Leaving Genova again ...

This morning, I set the alarm for 6.15am, giving me time to clean the apartment before leaving ... two loads of laundry to do.

I woke at 5.20am and lay thinking how unfair it was, knowing there was no way to sleep again.

I showered, put the first load of laundry through, and packed.  I began mopping floors and then voila, almost 8am, and I needed breakfast.

I sat at an outside table at Caffe Degli Specchi, with a cappuccino and brioche, realising that today was the day of leaving Genova ... again.

And so I walked, through the city's centro storico  ... walked until just after 8.30am. The air is a soft 17 degrees celsius, the sun is out and, as always, all around me was the quiet hum of this city I love.

'Ciao!' is everywhere.  It makes me smile.  People arrive in the cafes, pass each other in the street, arrive at work ... 'Ciao'.

I'll miss that.

Someone has written a long story on the footpaths here.  Beautiful Liguria has the story on Facebook. I didn't have my camera but I stopped this young guy and asked what it was about.  Apparently, it's something to do with WWII.  It's neatly written and seemed like another of those surprises that Genova presents to her people.  It happened in the night I think.

Anna, from the Beautiful Liguria website, let me know about the story today: 'It is a story of love between a Jewish lady and a Russian guy in world war II.'

Laundry is already out and hanging across via Ravecca.  My kitchen window is open and, here I am, this New Zealander who simply loves those times when she comes stay awhile in this private, elegant, chaotic, sometimes dirty, exquisite, secretive, ancient, post-modern city nestled between the hills and sea.

Just a note really ...

Life goes on, here in Genova.  It's 20 celsius, as I write this, and I can hear the beautiful hum that this city makes, as people end their day of working and meet for aperitivo.

I've been working at the kitchen table that looks out over Via Ravecca, window open ... washing drying in the beautiful weather.  I can hear the Swallows playing their kamikaze-like games out in the skies.  They squeal as they chase each other up and down streets.

I found a wonderful art gallery today. We couldn't talk because we lacked language but I loved the work I saw there.  It's not the photograph, which is beautiful anyway, but what the artist does with the photograph afterwards.

The lion you see on the home page of this site inspired me to visit with the lions of San Lorenzo as I passed by them today but I just discovered my TIM connection is too slow here, in Genova ... I  can't load my image.  Perhaps I'll stop by at the internet cafe tomorrow anyway ... ciao from Genova.

A Celebration ...

The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human; the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown …

Sourced from Steve McCurry’s photography blog.

Sometimes the photographs, I take here in Genova, are a simple celebration of being back in this place that I love.  It’s not always easy living here, without language, without anything resembling huge amounts of money, without family ... but I keep coming back.  My camera loves me for it.  My photographer’s eyes appreciate it too. 

I find something of New Zealand in the sea and the hills.  I enjoy the quiet kindness of the Genovese met along the way.  These days, I am reading my way into their history.  Steven Epstein’s book covers the period between 958-1528.  Titled ... Genoa and the Genoese, it captures something of the complicated and rich history of this Italian city that so few people I know seem to know.

Hanna came with me this time and she surely fell for the city, hoping her plane might be cancelled ... just for a few days.  There was so much more she wanted to see, and do, and photograph.  I watch it happen… everyone who comes here with me has fallen under the spell of this city so far. 

It’s good to be back.

One of the many things I love about Genoa ...

But perhaps I should begin with the people I meet here in this city I love so well.

Yesterday Hanna and I spent the day with Francesca.  We were putting together a project I have in mind and Francesca had kindly agreed to come along and translate.  She just fitted right in as we wandered and worked our way through the day.  Mille grazie, Francesca.  We had the most excellent time.

And in-between meeting the people we needed to meet, she introduced us to parts of the city we wouldn’t have known about and wouldn’t have dared enter.

Thanks to Francesca, we were able to wander the halls of this grand old house and voila, there was this room, puppet-show in place ... but of course.

There are always these unexpected magical moments here in the ancient city, also called La Superba ... It is also called la Superba - the Superb one - due to its glorious past.

Lesson learned on the road ...

