More Walking…

ImageI am determined to keep walking a lot and get used to it! Late on Saturday afternoon I decided to go to the bancomat, which is a far piece from my hotel and the first thing I saw was this bike parked in front of a building. This really is someone’s bike who is out running errands! Love it!

I had on my old lady walking shoes and my feet didn’t feel too bad, so I kept going. I really want to see more of the Promenade and it was bustling on Saturday night. Soon I came to a nice open space with a view of the sea. Lots of people were on the beach and still more were wandering the street. I took a few photos and kept going again.

ImageFinally I arrived at a good-sized book store – son Bill, you would have loved it. All the usual best sellers, but in Italian. And people were buying books and magazines by the stacks! I asked for a basic Italian phrase book as I lost mine during my move. I am struggling with the few words and phrases I know and this should help but I’m still a Yank in foreign territory.

So far when I’ve tried to say much in Italian, the waiter looks at me funny and starts speaking English…

I knew I had gone far enough and better turn around so I started the trek back. I found a very inexpensive cafe so stopped for a break. A glass of wine and a slice of pizza was only 3.80 euros. Too bad that cafe is so far from my hotel – I would have liked to try other things.

ImageBut when I got up from sitting for a while, oh my… my feet were half dead. So I tried to focus on the shop windows along the way. That was somewhat successful, but I couldn’t help being envious of the ladies of all ages gliding by in their 5″ heels. (I’m not kidding!) Good grief, what kind of feet do they have? I really don’t understand. And the pain that radiated up my shins with every step made me feel ever more like this Far Side cartoon… the Potatoheads in Paris. Notice that they are the full-figured ones while all the Parisians are stylish thin French Fries! That’s me!

And to make matters worse, you should see these ladies eat! I swear the No- and Low-Carb movement has done a complete bypass of Italy. I have been keeping a very close eye on other diners and their meals are incredible. Maybe they eat nothing else all day, but in a restaurant it is crazy. It’s bread, bread and more bread all day long.

The other night I did a double take when the young, thin couple beside me got their meal. He had a whole pizza and she had the largest calzone I’ve ever seen. Honestly, it looked like a football on a plate. I thought she would get away with a few bites, but was astounded when she ate the whole thing. And they drank a bottle of red wine between them. And this is not unusual! The couple on the other side of me each got a whole pizza – that’s how they serve it here. They set the whole pan right in front of you and you eat it with a knife and fork. The fact that I found a place to get just one slice of pizza was different.

Anyway, it was a long, long walk back and I looked longingly at the folks on bikes everywhere. I’d like to rent one for a few hours but I’m reluctant. They say you never forget how to ride one, but ask my son Bill about picking me up in my own driveway the last time I tried that. We’ll see if my feet force me into trying again. Meanwhile I will ignore the pain and gory blisters and keep walking…

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Odd Bits

There have been a few things I meant to post but forgot or didn’t have time. Here they are…

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The first morning I woke up in Viareggio, I opened the window and leaned out for a look. Much to my surprise I was looking down on a very quirky garden patio like I had never seen before. I can’t tell which of the plants are real but they are on every surface. It was arresting to see!

When I went down to the lobby I stopped at the desk and asked if it was some sort of art installation. The clerk said no, that particular property is a private suite where someone lives. How intriquing! I would love to know who laid out this whimsical garden… and why!

A second odd bit is this little turtle…

ImageIt is not something I sought out – it was foisted on me by an African street vendor. The Africans, usually from Senegal, are very very bold. In Costa Rica the street vendors are not allowed into hotel or restaurant properties, but that isn’t true here. Everywhere I’ve been, they approach on the street and even in the cafes. They come right up to the table and nudge you with their goods if you don’t look at them. They even try to hand you things and force you to take them so you will feel obligated to buy. One lady laid a bracelet beside my plate and I just shoved it back. Then she walked away. I’ve noticed others completely ignoring them, too, but they will actually stand in your way as you get up from your table to block you. I don’t like it, even though I know they are very poor. But this vendor set this little turtle right next to my glass of wine and I had a bit of homesick moment. Turtles always make me think of Colin (whose first word was “turtle”) and I liked the looks of the little thing. So I gave the vendor a few Euros and this will be my Italian Colin turtle to set on a shelf back home.

Third odd bit… sketches!

ImageImageHere I am calling this blog The Sketchy Life and there have been no sketches posted! Well, I haven’t done a lot yet, but a few.. And I can’t scan them in nice and flat so a photo will have to do. So here’s a couple drawings with more to come. And when I looked at these I thought to myself, daggone it, they are my usual tight little drawings that I always do. I want to loosen up! So I’ll be experimenting with that and we’ll see how it goes.

