Saturday, December 20, 2014

my life as a story becoming more fantastical - or maybe just had very quiet previous life!

Since the last post I have taken part in a joint exhibition in my artist's retreat where more than 300 people dropped by- that is pretty good for an out of the way house. And may even have started a fashion for exhibitions  at home.
Then I had a housewarming party with a musician and a cocktail maker. My house looked gorgeous decorated with candles and red flowers ( whose name I can't remember)  I got the internet put in my artist's retreat- and decided to live there in january and february when I have no guests.
Then  I have two sets of guests over christmas and new year.
Am invited out on christmas eve and then to a christmas service.
The commune put christmas lights on my house.
I am invited to take part in a craft feste on the 29th of december.
I am not going to be an extra in Ben Hur- but i might be going to be a princess in a carriage in Pisticci.
And next years new years resolution is to travel................
And that is the very, very short version of the last 6 weeks. Next year have plans to expand this blog.
Now for the photos- in no particular order as not quite got the hang of this yet.
And I have so enjoyed painting Dirupo white. today was the last time this year and we were accompanied by accordion music. I will miss it.
2 white beauty painters- this is actually the back of my house!

music while we painted- surreal
 a one legged alien- no its me!
These were so tiny. I painted them for someone's presepe
dirupo at night with all the new lights

got christmas lights from the commune on my house too.

musician at my housewarming

near my house- so pretty

painted this scene 3 times

sandra langston - artist
maria grazia tarulli - artist

anne parker- artists  ( we did the exhibition together)

Pisticci from the little church. my artist's retreat is in the middle

more lights in dirupo.

paintings all back in my little gallery at my studio.

our exhibition poster.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Blogger's Block???

Decided to just put some of my favourite photos  in this post - until I get myself back on track........( that was fun!)
was trying to get a photo of my new hat...

real fireplace in my artist's retreat..
fake fire in my studio

new cheerful green door

cosying up my little "study"

I like my studio- and the fake fire makes me laugh

Dirupo with Craco in the background. pretty view on a lovely day.

my favourite little cat

been fixing the roof and enjoying the view

considering painting a window with nice relaxing scene above the bed

Am liking the green up against the terracotta walls.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

