go to Naples for Christmas
B. Not be able to travel to see the people I want to see when I am in England.
C. Be spending 9 days at Stansted airport...or alternatively walking to Portsmouth and then swimming to the Island which, although I could do, I wouldn't be able to buy anything to eat and probably drown in the Solent as my walking skills are far beyond my swimming capabilities.
D. Spend my Christmas fretting over big words like 'epistomology' and 'ontology' even though I now possess a basic understanding of the meaning of these words independently, deciphering what the hell they are compared to Education theories is a very different matter.

So. There we have it. If you don't attend my Italian School, my piano lessons, kick boxing sessions, meetup or live/work with me, it is highly unlikely that you will see me until 2013....sorry!

Tuesday, November 27

Non c'è

Never have I been so happy to read...

27/11 Tutte le lezioni dalle 20:30 sospese.

(All lessons from 8:30 suspended)

I looked at the girl next to me who was reading the same poster.

"Ma...è oggi?" (But...it's today?). I said.
"Non c'è!" (There isn't!) came her reply.

If ever a time for an air pump, that was one of them. Score! I gained an hour and spent it listening to Regina Spektor and eating Philadelphia, Marmite and scrambled egg on toast accompanied by a nice glass of cold beer. Happy days!

Tuesday, November 20

Moments

I've been meaning to write this post for a while now but stuff kept getting in the way, mainly things on my Resolutions and Ongoing Goals.

The past month has been busy.  I've been to England twice and visited Naples, Pompei and Sorrento.  I've completed the first of five essays for my Masters module and I've still managed to attend Italian School and piano lessons.  Whilst all these things rolled on to the next something struck me: there are tiny little moments that happen that often have big repercussions:

The moment your trousers get caught in the gear of your bicycle just as you pull out of a junction...

The moment you realise you're on the wrong train, and have been for 40 minutes...

The moment hunger strikes after being so consumed by working you just forgot to eat...

The moment of realisation that a friend has actually 'left'...

...and so on and so forth.

It turns out Masters level studying is NOT like riding a bicycle.  In fact, the anguish and torment that I've gone through over the past week to the point I reached today, of submitting my essay, resembled that of my skiing experiences last year...getting up and falling back down!

If anything it's been these little moments that have kept me going; seeing these snippets of time as welcome distractions to the bigger things.  I may be too hard on my self, and set my self high expectations but...in my experience...it's normally paid off.

Thursday, November 1

Perspectives

So I left my amazing dictionary/thesaurus at home.  Dammit. 

It turns out the English language is not one of my strongest points.  I have a few problems when reading articles for my Masters...like understanding the words, which, you know, would come in useful.  Then again, the internet is a wonderful invention when you need to "know" something.  Anyway despite this problem, I am feeling a bit more upbeat about the whole "Masters" thing.  I might be able to put the letters MA after my name one day after all!

I have actually been doing some work for my Masters and I have nearly caught up with myself, nearly.  After reading a rather interesting section about perspectives, it got me thinking.  One sentence, probably originating from a Proverb in my favourite book, or at least somewhere in that book, really got me thinking...
We all see problems differently: my problem is not necessarily your problem.
Even in everyday terms this I find to be true.  Take today for example.  One problem I have, most of my days at the moment, is trying to find the time to do everything I WANT to do alongside everything I HAVE to do.  Doing the readings for my Masters is something I have to do, but then meeting a friend for lunch is something I want to do, and so balancing both creates a problem.  An ancient dilemma I'm sure.  Of course I could've taken my Master's reading to lunch with my friend, but then I wouldn't exactly have been brilliant company.  As a result I met a friend for lunch and then completed most of the reading this afternoon but this has had a knock-on effect on everything else.  I now have to get up a bit earlier than planned tomorrow morning (by at least 20 minutes) to pack for this weekend.  This problem is not your problem!

It will be my third weekend away in three weeks, surprisingly!  I am going to Naples with the usual...ignorance, maybe...and the ten year old Lonely Planet guide.  That and nothing else as Naples is renowned for the odd pick-pocket, bag-snatching beauty.  The fact that I'm skint actually has a plus side!

The weather though, that can be a problem for many people.  Some people may not believe that I have even heard of Hurricane Sandy - it can take me up to 48 hours to discover international news, like volcanic eruptions, and the death of World Criminals - but the weather can be really big problems for a lot of people all around the world, in many different ways.  The small scale flooding that happens regularly in certain counties in England is just as life-changing as a huge natural beast such as the current natural disaster.  Crumbs.    

Saturday, October 27

Autumn in England

England in Autumn is beautiful.  It is this season that I miss. 

It is the season of Autumn I genuinely love the most.  The browns, greens, oranges, yellows, golds and all the hues in between remind me of pumpkins, hats, scarves, wellies, walking in the woods, making dams with my brother, hedgerows and hedgehogs, poems and fires.  Most of all it brings bonfire night. 

Once again I will not be in England for bonfire night and this makes me sad.  However I have been lucky enough to return to England twice in one week and I have been reminded of the cold, brrr.  Hopefully the cold will hold off in Pescara just a little bit longer.  I don't have enough space in my wardrobe to get out my winter coats.

Thursday, October 25

I hate Stephen J Ball

After a few weeks, I've decided it should be time to blog something interesting...except I can't think of anything in particular.


As has happened to me for 90% of my time in Pescara, I find myself skint.  This has nothing to do with my lack of income but due to my determination to always spend everything.  €200 on a new phone, €150 on flights to London (just to indulge in a whimsical adventure, and see my Mum!) and bam! that's that.  The rest has been frazzled by the likes of eating out, and phone-calls abroad and boring things that I could definitely live without.

Then we get to the subject of "the Masters", and not the golfing kind.  I really don't understand any of it at the moment.  Literally nothing.  It's all about Educational Research and the theories behind it, and lots of high-tea language that the Queen probably wouldn't understand.  Who uses the word "adumbrated" when "mentioned" is just as good?  Honestly, Stephen J Ball, did you eat a thesaurus or do you bore yourself as much as me so you use big words to give an illusion of being interesting?  Give me strength.  I mean.  I've got to get used to the format of "online studying", that's a-given...there's no lecture breaks for a cup of tea and a bar of Divine fairtrade chocolate...because there's no lectures.  Plus my computer is refusing to play the sound on the online conferencing programme the OU uses, and for no apparent reason.  Seriously.  It's like everything is against me even beginning the Masters, let alone completing it.  But there we go, such is life, and all that jazz.

On the plus side, I got a pat on the back by my Piano Teacher.  The week I actually practiced, paid off and I'm gradually unlearning the bad techniques I developed when I didn't have a teacher/mentor to help me out.  It was such a shame that I didn't practice the following week....oh well.  Ebbs and flows.

And so, since the last blog update I've been busy, but it's been the kind of busy that when I look back, it's not really busy at all.  Italian School, piano lessons, going to the gym, meeting friends, going to London, studying (or not studying) for my Masters.  Nothing that concrete.  Just stuff.  Because, in comparison to the recent death of a very amazing relative whom I loved very much, all this stuff, is just stuff.

Life sucks sometimes.

Ramble done.  It's time to get dressed, as much as I think the children would love it if I turned up to school in my pyjama's, the train to school might not be so entertaining...for me at least!

Friday, October 5

Snails...

...I hate them!

