THe glory of a story
Thoughts and threads of passion and experience that have woven the fabric I call my life. Sharing experiences, memories and ideas so that they are out in the world for you to find when the time is right.
THe glory of a story
We'd set the clock for 6am the next morning, and headed down to catch the sunrise. That day we got a spectacular view, as the clouds gave way to the glory of the eastern rising. We enjoyed it thoroughly, wondering why we didn't make this a part of our day to day life, rather than a rare occasion in a distant land. It was breathtaking and much more enjoyable because we'd remembered to take our towels and sweaters.
The plan for the day was to explore Otranto. We'd been lost in the town a couple of times, but never really seen too much of it. Over morning coffee, I had read through the brochure that was given to us when we checked into the hotel, and decided to make sure that we saw both the remains of the castle as well as the Cathedral.
We parked a few blocks away and were there in good time, prior to 9am. The streets were relatively calm, with many shops not yet even open as we began to explore the seaboard and the streets leading up to it. We continued to make our way along the marina wall until we found the outer shell of the castle.
Once inside, it was like we'd walked into an entirely different town! The streets became even narrower, lined with shop upon shop selling all manner of souvenirs, jewelry, shoes, clothing, pastas and breads. There was little you couldn't find there, although many of the restaurants and shops were still closed.
We walked to the end of the castle walls, then made our way back, stopping to check a few of the many shops for souvenir ideas, and local crafts. Pottery is a huge thing in the area, and many of the shops had walls and walls of cute chubby little pottery people, dressed in every kind of apparel. They were adorable, and several caught my eye, but the worry about how to get them home with out having them shatter convinced me to leave them where they were.
After finishing most of the first street's sites, we took a walk upward, on another narrow winding street, not knowing where it lead, but curious to continue exploring.
Half way up or so, we realized that we had found the Cathedral that I'd read about. We entered in, and found ourselves in a beautiful ancient structure. There wasn't a clear indication as to when it was built, but the Pantaleone Mosaic on the cathedral floor was to have been done by a monk from the Abbey of San Nicola di Casole between 1163 and 1166. His artistry depicted life of all kinds from that period, both mythological and real, as the floor was covered completely with symbols, animals, humans and what is likely the 'Tree of Life'. How painstakingly patient he must have been to place the tens of thousands of tiny tiles in their position as he created the artwork that remains today.
When the Turks attacked Ontranto on August 14, 1480, many women and children took refuge in the Cathedral we stood in, but history tells that in the end the sanctuary was invaded, and most were killed. Over 800 people died trying to defend the town from the invasion, and in one small room on the right side of the church, glass cases house the bones and skulls of many of the murdered people, the men, women and the children. It's a chilling reminder to all of the brutality of war.
There is an eeriness to spending time in such a place, as you think about the horror of their deaths, the lives unlived, the centuries between then and now. This is but one reminder of atrocities that have been committed when men pit themselves against men. You can't help but think about how the spirits of those who died live on in the history and architecture of this town, and so many other ancient towns like it. It's a reminder of the shortness of life...both theirs and our own. It makes you want to grab onto life with both hands and hold on tight, as all to soon it will be over.
I was left wondering how many dreams were sealed behind the glass with the bones of the dead. Then I had to ask myself what dreams have I put behind glass, not allowing them to breath and come to life. How long will I leave them there stagnant and protected, before I realize that the days are long, but the years are short, and the clock continues to tick.
What dreams do you have tucked behind glass yourself? When will you take them out, dust them off and bring them to life?
Italy was such an adventure for me. It's confirmed many of my dreams of what it would be like, but in other ways it has held a certain sadness...in how much garbage there is always found along the roadways, how frightening driving can be with so many determined, aggressive drivers sharing the highways, how much I don't understand because I didn't invest the time necessary to learn more of the language. But really, those are all small things compared to the joy of just actually being here, after so many years of imagining it.
