Thoughts, quirky insights and experiences in my meandering life.

Eleven and a half months

View from San Gimignano

The most time consuming part of creating a posting is choosing the pictures. I get lost in reviewing them to choose the ones that I want to use and what I want to say about them. Today was no exception as this blog is the last from Europe. I fly home to Canada on October 16th, just the day after tomorrow.

Art installation in the Rose Garden on the way up to the Piazzale Michelangelo

Things I will miss include, and not in order of importance:

All the taxes being included in the price that you see on the menu or on the shelf in a grocery store, or on a piece of clothing. This applies to the UK and Italy. What a treat to not have to stop and calculate how much tax you need to add to the item you are buying, or to your division of the bill in a restaurant.

How close things are, relatively speaking, in Europe. And how much easier it is to use public transport to get around. Trains connect towns and cities efficiently and quickly. I have “popped” up to London at least three times on this trip, and this last weekend we “popped” down to Jane and Martin’s home to celebrate Ruben’s 2nd birthday.

Ruben was exercise averse this weekend, preferring to be carrier or pushed. Sally in charge of the wheel barrow.

In Italy trains took me and various guests to Venice, Lucca, Modena and San Gimignano quickly, efficiently, and in comfort. A bit more space than British trains.

My fifth guest, Katherine, in San Gimignano.

I will miss having access to all the leather, sewing machines, sciving machines, leather splitter, findings and structural fabrics, mentorship and so much more at the Scuolo del Cuoio. Choosing what are the most important things to begin with in my own workshop will be an interesting process.

Leather sewing machine with sewing guide

Just to round things out I took another weekend course in England, just a few miles away from where Sally lives. It was a completely different style of leather work where we dyed our leather and hand stitched the bag.

I found the course on a website called What an amazing resource. You put in your postal code and it gives you a list of course of all kinds that are offered in your area. From blacksmithing to leather work to who knows what. This country has a dense enough population that a website of this sort is viable. What a resource, both as an artisan offering courses and for participants. I wish we had a similar one in Ontario.

Above are silver rings that Sally and I made at the Glamorous Owl in Newcastle. A workshop gift from friends for her 60th birthday that I got to enjoy as well. Mine is on the left, a herringbone finish, and Sally’s is hammered.

It goes without saying that I will miss being close to my family. I thought I may see Ruben once while here but it has turned out that I have seen him frequently, and what a treat that has been. He is a lovely, happy, sweet natured little boy, but I am tremendously biased. It has been lovely to see people frequently and be a more continuous part of the fabric of their lives.

Things I will not miss, in no particular order:

Florence in July and August. My brother in law Trevor called the heat scorchio, and he was right. I felt like I was being slowly roasted when I was in direct sunlight. What a relief it was when the temperatures cooled down in September and I could really explore Florence without discomfort. My early visitors were real troopers, but Sara, Gayle and Katherine all planned their dates well. It was lovely to get out of Florence with Katherine and visit San Gimignano, a hill top town close by. The views were amazing, and it was lovely to rest my eyes on the far distance. In Florence the streets are narrow and the town is relatively flat so there are no views unless you climb towers or hills slightly out of town.

The towers of San Gimignano

There were few ways for the rich merchants of San Gimignano to show their wealth when the town was at it’s most successful. As space was limited to build big impressive houses, they built up. They built towers above their houses. At one point there were 72 (or so). They had no function except to demonstrate wealth. Amazing.

Winding alleyways, wonderful views, great restaurants and treacherous sloping sidewalks (when it rains, which it did while we were there,) in San Gimignano.

I missed main course salads. England, and strangely, Italy do not offer a good selection of salads that constitute a main course. In fact, I could say that the main course salad in the UK is almost non-existent. Traditional Italian restaurants, which means most of them, do not have a tradition of salads as a main course. Usually the only real choice was a Calabrese salad. So after pub meals in England and pasta and gelato in Italy, back to Weight Watchers I go. Sigh

We were actually stuck in this picture. Something was holding us in place, probably wood caught in the water draining system. This was part of ladder of locks, or is this called a flight? No pounds between them.

I will not miss copper coins.

All in all it has been everything I wanted it to be, and of course there were many things that I could not have anticipated, such as the extra visits with Ruben, or participating in the People’s Vote along with 1,000,000 others, doing Swingfit, and Pilates and meeting great new friends at Sally’s and Jane’s.

Regents Canal, going around Regents Park

Of course I new that people were going to visit me both on board Little Star and in Florence, and I continue to be delighted and honoured that they chose to do that but the reality was so much more fun than the anticipation. Thank you everyone for making my adventure so much MORE.

I think I will end this now before I become maudlin. See you in Owen Sound!


Last day of Leather School.


Halloween Bookends


  1. Marnie

    Was thinking of you the other day when I heard “Little Star” by The Elegants on the radio. Owen Sound awaits! (Although all they will talk about there is the bridge detour.) It’s not Florence but it has its charms. Safe travels and welcome back to Canada.

    • Maggie

      Thanks Marnie. My brother in law found the local radio station and was playing it the other day. He told me about the 10th bridge so I am all ready!

      • Marnie

        I don’t know about Weight Watchers but there’s an Owen Sound Waste Watchers group that might be right up your alley. They gather trash! By the way, your first photo in this post is absolutely incredible.

  2. Linn

    What a lovely wrap up – safe travels & welcome back to Canada!

    • Maggie

      Thanks Linn. Just waiting for them to pick up my extra baggage. 4 boxes of collected stuff. And I am trying to downsize. Oh dear.

    • Glen, Anne-Siri and Henrik

      Ditto from the rest of the Farley / Oyen family in Norway. And thanks for sharing so many wonderful travel tales with us all!

  3. Daniel

    Great pix (again!). Can’t wait to see what you’ll be doing when you get back to Canada: leather bags? bees’ wax products? jams? Very exciting.

  4. Mary

    Wishing you well on your return to your new home Maggie… hope you find setting it up and settling in as exciting as being away for 11 and a half months. They sure have flown haven’t they? Seems like only yesterday that we marched together in London and tomorrow I’ll be doing it again with Suzie and Sarah… to what avail waits to be seen. much love, Mare

    • Maggie

      As Laurel said to Hardy, or was the it other way round, “its a fine mess you have got us into this time” or words to that effect. The UK certainly is a fine mess around Brexit. Will the hornets nest ever settle down whichever way it goes.
      It was an action packed 11 and a half months, I am looking forward to a slightly more sedate routine, but routine I need.
      love and hugs

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