A Travellerspoint blog

May 2011

Fields of Gold

"Will you stay with me, will you be my love
Among the fields of barley
We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in the fields of gold"
(Sting)

Being in Tuscany reminds me of this song. It makes me hum with the colors and the light, and the natural hues all around. I know why painters and photographers migrate here. There is a certain something about the radiance, the mix of nature and progress, comfort and nostalgia.

Posted by globalmomma 10:38 Archived in Italy Tagged sunset fields country light sunlight tuscan Comments (0)

My husband, Mario, and Montalcino

Today we are on top of the world in Montalcino!  After a long day of driving, we are tasting 6 of the finest Brunello di Montalcino's ever made in a castle at the top of the Tuscan countryside with a view that even Baccus would envy.  How do we find these treasures? I am not sure we even know, follow your nose I guess...our mantras used to  include "if it smells good" and "go toward the pretty buildings" but that was then...we are now guided by "find a place for Bodhi to eat" or "go buy something so we can use the banyo"... Such are the differences when traveling with a 1 year old.  The castle?  Simple dumb luck...could have turned to the right, but chose left and there we were...wine, castle, English-speaking staff member...there really is a heaven and we are happy to be together in this moment(s) of bliss.  Then there was the ride home...

No, I did not have more then a few ounces for all of you with a guilty conscience...I have a GPS.  Yes, we are staying somewhat off the beaten path on an olive oil farm near Pari, but heck, we do not intend to go offroading in a Fiat Punto with seating for 4 (ish) and about 3 inches of clearance...Bad enough we have to navigate a dirt road for 2 KM getting to the farm, but getting back once we set the GPS to take us somehow ends us up somewhere across the valley where we can clearly see our bedroom window but are powerless to reach it.  Despite the sleeping baby in the backseat the GPS is, in a clearly defiant tone, telling us to go offroad to reach the previously entered waypoint.  "Navigate offroad to your destination", she snides, but I see a driveway and a terrace with people eating al fresco. Does the dirt road go any further? We are hesitant to find out...I am calling Garmin in the morning to report the attitude of our computer generated guide voice for being overly persistent.  Luckily a local guy who spoke English (and whose backyard dinner party we literally drove into) told us the error of our (her) ways and directed us to go back around.  "GPS is dangerous" were, I think, his final words...

We arrive at the villa in the country that will be our home for the next three or four days. I call this 'home-ish' now. I used to say to Bodhi, "Only 5 minutes and we will be home" (referring to being back at the hotel if we were in the car or out). Then I would correct myself and say, well, home-ISH.  So now, where we are staying is called HOME-ISH. It fits. He gets it. Everywhere we end up is a new adventure for him. It is like arriving at Disneyworld every few days... he arrives at a new wonderland to explore. He checks the cupboards, opens and closes doors, checks the drain of the bidet, crawls around the perimeter. I love to watch him explore and discover. For me, it helps me to think this travel lifestyle has elements that are good for him.
Our home-ish is now a place called le lapole, a beautiful terra-cotta farmhouse in Tuscany along a dirt road outside of a small village called Pari. We would never have found this place if not for good friends who found it first and recommended we come here. It is so dark and quiet I can see every star. The drive to get here was through the most amazing countryside filled with green trees and rows of vineyards, golden straw, hazy blue mountains in the distance, and old hilltop villages with orange rooftops dotting the horizon. Then there was a steep rugged dirt road and a few poorly marked splits in the road that we happened to guess right, and allowed us to find the place. My husband, Mario, isn't used to the open roads of Tuscany. He has been used to the aggressive driving of Southern Italy on small streets with big consequences... the driving that demands urgency, attention and quick reflexes.  He honks his horn like an Italian, passes on curves and occasionally I feel like we are in a live simulated video game of Mario Cart. He has become, like all other Italian drivers, an incarnation of Mario Andretti.
 

