Where Sir Winston Churchill learned to paint, is where I have come, this afternoon on the Côte d’Azur. Turquoise water and lightly coloured fishing houses along a little harbour. Cassis is oh so charming! Apparently there are Fjord like beaches to visit, called Calenques. These await… but first some swimming in the Mediterranean Sea!
In my brief time here, I’ve noticed quite a lot of soap shops, and bars and restaurants around the Vieux Port. My apartment was a lucky find on Airbnb and has an incredible view from my very own terrace, over all of Marseille! Tomorrow after work, I want to go swimming, and also see the Chateau d’lf where the Count of Monte Cristo was unjustly imprisoned.
I must say, I highly recommend the Eurostar from London to Marseille. The whole process was painless compared to last week’s trip from Lake Como to Dulwich Village. This time, it was simply arriving at the station, showing my passport, zooming thorough security and then taking my seat on the fast train through to the South of France in 6 hours total! Beautiful countryside too.
The restaurant car had an excellent selection of breakfasts, tea and coffee, croissants and madelines, and for lunch I enjoyed a vegetarian stroganoff.
Here’s my office for the next two weeks: my terrace with a view of Saint Vincent de Paul (in Australian that would be “Vinnies”). On the other side, is a view of the Mediterranean Sea!
As usual, life at Lake Como is like an entertaining comedy of errors and misadventures, involving blind corners, a boiler that just doesn’t work in August, like most of Italy, so no hot showers, beer that goes wrong, and lots of laughs.
We took out a little boat for the day, and I drove it all the way to Como! Unfortunately I went too fast at the request of Luca and bounced too hard for Vanda and it jarred her back which has been a problem for a long time. Feel terrible.
After a long day on the boat, we all went back up the hill and Giulia’s sister had arrived from Milan with a generous spread of olives, bread, cheeses and meats. Giulia told me to go and have a shower at her sister’s house so I did, after trying to find her without success. Rita arrived home to find a shower golilocks in her shower! A it awkward but all laughed off!
Here’s a photo of all of us in the Panda in a rain storm after aperitivo by the lake one night:
Ciao from the shores of Lake Como! I’ve been working from here for the past week or so, and have been spending the afternoons with my cousin and her family, and my Aunty Hilary who has been here too.
Whenever I am here, life feels like a comedy/ comedy of errors. Key words: Panda, mountain, blind corners, beer, failed beer, bells, Tutto Molto Interessante, hospital, pronto soccorso, formaggio…
As two performing artists, I feel whenever I step into my cousins lives, that I have joined a plot containing many unexpected twists and turns: hilarious, scary, delicious, confusing and all emotions in between. No day is the same.
My concerns before arrival were about my ability to conduct my work from here: reliable internet? Quiet enough? Etc. So far that part has been the most straightforward! Touch wood.
Here is the view from my lavender themed Airbnb apartment by the lake, and the path I take to swim each day “alla Foppa”:
Unfortunately my Aunty hasn’t been well, so my cousin took her to Milan where her partner’s sister works as a doctor. Scans came back with lumps in Aunty’s lungs. She said she feels ok, but it is all a shock and we Newmans have a propensity for not going to the doctor enough, and saying “I’m fine!” when not actually “fine”.
We all started googling rapidly for anything other than the worst possible diagnosis, and tried to enjoy our time with Aunty here by the lake as much as possible, her health and energy permitting.
I said to her, as we drove down the mountain in the Panda, around blond corners with her hanging on tightly: “did you ever think you’d be driving down an Italian mountain in a 25 year old Fiat Panda with your niece”?. She said – No!
Each day we had a party it seemed. On a terrace with 15 Italians around, speaking at once, under a grape vine or pumpkin vine, with friends playing live music..or by the lake at our favorite D Lounge, with Lalo playing live music there too, and us making plans to take over the bar one day and make the pizzas better ourselves – the usual chat:
And somehow the week passed and we had one more ramp party before Aunty Hilary flew back to Australia in the comfort of Business class to receive treatment and tests there.
She was sent safely off, with instructions on how to use the plane’s wifi and promises that she felt better, and stronger, and that it was probably not what we most feared. Fingers and toes crossed. It certainly made us enjoy every moment with her here, and we had a lot of fun together. We had lunch the day before she left, in which there were about 5 conversations going on at once, in Italian, about things ranging from types of cheese, importing cheese to Australia, possible diseases she could have..regions of Italy and the different almond dishes in Sicily. Then everyone went back into the kitchen and prepared food for the evening party.
Unfortunately for Catherine, another trip to the hospital was to follow. I woke up in great pain having accidentally eaten things I cannot eat: lactose and gluten (very difficult to avoid these things in italy, being the land of cheese and pasta!!). Thankfully Catherine was awake and came to drive me to the Pronto Soccorso – Emergency. All the way to Lecco I moaned and groaned, and then moaned and groaned in the waiting room, and then again on the trolley – fearing awful things again – then they put me to sleep with a drip and the moans and groans swiftly stopped. I woke up and was told that I must not eat cheese again, and sent home with a box of antacids and a sheet that said: “due giorni fa ha mangiato formaggio”. Oops. Very ouch this time.
The heatwave has broken, but every day is still a lake day, as Luca has discovered Fishing. Last week he had a long stick with a piece of wool and a cork and a paper clip. This stick was broken by a passerby looking for a stick for his dog at D Lounge during our dinner party which was devastating for Luca of course. Luckily a kind guest made him another stick fishing rod, and then the next day a friend at the ramp let him share a fishing rod with his son Andrea! So two boys, two fishing rods = tangles but no babysitting (other than watching from a safe distance while lying down on a towel).
“Ciao! Buongiorno cara! Tutto bene?” Asks my landlord. I replied in Italian something along the lines of, all was very well, and yesterday evening I saw my family in Introzzo, where her mother lives (small world).
I’m back at Lake Como for a few weeks, visiting my cousin while my Aunt is here too! In contrast to London, Dervio is beautiful and warm, but not too hot, and I’m enjoying jogging around the lake, swimming and then napping. Here is where I am based: I’ll work from here for the next two weeks!
I had a hankering for a cup of tea, so tried my luck in a store around from where my Casa is, named “Non Solo Pane”. I confirmed that it sold not only bread, but also coffee, cheese, wine and cured meat. I asked the owner for Tè Nero, and she said “aspetta!” and rummaged around in a dusty bag on the floor (Italians obviously don’t come searching for black tea very much!) and dusted it off, tried to read the English words on the box, and confirmed it was indeed: black tea!
Now it’s time for a siesta and a cuppa – no kettle as usual so I’ll use a saucepan. I missed Italy!! 😊
Ciao ciao xxx