This island is a safe place to stand -motionless – wearing a straw hat tipped toward the milky way.
The rusty old ferry tub called Carloforte leaves Terracina port at precisely 9 on a summer morning. That means an early start from our house in Marino. We are always happy to catch the slow boat to the little island called Ponza, just 33 kms from the motherland.
L’isola di Ponza is an emotionally ‘suggestivo’ place and we are grateful to have it so close to home. The locals proudly told us there have been no covid cases on the island. But this summer the ferry boats are bringing in hundreds of mainlanders, some of them lucky to have a government ‘holiday voucher’ worth 500 euros to spend on hotels. An attempt to boost the failing tourist economy at the risk of starting another wave.
The locals watch us floating into their pretty pristine port with flags flying, horns blasting, masks hanging from our elbows. Beaches are plastered with young Italian beauties in bikinis. Motorboaters flock over from the mainland like noisy gulls disembarking for lunch in the many restaurants. All tables booked in advance. It’s the schiki mikis who come here and we hope they keep good hygiene.
Large ‘bubbles’ of half-naked young people mingle in the narrow white painted streets between the little chic shops and cafes as if nothing has changed. The occasional senior person hurries by with mask firmly in place. The youngsters will go back to school in September if everything is still under control. Nobody knows, but the future looks as patchy as a watercolour painting.
Thinking about all the virus tsunami spots in the world and worrying in a weirdly helpless way. Comparing outcomes is difficult as the cultures are so different. The Italian nation was not divided by the necessary lockdown rules. Mostly everyone complied, which was quite a feat considering the individualistic attitude here. Now the ‘nation’ are able to go away for tentative holidays…. but we expect there will be a slight second wave.
The city centers are still grimly vacant. One can walk around the Colosseum all by yourself. My South African artist friend who lives in Rome just spent a few beautiful peaceful days in Venice. No noisy cruise liners vomiting their penny-pinching passengers into the delicate city.
When we arrived back from the island it was late and we were hungry, but in Marino the restaurants with outdoor tables were all fully booked. Eventually we found a lucky corner with a view over the lights of Rome. The pizza was delicious. Simple things are the best these days.
My cousin in New Jersey USA, is a professor who teaches immunology (married to a virologist who is studying the covid virus in the lab) told us yesterday that if you get sick you will most likely recover but the damage to your body is lasting. The heart, lungs and brain suffer some permanent damage. This is why it is important to keep your distance, and stay in your bubble!
We all need a safe island to stand on. Tip our straw hats to the universe and be still.
To see the Ponza artwork please go to my account on INSTAGRAM- leanne.nowell
As the lockdown in Italy lifted in the middle of June, Simon and I flew the coop as soon as we could, and drove north to the wonderful rolling countryside of Tuscany. What could be more inspiring for an artist than spending a week in the heart of the Chianti winelands in early summer? The weather was perfect, allowing me to paint in the traditional Villa garden without any bother.
With so many vistas and panoramas to choose from, I was like a child running from one beautiful scene to the next. From the courtyard to a secret garden to a shady spot under a cherry tree. Then along cypress tree lined roads, through vineyards and oak forests. A breeze kept the olive trees fluttering their silvery green leaves – a lovely sight that’s altogether more difficult to capture on paper. I forgot to bring my folding chair, so some work was done squatting on the floor.
The staff at the villa were careful not to interrupt the flow of paint and left me in peace to splash away. At the end of the week we put them all up for show and the Villa staff got to choose their favourites, while the rest were eagerly snapped up by our friends who had come from France to ride bikes with Simon. It was, after all, not a public showing, since we still have strict social distancing rules to follow. We kept to the bubble protocol.
Tuscany print series for sale
Available as a file download.
Print your own, any size you want.
Buy them here on my website.
In 5 minutes you’ll have your artwork file, simply send it to your local print shop.
See more details in my shop.
The colours are as fresh and vibrant as the original painting for a fraction of the price.
I’m so excited to be riding into Oslo over the finish line today! So thrilled to be seeing my family again.
Bright blues skies and hot. Tyrone navigated the way from Moss, passed his house in Ås, lunch in Ski, and soon we are speeding downhill into Oslo. Megs and Ste are waiting with my one year old grandson Elia in front of the marble white Opera house on the bay. They’ve made a fabulous large paper banner with ROME TO OSLO printed on it, holding it up across the path.
