Lake Garda and Castles

Ciao Amici,

I have to start this week by giving a shout out to my husband, Will, he is awesome. For all the usual reasons, of course, but today for the fact that he never smothers my spark for adventure. I say things to him like, “Hey I was perusing Pinterest and saw this castle up on Lake Garda…

 

He usually responds with, “Okay, let’s go!”

He is the Adventure Partner extraordinaire!

He frequently forgets to ask me important questions, like how far away or what are we going to do there, or any other multitude of questions that could arise when one’s spouse decides she wants to make impromptu trips every weekend or so. Now, admittedly, not all of my “great” ideas pan out, like the time I wanted to go to Parma and the temperature was less that freezing. (FYI, we had lunch, went to the Museo Lombardi [Marie Louise and Napoleon] and came home; we spent more time in the car then in Parma). However, sometimes I choose a jewel of a day and it is decided while we are there that it shall be one of our favorites.

This was how we felt about the Scaliger Castle in Malcesine and specifically about Lake Garda. It was a beautiful day, warm, maybe a little too warm; but the drive was spectacular and the lake itself was breathtaking.

I had no idea what we were getting into, I just knew I wanted to go and when we dropped down into the valley that holds Lake Garda I knew I had been correct. The lake has sailing, paddle boarding, kite surfing, paragliding, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, the list goes on. The perimeter of the lake has many towns to visit, shop, sightsee, hiking, cycling, mountain biking, mountain climbing, and on. Basically, if you like the outdoors, whether you are a sedentary person or not Lake Garda has you covered. As soon as it gets warm Italians, like Americans, feel this crazy need to take off as many clothes as possible and bake themselves crispy and the lake has these jutting rock, cement, and gravelly sand piers that one to five people take over, they set up camp and begin the baking process stopping only when they are lobster red. (I have always thought this idle afternoon purposeless and boring not to mention harmful to my skin and health; to each their own). But I digress…

We parked and walked down the hill (plenty of hills, prepare to get your calves in shape) to Malcesine. They were having some sort of local market but we were mesmerized by the water and went towards it. We quickly found out that not all streets lead to an accessible waters edge. We could get to water but…it was also a ferry stop so we really couldn’t get to the water, also remember this area is not ‘sandy’ so we ended up on the ferry pier with rocks and buildings on either side. Not quite what we were looking for.

Heading back up the hill we spotted a bench and decided to stop for lunch. Now, we have made a joint decision to start packing a lunch with us when we go out for a couple of reasons, first eating out all the time is expensive, so if we pack a lunch it leaves more money for gelato, beer, and wine. Secondly, in direct opposition to the second half of my first statement you can’t lose any weight or even stay the same weight eating good italian food all the time* (No, I have no idea how Italians stay so skinny). As I am trying to lower my weight to a healthy hiking level I can’t eat cheese pasta and pizza everytime we go out, thirdly if I want to keep having adventures, drinking beer and eating gelato I need to be a little frugal. (I know these statements don’t all seem to go together but they really do, I swear!)

After sandwiches and apples we decided it was time to visit the castle. Scaliger Castle was everything I had been missing in castles since we moved to Italy. Ramparts, walkways, winding stairs, hidden areas and a big tower to climb. Though there is no date for its exact origin the year 1131 carved into a fourth floor vault lets historians know the first years of restoration. Making it clear that it has stood for close to, if not far over, a thousand years. The area itself has many geographically defensible and profitable characteristics and the area has likely been used since prehistoric times. So, the castle, or a settlement of stronghold nature has likely been there for a long, long time.

From the walls sweeping views of the lake, town, and mountains are visible and there is no where to look that isn’t beautiful.

                      

We walked through the castle and visited the natural history museum giving a visitor information on local flora and fauna. From here we decided to find the path we saw from the ramparts which curved its way along the lakes edge.

We headed back down the hill with accurate remarks about having to trudge back up the hill on our way back, but the walk was worth it.

It was during this walk that we decided that this might be one of our new favorites and made tentative plans to come back and hike, bike, paddle board, maybe even kitesurf, who knows. Most likely none of this until after the Scotland trip, which will be upon us in a scant 29 days, Yikes! (so not physically ready for this!!)

We walked back up the hill in search of gelato but decided to stop for a refreshing drink first and I found a new love. A local craft beer by Manerba Brewery, refreshing, light, a perfect summer beer!

After relaxing with our drinks we did eventually find gelato. I second guessed myself and instead of going back to a place I had sussed out earlier I bowed to pressure of a line and went to a place that had a steady stream of customer. Though it was tasty it was as fake as fake gealto can be. Artificial flavors and colors with bright green pistachio and jolly rancher flavored watermelon. Oh well, live and learn, always go with the first gelato instincts. After the gelato we headed back up the hill to our car, (lots of hills in Italy) a perfectly wonderful day by the lake and plans to return. What a gem of a find!!

Until next week,

Ciao Miei Amici

* I tell everyone who is going to visit they should lose 5-10 pounds prior to coming, they will definitely be putting it back on.

Memory Lane

Ciao Amici!

It’s another week in beautiful Italy, and I marvel every day how lucky I am to live the life I have been given. I have titled this blog Memory Lane for two reasons. First, I really do have an awesome life, not just living in Europe for the last year and a half but also some crazy adventures on the other side of the pond. Since I just started writing and my life does have boring weeks (honestly, I am not on a perpetual vacation, even though sometimes it seems that way.) I wanted to occasionally be able to share some things that happened before I started blogging.

Secondly, this last week my wonderful husband lost his father. Bill Potere was an obnoxious and sweet man. He enlivened every moment, in every room, even if you wished he would do so more quietly sometimes. He will be sorely missed by his children, his wife and all that knew him. His memory will live on in every conversation that starts with “Do you remember when Bill said…”

Because of his sad passing my husband was in the states for the weekend and I stayed closer to home (except for a small four mile walk with my pack). So, I thought that I would tell you about Carnival in Venice that Will and I were able to experience for one day in February.

What to say about Venice…

There are no cars. Water taxis/buses and narrow walking streets are the only way around the island. It can easily transport the adventurer back to the days when the Venetians ruled the land. Minus, of course, all the modern kiosks of people selling masks, Murano glass, and other various kitschy things that tourists might want. Though I am sure they had their own set of pushy sales people.

The houses seem tall in comparison to the tight walking streets and it feels like most of your time is spent in shadows until you unexpectedly walk into a piazza (square). These open areas allow the crowds to disburse and the sun to filter down. The shopping and restaurants are numerous and the atmosphere is old world, as if time has forgotten to catch up with all that is in Venezia.

There is so much more exploring to do in Venice but Carnival is not a time to explore it is a time to be swept along with the festive atmosphere of the crowds, exclaim over the elaborate costumes and pray that you aren’t claustrophobic.

Sooooooo many people! We talked about taking a water bus to Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square, one of the most famous landmarks in Venice) but I got the bright idea of walking first. That was all she wrote. We were swept up into the crowds and didn’t, no couldn’t, stop moving until we came out an hour and half later at Piazza San Marco. The swarm of humanity bore you along like a fish in a current. You had two choices panic or swim with a smile on your face enjoying all the people.

Making sure we had each other in sight; Will and I pasted smiles on our faces and swam along. At least half of the people we passed wore masks of one sort or another, not necessarily elaborate costumes but just masks. We followed two couples for quite awhile and one of the men had a bag of confetti (the paper pieces not the candy) and sprinkled confetti liberally over all passer-byers. He was hilarious and enthusiastic; speaking rapidly and loudly in Italian making sure that everyone was well covered in pieces of paper. (Vendors sell bags of confetti in various sizes so all can participate in the confetti sprinkling). There was no way to divert from the pack and make it to Rialto Bridge so we proceeded with the group towards Piazza San Marco. There we saw children with their own bags of confetti dumping them over themselves and their siblings amidst high pitched giggles of laughter and indulgent adult smiles. People, people everywhere! It was tourism at its extreme and with no way to swim back up stream towards the train station we finally caught a water bus so we could see Venice from the comfort of our bottoms.

The views from the water bus were no less spectacular and I could have happily stayed on the water and just gone around and around. However, another side of me said too much humanity and we slowly made our way back to our car parked on the very edge of the island (the only place vehicles are allowed).

To me the things that made the most impressions from that day (we have been back to Venice and will go again because I love the vibe of the town so these impressions are just from the wildness of Carnival) were two things, the vibrance of all humanity, happiness and enthusiasm filled most everyone young and old. Second, were the elaborate costumes. I was not in a position to take many good photographs that day, (I was a touch overwhelmed by it all), but I took a picture or two. Elaborate dresses and anonymity are the name of the game. Those in costume don’t speak, they will pose but are considered a thing apart.

There were people with elaborate headpieces (men and women) some like all the flowers of a garden, others with bird cages on their heads, full makeup and dressed from head to toe in light blue velvet. Others, like the two ladies I managed to snap pictures of were wearing elaborate gowns with full face masks. I would be lying if I didn’t say I wanted to be one of those people. A part of the festivities and apart from all the festivities at the same time.

I felt it was truly magical and I look forward to next year’s Carnival, I will be better prepared for picture taking and maybe, just maybe I will dress up too.

I hope you enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane

Until next week

Ciao Miei Amici

 

April sunshine, electrical problems and too much pizza

 

(A little pond on the river walk, it looks murky but was quite clear with fish swimming about)

Ciao Amici!!!

As usual, my time here in Italy, is strangely eventful and uneventful at the same time. By that I mean we do what everyone else does, get up, work, take care of the house and kitties, I write my book, think about blogs, we grocery shop, make food, clean up and do it all again. With a few notable challenges, we don’t speak the language yet and I look forward to adventure days. (The fun ones, not the ‘crap my husband just left for Korea and the basement flooded’ ones*)

This last week didn’t bring a flooded basement but an electrical breaker problem. Now, most of us have tripped a breaker a time or two and then we trudge off to the breaker box and reset it and life goes on. This time, when Will reset the breaker it tripped every other breaker. Not only did we not have lights in the basement but not anywhere in the house. A nerve racking concept when you live behind a motorized gate. As luck would have it the rest of the breakers turned back on and power was restored, until you tried to turn on the basement… blackout!!!

I am exaggerating but a blown breaker means a call to our landlord. A wonderfully, sweet, older gentleman that speaks no English. (His granddaughter does and we communicate through her a lot, except that when he comes by the house he comes alone, or with workers, and my mind seizes and I can’t remember a single Italian word I have been practicing).

On Thursday he showed up with the electrician, who also spoke no English. They ask “permesso” to enter and then electrician goes to work in the very loud, angry, Italian way. Meaning he is loud because he is Italian but angry when it doesn’t go right. And loud about being angry.

They track the power all through the basement, out into the garage, and finally to an outside outlet box that had been filling up with rain water and shorting out the system. The whole time telling me in Italian, “Signora, no bene.” He said that a lot and I am not completely sure I know what wasn’t any good. After three hours of not understanding anything except that it wasn’t good, they smiled at me, told me “grazie” and left.

Whoosh!

House problems are a pain and disruptive no matter what, add a language barrier in and my head wanted to explode. But we have lights in the basement, so I don’t have to ride the bicycle trainer in the dark. Even with an exploding head I consider that a win.

On Friday we had a lovely meal with friends at a pizzeria they introduced us too. La Meridiana has wonderful pizza and even though it is not close to us we consider it the best pizzeria in the area so far.

http://www.ristorantepizzerialameridiana.it/

In full disclosure, we haven’t begun to investigate the restaurants near us. Too much to see and do and when you are close to home, eating at home tends to make more sense.

Especially when you are fighting the three P’s! (Pasta, Pizza, and Pastries, which can quickly turn into plenty of pound’s if you aren’t careful)

Saturday was a beautiful spring day, the kind I really like, sunny, warm, gentle breeze, the whole shebang and we went on a small adventure to see Romeo and Juliet’s castles, a quick 30 minute drive from our house. (More like an hour but who am I to question google.)

I must say after living in Germany I was underwhelmed by the castles, I am used to great structures with intricate staircases and what would have been thriving out buildings. These castles were square and boxy with no ornamentation to be seen and little in the design to insinuate that they should be considered romantic spots. I mean, obviously these were never the real Romeo and Juliet castles since they are fictional characters mentioned in various literatures and probably taken off of some love affair gone bad but I guess I was hoping for more. The interior walls to Romeo’s castle were in disrepair or carted off for other uses, one large tower remained, which we did not climb, and the interior grounds (no roof) of the main castle area had been turned into a theater with a stage and seating for patrons. I actually thought an outdoor theater was a neat idea for the castle.

(the further tower is the interior tower to Romeo’s castle)
(Juliet’s castle from below)

 

 

 

 

 

Juliet’s castle was a little more intact as in having four walls. They were doing some reconstruction on it to help maintain the integrity of the walls. It is also a venue for weddings, though, again to my mind, unimpressively unromantic for a wedding. They also had a restaurant that we didn’t try but I read some good blog reviews on the food and staff. The view from atop the tower/restaurant was breathtaking and it made the day very worth it.

The views and this old church on the grounds between the two castles that was very picturesque. I fell in love with the stairs leading up to the church.

 

On a side note, the grounds of both castles were marked out for a bicycle race of some sorts, a couple of riders were getting a lay of the course while we were there. I would have liked to find out more information on that race but a perusal of the interwebs gave me nothing concrete.

