Monthly Archives: December 2023

Doings on and around Christmas

I made a big ole batch of my chocolate chip pecan cookies which I make every year. I had a lot more places to take them this year. On Saturday I took them to Angelo, my old friend in Centro near our old apartment. And also to Irene at Bar Mary as I always have. I also took a box to Vera and her family. I just snuck into their building and left it near their door – they weren’t home. Luther and I took one box to each neighbor in our stairwell. We don’t do a lot of socializing with them, we just see them in passing. They are very nice and seemed to be happy to get them. The two little girls across from us made us a lovely thank you card which they hung near our door.

Hand made card from the little girls across the hall, Celeste and Chiara.

We were invited by friends to a Christmas open house on Friday and I took some cookies to them. They live out in the mountains between Umbertide, Pietralungo and Gubbio. Beautiful home and location. It was cozy and we really had a great time. Here is a picture we took on the way home. Amazing views as you run along a high spine of a mountain.

Winter can be beautiful!

Christmas Eve I heard a band playing outside! Who says nothing happens outside the Centro?!

Santa band

I picked up an 8.5 kilo Turkey, which is about 19 lbs on Christmas Eve from Calagrana. It came stuffed with aromatics and stuffing balls cooked on the side. Such a pretty day. Winter in Umbria is upon us. I took a picture.

Niccone valley, all buttoned up for winter.

Christmas Eve we were invited to friends house for dinner in Montone. We walked down to the small square to see the town tree. And a presepe (crèche) on the way back.

Montone tree in the one and only piazza.
Presepe contest in town. People put these nativities outside and townsfolk vote.

There were six for dinner, our Montone friends and an Australian couple who are part time Montone residents. An extra special evening. Delicious food and good conversation. We went outside their home to view their Presepe. I thought it was lovely and a bit spooky. I would vote for it!

When we got home that evening we found this in the hall. A little something for Babbo Natale and his reindeer.

I cooked the Turkey and made mashed potatoes, gravy, broccoli and the dressing from Ely on Christmas. Very nice and now I don’t have to cook for a while! I see many turkey sandwiches in our future!

Finished gravy
Tacchino was delizioso!

Later we had the very special panettone we pre-order from the bakery in the Centro, pistacchio creme. Amazingly delicious.

Today is also a holiday here. We are taking it easy after our over indulgences of yesterday. Turkey sammiches for lunch! 🥪
Alla prossima! Nancy 💕

Merry Olde England

This is a trip report, not terribly long. It started rough, and ended a little rough but in between was nice. You can’t have it all!

Well, the trip started with a thud. We drove to Perugia airport and parked. We got all checked in. Then we found out our incoming plane was delayed. It arrived around 30 minutes late. But after the passengers disembarked they wouldn’t let us on. Finally they said it was delayed for (fill in the blank time). They kept adding to the delay all day. They gave us  €4 euro vouchers to use in the expensive snack bar. Yay. I amused myself with people watching if I could — here is Stanley Tucci who was on our flight. 😉

Anyway, long story short they flew another plane in from Germany. The original plane had gotten warning lights about the landing gear and it was not a simple fix.

Seven hours after our 10:15am departure time we finally got off the ground. Seven hours in an airport with really nothing to do or see was excruciating. Because we arrived in England after dark we decided to book a room near the airport where we had been many times before. The Saracen’s Head. It is convenient and has a restaurant. It meant we missed our first night in our cottage but I guess it could be worse. We had dinner, not the best but convenient after a very long day and we had a bed. 

My first dinner. Seafood pie. Unremarkable.

Saturday December 16 – We rose and had breakfast in the pub. Then we headed out right away to our destination, Corfe Castle in Dorset. A 3.5 hour drive, which was uneventful. We stopped for lunch just before we got there at the Claypipe Inn. Luthers first bitter and a nice interior. Lots of locals there. A nice vibe.

We stopped in Wareham for groceries and headed to the cottage. It was cold and spitting rain. We lugged all our groceries and luggage up the steep path from where we could park the car to the cottage. 

We didn’t feel like going out again so we decided to cook in the cottage. We had bought a whole chicken already seasoned and with stuffing. It was sealed in a bag and the instructions said to cook in the bag an hour and then open the bag and cook another half an hour. Pretty fool-proof. Except for the fact I couldn’t figure out the oven. I found a book with all the appliance papers and finally figured it out. We also had green beans and a baked potato.

