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The Cage

Marino steps by Leanne Talbot Nowell

I was going to post an APRIL FOOL blog for you today, but maybe it’s best to skip it this year. It would have featured something like “A big breakthrough in tele-transportation” – you can now pick a destination and be there instantly! A visit to all my family would be so good right now. It would mean popping up in Australia, Norway, South Africa, London, Munich.

Simon is limping around the house with his hurt achilles tendon. During working hours he is having intensive tele-meetings with other big-wigs in the EU space world…(oxymoron?). They’re watching our Earth from satellites, things like ice melt, sea levels, wind, etc. Those images you see on the news, of pollutants vanishing since the corona crisis began, are thanks to Simon and his colleagues. These days it’s all about watching traffic at the borders and large gatherings of people. You can see more on the ESA website. After the health crisis will come the economic crisis, so they are preparing for that.

As for the numbers, the death rate is still shockingly high at 837 yesterday.

The painting is a bit cagey, but hey, there are gloomy days even in my tiny speck of an art world. I made this one yesterday of our back entrance. The red door at the top of the stairs is ours.

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Hoodie

Leanne Talbot Nowell

There was a big black cloud in the sky yesterday. A cold wind whipped the back of my neck and blew my painting off the terrace. The paper fluttered off in the direction of the subject. That being Renata on her balcony in her scarlet gown. The light was fading fast so there was no time to go running down to look for it. I grabbed another piece of paper and painted it again. The second try was slightly more confident. Like most things in life, letting go and starting again can be a good thing.

Luckily my jacket had a hoodie. While this virus blows around, we all need to put on our hoodies and focus on doing something good for the soul. No running down to look for stuff and delaying the call to non-action.

Those who must go to work to ensure the survival of the rest of us, depend on the fact that the families of their colleagues are also staying at home. So the group stays safely closed.

I made this painting for Marilina who lives in the apartment downstairs. She’s a nurse. More than 8000 medical staff are sick with covid-19. Two ICU nurses have committed suicide because they couldn’t cope emotionally.

63 doctors have died so far. That should be enough to make us …stay… at… home!!

Simon cooked spaghetti with his secret ‘garum’ sauce. It’s something the Roman soldiers were given (as payment) to flavour their food when on assignment. Not much I can tell you about it, but it’s deliciously fishy.

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Wishful walking

Roman pathway

The next time I see a path, I’m going to walk and walk and walk!

Even if the cinghiali (wild boars) are running amok while the hunters sit in quarantine.

Lockdown day 20 in Southern Italy. Simon is reading a colossal German bible illustrated by Salvador Dalì. Apparently he has time to read it now. The Old Testament is quite challenging for a space man like him. I tried to paint a watercolour of Renata’s house down the street. She paces up and down her balcony in a scarlet dressing-gown. Perhaps she’ll notice me and wave in my direction. Below her house is a window where an old man sits and looks out all day. A portrait in a frame. There is no street activity for him to watch, except the two brown birds who hop among the peach blossoms.

The numbers are subsiding slowly. Our Prime Minister says we’re not out of the woods yet. Mind boggling statistics here in Italy, with almost 98 000 cases and a brutal 11 000 deaths. Yesterday we lost another 756 people. Waning new infections point to the peak. We are having trouble understanding our high percentage of mortalities compared to other countries.

You have all been so generous with your comments and good wishes, thank you sending so much love. I know you’re all out there facing similar challenges, some worse than others. This feeling of the impending tsunami of doom makes me think of walking along the beach at Umhlanga. Those frightfully big waves that crash onto the sand don’t usually wash you away, they just fizz and retreat. Sometimes they touch your feet.

The painting is now owned by my friend Francesco Sarti and his little daughter Mathilda.

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19+ days in a flat.

Castelli Romani painting

Things are looking up. The sun is shining between the clouds today, and what a difference that makes to one’s mood. Especially when you live in a flat. Climbing up the little staircase to the loft which is flooded with light, is akin to ascending into heaven. Living in heaven…eternal…never ending. The lonely tulip opens and closes each day. The daisy bush flowers. The tap drips.

Meanwhile the world is full of angst. The local Carabinieri sent a bunch of red heart balloons into the sky. Simon went to the shop yesterday and came home with a tray of huge red strawberries. A man outside the shop hands out numbers and everyone waits in the parking lot until they’re called inside. The farmer from the veggie market phoned us and asked if we would like to place an order for Wednesday. He’ll deliver to our doorstep. Such blessings and kindness!

The doorbell rang. A frightful thing!

It was Immaculata, looking pale and wrapped up in coat and scarf. She wanted to say thank you in person for the envelope! She doesn’t have a cell phone. I leapt back from the doorstep and chatted from an unnatural distance.

The virus infection rate went down slightly in Italy yesterday. Very heartening news. But we’ve sadly lost over 10 000 people in a few weeks. However there are a huge number of recoveries, including a 102 year old woman in Genova who recovered after twenty days in hospital.

Simon is digging in the cupboards looking for a skipping rope. His achilles tendon is still bandaged up. This could lead to some in-house angst today.

The painting is owned by Andy, it features the garden at Castelli International School in Marino, where our kids went elementary school once upon a time. The Monte Cavo (volcano peak) in the background. I can see it from our terrace.

A kid on the next terrace is calling to his Nonna. “Nonnaaa mi senti” and her voice comes back with a yes.

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Fountains of tears

Ariccia fountain Leanne Talbot Nowell

This is a painting of the BAR in Ariccia. Simon and I had been for a long bike ride around lake Nemi and got caught in a storm. A variety of chatty women squeezed in with us to escape the hail. It’s a small place and we merrily drank very thick hot chocolate together and talked about the virus. One lady said she would go to Rome now that there were no tourists. She hadn’t been for about twenty years.

That was 18 days ago. She didn’t know the following day would be the start of the lockdown.

There are two matching fountains in the lovely piazza. They are full of tears.

You have probably seen the news. Over 900 Italians died yesterday. Pope Francis came out alone and prayed in vast rainy piazza. A tiny white figure in the dark echoing space. I think that image will stay in my memory for the rest of my life. As I type this letter to you, the screen blurs through my tears. (Good thing I can touch type).

The fountain painting belongs to Libby in Boston now. I hope those fountains will soon flow with tears of joy.

I painted a watercolour for you, but it’s quite boring. I may post it later when I feel braver.

Happy birthday Lucy Liu. (A friend in Modena)

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The painted lake

Lago Albano watercolour

If our house flew up vertically and hovered at 50m this would be our view. Castel Gandolfo with the Pope’s summer palace on the opposite rim. Rome and the Mediterranean sea beyond.

I know you’re going to say this painting was not made yesterday. It was raining yesterday, and the view from our house is the backside of this crater lake, Lago Albano. However, knowing that the lake is so close gives me artist-license to share it as part of my surrounds here in quarantine. When it was being painted ‘plein air’ a Syrian man came over and sat on the stone wall nearby, and told me his sad story. The painting belongs to Andrew Zmuda, a friend in Marino.

Very scary numbers coming out of the USA, the infection rate has overtaken Italy. South Africa in lockdown will be another story altogether. Rule nr. 3…no alcohol or smoking permitted!

In Italy we had 6203 new cases yesterday. We can’t understand it, with the lockdown as strict as this. 712 deaths again a terrible number but it is hovering and not doubling at least. 80589 cases in total.

Simon and I are fans of Yuval Noah Harari, and read all his books. 21 lessons for the 21st century is appropriate for now. We had to strap up the achilles tendon with a bandage.

Immaculata, an elderly lady who lives two balconies away, had been coming over to do the ironing for me for years. She has had a difficult time understanding the quarantine thing. When I told her the day before lockdown not to come over anymore, she desperately assured me that she wasn’t infectious with the ‘batteria’ … now after 17 days she is glad to have three cats to keep her company. She called to chat and said she has a bit of fruit to eat. Turns out that she is supporting her son and his family with her meagre state pension. Once a week I dash over and drop a little envelope into her postbox to keep her going. I make sure not to alert her to the delivery until the following day, so any possible virus attached to the envelope have since passed away.

Another beautiful, blue peaceful day here. The lonely tulip is opening in the morning sun.

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Light and shade

daisy shadows

Still bubbling in the quarantine cauldron. Seems that blame is going around as fast as the virus. It’s just as bad for human wellbeing.

Especially when your view of the world is limited to a couple of square meters. The small things become intensely interesting. To paint something brighter than bright, you need shadows darker than dark.

