Sunday, May 30, 2010

Four for One Tile?

Last winter when I learned of Victor, the former owner of our home here in Vers Pont du Gard, I was excited about meeting him.  Now, I think Victor has been with us all this time.  This spring two different vacationers encountered Victor, not seeing him but, seeing some of his antics.  Our first friends stayed in our house for two weeks and one day, suddenly, a picture fell from the bedroom wall.  Hmmmm.
And a week later another friend encountered Victor as a second picture in the salon came crashing to the floor (They said the party wasn't that rambunctious).   This was not the only happening the week they were here.  In the courtyard a tile shattered from high above into the courtyard.   Hmmmm.
This makes me wonder.  Had the two tiles in the front of the house, one dropping into the street and the other half off the roof, been Victor's doing also?
Michele and Axel, our neighbors, felt they could replace those tiles until they saw the wires they would have to dodge, the overhanging roof, and the height of the ladder.  Quickly, they choose to remain grounded.
In a small village, there is always someone who knows someone who is perfect to fix things.  Axel found the perfect gentleman who was going to re-stick our tiles.  The terracotta tiles for replacement were piled under the stone sink in the courtyard.  
The ladder, having to be placed in the street, caused some traffic problems while Joe and Axel bravely steadied it.  As several cars had to slow, the courteous drivers were very patient.
Our neighbor, a roofer, from around the corner valiantly climbed the ladder, reached over the overhang, and our tiles have returned to the roof.
Is Victor still with us?   For now, he is comfortable and silent. 
Only time will tell.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ah, Florence

Ah, Florence.  Something I had only seen in pictures and now I have seen the Duomo,
and the bell tower,
however, with our guide leading us to other important sights, I want to share these with you.  Our first visit was to one of the gorgeous Florentine churches.  Of course, right across the road was the monastery.  This not being unusual to have the monastery so close to "work", the next street was not quite what I had expected,  the Via Delle Bella Donne, the Street of Beautiful Women.  Hmmmmmm!
Along that same street told me that nothing is new in the world.  The "drive-up" window is frequently seen in buildings of Florence.  Imagine, arriving in your chariot filled with children and not having to drag them all into the store.  Wonderful!
With all the gorgeous churches around, the people during the plague, when about a third of Florence perished, feared gathering to worship.  On the street corners, plaques were erected for quick prayers.
  As you may have noticed, most of my pictures are very gray.  A spot of color---
all under the umbrella of the day.
On we walked to the faux statue of Michelangelo's David.  One preschooler was very curious.  So curious that she climbed  onto David's pedestal to hold his hand.  Alas, one of his fingers broke off the statue.  Just how do you explain that?   It has been since reattached.  After several mishaps, David now resides safely in a museum.
People gathered to watch races, be involved in festivals, and other activities of ancient Florence.  Public bathrooms were difficult to find, therefore, narrow passages ways were constructed that were open for general usage.  How convenient for all.
Interested in buying fabrics from the merchants?  Of course, you would want to be sure they were being honest.  Just step outside the shop and carved on the wall is the official measure of that time.
Oh, you rode your horse to work.  Don't worry about an overcrowded parking lot.  Just tie your horse to any of the rings conveniently located on your office building.
You are tired of the kids.  Yelling, screaming, whining.  They just never stop.  Ah, but the residents of ancient Florence were very wise.  Just leave them in this gated area and if you do not retrieve them in three days, never fear, they will be educated and taken care of by the church. (Nobody shared that information with me!)
On top of the Duomo is a gold ball containing the remains of saints.  During a storm, it came loose, rolled down the dome into the street without breaking.  The place where it landed is a holy spot, not because the ball did not break, but because it did not kill anyone!
After three hours of intriguing information by our delightful guide, Michael Lee, we were hungry.  Off we went to Mario's a family owned restaurant since 1953.  Yes, we had to wait for our table, but it was well worth our time.
You are able to sit where they want you to. If you are lucky you will meet new dining partners from another country.  We were nine, therefore, we had a table just for us.  Yes, it was crowded.  Yes, it was noisy. Yes, the food was delicious. Yes, we will all return.  The first thing to arrive after we were seated was Tuscan bread wrapped in paper napkins.  As you will learn later, this was no ones favorite.
The bean soup was delicious.  Olive oil is a staple of Tuscany and perfect for an autograph.
Joe was in heaven with his Tuscan steak.  Immediately before cooking, it was cut just for him.  His choice of doneness?  Rare.  Well, in Marios, they will only cook the steak rare.  It is your problem if you do not 
like your steak rare!
I do hope you enjoyed your visit to Florence.  Oh, yes, there are lots of other things to see.  This is just a taste.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Not in France!

We are lost.  Well, not really, however we are no longer in France but spending a week in Tuscany at an organic cooking school.  Our Christmas present was a week for our whole family experiencing the Italian countryside, seeing organic farms and wineries and visiting Florence and Siena.  Our dear friend, Pete, is joining us along with a honeymooning couple from England.
We arrived yesterday to be greeted by enormous pots of lemon trees and Shilpa who is the director of us for the week.  
The villa, Bacío, stands on a hill overlooking the Tuscan countryside.  The name means that the winds also visit the hill which they are doing well this morning along with a not so gentle rain.

The wisteria covers many building and the pool looked so inviting----yesterday.

As everyone arrived from different directions, the conversation became quite animated.
As the wind had arrived on this Tuscan hill, we gathered at the limonaia for dinner.
Our dinner this evening was presented by Shilpa, the coordinator, and Christina, the wine expert who will also be taking us through an olive oil tasting.  The alfresco evening included organic wines, both red and white, along with Tuscan beans in tomato sauce, fresh fava beans with pecorino, grilled vegetables, cheeses, both goat and cow, of the area, potato salad with chard, and green salad.  What a delightful way to begin the week.
For breakfast this morning was an organic bread, butter and honey of the area and a focaccia which we brought from Noli.  
Oh, and as the strawberries arrive on your tables this spring, try them sprinkled with a little sugar with a touch of lemon.  YUM!
Our week has begun under the gray Tuscan skies. 
The next adventure?  To see a bee keeper, wine maker, lunch in the Tuscan hills and back to the villa to prepared tonight's feast.

Ciao, Cindy