journey back to Italy- Perth to Pisticci

It is not particularly straightforward to go from Perth to Pisticci. This is not all down to lack of money- though I suppose if you had your own jet and a helicopter it would make a difference.....
However this last journey was the first time I did the whole journey from door to door by my own efforts (except for katy getting up at before 6am and giving me a lift to the railway station - I suppose I could have got a taxi.....but was much nicer having Katy drive me.)
So, starting from Perth railway station- waiting beside the wrong train - until a kind gentleman - told us - "it's the one in front dear.." my journey began. This time I had hold luggage which is more than I normally travel with and after a lot of rearranging I had managed to fill a smallish suitcase with almost 20kgs of art stuff, magazines, a lap top, three tin coffee and tea containers, two small vases, various toiletries which are cheaper in Scotland, a big fat jumper and several chargers.....5 calendars, 3 diaries, a murano plug thingy for wine bottles and I can't remember any more. It had a pull out handle and a habit of twirling.
I also had another small suitcase to take on the plane. It mostly had clothes in it and a pair of boots and some odds n ends. Then I had a rather garish handbag which looked like a centurions kilt but was exactly the dimensions allowed as extra hand baggage on ryanair flights. And then I had a hat. I love this hat which I bought when I was feeling a bit flat and wanted something to make me look more fun. Its a sort of female version of a bowler hat - made of felt. I couldn't possibly have packed it as it would have got squashed out of shape so I had to wear it. It didn't stay on very well but I had an arrangement with a kirby grip which I thought would give me time to grab it before it blew away completely.
I managed quite well really to get me and my stuff on to the train and it was a pleasant journey stopping at what seemed like 20 stops on the way to Haymarket. It was on time though and as I had remembered to bring food and drink (In my coat pockets of course) the time passed quite nicely. There was some pretty countryside to look at when it was light  and some swans looking  almost luminous against a black lake. We went over the forth railway bridge which I always think is quite exciting. I wondered what it feels like to live beneath it. I love looking down on the little village at the edge.
When we got to Haymarket I had my handbag slung over my shoulder, a suitcase in either hand and my hat stuck as firmly as possible (not very) on my head and if  I could have I would have had my fingers crossed hoping for escalators. Hurray- there were, and it was easy to just walk out of the station and  20 metres away was the airport bus stop. Luckily it was not a windy day.
The airport bus was slightly tricky to get on and I had to manhandle my luggage to the luggage rack. unfortunately , due to my "absolute necessity" for calendars etc, etc I was physically unable to lift the heavier suitcase above my head - or even waist!
I found it quite a reassuring journey as there is a  display saying how long it takes to the airport so I more or less knew I would be in good time.
Managed to get off the bus and once I got going as long as there was no wind and not too many people I trundled along quite happily wearing my little black hat.
Having not done hold luggage before I needed a little help to understand some machines which did something and printed out a luggage label thingy. Then I took my heavy suitcase to the desk and ( I could lift it conveyer belt high) and off it went. "You do know you will need to put your handbag in your suitcase as Easyjet only allow one piece of luggage " said the evil woman at the desk,  smiling sweetly as she said , "It will only cost you £30 if you book it in now- but it will be £45 if you are stopped upstairs.
I had completely missed that.
I decided that I would make it fit in even if I had to take all the clothes out and wear them to get it in. I forgot to mention that the large handbag had sketchpads, my kindle , camera and as much heavy stuff as I could get in. I sort of hid behind a pillar , took half the clothes out and the handbag took up exactly half of the suitcase. By careful, if hurried arranging, and then as a last resort sitting on it hoping the zip wouldn't burst I miraculously got almost everything in. Luckily I had eaten all the food so my four large pockets in my jacket took the remains.
With an evil cackle and my hat at a jaunty angle I set off for the next bit. That all went reasonably smoothly but I had forgotten to take off my gold pendant so I "beeped" and then had to stand in the body scanner with my arms above my head. Felt a little embarrassing!
Other than my hat having fallen out of the box on to the conveyer belt and nearly getting squashed between  two boxes it was done.
I had time to go have a coffee at Wetherspoons and relax. There was a bit of a muddle with the gates but  nothing to worry about.  I was among the first on the plane and the journey went very smoothly as I put my hat carefully under the seat to keep safe.
We arrived at Stanstead about 11am and I had about six hours to hang around so waiting for luggage was no big deal- it passed the time.
I managed to push my suitcases under a table where I could keep an eye on them in Costa's and had a really delicious soya cappucino. Probably the best one yet.
I have travelled a lot on my own but usually with hand luggage  only and it is quite tricky. Just let me say that toilets are not made to take a person and two suitcases, a large handbag and a precious hat.
The time passed reasonably pleasantly and I was able to drop off my heavy suitcase early and remembering to take off my pendant I got into the departure lounge - which is to my disappointment in the middle of a refurbishment. Luckily I kept going until I found Wetherspoons and a glass of wine and a chicken thingy at a table right next to the notice board so no need to wonder if I was missing something. Bliss!