New infections are slightly lower again, at 5210. Maybe we’ve peaked and the very strict lockdown will ensure a downward curve? 683 people died yesterday, which is way too many. We sit in front of the TV, staring at the dramatic news from around the world, and feeling dreadful and almost numb. The borders are now properly closed.

Simon and I enjoyed our short separate jogs yesterday. Although he hurt his achilles tendon. He says what better time to hurt a tendon than now. Today it’s raining, thank the heavens! The plants were so dry. I attempted to make a chicken curry with very limited ingredients, and we sat at the table eating it with sticky rice and a side of green ‘verza’ which is a very frilly cabbage. How blessed we are to have food.

Talking about food, here is Simon’s french recipe for crepe: 250g flour, pinch of salt, a glugga of oil (tblsp), 250 ml of milk. Mix that up. Whisk 3 eggs and add them to the mixture. Stir until smooth, then add another 250 ml milk. It must be liquid enough to pour into a large pan. Use it immediately. You all know how to do it.

I think today is Thursday. Our 16th day in quarantine.

Not a great painting today, but will try harder tomorrow.

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15 days in quarantine

Italian balcony

This is the view from my painting table. I’m much more a petal painter, but sometimes it’s good to broaden the horizon and tackle a scene. Anyway, the tulip and the daisy bush are included. I’ll need to repaint the olive tree to give it justice.

The numbers are 33 paces and 16 steps from the studio down to the kitchen and back. I try to make the steps count as exercise but it’s becoming obvious that I’ll need to put on shoes and go out for jog. Really lucky to have another gracious blue day of health, and the peach trees are blossoming in celebration.

Yesterday evening we had a very nice aperitivo with Robert in Cape Town. He was supposed to start a new life here in Rome this month. Sold up everything, learnt fluent Italian, and is now stuck in purgatory…alone!

Simon made us paper thin crepes last night for supper. We had them with jam and caciocavallo cheese. As you can tell from this diary, our lives are becoming focused on eating and drinking. So make sure you have some of your favorite things in the larder before you go into lockdown!

When I saw the statistics for the day my heart bottomed out, but there is a glimmer of light. The new infections are slightly down. They have been for a couple of days now. We lost 743 people which is a lot more than the day before. Altogether in a month we’ve lost 6820 lives to covid-19. The number of infected people is almost 70 000 here in Italy. In Marino we have 11 new cases, according to our app. Each town has a municipal app. I have been getting this info from the worldometer website if any of you want check that for your country.

I know you are feeling the dread. Separate your inner worry voice from your normal voice… have a conversation with it, and then tell it to shut up for a while and leave you in peace. Listen to music, or do this…I made a demo Easter card for you. Chat to friends online, write your own book with illustrations. Put your hands up in the air and laugh!

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Go home beloved country

South Africa woman

We are feeling EXTREMELY RELIEVED here in Italy to see the numbers going down over the past two days. If that becomes a downward trend we will be coming out of this lockdown soon. 601 deaths and 4789 new cases, which is still terrible but it’s significantly less than Saturday’s cases.

Three are ways to handle a pandemic – Ignore, Mitigation and THE HAMMER. South Africa has chosen the hammer and will go into total lockdown on Thursday night. I’m happy to know all my parents, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, and friends will be safely at home.

President Ramaphosa made a riveting speech last night. More or less the same speech that our Prime Minister Conte made. Extreme measures for a country where so many live in poverty, where the ensuing domestic violence could have worse effects on the population than the plague itself. The world will be watching you… particularly the young men of South Africa.

Simon went for a run down the ravine in front of our house. There is a overgrown path that takes you down to the railway station. It would be a garden if it wasn’t mucked up with litter. He was stopped by the police there. They interrogated him. He argued that the government decree allows ‘running’ up to 400 m from your home. They were not convinced, but in good Italian spirit they drew an imaginary line on the road and said ‘not beyond this line’. So Simon ran up and down that short path for an hour.

It was announced yesterday evening, that the municipalities will now be using drones to monitor people walking around in the streets. Big fines or jail sentences for the naughty ones.

At our evening aperitivo meetings with friends online, we celebrated the ‘calo’ (downward trend), touching our glasses to the phone screen! We talked of hugging and parties when all this is over.

This painting now belongs to my friend Debra who is living in Hong Kong. It’s called the RAIN QUEEN, but I thought it appropriate. Mysterious and magical Majoji. It’s another beautiful sunny spring day and there is hope in the air.

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Lockdown loneliness

peony pastel painting white

The trending social activity is online aperitivo! We poured goblets of red wine and chatted to friends all evening. Until the wifi collapsed and we had to go and cook sausages for supper. Earlier in the day I had soaked the market veggies in a large basin of bleach. As an extra precaution I cleaned the kitchen counter and cast-iron griddle with bleach. Then forgot to rinse the grid, upon which I later cooked our sausages. Not the best flavour enhancer!

Italy had 651 deaths yesterday, which is 100 less than the day before, and 5560 new cases. Let’s hope that is the crest, and the worst is over.

This may sound melodramatic but when lying in bed in the dark my mind wanders very near to the edge of a worry precipice. I have forbidden myself to look over the edge into that deep ravine. After many days of quarantine, feelings begin to intensify. With very little distraction, one becomes mindful. I know it’s the same for many of us. Not only are we enduring our own thoughtful wandering and fearful wondering, but also share those of our loved ones. We must hold each other back from that edge!

Simon is much more practical. He went to the local ATM to get a bit of cash for market food. Always keep a little bit of cash under your mattress!

Our bose sound speaker thing broke down, which is annoying because we use it for the tv sound. The hot water boiler machine sprung a leak, and water ran all the way down the back steps. A young man came to fix it, just in time! Those businesses are now closed by law.

I’m perched in my loft thinking too much, listening to music and painting. Oh, and writing up my cycling journal…which hopes to become a book.

This painting is a pastel on paper. Peony flowers.

PS For those who asked about kids… we have five beautiful children and their special partners ;), and three exquisite little grandchildren ;). None of them live in Italy. It has been hard to letting them go, flying the nest to universities in far off countries. All of them have graduated and enjoy good jobs. We are lucky that we are able to visit them often, and they like coming to Italy for holidays. I hope the future is good for them all.

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Sunday PEP – day 13

Daisy leanne Talbot Nowell

Because it’s Sunday (we had to look that up on the calendar) Simon is going to make us a celebratory PEPOSO. He has written out his recipe for us all…

Today Simon prepares a peposo notturno, a Tuscan meat stew stemming from the town of Impruneta – close to Florence. The legend tells, that the workers of Filippo Brunelleschi building the Cathedral of Florence in the 1400, used the brick ovens overnight in Impruneta for cooking their meat stews – therefore called “notturno”.  There are many new and old recipes around, which very often are far from the simple traditional one: 2 beef shanks (Muscles) cut in big quadratic blocks, 4 spoons of pepper, 1 spoon of salt, garlic, 1 ltr. of Chianti to be cooked for 8 hours – first at great heat for 10 min. then reduced to 100 deg. C for the remaining time. Important: Do not open the lid! In Tuscany you eat the stew with bread accompanied of course by a full-bodied Tuscan Chianti. Some funny stories about the peposo you find in Bill Bufford’s book “Heat”, who had as teacher for this meal the famous ‘crazy’ tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini in Panzano in Chianti – not far from our dear in-laws Malo and Guido.

Simon Jutz

That idea of a two week lockdown has gone out the window. We probably need a few months in quarantine to get this thing under control? In just four weeks 5000 people have died from the coronavirus here in Italy. Yesterday was a blacker than black day with 793 deaths.

Our Prime Minister said at a press announcement late last night that stricter measures will be enforced from today. All business must close except the absolute essential services. A lot of young people are also suffering from the virus, so nobody should be complacent. It’s going to be very quiet spring without the blacksmith whacking his metal gates below our apartment.

A call went out yesterday for more medics willing to serve in the ‘danger zone’. Seven thousand volunteered! That’s so heartening.

Interesting to see who is walking around outside. Italian dogs and cats never had it so good. Their owners are walking them in record numbers. Many are walking their cats on leashes? A couple of times per day! One cannot go to prison for that.

My daisy bush has been flowering for months in it’s pot on the terrace. It has been a joy to see all the bees and butterflies working on it. You should get one for yourself before lockdown. Great for making daisy crowns, or simply tuck one behind your beloveds ear. Daisies symbolize purity, spirituality and innocence.

ps. Simon is an Italianized Bavarian.