The other night I almost fell off my bike because of a snail. It was in the road just trailing away, as snails do. Thankfully I managed to dodge it but I did feel a bit ridiculous as I wobbled on my bicycle in a way I would imagine John Cleese to do in Fawlty Towers. All for a silly snail.

Today I trod on a snail. Once upon a time, this would have been my worst nightmare. I still get flashbacks of cleaning the remains of a snail from my leg after treading on one wearing flip-flops. *shudder*  However today, I remained surprisingly calm. I just continued locking up my bicycle and went on my way. Now that is what I call progress.

For this progress I have the children at school to thank. They find snails very interesting and continuosly bring them to me when We play in the garden. Whilst grinning at me they'll say "Look Laura...It's for you.". A year ago, I would've found it difficult to stay calm but now I smile, say "Thank you" and we put the snail back :-)


Monday, October 1

Storms and Dramas

One thing I've sometimes found amazing about my Italian life is that it's much more...dramatic.

When there's rain, there's a lot of rain...a massive downpour in 15 minutes or one continuous shower for a day. And it was the same with the snow in the beginning of the year. Even right now there is a storm rattling around the sky, it's loud, and furious, and sometimes a bit scary! Nothing like the little flash and small thump of thunder that consists of a "normal" English storm. I think each rain drop is in competition with the others to see who can fall the fastest..."These are my two drops of rain...", a poem by A. A. Milne comes to mind!

I either have nothing to do or everything to do. For instance my Masters, piano lessons AND Italian school all start within a week of each other. I've had every morning to my self since returning and now, by the end of next week, every morning has a schedule!

I am not complaining, oh no no, I'm enjoying every minute of the adventure :-)

Saturday, September 29

Termoli, Molise

Molise is the region south of Abruzzo and to fulfill my New Years Resolution of leaving Abruzzo once a month, I caught the train to a coastal town literally across "the border".

I could stay in Termoli for 2 or 5 hours, to get a regional train back. Once there I decided 2 hours would be ok. Walking around alone, 2 hours was perfect.

As is my way, I read about the town on Wikipedia whilst getting breakfast at my local bar before heading to Pescara station. A walled town with a castle, fishing jetty things, and a Duomo is what it said, and that's what I saw. I read my 11 years out-of-date Lonely Planet guide once I'd walked around for an hour just to make sure I wasn't missing anything. I hadn't.

I liked it. The walled part is full of characteristic old buildings and the people matched the atmosphere: I can imagine it's a thriving place in the Summer. However, the newer part of town was like many other Italian towns...streets of fashionable shops and double parked cars!

Friday, September 28

Watching the World go by...

I like people watching and doing nothing. 

Right now I'm sitting on the balcony watching the world go by, hoping that when I decide to go to sleep my legs haven't seized after kickboxing and I'll be able to walk to my bedroom, or it'll be a long night!

Anyway, the reason for this post is that man there...right there...in the apartment block opposite...that's to the right of the tree.  He's leaning out of the window...a netbook in one hand...and with the other hand...he's typing!

My guess is there's an unsecured wi-fi network that he can't access from inside his room. Hopefully it's just a bit of social-networking before bed.

Then there's the couple over there; one block back and one to the right. One of them leant out of the window whilst the other poked something on the wall from the balcony, with a broom. It doesn't look like a TV aerial, maybe it's a pipe for a heater and rattles inside so they're making some minor adjustments.

Dammit, if only I had a pair of binoculars...

Monday, September 24

They've gone :-(

My Dad and Brother are slightly unhinged.

Due to being both keen on motorbikes, my brother and Dad decided to tour through France and Italy to Pescara to see me. So they did it.  This morning I helped them carry their stuff back to their motorbikes to see them off.

It's been a busy weekend. We have eaten all things Italian: pizza, pasta and gelato as well as the Abruzzese arrosticini. We went to L'Aquila, albeit accidently, and we have done aperitivo. We Skyped Mum twice with poor outcomes and we've walked around. It's been great!

I do think that it was the first and last time that Dad and Bro will ride their bikes. The toll charges, petrol, Eurostar, hotel costs etc all amounted very quickly, they probably could've flown here and back twice in the amount they spent getting here!

One other thing. REGALO and REGOLA have been added to my "caution: check your spelling" list as a present and a rule are very different...pish, Italian!

Thursday, September 13

As the rain beats down...

...I thought I'd take the opportunity to re-do my nails. Oh yeh, and quickly blog some funny encounters of recent note.

1) I'm standing in the kitchen washing up. It's late morning and my housemate and I have been mooching around doing our own thing. Suddenly (in Italian) my housemate says "How much do you weigh?". It takes me a while to process.  I understood the question but it was completely out of context!  After telling her she replies "What time do you start work?" Erm. Again, really?!
Turns out she needed help trying out matresses...

2) I don't often blog about work but today one of my 4-year-olds advised me not to scratch my mosquito bites...in English. "Don't do this..." *models scratching leg* "...not good.". I just wish I could follow such good advice!

3) The other evening I discovered: the Italian version of the late-night kebab (most of which ended up down my front), that my bicycle is not Italian and that the man who fixes clocks is a little bit...odd...!

Thursday, September 6

The 1st storm

So I moved house in June and have been here for 3 months.

What's amazing is that early this morning there was a storm. I had left my door opened but shutter closed so I did get woken up however once I closed the door I realised just how different it is to live in a loft to a "normal" room. In my other house the rain pelted down a mere metre from my head so it was very loud (and I really do mean loud). The terrace skylight would have echoed everywhere and made the smallest shower sound like hail stones. Last night, Once I'd closed the door, I just heard the rain falling onto the petrol station's roof and the road. It was a low, muffled sound and quite easy to fall back to sleep to. Genius! All I have to do next time is remember to close the door in the first place and, ta-da, an easier night's sleep.

Fingers crossed :-D

Saturday, September 1

The Day I went to IKEA

Today I went to the new IKEA near Pescara. It was just like every IKEA in the World, surprisingly!



Tuesday, August 28

Monday, August 27

Returning to Pescara

Today I fly back.

I have many plans for the months ahead. The daytimes bring a new academic year starting at work and Italian school plus the start of my Masters. Then in the evenings there's self defence classes and of course Meetup and at some point I'll need to practice the piano.

For the weekends, I still have the 2012 resolution of going to a different region of Italy each month (of which I've failed in August as neither Rome nor England fit the rules). With my hiking boots all packed in my suitcase, I'd like to explore more of the countryside and areas in Abruzzo.

Fingers crossed I don't tire out by Christmas from all the stuff I want to complete!!

Saturday, August 25

A Random Drive in the English Countryside

Whilst staying with my best friends we faced a dilemma of how to spend a Saturday that promised unpredictable weather...

...so we got in the car and drove East. Literally.

Turns out that due east of my friends current house there is a village with a random hairdresser/second-hand shop ran by an old lady. We were pretty certain she was a carboot Queen and scoured local carboots for bargain items she could mark up and flog in her shop. Nearby though there was a child-friendly pub with an indoor ball-pool and an outdoor bouncy castle. If only I was seven!!

On the drive out we got caught in a heavy shower whilst scouting out a stream suitable for lazy day walking and fishing. But that was compensated by stopping at a bridge on the way back when it was sunny. There were ducks that were very disappointed we didn't have any food. They emerged from under a sweeping weeping willow that draped majestically into the water from the riverbank. Thankfully an elderly couple with some bread answered their pleas.

I can see my friends whiling away many hours feeding the ducks from that bank, especially as their new house is a 10 minute drive away. The next time I see them they will have moved and should be living in their new house as Monday I return to Pescara with no immediate plan to return to England until Christmas.