I found I would dream about Shane almost ever night here. I dream about him a lot at home as well, but these were different dreams. They were dreams that included the sadness and frustration of things that he could not do or enjoy. I wonder if it was because one thing I'd noticed so much was that in all likelihood if Shane were still here this would never be a place he could enjoy being himself. There is very little that is even moderately accessible, and maybe that is another part of the acceptance that I continue to walk through. Whatever the cause, there weren't many mornings where I've awoken and he's been very far away.
The afternoon was pretty lazy. We wandered over to the #1 resort again in pursuit of the elusive mini-mart, once again didn't find it, then returned home and had a couple of ' almost warm' showers to get the sand out of our hair, then relaxed in the apartment. A nice change to some of the steady going that we'd had over the past couple of days. We relaxed at the apartment until 6pm then loaded our beach bag with some towels, wine and 'pink' red-cups, then headed down to catch the sunset.
That night we had the beach all to ourselves, as the crowds had headed in for the day, so we found a sheltered place along the dunes and enjoyed the colors of the setting sun. It was nice to talk about hopes, dreams, passions. I am focusing on mine and wanted for Cecil to think about doing the same. Although he says he doesn't have any, I know that is not the case. He is just afraid to verbalize them I think, for fear they will either sound silly or unattainable..or maybe that he's dissatisfied with how things currently are. I try to keep explaining that we can be very, very happy with how things are, but still need to have a dream to move towards. It's those dreams and passions that keep us growing!
It was a quiet night after that. Went back to another dinner of dried bread and cheese, a couple of glasses of wine and some hours spent on Pinterest as I try to keep building my plan for better social marketing to work towards my ideal life...that is just around the corner.
Next morning we managed to catch the alarm and headed to the beach to try and capture the sunrise. I read on a quote that you should try to catch at least one sunrise a year, so I guess we tried, but it really wasn't much of one. There were very big clouds to the east, and they blocked what would likely have been a magnificent show. It was very cool out along the water, I was very glad that Cecil thought to bring a towel. We joked about 'City of Angels' as we sat there waiting for the day to begin, realizing neither of us can remember if the angels went to the water for sunrise or sunset, so I guess we'll have to take the time to watch i once again.
We headed back to the apartment after about an hour, had our coffee and decided it really was too early to get going, so went back for a nap for an hour or so prior heading back to the beach.
On the beach there were a lot less people, but the lifeguard on duty was very determined that we sit in assigned seating. The wind was much stronger and although I didn't attempt to tackle the waves at all, Cec strode out into them after a while. However even he found they were too strong for him!
We enjoyed an hour or two of just soaking up the sun, rare for either of us. While sitting there I did a bit of a meditation, enjoying how the rhythm of the waves moves along with my own breath. What kept surfacing for me was my need to continue clarifying my own passions, and building my life around those. I'd recorded them on my iphone, and made a commitment to myself to revisit where I'd left off and expand with my markers, building upon the passionate life I already get to enjoy. I promised myself that I'd walk the talk more fully with each new day. They were clearer for me and I knew we are well on our way moving in the right direction.
After an hour of reading Mitch Albom's 'Time Keeper', we headed for a long walk down the beach in search of a vendor that might be still open to serve lunch. It was a long walk to find one, as most of this area was closing down after the summer season. It was amazing to us that so much of what we'd enjoyed is a season that only lasts from May until the end of September, yet the weather was still so gorgeous here, and the sea so warm. The question kept rising, what do people do for the other 7 or 8 months of the year when all of these resorts are closed down?
The one we found had a limited menu, but we were able enjoy a Corona, a white wine, some freshly made Bruschetta and Cecil had a salmon panini that he said was one of the tastiest meals yet. It was a lovely view from the deck and we enjoyed the moment, closely watched over by a server who looked all the world like my friend Keith did when I first met him. Very uncanny!