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Lunch on the balcony

Marino park

I’m writing to you early today, the first sunbeams are just touching the top of the Roman pines on the rim of the volcano. This little watercolour painting was done in the park just a few steps from our apartment. I took my folding chair and sat there under the trees and painted…this time last year.

Last night our mayor announced new restrictions. We’re not allowed in the parks, gardens or villas anymore, not even with dogs. We can go for a run apparently, so today Simon and I will jog down to the old tower and back. Separately.

Everyday we have lunch on the balcony in the spring sunshine and talk about our friends and family all over the world. I’m particularly touched by all the loving comments you write on my facebook post. Yesterday Simon opened a bottle of cold white “Grillo”. The sky was full of birds. Ambulances passed by regularly with sirens blaring. Neighbours chatted from balcony to balcony. Not sure what today will bring…but most likely the same.

Simon spends his days in tele meetings, satellites don’t have flight restrictions! I tiptoe through the lounge where he sits, to the kitchen to make coffee or tea, trying not to make a sound with the cups. Up in my loft, it’s like heaven. My art materials are at arms reach, lots of light coming in through the glass sliding doors. Plants flowering on the balcony. Music. Especially ‘perhaps love’ by Placido Domingo.

Can’t say I slept well after hearing that 627 people died yesterday from the virus. After all these strict quarantine rules, things still seem to be getting worse by the day. 6000 new infections! Just before lockdown there was a holiday when many from the north travelled to visit relatives in the south. Here in Rome and Grottaferrata, two convents have announced 56 positive infections amongst their nuns. We are bracing ourselves.

ps. stock up on chocolate.

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Vespa lockdown

Leanne Talbot -vespa painting

Simon walked to the local grocery shop yesterday afternoon. We can’t go there together as they only allow one person into the shop at a time. He gets that privilege, at the cost of carrying the heavy shopping bags home. He said there was a short queue, very disciplined, and the shop was abundantly stocked.

His Vespa is in lockdown because there is no reason to use it. You cannot take a passenger. If you take the car, only two people are allowed, so one of you must sit in the back furthest from the driver. Not that we need the car for anything, so the weeds are growing up around the tires.

We have an app, run by the municipality, where they publish regular announcements. This one just arrived : Before 12:00 of the 30.04.2020 interested persons can send a manifesto of their intention to buy agricultural terrain in Marino… more or less translated. Don’t ask me what that means.

I must admit, this quarantine is feeling less like a vacation these days. I haven’t been out of the house all week. Getting dressed in the morning is a simple task, usually a matter of throwing on what you wore the day before, which is what you wore the day before that. Although, yesterday after a good long shower, I felt the need to put on something pretty. My underwear drawer hasn’t been opened for a long time. Why bother to strap up?

The statistics are unfortunately unavoidable. I had considered not mentioning the numbers, but this is a pandemic, it affects the whole world, and being alarmed is the new normal. My opinion on the matter is best not expressed as things change every day. Tomorrow we might feel differently.

Yesterday 427 people died and we had 5322 new cases. We have overtaken China. The army are transporting the coffins from Bergamo to other cremation sites in the country as they cannot cope with the numbers.

As I write this the Mayor is shouting over the town loudspeakers. We are just far enough away to not be able to make out what he’s saying. Apparently they are having difficulty locking down those who think going to buy cigarettes every day is a valid reason to leave the house. A siren is blaring, which is strange since the streets are almost empty.

The picture is an oil painting I made a couple of years ago in Ostuni, Southern Italy.

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The tulips

yellow tulip Leanne Talbot Nowell

Lockdown day 10 – a beautiful spring day here on my balcony. The tulip I promised to paint for you is a vibrant blazing orange, open now in the early sunshine. We need bold and bright to distract us from the dark news.

The tulip plant shares a pot with the olive tree just meters from my desk. The little olive tree is dripping with black olives. Usually a thrush visits my balcony and gobbles them up. No sign of him this year.

Last night there was loud music and singing from the Carabinieri building. They have balloons and flags flying.

Simon and I are in shock after hearing that a record 475 people died of the coronavirus yesterday. Almost doubled the number from the day before. Long lines of military are taking supplies to the worst hit areas in Lombardy.

Here in Rome we are still ok…. ‘contained’ which actually means there is no collapse of the system. However, the lockdown which is supposed to end on the 3 April, is likely to be extended.

Berlusconi, bless him, has donated 10 million euros to a hospital in Milan. The European Central Bank will donate a massive 750 billion euros to the EU countries to keep the economy going.

I will make some painting videos for my three precious grandchildren today. They are all at home in lockdown Norway and Australia. There is not much more I can do to help.

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Looking out from my perch

Leanne Talbot Nowell watercolour terrace railing

Looking out from the perch in my loft this morning, through this 130 year old wrought iron railing. We live on the edge of a crater. That’s faith for you, building houses on the edge of a precarious volcano! Which brings me to thinking about faith in general, and faith in our neighbours most of all.

The newspapers this morning all say there are way too many people wandering around. You are to %&”* STAY AT HOME! Now in Lombardi the government have access to your cell phone data, and they are tracking your movements. If you’re found to be visiting your neighbour, you will go to jail for 12 years!

By visiting friends you could be killing them. So basically it’s a murder charge.

345 died in the past 24 hours, 3500 were infected. Infection numbers are only those who need treatment.
The curve is still going up sharply, but NOT accelerating thanks to the lockdown. I wish the whole world would go into lockdown this very minute. Like in the fairytale Sleeping Beauty, we could just stop everything until the virus dies off. I’m so worried about all my family and friends and people scattered all over the world. Worrying doesn’t help any of them of course.

Thanks to you all for your nice comments and messages. Your love is returned. I am so grateful to have this loft studio where I can get some air and sunshine. My first tulip has opened this morning! So I will be painting that for you today!

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1 week in lockdown

cyclamen painting

Tuesday today, so we’ve been in lockdown for only 1 week. It feels like a month! But we do have plenty of food and supplies thanks to Simon’s hunting skills. I would recommend all husbands bring home your meat and pack the freezer. Because the wives don’t want to stand in a miserable queue for meat.

The situation in Lombardy is not good. Anyone over the age of 60 will not get a respirator.
The morgues are overflowing and no funerals are allowed. Nobody can go into the old age homes to say goodbye to their dying parents, aunties and uncles. This makes me cry so hard.
Be it a warning to you to make every effort to be loving right now before the covid-19 does it’s gruesome damage. And to our precious oldies, be brave and know you are loved, whether the virus comes or not.
Who knows, maybe miracles will happen and it will all be gone soon. HOPE.

Cyclamen painting for you – winter flower fairies.

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Going bloggy

Italy lonely lockdown

It has been a week since we went into lockdown. People are still going to work so there is some movement, and I can hear building and vehicle noise. The loud speakers blasted us with ‘please stay at home’ messages this morning.

From my terrace I see quite a few oldies, all solitary and bored in their tiny apartments. Usually these ladies wander up the hill into town to chat with friends in the piazza. How sad it makes me to see them in this covid-19 situation. You wonder if lockdown is really the right solution?

I spoke to my Mom this morning. My parents and brothers are all in South Africa. I have no idea what will happen there. I think a total lockdown will be impossible. Beyond that, I don’t want to imagine.

Ok, enough said, back to the drawing board!

ps. For those who are already subscribed to this blog, I apologize for the onslaught of email notifications. Today I transferred my facebook posts to the blog….so there is some continuation. From now you’ll only get one per day, if you want.

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Applause for doctors and nurses

Pastel painted peony

There were general applause from all the windows at midday, for the medical staff who are working very hard these days. A nurse, Marilina, lives downstairs, so I clapped extra loud, but I think she’s probably at the hospital. There are 3500 new cases today (18:00). Huge number because of the socializing that went on last weekend before the lockdown.
Death rate went down to 175 and the recovered rate went up to 527, so that’s encouraging.
Happy to tell you that a team of nine Chinese doctors have arrived in Rome and brought 31 tonnes of equipment with them! Respirators etc.

Our Health Minister is on TV reassuring people and explaining things. He has asked us to buy only “Made in Italy” products.

Simon went for a run around the lake. His was the only car parked there. There were four other rebels like him on the 10 km track. Lunch was a disappointing mush of couscous, but I promised him dinner will be divine.