When traveling you should always, but always, know the phone numbers you might need in a medical emergency.
Hanna, my lovely Finnish marketing partner arrived on Wednesday evening and experienced the misfortune of walking straight into my category 5 cold.  I was still imagining it might be an allergy at that point and so we went out for pizza. 

I couldn’t even finish the pizza and no red wine passed these lips of mine.  The misery of the cold was beginning to really press down on me.  We went back to the apartment and I crawled into bed only to wake with this terrible feeling of restricted airways ... very much like my old childhood nemisis, croup. My mother used to spend hours with me in our steaming hot bathroom, me ... the screaming toddler who couldn’t breathe.  The knowledge being that the steam would open the airways again ... if the child ever stopped crying.

I appeared in the lounge as a startled creature, realising that I didn’t really have a clue about what to do with this reappearance of a seemingly ancient ghost, and not really sure that it was anything to do with croup.  And voila, there we were in Italy where I had no idea about after hours doctors or emergency rooms.

I am incredibly fortunate in having a marketing partner who is rapidly becoming a much-treasured friend.  We worked through the problems of who we could ask for information after 11pm, and in the end, she went down to the bar near the apartment.  The guys in there were so incredibly kind, giving her the address of the nearest hospital emergency room, an after hours house doctor number, and they also offered to call us a taxi.  I was just so grateful for their kindness.

She returned with the news.  Knowledge is something special, and knowing I did have an emergency place to go if things got worse, we worked out that the situation wasn’t getting any worse, that it seemed more like my larynx having a major incident with flem and swelling, and it might be possible to go back to sleep if I remained propped up for the night.  It was a long night but it worked. 

Yesterday, some of my favourite Genovese friends emailed in with all the medical information I could possibly need and these last 24 hours have been about living quietly while catching up with a couple of good people. 

Stefano came to check on the patient yesterday and took us along the caruggi here, for the most delicious lunch.  The restuarant was cosy-warm and the food delightful.  Everyone was surprised that I was still saying no to red wine but I have been living on painkillers.  It’s not quite time for my ‘wine cure’ but soon, surely it can be soon. 

Later, Lorenzo caught up with us, and another piece of the photography workshop tour for 2012 has fitted itself into place.  You see, Hanna and I are here to finalise the details for a spring ‘come travel with me’ photography/travel workshop.  First the tour, then next week I begin work on the book.

7.30am and here I am, at the kitchen table, ready to work but still struggling with writing as you can read.  We have our first appointment at 9.30am and I’ve already decided that will involve a rather good coffee along at Bar Boomerang.

Photos and more lucidly written stories to follow in the days ahead ... she writes, hopefully.
Ciao from Genova.

Those details.  Hospitals vary on where you are located but:
Hospital Galliera
Taxi: 0105966

Emergency Number: 112

Guardia Medica (home doctor) 010 354 022 (8pm-8am)

Piano, piano ...

Slowly slowly ... that’s how I’m moving.

I seem have caught myself a cold en route.  Feeling sorry for myself is slowing me down, quite a lot.

Photos and stories will come, I just have to get through this phase of yuck.  Today, when I sneezed in the supermarket, this crazy guy gestured for me to step back from him.  I had my hand over my mouth, my germs were under control.  Truly. 

Later, when I went to visit Francesca, I warned her of my situation, she laughed and hugged me anyway.  She already has the cold, since Saturday. 

Sunshine and warmth today.
Ciao for now.

Jetlag ... and some stories from the road to Italy

Probably not jet lag ...
The flight to Milan was meant to be about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  We ended up arriving 20 minutes early ... a short-cut that boggles my mind.  How does a plane arrive 20 minutes early?

The alarm rang in Belgium 4.59am. 
Taxi at 5.54am.
Suitcase, the one that Brussels Airport broke last time I flew in there, revealed we hadn’t managed to fix it as I placed it in the hold of the Airport Bus ... 6.05am.
I may have said a bad word.

I arrived at the airport.  For a moment, I forgot I was in a country whose service providers often don’t care.  I confessed that my suitcase probably wouldn’t stay closed on the plane, due to being damaged last time I’d flown Brussels Airlines.  Fortunately, I said, I had managed to replace the suitcase strap they had lost but could he note its fragile status?