I built a fire in the wood burning stove and before long we were nice and cozy. We watched some TV. A nice evening.

Next day was Sunday. We always buy crumpets, butter and jam for breakfast. Yum! We went out to explore the village. As I mentioned, the name of the town is Corfe Castle. Apt name since its claim to fame is a ruined castle which was built in the 1000s by William the Conqueror. This morning the sun came out from the clouds just as we walked out the door. The castle is right above our cottage on a hill. It was stunning in the morning sunlight. The village is very cute and very old. All old stone buildings, with an old Norman church just like the churches in all the other villages. Also built in about the 1000s. There are at least 5 pubs. There is a National Trust shop with some nice things for sale. We found a nice deli where we bought some cheese and some chorizo cured sausage for a snack sometime. There were also several other small shops selling souvenirs. And finally we came upon a small grocery which was also the Post office and Western Union.

Our first view of the castle from our cottage. Sunshine! The only day we had any.

We set off to Durdle Door which is a National Heritage Site. The parking lot is way up high on a bluff over the ocean. From there, a path leads down to the beach. There must have been fifty mile an hour winds and it was COLD. I was not prepared for this weather. We decided not to do the walk down. The hardy British were all out. Fully suited up for this and even had babies in baby carriages. It would have been lovely on a nicer day. The area was chock-a-block with holiday mobile home cottages. Hundreds and hundreds cheek by jowl. Not my cup of tea. But some of them had great views.

We decided to visit Swanage. It is a town at the end of the road that goes through Corfe Castle and down to the coast. Ferries leave from there. There’s a beach and lots of beach hotels. Some shops, restaurants, coffee shops and pubs. Maybe half of the shops were open. We walked and looked. Along the road I took a few pictures. Pretty countryside.

After our walk about we decided to eat lunch at The Anchor. It was surprisingly empty. The two young women working there were strange. One wore a black band type top covering her breasts. She had a bare midriff and shoulders. She had a Cardinals jacket on over her top. She clutched it closed as though embarrassed to be half naked. And it was a very cold day. Really odd. 

We thought maybe the restaurant was empty because they don’t offer a Sunday Roast. This is a well loved British tradition. On Sundays the families go to a pub which serves the Sunday Roast. It is prime rib or roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and all the fixin’s. Well the Anchor didn’t have this so I guess that explained the lack of customers. The food was quite good. I got a sea bass filet in butter with veggies. Luther got a meat pie which was super juicy. Not dry like so many are. Everything was piping hot. Anyway, a successful lunch.

We spent the evening in again with chorizo and cheese and bread as a small dinner. Warm stove. Bad TV. 😁
Monday was a gray day. We couldn’t decide what to do. Finally we settled on a drive to West Bay. It is where the British series Broadchurch was filmed. It was cool to see. We walked along the seaside. They have a nice promenade. I’m sure it is nice in summer. Today it was windy and cold and the sea was angry. Very dramatic cliffs in both directions but the town was in a nice flat place in between.

After our walk we headed to West Stanford near Dorset. We had done some research and finally found a well regarded Gastropub. This is a pub with better than average food. It was called the Wise Man Inn. It was quite nice. Kind of half and half pub and restaurant. The way normal pubs work is you go in and go up to the bar and order your drink which you take to a table. From there you either look at the big chalk board menu or sometimes paper menu. You decide on your food and return to the bar to order the food. They bring it to the table when it’s done. This one you order your drinks then sit and they bring menus and return to your table to take your order. Along the way I took these pictures.

We both had roasted plaice. It was a whole fish each with grilled pak choi and what was supposed to be potatoes rösti. The potatoes were not good but everything else was. Oh and we started with baked Camembert with onion chutney. We poured the hot melted cheese on the bread slices and topped with chutney. Delicious. 

The little town of West Stanford was so cute. Thatched roofs and stone buildings. Picture perfect English village. I didn’t take many pictures. But here is one. Nice holly tree in front.

We headed back. Every day on our outings we always had to pass an army camp where they train the soldiers to drive tanks. There were signs along the road saying things like Tank Crossing and Sudden Gunfire. And No Stopping. They had a tank museum too.