I baked a batch of Ouma’s buttermilk rusks, which shatter with each bite, but they taste ok.

We need to go shopping for veggies and bread tomorrow. The local supermarket is about 200m from the house. Usually I would stop for a cappuccino at Wunderkammer Bar, but they’re closed. I will put on my mask and stand in line with a good distance between customers. I’ll let you know tomorrow how that goes.

I painted some cheerful yellow ranunculus today, but will need to do some touching up before showing them to you. Hoping the watercolour paper ordered from Amazon will arrive soon. Running out of paper here!
Made in Italy pink pastel peony for my mother.

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Yellow Ranunculus watercolour

Yellow Ranunculus

Cheerful yellow for you this Sunday. Today we ventured out to the farmers market, and were cheerfully greeted by the organizers. Fully masked and gloved of course.

There were very few customers but the market is bigger than ever, with nice wooden walkways all around. It’s very encouraging to see this, it almost brought me to my knees with gratitude. Sitting writing about it brings some tears and a lump in the throat.

Not for myself, but for everybody everywhere, a sign that things will be ok, that the world is full of people who will get up early in the morning and bring lovely fresh food to you.

That is love conquering fear.

Our neighbours across the road hung up their “Andrà tutto bene” (everything will be ok) flag on their balcony and we waved at each other.

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Venturing out

My house

Simon threw me out of the house this evening. He said we should take a quick walk and check if Marino is still jello. Weirdly eery, just the sound of our steps and police cars driving around to check that people like us are staying at home.

The church bells began to toll at 18:00. Lamp post speakers crackled to life. People appeared at the windows and stared down at us. Some were filming us. Simon tried to blend with a tree, but I managed to get this bit of footage before flying back to the safety of my nest in the loft.

Sad to say that 358 people died from coronavirus in the past 24 hrs, which is a record high. The average age of those who died is 80 years old.

The government are offering Eur 1400 per family to get people through this time if they can’t go to work. No mortgage, no utilities and no tax payments for now.

It is so good to hear the sound of birds and kid voices for a change. Usually the blacksmith hammering downstairs drowns out all pretty sounds. He makes amazing wrought iron gates and things, but heck, what a noise. Then there’s our busy, busy street.
Strangely there are no ambulance sirens! No tourist buses. And the sky is a lovely blue, with no crisscrossing airplane trails. It’s really peaceful.

By the way, the Amazon fairy delivered my art paper.

Walking in Marino

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Hello from my perch

Marino watercolour by Leanne Talbot Nowell

Hello from the ‘perch’ in my loft, which is quite messy. One advantage of living in lockdown is that you can be sure that nobody will see you without bra and makeup, except your poor long-suffering husband.
Usually at midday I hear a little “hunger” call from Simon who is teleworking downstairs.
We set the table and open a bottle of the best vino in our small collection. May as well make the best of it while we last.
Yesterday 250 people died from the virus in Italy. That’s worse than it’s been. We watch a lot of TV in the afternoon.
Thank heavens for whatsapp and facebook, they keep us connected. Someone organised a flashmob at 18.00, where everyone sang or played an instrument from windows and balconies. I played the tambourine and did a weird version of the tarantula – a mad dance from the south. Today we’ll do it again at midday. Even in lockdown this country rocks!
The watercolour you see here was painted a while back and it is now owned by my friend Carol. It features the main street of Marino, Corso Trieste, with the Church tower…which makes me think….for whom the bell tolls?

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Lockdown announcement in Italy – MONDAY – 9 March 2020

Leanne Talbot Nowell olives & birds painting

Last night the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, declared a nation wide “lockdown” from today. He is right, we must do what we can. Sitting here in my sunny studio painting flowers, seems the idyllic way to spend the days, but the thought of what is happening out there is not pleasant at all. It will be a while before I see my family and friends again. Take good care everyone. Like birds in the olive trees, each on his own branch.

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Lockdown Day 3

Blue primrose by Leanne

This little watercolour painted on our 3rd day of lockdown, with thoughts for the people, doctors and nurses all around us here, who are falling ill with the virus. Feels like the enemy has infiltrated the city walls and is hiding around the corner. 

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The police

Painting a white flower

The police have been driving up and down the road today yelling at people through a loudspeaker. Not sure why, but presume they found some rebel pedestrians. Simon is out ‘hunting’ at the local butchery, and I’m on the perch in my loft. We are allowed to go out for essential grocery shopping or to the pharmacy only.

See a video of the painting process.

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Terrace view

Leanne Talbot Nowell view from my terrace

View from my terrace. Quite a few neighbours sitting out on their balconies catching some winter sunshine. That’s the happy side of a lockdown. Queueing for the supermarket takes about an hour here in Marino. One must take a number and wait your turn to enter. They are allowing only a few to enter at a time. Luckily we did our big shop last week. Dried beans, lentils, rice and pasta. Long life milk too. I think the supply chain will be ok, so no need to go crazy. Just enough to avoid going every day.

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Cycling in Salento

It’s really hard to beat a cycle ride along the coast of Salento

The back-roads roll through shady olive groves, and then to the coast-road which is quiet after the holiday makers have all gone home. We saw breathtaking views of the Adriatic rocky coastline, the ‘energetic’ easterly side of Italy’s boot heel. According to Franco, an interesting character we met in Gagliano, the western coast is for sleepy people. They wake up late in the morning and sit around all day waiting for their spritz at sundown. Whereas the sunrise people are bright eyed and getting lots of fun stuff done.

How to make a decorative border on an image using Paperbrush –

I took the photo at the top of this page in Gallipoli with my iphone, then uploaded it to my Photoshop program before adding the olive leaves. These are available on Paperbrush graphics shop for anyone to download and use. Once you have saved the files on your computer ( takes about 5 mins) open them in your editing program. Select and drag them around until you’re happy with the arrangement. For beginners it might be tricky, but check out the tutorials. If you can’t afford Photoshop, then download any of the free editing program options on the internet.

For the text effect there are a few extra steps, but it’s not hard. You need to have Photoshop or a similar program that has a clipping mask option. To make that wobbly watercolour effect on the text, you need to use one of the watercolour splashes that comes with the set of Italian olive leaf watercolour clipart. Clever tricks! There are plenty of tutorials online which show you how to do it.

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one of the watercolour paintings available in the set of Paperbrush clipart ‘italian Olive leaf’

Back to cycling, there are some tour companies in Salento that offer you guided rides, with ebikes, racing bikes, whatever your prefer. We usually like to do our own thing and bring our own bikes, a flexible schedule is necessary for painting stops, lunch stops, wine stops, photo opportunities etc. However, I may organize a painting tour if anyone is interested?

Cycling and painting has got to be one of the most heavenly activities on Earth. As the locals say “Sole, mare, vento, Salento” (Sun, sea, wind, Salento) and beautiful vistas everywhere. Luckily we had no wind, wind isn’t fun on a bike. But at least the roads are mostly flat.

However, it’s so easy to jump off your bike and paint, no parking problems! You can go almost anywhere, but beware of farm dogs. We were chased for a about 2 kms but a pair of long-legged hounds. That’s quite a distance on a rocky road at maximum bicycle speed. Hearts pumping madly. Haha.

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Cycling through olive groves

Autumn has brought black and green olives to the the olive trees, and dark red leaves to the vines here in Salento (southern Puglia, Italy). We are cycling for a week along the coast from Cisternino to Gallipoli, mostly through olive groves on the rocky slopes. Blue sky, blue sea, rusty soil and red leaves. Today as we rode our bicycles through the groves a sea breeze knocked ripe black olives down onto the waiting nets. I love the white rocky outcrops and crumbling stone walls that run between the trees. It’s an ancient landscape that makes me think of old bones. Earth bones.

I stopped to draw some olive leaves just as the sun was sinking, sitting on the ancient knuckles of the tree. “Suggestivo” is the Italian expression for these type of dramatic but calm moments.

Some of my painted olive leaves are available here as graphics which you can use for your own projects.