The same muddle with gates happened again and we all trouped back and forward but again I was among the first on and found that if I put my handbag under the seat my hat fitted perfectly between the bottom of the seat and the bag. like it was made for it.
It was a perfectly nice flight again. Nothing much happened.
We arrived in Bari on time and as soon as I got off the plane I could feel the rise in temperature and the half guilty smile that always seems to spread across my face every time I return to Italy.  Like "Yeah! I am getting out to play again!!"
It took a while for the luggage to arrive but I was in no hurry. Just a bit tired.
I went twice round the airport building with a quick visit to tourist info to find the bus into Bari where I had a room booked in a guest house near the  railway station.
Other than feeling very sorry for the bus driver who didn't expect my suitcase to weigh twice as much  as normal (- I did say - "E molto pessante!") and nearly fell in the luggage hold after it, it was only 4 euros to go all the way into town.
It was dark by now and having got off the bus I was standing outside the railway station trying to work out which way I should go to find the guest house. I am not very good at map reading or seeing the screen on my phone without taking my glasses off .. To take my glasses of I needed to take my hat off.
I was quite tired by now.
I set off in a direction and hoped I would find the place. (this actually was my thinking) About an hour later and in a very bad mood having asked countless people who each - honestly - sent me in a different direction and phoned the guest house - who were not a lot of help as I didn't know where I was. I had found a number 24 in a street I guessed might be the place but then having asked someone in that same street where the address was they sent me off back past the station. The guest house was reputedly 550 metres from the railway station.  So I went back to the station - which I could find...
I got in a taxi and paid 15 euros to get taken straight along a road , one turn off to the left and dropped at - guess where- the same number 24. I honestly thought that the driver was having a laugh but as I peered at the names at the entrance of what appeared to be a block of flats- right down in the corner was written guest house.
I was so happy to finally get there. I would not recommend walking round Bari in the dark, let alone encumbered with two suitcases etc.
The girl who welcomed me in was just lovely, the room was great, breakfast was provided - all set out on a table and all this only cost 20euros .( would have been 22 but she had no change. I had given all mine to the taxi driver!)
I had bought a small bottle of wine on the plane and a chicken wrap so had a delightful picnic in my room. (I think I was ever so slightly hysterically happy to be safe and sound.- and  it might have been the wine too.!)
I had a decent sleep and there was no rush in the morning so had swiss roll and a croissant for breakfast before setting off again.
I went the same way as the taxi. , right at the end of the street and straight along. It took about 4 minutes to the station.
After only about four sets of instructions and then a very friendly helpful cleaner I found the special railway that goes to Matera.  Bought my ticket and had an hour to wait. Passed the time looking for a toilet that didn't involve carrying suitcases up and down stairs. My arms ached a bit. And the heavy suitcase tended to do a twirl and get stuck coming off pavements.
It was a pretty little station. up high. I quite enjoyed just hanging out there. Then the train for Matera arrived and I got on with no bother,  found a place for all my luggage and my hat. By now I had packed my jumper and jacket and was wishing I didn't need to wear the furry boots I had put on in Scotland- but there was no way they would fit in my case . so I was stuck with tee -shirt, leggins, boots and a hat.
Was not a particularly interesting trip- just field after field of olive trees, but as I got nearer Matera the countryside changed and got more hilly. I felt like i was coming home.
I staggered literally up the steps of the station in Matera  dragging my luggage and arrived in the bus station where I bought a ticket to Pisticci. On being told that the toilets were downstairs" HUH!" I  headed off into town to find the nearest cafe where there was a toilet on the same level and someone could watch my suitcases. That arranged it was nice to feel nearly home and enjoy another soya cappucino. I had plenty of time so strolled with minimal suitcase twirling back to the bus station.
I nearly didn't get on the right bus - because it said it only went to Pisticci scalo - but luckily Gianpierro who I know helped me on to it. Then , I had to change buses  and got talking to  Carlantonio who turned out to be a facebook friend of mine and he helped me off again when we arrived at Pisticci.
Next (nearly there now) I got on the little orange bus which goes round Pisticci and got chatting to Graziella who was a friend of Carlantonio.
I got dropped off in the Piazza san Rocco and - last set of steps down  into Dirupo and only nice flat streets to negotiate. On the way said  "Ciao " to three people who had missed me. (How nice to be back.....)
And then just as I was almost at my street - the road was blocked off by a lorry and huge piles of sand so I had to squeeze past scaffolding and builders - dragging my twirling suitcase with my sore arm  - go  back along the street where my artists retreat is - down more steps and then back again- where I met Anna who was looking after my little house- so nice to see her and I arranged to pick up my key,  round the corner - up a small hill and turn and there was my studio. Oh thank goodness!!!
 It all looked great. My flowers were alive and blooming, the sun was shining, I found my key and I was home.
Pretty easy really..........
my room in Bari