Ty has sped off ahead to be ready photograph the arrival scene. The drama of the moment is slightly diluted by getting caught up in a net of Chinese tourists, however I force my way through them and go blasting through the middle of the banner in a flash, tearing it in half.
I wish I could do it again with more relish this time… both the tearing of the banner and the entire ride.
Angel baby Elia is ok with being handed over to this stinky old cyclist grandma for kisses. I’m quite overwhelmed and lost for words.
After a sprinkling of confetti, a cin cin of Prosecco, a glass of red South African wine with a delicious home cooked meal, the relaxing begins. There’s plenty of fun and games with Elia. I’m so happy to be back with my family! So much to celebrate together, one of the reasons is Megan has an appointment tomorrow for a pregnancy scan. I am invited to go along and see if we are expecting a boy or a girl !!!
7 points to the north star – zooming out
Cycling for two months and clocking a grand total of 4180 kilometers. Top speed 59.8 Kph, at which point the panniers would rise up dangerously, like wings opening for take-off. Average speed 18.5 kph. Oiled chain twice and pumped one tire once. Used Booking dot com and Google maps on an iphone 5.
Sleeping in 50 different beds which varied from a raw mattress to a bed fit for a queen and everything in between. Searching for accommodation every afternoon caused me some stress, but thankfully was never forced to sleep under a bush. Navigating was the most complicated part of the ride for me.
Being alone for most of the time left me with the seven “me’s” who were labelled: Dizzy blonde, Stupid-bloody-fool, Guru, Panic-pot, Happy, Sneezy, and Dopey. Guru was the most annoying of all, always shouting “Get up out of that bed immediately and get on your bike” or yelling “PAY ATTENTION ! … STOP…… go go go GOOOO…. take your blinkers off …wait… keep pedalling … get your aaas into gear. Let it be known that we all need to listen to our inner Guru, no matter what your mission happens to be or how brutal that voice is.
Changing identity and becoming a man; no makeup, no hair brush, a ravenous appetite, strong muscles, navigating by the sun, loving my bike too much, drinking beer, not caring about my ugly face, wearing the same clothes every day and going places where women don’t usually go for example prohibited factory yards, pubs full of pirates, wolf territory. It was liberating. Much to my surprise and relief the body managed to survive the journey. The hands grew a bit claw-like and developed pads on the palms… werewolf symptoms?
Appreciating the champions – my husband Simon, and my imaginary cycling team (my children who cheered me on), and all my family and friends as the ‘blog-backup support team’ who constantly wrote kind messages to keep me going. Thank you everyone. I would have been miserable without you. Your put wind in my tires and power in my pedals.
Being teased by those who poopoo my journey because of the eeee bike, once you get your very own ebike you will understand that it’s the best form of transport on the planet. Since the reasons for this tour were not about proving myself, but rather a really exciting way to experience beautiful Europe and actually enjoy the feeling of traveling from one place to another. At the same time I tried to teach myself to be brave so I can handle a personal struggle which has not been discussed in the story.
Europe is a remarkably safe place for solo women travellers, despite what you see on TV. Even with covid 19 now in circulation, it is quite easy to avoid trouble. People are kind and helpful wherever you go. Especially children. Kids notice a lot of things that adults are too busy to see. So many small gestures from kids gave me huge encouragement to continue.
The answer to the most common question of all is…how sore is your seat?…. It’s a resounding sore!
The edited and printed bike ride book with all the watercolour illustrations will be available soon.
The “lockdown in Marino” illustrations and stories will also be out in print.
pile of paintings since lockdown began in Italy on the 9 March 2020
GIVE ME A DAY OR TWO TO GET THE TUSCANY PAINTINGS INTO MY SHOP.
A SET OF FOUR WATERCOLOURS TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT FOR PRIVATE USE.
The mood at breakfast in Gothenburg is jovial. We guzzle most of the buffet. I’m so relieved and happy to have Tyrone here.
Massive mossy granite boulders push up through the oats fields. Trees balance the rocky cracks. These hills are perfectly spaced for cyclists to whizz down for 10 seconds and struggle up the next one for 10 minutes. Up and down like that all day. There are black-blue lakes glinting behind the shaking birch leaves. All day we ride through the leafy wilderness expecting to see a troll. A little fawn leaps away into the forest.
Hotels are few and far between. Stenungsund offers us lunch, and to be on the safe side we ask about future accommodation possibilities on our route. A sweet girl at the info office telephones ahead to Henån. She books the only room available within a day’s ride.