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46. Cycling Route map and city list – Marino to Oslo

Leanne's bike route map

  1. Marino (home)
  2. Rome
  3. Formello
  4. Vetralla
  5. Viterbo
  6. Montefiascone
  7. Bolsena
  8. Acquapendente
  9. Bagni San Filippo
  10. San Quirico D’Orca
  11. Buonconvento
  12. Siena
  13. Radda in Chianti
  14. Greve in chianti
  15. Poggio Pratelli
  16. Florence
  17. Prato
  18. Montale
  19. Fognano
  20. Tobbiana
  21. Badi
  22. Suviana
  23. Riola
  24. Pietracolora
  25. Montese
  26. Vignola
  27. Modena
  28. Mirandola
  29. Mantua
  30. Peschiera del Garda
  31. Sirmeone
  32. Riva del Garda
  33. Arco
  34. Vezzano
  35. Trento
  36. Bolzano
  37. Merano
  38. Latsch
  39. Burgusio
  40. Graun Im Vinschgau
  41. Curon Venosta
  42. Nauders
  43. Landek
  44. Stuben
  45. Bludenz
  46. Feldkirch
  47. Rorschach
  48. Romanshorn
  49. Tägerwilen
  50. Stein am Rhein
  51. Schaffhausen
  52. Neuhausen am Rheinfall
  53. Koblenz
  54. Waldshut-Teingen
  55. Laufenburg
  56. Rheinfelden
  57. Basel
  58. Freiburg
  59. Erstein
  60. Strasbourg
  61. Offendorf
  62. Mariensthal
  63. Wörth am Rhein
  64. Speyer
  65. Ludwigshafen
  66. Worms
  67. Nackenheim
  68. Mainz
  69. Assmannshausen
  70. Boppard
  71. Koblenz
  72. Bad Honneff
  73. Bonn
  74. Cologne
  75. Düsseldorf
  76. Duisburg
  77. Oberhausen
  78. Datteln
  79. Lüdinghausen
  80. Ascheberg
  81. Drensteinfurt
  82. Osnabrück
  83. Bruchhausen
  84. Bremen
  85. Zeven
  86. Buxtehude
  87. Hamburg
  88. Lübeck
  89. Scharbeutz
  90. Puttgarden
  91. Rødbyhavn
  92. Vordingsborg
  93. Faxe
  94. Køge
  95. Copenhagen
  96. Helsingborg
  97. Ångelholme
  98. Halmstad
  99. Varberg
  100. Gothenburg
  101. Stenungsund
  102. Henån
  103. Vassbotten
  104. Halden
  105. Moss
  106. Ås
  107. Oslo

 

The pink towns are the places I spent the night, the rest are places along the way that were interesting.

Rivers and lakes which I encountered:

  1. Lago Albano (Marino)
  2. Tiber River (Rome)
  3. Lago Bracciano 
  4. Lago Bolsena (Bolsena)
  5. Arno River (Florence)
  6. Reno River (Riola)
  7. Panaro River (Vignola)
  8. Secchia canal (Modena to the Po)
  9. Po River (before Mantova)
  10. Mincio (Mantova)
  11. Largo di Garda (near Verona)
  12. Adige River (Trento to Burgusio)
  13. Bad Inn River (Austria)
  14. Inn River (Landek)
  15. Alpenz River
  16. Lake Constance (Switzerland- Germany)
  17. Rhein River (Switzerland-German-France)
  18. Lippe River (Datteln)
  19. Werse River (Drensteinfurt)
  20. Dummer Lake (after Osnabrück)
  21. Weser River (Bremen)
  22. Elbe (Hamburg)
  23. Trave (Lübeck)
  24. Baltic Sea (Puttgarden)
  25. Lagen River (Ångelholme)
  26. Nissan River (Halmstad)
  27. Atran River
  28. Viskan River
  29. Canal (Gothenburg)
  30. Idefijonden 
  31. Glomma
  32. Many island fjords and inlets all the way to Oslo.

 


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44. Grande Finale Day – OSLO ! (July 24)

Suddenly Oslo popped up, and my family were waiting for me at the finish line! .

Bike-ride_0291.jpgMy first hugs in a long time! and 4138 kms since I left home.
Photos still to come, but most of you have seen the video on Instagram or Facebook. It was a very happy moment, although it feels like a dream. About 56 days of riding, is enough to become a habit, so tomorrow I may wake up to the usual feeling of ‘get up, get going”. But Elia will be awake before me I suspect, and bring me back to another reality.


Tyrone navigated the way to Oslo after a sumptuous breakfast at the rather posh old hotel on the beach in Moss. It was hot, and we rode in a very determined mode, along good cycle tracks past Ås, and Ski and onwards.
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Finishing with a long speedy downhill into the city, and arriving in front of the marble Opera House. Megs and Stefano had made a banner with ROME TO OSLO written very large on it, and a finish line tape.

Ty had sped off ahead to photograph the scene, but I got caught up in a large crowd of pedestrians at the traffic light, who I overtook and went blasting through the middle of the banner in a flash, tearing it in half.

I wish I could do it again more slowly…. (tearing the banner I mean).

Exquisite Baby Elia was ok with being given to a stinky old cyclist for kisses.

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All the wonderful messages from friends came popping up on my phone as soon as the video was shared. Everyone has been incredibly generous with words of congratulations, and I am so glad that you were pleased to see me finish.
After a sprinkling of confetti, delicious Proseco, deep red South African wine, and a fabulous meal, it is time for rest.
I will write again tomorrow….

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43. A Rolling stone gathers no moss for 4000 kms (July 23)

The terrain rose up and became beautifully hilly. Massive piles of mossy granite boulders pushed up through the oats fields while balancing trees on their heads. These hills are perfectly spaced to allow cyclists to whizz down a steep slope for 10 seconds before starting up the next for 10 minutes. Up and down like that for hours. There were black-blue lakes there, shimmering behind the shaking birch leaves. All day we rode through the wilderness, with only one little fawn leaping away into the bushes.

It became clear at some time after lunch that hotels were far too few. Stenungsund offered us lunch, and a chance to ask for accommodation at the info office. A sweet girl telephoned ahead to the Hotel in Henån, the Henån Hotel, where we were able to choose between a hotel room and a bed & breakfast room. We chose the bed & breakfast, which was cheaper, and had a better chance of breakfast. But the situation was rather not up to our usual standards. Mostly due to the smell. Breakfast was nice and the manager gave us a winning smile. She came out on the doorstep to wave goodbye.

Another day of ups and downs. Tyrone was doing well on his new bike, although the seat was uncomfortable. Mine is too but not as punishing. After many, many hours perched on those seats, we realised there were no more hotels on the map.
We were in limbo between Sweden and Norway.
That “oh dear’ feeling was getting stronger the further we went into the forest. The feeling reached “Uh Oh!!! after 88 kms….”

But in the nick of time, up popped a camping ground.

With rejoicing we rode up to the reception, and found a lady who examined her bookings, and finally said: “Yes, I do” …’ have a hut for you”. She also told us the restaurant (food place) would be closing at 19:00. So we disembarked our paraphernalia and took a swim in the blue-black lake. Well, Ty took a swim, but i found it a bit cool, so painted something in my notebook instead. We needed tokens for the public showers, which were surprisingly good. By 18:00 we were puffed and perfumed, ravenous for a delicious dinner.

The husband of the receptionist watched us walk past the office window with straight legs, then he telephoned ahead to the restaurant to warn them we were coming and please would they give us something to eat. But they would not. The receptionist had made a mistake. Closing time was at 18:00. I told my sob story to the waitresses while they stuffed pomme frites in their mouths, but they said there was no food left over, the had a “hectic weekend”. I asked in my begging voice if they could spare a slice of bread?

All  they could serve was beer. Which they did.

The evening did not last long after that. We took our beer belly grumbles to bunk-bed in a tiny wooden room. I dreamed somebody stole my army boots which was very upsetting.

Sun up, so we went down to the receptionist, bikes all packed and ready to go. She and her husband had fragrant cinnamon buns in the oven, and hot coffee at the ready. So all was forgiven.

Soon it was time for my mileage meter to reach 4000 kms. I felt very happy, I suppose. Although it is a staggering thought that the whole ride has been rather a selfish endeavour, yet you are pleased that I made it. There were times of discomforting euphoria, peaceful joy, some humiliation and fearsome miracles, boredom, distraught feebleness, confident delight, and all the emoticons on the list. But I’ll tell you about that another time. There were times when I thought my mother was thinking about me, and an eagle would fly overhead. The perfume of a strawberry field would bring thoughts of Megan. I thought a lot about my children and their children, who are actually mine….

All day, we rode, up and down the granite hills under the forest trees, along highways and byways, on roads and paths, 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. Three men in green road-working suits sat at a table outside their quarters eating lunch. I rode right up to them with panic on my face. “please excuse me, but can I use your toilet???!!”. The look went around between them, and the one who got the look from both of the others, got up and showed me into a dark little room with an unmade bed. The basin was less white than it should have been, but at least there was plenty of loo paper.