Saturday, August 18

Cowes Week Fireworks


One event on the island I haven't seen in a long time is the fireworks at the end of Cowes Week, a sailing regatta. My parents go to East Cowes to watch it and this year I managed to join them. They were a nice way to spend an evening with a new addition of red stars, my new firework favourite!

Now we're off to the pub (my 2nd of the day) to wait for the majority of the crowds to go home so the roads are less busy. Genius.

Sunday, August 12

The Wedding

Two of my best mates got married today. Everything went perfectly (except the missing pashminas...) and the Bride and Groom looked stunning all day. I truly am very lucky to have a group of friends who support, advise, and share the things thatwould be a burden without them.

If everyday was like today Life would be a breeze!! It's my friends like today's Bride and Groom that make me miss England a lot. I love my friends and Pescara can be tough without them. However today also ahowed me that it doesn't matter where you are in the World, the people you meet that are worth keeping close will go above and beyond what you expect.

One thing that definitely would've made the day just a little bit more comfortable for me would've been "tit-tape". The super-strength, double sided sticky tape may have assisted in keeping my dress in place. Thankfully there were no major wardrobe malfunctions, just a lift and tuck here and there by various kind assistants!

Monday, August 6

Montepulciano in London

Turns out that Strada actually have a decent selection of Italian wine. Mum chose the free wine, on the left of the photo, with the set menu (definitely free for a reason!) whereas I've chosen a red from the region of Pescara, a pretty rounded Montepulciano. RANDOM!







Mum also parked her new car opposite the bank I'm hopefully transferring to. Can't resist a bank account with "No foreign transaction fees...

Monday, July 30

Shoes!!

I found the shop I thought was just imaginary. A shop where size 42 exists. Ok, size 42 has a XXL sticker on it which made me feel like an abnormal Giant, but...size 42 shoes!

I bought myself a cute pair of beige wedges that actually are a size 41, hooray! Plus they were a barg at only €24.90, amaze.

And back to the main objectives of the day...buying black wool.

Friday, July 27

And so...

...it's Friday morning and that means I have 5 days to go until my epic return to Engerland begins!

One night at the bro's, four nights in a tent, two nights in the Capital, two nights with a best mate, two nights for a Wedding, eleven nights at home, four nights with the other best mate and BAM, a flight back to Pescara. The End.

I am quite excited.

But returning to things that have happened recently I've been pretty busy; here, there and everywhere...I've organised a Meetup. I saw Paolo Nutini and danced my socks off practically on my own.  I've had many aperitivo's with many people in different places. I've visited Scanno and swam in a lake.   I rediscovered Buddy Holly.  I've decided that finding a Beach club with a decent DJ is a mission.   I've spoken to six people on Skype.  I have eaten ice-cream at various times in the day.  I've had people tell me I'm tanned, and others tell me I'm not.  I've fallen asleep before midnight only once in a week.  And the other day, I had a nap.

5 days!


Tuesday, July 17

Things I Love

I can declare that moving country has not diminished my love of fish finger sandwiches. I think this is one thing I'll never tire of, oh and the piano. Seriously. The piano. I love not only playing the piano but also the instrument itself.


Thanks to a friend of mine here in Pescara, I discovered Odradek Records, a non-for-profit, artist controlled record label. The best bit is that, although an international company registered in the USA, the recording studio is in Pescara! I find the concept exciting and loved that to publicise their brilliantness and showcase their artists a series of concerts were organised in 5 cities in Italy: Rome, Florence, Cagliari, Trieste and Pescara under the title Progetto Odradek. The final two concerts in Pescara are this Wednesday and Thursday I'm gutted I can't go but I have a Meetup to host and.....PAOLO NUTINI to see live!

Last weeks pianists were utterly fab. As a "pianist" myself I was in awe at how different their techniques were and how they adapted their playing styles to fit different pieces.  The way the fingers move seamlessly with all the movement from the knuckle is astounding, for me it was so interesting as lately my piano teacher has been helping me keep my fingers closer to the keyboard.  I seem to have developed a strange techinque of lifting my fingers high off the keyboard even in quick passages of music...the diploma is a long way off yet!

Thanks to the performance by Domenico Codispoti on the Wednesday night I have fallen in love, again, with Liszt's Sonata in B minor, the piece I wrote about for my dissertation in 2007!  It's a long'un and my friends who also went to the concert were amazed at just how long it is, around twenty-five minutes.  How the devil one person can remember all that music is beyond me.  I'm literally having problems remembering quite a tuneful piece by Mozart, and just the first page, let alone the Schonberg pieces that Pina Napolitano played on the Thursday night.  Pieces that are atonal based on the 12-note tone row, by memory, one hours worth....erm... that's dedication!

And then.  To me.  The best bit was when a friend asked to look inside the piano once the concert was over and the majority of the audience had dispersed.  She had never looked inside a grand piano, let alone a Steinway.  The hammer action, and the strings and the coda shape, ah, to me it is one of the most beautiful things in the world.  The way everything in the piano is "just-so" in order to enhance the sound, to ensure the tension of the strings can be maintained so that the pianists light touch of the keys can make a sound that fills a concert hall.  I had to stop myself from sitting down and bashing out the measly forty-two bars of Mozart I have managed to memorise, only another eleven pages to go to complete the Sonata...I better get practising!

Saturday, July 14

Charlie's Chicks

I wrote this post ages ago but on my iPod and only today did I remember!!!

Friday 8th June, 18:45 I'm Skype-ing the parents in Santa Fe, saying Happy Birthday to the mother. 19:25 I see two buses that I could've taken drive past the bus stop before I get there. 21:30 I'm facebooking Mrs. C to tell her I thnk there's a delay to the flight. 22:00 I'm in the air by means of a Ryanair flight to Stansted. That's the end of Italian time for the weekend, I remembered to change all my time telling devices this time!

Whilst I was queuing for an escalator to Passport Control in Stansted airport, a rather ridiculous scenario begins for Mrs. C as she attempted to park the car. I won't bore you with the details but once I'd made it through the UK border I found Mrs. C arguing with a car park attendent. Anyway, she drove me to her latest house where we ate cake, drank tea and chatted (with the Mr. C too) for an hour or so before going to sleep.

Arranging to wake at 08:00 to be ready to leave at 09:00 sounded like a good idea at 02:00 in the morning but when we woke up at 08:45 we realised that maybe an underestimation of how tired we were had been made. Thankfully the "late" get up didn't put any delays to my day and we even had time for the bacon sarnies and warm pain au ciocolait as special breakfast treats. Yummy!

I arrived in Clapham Junction at midday all set for the planned activities that the Hen knew nothing about. All was going well, I ate a Twix McFlurry and then went for a snoop around a charity shop as I had arrived before the other four girls. At the appointed time I went to the Peacock bar where we had booked an afternoon tea and cupcake decorating session...or so we thought. Turns out there'd been a mix up with our booking, or rather the people organising the events didn't have our booking!! Thankfully they offered us a complimentary afternoon tea with 2 glasses of wine each as an apology, which we gladly accepted!! It was actually ruddy marvellous food, freshly made and, for me, a very English lunch.

