To Market ... Acqui Terme, Piedmont

Acqui Terme has been a revelation to me.  I  had imagined a small Italian village that serviced the farming community. 

I am now so ashamed of my extreme ignorance.  I should have searched Diana's name with 'Acqui Terme'.  She wrote a lovely piece over on Slow Travel Italy, with the title: So, Ok, But, Well, Why Acqui Terme?

I need to go back and photograph it all but imagine, I dipped my hand into this fountain ... La Bollente, a fountain built in 1879 by Giovanni Ceruti that is arguably Acqui Terme's most famous landmark. At all hours of the day and late into the night men, women and children can be seen visiting La Bollente (literally "the boiling source"), filling jugs and buckets with the curative waters that rise to the earth's surface here at 75 degrees celsius.

Today it is a thriving town surrounded by vineyards that produce some of the most remarkable wines I've ever tasted.  But more on the wines another time, although this wine was indescribably delicious.

We were there for the market and I managed to replace that hat I lost in Genova too. 

Diana bought a chicken from a man who grows the tastiest chickens (I imagine I might be getting boring with all this 'exquisite' and 'best ever' stuff, I know.  It will pass.  Forgive me.)  And she selected some cheeses and some gloriously sweet juicy tomatoes. 

Diana roasted the chicken until it was golden on the outside, some potatoes, and whipped up a tomato salad too.  Micha opened another delicious Piedmont red wine and voila ... dinner was truly divine.

The Rainbow Seat, Piedmont

Diana and Micha have created an extraordinary space here at their B&B in Piedmont.

It's a photographer's delight really.  Everywhere you look, there is some exquisite detail.  Yesterday, swimming in their pool, I would stop sometimes, lean on the side and just concentrate on how much beauty there was there in front of me.

And perhaps it seems like I'm exaggerating, or that I don't get out much, or I'm easily impressed but really, I'm almost sure that it's just about the fact that B&B Baur is beautiful.

To Step Out of the World ...

To step out of the world, to stop for a little bit ...  I discover that I am tired.

I discover so many ideas clamouring to be explored. 

I see a need to change how I live.

Here in my exquisite room, going over workshop notes, I need to lie on my bed periodically ... to rest, just for a couple of days.  And there's time, we don't begin until Sunday.

My mind was still racing and so I began with one of those meditative visualisations ...imagine you are lying on a beach in a beautiful place, then smiled, as I understood my reality.  I am here in a beautiful place, lying on a comfortable bed in a exquisitely decorated bedroom, in Italy.

Viktoria Mullova is playing Bach on my laptop, quietly, without destroying the peace of the Piedmont countryside. 

Sitting outside earlier, just before Diana and I set out to the market in Acqui Terme, I looked up ... of course there are grapes growing overhead here.

One Of Those Quietly Joy-filled Days ... in Italy

 You know when you step into so much beauty that you almost cry ... ?

It was like that today, as I arrived at my new 'location' for these next few days.

Diana and I are preparing our  Beautiful Truth Retreat for a small  group of women who are flying in from all over the world.

And while we made plans together over months, the reality of where I am to spend the next few days is truly overwhelming today.

I remember my first visit to Diana and Micha's place.  During the tour I noticed a small table next to a green-shuttered window, with a view out over a lush Italian hillside, and I imagined how it would be to inhabit that space for a while ...

Today I am writing this from that exquisite location.  And it is as good as I imagined. 

There is work to be done in the days leading up to Sunday but for today, I am luxuriating in the quiet joy that has filled me to overflowing.

A glimpse ... just a really small taste of what I am talking about. 

Only a glimpse because I am running on a few hours of sleep, after a 3am start for the 4am airport bus and my 6.30am flight to Mlian.  Despite that, it has been a day filled with quiet joy.

I woke while my plane was crossing the Italian Alps.  Laid out below me and not too far away, it seemed, was ridge after shadowy-sunrise ridge, rising up out of the delicate early morning mist. 

It's been like that today  ...

It's all about details too ...

One of the things that really struck me about Diana and Micha's B&B were the details ... exquisite details.

I felt concentrated, like a kid playing in mud, using flowers and twigs for decoration.  I had light and colour.  I was that lost during those moments when I played with my camera ... lost in the light, and the details.

This is an odd photograph and yet  I think I like it.  The light struck me but perhaps I saw the mosaic first.  I don't remember but it's like this.  You can spend hours in each room, outside, and in doorways, just noticing the details, one by one.

And so, the rooms ... B&B Baur, Italy

After I had wandered outside for a while, I stepped inside.  Oh my, I could  spend weeks in some of those rooms ... walking through the early mornings and out into the evenings but writing, just writing, all day.

They're inspirational rooms but see for yourself.   And this, incidentally, is one of the rooms our workshop clients will be staying in ...

Note: I had no tripod this trip and so I made do with a ledge which was limited.  I was sherpa enough without carrying a tripod this trip.

Before Photography ...

Before I committed to photography, I was pursuing a writing career.

I attended writing workshops with New Zealand writers and have this novel I've been carrying since the early 90's.  As I develop, move countries, learn new things, so too does my main character.  By chance.

Currently she's a war photographer who was in Iraq but who somehow ... happens to have relocated to Genova, Italy.  Before that, she was a woman in retreat, living in the mountains of New Zealand, alone with her dog, once again retired from a previously intense life.

There's a book of interviews with New Zealand climbers and mountaineers, almost published, two publishing meetings and an apology but 'they didn't think there was a big reading public for it', despite them liking it a lot.  The Everest tragedy happened later and climbing literature became more mainstream however, by then, I had enrolled at university: age 34.

I was heading for Bill Manhire's writing course in Wellington.  I ended up in Istanbul.

It makes me laugh to write that.  One never knows where life might take them if they allow it to take them ...

Anyway, back in my days of writing I used to drive my first husband crazy.  No, that's not why he divorced me.  I used to edit and correct as I wrote.  I would reach 27,000 words and edit it down to 3,000 words.  I was brutal and a perfectionist too. 

But it was my editing that made him crazy.  As I got closer to the final edit ... on a first chapter (hence I never finished the book), my editing would become minute.  I would give him the manuscript to see what he thought of my edit.  He would say, 'there's no change!'.  Exasperated, I would explain that I had moved two 'the's' and deleted an 'and'.  How could he not see the difference that made.

Children, never edit an unfinished manuscript.  Write it.  Fix it afterwards.  Or you will never finish.

The reason I write all of this is because ... there was another photograph of B&B Baur, like the previous one  but different.  I think the edit isn't so small but perhaps it is tedious to those reading this blog.

This is me and I need to 'see' both of them here, so that I can happen upon them unexpectedly later, and really 'see' them as a stranger.