Pictures of Sweden blending with Norway. We rode 109 kms today, so it’s time for bed.

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Blowing avenue of trees in the garden.

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42. Swedish bitters (July 21)

Apologies to the Swedish for putting these dull pictures on the blog, it was the only cloudy day they’ve had in a long time. Most days they are either fighting fires or lying on the beaches.

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After a very pleasant rest near Ängelholme, I made my wiggly way up the coast. The cycle route was clearly marked – called Kattegattleden 1, which is highly recommended for anybody going that way. Brownish red signs show exactly where to go. Rain splattered down on my luminous jacket, under which were two layers of warm garments, but the locals were happy with sleeveless T-shirts and carried on their holidays quite happily.

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This photo was taken the next day, in the sun.
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In Båstad, my bike posed with a red Tesla model S. Both eco friendly, but mine a million times more. Ok so the model S has nicer handles…maybe. But my bike completed 3500 Kms at Skummestōvsstrand.

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Halmstad had a nice little centre along the river, where I searched for the most healthy burger menu. How I wish for one of those Rhine river Salads!  The waitress kindly suggested I do away with the bun, and take extra salad. HUMff…you mean two extra stalks in the garnish?

My big single room at the hostel had two desks. There were a lot of bikes standing around, but no bike lock-up area, so I rolled mine through the foyer, into the lift, up to the second floor, along a passage, through two spring-loaded doors, past the kitchen, and into the bedroom. No funny looks.


The morning sky broke into a smile.

The Swedes are having a wonderful summer, mostly half-naked at their holiday cottages, fixing things and potting around in their gardens. Children laughing, birds singing type of atmosphere.

Here are some banal photos of the general scenery of the day.
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What is “Nordic camping”? Is it different to Normal camping?
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This is the tourist office. Inside is a very nice map of the area.
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I realised as I pedalled along, that there are only three different types of cars in Sweden, all of them Volvo’s; black, grey and white. Beware of black car drivers, they don’t give you much room, grey car drivers give you 2 meters, and white cars drivers go completely over into the oncoming lane, dangerously close to on-coming traffic.

The bed&makeyourownbreakfast man at Varberg enthusiastically pointed me to the beach, which was actually in another direction. I should have checked the map. I put on my swim-suit and found the wind to be nipping about my legs, but nevertheless waded into the sea, and waded, and waded. How far out do you need to go before one can actually swim?

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I was so grateful to find a nicely decorated b&b with a polite gentleman to take my credit card. Paid an extra 100 for breakfast. Lodging in the area was completely full. All was fine except there was no restaurant, and there was only one shower for ten people. The boiler was smaller than me and I wasn’t the first to shower. One thing that a long distance weary rider needs, is a very good hot shower at the end of 124 kms.

There was no whiff of coffee in the morning, just silence. I waited, fully packed, and nothing happened, so I grimly opened the fridge and took out some tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese and bread. Made coffee, ate sandwich. Went.

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A watercolour view of the beach between singing trees in the wind.


GETTING TO GOTHENBURG

If you would like to ride your bike, go to Gothenburg and ride south along the Kattegattleden 1 track. You will see beautiful homes, stunning seascapes, wonderful woods, and interesting people.

Again a marathon day of 124 kms, (strangely enough), but this time staying in a 4 star hotel which cost less than the pay-then-makeyourownbreakfast place. I was very enthusiastic about getting there because Tyrone was coming from Oslo to meet me and to ride with me to Oslo.
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At Kungsbäcker, the Kattegattleden led me south, and since my phone had given up the ghost, I was forced to follow along. Good thing I did because at Gottskar two kind people let me charge my battery and sold me a giant Kebab, even I could not finish. They wrapped the remaining half in foil and I ate it in the hotel later that night.
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41. Copenhagen magic (July 19)

It was the hottest day of the year.

Even so, it’s always a pleasure to be in this city.

We spent the day rolling around enjoying the scenery.

 

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Bruce and Kealena treated me to an all insclusive personalised tour. Meals, a chat with the little mermaid, and a new lock for my bike. So now I can stay in dodgy places without worry that a goblin will make off with it.
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If you’re in Copenhagen then get over to the other side, and partake in the street food fest. A freshly grilled Mackerel wrapped up with salt and pepper? Wash it down with a Tuborg or Carlsberg, both locally made beer.
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This building is a power station which has a ski ramp on it, dubbed Copenhill. The chimney puffs out smoke rings. It also brags the highest artificial climbing wall in the world. Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group……magicians.


Morning came cloaked in soft grey blanket of cloud. Thank heavens.

I said goodbye to my lovely niece and Bruce escorted me out of town and north along the flat sandy shores towards Helsingør to catch the ferry over to Sweden. On the way we stopped to see the charming museum dedicated to a fellow Africa lover and multitalented author, Karin Blixen, who wrote “Out of Africa”.  (  Isak Dinesen ).
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This is her house in Kenya, which looks very like my own G.Grandmothers home.

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It began to rain, so we dashed over the moat to look at Kronborg castle, where Shakespeare had Hamlet play out his drama.

Eric of Pomerania, (don’t you love that name), built the place in the 1420’s. You can look up the facts on wiki. It’s a lot bigger than it looks in my photograph.
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Bruce very generously did the round trip on the ferry, just to make sure I got to Sweden.

I felt a bit like I used to feel, when I had to go back to boarding school. I have never been to Sweden, my 7th country on this trip, and there was a very long way to go, starting with Helsingborg. This time I was first off the ferry on my bike and had to find the way out of the docks, with some very large pantechnicons grating their gears behind me. This time, google girl knew better, and I followed her through a modest but neat residential area. A very new giant cycle track was all mine for the next 20 kms or so, then it was road riding once again. All the way there was a minipanic going on in my head, but it became clear that Swedish people are kind, and things are going to be ok.

Ängelholm sounded like a good place for a peaceful night, however there was no available accommodation at all, anywhere up or down the coast. The ladies at the info office called around, and found a rather expensive room in a conference park out of town. I turned it down, then checked on my phone once again, and there was that same room for almost half the price on booking dot com. So, I quickly booked it and set off in the rain. My phone ran out of battery, so no directions from google, but I had picked up a map at the info place. Arrived by way of a forest and a highway, a bit soggy and too tired for dinner…. but gnawed on an energy bar and half a hot dog from the ferry, then went to sleep.

101 kms.
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40. Sneaking up to Copenhagen (July 18)

There are two respectful ways to enter Copenhagen, one is sailing in, and the other is rolling softly in on a bike. One should take a full day to do it.

When cycling in these realms, one needs a particular set of skills. Kealena and Bruce kindly gave me a crash course, thereby avoiding unecessary calamity.

We rode north along the coastline from Køge, which was very pretty. Even the factories were pretty! Children splashed around in the sea, old people sat on benches looking over the bay, and cows slept in the shade of trees. Quaint yacht harbours, bridges and waterways chequer the landscape.

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Stopped to look at the ARKEN MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, which sits on a sand bank. Intriguing architecture – a stranded ship. A large collection of Damien Hirst, some Ai Weiwei, and  other important artists. Definitely worth a visit. The café hangs like a lifeboat on the side of the building. The lunch order took so long to come we thought we had been stranded. When it arrived, it was delicious, and the waitress gave us free coffee as a survival gesture.

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This is a super heater, it uses waste heat from other sources, to heat water which circulates through the homes in winter. Very efficient and clean. 98% of Copenhagen’s heating comes from utilising waste heat from power stations or other sources. They also burn straw, wood pellets and similar stuff in these plants, but so efficiently there is no pollution. No more boiler in the cellar.

At least they have these big fans to cool the country in the summer. Although they make it very windy.

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So happy to be in Scandinavia, the last section. At the same time, I’m a bit afraid of that long haul up the coast of Sweden. More than 600kms still to do, with all the mystery and the fatigue.

It’s not over till the Grandchildren sing, which I’m looking forward to very much.

 

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39. Bridging the Baltic Sea (July 17)

The great crossing began with a blue sun.

Our posh hotel elevator, being slightly too short for a bike body, had the girls doing a circus trick by balancing the front wheels up on the golden hand rail. It was a frizzling hot day, so we had ice-cream at the beach and a large Döner Kebab between fast biking sprints along the top of dykes along the coast.

