Tuesday, 23 May 2017

One Rainy Day

Back already, resuming my series of posts about our week in Italy.

The next day was Thursday, and Wednesday's clouds made come true what the weather forecast had already told us: It was day of almost non-stop rain.

When we got up and opened our patio doors, this was what we found:


It did not get much better by the time we were ready for breakfast:


But it stopped long enough to allow for a quick stroll through town to find the weekly market, where we were hoping to find some souvenirs in the shape of salami, cheese and other specialties, for ourselves as well as for those back home.

It was a little disappointing; the Thursday market is VERY small, and by the time we'd found it in the maze of alleys and narrow cobbled streets, the rain started again.

We decided to leave it at that, and went to treat ourselves to a bag of sweet delights from a pasticceria.

Later in the afternoon, we set off by car to drive back along the valley of the Cannobino river. In one of our guide books, I had read about a remote village, Crealla, where no driveable road lead to until 2007. It was described as a uniquely charming, rustic place, and I really wanted to see it.
But...
...once we were in the car and the narrow, curvy road began to wind up and down, back and forth along the steep river valley, my tummy (or, rather, its contents of sweets with butter cream and chocolate...) did not agree! I felt so sick O.K. had to stop the car a few times for me to get out, breathe some fresh air and calm down.
Strangely enough, I did not do the obvious and get rid of what was bothering me. Instead, I broke into a cold sweat and my hands felt all numb and prickly at the same time. Believe me, it wasn't fun - and at the same time I felt thoroughly embarrassed, and so sorry for having induced O.K. to drive all the way to that village, only to have him drive back in the pouring rain, without even having set foot in the village itself.

As soon as the motion of the car stopped, I felt better, and by dinner time, I was ready for a proper meal again.


The rainy day was over. Tomorrow was going to be better.

Read in 2017 - 19: Always a Cold Deck

[Just a short interlude of two posts before I'll pick up my Lago Maggiore posts again. I have a back log of several more book reviews to post; amazingly, these days I seem to be reading books faster than I can review them!]
 
"Always a Cold Deck" (Harry Reese Mysteries, Book 1) by Robert Bruce Stewart

The Harry Reese Mysteries all involve (surprise, surprise!) Harry Reese, an insurance investigator who is sent to work on cases by his employers, large insurance companies who suspect fraud in claims made to them. The time is the early 1900s (while the books were written from 2011 onwards), places vary within the US (and sometimes beyond).

In this first book of the series, Harry meets his future wife Emmie, an eccentric character who plays an important role in solving the case Harry has come to solve in Buffalo. From the author's website about the series, I gather that he has created a spin-off of mysteries where Emmie is the main character. As I did like Emmie (and Harry, for that matter), I may have a look at her own series.

Now back to "Always a Cold Deck": What could be a pretty straightforward case - a grain elevator destroyed by fire; was it insurance fraud or not? - turns into a complex mix of entangled mysteries, ranging from smuggling to men leading double lives to murder. Not everyone is who they seem to be, and things are not being made easier by Harry's employers behaving strangely on the one hand and the company of Emmie, who seems to have her own agenda, on the other.

But in the end, all is disentangled, and the stage is neatly set for Book 2.

A well-written story, needing a bit of time for getting into it but then picking up pace. Characters are funny and unique, and although I am no expert on the early 1900s in the US, I believe the historical details have been well researched.The humour is contemporary without being vulgar. I can see why, according to the author's website, his writing has been compared to P.G. Wodehouse's.

Definitely an author to keep on my list of want-to-read-more-ofs.

Read in 2017 - 18: Roses on Cliff Walk

[Just a short interlude of two posts before I'll pick up my Lago Maggiore posts again. I have a back log of several more book reviews to post; amazingly, these days I seem to be reading books faster than I can review them!]

"Roses on Cliff Walk" by Joseandres Bautista is definitely not what it promises, and certainly an ebook you may give a miss easily.

The (shortened) description, which made me download the free ebook in the first place, reads: "Join Haley and her four friends on their adventurous summer in Newport Rhode Island. [...] These spirited women grew up walking the Cliff Walk on the Atlantic Ocean in their twentieth year.
[...] You will never smell a sea breeze the same way again."

