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Archive for October, 2012

To mix things up a bit, I’m writing out of chronological order. Forget Rome: some things just really need to be said.

1. We are soooo happy. Happier than we have been throughout these past 6 months.

2. We only have 3 weeks left.

3. We. Don’t. Want. To. Leave.

4. We want to steal their dog.

To clarify: We have been, for a month and a half, absolutely delighted with Ireland. Not only are the people here genuine, friendly and fascinatingly rebellious, but the emerald landscape is exactly as beautiful, if not more so, than anyone could ever imagine. We’re treated to breathtaking scenes everyday, even if it’s simply a dewy blossom. More often than not, the sunsets are sweeping displays of color, the hazy crisp mornings are hauntingly beautiful, and flocks of pesky magpies flying overhead keep us company throughout the day.

Our week consists of 3 1/2 days outide in the estate’s vegetable and fruit gardens, with the rest of the week to spend as we please. The BEST thing about this place is easily our boss-lady, Irene. She is such a doll, so sweet, sincere, and a downright gardening encyclopedia. The main reason we don’t want to leave….

But we must also remember that this is exactly what we were hoping for when we committed a year of our lives to WWOOF. Loran and I wanted to make these honest connections with people, to immerse ouselves in their cultures and different practices to gain a new appreciation for the world we live in.  And with that comes a need to get used to moving on even after falling in love with a place, with a community.

Would you like to know a little bit about our everyday lives? I think so.

We start our work days at 9 am and make our way up the hill to the vegetable garden where we meet Irene for the days’ work. We’ve had such a varied experience. We have weeded (of course), transplanted kohlrabi, lettuce, and leeks, collected loads of seaweed from the local slip-way, collected chickenshit and horse dung to mix with yard waste for compost, repotted dozens of neglected plants, squished hundreds of cabbage-eating catepillars, organized a tangle of loganberry brambles, and tried our best to soak up all of the garden knowledge Irene dishes out every single day.

10am is our coffee break which almost always lasts too long because we get lost in conversation, and lunch is between 12 and 1. We work until 5.

Irene has taught us the lasting method of weaving baskets traditional to the region; we can’t thank her enough and we fantasize coming back to Ireland someday to have a sort of apprenticeship with her (just an idealist dream!). She has invited us to meitheals, a friendly gathering in which you call people together to help with somewhat intensive labor in exchange for an enormous, delicious lunch. Meitheal is Irish for “community” or “work team”. We’ve been to two now! The first was participating in adding a layer to the neighbor’s (the lovely Kate & Ray!) pizza oven. It was a frenzied 2 hours of mixing sawdust, clay, and water to a malleable, but firm, consistancy. It is applied in a 4-inch layer and left to dry. We’re hoping will be able to participate in the final layer, plastering, before we leave in three weeks.

Our second meitheal was at the home of one of the other ladies of the group. She had an overgrown vegetable plot; the ten of us cleared it in less than three hours and were duly rewarded with a scrumptious lunch. The really, really wonderful thing about meitheals is that it is so efficient. Instead of one or two people having to spend three weekends to clear a patch of garden, a gathering of friends do the same amount of work in a fraction of the time. And it’s a wonderful excuse to get together with the people you love but may not always be able to make plans with otherwise. Loran and I were doubly rewarded: the ladies were trying to clear their garage of rubbish and urged everyone to go in and take nearly anything they wanted. Irene found a perfect door for her future outdoor composting toilet aaaaaand…! Loran stepped in the garage and was greeted by a ray of sunshine illuminating the perfect backpack of our dreams. No, but really, we had been discussing THAT morning trying to find some backpacks for the rest of the trip. Mary had two. One for Loran. One for me. It was absolutely meant to be, we still can hardly believe it. They offered them up to us with no fuss, a simple shrug of the shoulders and tut-tutting over our gushing thanks.

Loran and I are selling our bikes. In fact, they’ve already been sold to said pizza-oven neighbors mentioned above. We definitely enjoyed rolling around on them throughout the East Coast, through Italy, around France and this little bit of Ireland but…honestly, they are a hassle. We had a bit of a romanticized notion of cycling around the world; we still love the idea, but until we are more seasoned travelers we are trading bikes for fluffy winter coats and hiking boots to stay warm through our northern winter. From this point forward we have a new travelling label: backpackers!

Anyway. Certainly there will be some more details later. A few pictures, now.

PS! Yesterday Loran, Irene and I went to a mushroom foraging course! It was great, never having done anything like it before. I can see how foraging will have the dangerous potential of becoming addictive. The tables were absolutely laden with mushrooms you would not like to eat, but there were a few gems. The group collectively found a stash of chanterelles, puffballs, shaggy parasols, and amethyst deceivers. All edible. Mostly delicious. Today the three of us will be venturing out to Tinturn Abbey to forage around in the local woods, wish us luck.

