- People are kind and generous. Accept help from friends, family and everyone else who offers it. You become reliant on other people. Simple tasks become herculean. For me, someone who is fiercely independent I have to admit that this was a refreshing experience. Saying yes please. Thank-you. Instead of the so often used, no thank-you I can manage on my own. Offers to bring me shopping, help wash my hair. Carry my bags. Drive me to places. Being together, being with other people makes you feel closer to them. I am eternally grateful for all the amazing people I have the pleasure of knowing in my life whether its for a fleeting moment of for a lifetime.
- There are people out there with feet fetishes. #Instagram #feet #feetporn . It all started innocently enough when I uploaded a photo of my leg in its cast while I was lazily lounging by the pool. I have never gotten the level of interaction and interest from a photo as I did for that one. Who knew?! Suddenly I was ‘making it’ and finding my 15 minutes of fame! So many people have been messaging me, asking how I am, keen to exchange stories of accidents and recovery. The kindness of strangers again. There is a real community and solidarity in the knowledge we are a not so unique bunch of accident prone plaster casts owners! What really surprised me though was as I exchanged messages of support with people in similar situations, the questions started getting more and more intimate. Asking me to send photos of my feet! Of my toes. To zoom in closer. Were my toes dried out?? No please a photo of the bottom of the feet! I recommend checking out @feetsoleimage or @lifewithcast on instagram and unite with your tribe!
- Attitude of gratitude. I am thankful for the friends and family who have been so generous, kind and supportive during my recovery. My Mr Spaghetti returned home from a business trip to great me in my plaster cast………with a wheelchair. One of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received from someone! Really! It meant we could go out together, do evening drinks, shopping and even road trips! Who says romance is dead? Wheelchairs are the new dozen roses! On a more serious note, as i was being pushed around in my chariot, I became hyper aware of wheelchairs everywhere. I hadn’t noticed that there were so many people needing help with their mobility. From elderly people too weak to walk long distances on their own, to people with broken bones. And yes young people who had no use of their legs through disability. It made me grateful on so many levels.
- Strangers want to reach out, talk and connect. Every day we go through life in our little bubbles. Focussed on our own plans, where we are going, who we are meeting. Even when we are alone we are glued to our screens not even looking where we are walking. So I found it incredibly refreshing that everywhere I went everyone wanted to speak to me. Having a leg in a cast was the ultimate ice breaker. It made me think that people genuinely want to reach out and connect with others. Care and kindness and curiosity in abundance. What normally stops this? Do we not know how to open conversations with strangers? Are we afraid? We are closed to others with invisible walls? Mental note to self. Reach out and connect more. Be more human.
- Patience. Patience. Patience.
- DIY solutions rock. Improvisation is key. First thing I realised whilst hobbling around on crutches is that it isn’t so much the lack of mobility. Ok its not easy to move (read: ‘hop like a drunk kangaroo’) from A to B for sure. And to begin with I was never blessed with the worlds greatest co-ordination (Zumba class still haunts me). What is really tough, is having both your hands occupied with your crutches.
- Dilemma number 1. How do I get my water / beer / wine / coffee into the living room so I can drink while sitting watching the TV? Solution: Have you ever seen a horse eating from a bag around its neck? Well this is easily adaptable for human use by placing required item into said sack and hanging it around your neck. Very comfortable carrying device, to be recommended also for normal humans.
- Dilemma 2: is similar – eating in front of the TV. Solution: Place meal on tray and push along the floor until you reach nearest soft cushioned landing pad also known as my sofa.
- Dilemma 3: Showering. This brings two problems. The first is obvious enough – plaster casts don’t mix well with water. Solution: Giant plastic bin bag and lots of scotch tape, until the professional alternative arrives. The second problem is finding the balance to stand perched on one leg long enough to wash hair and body without falling over and breaking your one good leg. This we solved by placing a giant can of paint in the shower and covered it with a plastic bag. No lack of prizes for sexiest spa atmosphere in our house!
- Dilemma 4: Surviving crutches without blistering my hands. Or that other curse of summer – sweaty hands – which makes grabbing a baby eel while covered in soap suds look positively easy compared to gripping crutches in 40 degree heat. Solution : cotton wool wrapped with medical tape (then quickly order a soft neoprene grip from Amazon).
- This crutch business is harder than it looks.
