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Residency Life - Settling In

Residency Life – Settling In

My first week at La Macina di San Cresci was spent mostly settling in. My bedroom was personalized with a "Welcome Monique" place card by a lovely blank journal that I could use, as well as information and maps about the area. Clean towels, fresh linens for the bed with a colourful duvet that made everything so welcoming. Please note that there are no screens in the windows, so if you don't want the bees and the swallows coming in, then just pull the sheers. There was plenty of hot water for showers and doing dishes. There is a dishwasher, but while it was in use it delayed us taking a shower so we all did the dishes by hand. There is a full size fridge that works really well and plenty of dishes and pots and pans to use in the kitchen.

In Greve (5 miles or so) is where you buy your food, wine, bread, pastries and of course real gelato ! There are not that many shops, but enough to service everyone. Then there is the Saturday Market where you can buy food to shoes and most things inbetween. It becomes very lively in the town square with all the vendors and patrons.

There are 2 hair salons in town and one doctor. Note that you will most likely not find your favorite brand of shampoo, body lotion, etc. You might want to bring your own if you have room in your luggage.

There are NO art supplies in town, I will cover that area in a later post.

Coming from Canada where spring had not yet sprung, I marveled at everything that was in bloom here. All the trees were fully leaved, the lilacs, the huge irises, the abundance of poppies growing wildly everywhere and even roses ! The little vines which were to become fully laden with fruit were already trailing row upon row in the vineyards. I adjusted to the time difference (6 hours), the rooster somewhere in the countryside who could not for the life of him tell time. The neighbor's tractor that was started up every morning at 7:30am. I loved the darkness and stillness of the night. The abundance of fireflies flitting about and one night I even saw a shooting star when I was sitting on my doorstep while contemplating the beauty of it all.

Tommy G. and I shared the 3 bedroom house with 2 bathrooms, plenty of space to have some alone time and a wonderful kitchen table where I would end up sharing many happy meals with friends. Tommy and I got to know each other and share stories over many late nights. He soon confessed that he did not know how to cook, which was not a problem for me as I really love to prepare meals and have someone around who likes to eat. At the beginning I was shocked that I only had a 4 burner gas contraption and a toaster oven to work with, but what I perceived as a challenge turned out to be a great experience and stretch of my comfort zone and over the 10 week period I came up with some knock’em dead meals. Turns out all the artists were also foodies so it worked out great, I will elaborate on that in a future post. So for the first 7 days there, I was with Tommy Graham and Ellen Coffey and Patrick Coffey. All 3 had been there together for a month in 2014, and here they were, back again in 2016. Tommy is a talented and well known artist from the UK, Ellen does beautiful sculptures in the USA and her husband Patrick is a prolific writer (as a second career). His first career is being a genius !

During the first few days Tommy showed me around and explained the ins and outs of how things worked. He also introduced me to the studio. I will be dedicating a post to the studio, there is so much to tell.

So my routine was that I would wake up early in the morning, while Tommy was a night owl. That meant I had the house basically to myself until at least noon. I would sit in my room, at my little desk, looking out the window with my first coffee of the day and ease into my day with the peaceful surroundings. My room overlooked the garden but I could also see beyond to the mountains with glimpses of the one road in the area. I would make my way to the studio via the garden where Hugo was waiting for me. Hugo is a Leonburger breed of dog. He looks like a mixture of a grizzly bear and a lion and weighs in at 70kgs. He loves people, any people ! Not once during my stay did I hear him bark. He is kept in the large garden (and house), because letting him out would be dangerous to him, as he might be mistaken for some sort of wild beast, looking at him, no one would suspect he is the most gentle of creatures. He quickly became my buddy and I looked forward to his lavish greetings.

Mimma and Duccio are such gracious hosts, and they know everybody ! It was not unusual for friends and local artists to drop in for drinks and we were invited to meet them and partake. Sometimes meet ups were planned at Café Logge as we went into town on a daily basis for groceries, or at least for fresh bread. So why not hook up with friends for a drink, and many times that extended into having dinner.

Mimma or Ellen drove us everywhere. I was not yet ready to tackle the 28 year old car or the dirt road leading to town. In the first week there Mimma and Duccio took us to two openings where we met up with friends and continued on to dinner in authentic Tuscany restaurants through winding mountain roads leading to little villages that I would never be able to find again ! The drive home was always exciting as I kept my eyes peeled to see wild boar, unfortunately I did not see any, but one night a deer jumped across the road, that was pretty cool !

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