Posted by globalmomma 01:58 Tagged driving roads italy country villa wine farmhouse tuscany montalcino pari grosseto tastings brunello Comments (0)

It's a great evening after all

our road trip from Ischia to Santa Marinelli

Today we leave the island of Ischia and head North for our next week of adventures. First step is the ferry from Ischia to Naples. The ferry leaves at 10:30am. We leave the hotel, all packed up and ready, at 9:30am, and B takes his morning nap. All is going according to plan. But Ischia is a small place filled with one way streets, so we get turned around on our way to the port. Still we arrive early, but there is a long line of cars waiting to get on the ferry...so we get into the mix. I get out and try to find the 'biglietteria' to buy our tickets, while Chris navigates our Fiat through the maze of other cars all angling and wedging their way into line. I find the place to buy ferry tickets, I ask to purchase for 2 people, one car. Documents?, She asks. Oh no, I have forgotten they need these damn documents for the car. "Un attimo" (one moment), I say and walk quickly toward the line of cars inching their way toward the ferry boats. I find Chris in the line and grab the documents from the glove compartment.  I run back to the shop and buy the tickets, and commence sprinting back to our car in my mini skirt and flip-flops. I check my watch. Three minutes until 10:30am, three minutes until we miss the boat. I just paid 50 euro, so I really hope I get to the car in time to get on the ferry. I run in my flip-flops and little skirt all the way to the boat, where Chris is at the end of the line, talking to the ferry man collecting tickets. I hand him the tickets, jump in the car, and we pull on. We are the final car. After we pull on, the cranks start going and the back of the boat pulls off of the dock. Wow, JUST barely made it. I ask Chris, What were you going to do? Filibuster? iIf I didn't get back were you going to just stall until I made it? He said he wasn't going to take NO for an answer. I tell him I now understand how he is part-Italian. Every once in a while little personality traits creep through. Being in Italy, the land of his ancestors, gives me some further insight into this man I have been married to for 4 years and known for 11. He also has started talking with his hands while he drives, and mumbling insults at people who are driving poorly. Hmm.

Arriving in Naples is again a zoo of people and sounds and commotion. We get on the autostrada and say "Arrivederci, Napoli". We are excited about going North, and make it almost to Rome when Bodhi wakes and we need to get out, stretch, and get some food. I like the highways here - they carry steep tolls so they are not crowded with cars, there is not much traffic, and there are easy stops along the way. You don't have to drive through some historic little town looking for a gas station. There are defined exits for restaurants and gas, that literally only take seconds out of your way. Chris actually looks forward to these travel days on the highways because of the delicious and gargantuan "Autogrills" that are positioned along the autostrada (toll highways). They have salad bars with more vegetables than we have seen in any restaurant. They have warm prepared foods, deli sandwiches, wonderful espresso bars, and cheap wine and cheeses to make your own picnics. In short, a real experience if you are traveling around Italy. Nothing like the road stop depressions we see in America where to stop for food is to surrender to gross fast food or packaged chips and candy.

We follow the road northwest from Rome toward the coastal beach towns. We are heading toward the port town of Civitavecchia. We are looking for a place to stay along the sea, just for the night. It is a frustrating proposition, since it is a Saturday night, in a seaside town, on a summer day in Italy. There is not much available. We go from place to place and each place is either sold out, or exorbitant. We see family reunions, weddings, parties. Apparently the beach was not our best decision for a quick stopover for meeting our two criteria: available, and under 100 euros a night. We are getting desperate, & Bodhi, who has been exceedingly patient for the whole day's journey, has had enough. He is fidgeting and complaining. He is hungry and tired of being in a cramped car seat. I sympathize but tell him he is learning patience, as we all are. We almost decide to just take this place that is WAY over budget, and absolutely not worth it, with a cramped monastery of a room, no terrace, and no place to be once B falls asleep for the evening... We are at our wits end, bickering, pleading with B to last a few more minutes, and almost give in to this place... then decide to press on a little further. It is in these moments that test your resolve, that often you are rewarded. I think this is true in life as well as travel; those moments where you seem at your breaking point, to have reached your absolute limit, this is when if you keep going, you will be rewarded. We were rewarded, with a recommendation for an affordable but quaint place outside of the town of Santa Marinelli on the coast, called "Portofina". I called on our way there, and they had a room, so we backtracked five miles to the hotel. It was perfect. We walk in and there are small shirtless children running around the 'living room' in the lobby of the hotel laughing. There is a hippy-looking man with long curly hair who greets us, and I know instantly this is our kind of place. People are talking, children are playing soccer, and the beach in front of the hotel has rolling waves and is dotted with surfers. We found the surf town for Rome vacationers. I love it here. We get into our modest hostel-like room, get settled, and go outside. Bodhi gets to run around and play - there is a slide, a playhouse, a field of soft grass, and a beach filled with smooth large rocks. He is giddy with excitement. We play and laugh until it is time for dinner, and we have one of the best meals we have had yet. I have pasta with crawfish and salad with shrimp, arugula and fresh tomatoes. Everything so fresh and simple, and fresh from the ocean. After a long drive and an exhausting day, we have arrived at a wonderful stopover and it has been a great evening after all.

