Friday, 26 May 2017

L'Orrido di Sant'Anna

To resume my posts about our week in Italy earlier this month, here is what we did on Friday, the day after the rainy Thursday.

The weather was still a little unsettled, as we could see when we opened the curtains in the morning:

 After breakfast, it already looked better, but we were still unsure about going on a longer tour. We did not want to find ourselves in the middle of heavy rainfall and/or a thunderstorm while hiking up and down a mountain, now that we knew what the paths were like!

The top of Monte Giove, where we'd been on Tuesday, was shrouded in clouds, and so were many of the other mountains:

We decided to take a walk we'd found on a leaflet at the hotel instead, taking us directly from the hotel to the Orrido di Sant'Anna, a deep and narrow river gorge with a church built on top of the rock.

Our hotel from the back and a view across Cannobio to the lake:

I seriously thought about buying this property. ("Si vende" means "for sale".) The real estate agency's advert would probably read like this: "Property with plenty of rustic charm with lake views, close to town center. You will love the airy space inside and the original features such as doors and windows!"

Walking on, past several small waterfalls and across becks swollen from yesterday's rain, the view across Cannobio changed:

This is the (locked) entrance to a spring where mineral water used to be bottled and sold in the last and next-to-last centuries:

Arriving at the gorge:

The church of Sant'Anna was locked, so we could only walk around and admire it from outside.

View from the church:

And from below:

 The water of the river Cannobino is crystal clear here:

We leisurely walked back to town on the other side of the river, not the same path we had taken to get there. It was pleasant, neither too hot nor too chilly, with the sound of the water next to us all the time.

More of the last part of our walk in one of my next posts.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Read in 2017 - 21: Mr. August

[Just a short interlude of two posts before I'll pick up my Lago Maggiore posts again. I have a back log of several more book reviews to post; amazingly, these days I seem to be reading books faster than I can review them!]

Mr. August
Jan Romes

Now, this was one of those typical works of chick lit where you know from the very start that the man and woman coming across each other under the worst possible circumstances, instantly taking a hearty dislike to each other, will end up living happily ever after.
And it is exactly how it turns out.

Also, hardly surprising, there are many obstacles to overcome before that happy ending; last but not least, the protagonists' own stubbornness. Of course, the man and the woman in question are both extremely attractive - why do some authors seem to assume love only happens to those super-beautiful people? Or do they believe the reader is not
interested in stories about ordinary people? Well, this reader certainly is; I actually find some real extraordinary stories come from the (at first glance) most ordinary lives.

Anyway, I read this to the end because it had its superficially entertaining value, and for a free ebook, it wasn't too badly edited. But none of the characters really "got to" me (and I still don't think it is funny to portray a young mother of a bunch of completely unruly kids as going through her messy and disorganised days by resorting to glasses of wine in her kitchen as soon as breakfast is over).

Not as bad as "Roses on Cliff Walk", but definitely another one you can safely pass by without missing out on anything really good.

If you are still interested in Jan Romes and her books, here is her website.

Read in 2017 - 20: The Healthy Happy Family

[Just a short interlude of two posts before I'll pick up my Lago Maggiore posts again. I have a back log of several more book reviews to post; amazingly, these days I seem to be reading books faster than I can review them!]

The Healthy Happy Family: A Family Guide to a Healthier Home on a Budget
Derek and Emily Childs

What made me download this free ebook a few years ago in the first place was the fact that I am very aware of how much my happiness depends on my health, and I know very well that what (and how much of it) I eat and drink has an impact on my health - directly and short-term as much as indirectly and on the long run.

A lot in this book is common knowledge. Don't we all know we ought to consume less fat, sugar, salt and carbs, and put more of the good stuff like fruit and vegetables in our bodies? Doesn't everybody know that the most common lifestyle in our (western) society involves way too much sitting and way too little exercise? Is it not the goal of every normal parent to have a healthy, happy family?
No huge surprises there. Still, it can help to hear (or read) good advice more than once; maybe that enables someone to make some changes for the better in their lives.

The authors are a married couple who have put together advice on shopping, cooking, eating and exercise based on their own experience. They have two young children and know that it can be a challenge to make the little ones eat healthily. Add to all that the fact that they do not have an infinite source of money (who does?), and yet they manage to buy healthy ingredients and prepare nutricious and delicious meals.

The book comes with recipes, practical tips for what you'll need in your kitchen (and what not) and some ideas on how to make it work as a family with young children, living on a budget.

As I said, no huge surprises, but presented in a nice, understandable manner, neatly divided into chapters that are not too long.
Certainly not a must-read, but definitely a can-read. (And to be honest, I am not going to make any changes in my lifestyle - be it diet or exercise - because of the book; I am already happy and generally in good health.)

There is an article and short video about the authors and their book here.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

One Rainy Day

Back already, resuming my series of posts about our week in Italy.

The next day was Thursday, and Wednesday's clouds made come true what the weather forecast had already told us: It was day of almost non-stop rain.

When we got up and opened our patio doors, this was what we found:

It did not get much better by the time we were ready for breakfast:

But it stopped long enough to allow for a quick stroll through town to find the weekly market, where we were hoping to find some souvenirs in the shape of salami, cheese and other specialties, for ourselves as well as for those back home.

It was a little disappointing; the Thursday market is VERY small, and by the time we'd found it in the maze of alleys and narrow cobbled streets, the rain started again.

We decided to leave it at that, and went to treat ourselves to a bag of sweet delights from a pasticceria.

