Easing Back into Life

I’ve been home for almost two weeks, and am just starting to feel like myself again. Jet lag after a month in Europe and days of walking seven to 10 miles each day definitely took their toll! But I absolutely loved every minute of our travels, and especially my 10 days in Tuscany with my colleague Helena Hill and the 11 women we took on our writing and painting retreat. (See my previous posts for more on our retreat and my subsequent travels through Italy. I will post more photos from our time in Spain, as well.)

One of the things I realized once I got home is I want to do it again! So I am looking into leading a writing retreat to southern Spain in 2020, and Helena and I are talking about another writing and painting retreat in Tuscany in 2021. Stay tuned for more details, but if you’re interested, take a look at this trip’s itinerary, and let me know if you are interested in a future retreat. And if you would like to get my Weeping Willow Books newsletter, sign up here.

Meanwhile, here are more images from our time at Casa Fiori in Tuscany:

Painting our ceramic plates at the watercolor studio of Katinka Kielstra near Lucca, Italy

Painting our ceramic plates at the watercolor studio of Katinka Kielstra near Lucca, Italy

Lunch at Katinka’s

Lunch at Katinka’s

Cooking class with Karolina

Cooking class with Karolina

Helena with a typical lunch at Casa Fiori

Helena with a typical lunch at Casa Fiori

Celebrating a successful shopping expedition into Lucca

Celebrating a successful shopping expedition into Lucca

Ciao, Casa Fiori. See you again soon!

Ciao, Casa Fiori. See you again soon!

Ciao from Lucca, Italia!

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Greetings from beautiful (and, today, rainy) Tuscany. My colleague, Helena Hill, and I arrived two days ago with one of the eleven women joining us on this writing and painting adventure for the next ten days. All but one of the rest of the group are expected within the hour. 

We are at a 400-year-old villa run by the inimitable Karolina Lenart, a fabulous chef, and her husband and family. We were welcomed warmly with a lovely pasta lunch and wine. 

Yesterday morning I walked down from our rented flat in Lucca (we came two days before the retreat) to the cafe below to be greeted by Boris the bulldog and the friendly, and, thankfully, English-speaking staff.  I gobbled a sticky and sweet rice pastry with my cappuccino as I wrote. Boris was friendly but not so much that you were assured he liked you. Coincidentally we encountered another bulldog this afternoon at the villa— Bonito. See if you can guess which is which.

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The overnight flight from LAX was uneventful and I even managed to sleep about five hours, though fitfully. I was pleasantly surprised to find I had the entire row of three seats to myself. I also watched two movies and listened to almost four hours of my audio books—Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow and Pam Houston’s new memoir, Deep Creek, Finding Hope in the High Country. I finished Pam’s book early this morning when I awoke at 2:30 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep.

Honestly, every human being who cares about the natural world—and perhaps more importantly those who don’t—needs to read this book. It is a lovely treatise on the value of hard work amid the reality of nature and death and grief and loss, humanity and animals and the environment, human folly and hope and despair. It’s funny how someone whose life experiences are so vastly different from your own nevertheless can feel like a deeply connected sister or best friend. 

Our flat in Lucca was vast by European standards—three bedrooms and two bathrooms in the heart of Lucca town. Lucca is a medieval walled city filled with colorful buildings, fine leather shops, boutique clothing and pottery shops, restaurants and gelateria. Oh, and churches, towers and cathedrals. 

Tomorrow—Casa Fiori, painting and writing, on our Call to Adventure.  

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