Collecting Seaweed; Fethard-On-Sea

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It’s hard to believe that we still have seven months left to our journey. But then, we are surprised that the season is already changing. The mornings are growing crisp and dewy, the leaves are turning into their annual autumn tapestry, and we’re even making plans for a winter coat-shopping expedition. And so with the weather change, it almost feels inappropriate to relive our experiences of our Italian summer… but I’ll try my best.

I realize we haven’t really gone into very much detail of Galbusera Bianca, our first farm, but still I am moving on. Verona. Sweltering city of romance, medieval cobbled streets, obnoxious tourists, and the best gelato. We spent five glorious days in laid-back Verona. We ate at least two scoops of gelato every day, had some of the best espresso, spent the scorching afternoons reading in the shade, shared a bottle of wine on the balcony overlooking the city’s nightlife.

Easily the most exciting part of Verona was the trauma we suffered trying to get there. We left the farm on our bikes in the morning, making our way towards Bergamo, a 28 km distance. Thanks to the confusing road systems of Italy, and the fact that we didn’t have a GPS system, those 28 km turned into a grand total of 60. We weren’t able to see the city and we hadn’t a clue where to find the train station. It was 7:30 in the evening. Somehow we were able to find the station, with about 20 minutes to spare before the train’s scheduled departure for Verona. Yet another hitch: the 2 ½ hour train ride meant there wasn’t a chance we’d make it to the campground before its closing time. But we plowed on ahead.

When we arrived in Verona, the pitch-black combined with the sounds of traffic and general nightlife in the distance completely terrified us. Especially when the directions we had were from the only other train station elsewhere in the city. And so, with absolutely no hopes of finding the campsite in the dark, we did the only other thing that we could think of…headed for the trees! We thought, as a last-ditch attempt, we might find a safe spot to pitch our tent in the shrubbery and hide out until morning.

Loran and I took some random turns, started making our way uphill towards the safer-looking suburban bits over-looking the city. After reaching the crest of a hill (and no, I really still cannot believe this), we spotted a sign which read “camping”. By the time we reached the campground (and yes, it WAS the one we had absolutely zero hopes of finding), it was nearing midnight. In an unprecedented stroke of …fate? the receptionist was still in the office and set us up with a site. We could not, still cannot, believe our luck that night. What started as a ridiculously stressful 12 hours turned into one our most reminisced memories of Italy.

After such a grand adventure, the following five days in Verona were relatively uneventful. We had the best time simply wandering the streets in the mornings and the evenings, avoiding the sun at all costs in the afternoons. Verona really is a city for any tourist. It has the history, cheap camping or luxury hotels, fine dining or casual sandwich shops, designer boutiques or cheap all-china-made shops. And the people who live there are the kindest we have found in our limited experiences of Italy. Loran and I went to the same café each day for our morning coffees, and upon learning we were from Seattle, the bartenders greeted us with “Hello Seattle!!” each time we entered.

My Happy Cappuccino

We really do hope that we can return to Verona someday. And, since we had decided to stay a full five days in Verona, we hadn’t the time in our schedule to venture to Florence. Both Florence and a return trip to Verona will have to remain upon our bucket list, for now.

 

Castello di San Pietro

 

We left our mark :)

 

Window Shopping!

 

Beautiful Façade

 

ilovethiscoffeeilovethiscoffeeilovethiscoffee

Coffee Break #523901924

 

a wee obsessed.

The magic of every single sunset.

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Since you’ve last heard from us, we have explored the ancient ruins of Rome, strolled along the cobbled streets of Verona, relished sunset swims of Tuscany, milked Norman cows and made our own wheel of cheese, survived a hoarder’s palace in the Bay of Mt St Michel, traversed the English Channel (trying our absolute best not to hurl over the rails), cycled the emerald hills of Ireland, toiled on a lavish estate and, finally, pored over the worldly treasures of Ireland’s capital city.

Visiting Children at Play; Galbusera Bianca

Verona

Musei Vaticani, Roma

Colosseum, Rome

Colosseum, Rome

Image

Baratti Bay, Tuscany

Image

Flax Harvest, Baratti Bay, Tuscany

Kitty! La Denée Earl, Céaucé

Hard Work, La Denée Earl, Céaucé

The Hoarder Queen’s Palace, La Jaunière, Vezins, France

The Bay of Mt St Michel, Normandy, France

Planting Kohlrabi, Dunbrody Park Estates, Arthurstown, Ireland

Daddy! Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

Anyway, we apologize for the hiatus. Now that we have a fully operable laptop charger (thanks, dad!) updating with posts & pictures is again possible. Also, a sincere thank you for the lovely birthday wishes. You all are missed.

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