After a while, we made our way back to our own resort,and decided it was a good time to get out of the sun for a while. We remain two of the whitest species on the beach, but I know that spending more time there would only take me from white to red, not to the beautiful bronze that is displayed by so many others on the beach. It's a funny place here. Anything and everything goes as far as who wears what. I am beyond a doubt the most overdressed person along the stretch of sand, and though I look at so many around me knowing that if they can wear those small two piece outfits, I should be able to as well now, I have no desire to even try. My mother obviously raised me to be much too modest. I often do wish I were braver.
Upon reaching Maratea, we grabbed the chance to go back to Rossofermo Wine Bar, the little side street wine cafe, for another taste of last night's Chardonnay as well as the gourmet beer that Cecil enjoyed so much with Keith. We decided to have our supper there, a selection of chewy salamis (which was really various dried meats, bacon and veal) with cheese, and a Capri salad. The meal wasn't our the best, but the location, ambiance and company was unsurpassed.
Sitting there, we both felt that we were sitting in a movie production of our life's most amazing moments, perched on the little red pillows, with the shaky wooden tables before us. Spending time talking with Grandpa Banana, who is a musician who has committed himself to returning to Italy twice a year, for the rest of his life and learning all he needs to to be able to do that. He has also played at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, so he was certainly familiar with our corner of the world! He and his wife were from San Fransisco.
Looking up the stairs that led to only imagined possibilities, then down the streets to the colorful rows of Italian dreams, all was perfect.
Before leaving town we found the perfect beach towels that would serve both our hopes for more hours enjoying sand and sun, as well as something that will always take us back to this place....and a couple of lovely, Italian cotton tunics that put my spirit right back in the center of Maratea every time I put them on. Great way to end a very busy and eventful day...that neither of us will ever forget!
The icing on the cake, was the full Italian moon shining down on us as we returned to our lodging. The makings of one perfect memory!
Left the residence 'early to go to the 'Caves' for a tour. It was a little disappointing as Daniella from EuroTours had told me we could take pictures. We arrived and of course we could not. It was 20 Euro for a tour that was to be 90 minutes, and we were done in 70, so that was a bit of a rip off as well, as much of the time was just spent backtracking over places that we'd seen already. Live and learn. It was all okay but I think the caves in Cuba were more interesting to be honest.
Outside the caves, we spent time at the shops, and had fresh figs for the first time. They were delicious, as were the fresh grapes being sold by a local vendor who also had her own olive oil and homemade wine on hand.
Upon returning back to the residence we had lunch and an afternoon siesta to get ready to go on the evening tour of Maratea. It started out at the Christ the Redeemer church on top of the mountain. What a trail up that was, it leaves you white knuckled going up there, but oh my goodness what a view! We rode up with 3 older Italian people, Carla, Maria and Mario, who all spoke enough English to help translate for us with the driver. They were wonderful!
After the top of the mountain, we headed down to Port o'Maratea which was beautiful, then into the town square for an hour or so. In the town I found a few skirts at "Edourdo's" shop, then we bought some wine for later this week.
Before leaving town, we ran into Keith and Helma the couple from Austalia, who were having a drink on a side street, which was such a cool little corner, with pillows on the cement and the ambiance of the region. It was perfect! It was exactly what my dream of Italy was, captured in that little corner off the street.
We returned to have our dinner here at the residence, this time sampling the pizza. All was good, nothing that really left an impression, but all was fine. Back at the apartment, Cecil enjoyed his homemade wine from the lady at the Caves, I enjoyed a calm, beautiful evening. Life is very lovely, we are blessed!
After a good nights sleep, a 9am rise. In our shopping the night before, I thought I had bought vanilla yogurt for breakfast, but turns out to be vanilla pudding. Definitely should have learned more Italian, but a tasty start to the day. As we enjoyed the morning sun with olives, cheese and coffee on the patio,Cec noticed a little collection of lizards of some sort that seem to reside in the plant boxes on the patio. Not exactly sure what they were called, but they sure move in a hurry. If he hadn't noticed them before I did, I sure they'd have given me a heart attack!
Before 10am it was already very, very hot out. I didn't expect such heat...now looking back, I wonder to myself what is was that I did expect!