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Regina was slightly shocked at my ability to eat with such ravenous gusto. What with my wiry arms and brown lizard skin, it wouldn’t be far off to call me a wild animal. Mentally and physically.

I hope I don’t scare off my grandchildren.

It was mid-afternoon before we reached the tunnel that goes under the river. Being Germany, and very organised, a shuttle bus pulled up at a cement ramp where we could wheel our bikes onto a bus sized bike-trailer. Special green ‘hands’ are positioned to grip the seats, and off we roared into the gloom.

When we got off, a nice man, who had just booked tickets for Johannesburg, told us to go one way, and the bus driver told us to go the other. So we went the way the bus driver pointed, and arrived at the Fehmarn bridge over the sound to the island, at Großebode.

A small dangling gate, a bit like Alice in Wonderland, was a surprising entrance to a very narrow path leads you up onto the bridge 22 meters above the sea, and the wind whips you all the way.Bike-ride_0189.jpgBike-ride_0190.jpgBike-ride_0191.jpgBike-ride_0192.jpg

Having said goodbye to my two ladies, I spun my wheels for the ship. Time to cross over to Denmark. My battery was running dangerously low, however I made a mistake and went down a long road, only to be told by a boy in a ticket box, that ‘you need to ride all the way back to the main road and take the next left’. A tall fence prevented any sort of short cuts. I sped along as fast as I could, but missed the boat.

Being very early for the next ferry, I stood with my bike in lane 1 of 10 empty lanes for 30 mins, until they began to fill up with cars and trucks. All were allowed to embark, except me, the last. I was also the last to disembark 45 minutes later but very pleased to put my tires on Danish turf.
It was late, so I booked into the hotel which stands between four roads, with a bunch of tired truck drivers. My room was nice, I took a much needed shower, and went to the dining room for dinner. Two men run the place, and the food was gourmet.

The morning was grey everywhere. I pushed my dusty bike out of it’s cozy foyer space and the front door snapped shut. My key had already been put in the box. A man was sitting on a bench smoking, and I asked him if he would mind opening the door for me, since my bags where on the inside. He said he had forgotten his key in his room. So we went around to the kitchen and tapped on the chefs window until he noticed and came to open up.

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According to La google, a train station was nearby, which raised the important question, would it be ok to take a train for 24 minutes if it was for a very good reason?

I realised that the distance to be ridden from Rødby, to meet up with Helle at Vordinborg at 11am, and still go on to meet Bruce and Kealena at Faxe, and still ride to Køge for the night, was beyond my abilities, even on an ebike.

So, with greyness all around, I attempted half-heartedly, to find the train. There were some big fences along some rusty railway lines, and you know all the stuff that lies around the back of railway sidings, weeds and broken up bits of cement. However, with some perseverance I found a little pathway around the end of some rails, and reached a place that looked like a public office. A ticket machine popped up, so I bought one for my bike and one for me. Then we went out on a very vacant platform with no words or numbers. After standing there feeling like a silly blonde for a while, two men in luminous green jackets yelled over from the far side of the fence, that I was to “come to that side…the train comes off the ferry and stops over here”.
So I pounced on my bike and scuttled around the little path to the far side of about 5 railway lines. A school group arrived with a teacher, who, in a very teachery voice, told me that was the right place as she has done it before and they were also going. “I know” she said, “I have done it before”.
Just then a little train arrived from the Copenhagen direction on the platform that I had so hurriedly left. There was a very large bike symbol on the side. It hummed and haaad for a while, then a conductor shouted over, that I should come immediately that side, as this was the train. So I leapt onto my bike and scuttled back around the rails, and just made it before he blew his whistle.
The school group and teacher stood and stared.
One learns that people are very kind and helpful, but it’s always best to ask the conductor of the train itself. He is the only one who really knows.

So there was my bike, the first train trip of her 3300 km life, strapped to a seat.
It was a short trip, 24 minutes to be exact, and we were soon gliding along the road again. The road would still see us do 130 kms before evening.

I was very happy to see Helle and share a quick lunch and lovely conversation. Then pedalling onwards to Faxe where Bruce and Kealena were waiting with tea and apple pie at the big white quarry. We rode to Køgel, taking the scenic route through golden fields of ripe wheat, dark green woods, and a soft smooth sea to the west. Dinner at the harbour was an Italian affair of linguine allo scoglio and Chardonnay! Again, wild animal me, gulped every scrap on the plate.

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37. Beautiful Baltic (July 14)

It has been 3 days since I wrote to you last. No time for blogging or photo uploading when I’m with friends. It is 6 am, and today is going to be a marathon ride. Off to breakfast now.

It rained on Wednesday, so Regina showed me around Hamburg, and I had a comfortable and dry day off. Photos to follow.

We rode together to Lübeck on Thursday, where we had a glass of Proseco to celebrate the big 3000km mark, right in the old centre. That evening we slept at the ArtHotel in Scharbeutz. Beautiful Baltic coast, lined with fancy homes and swish restaurants. Magical riding along there!

106 kms.

Slow start on Friday, but nice riding all the way up north towards Puttgarden. Said goodbye to Regina and Zoe at Burg, and dashed across to the ferry. Many huge trucks on the ship and one little bicycle.

Arrived in Rødby and took the first hotel…”Stop and Sleep”.

96 kms

 

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36. Hamburger sophistication (July 11)

What do you order for dinner in Hamburg?

Sweet-potato chips.

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But ask any Hamburger citizen and they will tell you with pride that the food here is highly sophisticated and exquisite. From rich and savoury to spicy and sweet, luscious meats, delightful veggies, free range biofriendly everything under the sun and rain.


I began the day at Zeven. A nice little town 86 kilometres by bike from my destination in the city.

The farms are perfectly manicured and manured, judging by the scents. I rode along adjacent to the main roads until Buxtehude, where I was supposed to head north (via the pretty part), sometimes ignorance is not bliss. Instead I  followed the googley girl’s shortest route which was along the edge of the highway to Harburg and then north into a melange of bridges and intersections, where my phone battery expired and left me stranded.

Fringe people don’t really speak English, but they understand enough, and I don’t really speak German, but I understand enough. Thereby communicating quite efficiently. However, the people I asked said it was possible to go into town from all directions. I just needed one. Thank Goodness for church steeples.

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Buxtehude is lovely, the old centre is perfectly preserved and interesting. I sat down there and ate my breakfast bun.
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Hamburg is a port city with an incredibly difficult history of fire, plague and war. But obviously the population is clever and resilient, so they have created a splendid city once again.
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A whole bridge for my bike and I… crossing into the city in style!
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Last night Regina and Michael, with their pretty niece Zoe, kindly hosted me. Regina hired ebikes so she and Zoe could ride with me tomorrow, but the clouds came up and the rain came down in buckets.

After an abundant breakfast we decided not ride out until the rain subsides a bit. I’m happy to have a day of rest in their lovely home.
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34. Biking on. (July 8)

Riding together with Birgitta and Hanns Georg was fantastic, they knew where to go, so I didn’t need to navigate, and could just pedal along in bliss, babbling on. We had a delicious lunch in a big garden.

They let me go after about 60 kms. I had to go on over the hills. I felt suddenly quite alone after waving goodbye. Not knowing where I was going to go, so I could get to where I would end up. But that’s the story…

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There is a kind of faith involved, as long as there are roads and intersections and people, everything will be ok.

On a small country road near the industrial side of Osnabrück city, a group of about 20 young men, shirtless and shouting drunk, tried to block my way. They were playing, but the ancestral voices spoke to me. They screamed: “*&£$@”

I imagine that since the time of Eve, a lone foreign woman confronted by a group of young men in party mode, has never been a good thing. I powered my way between them and after a few seconds felt the old heart kick.

It is wonderful that we have come so far in this world, where a woman can travel more than 3000 kms across various countries and be safe. I suppose it’s very much safer to be an old crone like me who poses very little temptation to men.

My bed in the hotel opposite the station was clean. These days, I flop down without a second look. I walk around the room barefoot, so I may get a viruca, but that’s curable.

My slinky bike outfit gets a hand wash in the basin every evening. The water is always brown.

I’ve noticed my ostrich legs, the same sort of hardness, scaly skin, and redish colour near the ankles.

The sun goes down so late up north, it’s quite disturbing. I had the choice of closing the window against the noise and putting on the air-conditioning, or getting a steady supply of oxygen with noise. I chose the air-conditioning which was wrong. I woke up very early with a terrible thirst and a sore throat.