That night we did what we always did. We had left over roast chicken and salad with a baked potato. We had a toasty fire in the wood burner as they call it here. We watched game shows on the Beeb. Game shows here are very different. The questions are really hard! Outside our cottage. The castle at night.

Our last full day here in Dorset. As was predicted it was raining steadily. We had planned to go to Wareham for dinner shopping and return to Corfe to try one of the pubs. Which we did. Wareham has a nice butcher where we got two racks of lamb. Then we returned to Corfe and went to the Greyhound Pub. So cheery inside it was what drew us in. The menu was a bit u usual with Raclette and Fondu as choices, along with schnitzel wursts, and BBQ pulled pork.

Luther went traditional and I had the pulled pork sandwich. They were both very yummy. But huge. I loved the Christmas music and the decorations. The women who served were nice. 

I didn’t mention the steam train that goes from here to Swanage. Here is a blurb about it: “The heritage railway attraction operates full-size steam and diesel passenger trains along the five and a half miles of line from Norden to Corfe Castle and down to the Victorian seaside town of Swanage ”. The track went right next to our cottage. I always ran out when I heard the whistle. In winter it doesn’t do a normal run. But now it has become the Polar Express. A family attraction reenacting the movie. You are urged to wear your pajamas and all the characters from the movie are on the train. It goes from Swanage to the North Pole. I got a few pictures from our cottage. Not too great.

Dinner was in and I did the racks of lamb, asparagus, salad and potatoes. We used up most of the stuff we bought. Not much went to waste.
We left the cottage next morning at about 9:30 for the haul up to near the airport for the flight the next morning. It takes a little over three hours to get in the vicinity. We were headed for our last pub lunch. I chose the Blind Fiddler. It was out in the countryside in a small village. Very much the country pub. Unpretentious. But they were REALLY into Christmas. There were stars on the building and a huge (and pretty ugly) Santa out front. Another life-sized Santa was inside. There were nutcrackers beside the fireplace and a whole Christmas village with a train. There were many locals inside having lunch or a pint with their mates. 

We had burgers. I wished I had gotten the brisket. They were known for that but I had just had pulled pork yesterday so I decided not to. Buyers remorse. The burger was OK. We drove to our hotel afterwards. Our room was much nicer. Larger and on the ground floor. 

Dinner in the restaurant that evening. We tried to have a pre-dinner drink but the noise level was literally deafening. So we went in and ordered dinner. I got the sticky beef Thai salad. Luther got the ham steak with egg and fries. We both liked our choices this time. This place is hit or miss on the food. I’d get the salad again.

Up at 6:30 and off to the airport. Dropped the car off. I cannot recommend Enterprise Rent-a-Car enough. They were super nice and efficient and the car was nice. We jumped on the bus to the terminal. I asked Luther where his backpack was as I didn’t see it. Oh no! He’d left it in the car. Well there wasn’t time to return so we figured we would have to have it sent to us.

The flight was fine this time. Wicked winds so we got here 30 minutes early. Good tail wind! Getting through passport control was slow. And we are now home. Our first thing to do was to try to get the backpack sent. The agent at Enterprise was very helpful but we had to arrange the shipping. Sending anything from one country to another is always trying. They want to charge you duty on your own stuff. We hope we got it all right on the online forms. But who knows. There is some crucial and expensive stuff in the backpack. Crossing fingers. A doppo!

National Trust

For our upcoming short trip, we love to book a cottage from the National Trust in the UK. But for an American, the reservation form you have to fill out is unusual (and amusing). This is the list of titles they expect they could need. I was tempted to pick Lady. Or maybe Dame! 😁 And what do you think Mx is?

The National Trust in the UK is like the Historical Society in the US. Many of the old families who have inherited large, historically significant properties cannot afford to keep them up and have donated them to the Trust, who restore them and maintain them. This would include some very magnificent gardens, as well as the buildings. The Trust makes holiday rentals of many of the small outbuildings on these properties that used to house grooms, gardeners, gatekeepers, etc. The cottages vary greatly in size, comfort levels, location and price. Here is a link to the National Trust Holiday Cottages. You’ll see they are varied and interesting.