Our Sunday was a lazy day. We headed down to the travel booth about 11 and found a couple of options of tours to take, as well as possible options for a rental car that would get us to Otranto the following week.
After figuring out a few things, we grabbed a couple of bottles of water, and planned to go to the beach. Beer in the Resort mini-mart is 80cents, suntan lotion is 13.00 euros...so not everything is reasonable!
We took our expensive lotion and our water and headed to the bus stop to wait for the bus that takes you down to the beaches. After sitting on the benches for about 15 minutes, we got thinking that it was time for the drivers' lunch break, so we walked back to our apartment for lunch...and to look at the schedule that informed us that the lunch break doesn't happen until well after 1, so after gobbling down our olives and cheese we headed back to the bus stop.
We caught the 12:30 that took us down the windiest, steepest trail I have ever ridden on. The view was amazing, but the look over the edge of the road a little unnerving! The first stop at the bottom, the man seated across from us got up and off the bus, so I jumped up and followed, Cec jumped up and followed me... unfortunately, we were not at the beach, as we were the only two that jumped off at the little bar/restaurant that the two trails leading up from the beach meet at. So, what else, but to have a beer, and an ice cappuccino and wait for the next bus.
When it came, we hopped on, only to find out it went about 20 feet then turned around and headed back up the hill to the resort, so I guess were were very close to where we needed to be, but just didn't know it. We decided to wait until the next day to venture down again.
After returning, we had a couple of drinks at the bar then we headed up to the room for a siesta, that lasted almost 3 hours. I can't believe how tired we were, in the afternoon heat it seemed like the sensible thing to do. That evening we made our way back down to the main reception area to do a little more research on getting a cab to take us into town to do some exploring. Waiting for the restaurant to open, we had a great, and very interesting conversation with a couple from Sidney Australia. They have travelled to Italy 3 times now, and had lots of good information on Venice for when we hit there. They had a rental and had done more exploring than us, but seemed as nervous of the other drivers as we were after yesterday's experience! However they confirmed for us that it's possible. We'll see.
There was some relief provided in the conversation as they did confirm for us though that we're not the only ones that found having to make our beds a little strange, as well as having to phone the front desk to find out where the cutlery was hidden. No one ever thought that kitchen tools would be stored in the bottom of the fridge I guess!
Throughout dinner we were entertained by a young woman who sang just beautifully. Although it was close to the end of the tourist season there, there were still lots of activities going on for visitors. In the morning there was water aerobics going on in the pool, the afternoon offered dance lessons by the restaurant, and in the evening plays and activities going on down in the amphitheater.
My only wish was that I'd thought a little more about what the weather would be like, so I'd have been better prepared...for some reason I didn't take any of my sundresses, and very few cool clothes...not sure what I thought the weather might be like...but never thought it would be as warm as it was. But it's all good!
Our journey to experience the Matterhorn required our driving for about 1.5 hours up more, steep windy hills to Tasch, where we caught the train that takes you up the mountain.
The town is a strong reminder of Banff, with lots of expensive clothing and accessory stores, and dozens of villas and chalets for skiers to rent.
We walked up to the trolley lift, and continued our journey up the mountain, changing lifts 3 times to reach the top. The weather at the top was fantastic! Sunny, warm, although I was glad we'd purchased our souvenir sweaters the day before, as they were exactly what we needed when we landed on the snow covered top!
After spending time looking at the view from all directions, and having our host provide totally wrong information to another tourist who was looking for the new 'diamond' cabin, we headed to the Ice Palace, where we walked through the ice tunnels to view the carvings,and magic of this creation carved out of the glacier's ice. Cec and I tried the ice slide...he did better than I...must be that my behind is too hot to slide properly on the mats provided, but it was good for a laugh.
We videoed another message for the kids, because even though travel is one of my top passions and priority...so is my family...children, grandchildren, siblings and all. We eventually headed on our way down to the first change level for lunch.