Posted by globalmomma 16:38 Archived in Italy Tagged coast beach town santa ferry naples ischia marinelli autostrada autogrill Comments (0)

The day I discovered granita

Ischia and Procida

may 27
Ischia is a small island off the coast of Naples that is known for its volcanic soil and thermal waters. It is solely a tourist economy, mostly Italian and German tourists come here. So menus and some brochures are in German as well as Italian. This is helpful for me, since I can read German much better than I can get by with Italian.  Most of the people in our hotel are German-speaking, and my guess is that the Germans come for the thermal waters and treatments. There are massages, manicures, facials, the basic elements you find in spas all over the world, but also fango or mud treatments and baths, using the particular thermal waters. These waters are tested and described by their therapeutic purposes - for healing dermatological issues or rheumatological or respiratory ailments. Here there is a pool they refill daily with the local water from the spring. It is ruddy in color, a cloudy suspension of minerals. It looks like rooibos tea with milk in it. A muddy reddish tone. When you immerse yourself, it is lukewarm and thicker than water. When you get out, your skin smells like iron and sulphur, and has a tinge of orange coating. I like this daily soak.
Other than that, I am not particularly amazed by Ischia. It is a small fishing boat community turned touristy. There are shops, restaurants with views of the water and seafood and pasta on their menus. Ischia also has the best shopping I have seen so far in Italy...good shoes, designer boutiques, unique products...a very very good tourist spot to visit, well worth the journey, but bring your pocketbook filled with money. There is a positively stunning old castle fortress built on an outcropping of rock near our hotel, called the castle of Aragon. We will visit it tonight. We plan to take a boat tour around the island if we can find a boat big and sturdy enough to not look like it would sink under too much weight. I doubt there is any chance of getting an infant life vest or any such precaution for Bodhi so I hope to find a larger boat than the dinghys we have seen that provide water taxi around the island.

I should be happy to speak German, but I have yet to speak it. For some reason, Italian seems easier, even though I know much much less. I think with Italian speakers there is much more room for error than with German. They are more forgiving of grammatical mishaps and fumblings. I can be a C student here, where Germans expect A's, or speak to you in English instead. 

I am developing a love-hate relationship with Italy. There are parts I adore: the romanticism, the fresh simple local foods, the sea, the wine... And parts I cannot stand. For instance, our hotel is supposed to have air conditioning in the rooms. They DO have it, and it works...sometimes. But then they shut it off again. So, I go downstairs and tell them it was working, but now it isn't working anymore. Without it, it is an absolute sauna in our room. The baby wakes from his nap restless, head covered in sweat. Oh, they say, sounding shocked. We will see what we can do. This is Italian for: I will do nothing. After harassing them and pleading, the air conditioning comes back on. For a few hours. Then off again. I have been downstairs at reception now five times in two days to discuss the matter with various employees. I have heard now five different stories. Oh, our colleague that works the AC is off today. Oh, the management deals with the AC and sets the times. Oh, we are having it fixed today. All lies, wrapped up in sweet apologetic phrases. I know it should be a simple fix. But nothing is simple here, everything MUST be complicated.  I bought a thermal mud mask for my face yesterday at a shop. I told the saleswoman I did not need a bag for it, I would just put it in my purse. Oh, thank you, she said, but I must. So she wrapped it nicely in a bag. How bizarre, that they have rules that they must follow, regardless of logic or thought, based on authority. The employees do as they are told to do. Nothing more, nothing less. I am sliding against a wall of impatience and tolerance.