The cottage we rented is small and in a little village called Corfe Castle. It is called the Grooms Cottage. Check it out. It is unusual as it is in a village, not in the countryside like most are. We have rented about five or six of these cottages over the years.

We fly on Friday from Perugia airport on RyanAir to Stansted airport north of London. Super easy because Perugia airport is about 20-25 minutes from us. Easy parking. Two gates! 🙂 Then we rent a car and drive to Devon. Google says that should take about 3 hours. This vacation will be laid back with pub lunches and touring nearby villages and cities. We will shop and I will cook in the cottage in the evening. The village we are in has some eateries so we may walk out to dinner.

Stay tuned for the trip report.

I’m back!

Hi everyone! I guess I have some catching up to do. It has been a busy couple of weeks. I have had a spot of trouble with my website so I held off posting until I could do some cleanup and fix a few problems with the help of a friend (thanks Roger!)

We had a very cold snap which pretty much killed off the remaining plants on the terrace. I built the first fire in the upstairs fireplace and after about four hours it finally warmed up that floor which at present has no heat. I also grilled a whole branzino for our dinner so as not to waste the heat in any way.

Speaking of upstairs things are moving along with the kitchen. I met with Irma, our architect, and we have nailed down all the colors. We also went and met with Nicoletti who will make the cabinets, order the appliances and install everything once the preparation is done. The builder who will do the demolition came to see how we could move the heavy flooring upstairs and the countertops. I have insisted that the counters not have any seams. Both the kitchens I’ve put in here have had seams and this time I was determined they be in one piece. There are two and they will be heavy. So they will use an elevator truck to bring these things up.

We had a lovely pre-season lunch with three of our friends in Spello. We each brought something and it was great fun. We all get along well and the conversation flows. Here is one of the arches in Spello. It is a lovely hill town.

The Christmas tree was delivered to the piazza but this year I didn’t see it delivered as I have done in every other year. So I decided I would put up my own tree which at least brings some festiveness to our house.

We had some company for a couple nights and we did a bit of sightseeing. We picked them up in Foligno and we went so DiFilipo a bio winery near Bevagna. This is our first visit to them since pre-Covid. They have upped their game. They have many more wines now and they have created a nice outside space with tables and chairs — not that we could use it in this weather but they did build a nice fire for us to enjoy inside.

This winery does not use any pesticides. It also doesn’t use any machinery in the vineyards. They use horses to plow and cut the grass between the vines. And they use geese to control the insects. Before going in we went to visit the animals.

We had reserved a tasting and they brought us goodies to enjoy along with 7 wines.

After the tasting we didn’t want lunch so we paid a short visit to Bevagna. They had a small Christmas market. This was L’Immacolata. The immaculate conception. It is a national holiday and the official beginning of the Christmas season. After we returned home we walked into town. It was very cold. We had a drink in Bar Mary and waited for them to light the tree. Right on time – there it was!

Next day was Saturday and we did have a tough time doing anything I had planned. We headed to Assisi. We got there around 10:30 and were turned away by the police as there was no parking left. I had to cancel our lunch reservation. So we decided to visit Perugia. Our guests had not been to either city. Well, we headed to the MiniMetro and found the big Saturday market was there. But we still went to the metro station where we found the place a mob scene. So we decided to just walk through the market and go over to Lago Trasimeno for a walk and lunch.

It was one of the prettiest days ever. Not as cold, in fact it got into the 60s, and it was crystal clear with bright blue skies. Perfect to visit the lake.

We chose Ristorante Il Molo. Known for creative food and a good wine selection. The food was quite creative for sure.

My starter of pasta in brodo with mushrooms
My secondo — fish filet fried crisp with cabbage and mayonnaise

These next are my table mates food and I cannot remember what they all were but everyone like theirs.

Here we are and we had a nice view.

Afterwards we went for a walk around the town. There were quite a few people there but not crowded. Just folks out enjoying a rare warmish sunny day.

Upcoming for us. We planned a trip to England. First one since before Covid. We are glad we got our boosters (first in two years) last week. We leave on Friday and will spend five nights in a National Trust Cottage in a town called Corfe Castle in Devon. We look forward to pub lunches, touring the towns within reach and maybe a walk on the cliffs for which the area is known. We hope there will be some Christmas merry olde England style too! Of course there will be a trip report. 🙂