Snow at last? No, snow with balls! Yesterday we had REAL snow and I have lots of pics to show you all. First, however, let me tell you about our little excursion to Parma this week.
There are many interesting places around here that you can get to by car within an hour or two. Some of these places are not really all that interesting for kids, so Chris and I have decided to do some short trips while the kids are at school. One such place is Parma. We left on Wednesday morning and took the autostrada from Pontremoli. The section of autostrada from Pontremoli to Parma is not very good: lots of road work and winding parts, but we made it in just over an hour. We made our way to the centre and parked the car and proceeded on foot. Having never been to Parma before, we did our usual roaming the streets aimlessly routine, and came across a nice toy shop where we finished the Christmas shopping for the kids. We continued down the street to the main piazza.
Parma is quite a busy town and there are lots of shops and restaurants. There seems to be a big focus on gourmet food stores and we saw shops for bread, meats, chocolate and cheese along the way.
We found a nice little cafe on the piazza for lunch. I ordered a Parmigiana Salad (why wouldn’t you order something with Parma ham in it?) and Chris got a lasagne. Both meals were FANTASTIC!
The parma ham in my salad was amazing. It was sliced wafer thin and just melted in my mouth. Slightly salty and very tasty, it was easily the best ham I’ve had in my life.
We wandered around a bit after lunch and saw more churches and domes. They are almost commonplace after Florence! There was one completely marble church on a piazza which was particularly beautiful, unfortunately the tower was surrounded by scaffolding but you can see in the drawing below what it would look like:
We didn’t have a great deal of time to look around as time was marching on and we needed to make sure we got home in time for the kids bus. We left with what we thought was plenty of time to spare, but my GPS had a fit of insanity and sent us half an hour in the wrong direction! We recovered and made it home with 2 minutes to spare. Phew! Next time, we will leave an extra hour in our schedule just to be sure.
On Friday, as Chris and the kids were waiting for the school bus (which never came), it started to snow. Just a light dusting on the ground, but we thought it was time we bought chains for the car, so after dropping the kids off at school we drove into Villafranca. We bought chains from the local service station and the man was very nice to show us how to put them on. He said not to bother about using them until the snow was very deep and that we should just drive carefully/slowly on a day like today. We stopped in at our favourite cafe, Iceberg, on the way back. While we were having our cappuccinos and brioche, it really started to dump snow outside. It was beautiful to look at, but slightly worrying when we considered getting back up the hill to Groppo. We left the cafe and stopped off for groceries. The car lost traction at one point in the carpark of the grocery store and we had chains on our mind. When we came out of the store, the snow was blanketing everything, but we decided to try and make it back to Bagnone without the chains on. Bad idea! 5 minutes down the road and it started raining a little bit. Rain and snow = very slippery ice and the car was just sliding along the road with no steering control or brakes. We slid over as far as we could to the side of the road to try and get our chains on. After we had spent considerable effort breaking the stupid plastic ties on the container, we went out into the heavy snow and tried to figure out the chains. It was not easy and was made even harder by the thick snow-fall and the crazy Italian drivers sliding by us on the road, chain-free and unphased by it all. In the end we gave up and got back into the car to give it another go. The rain had stopped and we were able to get enough traction on the road to continue our journey. On the way, we saw another man putting on his chains and stopped to ask if he could help us. He basically told us to f#*k off. Nice. We managed to limp into Bagnone, parked the car across the bridge and went into the Farmacia where we knew they spoke some English.
We asked Mario (the Pharamacist) where we should go to get help with our chains (the caribinieri? a mechanic?) and his co-worker (Luigi) offered to help. Yes, I DID say Mario and Luigi. Luigi should be sainted I think, as he came out in the heavy snow and walked back to our car with us and figured out our chains (having only ever done it once before). He saved our lives, as there was no way we would have been able to get up the mountain to Groppo without chains on. As we were driving off, he even came back to tighten them! It was above and beyond the call for him to help 2 unknown foreigners and I feel sure that good karma will find him. (I baked him cookies actually, just as a token of our appreciation.)
We finally made it home, only to be called by the school to come and pick the boys up. Apparently when the snow is that heavy, they close the school. Back down the mountain we went again to get two very excited little boys. The kids were LOVING the snow and had been watching out the windows all morning as it came down. As soon as we got home they went outside to play in it.
It kept snowing until late afternoon, by which time there were a few inches of snow blanketed on everything. It was lovely to look at and quite strange to catch site of it out of the windows as I went about my domestic business. Here are some pics:
This morning when we woke up the sun was out and the snow looked beautiful. So white and powdery and glittering in the sun like diamonds. The colours of the morning were pretty pastels:
We drove down into Bagnone to take advantage of the lovely day and get some photos of the snow. It was truly a winter wonderland!
I always like to finish with my favourite photo of the moment, this is a Chris masterpiece I think:
I don’t actually put in the best photos that Chris has taken, we’re saving that for the book, but I’d still like to get some feedback on which images you like. It will give us a better idea of what direction the book should take. Please do leave comments, I read them all!
Unfortunately I’m not feeling very well at the moment, I have a feeling I might be coming down with a virus of some sort. I’m trying my best not to succumb (so lucky that I have not been sick once since leaving Australia), but vitamin C is very expensive here and I was not even able to find any today. Oh well, fingers crossed it’s just the cold weather.