Sounds like a fun, summery read, doesn't it? And there are indeed some fun, summery bits in it - just not enough to make me like the book, or any of the characters, for that matter. The writing is trying to be something the author can not fully deliver, plus there is the lack of editing I so often notice in free ebooks. (I know, I know. That is one reason why they ARE free.)

There are also some minor contradictions. For instance, at the beginning it is stated that the story is set in the 1980s. And yet, there is frequent mention of the students owning and using mobile phones. Now, who in the 1980s owned mobile phones? Certainly not students in their 20s who were poor enough to depend on more or less awful summer jobs to support themselves, as do the young women in the story.

The book sort of trundles along, describing how the girls live in their rented house, find jobs, meet for afternoons on the beach or nights out hitting the bars and get to know young men.
Very late in the story a dramatic event happens that feels almost as if has been inserted as an afterthought, to provide... yes, drama.

I'm afraid it left me cold, and contrary to the blurb's promise, I am quite sure that any future smelling of a sea breeze on my part has not been altered in any way.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Walking to Cannero Part II

Once we were past Carmine Superiore, the path mostly remained at the same height above the lake. Sometimes we walked at the back of a villa and surrounding park, sometimes in the front. There were many houses looking all empty; some abandoned, some probably occupied later in summer. I could have taken dozens more photos (you know me!), but the sky was cloudy and we wanted to reach Cannero.


Coming down from the path via a series of steps, this was our first approach of Cannero:



We explored the small town for a little while before finding a comfortable spot in a café on the lake front, where we enjoyed an "affogato" each (chilled coffee poured over vanilla ice cream).

 

 Then we had the choice between several options: Walk back to Cannobio the way we'd come (possible, but not exactly what we wanted), take a bus or taxi back (no way!) or take one of the ferries that regularly carries passengers from the eastern to the western shores of the lake and back.

You won't be surprised to read that we took the ferry! It wasn't overly expensive; only about 8 euros per person, if I remember correctly. It did not go directly to Cannobio, but across the lake to the opposite town of Luino, then stopped on that side of the lake at another small town before crossing the water once more to Cannobio, where of course we left the boat and went to our hotel (before heading out again for something to eat later on).

View from the boat of the place where we had been sitting earlier:











Approaching Cannobio at an angle we had not yet seen it from:



Another beautiful day; but the clouds visible in some of the pictures were a sign of what was to come on Thursday.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Walking to Cannero - Part I

Wednesday morning looked like this:



As the forecast was for unsettled weather and the clouds made us believe it, we decided on a shorter hike, rather a walk, which would not lead us too far away from opportunities for shelter. It turned out we did not need any shelter, as the day was quite beautiful, but we did not know that when we set off after breakfast.

Our walk (which was actually rather steep and challenging in some parts, not something you'd do for a leisurely stroll on a Sunday afternoon) took us south of Cannobio, on old mule paths in the woods, following the shoreline high up, via a village called Carmine Superiore to the next town, Cannero.

Along the way, I took too many pictures to pack into one post.



View of Cannobio soon after we started to walk:



A lot of it was through woodland (mainly chestnut trees), but in between there were many spots offering great views of the lake.









A tiny hamlet with an even tinier chapel, and what used to be the main flour mill for Cannobio (according to our little guide book). Imagine the people back then carrying sacks of grain up to the mill and the finished product back down every time, all on mules' backs - or their own.









Then the first glimpse of Carmine Superiore and its church. This medieval village is still not accessible by car. Some of its houses stand empty, but a lot of them have been lovingly restored and are now lived in; some permanently, some only in the summer.
I was pleased to find this blog about the place, and am going to explore it further as soon as I get the time.





The church (from around the year 1330, with most of the frescoes being painted in the 15th century) was locked, but there is a rather good description of it on the sign near the door. Also, a large window has been purpose-built into its back wall (you can't see it in the pictures). Putting a 1-Euro-coin into a slit in the wall turns the lights on inside the church, so that tourists can admire the frescoes.








The views from the terrace are beautiful:





Eventually, we moved on, leaving the village at its other end.









Our next stop was Cannero, which will be the subject of one of my next posts.