Ciao for now…

Pauline and Juliette

Today started out to be a dreadful day. The internet would not connect and that was the kiss of death for me. I NEED to get some work finished and I hardly think my current employers will care if I say, “hey, I’m in Italy – and no one cares if the internet works or not…”

I tried all through breakfast then went to the front desk and complained. “Oh we’re working on it” they said. I didn’t know what to do but take a walk and cool off, so off I went. Well… I rounded the corner and lo and behold there was a HUGE street market going on! I could hardly believe my eyes. Vendors of all sorts were lining the promenade and shoppers were absolutely everywhere!

I had started out in more than a bit of pain… after yesterday’s walk along the surf, my shins were really, really sore. I didn’t think I could walk far, but all of a sudden I was SHOPPING and the ground flew by beneath my feet. Until I ran out of money…

I didn’t have much on me but I bought a couple scarves and realized I had no money left for a cappuccino break. Drats! But I needed to get back to the hotel and do some work, so I left the shopping zone and turned round. That’s when I realized how far I had wandered. It was a long way back…

Now I was in real distress and the new scarf round my neck did not help one bit. My shins were screaming and I plodded along at a snail’s pace. I thought about stopping to sit but that only seemed to prolong the agony. I continued my personal death march on the world’s worst feet and ignored the fact that two of my toes were rubbed raw and bleeding when I got back. I hobbled up to the desk and asked if the internet was fixed. No…..

Back in my room I bandaged my feet and switched to my walking shoes (which I should have had on in the first place) and returned to the lobby to check on the internet. Still not working.

All I could do was go back out for a sandwich, spend a bit of time with my sketchbook and roll with what was happening. By then it was past noon and the street vendors were tearing down their stalls. I was surprised by this, but since most shops here close at noon for 2-3 hours, I guess they are done for the day at that point! Hard to believe, but true!

Back I went to the hotel to check on the internet. By this time I had been trying to connect for 5 hours or so and was getting pretty frustrated. And sure enough, the connection was not fixed. THEY thought it was, but since I was the only one actually trying to WORK, it took me to tell them that things were not in order. Help was called once again.

Meanwhile, I went off to a corner of the lobby and had what I thought was a private meltdown. I am TIRED and my blasted feet are KILLING me and I am worried about the WORK I am not getting done. So I cursed my feet and I cursed the casual-ness of the Italian lifestyle (which I normally love) and I let a few tears fall for show.

Then all of a sudden a manager appeared holding a card with a name written on it for me to take to the much-larger hotel across the street to use their internet service at my hotel’s expense…

Hot Dog! I dried my tears, commanded my feet to carry me on and went to the lobby of the Piemonte Hotel. It is very grand and a bit intimidating, but I had my pass. A clerk showed me to a nice reception area, gave me a password for the internet and I got busy.

Next to me were a couple English ladies having wine but I really didn’t pay much attention. I was determined to get some work done until one of them went to the loo and the other turned to me and said “are you English?”

“No, I’m American,” I replied.

“Oh, then you are hearing all we say in our gossip fest here!” she exclaimed.

“Well, I could if I was listening,” I said, “but I’m not because I’m working. But you do make me wish I was not working so I could join you!”

And that’s when Juliette (who prefers Julie) and Pauline and I became friends.

All I can say is… the “dish” was on!

ImagePauline (left) and Julie are event planners from London. They are here being “wooed” by the Viareggio hotels to drum up tourist business. So we chatted quite a bit and I ended up switching over to their table for more girl talk. My how the hours fly when you’re not working!

We covered everything from the royal family (which they LOVE) to the recent Olympics (which were a total bust as far as London tourism goes) to my boyfriend since I was 12… Paul McCartney ( who they are not at all impressed with! Julie’s office is near “Abbey Road” and she has seen Sir Paul twice in the last month coming and going. She says he hasn’t aged well and has quite a chubby face!)

Now how’s that for a real comeuppance! I love it! And here’s a photo they took of me… Imageplease notice my new Italian scarf because I think scarves (only Italian ones) will be my new obsession. They are ridiculously cheap and everyone here wears one. I spent some time people-watching today and almost every Italian woman wears a scarf of some sort. And Italian men as well.

At any rate, I did NOT get my work done, but the session with Pauline and Julie was totally worth it. They have convinced me that I must visit London next and they will be the ones to show me round. And tomorrow we are meeting in the hotel bar to catch up on the day’s events.

Both ladies said they would love to be “blogged” and now they have been. It has been a surprising and delightful day to spend time with them, so now we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

And… while I was gone, my hotel did a major upgrade to their internet service. There is a new contact point that even works in my room, so I am thrilled. Maybe if I stay inside I’ll actually get some work done!

