When I decided that I needed a place away from home to write The Book, I knew that I had two requirements: a warm place with a pool, and preferably a small village without any shopping and ideally no eating distractions. I could think of no better place to stay than Apricale, described as the most beautiful village in Italy!

I had stayed at Apricus Locanda B&B in Apricale two years ago, and was introduced to it by Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen, when I ate at his JAN Restaurant for the first time. I had a bad experience at an AirBnB in Nice at the time, and had a romantic notion of traveling to the tiniest village in France, in which no one spoke English, so that I could spruce up and be forced to speak the French I had tried to learn for a year at the Alliance Français in Cape Town. Chef Jan-Hendrik shook his head, and said that he could only think of Apricale, his favorite hide-away just over the border into Italy, and about thirty minutes drive north of Ventimiglia. The rest is history, in that he made a booking for a week for me, and stayed a night there himself with his mother visiting from Middelburg, being extremely kind in showing me the market in Nice, and doing a sightseeing tour on the
way to Apricale.

When I made the call to Jeanette, the owner of Apricus Locanda, two years since my last stay, I said I was Chris from Cape Town, and mentioned the introduction via Chef Jan-Hendrik. She remembered me immediately, as the Dry Cappuccino lady! I left the brief in her hands – I was looking for as long a period in which to stay, preferably for four weeks, so that I could sit and finish The Book. She efficiently emailed three accommodation and date options, and I selected the B&B option for a period somewhat shorter. A self-catering option without a pool somewhere higher up in the village did not appeal to me, as it would be nice to interact with other guests, and with Jeanette, at least once a day at Breakfast. This is the Sweet Service Award I wrote in honour of Jeanette two years ago, and describes what is so special about it: 

The Sweet Service Award goes to Apricus Locanda B&B in a tiny village called Apricale in Liguria in Italy, just over the border of France, and its vivacious Dutch owner Jeanette. I was introduced and driven to the establishment by Jan restaurant Owner/Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen with his mother, one of his favorite places to get away from his high-pressured lifestyle. On our way there, Chef Jan took us to see the Cours Saleya market in Nice, and stopped at various spots for us to see Nice, St Jean Cap Ferrat, and Monaco. B&B owner Jeanette has a great decor touch, her breakfasts over the five days were excellent, she was informative, her rates are reasonable, she is located in a very quiet area overlooking green hills, and even asked her husband to drive me to the nearest train station in Ventimiglia without accepting payment for it!’

It is in the small touches that Jeanette excels as a B&B owner: the sprig of lavender on the pillows on arrival; a piece of string tied around the quality large linen Breakfast napkin, with a Buongiorno message tag on it; keeping a little left-over breakfast treat in my fridge for me on the day that I arrived, especially given that everything is closed on Sundays; her cheerful friendliness every day; a bowl with two figs when I asked where I can buy them locally; and the quirky decor of the rooms. 

I have always been an evening writer, but as there is no table inside the room, I have switched to writing on the table on my terrace in the morning, before the sun shines on it, and have mostly managed to finish writing the designated chapter of the day by midday. Then I spend a good two hours at the pool, swimming, tanning, and reading. In the afternoons I read more, have a nap, and then write more (I have found that I have the capacity to write Blogposts as well, having thought that I would have to put the Blog aside to make space for The Book). I have asked Jeanette for a candle, and can write with it at night on my terrace. 

Breakfast is more than plentiful, with a fresh fruit
salad, prunes, different flavours of yoghurts, five different Italian cheeses, cakes and pastries, breads, orange juice, boiled eggs (all other egg types are available too), tomato and cucumber, cereals and nuts, preserves, honey, and my special cups of dry cappuccino. 

While one has Breakfast, the room is cleaned and the bed is made, returning to a neat kempt space. Then the writing begins!

The idea of The Book, and writing it in Apricale, has strong connections to Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen of JAN restaurant in Nice, in being the start to what became an incredible journey for me in the past 16 months! A huge thank you to you, Chef Jan-Hendrik! ❤️❤️❤️

Future of SA’s first Michelin star restaurant JAN may include Cape Town!

Apricus Locanda, Via IV Novembre 5, 18035 Apeicale, Italy. Cell +39 339 6008622. 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