Newsletter October 2005

Its now six months since I wrote the last newsletter in April and time for an update, summer having been and gone in the interval. We enjoyed hosting five lots of visitors (of which more later), had several trips of our own, and on the whole it was quite a good summer from a weather point of view, marked (for the third year in a row) by being very dry. So much so that watering restrictions were applied in July/August as the reservoirs became seriously drawn down. With the dryness came fears of a repeat of the 2003 forest fires scenario, but while there were a number of fires in the region, none were close to us, this being partly due to the fact that the mistral was less frequent this year. A contributing factor was the discovery of a pyromaniac who admitted to setting at least six fires, who turned out to be the head of the fire-fighters’ mobile HQ.

In mid-April we set off for Ferrara to spend a few days with the family. They had bought the house next door, the lower two floors of which were derelict and the builders were in starting the required repair work, so we got a conducted tour. Walls stripped of plaster, showing ancient bricked-up doors and windows, rotten and not-so-rotten beams and staircases, arches missing important parts, what one would expect form six centuries of modifications, repair and bodgery. We visited the local markets, took Anna and Julia for walks and had a lovely day in the Parco Massari. We also went down to the Santerno valley to see the places that Caroline and Francesco were considering for renting for the summer, in the same village of Castel del Rio that they had been to in previous years. As we passed the Cavim winery at Imola on the way we stopped to fill up with Pignoletto, a sparkling white wine of which we are very fond.

On our return there was quite a lot to do in the garden, repairing the ravages of the (unusually cool) winter and moving things around as we usually do. We took down another tree – the Christmas tree in the front parking lot, as it was very close to the house and was shading the flower bed near it; which allowed us to transplant the natural variety bougainvillea from our new pergola to the sunny house wall. Beryl moved all the red Canna lilies into the bed where they made an impressive show during the summer. We had just about got things straight when we had our first visitors of the year, two of my old colleagues from DREO, Paul Pulsifer and Shawn Charland. We caught up on a number of items of common interest, had a few trips to places of interest including St Tropez, and tasted some wine – a very enjoyable visit. Shortly after their departure, Beryl flew to the UK (Bristol) to meet up for a few days with her sister Pam and brother-in-law Bill in Somerset. They visited the graves of the parents and felt they had time to say a proper "good-bye".

Next on our calendar was a stay in the Hotel La Lozerette in the Cevennes, where we spent a few days last year. We took our friend Christine Bates and met up at the hotel with her sister Patsy and brother-in-law Roger, who had come down from England by train. We had a great week, ate and drank superbly, and visited a number of places of interest and beauty, including the new Viaduc de Millau, which is quite an extraordinarily beautiful structure. A few days after our return, my brother Brian and his wife Erni arrived, and they profited from a quiet time around the pool with trips out to places of interest and the enjoyment of good food and wine. Soon after they left to continue their holiday in Germany, I went to meet Francesco at the half-way point to pick up Caroline and the girls and bring them back to Plan de la Tour. Francesco had to stay in Ferrara as the house renovations were in full swing and he had to be on hand to resolve daily problems, but Caroline and the girls came to us to enjoy the pool, the beach and be with Grandma and Grandpa in their house. Francesco joined us after about ten days and stayed the rest of the time until it was time for them to go back and occupy their summer rented apartment in Castel del Rio.We all had a great time and we very much enjoyed seeing Anna and Julia.

After the busy days of June, July was relatively quiet, we had no visitors, it was hot (although less so than in previous years), so we spent a lot of time in the pool or around it, or meeting up with local friends for barbecues or aperitifs. We put on a Canada Day (1 July) aperitif for about 40 guests, with hamburgers to follow, which went off very well after we had recovered from discovering, when I went to light the barbecue, that there had been a leak and the gas had all escaped! (The hamburgers were grilled in the oven.) The last week of July we went to Castel del Rio and spent an enjoyable few days with Caroline and family, which included celebrating Beryl’s 70th birthday. For the day we had dinner at a restaurant at Tossignano, a village on a hill down the valley with lovely views, with the restaurant on the side of the main square. While we were in the area, we paid another visit to the Cavim winery to restock with Pignoletto.

In August we were very happy to be able to host our neighbours from Kanata, Rick and Hella Bertrand, who spent a week with us before going on to explore Tuscany. We had a great eating, drinking and gossiping week and they got out to see a few places of interest. After their Tuscan visit, they went north to Castel del Rio and met up with Caroline and family, including going the village porcini festival dinner. Hella was very happy to see Caroline again (she was her teacher in elementary school) and to see Anna and Julia. After their return they spent the night with us before going off to Nice to fly back to Canada.

September brought cooler, more unsettled weather and when Pam and Bill arrived for their stay it was more conducive for visiting places of interest than during the hot months, which are also crowded with tourists. During their stay we celebrated my and Bill’s birthdays, had several good dinners out and a lot more good ones at home, and caught up on the news. Pam and Bill had had to install the hurricane shutters before they left their home, as several hurricanes had not been far away and more were expected (fortunately for them, Katrina and Rita went the other way!).

With the US contingent on their way home via Paris to Miami, we set off for Ventimiglia, just across the border in Italy. Ken and Gill Round and Gordon and Ann Marwood, old friends from Kanata and even longer, were staying in a rented apartment on the old part of the town, up on the hill and we were invited to stay for a few days. The apartment was interesting, as it was part of an old hotel and was built into the old wall of the town. From the balcony we could look down at the people traversing the Porta Nizza (ancient gate that was on the road to Nice) and the bar/restaurant below. We dined there the first night and had a good meal of simple Italian food and jugs of local wine. The next day we visited the weekly street market, which attracts visitors from afar including France. The day after we went up the Nerva valley to Dolce Acqua, where we had coffee and took pictures of the castle and bridge, then on to a hill village called Apricale, when we had an excellent lunch at a restaurant called La Capanna di Baci. All too soon it was time to bid our friends au revoir and return home to La Ramade, where it seemed that autumn had really arrived.

Love to you all from Alan and Beryl.