We’ve all seen young bouncy teenagers swing around on crutches like they were just playing in an tree canopy adventure park. In my naivety I thought in no time I would be just like them. Cool. Fast. Fit. No problem. Able to swing to the town center for a lazy breakfast and cappuccino or visit the hairdressers and be a lady of leisure while I was in my plaster cast. Little did I imagine that as someone approaching the end of her thirties, (which honestly is traumatic enough) would be hit with the stark realisation that flabby untoned underarm bats wings do not take kindly to suddenly having to support your entire body weight. Here is a video of Dergin Tokmak who is truely inspirational. Dergin contracted polio as a child which left him with limited use of his legs. This didn’t stop him. Look at this video and be inspired to be your best.
Personally I set myself little challenges. First taking the bin outside (100m), then making it to the icecream store (300m). At the beach, day one, just make it to the pool. Day 3 just a little further, make it to the sun umbrellas on the beach. Day 4, from the sun umbrella to the waterfront! Little rewards and little steps build up strength, independence and confidence. You can do it!
- Slow down, relax and take one step at a time. Our lives are soooooo connected. There is always somewhere to be, something to do, someway to connect. Constantly running from one place to another or searching for the next thing to do. Rarely do we have time to sit down relax, breath and just simply be. Having a broken ankle and limited mobility forces you to just sit. Take it easy. There is no running, no stress…..and absolutely no multitasking! Not that I had ever mastered it in any case! Just chill and do what makes you happy. Life is the little pleasures, the micro moments.
“Lord, give me coffee to change the things I can, and wine to accept the things I can’t” Or as we are in Italy in summer a refreshingly large glass of spritz will do nicely!
Let me know your summer tales of mishaps and adventures please in the comments below!
Well ok. So this happened……
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!
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!
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!!
I grew up on the sea. My first memories are of being on a sailing boat coming into a small picturesque Scottish harbour……and then being hauled up the ladder by my harness like a wet sack of potatoes! Sounds romantic right?
Sailing is in my blood, but if i was to tell you that it was warm, sunny and pain free I wouldn’t be being entirely honest with you.
How things have changed now. Although I am no longer by the sea, with the fresh salty breeze in my hair, and the soft sound of the waves breaking on the shore, I have the good fortune to live close to Lake Garda. The largest of the Italian lakes, and she is marvellous.
Whatever your imagination can dream of, it is a reality there.
You can windsurf, kite surf, paddle board, sail: catamaran or monohull. We’ve seen olympic sailors and Americas Cup team members all train here. Oh and i shouldn’t forget to mention foiling!
Innovation is alive here and the limits of technology are being pushed every day.
What you may be asking is an Extreme 40, so here are the stats:
- hull 12 meters long
- mast 19 meters high
- displacing 1250kg of water (constructed in carbon fiber)
- Sail area 200mq
- Speed more than 30 knots
The Extreme 40 was designed to bring sailing to the public in the form of a fast, high performance, inshore catamaran. The boat has been used since 2007 in the Extreme Sailing Series™ stadium events where the worlds top professional sailors battle it out in fast paced, adrenalin filled races.
From this year, 2016, the extreme 40 racing boats for the Extreme Sailing Series ™ have been replaced with the hydro-foiling GC32s. Which means that us mere mortals now have the opportunity to hop on board one of these beasts and experience the thrill for ourselves!
Its a strange experience as you step on board, yes the hull is 40 feet but for a boat this size it for sure is no floating caravan. There is no ‘below deck’ , no kitchen (galley for those true seafarers) and all other luxuries you would expect on a boat of this size. Its like an overgrown dinghy, pumped up on steroids. You are on a catamaran built for speed. Hydraulics are everywhere so it is as nimble and quick to handle as a dinghy.
The crew are well experienced sailors. A mix of true professionalism and a relaxed confidence which made us feel immediately at ease. Taking the time to walk us through the manoeuvres and explaining the technical aspects of the boat.
You can simply enjoy the ride or as we did actively participate in the boat handling. What an unforgettable experience to take the helm of a super boat that this, simply amazing!
The helm was light to handle and very responsive and boy does she fly! Sitting up on the side of the hull, watching the water speed under you is incredible especially when the hull and daggerboard lift out of the water! It really feels like flying or gliding, as the boat is so fast the hulls slice through the water with ease.
For those wanting to train their muscles there is also work to be done on board, trimming the sails and grinding the winch don’t happen by themselves. Throwing up the gennaker and gybing downwind is so much fun, if a little sweaty!!
Here is a video of our day, i hope it conveys the emotion we felt!
Thank-you Super Sail Academy!
No you are right Mr Trump, global warming doesn’t exist. So please can you explain to me why in the second week of March I am sitting melting my pretty ass under a blazing sun drinking spritz?!! Would you believe the thermometer has already spiked 23 degrees here in Modena!!