Actually, the Brussels Airline check-in bloke pulled that face that Belgian service providers pull when they don’t really want to hear what you are saying because it’s YOUR problem and THEIR company and/or shop refuses to be held accountable.

Fair enough.  I’ve been there long enough to know the impossibility of anything close to satisfaction in this kind of thing.  I have lost the few battles I’ve attempted.  Raising ones voice doesn’t help.  These guys survived the Spanish Inquisition.  Raising ones voice is NOTHING.

I had an idea and suggested it to the Belgian check-in guy.  He warmed to me immediately. 
I suggested I get my suitcase plastic-wrapped so it would stay closed.
He led me there, abandoning his post even.
He didn’t mention the 5euro fee for plastic-wrapping.

However, there was the relief of having my suitcase secured. I returned to complete check-in.  He had handed my case on to the Belgian check-in woman.

I was early but you really need to be when you tavel from Antwerp to Brussels via the bus.  You have to allow for traffic jams when you travel morning or early evening.

I wandered off and bought a bottle of coke,, looking for that instant caffeine hit.  I thought the check-out chick insane.  She kept asking me for MORE money.  I knew we would work it out at some point.  She would laugh, I would laugh, she would apologise.
But no, that small bottle of coke really was 3.50euro.
I said ‘I’ll be sure to really really enjoy it then…’  And then we both laughed.
That is a robbery, isn’t it? 
It is $4.88us and $6.09 in New Zealand money.
I wish I hadn’t made those conversions now ...

On the plane and things began to improve. I met this lovely Mexican/American woman.  We chatted most of the way to Milan and so I noticed even less of the very short flight.

In Milan, the big heavy Belgian-frost-protecting jersey had to come off but ... oh no! I couldn’t put it into my plastic-wrapped suitcase because I still had a long way to travel and dared not interfere with its hold on my belongings - there were two train trips to be made.  I tied it onto my suitcase, hoping not to stand out as a peasant there in Milan.  Found a nasty sandwich, remembered too late that I knew how to purchase them in that shop because I had been a chicken last time too ... limiting myself to simple Italian when ordering food.  Sigh. 

I decided perhaps I could make this my rite-of-passage experience.  Each time I arrive in Italy I will have one of these disgusting sandwiches to appease the gods of travel and win myself a good visit.  I ate almost all of it while waiting for my train to Genova.  Breakfast had been quite some hours earlier.

On the train, I had the most incredible good fortune ... (so I’m thinking the sandwich sacrifice may be the ritual of choice on future trips).  I sat next to a lovely woman called Germana.  We began chatting after she very kindly alerted me to the fact that our number 7 train carriage had just become a number 6, and yes, we all had to move.

My seat was next to her in number 6 carriage and so we began to chat.  It turned out that this lovely woman had, like me, had spent some time living in Istanbul.  Well, that was that.  We fell into conversation, talking of the lovely places she had lived, talking of family, talking of life.  It was so excellent!  That train trip passed so easily that I didn’t even notice the million tunnels that we have to travel through to reach Genova.

We said goodbye at the station, I found a taxi and voila, here I am, back in this city I love so very deeply.

But that’s not all.  I walked into the apartment and Paola and Simon had arranged the loveliest birthday surprise.  3 bottles of truly delicious wine!  Really!

So there I was, back in Genova, having met good people along the way, my suitcase had managed to contain itself and not spill open and now ... there was red wine waiting for me!
A huge thank you to Paola and Simon!

Today it’s 9 celsius, it’s pouring down after 3 very dry months here in the city, and here I am, wrapped up warmly and smiling that big smile that I try to control whenever I reach this place.

I hope your worlds are behaving today and I wish you joy.
Ciao for now.

On Knowing Thy Bus ...

Can I just tell you how good my New Zealand soul felt, strolling alongside the sea on Corso Italia, here in Genova tonight ...

Living in Belgium I miss the kind of Nature I used to know in New Zealand but I find something of it here in this beautiful Italian city, surrounded by hills, on the edge of the Ligurian Sea.

Of course, the bliss I found there wandering was tempered when I realised that my particular bus stopped running at 8.35 ... it was 9.45pm.