Next stop was the Head bridesmaid's house to get changed. At this point I got to try on the bridesmaid dress for the wedding, for me the highlight of the weekend as it is stunning. Beautiful, I am a very lucky bridesmaid. And so, I ended up running to a dress alteration shop to have it modified after weighing up the options of transporting the dress to and from Italy versus leaving it in England. Hopefully the headbridesmaid has now for it at her house and it's not been destroyed by the seamstress....

...back to the Hen Party. We went Salsa dancing. It was amazing! So much randomness. I genuinely loved it and hopefully I'll get the chance to do it again one day. Who knows when!

Dinner was at the same place as the Salsa and I had Chimichanga, oh so yummy, my first mexican style food for 2012, which is annoying when it is one of my top 3 favourite things to eat (the other 2 being Sausages and Mash with gravy or Fish Pie...) oh how I miss the variety of food avaliable in England.

Now after the public transport route back from the dinner we entered full Hen Party force. Donning our matching pyjama's brilliantly decorated by the head bridesmaid, we watched the hen be put through her paces Mr. and Mrs. Styleeee. A video of the Groom to be had been recorded in which he answered random questions regarding himself and the bride-to-be. If their answers were different then she had to drink and if she matched his answer the "hens" had to drink. I don't think I've ever witnessed such a range of emotions in one hour.

In the morning we had a fantastic spread for brekkie consisting of so much I didn't know what to eat, so I ate it all. I love food!!

After breakfast I left the company of Charlie's Chicks and met a friend in Liverpool St where we went to the Giraffe restaurant in Spitalfields market for lunch. At this point all the travelling and excitement of the weekend caught up with me in the form of a cold and I felt r-u-b-bish so I wasn't the best company. However it was great to see my friend and catch up on the gossip of a newbie to London...

And that's that, back to Stansted, through check-in and...BAM...Pescara.
(The bonus of the flight back was purchasing some shoes ideal...I hope...for the wedding. If they turn out to be the wrong colour I love them enough to keep them and happily buy another pair!)




Yummy Tea
The lovely Hen
Bubbly!
Scones, Jam and Cream... more yummyness!
CUCUMBER SANDWICHES!
London, Baby!

Wednesday, July 11

Gloria II

I'd been waiting for this day for a long time, it's been looming over my head. In fact, a weight was lifted from my shoulders when it did happen, although it's now been replaced with a large elephant instead...my bike disappeared, literally vanished without a trace.

Some would say stolen but I know the reason is that: once a month a bicycle in my area gets chosen as an offering to the bicycle god in order to save the other bicycles. The offering is made by the chief chav to the local gelateria who makes it into ice-cream.

Now I have Gloria II, a different breed of bicycle; she's light blue, slightly less shiny and has gears. Yes my followers, I now ride a bike with gears.  I feel like I've been given an upgrade much like a 13 year-old.  I have a ridiculously small lock that the bike man reckons is better than my last one, I don't.  But there we go.

When an offering has to be made to the bicycle god, any bike can get chosen, locked or not (especially when you live in a ghetto like mine).

Sunday, July 8

A very dangerous discovery

There's a Gelateria five minutes from my bed, yep, the bed in my room.

It takes five minutes to walk through my apartment, down the stairs, across my estate, over the road and into the Gelateria. It is amazing.
 
What is truly amazing is that the ice-cream is actually very good. I went for the first time today and bought a medium cup of three flavours: dark chocolate, Kinder Pingùi (milk ice-cream and kinder chocolate I think) and vanilla. There was a good selection of fruit and sweet flavoured ice-creams but no mint (today at least). I was impressed.  I'd give it a good 4.5 out of 5, with it missing out on the 5 because a medium portion was €2.20 where as in Tiziano it's €2.00. The portion size was good, the cup was plastic rather than paper (which might explain the price), the ice-cream had a smooth texture with a clear distinction between each flavour and the cream on top was good quality.

Maybe I should start a Gelateria review section, I go to enough of them!!

Thursday, July 5

Humidity

When my top lip feels like I've just guzzled a pint of milk, and the backs of my knees are sticky, I know the humidity has reached 70%...add to that a constant tiredness that makes me sluggish and I'm pretty certain I could not make it more than a day in a tropical Rainforest. Ugh. Humidity. I used to think it was a good thing...it ruddy well isn't.

Tuesday, July 3

Loreto (Marche) and Saturday happenings

I have a few New Year Resolutions that I can happily say I am maintaining.  However one of them I have technically failed as I didn't leave Abruzzo in March, but there we go, these things happen.  5 out of 6 months isn't too bad so far...

On the 29th of June I realised I had only left Abruzzo in June to go to London.  As that is a place excluded from my Resolution, I asked my friends at a Jazz gig where I could go that would be outside of Abruzzo but do-able on a Saturday afternoon, by train.  A few suggestions were made but I decided to follow the friend who was the most helpful, she actually researched the train times for me!

Saturday morning I wake up, peer at the clock and realise that I had twenty-seven minutes until my train would leave.  Panic ensued but thankfully I made it onto the right train fully clothed, with a ticket, my laptop and some lunch! After about an hour and a half I got off the train in Loreto, a small town in Marche, the region north of Abruzzo.  Of course, I was the usual prepared traveller ....I knew of only one place to visit, a church that apparently housed the House of Mary (literally the stones of the house Jesus' mother lived in, and therefore Jesus...) and I knew that this was, as usual, on the top of a hill in the old town.  On exiting the station, I did the thing I knew I had to do,  I walked up the hill....

Due to luck I actually scaled a set of holy steps that, I think, would be where the many Pilgrims (from the train station) would also trek up.  It had an extended version of the "Stations of the Cross", that depict the Easter story, as there was also a Nativity scene and Jesus' first visit to the temple.  These were at the side of a wide, pedestrian only, path.  "The Shrine of the Holy House", as I discovered it to be called once I got there, gets a fair few people visiting it...the booklet states that it has become "...the favoured destination of millions of pilgrims..." but I didn't see a million people pilgrimaging, just me walking up the hill. 

The old town centre itself was fairly straight forward, all of it centred around the Basilico and it's piazza so I was pretty happy that I hadn't researched the place as I think that I wouldn't have chosen to visit it.  Being a hot day I stopped off for a cold cappuccino (once I'd found a cash-machine...I really am a very unprepared traveller) and rang my Mum, who was shopping in Morrisons with Dad in Newport....it must be odd to receive a call from your daughter in Italy when you're doing the weekly shop.

Moving on...the Holy House thing.  It was quite understated...if you disregard the large marble casing that surrounds it...oh yeh, and the MAHOOSIVE church that is then around that!  There's a Catholic Legend that tells the story of how angels flew the house across from Nazareth, as they do, but, again according to the information booklet, this has been deemed unlikely.  It's more likely that the house was in fact transported in a ship.  Apparently, when the Crusaders were expelled from Palestine, the house was moved first to Croatia and then across the sea as part of a brides dowry of an emperor's daughter or something.  That's an important family to own a Holy House...

Anyway.  The stones itself did look old.  The bricks lower down were shiny after having been rubbed by generations of hands and fingers.  It was quite awe-inspiring to think that so many pilgrims believed this house is that of Mary.  I'm not sure what I think to be honest.  The booklet described the evidence that had been collected to prove that it is the house, and there's a floor plan and stuff of what it would've looked like.  The stone structure in Loreto was once connected to a grotto,  the Grotto being carved into rocks and so remains in Nazareth....and there's been "tests" that have confirmed that the stone of the Holy House match that of the Grotto....I leave it at that.