station for Matera in Bari

cafe in Matera

home at last

dirupo in Pisticci

Thursday, September 25, 2014

rome, florence and venice in six days........

Am now back in Perth after a brilliant holiday.
Day 1.  I left Pisticci around 9am and caught the train at ferrandina for Rome. It arrived in Roma termini around 2pm and I made my way to the hotel Cervia in via Palestra only 5 mins from the termini. I have stayed there before so there was no need to read a map upside down and wander round for an hour getting more and more puzzled.
After dropping my luggage in my room I headed out to do a recce of the best way to see as much as possible in an afternoon as I would only have an afternoon with my daughter before we left for the airport the following monday.
It was a lovely day and more by luck than good judgement ( most of my exploration is like this) I found several places to look at including the colosseum and some other large buildings which shall remain nameless- due to me having no idea what they were called. It was all very interesting and I managed to find my way back to the hotel with only a few wrong turnings.
Day 2. I got up earlyish and after treating myself to breakfast in a rather elegant cafe I headed for the airport bus. Due to me making sure I wasn't late to meet Katy (my daughter) I arrived 2 hours early. Still it was a nice day to sit in the sun outside the airport. I was very excited as it would be the first holiday I had ever been on with just the two of us. I hardly recognised my tall elegant daughter when  she came through the arrival doors.
I had bought the bus tickets already so we strolled outside in the sunshine and soon we were on the bus heading for Rome. I tried not to say, look at this....look at that.... have you ever seen anything like that ....too often but I don't think I was very successful.
We had about 2 hours before we caught the train to Florence so we went to a little restaurant near the station where I have been before and apart from a man falling down the stairs and nearly landing on top of me on my way back from the toilet it was very pleasant.
The train to Florence was a high speed freccia rosso and  only took an hour and a half whizzing along at 250kmph. By then it was about 4.30pm.
It took us about 15 minutes to walk from the station to the hotel entrance- a door between two restaurants in the piazza della signoria- and onother 15 minutes to get in the door thanks to a complicated method of entry involving phoning a number which didnt answer. ( later that week we were able to let another couple in who were having similar problems.) However after pressing a buzzer for emergencies we got in and up about 4 flights of stairs- I didn't notice the lift- and somehow managed to get in the next door. Our keys were in our room door as the staff only worked mornings. The reception room - or our living room as we afterwards referred to it was lovely with dark wooden ceiling , a large table and other antique furniture and lots of paintings.
Our room was nice but our bathroom was gorgeous which partly made up for the, well frankly , horrible view of the back of buildings. I have a funny photo of Katy standing on a stool looking like a stick insect craning her neck to get a glimpse of the sky. So  we kept the bathroom door open and settled for a view of it instead......
Not wanting to stay in the room we headed out at speed. It was a bit ironic as the street door opened on to the piazza della signoria. It was full of people admiring various statues and taking photos.. We were about 20metres from the uffizi galleries but could not even see the sky from our window. however we got used to it and it was so amazing to open the door onto such a beautiful space.( And walking past all the diners at the restaurant heading for our hotel in such an important piazza felt good. They didn't know that we had a view of our bathroom and not of the piazza!)
We wandered around , ate some pizza , bought a couple of bottles of wine and eventually returned to the hotel - this time with keys to get in and so ended the first day in Florence.
Day 3.
This was our first whole day in Florence. Katy estimated that we walked around for a minimum of 6 hours a day.  We started out aiming for the market at san lorenzo and made a little detour into the food market which was much more interesting. So much so that we wished we had gone there for breakfast. We had stopped off in a cafe on the way where I knew I could have a cappucino made with soya milk and I was still  reeling from the price. The market looked much more my style and it seemed I could get a cappucino with soya milk there too. The street market had the most amazing collection of leather goods and not , as far as I could see, anything much else. If I had space and money for 100 handbags I would have loved it.
By accident we next found ourselves near the station outside a large church (santa maria novella?) So we bought a ticket and went in. We could take photos as long as we didnt use the flash which is ok if you can find the flash- off switch on your camera. It was pretty amazing  and worth the ten euros.  We were there for ages.
Next, we had a coffee and sat outside in the piazza near the church and enjoyed the sunshine. (The forecast had been for rain and thunderstorms the whole time we were there.)
We had lunch in our room after a convoluted stroll back where we accidentally found the strozzi gallery where there was to be a picasso exhibition starting on saturday. Decided we would go to that- if we could find our way back again.
After lunch we set off for the pitti palace or gallery of modern art on the other side of the river. I knew where it was from a previous visit. I thought we could also visit the garden behind it but despite asking for a ticket for everything  - it didn't include the gardens. ( we would have likely cooked anyways as it was quite hot now outside.) So we wandered round lots and lots of rooms full of paintings and sculptures. I particularly liked the more modern paintings near the end and wish I had taken a note of some of the artist's names. Then we went in the royal rooms and they were as horrendous as I remembered. I think that the amazing richness of it all sort of brings out the presbyterian part of me. I was both appalled and amazed. I would really recommend a visit there. It would be impossible to be neutral about the experience.
We took a stroll down by the river where I had seen a vintage shop- but after walking for ages we found it had turned into a seamstresss'. It was also much further away than I thought.
It was a pleasure to wander about in the sunshine and then we crossed another bridge and I think we bought another sorbet and found our way back to the hotel.