The next day, our AC was fixed, the room was cooler, and I have a new outlook on this hotel, this island, this country. It's so much cooler than I thought. They serve an amazing breakfast here: fruit, juice, water, coffee, breads, croissants, eggs, breakfast ham, cheeses, yogurt, cereals... much more than a typical breakfast in Italy. Still every person stops to admire the little one. Piccolino. (Little one), Amore (love), Bello (beautiful) are common words we hear.

Today we set out for the port to see if we could find a boat to drive us around the periphery of the island of Ischia. We missed the daily boat, but there was another trip leaving for Procida, a very small island nearby, so we signed up. It was fortuitous, because the island and the views in this tiny place were absolutely magnificent. Best I have seen yet for our entire trip. Literally breathtaking. Well, it was partially the view, and partially the gigantic hill we had to climb over cobblestone streets with a stroller and 20 lb baby that caused the breathlessness. But it was well worth the trip. As we reached the top of the hill and the historic city center, we also found a granita limone. Basically crushed ice, sugar and fresh lemons blended into a cold, refreshing slurry, which Procida is famous for, and now we know why. I already want to take a boat back for another one. You cannot imagine the sweetness and refreshment, the pure liquid sunshine... cold icey sweet tangy goodness melting on your tongue. I gave Bodhi a taste and kissed the rest of my granita goodbye. The look of shock and joy on his face was magical. The lemons grown here have some kind of life force energy from the sun and soil that makes them absolutely irresistible. The small of lemons, a citrusy earthy scent, follows you around the coast of southern Italy. Limoncello is amazing here, lemon anything can be found on the menus, anything made with these lemons is sensational. At night, when it gets sticky hot, I dream of lemon granita...
 

Posted by globalmomma 01:20 Archived in Italy Tagged water shopping island thermal lemon ischia gelato procida granita Comments (2)

The Q8 and Arriving in Ischia

What a wild, hairy, skin-of-your-teeth kind of day it turned out to be. We left Amalfi today (I apologize....I know I am behind on adding the entries!). It seemed a basic enough task - drive 1.5 hours from Amalfi to Napoli, take the hour long ferry to Ischia, and check in to the hotel we booked last night.
First step was to haul all of our bags and groceries down the eight flights of winding staircases again from our apartment "perch" on top of Amalfi. We labored down slowly. The lady we were renting the apartment from was sincerely sad to see us leaving...I think she considered us house guests. Every day she would bring us something...today it was caffe' on the terrace, while she had an excuse to hold Bodhi and we sipped the juice. Clearly the best contribution Italians have made to society is their amazing espresso. I have not had a bad one yet... In fact, every one seems better than the last...but I digress. While we are sipping, she is trying to coerce us to stay another night, asking why we must leave. These are the moments I am glad I am not fluent because I really have no solid excuse for going, other than I am getting antsy and we feel we should move on. But I tell her best I can, so she will understand, that we need to meet family in Caserta, so we must go. I didn't tell her we aren't meeting them until the 5th...

She carries a bag down all those stairs for us... A retired woman in her seventies shlepping our bag, and giving us kisses goodbye. I kinda do wish they would adopt us so we could come back every year. I think they were definitely taken aback that I had found them again, and asked to stay at their apartment. They clearly weren't advertising it. Maybe they don't even rent it anymore, I don't know. But they were clearly pleased to have us, and it was nice to be welcomed so kindly.