Later in the afternoon, we set off by car to drive back along the valley of the Cannobino river. In one of our guide books, I had read about a remote village, Crealla, where no driveable road lead to until 2007. It was described as a uniquely charming, rustic place, and I really wanted to see it.
...once we were in the car and the narrow, curvy road began to wind up and down, back and forth along the steep river valley, my tummy (or, rather, its contents of sweets with butter cream and chocolate...) did not agree! I felt so sick O.K. had to stop the car a few times for me to get out, breathe some fresh air and calm down.
Strangely enough, I did not do the obvious and get rid of what was bothering me. Instead, I broke into a cold sweat and my hands felt all numb and prickly at the same time. Believe me, it wasn't fun - and at the same time I felt thoroughly embarrassed, and so sorry for having induced O.K. to drive all the way to that village, only to have him drive back in the pouring rain, without even having set foot in the village itself.

As soon as the motion of the car stopped, I felt better, and by dinner time, I was ready for a proper meal again.

The rainy day was over. Tomorrow was going to be better.

Read in 2017 - 19: Always a Cold Deck

[Just a short interlude of two posts before I'll pick up my Lago Maggiore posts again. I have a back log of several more book reviews to post; amazingly, these days I seem to be reading books faster than I can review them!]
"Always a Cold Deck" (Harry Reese Mysteries, Book 1) by Robert Bruce Stewart

The Harry Reese Mysteries all involve (surprise, surprise!) Harry Reese, an insurance investigator who is sent to work on cases by his employers, large insurance companies who suspect fraud in claims made to them. The time is the early 1900s (while the books were written from 2011 onwards), places vary within the US (and sometimes beyond).

In this first book of the series, Harry meets his future wife Emmie, an eccentric character who plays an important role in solving the case Harry has come to solve in Buffalo. From the author's website about the series, I gather that he has created a spin-off of mysteries where Emmie is the main character. As I did like Emmie (and Harry, for that matter), I may have a look at her own series.

Now back to "Always a Cold Deck": What could be a pretty straightforward case - a grain elevator destroyed by fire; was it insurance fraud or not? - turns into a complex mix of entangled mysteries, ranging from smuggling to men leading double lives to murder. Not everyone is who they seem to be, and things are not being made easier by Harry's employers behaving strangely on the one hand and the company of Emmie, who seems to have her own agenda, on the other.

But in the end, all is disentangled, and the stage is neatly set for Book 2.

A well-written story, needing a bit of time for getting into it but then picking up pace. Characters are funny and unique, and although I am no expert on the early 1900s in the US, I believe the historical details have been well researched.The humour is contemporary without being vulgar. I can see why, according to the author's website, his writing has been compared to P.G. Wodehouse's.

Definitely an author to keep on my list of want-to-read-more-ofs.

Read in 2017 - 18: Roses on Cliff Walk

[Just a short interlude of two posts before I'll pick up my Lago Maggiore posts again. I have a back log of several more book reviews to post; amazingly, these days I seem to be reading books faster than I can review them!]

"Roses on Cliff Walk" by Joseandres Bautista is definitely not what it promises, and certainly an ebook you may give a miss easily.

The (shortened) description, which made me download the free ebook in the first place, reads: "Join Haley and her four friends on their adventurous summer in Newport Rhode Island. [...] These spirited women grew up walking the Cliff Walk on the Atlantic Ocean in their twentieth year.
[...] You will never smell a sea breeze the same way again."

Sounds like a fun, summery read, doesn't it? And there are indeed some fun, summery bits in it - just not enough to make me like the book, or any of the characters, for that matter. The writing is trying to be something the author can not fully deliver, plus there is the lack of editing I so often notice in free ebooks. (I know, I know. That is one reason why they ARE free.)

There are also some minor contradictions. For instance, at the beginning it is stated that the story is set in the 1980s. And yet, there is frequent mention of the students owning and using mobile phones. Now, who in the 1980s owned mobile phones? Certainly not students in their 20s who were poor enough to depend on more or less awful summer jobs to support themselves, as do the young women in the story.

The book sort of trundles along, describing how the girls live in their rented house, find jobs, meet for afternoons on the beach or nights out hitting the bars and get to know young men.
Very late in the story a dramatic event happens that feels almost as if has been inserted as an afterthought, to provide... yes, drama.

I'm afraid it left me cold, and contrary to the blurb's promise, I am quite sure that any future smelling of a sea breeze on my part has not been altered in any way.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Walking to Cannero Part II

Once we were past Carmine Superiore, the path mostly remained at the same height above the lake. Sometimes we walked at the back of a villa and surrounding park, sometimes in the front. There were many houses looking all empty; some abandoned, some probably occupied later in summer. I could have taken dozens more photos (you know me!), but the sky was cloudy and we wanted to reach Cannero.

Coming down from the path via a series of steps, this was our first approach of Cannero:

We explored the small town for a little while before finding a comfortable spot in a café on the lake front, where we enjoyed an "affogato" each (chilled coffee poured over vanilla ice cream).


 Then we had the choice between several options: Walk back to Cannobio the way we'd come (possible, but not exactly what we wanted), take a bus or taxi back (no way!) or take one of the ferries that regularly carries passengers from the eastern to the western shores of the lake and back.

You won't be surprised to read that we took the ferry! It wasn't overly expensive; only about 8 euros per person, if I remember correctly. It did not go directly to Cannobio, but across the lake to the opposite town of Luino, then stopped on that side of the lake at another small town before crossing the water once more to Cannobio, where of course we left the boat and went to our hotel (before heading out again for something to eat later on).

View from the boat of the place where we had been sitting earlier:

Approaching Cannobio at an angle we had not yet seen it from:

Another beautiful day; but the clouds visible in some of the pictures were a sign of what was to come on Thursday.