After the castles, a bunch of errands and yard work on Saturday, Sunday dawned with the idea of taking our new hiking packs out for a test run. So we loaded them with a bunch of our equipment and water bladders. We got the weight up to about 25 pounds each, we think that is a good 10 pounds shy of our final weight but I will let you know when we pack for the airport!

 

 

The river path near our house is pretty flat and we took off down the dirt. We got many interested looks from passing Italians, we also saw a bunch of Italians willing to bbq their bodies and their food on the riverside. It seems to be a very popular area to go hang out on the weekend.

Three miles wasn’t all that far when you consider that most days we will be walking seven, plus added distance for exploring. But it was a good start. We came home feeling strong and proud of ourselves, about two hours later we were exhausted. Ooops, seems like we are going to need some more conditioning. Those of you who know me know the story of me setting out on a 900 mile bicycle touring trip with a brand new saddle for my butt to ride on. Those of you who ride bikes and don’t know me can still feel the agony I went through for the first week. Let’s just say I learned from that episode and plan to go to Scotland, even though it is only four days, not 21, well prepared with all my gear broken in correctly.

We went to bed pretty early Sunday and Will told me before we went to sleep how glad he was that he had a whole week of work before I started with my next list of errands and adventures. I am not sure quite what to say to that…

Until next week, miei amici, Ciao!

*Germany house story for another time

Even small adventures make for a great week!

Ciao Amici,

Week two of writing on the blog, crazy I know, but I have a plan. A schedule even, colored coded and indexed on Google drive worksheets and it tells me today is blog day… so here I am ready to tell you all about our adventures over the last week.

Last week was a culmination of Easter weekend and April Fool’s Day. In Italy it means a four day weekend for most folks and you better believe that there will be no stores of any kind open on Easter Sunday or Easter Monday. ( I was told Sunday is for family and Monday is for friends). Ours was a quiet holiday but our neighbors had a houseful most of the weekend.

I did attempt my first tiramisu from scratch, ladyfingers and all, but first let me tell you about our Friday adventure.

On our way to the local grocery store two polizia waved red paddles at me and motioned for me to pull over. One of them came up to the window and asked for my papers (honestly he asked in Italian and I just surmised that he wanted the same thing a police officer anywhere else would want). I handed him my drivers license, American and Italian, and the car’s registration, followed by “Parle Inglese?” He shook his head no and I took a deep breath hoping that I would understand enough to get through this encounter. He asked for my insurance, and Will (sitting next to me) who has a much better linguistic ear caught the word for insurance and handed over the last necessary paper.

After several minutes of conversation between the officer and his partner the partner came up to the car and in broken english (which was much better than my italian since all I had said was Parle inglese) told us that our insurance didn’t show up when they ran our plates. As far as we can tell the police have a camera that runs the plates of passing cars, alerting the officers when a car needs a second look, apparently I needed a second look. It would seem that until we figure out why the insurance doesn’t link to my registration I may be getting pulled over a lot, Yikes!!

Saturday was a rainy day here in northern Italy, we decided to visit a garden center. I have been hankering for more houseplants and fresh herbs since I gave roughly a dozen of my plants away before we moved down to Italy. The garden center was beautiful.

*From cacti to succulents, with a fair amount of other greenery thrown in the whole center was beautiful*

Plants were grouped by types and at the end of a row of plants was a neat pile of the appropriate potting soil for the plants in that particular row.

 

 

 

*They have an entire section dedicated to Bonsai*

The herbs and vegetables looked well tended. But for me the real joy was when Will decided to buy me a lemon tree! I have always wanted my own lemon tree!

*Jake wondering why I keep taking his picture as he peeks through the balcony door*

I named him Murphy Meyer (don’t even know if he is a meyer lemon tree but I like the name). Murphy is now hanging out at our balcony door so I can put him out during the day and move him in during the night, at least for a couple more weeks and then he will be an outdoor lemon tree until fall!

We actually got out of the garden center pretty cheap considering I bought, herbs, lavender, a couple of small houseplants, potting soil, and Murphy. I know we need to make a return trip or two. Sorry, Will!

Saturday evening was for emergency pizza and starting tiramisu. So many parts to it that I was overwhelmed but in true Karyn fashion I plunged ahead, all the while having no clue what I was doing. I chose the hardest recipe in Jul’s Kitchen recipe repertoire. Or maybe it just seemed like the hardest.

https://en.julskitchen.com/dessert/the-daring-bakers-challenge-tiramisu

I see you nodding your head saying, of course you did.

As many of you that have experienced Karyn cooking at her finest, some of what I make is delicious, some is edible, some of it nobody but the trash can has ever seen. However, I moved forward making the zabaglione and the vanilla pastry cream and setting them to chill for the night. My opinion after making these parts –  man I need a double boiler, or at least a bowl that fits into my pan better. I would finish making the parts and assemble the final product for Easter leftover dinner.