As neither of us are big eaters, then the food in Florence was rather wasted on us. We went out looking for an apperitivo and eventually went into a bar in the san lorenzo area where we had a drink and missed the free food by 20 minutes.
As we would be up early to go to Venice the next morning we went back to our room and had another glass of wine and played on our phones. (thursday was the day of the scottish referendum so it was a bit special.)
Day 4
Woke up and after some contorting by the window we could see that the sky was a little overcast but not raining.
We set off in good time for the railway station where we were to go to a travel agency and collect our tickets. ( return on very fast train to Venice and a days pass on the vaporetta (bus/boat)) We met several other people there all of whom were curious to know what we thought of Scotland turning down independence- no comment!
Soon we were on our way to Venice. The train was great- comfortable and relaxing. It was quite startling to arrive in Venice after two hours over what seemed like a very narrow causeway. And when we walked out of the railway station there was the grand canal in front of us looking just like it does in films and photos.That was maybe what was strange about Venice- it was like a film set. I felt like it could not possibly be real.
 After some problems with getting our ticket printed off we got on to what we thought was the next boat. Strangely - another boat came along and scraped the side of our "boat" and a lot of people got on to it. After it moved off we realised we were actually on a floating landing stage.......ho hum......luckily another boat came along soon and we had a fantastic trip down the canal to st marks square.
I loved the colours of the buildings by the grand canal and the gondolas were beautiful - black and shiny with lots of gold bits and pieces.I was really impressed by them. They were works of art. I think I expected them to be a bit shabby in real life but in fact they were much more impressive.
Being scared of pigeons I could not wait to leave st marks square. Apparently Katy was almost in tears laughing as I tried to hide from dive bombing pigeons.
We decided to walk back to the railway station and the way was surprisingly well signposted. What a lovely walk. We constantly stopped to take photos  and make little detours. I loved the colours and have some photos I am very proud of. We arrived near the station much too early ( bit of a theme for us) so after sitting in a cafe beside the canal having a cocktail we walked off in the other direction and managed to buy some small pieces of murano glass. (or maybe it wasn't!)
We easily found the train and parked beside it was the orient express. It was beautiful. Just one more magical touch to add to a wonderful day.
We sped home reaching 300kmph. Brilliant. I had never expected to see Venice........ It was the most perfect of days.
Back at the hotel while we were checking out the internet in the "living room a lovely american couple came in. We had let them in the previous evening as we now had a key for the street door. They told us that we had missed a very bad hailstorm and showed us a photograph taken outside our hotel where the ground was white.
We would never have known as it was very warm and dry when we arrived back in Florence.
Day 5
This was our last full day in Florence. First on the list was breakfast at the food market and then we planned to go to the antiques market. ( lovely weather again!)  Despite my lack of map reading and a lot of "let's just go this way..." we easily found the market and had a great time looking through all sorts of things from vintage clothes to football medals- loads of stalls round a little lake.
On the way back we found another nice restaurant where we could get a salad and then as we were heading for the hotel we happened on the strozzi gallery again.( I thought it was in completely the other direction). So rather than try and find our way back later , we went in and bought ourselves tickets to the newly opened Picasso exhibition . I have never been particularly fond of the work of Picasso and I thought it looked even worse in real life- but it was interesting .
We followed that by having the most expensive sorbet ever. We should have checked the price but we had been paying about 4 euros each before so just assumed.....wrongly. 10 euros each!!!
By this time I think we had had enough culture so we thought we would go across the bridge and see what was over there and by chance we found some vintage shops- which we couldn't afford but were lovely to look round. There are so many beautiful shops.
After a short break we thought we would have another go at having an apertivo and this time  we succeeded and got the snacks as well as the drinks. It was lovely sitting watching people go by and the only downside was an extremely drunk english person who sat on the railings behind us and looked likely to fall off and brain himself. Left before that happened.
It was a bit sad strolling back. I have been in Florence 4 times now and I could happily come back again. There were crowds in our piazza again including  a bridal couple and we walked about a bit before reluctantly going inside.....
Day 6.
We got up and packed, paid our bill and then went out for a final coffee before returning to walk with our suitcases to the station. We had bought a new larger one for all the things we had thought we would buy but little murano wotsits don't take up much space so it was not very full. It did make a lot of noise though.
Feeling like seasoned travellers we waited for the Rome train .
We arrived in Rome about lunch time, dumped our cases in the hotel and went off to have a pizza. After that we more or less repeated my previous exploration but much slower and with more stops, another two vintage shops and a reasonably priced sorbet. So with lots more photos we were fairly done in and bought a few things in a supermarket to eat in our room. We had a good view of the street and took turns hanging out the window watching people eat in the nearby restaurants. The excitement of the evening was created by some weird person in the next room hitting the adjoining wall with what sounded like a sledgehammer.  however the guy at reception spoke to him and it stopped. I have no idea what he could have been doing.
The next morning we left, got the bus to the airport and were back in Edinburgh by lunch time.
I can't quite believe it all happened but I have the photos to prove it......................

gorgeous bathroom

door to hotel

katy searching for the sky


coffee in the piazza

more coffee in the piazza


antiques market in Florence


on a bridge in Florence

looking at the view


piazza della signoria




those sorbets........