I am about to leave my second home, Apricus Locanda in the village of Apricale in Italy, close to the French border. I have spent the last thirteen days here, writing SwitchBitch Book 2 here, and recovering from walking the Camino in Northern Spain for three weeks.
Despite having had the most unbelievable obstacles put in my way by airlines Emirates and Iberia to finally get to Apricale, via train to Ventimiglia, last year and this year, respectively, there is no friendlier and more perfect location for me to have written my first two SwitchBitch books.
I was introduced to Apricale in 2015, around the same time of the year, by Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen, when I ate at his JAN restaurant in Nice. Chef Jan-Hendrik was bringing his mother to the village, so assisted in making my reservation for a week, and we did a scenic drive from Nice, via Monte Carlo, to Apricale. The village is known to be one of the most beautiful in Italy, its residents living in homes clustered to a mountain.
Apricale is known for its olives and olive oil production, but the village as such has two churches, a tiny supermarket, a shop selling produce from Apricale, a tobacconist and stationery shop, a pharmacy, and restaurants Apricus Osteria and Bar, A Ciassa, and Delio. Since the village was featured in the TV series JAN late last year, on viaTV and Showmax, it has become very well-known to South Africans, and they are visiting in droves.
In my time here I met three South African couples, the first on my first day, when I had gone to breakfast barefoot to heal my badly blistered toes from the Camino. There sat Steve Zietsman and his wife Crystal, Steve and I having studied B.Comm at the University of Stellenbosch. Their son had attended Fairmont High School in Durbanville, of which my sister Elisabeth Müller was the Head before she passed away. We had not seen each other since our studies. Steve and his wife love doing motorcycle tours along the Mediterranean. Klaas and Ina van Wyk are from Cape Town too, and they kindly took a copy of my SwitchBitch Book 1 with them when they went to eat at JAN restaurant later in the week, to leave for Chef Jan-Hendrik. Frikkie and Judith from Krugersdorp were a very friendly couple too, and we enjoyed sharing disaster stories about the impact of the striking French air support staff. In addition to speaking Afrikaans in the main to the South Africans, there were Dutch, Belgian, German, British, and Irish guests too, which allowed me to speak in English, Afrikaans, and German. Here as well as on the Camino German guests would praise my German for being accent-free. It has become more fluent in the past three months since meeting a new special German friend.
After spending my first day in the nearby village Dolceacqua to buy Flip Flops to allow my toes to heal, as I only ever wear closed shoes, buying fruit and vegetables to eat raw for dinners, and to visit its very well-known Castello and its Bridge, which was painted by Impressionist Claude Monet in 1884, I settled in and started writing. I had written the outline of the book on the long train journey from Turin to Ventimiglia, so I knew where I was heading with my writing.
But my feet were itching to walk, having averaged 21 km per day on the Camino, so I did a quick 3 km walk to the neighboring Isalobona village for a cappuccino. I had never walked anywhere in the area on my two previous visits to Apricale, and do not rent a vehicle. Now walking seemed easy. More strenuous was a 7 km walk up to Perinaldo, a village one looks up to from Apricale, being 300 meters higher. The village was very quiet when I visited on a Saturday, but it does have a spectacular view onto the Mediterranean on the other side.
While I am usually a night-time writer, I quickly went back into my morning writing routine as I had done here last year, sitting on my terrace overlooking a green hill, and still in the shade for most of the morning. I set myself chapter targets daily, to meet my deadline of finishing my book by yesterday. Daily discipline, despite the walking outings, allowed me to complete the book on time. While the weather was cooler in the first week of my visit, it warmed up to such an extent that I was in the pool daily this past week, and enjoyed swimming, ultimately finding it kinder to my feet and their recovery. The setting of the pool, at the bottom end of the property, 82 steps down from my room, was a further exercise opportunity. I quickly felt the greater impact on my figure of swimming compared to the walking.
Twice I visited the Farmacia to weigh myself, being part of my eating discipline. I was delighted that the weightloss is continuing, albeit slowly, as my goal is to reach minus 50 kg. I was able to correct my eating in Apricale, after the endless croissant eating on the Camino, not usually eating wheat-based products. B&B owner Jeanette van Manen serves generous and healthy breakfasts, of which I had a fruit salad with the softest chewiest pipless prunes, dates, nuts, and yoghurt. Then my daily egg order was taken, there were various types of cheeses, with capers, tomatoes, and cucumber slices, and the highlight was the two dry cappuccinos made perfectly. In addition, Italian Pastry treats, croissants, and toast with jams are offered. Mini panna cottas were a surprise breakfast treat one morning,
Jeanette followed my writing progress, and the intrigues of my life, asking pertinent questions. We had so much fun together, laughing, and were amazed at how the Universe manifested things we spoke about. Jeanette is charming and vivacious, hands on in running the breakfast, helpful with advice to guests as to what to see and do in the area, and bends over backwards in offering her guests the best possible service. Each room has a bar fridge, in which I could keep my dinner fresh foods. Her home is filled with love, and there are hearts inside and outside. Her garden is filled with flowers, Wisterias just starting to flower, and with lovely lavender. Every morning a fresh flower or olive branch decorated the cotton napkin.
Linked to the B&B is Apricus Osteria & Bar, and I spent some evenings there to watch the World Cup soccer. They serve fresh salads, including the Apricus Insalata, with ham, lettuce, mozzarella, and peaches.
Whilst I will write SwitchBitch Book 3 closer to Havana and Buenos Aires later this year, when I attend Salsa and Tango dance schools respectively, Jeanette and I have worked on an idea of a new book focusing on the Apricale area for me to come back and to write about next year!
Ciao Apricale and thank you for another wonderful visit.
Apricus Locanda, Via IV Novembre 5, Apricale, Italy. +39 3396008622. www.apricuslocanda.com
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein