First Day in France
Moving South
Vienne and Vinsorbes
Dutch Campground
First Days in Italy
Montelcino Antonio
First Days-South Italy
First Days-Giovinazzo
Living in Giovinazzo
Picking Olives
Outings and School
Rosa's show
Hols & New Yr
Back to School
Croatia-Plitvika, Krk, Cres
St. Pierre
Camping on the Med
Eli's Diary
Rosa's Diary


22-31 December:

Outside Toni's shop

Inside and Toni



22 December

The children had no school this morning, but Mike is still working though really looking forward to the Christmas break. I have a slow morning with the guys and then when Mike gets back we have our usual lunch pasta, sauce, olives, sometimes wine or lambrusco, bread and mozzarella. We go to Lorella's to meet up for the Christmas carols in the piazza. Her sister (Sammy's teacher -Giovanna) is there and she brings Sammy on to school. I go and deliver fudge with Eli and Rosa at their school. The kids have to go in to walk together to the Piazza with Sammy's school. All the kids have torches and Christmas hats. Mike, Finn and I go and join Sammy and we procession through the old city with the little children singing. It is a lovely atmosphere through the narrow streets.  Then we reach the piazza and are corralled into a circle within barriers and it becomes completely disorganized. We stay for a bit but I have to lift Finn out to Mike, and we hear the announcer telling parents they can't continue with the singing and raffle until people organize themselves a bit better. We decide to find Eli and Rosa in the crowd and all go for pizza. Lorella takes me later to a toy store in Bitonto for last minute gifts. It is completely mobbed like a scene from that movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to get a toy for Christmas, but we manage to park and get what's needed.

23 Dec -

Kids and I home all day. Cleaning up and getting ready for Christmas. Weather has turned really cold, but not wet. I'm trying to get all the washing done in time to have a break. When Mike gets back I take Cal for a walk and hear a young couple speaking English so I say hi and we get talking. It turns out they are a Scot- William and an English girl-Jane, both teachers in an English language school in Molfetta and have only been here since October. They live around the corner and are delighted to hear about our adventures and all the contacts we've made. As they are working and have no blond kids or dog they haven't met many people. I am delighted to discover they have a washing machine and they offer for me to use it. We swap phone numbers and they tell me there are two more English girls we can meet in the New Year. They are all heading away for Christmas. 

Later we go over to the harbour to see an event organised each year by the sub aqua part of the fire department.  They light a floating star out in the harbour to signify the arrival of the Christ child and then deliver him to Mary and Joseph to start a play. While we are there Mimo brings us over to meet another collegue from work who has brought us lots of meet for Christmas (mostly pork). We thank him, embarrassed as usual.

We get the kids settles as we've been invited by Sabino, who we met with Lorella at the Mexican night, to his birthday party in Bari.  We bring Finn. Sabino lives in an interesting modern apartment, due to its narrow stairs, in the old city of Bari close to a really enormous square castle. We have a lovely evening chatting and eating and listening to a rock concert on a massive wide screen TV.  We go home relatively early as our neighbour Tzama is babysitting and asked us not to be late. She won't let me pay her when we do return.

24th Dec Christmas Eve

Poor Mike goes off early to olives. I have to get up with kids and continue cleaning and washing, but weather is nice again so can get kids to park and go shopping in time to get all that's needed for tomorrows lunch. The town is packed and I go to one of my usual bakeries and find out, only after queuing for ten minutes, that they are operating a ticket system today. We wait for Mike at Toni's and buy ice-cream in a freezer container for tonight and tomorrow as Toni is shut tonight. We all have a rest and then a nice meal for Shabbat.  Toni has arranged to bring his wife, Chantele, who is just back from Switzerland, to meet us and they arrive appropriately in time to watch the guys eat his ice cream.  We have a lovely chat with them both.  They love to travel too and have had some very funny experiences. Toni describes them often by using the phrase, "oh this was really special and then goes on to say something like in Honduras the banks say 'please leave your guns outside.'" Chantele spent 8 months on a cruise ship mostly in Scandinavia as a beautician and masseuse and has interesting stories too.  We are sorry to see them leave and look forward to getting together tomorrow evening when Toni is going to bring us to something 'really special.' We spend the rest of the evening wrapping as we always do.

25th Sat. Christmas Day

Christmas morning arrived very early for some in our family. Sammy had been warned the night before that if he woke he was to wait until everyone was awake before opening anything. Eli woke at almost the same time as Sammy, about 4.30 we think.  We dozed on but could hear them talking. Sammy "How much more till morning Eli? pause When can we open our presents? pause Is it time now?"  He snuck towards the stockings a few times and was called back. Eli told him stories about Santa to keep him going but eventually near 5.30a.m. we had to get up and let them start. They had a great time with their stockings and then we paused for a nice breakfast before moving on to main gifts. They were all thrilled.

Sammy got two dragons in eggs, a fire and water one,

Finn got new knight stuff- shiny swords and shield,

Eli a calculator with an organizer and translation function and a toy Hulk,

Rosa a little picnic tea set and small baby doll.

They played away while Mike and I went back to bed for a while. I was woken by a phone call from Mum and Dad which was lovely. Then we got up and dressed and went to exercise Cal and visit Toni who had opened the ice-cream shop to sell coffee to church goers for a few hours. We told him he was mad, but had a second breakfast, of chocolate croissants and cakes, none the less.  Then we went to Mass in the basement chapel of the Cathedral.  It is a lovely place with lots of stone arches very low and intimate.  At first we thought it might be a private gathering as we saw three babies and people with cameras and videos but it turned out to be a normal ceremony with christenings.  These were quite something. The babies were very cute and very beautifully turned out all it white coats and dresses. Everyone was very well dressed and the atmosphere was very Italian.  We didn't last the entire time as Sammy and Finn got restless on all the sugar they had consumed.  We went back passed Toni's and met his mother and father, and Roberto's wife and her parents. The mother lived in the states when she was young and  spoke English with an American accent. It was all very nice wishing people Buon Natale.

We went home and as Francesca's family were all gathering for Christmas diner we brought down our gift for her. A huge wool blanket I had brought from Ireland in case we needed gifts. She was very very pleased with it as she is always saying "I'm Freeeezing" since we taught her, in English.  We also delivered smoked salmon on brown soda bread, biscuits, muffins, and chocolate chip cookies we'd made and had a drink of something clear in little glasses. It was very festive.  We then went up for our own diner. I had bought cooked chickens yesterday as we have no oven and we had that with lots of veg. and barbequed sausages. We felt suitably stuffed and took it easy for a while.  Mickey and Anne phoned and Rosa  got to speak to Claire. Our phone calls made us have pangs of homesickness. 

Toni phoned made the arrangements about bringing us to Terlizzi for a sort of street pageant later in the evening.  We got some fresh air in the piazza and the kids gave their friends little presents they had bought  themselves.  We now had enough room for desert so we went in for some more of the ice-cream that we had bought yesterday and I added hot chocolate fudge sauce and chocolate chip cookies. We were all in good form when Toni and Chantelle arrived and we drove them squeezed into Newbie to the town. The decorations in Terlizzi were lovely with a huge Christmas tree and lights on Palm trees!  We got into a queue in a narrow street in the old city not quite knowing what we were going to see. Soon the crowd started to move and we were transported back in time to Biblical times as all along the tiny streets were players dressed from that time and acting as if they were going about their business washing clothes, coming past with water jars, etc.  There were carpenters with ancient tools, potters, and a forge, as well as, the disciples have a meal, dancers, tents with sleeping people in them, and goats and chickens in pens. Of course, we eventually got to the stable with Mary Joseph and baby Jesus. It was really something very 'special.'  We headed home with sleepy children Sammy didn't make it to the car -see photo.  Toni and Chantelle came in to help us with the children and then to eat some Pomodora cake and drink champagne both traditional on Christmas.  We had a another lovely chat and it was a great way to end the day.

26th December

Boxing day was spent in the usual way resting as best we could, having leftovers and drinking tea, but we had no long walk.


27th December

Up early and decided I had to make the effort and start Tai Chi again to help deal with my back which is acting up due to all the heavy washing. We then did a massive tidy on the apartment, dealing with toys and Christmas food.  Weather amazingly warm, warm Sirocco wind blowing so we went to the park, and then had a sleepy afternoon. Sammy and Finn both went to sleep and Eli, Rosa Mike and I did puzzles.  Then Chantelle phoned to ask if I wanted to put a wash on in her machine.  Eli and I went straight there. I told her how thrilled I was, and we stayed and had a cuppa.  When I got back the small boys were still asleep we couldn't get them to wake for diner but they wake did once Eli and Rosa had gone to bed. Mike took Sammy to Toni's although he wasn't there Roberto was on tonight but Mike wanted to bake the rest of the chocolate chip batch.  Sammy came back in bad form and was happy to go back to bed but Finn stayed up and played until Mike and I couldn't last.


23 December

Sabino, one of Lorella's and Luigi's friends we met at the Liquid Lounge, invited us to his birthday party in Bari.  Suzie arranged for one of the neighbors to babysit for all but Finn, and Luigi and Lorella drove us there (FAST!).  Sabino's apartment is in the old city in Bari, and is furnished modernly, on several floors, with narrow staircases between.

I was a bit concerned about bringing Finn as it sounded like an adult party, but as Sabino's children were there, and Finn got loads of attention as he always does, it was fine.  At the beginning most of us were upstairs in the main sitting room, which is quite small even by Irish standards, with a very large television in one corner playing a DVD of a Jazz concert, which at first was background but became more of a focus at times when people weren't talking to each other.

Sabino is a doctor and some people there called him Dottore; I asked Tony about this later and he confirmed my impression that it was some kind of social distinction.  Also we were introduced to **** as a "Famous lawyer".  Several people called him Avocat.  He was very friendly though we didn't speak long, I told him my father and brother were lawyers in the States.

Also met Roberto, who is a plant manager in a beer manufacturer here, perfectly fluent in English and talked about Beer and beer markets, and ONLY about that!