The rest of my Saturday was relaxing.  I was able to get the train back to Pescara without rushing with plenty of time to get ready for the evening plans: an aperitif at a friends house followed by a few drinks (and a burger) at a Beach Bar, or Establishment, as the argument for what a "Lido" actually would be called in English is a constant battle between English speakers.

To end the night I fell at a man's feet, literally.  I saw a person from one of the flats in my apartment block entering my building so I ran across the car-park after locking my bike to get through the door before it closed.  The man held the door open for me only to have me fall at his feet as I tripped up the first step.  I laughed, mumbled "Scusa", got up, continued to run up the stairs, stumbled into my apartment to discover my knee was quite painful and had already developed a healthy bump.  It's now a pretty purple bruise three days later!

Friday, June 29

2 posts, 1 night, here's why...

...1) I sorted out being able to email in a post to my blog. 2) This evening was bizarre.

I went for dinner with my self defence classmates, a sort of "end of course" celebration even though it's been decided the course will continue. The Maestro for the course literally calls me "England" or "English", I think he's amazed I go to the classes as they are wholly Italian. Nothing English at all!
After a few courses of the dinner I talked to the lady opposite me. It turns out she saw me at work today. Of course it was when I was ushering the children to the sea all holding a green rope as a walking bus. Random.
Then, to top it all, once the football had finished, the photo's had been taken and I'd had my ice-cream fix at my new fav. Bibo, I cycled home. However, on my way, I heard some kind Italian boys say "Get the bicycle..." followed by a crack/splat behind me, and another infront shortly after. I'm glad to say I survived my first "egg-ing" with no direct hits. PHEW!

Thursday, June 28

Note to self...

...Never sit with your back to a television when you are in a restaurant whilst the Italian football team are playing the semi-final of a tournament...it's quite a strange experience.

Wednesday, June 27

My life on paper...

...is exactly the same as it was one month ago, I live and work in Pescara.  However my day-to-day life has morphed into something else.

There have been two big changes recently, to my day-to-day existence; one at work and one at home.

Work.  I am still teaching English to the same 3-5 year olds, except now the school...is on the beach!!!  How awesome is that?!  So for 5 hours a day, I make sandcastles, dig holes, recount fairy-tales and generally play with my class on the beach (yesterday I taught six children how to play Uno in English, a great success!).  We get to go and play in the sea as well, and then to end the day we get to play on the park, I am officially 7 years-old, or there abouts.  Now, my job is definitely one of the coolest things to be doing in the heat (in both senses of the word) as the temperature is generally in the mid-high 30's in the day.  It does mean I have to a) apply 50+ sun cream every day because I really don't want to get skin cancer by the age of 30....b) arrange my "beachwear" in such a way that I don't wear the same type of top so that come August 11th (when I am a bridesmaid wearing a strapless dress) I won't have ridiculous strap marks....

Home.  I moved house about three weeks ago (see here) and since then I still haven't managed to save enough energy for the stairs when I cycle home.  Every time I get "home", I lock up my bike with that happy feeling of being home.  Then, I open the door into my building and...BAM...I realise there are 6 flights of stairs between me and the cold drink in the fridge.  I'm longing for the day when I can gallop up the stairs in 3 seconds flat.....ugh.


Sunday, June 10

A Random Sunday on the 3rd of June

Sun, Cycling, Seafood, Sea, Sand and of course...ice-cream.

So today, my friend and I joined a cycling rally!! I think it was in fact a protest to highlight the need for a cycle path all the way along the Adriatic coastline if the Abruzzo region. Anyway.

The beginning (for us at least)
On Saturday we bumped into a man we had previously met at a concert, who told us about the cycle ride and we decided to go along. What else are Sunday's for?!  It turned out to be really busy, really relaxing and an all-round nice day.

The rally itself actually had a police escort as all the bicycles took up the width of road so that was pretty cool.  I've no idea how many bicycles (and roller-blades) there were but we didn't get a discount food voucher as they had run out, having only printed 200.
 
Lots of Cyclists
The Tower at the end of the route.
The End of the Route.



 After reaching the destination of Pineto, about 20km north of Pescara, my friend and I had a craving for Calamari so hunted down a fish restaurant after asking a local where the best place would be.   Once filled with food we headed for the beach and enjoyed a relaxing hour or so sun-bathing and swimming.  Then off we went back on the ride home.
Yummy, Spaghetti with Cockles

The Beach at Pineto
I had once been to a Gelateria (ice-cream shop) in a place called Silvi.  It happened to be a place between Pineto and Pescara so we stopped off on the way back.  I think that Gelataria is very good and I would even consider cycling there again, 3 flavours in the Medium size and a good portion too, fantastic!!

Saturday, June 2

How [not] to move House

Some of you may have been waiting in anticipation for me to change apartments. Well, on 30th May, it actually happened, after knowing I needed to move for three months. Here's how I would advise you NOT to move house...

Step 1: Spend a morning packing everything into bags; supermarket, reusable ones, orange Wandsworth Council recycle bags and black bin-bags.

Step 2: Put all bags by the front door ready to move down stairs after you have finished work.

Step 3: Contact friends with vehicles larger than bicycles to help transport the bags to the new place.

Step 4: After work, wait for friends assistance. On seeing the Friend 1 arrive, get excited and let the front door close on the old apartment...with the keys to both apartments inside.

Step 5: Go downstairs to the landlord and double check that they do not have a spare set of keys.

Step 6: Ring boss (from friends phone, due to lack of credit) to explain the situation. Arrange to pick up the keys for work, where the spare set of apartment keys are kept, from the boss' house.

Step 7: Await the arrival of Friend 2 so that Friend 1 can go to work. Explain the "keys locked in the apartment" situation and the plan of action to collect the spare set.

Step 8: Get given Friend 2's car due to his bad back. Drop Friend 2 near his house and proceed to drive for 15 minutes in the wrong direction as a "short cut" (receiving a phonecall from Friend 3 to arrange a time to meet, curse when phone battery dies).

Step 9: Collect keys for work.

Step 10: Successfully navigate to the dual carriageway for a quick route to work, collect keys for apartment and drive back.

Step 11: Carry stage piano down four flights of stairs, alone (later proven to be of a mere 28kg)

Step 12: Spend 45 minutes carrying bags of various sizes (refer to Step 1) whilst the landlord smokes his pipe watching the trips up and down. N.B: ensure you can balance the boot of the car on your back whilst loading as it is unable to remain open unattended.

Step 13: Rejoice on discovering Friend 3's arrival.

Step 14: Load Friend 3's car with the "odd" shaped items; guitar, electric fan, sun chairs...

Step 15: Proceed to drive for three minutes to the new apartment and begin unloading, to the third floor (up six flights of stairs, without lift).

Step 16: Direct Friend 1 to the new apartment who can assist with small objects.

Step 17: With Friend 3 lifting and Friend 1 giving words of encouragement, take the stage piano up to the room and rejoice at having completed the move!

Step 18: Thank Friend 3 a lot for the help and proceed to the Shiny Purple Burger Place for a celebratory dinner with Friend 1, 2 and the extra addition of Friend 4.

Step 19: Return car to Friend 2 and go to the new apartment to sleep in a room full of bags.

Job done!

Friday, May 25

Gnocchi


...a yummy, potato based, Italian dish, but it also makes a really good cold compress for burns.  Let me explain.