So off we went in our little Fiat heading up the winding road again back to Vietri, since that was the direction the gps was pointing us. About ten kilometers in, I say to Chris, don't we still need gas? Oh no. The orange gas light is glowing, and we remember it had been on when we arrived in Amalfi days before...but we hadn't remembered until now. Utoh. There is nowhere to get off the Amalfi coast highway. It is no highway. It is a small winding road dug out from a rocky cliff line, with steep overhanging sections,and not much chance to pull off the road. I check the gps for a gas station. Next one is in Vietri (a lovely town by the way). We could turn around, but we'd have to backtrack PAST where we started from to find gas, so we press onward. Chris is attempting to coast in neutral whenever possible, as well as avoid passing motorbikes, oncoming tour buses on hairpin turns, and pedestrians walking alongside the road. It is a stressful enough stretch of road without thinking about abandoning your car along it and hiking to the nearest town. We consider stopping at a safe point and calling for reinforcements. But there aren't any safe looking spots to stop. The needle of the gas gauge actually passes UNDER the orange light, and I begin to get worried, as we are really below empty now. I am expecting the sputtering and stuttering of the engine any minute. Both of us are holding our breath. Both of us thinking, how could we let this happen? And Bodhi already getting hungry in the backseat, unaware of the current predicament he is in. I am doing a countdown as I grip the gps: 4 kilometers left, now 3.5. I see the town approaching and think, well, good, if we can get close enough to town, at least we can walk and not hitchhike to the station. We reach within 500 meters of where the gps is pointing us and think, yes! we made it, but no, that is just to another turn onto the highway. Another kilometer and a half to the final destination at a Q8 station. Another few minutes of silence as we hope for the best, and then we see the station around the corner. Shew, made it. We aren't cheering though, just sighing, thankfully exhaling our breath. We fill up the car and head to Napoli. That was more stressful than it had to be. I tell Chris - "That was a healthy dose of daily stress", but he doesn't laugh. It is one of those times you hope will become funny in a few days time but we are too close to it to find it funny now.
On to Naples. We drive into the center of town, toward the bullseye that designates European town centers, and I realize why this is the Italy everyone fears. There are piles of trash by the side of the road bigger than any I have seen outside of India. There is more trash strewn along the roadside. There are men loitering and winding their way through traffic trying to wash windows and sell plastic objects. A brush and dust pan, some children's toys, some other useless looking things. This place makes you feel on edge. It has a reputation for being dangerous, for pickpockets, thieves and scams. For noise, pollution and chaos. Driving through, I definitely feel no urge to stay. We head directly for the harbor, keeping our eyes averted. After a few misdirections, we reach the harbor and I venture in to fumble my way toward tickets to Ischia. The man says, "With a car? you must go to the OTHER harbor." So I hop back into the car and we go to the next row of boats, people, parking lots and trash. I go inside to buy tickets again. The man tells me, you have documents for the car? It is a rental car, I tell him. Yes, he says smugly, documents??? Just a minute. I run back to the car. We have only 15 minutes before this boat leaves. We thought the boat was at 14:30, but that was the passenger-only ferry. The ferry for cars leaves at 14:00 even. It is now 13:45 and we have yet to have lunch, feed, Bodhi or figure out how to get on. I grab everything in the glove box and bring it to the man at the ticket booth. Here. "See", he says, pointing to his eye, "documenti". I feel the urge to smack his glib little face. uh, huh, who knew you would need such a thing? I tel him, in America you just drive onto the ferry in your car. No document-i. He ignores me. I pay the 50 euro and rush back to the car. We literally drive onto the boat while it is idling, and five minutes later, we are enroute. It was good timing, after all. Somehow, it worked out, and we were able to eat a somewhat shabby sandwich lunch onboard a ferry bound for the island of Ischia. It is a reliief to get the heck out of Napoli...it doesn't seem a place to bring a baby. Too much ugliness, garbage, seedy-looking characters, strange stares. There aren't the kind smiles here that you get in the country. There are hardened looks. I feel a little bit sad to think our new friends from the terme are living here, in a cramped apartment filled with noise from the city. It's not a nice place, or a congenial place. The accent here I am starting to pick up, since I am hearing more words now that I understand. They chew on the ends of their words. Everything sounds like "brioche" or "schoch". It makes me hungry and I can't concentrate. Instead of capito, it is capisch. Instead of carciofi, carciof. Words end in a harsh chewing sound that makes the language sound ugly and slurred. This is definitely Italy's underbelly, and has a reputation that I think the rest of the country is trying to transcend. It is the old Italy I remember hearing about from guidebooks years and years ago, with stories about handicapped gypsy children stealing wallets and not entering a train station at night, or letting a stranger hand you something, because then they will demand money and make a commotion until you hand it over. All these stories I remember hearing abut Italy are coming back to my memory as we pass through Napoli and see the hoards of salesman, homeless, and the general chaos of the city. We are glad we are aboard the ship, putting miles between us and the city for at least a few days...