We hadn't had dinner before we left, and there was no cause to be concerned:  this was an Italian birthday after all!  There was lots of food, with the usual progression of courses.

Later in the evening I was getting sleepy so went downstairs to the kitchen where it was cooler and thinking of asking for a coffee, even though it normally is the last thing you have.  There was great carry-on when the "famous" Lawyer started opening up Sabino's presents for him, and waving around expensive bottles of wine. 

Around dessert time we got a call from our neighbor who was babysitting, and so headed back with lots of goodbyes to all.  We got back after 1 pm, and I have to work tomorrow!

24 Dec

It was very hard to get out of bed at 5:15am this morning. I worked in the fields today, and thought it would be the last day picking olives. 

Pasquale started the day giving me a Panitone box with sweet sparkling wine (Spumanti).  Early on, he told me that we would finish early (we didn't) and then work a few days next week. Work was easier today because Pinuche was there, we finished quickly in one field which had mostly almonds, then moved on to other fields, again with more almond than olive, the olive trees very spread out. We stopped at the masseria for our break, Pasquale opened another Panitone, I brought out some Guinness and we finished it off with champagne. We only had a few trees left and Mikele told me Emilia was going to give us money today. He asked if I got paid, I explained I was a volunteer but got petrol money.  We finished and got back, but Amelia wasn't there, much to Mikele's disappointment. However we met up with them on the road back to Toritto, and we pulled over, Pasquale in his tractor, me and Mikele in Newbie, and Amelia and Domenico in their old Lada. As we stood on the road talking and exchanging gifts, tractors, cars with ladders and other vehicles passed, honking a greeting to Pasquale or others honking in annoyance at our parking!
We got another cake with champagne, this time Pandoro, which is also tradition but unlike Panitone it has no fruit, just a dusting of sugar on the outside.  I saw Mikele getting paid. They also gave us presents for the kids and some cash for petrol.

It turns out that my work next week is for Pasquale, Domenico's fields are done.  I am pleased that he thinks me good enough to do his own land, despite wishing the olive harvest was done. 

25 Dec

In the morning, Tony opened his shop, despite Chantelle's comments about him working on Christmas day last night, so we called into him and hung out there for a while while the little guys ran around outside playing with the knight stuff.  Suz wanted to go to services at the cathedral in the old city. The main part of the cathedral was being restored, so they were having services in the lower floor, slightly below ground level. I was surprised it was so small and intimate, walls of white stone, most seats taken and I noticed some people with videos and cameras there. Suzie asked someone if this was open to the public and the man answered in English, "Everybody".  Three babies were getting christened today. The priest , using a microphone, was friendly and engaging. The children were named and the service/mass began. Our kids were too full of sugar to sit still so I took Finn out and went back to Tony's shop, while Suzie braved it out a bit longer.

Afterwards we called into Francesca's and enjoyed a long conversation between several of us, pleased we were making each other understood. As usual, the content was rather simple, about our travels, why we weren't staying, what Ireland is like, parents visiting, etc.
Were offered her own fermented lemon drink again so had a shot as well as finishing Suzie's, which made the conversation easier.

As her family started arriving, we went upstairs to have our own delicious and very filling Christmas lunch, with BBQ sausages courtesy of Mimo's friends from Bari, a cooked chicken Suzie had gotten the day before, fried and mash potatoes, carrots, and onions. 

After a nice relaxing day hanging out at home, we went out to Terlitzia with Tony and Chantelle. The town had set up an outside walk-through creche/crib in the old city. The old city in this town had even narrower stone streets than Giovinazzo, and people were broken up into small groups to walk through a living tour of Bethlehem in Jesus's time. While we waited we watched 4 young women dressed in silks dance to eastern music. As we moved along we came several people drinking in a tent in a corner a tent. Then women doing washing by hand, with others bringing them water in old jugs from a "well" set up opposite the women against the old city walls. The streets got narrower and we saw women making bread, live (but sleeping) hens, a goat and her kids, a man turning a real clay pot with a foot operated pottery wheel, a blacksmith with hot fire blazing, carpenters hacking at bits of wood, and then the manger with Mary, Joseph an Angel and the baby Jesus. All of these were real young people dressed up and moving around in the half darkness of evening. It was an amazing experience; I didn't have any connection to the religious aspect of it, but really felt like I had experienced a middle eastern town two millennia ago.

When we came back Tony and Chantelle helped us carry the kids to bed, and we stayed up with Pandoro (cut by Chantelle into stars), champagne, tea and talked about food, business ideas for Tony's shop and elsewhere, etc.

27 Dec (Mon)

I was supposed to work today for Pasquale but he rang Domenico last night and told me not to come, no explanation but I imagine I'll still be working later this week.


Late this evening Domenico rings me to say I should meet at the 5 crosses in Toritto for work tommorow morning. 



Party in Bari. Sabino is in the pink sweater

Sammy with his teacher

singing through old city

Finn meets some Roman soldiers

Part of event at harbour


Disciples eating


3mins later asleep

This site was last updated 04/26/05