It was 00:20 Wednesday night, after I had blogged my last post (here),  I decided that it was indeed time to do the washing up.  However, due to the lateness of the evening I also desired a hot chocolate.  Now this is where I got too clever.  Every time I decide to do the washing up AND make a hot chocolate I always do so at the same time, leaving the milk to boil unattended.  And every time I think to myself that I should keep an eye on it otherwise it will boil over and make a mess.  Sure enough, last night was no different.

The cocoa is in the cup, I’m mixing it with a bit of water, add a dash of the hot milk, now slightly less than when I started due to it boiling over, and place the saucepan back on the hob, then BAM, I knock it over and the milk goes all over the side, the hob and yep, the floor.  My foot just happened to be on the floor as well and the hot milk went straight onto the top of my foot. 

And that’s the part where the gnocchi comes in.  I didn’t want to defrost my beloved peas (I love peas!), or my recently bought frozen chard, so I opted for the portion of gnocchi in the plastic bag.  I put on a sock, put the gnocchi on my foot and then folded my sock over the bag of gnocchi.  Genius?!.....I think a Genius would not have been so careless in the first place.  All this is ever-so-slightly more annoying because...it was the last of the milk.

The gnocchi had defrosted perfectly for lunch the next day mind :)
  

Wednesday, May 23

I'm [not] doing the washing up

The Times They are a-Changin'

I am just about to do the washing-up.  It's one of those things that is quite rewarding but always takes me forever to commence.  So I've looked back over some posts on my blog as I procrastinate my evening away, delaying the inevitable washing-up.

This blog really is something I've found to be a comfort whilst starting out here.  So much has morphed from one thing into another without me even realising.  For the first post I was still living in London.  Now I am living on my own in Italy.  Soon I am to move apartment, sharing with an Italian girl who can speak English (phew!).  Who knows what will happen next?

I have now been here 9 months...technically I could have had a baby in that time.  Yet since being here I have lived with a Scottish girl, an American girl and I've met people from countries that I can't place on a map.  I've managed to visit big sights and small wonders of Italy, sometimes on my own, sometimes with friends from Italy and other times with friends from England. The near future holds excitement and wonder: two trips to England, one Wedding, one Cricket Tour (hooray!), working on the beach (with school), the start of my studying for a Masters, and there's still the resolutions that I gave myself in the beginning of 2012 that I have to work towards (I can say that it will be unlikely to see me wearing my Oneill trousers on June 30th, but who knows...).

All in all.  As I prepare to pack up the few possessions I brought over here from England, accompanied by the few things I have acquired since, I realise that I can take my blog with me.  I don't remember why I started this blog, maybe it was for selfish reasons, or perhaps for a "pay attention to me" phase (as one friend ranted on Facebook not so long ago) but one thing is certain, I'm ruddy glad this exists.  I have a document of all the things I felt worthy to remember, catalogued in one place to read again and again and again....

...well that wasted 17 minutes...

Friday, May 18

It's that time again...

...to pay another bill.  Turns out living in a 3-bed apartment is pretty expensive when it's just one person!!

The other day I head to the Post Office with my €350 gas bill to pay (and that's just for 2 months. OK, 2 winter months, but still...) and I look at the ticket machine-do I press A or E?  I can't remember so I read the descriptions.  I go for E because the description says every service.  My place in the queue is E28, the display shows E10 so I head to the bar over the road for breakfast; a cornetto and cappuccino.

When I return there's still a few numbers to go so I email a good friend of mine.  Once my number comes up I go to the cashier, tell her my request- to pay the bill with my Bancomat*. "You don't have a Postamat?...**" Bugger. I should've pressed A...

With my morning already gone I made the decision to go back the next day.  I pressed button A and successfully paid the bill.  I can't believe the Post Office system STILL manages to catch me out!

* A Bancomat is an ATM cash card that can also be used as a debit card in some shops
** A Postamat is the Post Office's own version of a Bancomat

Thursday, May 3

Tivoli

So, today has not been the best of days for many different reasons.  Instead of having a moan I thought I'd finally upload what I wrote whilst in Villa d'Este in Tivoli on Sunday.  A beautiful place.

Sitting on the...erm I think...cliff, overlooking the landscape of the towns and villages surrounding Tivoli, I feel as if I have the world spread out in front of me.

It's been overcast for my day trip to Tivoli.  It took longer than the three hours and a few minutes to get here due to something being on the railway track when we were about to depart from...somewhere that was before the station Tivoli! I heard the word "carrello" in the Guard's announcement, which is a cart/trolley. Part of me really wishes it was a horse (cavallo) on the line because it took a good half an hour to remove what ever it was.  In my opinion, I could've removed a shopping trolley from the line quicker than that!

So. Why am I overlooking the world from Tivoli?   Because there is a very beautiful, renaissance/baroque Villa here (well there are lots of Villas in Tivoli but I only went to one) and I had no plans for the extended bank holiday weekend.  It really is a place of intrigue.  There are 35 things listed to see on the map of the garden, and as I am here on my own, I saw them all.  Grottoes, fountains, grottoes with fountains, basically a lot of elaborate and mystical water features and things that look and sound amazing (as in the cascade of sooo much water hitting different surfaces).

Inside the Villa itself was pretty spectacular; lavish wall decorations and frescoes everywhere, stunning. And, to make me even happier, Liszt apparently had an "Erard" piano here and according to the write-up it was his "favourite" piano, of course. This is to say that I know Liszt preferred pianos made by Erard (once upon a time I knew a lot about Liszt and pianos, in fact I slept, ate and breathed everything one could know about Liszt for 6 months of my life) but that does not mean that the exact piano at Villa d'Este is his most favourite.  In fact the one on display, although from the 1850's, isn't the one Liszt actually played/owned, I understood that much from the display board, something about a difference in the shape of the carved legs.  But the display for the piano was the only one not in Italian and English so I couldn't decipher much more about it.  My Italian might be improving but I still guess a lot of words by sight which can make some very interesting sentences!!

Anyway, I think the Villa is amazing and it would definitely be a great place to bash out a few Liszt Sonatas, with stunning views from all the windows.  I'm going to practice on my slightly less inspiring keyboard when I get home!!  Maybe I too will own a great Villa where I can play my grand piano overlooking the world. 

A fountain....
One of the many views from the terrace of the Villa, even on a cloudy day they were awesome.
A fountain...
A lot more fountains...(took 3 minutes to walk the length of this feature)
Your typical garden path, heck my parents have one just like this ;-)
The rooms in the Villa were completely painted with stuff: the walls and the ceilings alike.  There was also lots of plaster that had been painted to look like wood or marble.  This technique will definitely be what I'll do when living in a shoe box; paint it to look like marble!

Wednesday, April 25

My 100th Post

This post is dedicated to my parents who celebrate their wedding anniversary today.


I managed to wake up at 12.40pm so I couldn't text my best wishes to my parents this morning, but it was one of the first things I did whilst eating breakfast/brunch/lunch, whatever it was.  It turns out the 25th April is not only my parents wedding anniversary, a family friends birthday (Happy Birthday Jill...again!) but also Liberation Day in Italy, so a bank holiday, hence the late get-up.  Here follows the text exchange I had with my parents, all punctuation is as written in the texts.

Mum

Me   :  Happy Anniversary Mummy!  Hope today is a good day!  Speak soon.  Your no.1 daughter x
Mum:  Thanks

Dad 


Me   :  Happy Anniversary!  Hope you have a good day Daddy.  Your favourite daughter x
Dad  :  Thanks. The fence has just blown down at grahams next door and its raining Çats and dogs. So far 
            so good . Dad
Me   :  Ah.  erm. A day like no other then!
Dad  :  As it says in the mcain fluffy potato advert. Its all good.