The unusually warm weather got me thinking of another reason why I love Italy. GELATO. No, gelato is not just a fancy word for icecream. It is very much different, here are the basics:
- it is churned more slowly
- contains less air = more yumminess (denser I believe is the technical term)
- is served at a slightly warmer temperature which means a silkier and softer texture
- has a lower percentage of fat than ice cream
And as if Italians weren’t already living the ‘dolce vita’ they also have proclaimed that eating this heaven on a cone is actually good for you.
You don’t have to take my word for it, find out more via Why Gelato is Good For You – Perché il gelato ti fa bene | ITALY Magazine !
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.
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).
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!
- Keep them warm. Socks, thermal underwear, hats, gloves, scarfs. Go on dress them up like a mini Micheln man you won’t regret it.
- ….and keep them cool. We have a nice open log fire at home. One of the things I miss the most is sitting in front of warm glowing log embers on a dark cold winter evening…….but what no one tells you, is that sitting next to a burning flame is hot. Really hot and I don’t mean in the sexy way. Imagine sitting in the living room. Open fire. 40 degrees celsius stripped down to our underpants. Cheeks glowing pink (it’s probably due to the wine consumed, but we’ll blame it on the temperature) and then deciding its time for bed, or a bathroom break or whatever. Heading away from the fireplace into another part of the house. Now this can only be described as an experience similar to that of jumping into a frozen lake after sitting in a Nordic sauna. Not at all pleasant. Although come to think of it people do say this is healthy and good for you, which on second thoughts almost always equals something rather unpleasant.
- Get the liver warmed up. Increase daily tolerance of alcohol SLOWLY in the weeks leading up to the festivities. This should allow the body to get used to the blood being a little more diluted than usual. Do you need some more wine in your blood system??? No problem, just visit my mum.
- Gin and Tonic is an aperitivo. Consumed in our household normally before the Christmas lunch. This is THE secret ingredient to all our cooking and quite frankly anything that helps keep my mum singing while she’s juggling a 2 kilo turkey in the kitchen is more than welcome! In Italy this cocktail is more commonly consumed as a digestivo, late in the evening after a hearty meal so getting used to this cultural difference, I hope should come as a pleasant surprise.
- Throw away the daily planner. Mum is in charge. Much like Italian mothers controlling the household, Irish mothers seem to have read the same parenting handbook. Think Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins without the psychedelic trips into street paintings. You should not expect to make any decisions for the entire stay. This however should be seen as a positive. Say yes for a simple life and let the brain take a well deserved vacation.
- Set them up to make pasta fresca. I ordered a while back for my sister a large rolling pin and tagliere, the large wooden board for making fresh homemade pasta. This can have two benefits. The home cooked Italian pasta creating a mini-island of calmness and familiarity in the chaos that is an Irish home – and we get to eat well!…
- ….or alternatively get them to be mums chef in training in the kitchen. This is a more realistic option for Christmas as generally there is little time to ask, “what shall we eat today?” given all the mincepies, turkey, christmas puddings, coffee, cakes and finger food that is forced upon you. Bonus points with mum as she has a little helper never fails!
- Secret escapes to the beach. A little ‘down time’ away from the Irish clan is essential to (a) relax the brain from having to understand our babbeling, noisy, fast and unique way of communicating with each other. Remember your (better) Italian half will feel at times like a fish out of water (b) Breathing in the fresh salty sea air is just priceless and a great way to steal secret kisses and hugs with your Italian Stallion (although be warned the dog will be keeping one eye on you!).
- The dog is the most loved member of the family. She will be your shadow, cuddle your feet, eat your leftovers and take you for walks.
- Finally, say goodbye to elegance and impeccable Italian style. Say hello to crazy Christmas jumpers!
Do not sit down to drink your coffee: Lets be honest, coffee is a drug and who needs to sit down for a daily injection of caffeine in their blood system? We are in Italy and the bar is not Starbucks and no you cannot sit here for free for the next 2 hours.
No need to order an espresso: Un caffé per favore is all you need to say.
In fact, no fancy coffee allowed: keep it simple and certainly do not try ordering a white chocolate mocha frappuccino, that’s like asking for a single malt whisky with olives and a cocktail umbrella in an Irish pub.
Do not order cappuccino after 11.00 a.m.: Baristas have been known to split their beautifully fitted tailored shirts rolling in laughter when a tourist does this. I am still uncertain of the rationale behind this but I suspect that the highly evolved (and as such delicate) italian digestive system has something to do with this.
If you need some milk in your coffee and it is past noon you are safe to order a caffé macchiato: this baby cappuccino literally means ‘stained’ coffee as it has been stained with a splash of milk. You will be asked if you prefer hot or cold milk, congratulations if you can taste the difference.
