Friday, June 29, 2012

Medusa at the Beach

Day at the Beach

As the colors changed all around the Val d'Orcia from bright green to pale wheat and golden browns, the air has become stiflingly hot.  

With the exception of an occasional cool breeze at night and the noon time gusts of wind that rattle through the village there is not much movement, tourist or otherwise. 

A break from the hills was foremost on the agenda as we packed a light lunch and two beach towels and headed west towards the Tyrrhanian Sea. From Montalcino down to Grossetto is a winding if scenic route to the Autostrada at Paganico. Unfortunately as often happens I got stuck with the signage and instead of making to the sea in an hour and a half, it took a bit longer. It took us quite a while to find a parking place close enough to the beach and after winding around the streets for another frustrating half hour I finally found a little space by the side of a shady road on Via Giglio, which  synchronistically as always, means  'Lily'.

We headed straight ahead to the water and found a typical beach set up with the umbrella's and beds to rent for the day at 20 Euro at the Bagno Medusa. I have to mention as an aside that I was a spectacle with all the Italian ladies looking with horrific fascination at my tattoo art.

 We all pretended I didn't really have a tattoo the size of Montana on my arm which obviously would have prevented me from being a capable, loving, decent mother to my very beautiful and normal daughter.

Eventually Ani and I pieced a story together about the Medusa, a string of Moon Pearls and the Snake that dances it's way through the hair of my girl tattoo. We were most certainly sent on a secret mission by the Gods of Olympus to enlighten the subjects at the Medusa enclave.

 It was a beautiful day of firsts for both of us. Ani had never actually been swimming in a large body of water. Oh yes, the Pacific and the Atlantic, but both were either too cold and treacherous for the currents or some other thing prevented a good swim. At Castiglione della Pescaia we swam all day long, lounged in the water, fished in the sand for clams (none) and got our first, good sunburn.


Although we brought sandwiches for lunch, the menu at Bagno Medusa

 was really appealing and we kept our sandwiches for afternoon snacks and ate a lovely Riso Mare (with fresh fish) and a Insalata di Mare with squid and octopus pieces in oil. 

Our plan is to do this as many times as possible all summer long, sans sunburn.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Just the Two of Us - Traveling with Anima

 This month at Circolo delle Mamme Viaggiatrici we decided to ponder and discuss what works best for us at 'vacation time': together with other children and families or concentrating on keeping it intimate - just the family nucleus.

For me it was an easy dialogue since I have only ever vacationed with my children alone.

As a single mom used to doing things 'on my own', I have always vacationed without husbands or significant other - just with the kids.  We haven't had the experience of inviting anyone to go with us or entertained going with anyone else.  The responsibility of making someone else's child happy for longer than a few hours is daunting for me and so I don't do it.

I do admire the variations that parents come up with to make vacationing with kids more comfortable and easy going.   I have friends who always travel in a 'pack' with their kids.  Of course, families with more than two kids already are a pack unto themselves, with rituals all their own which I find fascinating.  Usually each child gets to invite a friend on outings so that each one has a playmate to occupy them.  Fantastic idea. All the parent has to do is 'manage' the outing.  Applied to vacation time, it would be much the same as going to the Mall or roller skating or afternoon cooking school but more hours. I like it - but the thought of doing nothing but managing activity time slots, like a school teacher or benign traffic cop is not fun for me.

In America, there really isn't a lot of 'time' in vacation time anyway so we are talking about a few precious days here and there. In Italy, where Ferragosto means two whole weeks to spend together it takes on a whole different meaning.

The other day I met an American woman who has lived in Italy many years and has a daughter Ani's age. She told me that in Italy it is normal for the kids to be invited  on vacation with another family for a period of time, where you kind of give your kid away for a couple of weeks. Often of course it is also with grandparents or close friends, sometimes it is with families of school friends.  This year will be that girl's first experience staying away from her mom.  Although the American mother already said yes to two vacations for her daughter, she is a bit unsure how she really feels about it all. I expressed that I would be a little apprehensive, especially since my Girl is only eleven, even though it is culturally acceptable. I'll cross that bridge if and when we get there. 

 For now, I am a happily convinced 'vacation with your children on your own' mom. Yes, there are times where my children have bemoaned the lack of a 'partner in crime' so they are not bored.

 The point of my taking the time off to go on vacation is to be get to know one another better in an atmosphere that is not filled with daily routine. With the realization of how precious time is, it has been my choice to concentrate more on intimacy and the possibility of weaving together special moments to remember. Those lumps of boredom, when they come up, are a perfect way to see how kids deal with the unfortunate but very real fact that life is not always Disneyland.  Just figuring out  how to be still and listening to the heart movements of the world around you is also valid . Today, with the stress of working long hours and an ever frenetic lifestyle, even in the land of 'la dolce vita' - the pleasure of being present with my children outweighs the 'freedom' traveling in a group or with an additional child offers. Let's see what living in Italy will teach us about vacationing 'solo' in the future.  

To see how the other Circle moms spend their vacation time with their bebe's be sure to click through to visit Alessandra at Lali Viaggi, Valentina at Family Company and the effervescent Silvia with her Tripando blog post as soon as you can! Here's to a fantastic vacation!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Vladimir Golub.....

Was reading up on Summer Solstice and found a painting by Vladimir Golub on another blog site and fell in love with the art.  Fascinating images of women...

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Traveling with Anima
One of the things that we have been able to experience more of since we are here in the Val d'Orcia and not so close to city life has been leisurely early morning walks. When we both do get up at the same time and it is early enough before going into town - we usually sit in bed and talk or  catch up on movies or email (me). But just as often we brush our teeth and put on a jacket and head out the door and start walking. An hour or 45 minutes sometimes a bit longer.  In all directions but without particular direction.

We are still and listen to the birds, the insects, the roosters and other nature sounds that we are not familiar with and then we let that lead us. Walking and exploring as I mentioned in another post for the Circolo delle Mamme Viaggiatrici on caminare is one of the most intimate ways to connect with your child. It takes time. You can't rush through it. And keeping a sense of awe and wonder is the practice.

All sensors are on early in the morning and the body wants to participate in the sights, sounds, smells and sensations. It becomes a wonder land.  Walking through forests, by the narrow roadsides and along the little pathways that lead to a ruin, small hamlet or floating fields of grain.

This morning we saw a deer jump out of the brush and run as fast as he could across one of the most iconic landscapes in Tuscany.

My camera is not the best and so I was not able to capture it but in a blurry fleeting moment - but all the same....Ani kept on saying...'I am taking mental photographs' so that I can remember '. I was so touched because I know that many years from now there will be a mental picture of this moment and hopefully she will remember and hold the closeness we shared this morning.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Of Cats & Fish

Walking around Montalcino the other day, looking for a particular agency I needed to get to, I spotted this minuscule shop selling fish. I know I have passed that way before to get to the "Why Not" Gelateria at the end of the corner, but I had really never noticed this door before.  It's underneath Piazza Garibaldi, built right into the wall - and apparently very popular when it is open on Tuesday mornings. Elderly towns women gossiping up a storm and sharing information and some feline admirers as well...