Sometimes I miss my parents a lot!

And just in case you're as confused about which advert my Dad was referring to, I think it's this one...


...or maybe this one......


....but only the father himself can confirm which 'ad' he was meaning...after all "It's all good." is McCain's motto.

Tuesday, April 24

The Dog

I may have 'blogged' about this before but it really is something that I am very careful not to meet....

There's a really small dog that lives in the flat below me, I think it's the same breed of dog as a friend's back home, Crystabel. However the dog that lives downstairs does not share the temperment of my friend's dog. In fact, they're completely different. They might be the same size: small with massive eyes, but that's where the similarity stops.

Basically. Everytime I pass the people downstairs with the dog, they have to pick it up and hold it into their chest. If they hadn't done this every time, I would've lost at least a toe, if not an ankle, by now. It's mental, the dog is mental...scared of everything...which makes it MENTAL.

The other day I knock on the door (the people below are my landlord) and the dog comes tearing out, practically foaming at the mouth, yapping away. I had to pull my foot back pretty quickly, which in turn shocked me as I didn't realise my reactions could be that quick. The owner managed to pick up the dog which continued to yap away as I talked with my landlady. This is pretty much the scene everytime I have to speak to my lamdlord so they've even stopped apologising.

If the man and his dog are in the garden when I'm coming in, or going out, I have to wait until "Luna" is safely in the arms of a person before moving any closer to my destination-whether it's off of the porch step or through the front gate. This can happen many times throughout the weekend when we are all "at home". Thankfully as I work in the afternoon's and they work the mornings on weekdays, I don't meet Luna in person that often Monday to Friday, I only hear here through the door as I pass!

One Saturday evening a friend came round for dinner and we both left for her house as planned. On the way down the stairs the son of my landlord was coming up. I could hear the dog and my fear set in. The next thing I know both my friend and I are stood, backs against the wall, feet tucked in, like kids when they're about to be told off. We are the ones "cowering" as the lad walks past with the mental animal scrapping away in his arms. As soon as they've passed, we make a dash down the stairs laughing at how both of us were squished agaisnt the wall because of a minature dog, hilarious

I think the other day the landlord told me the dog doesn't like English...

Oh. Just so you know. I think I've found the closet way to make tea taste right. I've been using loose leaf recently and my housemate, when she left, left some dried milk powder. Just out of curiosity, to gauge whether to keep it or throw away the stuff (I'd also ran out of milk and didn't realise this until I'd made the tea, a regular occurence) I tested a teaspoon of the milk powder in a bid to still have a cuppa. Weirdly, it worked. I was pretty impressed with the outcome so have been happily making cups of tea with loose leaf tea, a teaspoon of milk powder and a teaspoon of demerara sugar ever since. This is a total sacrilege to my "English" tea drinking spirit, but sometimes a girl's gotta do, what a girl's gotta do!

Saturday, April 21

Visitors Blog: Amy and Nigel

Our Italian Adventure - Friday 23rd March to Saturday 31st March 2012

We have recently returned from a fantastic week in Italy. The first four days were spent staying with Laura in Pescara. If you have not yet been out to visit her, we would highly recommend it! Pescara is a lovely modern city with a beach, and a climate much better that the UK’s. It was sunny and in the 20s when we were out there, the main difference being the warmer evenings and nights.

Pescara has a great collection of cafes and coffee bars. We discovered the Italian custom of the cappuccino (“cappucio”) and pastry for breakfast at the local coffee bars. There’s no need to sit down and relax. Just throw back the coffee, munch on the pastry, finish with a glass of cold water and get on with your day. All for less than €2. Very efficient.

We also discovered some amazing ice cream at a posh coffee bar in Pescara’s Piazza Salotto. It was incredible. We would highly recommend the dark chocolate, white chocolate and pistachio flavours. Yum. Oh, and the thick, yet silky, hot chocolate at Café Venezia. The perfect way to end a day. 

Food and drink aside (we haven’t even mentioned the amazing selection of authentic Italian pizza, calzone and pasta – all obviously worth a try, and the stunning Japanese restaurant “Giappo” we tried in the Old Town), the activities on offer to us within an hours drive (we hired a car – but waited at least an hour queuing at the airport to pick it up, whilst it was getting closer and closer to the time Laura had to be at work…!) from Laura’s apartment in central Pescara are incredible. Laura took us to the Hermitage of San Bartolomeo, which she has previously mentioned on her blog. It was an incredible place, so peaceful. There were Golden Eagles soaring above, and Greater Crested Newt swimming below (in the stream’s water that passed through the valley). We would recommend a visit here, and I don’t blame Laura for wanting to visit it again and again every season.



And then there was the cross-country skiing, an unexpected treat. For €10 we hired all the equipment we needed and headed up a mountain within the Gran Sasso National Park (slowed on the way by a dog sitting in the middle of a mountain road blocking our path, staring at us, stubbornly not moving, until it just about disappeared under the bonnet). There was no snow, literally no snow, until we reached a road closed by a snow plough, and behind this…snow! It was easily the last day of skiing of the season, and we skied it! It was warm (no coat required!), sweaty work. Nigel and I discovered that the traditional “snow plough” (or “pizza” as Laura called it?!) didn’t really work. So there we were, sliding down the hills, cliff edges rearing up in front of us, to discover that we couldn’t stop. Solution? Throw yourself on the floor, quickly. Hilarious. Anyway, once we got off the road, we entered a sweeping valley which was still snow covered and absolutely stunning. Again, so peaceful. Then we finished the experience with a typical Italian Sunday lunch, and Laura explained the traditional Italian menu, and we ate course after course until we were ready to burst.

The following day Laura was back at work (and Amy discovered that trains have wheels – who knew?!), so we walked the length and breadth of Pescara, practicing the measly snippets of Italian we had picked up from Laura’s impressive vocabulary (or French in Amy’s case – don’t ask), meeting with Laura in the evening for one last meal together. The following day we moved on to Rome for the second half of our Italian adventure, sad to be leaving Laura, Pescara and the peacefulness we had experienced whilst staying with her.

Thanks Laura for your hospitality, it was a fantastic stay, and we can’t wait to visit again  :)

Amy & Nigel

Thursday, April 19

People...

...come and people go!

Since I've lived here in Pescara (it'll be 8 months tomorrow) I've had two housemates and seven visitors from England.  More people than I ever thought I'd see come and leave this place.  Soon I will post a "guest" blog from my last two visitors from England.  I figured it would be pretty awesome for the people that visit me to leave a post as a sort of guestbook...(Sorry to those of you who visited before I decided this, feel free to send me something if you want!)

Anyways, with my second housemate having just left this morning I'm going to crank up the tunes on my ipod and get cleaning so that I can get used to being in the house on my own again.

Saturday, April 14

One reason I'll miss my current apartment...

...is that when I have a 20ft long room I can truly make use of the space: to dance.  

Somewhere in the world, there are a few copies of a video I made for a friend to cheer her up.  This video is of me dancing...pretty darn well in my opinion...to the song Gimme Dat Ding by The Pipkins.  This song is used by John Cage, a character in the TV series Ally McBeal, as his "Angry Dance".  Now.  I must say that the character of John Cage is one I am rather fond of...in particular the dancing. 