Fortunately, an innocent bystander was okay with my English, and I was surely grateful for his.  Yes, that particular bus really did stop running and yes, I was stuck miles from the city ... ‘miles’ when it comes to walking back through the night.

No money for a taxi, I am one of those creatures who rarely have money, and so ... sadness and woe until he mentioned there was another bus, round the corner over there.

‘Home’ ... to this borrowed home I love so well, to a late dinner of trofie (pasta), pesto (of course), red wine ... Adele playing too.  The kitchen window is open, the street is still full of the noise of lives being lived.
I love being here.

Genova, after the storm

I had to wander down to the port this evening, and it’s not really my favourite part of town to wander alone, here in this beautiful city but I had to check up on boats trips and times.

The light was calling me ... a siren song really however I just left the big camera safely in its bag, chicken-hearted creature I sometimes am. 

Then wandering back up via San Lorenzo, I couldn’t resist.  I think you can see why ...

And so I fly ...

I’m off again ... to Genova, otherwise known as that city I love. But really… I’m there to work rather hard.

And after the work, I need to stay on because, there is this book I have been talking of putting together for quite some time now.
It’s time.

And of course, I’m taking the wedding photographs too, those ones from Madrid and Suffolk because I have been living life at 1,000 miles per hour since taking them and still don’t have them quite completed ... although almost everything else that needed doing is done.

So tomorrow, I’ll be that woman wandering again.
A presto.

Missing Genoa ...

The oddest thing is the fact that I begin missing Genova as I pass through that halfway-through-my-stay mark.

I notice suitcases rolling along the alleyway below Paola’s apartment and I know it’s silly to think of them because I still have the other half of my time there left to experience ... but I begin noticing them anyway.

I think I’ve lived one of those lives where I am always searching for someplace else ... someplace perfect.  And sometimes I’ve come so close to finding it but life has seen me pack up and move on again.

‘So close’ is knowing where to put my desk and having a place to restore my soul.  The crazy falling-down cottage in Broad Bay was something like that ... out on Portobello Road, and the wooden cottage with the exquisite verandah on Matariki Street too.  I loved life in Te Anau because of the lakes and mountains and a friendship with a potter there. I loved Blenheim for Anakiwa and Cromwell for Arrrowtown and Queenstown.

Maybe the next half of my life has to be about finding my place.
Let’s see it.

Meanwhile, I took this photograph while wandering on Via Garibaldi I think, or perhaps Via Cairoli.  I loved the painting and loved the reflections.  I have hundreds, if not 1000s, of photographs from my time spent wandering Genovese streets. I think there's a book ...

The Way Home ... when in Genoa

I love this gate called Porta Soprana.  It was built in the 12th century, with the help of the citizens of Genova, as the government of the time attempted to defend the independence of the city from Emperor Barbarossa.

However, Barbarossa apparently knew that he needed the people of Genova, with their rapidly developing economic and maritime strength, and he never attacked.  There was an oath of allegience and some levies instead.

And here I am, a 21st century woman, passing through Porta Soprana, goodness knows how many times on a given day as my wandering feet take me all over this Italian city that I love so well.
Source for historical information: the Genoa Guide (in English), published by Sagep Editori Turismo.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

I want to write of the remarkable people we’ve spent time with these last two days but we’re preparing to leave, exhausted after a day scaling hills in the hot Italian sun ... only slightly revived after an exquisite dinner in the company of some lovely people.  I want to write the story of meeting these people but when I’m home and settled again and so, instead, I will leave you with some photographs taken today in Cinque Terre.

As always, I am most happy when I return to Genova city however I did enjoy leaving the tourist beat in Vernazza and wandering lost in the narrow alleyways of the small village.

Reflected View, Genoa

3 days left in Genoa, and already I'm sad. 

Each day, at least one suitcase rolls along the cobblestones here, reminding me that I have to leave too. So now for the last minute photographs we didn’t get yet ... but wait, there is a train that does Cinque Terre.  Hmmm, perhaps that rumoured-to-be-heavenly section of coast is for Friday.

Anyway, the scooter mirror ... they are everywhere here in the city, I’ll miss them too.