Tuesday, September 1

I woke up early and headed out to explore as much of Pisa as I could in a few hours.  I watched the town wake up from an outdoor café.  Vendors rolled out racks of souvenirs; the doors of shops were set ajar as their contents began spilling out onto the sidewalk.  Handsome men in street clothes entered restaurants and reappeared as waiters hustling chairs off tables and setting out places.  The sun is washing the cobblestone in peach and rose.  Children are being herded by parents and for no good reason a gaggle of military men just jogged past. Sleepy tourists are spilling out of hotels and boarding houses while students with sketchbooks and lovers bounce by, leaving that aire of youth that makes me smile.

I wander toward the Piazza del Duomo and as I round the corner, there is the Tower of Pisa.  It appears so suddenly and seems out of place and small, I don’t really know what to make of it.  Countless tourists strike the usual pose of holding it up.  I take a photo of them instead of the tower.  Postcards do these things justice. My photography does not.   I take a few photos for strangers and head to the river Arno.  I love these stone bridges that span the waters of Europe. No man made material holds the warmth of sunlight as well as the natural stone of a place.  I walk to the center and look out over the water and wonder about Pisaro and Galileo. They knew these roads, this water. 

I only had time for one museum, and again, I leave with regret.  I pop in and out of a few shops, pick up a David head wine stopper and the perfect souvenir for my trip; an alabaster egg.  I have to get to the airport and meet my dates for the next seven days.

Sitting at the airport looking for my sign and a welcoming wave hello.  I get another coffee and wonder about Pinocchio Park.  I am here at the correct time, but I am getting a little nervous about being forgotten.  I call the number on the website and an Italian woman answers the phone.  She has no idea what I am saying, nor do I her.  We babble at each other in broken baby talk for a bit, and finally she understands.  Chris to phone Nancy.  Si!

In that very moment my sign arrives in the hands of a roguish smiling Brit.  We exchange hasty hellos and he takes the phone and speaks to the woman, then leads me to a table where two ladies are sitting with an old man in a straw hat.  All are very nice and all very British. My hopes of finding an Italian lover here are almost dashed.  I don’t give up, as others will be joining us at the camp.

So here I am, apparently in Tuscany.  I see none of the cedars of the brochure.  I see a mountain, a scary dog and a pool.  All of which I can live with because I have wine in my room.  There are 6 artists here. I have met 3 and eagerly await the arrival of Freda (yes Freda) whom I imagine as some Spanish  goddess and whose reputation seems to precede her by 20 miles. They all sound like professional painters and I may be out of my league.  I was expecting a horde of wildly passionate Italian men, but seem to have landed in some British boarding school.

I have not really talked to anyone yet except for Di, who seems very sweet, down to earth, and whom I think may be able to tolerate me.  There is Chrissy from Australia but whom I count as British who sat up front with Chris the instructor who seems enthusiastic about the whole thing, and then there is Anthony.  Not Tony.  Heaven forbid.  Anthony.  I listened to him and Di wax poetic about this place from Pisa to wherever it is I am, and his illustrious career as an architect, artist and who knows what else.  He is an arrogant old guy that does not seem to be aware of either fact.  I like that in old guys.  Diana has a cool little mischievous streak in her I think.  She has warned that I had better not be a tea tottler, so I am hoping she is a wino.  So off we go.  Seven days of British people…I should fit in perfectly! Let the festivities begin! 

My room is really cute. I feel like Heidi. My bed looks like something a small child might enjoy and comes with an equally tiny desk for me to do my homework on. The chair is again, the Van Gogh sort.  The man who invented this spindly little thing must be a billionaire. I’m outside sitting on a bench facing a mountain of sorts. I shall make this my hiding spot.  It’s surprisingly much cooler up here and I am having second thoughts about having sent my sweaters home.  I suppose this flowery thing will be my wardrobe for the week.  I have only been with these people for a few hours, but I feel like I have already talked too much and alienated them.  No friends for me at camp.  Oh well.

We won’t be doing any painting today and that is a bummer.  For the most part, I listened to tales of Freda and something about an opera trip.  I will not be going to an opera. 

There are some really cool pig huts on the hill that I would love to paint. I would actually like to climb into one and get drunk.  There is also an old stone oven and I hope we have fires at night.  I shall enquire.

Apparently I have to go have cocktails now.  I would rather swim, but it’s too soon to be belligerent. 

Dinner was nice and Kris and Chris seem to be charming hosts.  I like Chris.  He has a good easy laugh. I listened to more reminiscing about the good ole days.  These sort of conversations are so bizarre to me.  It’s as though the present is not good enough, we have to dig up fun from the past to get through a meal. It’s an excellent way to make newcomers feel like outcasts.  I am tempted to reminisce out loud about my high school days just to see what they would say. Kris has informed me that fires only happen on pizza night, and the oven is not a fireplace per say.  She then add this particular Thursday there will be no pizza night. I find it odd to have such a beautiful thing and to only use it on Thursdays.  If I lived here, I would blaze that thing every night. At dinner, AntHony told me to forget about having a fire.  No AntHony, I shall not forget about it.

I suppose most were tired, so they toddled off to bed when it seemed the sun had barely set. Thankfully the wine stayed on the table and AntHony in his seat.  He told me again about the city in China and because he is as arrogant as me, I think I will make him my bestie.  I really like Diana, she seems very sly and clever.  As AtHony was about to call it a night, in came Jane.  Jane is a little British lady too and I think I like her.  She has just begun painting and came in with no boasts of her talent or achievements.  She is from Wales, has two sons and this trip was a gift from her husband. 

  She came in very tired and giddy.  I hoped to keep her up til the wee hours, but she faded fast and everyone has gone to bed. My fears have been There will be no Italians here in Italy.  am sitting on the bench again, listening to things creeping in the woods and looking up at the stars.  So ends day one.