After the first couple of weeks things have settled down a little. No, I’ll be honest; it’s getting boring. The trouble is, all our “stuff” is locked away in Peterborough and there’s not a huge number of things to do around here until we own the house and can get our things into it. The flat is quite nice as a holiday flat; in fact it’s better than the two others we’ve rented previously in Italy (making us experts, of course). But there’s no English-language TV except CNN (try nothing but that for two weeks if you think it’s not so bad) and there’s not even any Italian TV – appalling as it is – from which to learn the language. Because Anna is German the satellite dish and receiver are old German analogue ones, and there’s no terrestrial aerial, though I could look into getting a cheap one. Radio is a choice between a RAI channel that consists mainly of phone-in discussions (very worthy but difficult make any sense of) and a local music channel (oldies) with the news in English every hour.
The other alternative is to go out. There’s shopping, of course; the best local supermarket is about ten miles away just this side of Bordighera, though the village shops serve well enough for day-to-day needs. Then there’s the market at Ventimiglia. I mentioned the covered fruit and vegetable market in a previous note, but last Friday we went in for the full Monty, as it were. I can’t think how to describe it, except to say it would swallow Snetterton Sunday market (for those who know it) several times over. It’s seemingly endless, stretching along the sea front and into the roads behind the front. And it’s true; the French flock there in their hundreds, though we heard German and English voices too. And Italians, naturally. The stalls fall into three bands; the budget ten-euros-for-anything, usually run by Asians and Orientals; the mid-priced stuff of Italian origin and a few classy Italian leather goods outlets. It’s mostly clothing and if you have time and patience you can equip yourself from head to toe, complete with accessories.
Last week Anna took us to the 3-D Visionarium in Dolceacqua (five miles from here). This is a small cinema tucked away in the middle of the Old Town, that runs programmes in several languages (you can book the one you want). On the way in you are issued with 3-D glasses, to view the show, which runs for – well I can’t remember because it was all too fascinating. The show we watched was all about the Nervia valley, that runs up from Ventimiglia through Dolceacqua into the Maritime Alps, and consisted of seasonal sections in still photographs with a music and spoken soundtrack. All very Women’s Institute it would be were it not for the achingly beautiful pictures and the 3-D, which causes the images to leap out of the screen at you. Some of the pictures overflow onto the walls and ceiling and I can’t begin to describe the impact. When at one point the show describes local rivers and waterfalls, at the front of the room a pipe suddenly gushes water, and they have a scent generator that suddenly bombards you with lavender or pine. Anna said she’s been 25 times and has yet to tire of it; I can well believe that. But if you do fancy a change they also run shows about other parts of the world such as the Andes mountains in Peru. The Visionarium will be a must for all our visitors.
Everybody has been asking me about the weather. Well, up to a few days ago it was sunny mostly every day, with temperatures climbing to the mid-20s. That’s in the shade, of course; the sun is as hot now as it gets in England in July. According to CNN there’s presently a band of cloud across the middle of Europe, just touching the edge of the northern Mediterranean. For two or three days it’s been cloudy on and off, but I just checked the thermometer outside the front door (Monday at 2.45pm) and it’s reading 21. At the moment there’s no sun and the mountain opposite is shrouded in mist.. If this were England we’d be having drizzle, but here it’s dry. We had some rain the other night, which makes an average of over once a week since we’ve been here. This is regarded as exceptionally wet, as it often goes for nine months without rain. But that was before the Brits arrived.
At least with the weather cooling there are a few new things to do. Walking, for example. Living at 30 degrees to the horizontal makes walking hard work in the sun. The village (Apricale) is about half a mile away horizontally and 200 metres downward and takes me about fifteen minutes, but the return journey is half an hour of toil. We have a willing companion wherever we like, in the shape of Trixi, Anna’s dog, who is almost the spitting image of our own dog Shandy back in the 1980s.
And yesterday we found another activity that will either make us super-fit or kill us; rebuilding the terraces. They’re mostly in quite good condition, but in a few places the dry stone walls have given way and need a little TLC to restore them. We’ve started with the one out back by the washing line, and spent a few hours collecting rocks, pulling away the fallen soil and building a new section of wall.
I’ve no idea if it will survive, but at least it’s practice. We need to find some more building material, but Anna tells us that alongside the road above the house are suitable rocks in abundance, and failing that a lorry-load isn’t very expensive.