Posted by globalmomma 00:53 Archived in Italy Tagged coast highway language station amalfi naples gas crime napoli vietri accent Comments (1)

Generosity

Lest anyone (especially me) begin to think romantic thoughts about this journey we are on, let me reassure us that it still has all the regular smatterings of life's ups and downs. There are days I still struggle to get out of bed when I hear my child stirring. There are moments I want to quit, get off, and go home. There are moments we are having much less than a good time.
I tend to do this...I hype expectations to the extreme, idyllic realms, and often reality falls quite a bit short.
Today is one such day. Bodhi is still recovering, so he is sleeping the majority of the day; hence, we are in the apartment stewing around most of the day, getting cabin fever.   When he is not sleeping, he is hanging on my pant leg and whining.  We are still struggling to work out the logistics of a plan, figure out finances from afar, and do all the other regular housekeeping from thousands of miles away. It can be taxing to be so far from any comfort zone, or not to have one at all. The key is to find it inside. We are teaching Bodhi this, I hope, to find his comfort spot inside of himself, but sometimes, this Buddhist trait does not make it through the murkiness of the self. However, even on these worst of days, there are bright spots. And those breaks in the clouds are the parts of days we should remember every time, travelling or at home. For instance, after arriving back at our apartment this morning from getting groceries, whiny baby in need of a nap, feet sweaty from the trek, our 'landlady' from downstairs knocks on the door and presents us with a gorgeous platter of fried fresh anchovies she has labored on this morning. It is quite a gift. We are like house guests here and are treated as such, with daily gifts. And the difficult morning evaporates in a flash of generosity.

Posted by globalmomma 12:49 Archived in Italy Tagged travel house amalfi guests anchovies Comments (0)

Church bells

Well, I am still only managing to shower once every three days, but at least now I am writing. In my spare time with a baby, I still don't get basic hygiene done like at home, but instead of cleaning the house and running errands, now with free time I write and hand wash our clothes. This morning, as I was hanging our clothes out on the clothesline on the terrace, the church bells were ringing and chiming, and it was magical. It was late morning and all the families were headed to church on this warm summer Sunday in Amalfi. The birds are chirping, our clothes are swinging in the breeze, I am listening to the songs of hymns and many people's voices as they sing. It give me a spiritual feeling, and I want to head over to the church to be immersed in the music and the bells. Bodhi is napping, Chris is cooking, and I dress to go down to the piazza but I don't go. I just listen from our perch above town, right next to the church, literally I am adjacent to the singing, and the ringing bells.  I could get used to this. My husband and I are already contemplating asking the owners to call us if they consider selling this place. But these places never go on the market here in Italy - they get passed down generation to generation over a long time. As we found out in Ostuni on an old olive farm, we asked the man how he came to own this beautiful place. He said, my grandfather's great grandfather bought this farm from a friend. exactly. and every son has owned and worked it since then, and forevermore. That is part of the mystique and allure of these old farms and villas, I think, is their unattainability and the generations of family that have slept, ate, cleaned, worked, washed, created, birthed and died here. You can literally feel the cycle of time and that you are but a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of the place, that has been there and will continue to be there for a long long time. Italians just do not replace things and move on with the frequency that we do - there is a rich tradition and they hold onto everything. The apartment we are in probably has been unchanged for at least the lifetime of the current family...definitely nothing has changed since we were here eight years ago, and this is pretty typical situation here in Italy. If you like a place, and send your children there when they grow up, it will probably basically look the same as when you were there 30 years before.  Maybe this is part of the reason Italians do not mind waiting - their sense of time is different from ours - they are just not in any rush to innovate, to renovate, to get things done. They know the good things last.