My current room might have a sloping ceiling, be freezing in the Winter and sweltering in the Summer.  It doesn't have a door and there's only skylights, no windows.  But...when I want to dance like a crazy person, it's perfect...there's enough space to fling my arms and legs around in every single direction.

Wednesday, April 11

I am not on holiday.

I repeat, I am not on holiday.

I've realised something today.  I am not on Holiday.  This is not a "gap" year.  Nor is it an extended sabbatical.  This place, what I'm doing here, is actually my life.  I live here.  In a parallel universe to the place and the country I used to live and I need to adjust my outlook/perspective, whatever, to deal with the fact that I live in Pescara. Maybe I should change my blog title to...Pakes lives Pescara....

Whilst speaking to my Mum earlier on Skype, I was moaning about my money problems i.e. lack of it, and there's only really one reason why this exists.  It's because for the past 7 and a half months I've had the outlook of a tourist.  Exploring the area, travelling to places I never knew existed, and the clincher that's "broken my bank balance" I've been eating out at least 3 times a week, sometimes a lot more.  Recently there was a ten day stint where I didn't eat dinner at my house once.   

To conclude...I do not need to eat out all the time.  If I stop eating out so much, I will start saving money.  I am going to be here for a while so there is no need to eat in every single, ristorante, trattoria, gelataria, pizzeria etc etc NOW.  I can moderate it, I can....

And that's that.

Laura lives in Pescara.  FACT.

Monday, April 9

Well I never...

...would've said that I would eat Vietnamese food whilst living in Italy.

I'm living with a girl from America who is Vietnamese.  She cooks awesome food.  Simple, tasty and easy.  Niiiice.

Sunday, April 8

Easter Sunday

As Easter Sunday's go, this one is definitely different. Since I was four I've been to the church in my village on the Isle of Wight for the Easter Sunday service, then spent the day with my family. In fact, I don't think I've been anywhere else on Easter Sunday morning...ever. Even when I lived in London I returned to the island for Easter and attended that service so to find myself miles away from my, let's say "traditional" Easter celebration...I've done the same thing for twenty years, makes today a weird day.

Ravenna is about a three hour drive north of Pescara although if you make three stops on the way; one to a garden centre for a quick shop and a coffee, one for lunch at an Ikea (and a coffee), and another at a castle to take in the scenery (and to drink a coffee) it takes the whole day! It's a place with a lot of history; including Dante's tomb, as in the guy that wrote the Divine Comedy, and a pedestrianised centre filled with old buildings and piazza's, each with a story to tell. I like it.

Last night I spent the evening in a wine bar, time passed so slowly.  However, when I glanced at my watch for the umpteenth time to see that it was a minute past midnight, I was met with no urge to drink any alcohol.  This was strange.  Ok, so I gave up alcohol for Lent and at midnight I could officially drink alcohol again.  Instead of grabbing the nearest alcoholic beverage and downing it in one I chose to wait for Easter lunch.  After all, a glass of wine with dinner is what I've missed the most in these forty days.  I must say an Italian dinner is not the same with only a glass of water as an accompaniment.

This morning I went to the Easter mass at the local church.  At this service I managed to understand at least 50% of the sermon whereas in Pescara it's nearer 25%.  This is definitely due to the difference in accent between "the north" and "the south" of Italy.  The accent of the people I've listened to here in Ravenna is much, much easier for me to understand.   People seem to use actual phrases marked out with pauses after each "sentence", rather than a continuous phrase with ups and downs.  My friends have told me there is a difference between the regions when it comes to the language but I suppose my Italian comprehension hasn't been good enough to pick it up, until now.  What a nice Easter gift...to realise my pitiful, sporadic Italian study might actually be paying off!

Monday, April 2

My life in six paragraphs

Whilst talking to friends this weekend I realised I've not blogged for a while and that I know there are some people back home who actually like to know what's going on so...

I'm searching for a new apartment as my current contract expires at the end of May and there isn't the option to renew it.  This means I have to down-size due to the housemate leaving.  I did not know so many words existed in Italian for "rooms": locali, camere, stanze, vani.  It does get a bit confusing at times.  I've viewed a few places but the problem seems to be the timing.  I still have two months on my current contract and a lot of the places I've looked at are available now.

I've had my Credit Transfer application accepted by the Open University.  Now I've got to look at the modules they have to offer and choose only two (instead of three if I didn't have previous credits) to study in order to gain a Masters in Education.

At the moment I am having piano lessons with an inspirational lady who really is very good at playing the piano AND she has somehow managed to get me to like a piece by Bach in only two lessons.  This truly is an accomplishment as I have never been one of his biggest fans, Grandfather of Classical music or not.

Hmm....what else.  Erm.  I've got a huge crush on ice-cream, literally compare all the different Gelataria's with each other.  My current fav's are the coconut ice-cream from Dolce Bio in the centre of town then there's the Snickers ice-cream in Goloso just along from the Tribunale and some pretty impressive Cream and Nutella in a place in Silvi.  But the hunt continues for the best all-round gelataria.

Finally I was a bit shocked on Sunday, Palm Sunday, when at church the whole of the events of Holy Week was read out.  This made me slightly confused.  I have no recollection of that ever happening in the previous Palm Sunday services I've attended every year since I was five.  But then again, in those churches, six pages of readings in English wouldn't have phased me quite as much as it did in Italian.  And quite possibly it may be one of the many differences between the Church of England and Catholism.  If there is anything that would be the cherry on the top of the big-iced-cake of a life I'm making here, it would be an Anglican church.  However I moved to completely the wrong country for that to ever happen.

Oh yeh...my Italian is just as shoddy as it was before.  But now I am attending Italian classes which make a slight improvement...when I go.

And for now, that is all.

Sunday, March 25

Directions

The friends I have staying with me at the moment have hired a car.  This has meant that I managed to visit a place that I've wanted to visit for a while.  A selfish act really, to tell my friends who are on holiday how to spend their Saturday afternoon, but I'm certain they loved the place as much as me, if not more.

The driving style in Pescara, to me, seems to be one of the only times that people here actually move quickly.  I still walk at a quicker pace than the majority of people when I'm "strolling" along Lungomare and that's after halving the speed of my pace since being here...the power stride of city living is not exactly needed.  For this reason I've been very impressed at how well my friend is doing driving in a country that is renowned for recklessness on the roads.  He definitely deserves a gold star!

To make driving even more...interesting...to follow "Google" map directions is nearly impossible here.  The names of roads e.g. Via blah, blah, blah, are not marked on country roads and road numbers can also be hard to find.  Thankfully this is something that I have experienced in the past so when looking up the directions for San Bartolomeo, where we spent our Saturday afternoon, I focused on looking at the map for the names of the towns and villages that we passed through.  This is a tactic that has proved to be much handier as the actual signposts for places are much more common.

So here we are.  For anybody ever going to the hermitage in San Bartolomeo from Pescara, here's the directions that got us there, first time...




...and just in case you're wondering why you need the directions to this place, take a look at my photos below (N.B. no photograph will ever give this place any justice).  I hope to return there over and over and over again, in every season.  It's a peaceful haven where time stood still and washed over me.

 





...if the scenery and the hermitage itself isn't enough to convince you to go, we also saw a lot of wildlife: ranging from ghastly prehistoric looking critters (turns out they were Caddisflies emerging from their cocoons and Crested Newts, peculiar looking things) to a magnificent Golden Eagle soaring up on the thermals with it's distinctive white-flash under it's wings, absolutely stunning.