Oops ….. the plaster cast!!!

Well ok.  So this happened……

Yes that is Kung Fu Panda in the background!

I would love to tell you it was a great story.  Dancing on the tables until midnight.  Falling from a great height whilst climbing a mountain.  Or during a daredevil stunt on skis.  But no, it wasn’t any of those things.  In fact it’s ironic really (and no not in the Alanis Morissette way) that i broke my ankle in the most un-elegant and un-dramatic fashion whilst turning a corner in – the office – i still cant believe it happened that way!  All i can assume is that I turned the corner too quickly. I heard a crack and promptly fell to the floor.

I was quickly surrounded by twenty curiously concerned colleagues who thankfully didn’t choose to follow a career in the medical profession.  The generous prognosis was ‘don’t worry its just twisted’ and ‘if its swollen its not broken’.  Don’t you just love the wise medical diagnosis from the masses?  I guess I have google to thank for that.

Anyway turns out I was not so lucky and it is in fact broken. So i am learning how to hop around on my crutches like a drunken kangaroo on one leg.  You know i’d always seen teenagers flying around on crutches like it was no big deal, a rite of passage even, only for the brave and fearless.  I on the other hand struggle to make it anywhere further than 100m, and don’t ask me about finding the co-ordination for making a cup of coffee……..

All of this happened of course when my beloved was away on a business trip.  He rushed home and the first stop he made was at the medical supply shop where he picked up my new chariot!

Hoping that the breaks are strong enough!

Ladies, never, ever underestimate the usefulness of a practical man!!

Now we are free to exit the house, stroll (wheel) around the city to enjoy a refreshing aperitivo (spritz with lots of ice please) and even take our first road-trip adventure on crutches!  Forget the dozen red roses….. this I tell you is true romance!!

The first night we escaped the four walls of the apartment, was into the sticky, humid sauna like air (no that’s being too kind, saunas have DRY heat, turkish bath would be more accurate) of a typical summer Modena evening.  It felt so liberating to be out of the house and seeing people! My knight in shining armour wheeled me around in my chariot and all was going well until the thunderstorm arrived.  Yes. Thunderstorm. Now normally this is a blessing and we yearn for the skies to rain to clear the air and make the city more tolerable.  That all changes when you are in a plaster cast 20 mins away from home! We were on hold with the taxi for an age, only to be finally told ‘we can’t find any’.  Plan B?  Well we waited until the rain eased just enough to be able to make a not so speedy dash for home. Improvising the worlds most genius rain cover for my cast.  You guessed it, the ever versatile black plastic bin bag wins again.  With a good helping of sticky tape!

Very proud of our handy work!

When it’s 40 degrees and rising outside, it can get a little uncomfortable at the best of time.  Now as I have this new fashion accessory attached to my leg for a wonderful 35 days, there is a new meaning to the word.

Firstly after a week, my leg muscles have got a bit weaker and the cast feels heavier and heavier every day.  It’s nicely padded for comfort inside, but its like having a lead soled Ugg boot attached to your leg at all times.  Cosy it isn’t.  Mean temperature inside the cast? I shudder to think.  But I’m probably slow cooking my leg……. so at the end of the month a will if nothing else have a nice juicy Irish leg to eat with my mashed potatoes and mint sauce!

The heat has one other draw back.  Swelling of all limbs in general.  My toes turned blue the other day, yeah and they were a bit tingly.  Just like when you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweaty panic with a dead arm.  You all know the feeling. After a quick check at the hospital, where the amazing doctors of Modena’s Policlinico assured me it’s not serious enough for amputation.  I returned home with the strict instructions to keep the leg – often – above my heart level to help the blood run back to the heart. Apparently blood circulation is a bit lazy when the leg is snuggled nicely in a cast.

I’ll keep you posted on my one legged adventures over the next weeks!

That reminds me, I must stay out of the sun as torturous as it is this month.  Otherwise I will end up turning a nice golden brown all over …..and when the cast comes off??? Hairy albino Gorilla leg is haunting my dreams!!

Lake Garda off season treasures

What do you think of when you think of Italy? Sun, sea, lakes and crowded beaches lined with umbrella’s?  Classical postcard Italy and the dolce vita.  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, what is Italy like when all the tourists go home?  I hope to paint you a picture of Italy behind the scenes.  When lady Italy herself takes a little vacation, stops to recharge her batteries, unwind and breath.  I promise you will relax with her, time will stand still and you will be rewarded in an altogether different way.  So join me, put your feet up, sip on a good glass of red wine and say ahhhhhh…….

The light is different. The lake is always beautiful, and photo opportunities are all around.  In the winter however, there is what i can only describe as a magical haze over the water.  The sun is low and the trees have lost their colour.  The result is that the imposing mountains that frame the north end of the lake have a wonderful grey and purple tint to them. The natural canvas of the lake needs #nofilter here.  On this trip we decided to trek around Lago di Ledro which is a short 30 min car trip from Riva del Garda.

Lago di Ledro – yes the lake is frozen!

Snow crunches underfoot on the hiking trails.  The lake has endless hiking trails.  However as it is the first trek of the season (read: post Christmas feasting) we take it easy and keep the distances short and not too strenuous.  Normally hiking at the lake results in sticky sweaty bodies (no thanks to the melting sunscreen).

Hiking around Lago di Ledro

So for me to hike in the hills at this time of year is like being transported into a magical parallel world.  The air is clean, fresh and crispy.  You can wear thermal clothing and great comfortable trekking pants and keep your body temperature just right by dressing in layers, or as I say in my very technical way “dressed like an onion” (trust me it sounds much sexier when you say it in Italian “vestito come una cipolla”!  The best gift for me is to see the mountain trails dusted in crisp fresh white snow.  The crunch under foot is magical and sooooo satisfying. Its soothing just popping bubble wrap!

The sales in the mountain gear shops will melt a hole in your wallet.  Just a few kilometres north of Riva del Garda you step into another world.  Arco is the Mecca of rock climbing.  Just about every shop here sells mountain climbing gear. Clips and ropes, jackets, shoes, backpacks, the list goes on.  I will be the first to admit that I am no climber, but I love trekking and have climbed a few “via ferrata” in Italy.  These are hiking trails which are sufficiently challenging that you require a harness and helmet to clip you safely on to a metal cable on the rock face.  I’ve convinced myself that this is adventurous enough to justify shopping in the coolest mountain gear shops I’ve ever seen.  Outdoor clothing now has come a long way from my girl scout days, and to me now the colours and styles are simply glorious!

Its tough to find a coffee.  Ok, so this is Italy, which means a good coffee is never that far away, but in the off-season many shops, restaurants and bars take
the opportunity to re-charge their batteries by taking some much needed time off.  Its not unusual in the tourist spots to see a sign posted on the door “reopening the end of March”! So you have to search a little more than usual.  However when you stumble upon an open bar, you have the undivided attention of the barista and a whole selection of hand baked cakes to try.

Time stands still at this time of year, so its even acceptable to skip the coffee and order a warm ‘punch’ which is a sugary fruit flavoured liquor served with warm water.  It’s like drinking a warm hug, which especially after a long trek outside makes you go ahhhhhhhh….. after all we come to the lake to relax don’t we?

I will leave you with the question “why are all of Italy’s best drinks are orange?” and I promise to rise to the challenge and investigate further (through tasting)  and let you know the answer!  In the meantime if you have any theories, or better still any tips on off-season lake life, let me know!