After a “sundowner” at Henån port (actually up here near the Arctic circle the sun goes down at about 10 pm and it stays light until the wee hours) we find the one and only hotel where the owner gives us a choice between a hotel room and a bed & breakfast room. We choose the bed & breakfast which is cheaper and the word “breakfast” wins us over. But the mistake becomes obvious when the manager shows us to the low ceilinged converted garage pod. The smell is almost unbearable. Seems our fellow guests have cooked something that was killed too long ago.
However, we survived the night and the breakfast served in the hotel section was flavoursome. The manager gave us a winning smile and came out on the doorstep to wave goodbye.
Last day in Sweden
Another day of ups and downs. Tyrone was doing well on his new bike, although he says the saddle is a torture instrument. It’s one of those off road mountain bikes with a not-for-sitting seat. After eight hours perched on it he announces “there are no hotels on the radar.” Trepidation grows as we ride the narrow tar road between solid spruce trees towards the Norwegian border. Eighty eight kilometers and considering the thought of an exhausting night avoiding the proliferous wolves and moose.
Around the next corner, up pops a camping ground. There is no such thing as luck and coincidence. It’s called The book of Life unfolding. You get what you need… if you pay proper attention and make the right choices at each intersection. Easy to say, but this is proof. Thank God Tyrone is here, there is no way I would have made it this far without him.
At the camping reception a lady examines her bookings, and finally says “Yes, I do” …’ have a cabin for you!”. She informs us that the restaurant will be closing at 19:00. It is now 17:30 we have time to take a quick swim in the black lake. To be honest, it’s way too cold for me, but Ty takes a swim and I paint in my notebook instead.
At 18:00 we enthusiastically head over to the dining room.
The receptionist has made a mistake. Closing time is at 18:00. Inside there are gaggles of waitresses eating pommes frites. “Sorry we are closed” they say “anyway there was no food left. We had a hectic weekend.”
I beg for a slice of bread for my son.
We all giggle but they say no.
Beer is ok, so we get a beer or three.
The evening did not last long after that. We took our beer-belly grumbles to the narrow bunk-bed of our tiny wooden cabin. Wolves howl.
Marching on to Moss
Sun’s up. We go down to the receptionist with our bikes all packed and ready to go. The lady apologises for the misunderstanding. As compensation she hands us fragrant cinnamon buns straight from the oven with cups of hot coffee. Hunger evaporates and all is forgiven.
The camping ground is on the Swedish side of the Norwegian border. The seventh and final border of the trip. It has been amazing to cross so many countries without a single control check. Freedom to move is one of the greatest gifts the European Union has given us.
I feel happy and surprised to see four thousand kilometers on the clock. There is no real pride in it, after all a solo journey such as this is a wholly selfish endeavour, although I’m pleased to have made it so far. Gratefulness is the only feeling that one can honestly have in this case. The reason why I’m writing to tell you all about this ride is to make sure all the kindness and support experienced along the way is not forgotten.
I’m hoping you might be encouraged to do the same, or something similar. It doesn’t have to be sporty but it should be something you love doing. And remember loving is all about action. Getting around to doing the necessary thing. At the beginning you may fall off, but you’ll learn to shoulder roll and leap up again. You will get into the present moment with such intensely determined focus that you’ll make damn sure you don’t fall.
A spoke in the wheel of life.
Looking back now from the wheat field where Tyrone is capturing the moment on film, I must say the enterprise has been filled with all the emoticons on the list. There were times of euphoria, joy and peace. Balanced with a good dose of humiliation, boredom and feebleness. All of it stirred up with a daily dose of fear, horror and despair. Basically a rainbow of emotions and some I never knew I had.
All day we ride up and down the granite hills under the tall forest trees, along highways and byways, on roads and paths, bridges and ferries until we came to the sea at Moss. The only deviation was an urgent rush for a loo when the lunch in my tummy gurgled dangerously. Three men in green road-work protective clothing sat at a table outside their quarters eating mayonnaise and tomato sandwiches. I rode right up to them in a panic “please – excuse me – hello – can I use your toilet???!!”.
A negative look went around between them like a un-pinned hand grenade. One got the stare from both the others, so he got up and showed me into a dark little shanty room with an unmade bed. The basin was a lot less white than it should have been, but at least there was plenty of loo paper.
Our hotel in Moss has a Rolls Royce parked out front and an elegant seaside garden with a terrace view over the bay. Tyrone is definitely paying for this one!