After all the rain on Saturday, Sunday was a perfection of blue skies and bright sunshine. It was a little breezy but not overly so. I started laundry and with a couple of loads on the outside line and my savoiardi/ladyfingers baked we decided to go for a walk. The Scotland trip is a mere 50 days away and I feel unprepared.

*A plastic baggies is a perfect substitute when you don’t have a pastry bag*

 *The church in a neighboring village*

The day was made for walking and we followed the river trail by our house, it is really flat but we need to put some walking miles in and when our packs arrive we will be doing that walking with our loaded packs. What I concluded after a quick 3 miles was we live in a beautiful region of Italy and I am happy for the adventures that we have had and the ones that await us. Back home for left overs and tiramisu soup. All in all a great week!

 

*Tiramisu soup, but it tasted rich and creamy, so now I just have to figure out how to make it set*

Karyn Version 8.6

Ciao Amici!

I know this is not the first time, or even the second time, you have seen an opening post from me. Like many beginning bloggers, I get started and then I get side tracked; and damn, I would really like to say that isn’t going to happen again but those of you who know me know what happens when I get an idea in my head. What I can say is for better or worse here I go again. Karyn blogging version 8.6

The problem is my life has been so exciting… I mean really exciting and when your plate is full of adventure it is hard to take the time to sit down and write, but now Will and I are in year two of living in Europe (That’s right, Europe! And I say Europe because we just moved to a new country in January, but I will get to that.)

With it being year two I have made some adjustments. Nope, I don’t have the language thing down, (see the above comment about moving to another country) but I have mastered some of my fears and expectations. Will and I are finally finding a rhythm, a crazy fun filled one, but a rhythm nonetheless and I am hoping (with all my fingers crossed) that means that I will have more time this year to write. Not just this blog but also the book I have been working on.*

Let me explain the craziness of the whole thing… first, in November of 2016 Will and I moved to Germany. I thought I was ready. I convinced myself I was ready and then BAM!!  Culture shock! One of the hardest things for me was grocery shopping. Even though many of the foods were the same, (let’s face it no matter what they call it chicken is chicken in any country, the same with corn, or beans, etc.) I was frightened that I would not be able to feed us. Really terrified we would starve. Will and I would go to shop and I would end up paralyzed in an aisle crying and hyperventilating. Will would find me  and I would tell him in anguished tones “We are never going to eat again! We will starve to death because I can’t find any food in the grocery store!” and then we would leave until I could try again. A completely irrational fear, it was a grocery store and peanut butter and honey is available in almost every country but it took me several attempts at shopping before I would stop shaking. I still feel overwhelmed when I shop.

We were lucky that our first European stop was Germany because Will had been there for roughly nine years of his life and he spoke German very well.

Don’t let him fool you, he would say Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch (I speak a little German). I think he should say Ich spreche sehr gut Deutsch (I speak German very well). Regardless of his feelings about mastering the language he was able to navigate our move with much more ease than I did.

Now fast forward 13 months to December of 2017, we accepted a position in Italy. We were moving again, still in Europe but a new country, a new language, a new set of cultural norms. This time I was excited in a different way. I will also mention that a childish part of me was thrilled that we were moving somewhere where Will would be as lost as I was going to be (I am such a mean wife). Long story short, don’t ever, and I mean never, move at Christmas time. WOW! That was overwhelming. Add to the chaos of moving the fact that my daughter had her first child. Will and I became grandparents to an adorable little guy on December 22, we call him The Finnrito! 

So, we moved to Italy, I was there one day and flew back to the states to stay with my daughter and meet our grandson. Will stayed behind (in the hotel) with our two cats, Jake and Moo, our clothes, and plants. He really did get the short end of the stick on this one. While I was gone he found us a fabulous place to live and some great new friends. I flew back just in time to move into the new place and our furniture was delivered a week later. The cats were very happy to have their household goods back, Will and I were pleased also.

Now that you are caught up to our present life I feel I can move forward with our adventures. I can say we have a lot of them, from learning about squat toilets and bidets (search YouTube for hilarious videos of both) to searching through city streets at 3 in the afternoon for food because I am a hangry kind of person.

Old cities, new adventures, oh and we decided to backpack the coast of Scotland for four days in May with some friends. Lots and lots going on that I can’t wait to share with you.

I hope that I will be able to keep up the blogging process for my sake and yours.

Until next week,

Ciao

*sorry everyone that has supported my writing endeavors, it is not another Mel book.

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