November 5, 2010 Calvi and Gone

Tomorrow we are leaving what has been our home for two weeks.  We’re off on a jaunt around the Island of Corsica, first to Bastia in the Northwest, and then south to Porto Vecchia and Bonifacio, then around the southernmost part of the island to Ajaccio.  The South is where most of the early man artifacts are to be found and we’re excited as this is really the focus of the trip.  This is the dead season in Corsica so many of the hotels and restaurants are closed until the spring.  We have to call many of the sites and museums to tell them we are coming and they will open up for us.  How nice that is!

We’re actually feeling sad to leave our apartment.  It’s been comfortable and we’ve settled into a rhythm.  The people who own the Residences are delightful.  It’s managed by two brothers after their mother decided she was tired of doing it herself.  They’re tri-athletes with lovely wives and children.  Every day the family gathers together and has lunch in the main office area that has a big kitchen and bar.  One of the brothers told us that it was his mother’s dream for the family to get together and have lunch every day.  So now, every day at about 11:30 AM someone comes into the kitchen and starts preparing the mid-day meal.  It can be the mother or either of the wives and sometimes even the sons.  The grandkids all come too, one who looks about 4 or 5 and one who is probably not yet 2.  The sons are great with the little guys, feeding them and taking care of them.  It’s such a far cry from the disparate families we are used to in the States.  Everyone is so far away from each other it’s almost impossible to image the pleasure of a family having lunch together every day, let alone at the holidays.

It’s a privileged life they’ve managed to carve out for themselves.  There are several apartments and houses rented out for the summer holidays or whenever someone wants them.  At the moment the sons are dreaming of going to Hawaii for a Tri-Athlete competition.  It’s a long trip, but why not?  They work together well and get along.  We’ve watched them working on the gardens with tractors and heavy machinery.  They play with each other’s kids and everyone looks wonderfully happy.  It’s rubbed off and we’ve enjoyed being here too.

There’s a spa on the premises also.  They have yoga and Pilates as well as stretching and water aerobics.  The outdoor swimming pool is for the people at the Residences but I think the gym and indoor pool is mainly for the spa.

Melinda and I have come down to the office every day to get on-line; it’s where the wi-fi is, so we feel a little bit part of the family.  At first we thought we might be intruding, but no one seems to care if we’re around or not.

They have a bunch of kittens around the place.  Some mom-cat must have had a large litter as there are so many lovely white with black, or grey tiger, or beige and grey tiger, or black and tiger or whatever combinations – so many it’s hard to keep track.  There is one sort of brownish grey tiger with a real attitude who stands in our doorway and yells at us if we don’t feed him – not that he looks deprived, mind you.  Then a couple of the other siblings come over to see if they can cadge something too.  Today Jerome, one of the brothers, asked if we wanted to take a couple of them home with us.  Yeah, right!  I can see my four dogs looking at the new addition to the family…I don’t think so.

These last days we’ve been visiting the artisans in the area.  We went to an amazing knife shop.  The knife-maker settled on the Island almost twenty years ago and studied the designs of the early Corsican knives.  We saw work that incorporated Neolithic designs, Corsican hunting implements, with the Japanese folded blade technique.  He then takes local materials for handles: horn, olive wood and other indigenous trees.  He was an interesting looking man and the shop was like a museum – filled with antique tools used in early knife making.

Our next foray was to visit a local glassmaker.  Again, quality combined with interesting design concepts, many taking inspiration from the waters around the island.  Turned out his wife is from New York!  Was that a surprise.  We spent a lovely afternoon chatting with her and came back the next day to watch him make a piece for a client.  The design was the head of a Moray Eel inside a bubble.  It was inspirational to watch the artist working  to get the design just right, freehand, no template or design to work from other than pictures in his head.  We gawked and thrilled to watch lumps of molten turned into amazing works of art.  What a satisfaction that must be.

After,  we were off to the ceramic artists up in the villages in the hills around Pigna.  Again, what a life style.  The villages are beautiful, relics of a life lived at a pace different from what we know.  The bars filled with people outside enjoying an espresso or a local beer as they take in the changing colors of the sky.  One of the potter’s work reflects the Corsican sky and water.  There is a clarity to the air that’s hard to fathom.  Maybe that’s what it should be like without all the pollution?  The water is brilliant blue and goes to lighter shades of turquoise.  We keep trying to get photos of it but it’s beyond the capability of even a good digital camera to capture.  I think the ceramicist has managed in his glazes.  If it wasn’t so dreadfully expensive to bring back, I would have given in and bought a very large tureen of the most vivid Mediterranean blue-turquoise.  There is no way to have snuck it into a suitcase, and it would be a shame to have it break en route.   I was covetous of taking a smidge of Corsican blue back home with me.

We’ve visited wineries and jewelry makers as well as the knife-makers, glass blowers, and ceramic artists; tried to get into basket-makers and mosaic artists and cheese-makers.  Everyone seems to have landed in Corsica because of the life here.  It gives them both inspiration and the time to create.  On this island it’s very far away from the rush of the mainland, be it Europe or America.  We tried to imagine living here.  No, we both decided we’d have island fever in not too long a time.  Civilization has conditioned our responses and we’ve been trained to need all the nonsense that goes with it, like cable or satellite TV – which, by the way, is available but we haven’t seen it.  Movie theatres, restaurants, a place where businesses don’t close up for the winter, you know the stuff…malls.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing; we’ve seen lots of places and taken lots of photos.  We’ve played with many friendly dogs, including a charming pug at the glass blowers, a very affectionate yellow girl at one of the pottery stores, a charming spaniel when I signed up for a cell phone and two wonderful rescue dogs at the jewelry artist.  The latter lives near a campground and she guards her dogs as they tend to get stolen by the campers, taken back to Italy and sold for lab experiments – at least that is what she’s afraid of.  The dogs have been well-behaved, know to alert their owner that strangers are there, and then are very polite in taking their pats and rubs once the master appears on the scene.

It’s been good to be in one place for enough time to pick up its rhythm.  When you buzz in and out of a place, you get a more superficial view of things.  Here, we’ve chatted with lots of people, nudged them to talk about themselves in whatever language they speak.  We’ve gotten to know the girl at the Parapharmacy where we keep going to oogle the packaging on the cosmetics, potions and lotions. We’ve had ladies helping us find products in the grocery store who later wave at us like old friends.

I guess all of this is just a long winded way of saying that we’ll be sorry to leave tomorrow.  Maybe we haven’t been here long enough to have island fever yet.  But darn, we do miss our dogs!

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