Nothing that a good ride couldn’t cure.

Riding out too early can be depressing. Cold air and no coffee.

After 15 kms of misery, I came across a path that was totally overgrown with nettles. It was the google cycle track. A kind man who was taking out his trash told me to go back up the hill and turn left. I did.

The perfume of baking bread came around the corner before I did. Real joy filled my stomach. I ordered the large coffee with milch, and a large piece of apple pie, then sat in a sunny window and gulped it down.

From there the road was all up, then straight. So straight, there was hardly an end. Pedalling and pedalling with not a peepee place in sight. Eventually I gave up on the idea of a nice biergarten, and took a small farm road. That was perfect, although one must be aware of stray stinging nettles when squatting.

I painted a little sketch, and ate my last power bar.

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The afternoon was also pretty straight, but it gave me a chance to clock up 106 kms without too much bother. Incredible how much power music has on the soul, I put on my iPod and earPods, and suddenly the world changed from sepia to a blast of handlebar tapping and singing out of tune.

I’m not going to tell you about the pig sty stinks, and the super loud tires of German cars that zoom past at 140 kms per hour.

So to finish up, I rode into Bassum, looking for a place to stay. Something about the weedy pavements put me in moody trepidation. After ringing the bell of a house which had appeared on booking dot com, and standing forlornly looking at the dwindling bit of ebike battery power, a very large man came sweating by with his tiny shiny black dog. It had one blind eye, and found my bike very scary. The big kind man said: “ You should go on to the next town, there is a Post hotel, they will have rooms for you”. I asked him to repeat the name of the place….”Neubruchausen”.

On the way there the cycle track fizzled out, so I broke the law and rode as fast as I could on a fast road. I took my helmet off, so the drivers could see they were dealing with a dizzy blonde, and so gave me a lot of space.

One usually prefers to take the cycle track next to the road. A very common bit of infrastructure up here in the north. Riding a bike on a main road is very annoying to the general driving population.

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106 kms

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33. 2500 km raspberry-pop shop. (July 7)

The 2500 km mark popped up directly in front of a raspberry farm stall. It was a happy moment after a day of riding through industrial parks and road works. I was negotiating yet another “umlietung” which took me off canal and through a farm. It had been a tough, hot, smelly day of riding through industrial parks, when Britta Jakobi, offered me some of her fresh raspberries to taste, and took my photograph.
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The air there is not good. If you look on the map for Marxloh, Oberhausen, Essen, Bochum, Dortmund…you’ll see a large area of crusty looking industry. It took me three hours to ride through it. My eyes burned terribly.
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Coffee stop, recharged phone, but it lasted only 20 minutes and so wandered lonely as a cloud until I found a yacht club where I had lunch and charged it again. The waitress pointed the direction of Heinrichenburg, but I decided to follow the signs instead.
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Very interesting place, Henrichenburg, where the ships get taken in and out of the water.

Found a nice place to sleep at Datteln.

Odometer: 2516

78kms

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Grey sky day. I had a nice invitation from Hans-Georg and Birgitta to stay with them. They sent me maps but I soon took the wrong turn, and thinking it was simply a ride along the river, didn’t bother to check on my google map.

A lock, from front and back.
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A long way later, in Lüdinghausen, found it was supposed to be Lünen, so had to change plans… but first a visit to a medieval expo at the castle.
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This is the path I frantically took to reach Ascheberg. Googley girl made me go through the farms.
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Birgitta kindly came by bike and met me in Acheberg, and we rode together to their home town Drensteinfurt. I was given a lovely welcome, and enjoyed the afternoon and evening in their company.

 

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Bike ride_0161.jpgFamous Haggi waffles with strawberries and cream.

 

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32. Goodbye my friend, Rhine. (July 5)

This is yesterday’s post. Hotel’s and hostels offer very poor wifi, so the blog cannot be shared when it should be, it has to wait for the next stop, just like many things in life.

The sun is dragging his billowing sky down to the smoking chimney stacks. A giant storm growled through dinner, but not a drop of rain fell on the canvas Erdinger umbrella.

Flammkuchen is a thin pastry crust with high edges. It is smeared with a thin layer of sour cheese, and usually one would have the traditional onions and speck sprinkled on top, but I chose sliced tomatoes and rocket. Eat it while it’s hot.

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Getting here from Monheim am Rhein, took me through Düsseldorf, where an enthusiastic young man at the bike shop sold me a gadget to attach the phone to the handlebars, so now I can see the map while I ride.

Düsseldorf surprised me with it’s simplicity, and I had no problem at all getting into town, and out of it again.

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From there the cycle path took me into a daydream, it was so so beautiful. Large old trees line the road, many old people pedal along too, some in wheelchairs, some on roller skates. You can just go for miles and miles through the fields without interruption.

A lunch place popped up on the edge of the river, tables set out under a dark green canopy of trees. “Poeusgeu”, rather fancy, to be found on the Alte Rheinfäre.

The waiter, dressed in black and white, had a special look about him, he stooped down to get my order, and I nervously pointed around the middle of the menu. The plate came…matjes, with roast potatoes and a creamy dressing. Marinaded fish, really delicious.

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Afternoons on the bike tend to get a bit hot and complicated, and after going around the same wheat field twice, I told Googlely-girl to take a break. I rode alone through many small towns, mostly very quiet, on the edge of a skyline of factory towers and billowing chimneys.

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On one of my unplanned reconnaissance missions around Duisburg, I found myself braking in front of a police station. It looked approachable, so I went in and declared the theft of my glasses. An officer wrote up the report in German.

Typing ferociously on his old clickitty-clacketty keyboard at high speed, I was astonished that he only managed three sentences. Seriously, this report will be sent to the police in Linz am Rhein, where I said I suspect the thief stole the things. There they will investigate the matter further. I hope I’m right about the location. What a bother.

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I’m losing sight of the Great River Rhine (english name). My route will take me eastward and away. It is a sad goodbye. Moving with the fast flow of a big river every day for so long has been incredible. We became friends, I got to know the scintilla, caught glimpses of the dark beneath, felt the heave and the power, and sang with the ancient.

Knowing that it goes on is a great comfort, from mountain to sea to sky to mountain.

Unfortunately we have heaved up dykes of stone and soil to contain it, plastered the banks with cement walls, hemmed it in, and blocked it up with locks. We dump vast amounts of chemical waste into it. We motor our cruise ships and barges up and down without rest, blasting it with fumes and a huge din of vibrations that resonate underwater.

A small bottle of water cost me Euro 5 this afternoon.

 

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Spent the night in a hostel Jugendherberge, Duisberg, Landschaftspark…in a rusty old Industrial zone, which was very interesting. Good preparation for the day to come…a day of Industrial parks.

The girl at the desk gave me their special handicap room, most likely because I looked like I needed help. It was very clean and comfortable with a chair in the shower, and a red switch next to the bed, which I pressed thinking it was the light switch. It blinked for a while, then I blinked off to sleep.

66 kms.

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31. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. (July 4)

Mostly very very good, a little bad and a tiny bit of Ugly.

Magnificent riding along the Rhein from Bad Honnef to Cologne. Thanks to those who have worked to make the cycle tracks there. Brilliant! There is also a ferry man that pulls you across a stream on a raft…wearing a sailor cap and a broad smile.

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signsAfter admiring the great cathedral in Cologne, my “Googledy girl” on the maps app told me to go west. Now, if you are stuck in the middle of an old city with a mish-mash of roads, how is one to know where WEST actually is? It was midday, so the shadows didn’t show…. couldn’t she just say go straight ahead, or turn around…?cathedral

After a lot of bother, I used my pigeon instinct and got out there. Only to realise that my fancy new sunglasses and my hat were not on board anymore. They’ve taken another route. Quite an ugly realisation, as those are prescription glasses with a price tag that takes your breath away. As for my hat, it was brown, with a big flap around the back and a sun peak. Not beautiful but I liked it.

I cannot blame Cologne for that.  Someone must have made a grab for those the day before when I stopped at the supermarket for a green drink. I had presumed they were packed in my panniers.

Shortly after that I merged with the biggest industrial park in the world. All that concrete and tar and puffing chimney heat, mixed with hard sunshine, made the next hours of cycling slightly tougher. However, I finally found the river again, and crossed over on the ferry. From there on all I could think about was finding a place to stay, which I found at 17:30, and plonked down for an ice cold beer. A bit lonely.

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Odometer: 2371,6

distance today 83.32