You don’t go to a café to take your coffee, you go to the bar: No all Italians are not alcoholics unless….
You are in the mountains/ski resorts and you ask for a caffé the barista will look at you twice and say ‘liscio?’ which literally means ‘straight’ i.e. no additives, no liquor….are you joking??
Which leads me to a caffé corretto: this literally means a ‘corrected coffee’, with the liquor of your choice. Normally this is grappa, brandy or sambuca and can be served with a shot glass on the side or with a few drops added to your coffee cup depending on the crazed look in your eyes or the generosity of your barista.
Finally once we’ve enjoyed our coffee we have to ask for lo scontrino and pay, or should i have paid first?!: This is where it gets a little confusing as payment systems vary. Generally in small local places you can order, consume, order a second pastry (or is that just me?) and then pay once you’re satisfied and refueled. At the larger bars you need to: queue, order, pay, get a ticket, order a second time (in a different queue), now wave your ticket frantically in the air in front of a second barista who will actually give you your coffee. Hurrah!
Anyone have any other Italian coffee survival tips for this caffeine addict? Let me know in the comments!
I really love this old Italian saying! “La cucina piccola fa la casa grande”, which means “A little kitchen makes a large home.”
This weekend was a women’s only fun packed adventure fest. We nicknamed ourselves the ‘spiderwomen’ due to our newly discovered ability to stick to walls in a bid to (a) not get our feet wet or (b) fall to certain death …..ok so I exaggerate a little, but we did feel euphoric on our canyon adventures and to us it felt like we had real super powers.
We started by driving into the heart of Tuscany and found ourselves near Bagni di Lucca where we embarked on our first stop, Canyon Park. This is Italy’s first adventure park where you zip, fly and climb inside a canyon.
The canyon is quite small, but because of this it is extremely intimate and inviting. It doesn’t take long to feel like you really must be a long lost decedent of Tarzan and Jane.
The canyon experience is guided, and all equipment is provided at the site. Hard hats and harnesses for everyone. Just don’t eat a heavy lunch before hand as they are well tightened ….looking on the bright side I finally had that 36-26-36 Lara Croft body i’ve always wanted. Trust me the snug fit is very welcome when you’re swinging above the canyon river.
Our guide was very professional and we were given a good safety briefing at the start. Then the fun begins! There are numerous zip lines and climbing sections, wires and Tibetan ropes to walk along. The course gets progressively more challenging as you move through the canyon. You build your confidence quickly from those tentative baby steps across the first wire and soon every section is a real thrill! Its exhilarating and super fun lasting an intensive 1.5 hours and at 23 euros, well worth the experience!
At the end of the adventure we devoured our picnic lunch soaking up some sun rays beside the ‘blue lagoon’. The place is magical and really a world apart. The water is the most incredible combination of emerald green and blue sapphire.
We took the opportunity to rent a stand up paddle board (SUP) and paddle in between the steep canyon sides. I imagine this is what it feels like to be an amazonian goddess …… I mean its not everyday you get to glide along the river in the midst of the forest, with only the silence and beauty of nature overpowering your senses.
Recharge & Relax
No girls weekend would be complete without a little pampering and obligatory spa visit. We arrived at the spa Terme Bagni di Lucca still sweaty from the canyon adventure to be greeted with a surprised ‘welcome sporty ladies’ (I think the usual clientele are a little less rustic)! As we relaxed our tired muscles in the spa, our hosts at the hotel offer complementary aperitivo (prosecco and finger food). What a treat to walk around the hotel lounge still snuggled in the big white hotel dressing gown, grab a naughty prosecco and gossip in the gardens ….all while watching the sun go down. Pure luxury!
Another day another Canyon – Orrido di Botri
Day 2 we headed to Orrido di Botri, Tuscany’s largest canyon, carved out of the limestone rocks over millennia. This time we would be walking with our feet firmly on the ground …. although they wouldn’t always remain dry!
This place took my breath away. With the narrow river bed and the high imposing canyon walls, I was transported into another realm. Every angle, every rock and every pool of water is in itself a piece of art.
You have to pay a small 2 euro fee to enter and with this the park rangers also give you a helmet which is obligatory to wear in the canyon.
The trek itself lasts approximately 4 hours, so slip some easy snacks and water into your back pack as you’ll need to recharge on the trail. However as you are walking in the cold river for most of the trek, picnic time is best left for when you return to camp!
So pack your bags and head to this incredible corner of Tuscany, away from the typical tourist trails to discover a slice of the wonderful and exhilarating nature that Italy has to offer. After all at the end of this adventure, there is always a bottle of Italy’s finest red wine waiting for you as a well deserved reward!