Posted by globalmomma 23:01 Archived in Italy Tagged church bells morning terrace amalfi laundry Comments (0)

When life gives you lemons, make limoncello

May 20

Yesterday, my son was still on and off with a slight fever and needing more rest, but overall much better. Today is back to normal with rolls of laughter, eating hungrily, and sleeping soundly. We are in Amalfi now. We had a frustrating day yesterday trying to decide where to go, how to find an apartment with what we needed (a fridge, a terrace, Wifi), and finally I decided it was worth a try to check the place I had been dreaming about. A little apartment in Amalfi center right next to the beautiful bell tower, up several flights of narrow stairs, to a panoramic view of ocean, lemon trees, mountainside, town lights. So I walk into the town center (while Chris and Bodhi idle in the car) and use my intuitive senses. We rented this small apartment eight years ago, on our last trip through Amalfi in April 2003. I remember we rented it from a man named Andrea, who worked in the town photo shop, who was a photographer. So I made my way to the photo shop and asked for him. Oh yes, they said, we know who you are talking about - he worked here before, and he is around town but no longer working here. His sister Maria works in a small souvenir shop by the bus depot. I walk over to the bus depot and inquire: Maria Lucebello? until I find her and explain that I would like to rent an apartment from her family, if possible. She looks a little puzzled, like obviously they are not advertising this place much, and calls her brother. Yes, you can stay, she says, and it is a nice price. Brother Andrea comes to meet me while Chris tries mightily to find a place to park the car (quite difficult in Amalfi in the summertime). He takes me to the apartment and I am realizing that you really do, over time, emphasize the good parts and forget the hassles of past travel experiences; and when you go back to a place, you see all the good and the bad aspects again. Like the million stairs we have to climb to get to the apartment with the nice terrace by the bell tower. I guess I remembered the two flights up once you reached the family's home, but forgot about the 4 staircases leading up to it. Utoh, Chris is not going to be pleased with how far he has to haul all of our gear. Traveling with a baby, you also are aware of a different set of foci than prior to a baby. Like my god, the terrace is totally unsafe. I have to watch him constantly as the slats are wide and it drops down two hundred feet to the beach & town below. Babyproofing new places all of the time takes ingenuity and STAYING IN OLD ITALIAN APARTMENTS REQUIRES VIGILANCE.  For example, today, I saw our son pulling on the gas hose behind the stove. We had to cinch two wooden spoons between the cabinet doors to keep him from being able to get the cleaning supplies. And like I said, the front door stays shut at all times, due to the precarious stairs and the loosely fenced terrace.

But ahh, we are in Amalfi. And life is good. After the bags are all settled and the baby is sleeping, Chris and I are sipping our ice cold glasses of limoncello overlooking one of the best vistas in the world.

Posted by globalmomma 10:57 Archived in Italy Tagged apartments terrace amalfi babyproofing Comments (1)

everything is o.k.

may 19

Everything is ok. It was a long fitful night for all of us, Chris and I sheltering our little guy on both sides, while he slept curled between us. It was Tylenol and homeopathy and fluids every few hours, and I was awake most of the night on vigil just to be sure. But this morning, he is smiling again and has some of his old self energy back, trying to stand up and jump on the bed. He's laughing as he jumps. My heart is relieved the fever stage is passing. More later...

Posted by globalmomma 13:55 Comments (0)