Getting Back to Normal…

ImageHmmm… I guess I shouldn’t call it “normal.” I am in Italy after all. And at the sea coast at that. So have a look at this photo I took this morning… isn’t it glorious? I was totally shocked when I saw it downloaded. The real scene didn’t look nearly so dramatic, but you never know when the camera will be a bit smarter than you are and bring it all home…

So, yeh, I walked on the beach this morning after the rain cleared. It was fabulous – the beach is wide and flat – and very controlled. All of the umbrellas and chairs are owned by one enterprise or another and you cannot rest your bum unless you pay. The hotel I am at has an “agreement” with the beach club called Nuovo Italiano – and for a mere 20 euros a day you can have your very own chair and umbrella and swim in the pool! I may do that later in the week if it warms up again just because I love the whole beach thing…

Now, I want to quickly flash back to last night. I went out of the hotel and went the opposite way – toward the town instead of toward the beach – to see if I could find a local population and regular things like a supermarket that is not for tourists. I did find it, but along the way, I was enchanted once again…

About 2 blocks from my hotel, in the opposite direction of the beach, is a huge, wooded public park. There are joggers, walkers and cyclists everywhere. ImageBut when I was walking by, I noticed a row of ponies tied up in a clearing. I had to investigate. And then I saw the most amazing thing… children were riding the ponies… and taking rides in the carts they pulled!

Now mind you, this was an ordinary Tuesday evening – not a weekend or holiday. And here were families in the park, walking, riding bikes, and giving their children pony rides!!!

And of course I spotted a group of a dozen old men circled round each other jawing the fat. I would have taken a pic but they saw me and it wouldn’t have been kind.

BUT… I mentioned getting back to normal. Well, it has to happen, I guess. The thing is, I DO have some work to do and I might as well get busy. The biggest perk of my so-called current job is that I can work from anywhere. So why not Italy? I did work a bit today – and at least the internet works in the hotel lobby. It doesn’t work so well in my room, but oh well. I can sit in the lobby of a beautiful Italian hotel and call it my office, right?

Oh aren’t I the funny one???

Aside

Landing in Viareggio

It rained overnight so everything was wet when we left Val di Pozza this morning. But before we were long on the road, a rainbow appeared. I haven’t seen a rainbow in ages. Now I don’t believe in omens, but it sure was a lovely sight. And a beautiful rainbow just makes you think God is smiling,

Chris was taking me and the British ladies to Pisa to go on to our next destinations. It was a bit out of the way for me, but no matter. It is easy to find a taxi from the Pisa airport to Viareggio, the largest beach town in Tuscany. It’s on the west coast about 70 miles west of Florence.

I am staying at Residence Esplanade, a beautiful hotel just two blocks from the sea coast. I can see the waves when I walk out the front door of the hotel. So the first thing I did when I got here was to go exploring. I figured it would be easier going at sea level than where I’ve just been in the mountains, but I was wrong…

Image I took off walking with a map and it was much more exerting than I thought. I walked and walked and walked some more, then I stopped for a late lunch. I got a “mixed fried fish” since I was desperately hungry for some protein. It was quite good – but consisted of prawns with heads on (not deveined!), lots of squid and lots of mini baby octopi. Overall, very tasty, but a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t deterred… I like surprises.

Back at the hotel, I put my key in the door…

Now let me tell you, this is a key!

It is SO heavy that most people drop it off at the front desk when they are going out because they don’t want to carry it! I LOVE this key! I can’t wait to draw it in my sketchbook. I’m such a sucker for details like this.

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So here I am in Viareggio for the week. It is supposedly a throwback to the 1950s as far as beach towns go. It is still plenty warm – I about roasted to death when I walked out earlier today. And when I went to the tourist office and said, “oh, geez, it is so hot!” the girl turned to me and said, “NO! it is not hot at all! You should be here in summer if you want to know hot!” Well, I guess I’m here at just the right time!

So Who’s Out There?!?

ImageOk, the blog has been going on for a week or so and I don’t know who’s keeping track! It is getting a lot of hits, so I guess people are reading.

My daughter Ellyn has commented on every single post, which I enjoy since I am here without a phone to chat. But I’d love to hear from others if you’d like to leave a comment. The comments are public, so if that’s not comfortable, feel free to send me an email.

Hope to hear from you!

Critique and Wrap Up

ImageIt’s always interesting to wrap up an art class and this one was very intense. Going to Italy is not the usual, so the surroundings were very different. And it was great to spend time with others from different parts of the world.

Chris started the evening critique with a grand gesture… he took a VERY long paint brush, stuck it into a pot of dark paint… and wrote his name across the top of a page of paper taped to an easel. We all looked on with curiosity.

Chris then turned and passed the brush to Dot and invited her to write her name as well. From there the brush went round the room and we all signed.

Have you ever held a very long brush and tried to write your name with it at arm’s length? I haven’t and it is quite awkward! So we laughed as we signed and passed the brush on – sure that our signatures were lacking in some way.

But that was not the point.

Our signatures were very different, just like our paintings – even though they were of the same subjects. And it was great to see our names all together as a piece of artwork unto itself. I hate it that Pam and Carol had to leave early and we didn’t get their signatures on our closing menu.

Anyway, it was fun to talk about the week and recall everything we did. It was a great experience and I hope it launches me into a new phase of artwork. I’m excited to be able to stay in Italy for a while to keep the momentum going. This must be what a sabbatical is like for those who take time out from their usual jobs and life. We’ll see where it goes…

Thank you Chris.

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