We chose a quiet, small restaurant under construction, where we had a starter of cold smoked meats, followed by 'rotsi', a traditional swiss meal of potatoes, cheese, ham and egg in a cassarole type dish. It was here Cec and I both realized what our student from last year had tried to prepare the night she made us dinner when were were so befuddled by her creation. I felt bad, as I saw that it was something she was trying to recreate for us, even though the base was definitely not the same.
We relaxed on the outdoor lawn furniture in the warm sun, sipping our wine and beer, watching for butterflies and soaking in life. What a great day.
We eventually headed down the mountain, into the town where the French/German language division happens, and found a small winery that was open to sample wines and enjoy options. They served not only really great wine, but one of the nicest cheeses I have every tasted. After 4 options, we settled on a case of the second, a 'Petite Arvine', something our host had ordered for me the day before, that I loved, but can't say I've tried before. I must remember to watch for it when I go home and wine shop.
We returned home about 7 to relax, enjoy our wine and watch Jack Reacher together. I can't say enough about our time with our amazing Swiss host, he planned everything, and made sure we saw as much as we could in the short time were were allotted with him. What a great experience, and what wonderful memories! It made us glad for every opportunity we had offered his daughter the proceeding year, as it came back to us in the gift of this time here. I even had the chance to find and photograph the black swiss 'fighting' cows...who even knew they existed.
Winding our way back around Lake Geneva, humming 'Smoke on the Water' all the way, we eventually ended up in France, at a small town called St. Gingolph for a dinner of perch and fries.
The fries were the best I think I have ever eaten! Fresh, tiny and cooked perfectly as the waitress dished out portions from a large heated tray on our table. The starting salad was fantastic. Like all the salads we'd had since arriving, presentation is everything, with each vegetable laid out separately on your dish, in an effort to please the eye as much as the pallet .
Two bottles of wine later, we made our way home, heading to bed to prepare for the next busy day. It may have only been for one dinner, but I am now able to say of the places I've been blessed to experience, France is among them! Who would have thought!
Our next stop was Montreux. Because of the exceptionally mild climate Montreux is called the capital of the Vaud Riviera. Plants associated with the Mediterranean, such as pines, cypresses and palm trees grow here. Charlie Chaplin, Freddie Mercury and several other famous people of world-renown lived and continue to live on the Vaud Riviera. It is also where the song "Smoke on the Water" was written about. Who among we 70s kids doesn't remember that one! The tune played in my head the entire time we were there!
We toured the city, exploring the busts of the Jazz icons who have performed there over the years at the annual Jazz Festival, taking pictures of Freddie Mercury's statue and eventually stopping by Harry's, a famous bar in the Montreux palace hotel for a drink. Two beer and a white wine cost 30 Swiss francs, although they did serve the most amazing olives Cec and I have ever eaten! Based on the looks we received from other patron, it was clear they were of the opinion we didn't really belong there, as we were all dressed very casually in our touring clothes. Still, we enjoyed our selves none the less, and it was great to have had the opportunity to stop in! And reliving these memories here, is almost as sweet as the experience was!
Two thirds of the way back down from the top of the Dixience Dam, we came across Chapel Saint Jean. The small stone chapel was built in 1930 by workers during the first stage of construction of the dam. It was built to accommodate the deeply faithful Italian workers who dedicated years of their lives on construction of the dam.
The chapel was small but beautiful with detailed craftsmanship inside and out. The benches inside would only accommodate a very few men at any given time, but in sitting in the quiet of the tiny sanctuary, one could gather a sense of the peace that those who sat in prayer must have embraced.
Where are the places that you go to find that same sense of peace in your life? Is it in the sanctuary of a church? In the quiet of the space you where you meditate? Or is it walking in nature? For me, its either overlooking the view I have of the Assiniboine Valley here at home, or being close to a body of water. But on that day, peace found me in the mountains of Switzerland, and the quiet of that little church.
We continued our journey down the mountain, and continued the adventure of exploration, grateful for all the magic we've been allowed to experience!
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