The Fever

May 18

Bodhi had a febrile seizure today. I have never been so terrified in my entire life.
We were driving out of Barletta, where we stayed in our Best Western bubble the last two nights, when all of the sudden Bodhi woke up and started to scream. Not fuss, but full-on scream. This is not like him, not like his gentle, happy personality to scream at all, so I craned my head around to the backseat and saw a sweaty head. He was wearing a sweatshirt, so I said to Chris, 'he must be hot, I need to take off the sweatshirt if you can get off at an exit. The next exit wasn't for ten or so kilometers so I was trying to placate him with some water, blowing on his head, and trying to cool the car down. He stopped crying and I took off my seatbelt and reached around my seat to check out what was happening and I saw his eyes closing, and drool coming out of his mouth. I instantly went into panic mode, and began taking him out of his car seat. Before then, I was content to wait until we stopped at a safe place, but in that moment, I needed him out of the chair and in my arms. So I pulled him out the the carseat and had his shirts off in about 2 seconds, and began to nurse him as chris was flying off the exit. We stopped and I got out, carrying him in my arms, and he was whimpering and so so very hot. He was burning up. I was shaking... "Something's wrong', I said, "he's not just hot, something's wrong". He felt lethargic and limp. So Chris jumped on the gps and proogrammed in the nearest hospital, only a few kilometers away, and we got back into the car. I couldn't bring myself to put B back in his seat so we rode with him seat belted on my lap, nursing and whimpering, still flushed and emitting rays of heat.

We got the the hospital and rushed inside, and immediately people we there helping us. i think they saw my look of panic, my momma tears, and me half-naked carrying a nursing half-naked baby, and figured they better do something. Within a few minutes we were in front of a doctor, and thank heaven we can speak enough Italian to get by b/c no one there spoke English. It still amazes me that the more educated professions, people still don't seem to know English, unless they are more required to for their income, for touristy areas, restaurants and hotels. So here we were in a pediatric ward with the Italian doctor explaining basically that he had a fever, a high one, had had convulsions, and we brought him in. Oh, and we had given him already a dose of tylenol... So they held off giving him another one, even though his blood was still raging with fever. They examined him and took his temperature again. 38.5, whatever that is, I couldn't calculate at that minute. She said it was high enough to continue giving tylenol and to give him antibiotics if the fever was still around tomorrow, but in one day only, no. ok.

Now, I know all of this as a doctor. I knew he was likely having a febrile seizure, and that young children often get them from higher fevers, since they mount such a strong immune response. That they are 'benign', i.e. non concerning, unless they happen repeatedly. But I was having flashbacks to a day I witnessed my nephew, six years old at the time, having the same dreadful thing, and it looks so dramatic and downright frightening, and then they pass out or go too sleep right afterward, and you are so terrified they are slipping into a coma that you are calling their name and trying to arouse them. I know that worked out OK too, but I was there for the first terrible moments and the ride in the ambulance.  I was paralyzed in fear then, and even more so today as I stood there with my own little 13 month old, wanting someone to make it better. My rational mind was completely overruled. I hope this happens to other doctors too, that they find themselves feeling helpless and neurotic when it comes to the people closest to them. I think it is human nature to need someone else to be in charge in those situations, to talk you back off of the cliff that you are on with worrisome thoughts and irrational fears. I sure needed that today. I still am sitting here while he sleeps praying he will recover right this instant. I just cannot bear another day of him not feeling well, it floods my heart. I remember reading in some book about when you decide to have children you can kiss your carefree life goodbye because everything you thought you cared intensely about before becomes more like an afterthought, and you find yourself so much more deeply in love, totally connected, and completely torn up over another human being that you can't stand it. It is so true for me. I have a love I never knew possible, and it covers everything i do. In a way, having children wrecks your otherwise sane life.

After we left the hospital, we drove two hours to the amalfi coast, so he got a great nap, and we arrived in Vietri just as he was waking and starting to cry. We stopped at the first hotel we saw, guided by the gps, and are now in the comfort of a room by the sea. We have our gps wired to the closet hospital just in case, but it is feeling like we are coming out of the murky waters. Bodhi had a little food and some soy milk, and his temperature seems milder, so we are hoping his little body has come through the worst of it. He is still so very tired, he has been sleeping on and off all afternoon since we arrived. I am preparing myself for a long night with frequent wakings, to check on him to make sure everything is ok, like I did when he was first born. I didn't care the cost or condition of the room, I didn't care about anything except getting Bodhi inside, keeping him close, and it's all Bodhi all the time. Chris and I take turns holding and rocking him to sleep, patting his head with cool washcloths, and watching him while he sleeps. He's a blessing, a hot little blessing.

Posted by globalmomma 11:24 Archived in Italy Tagged hospital fever Comments (0)

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