Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Part III Valentine's Day, Italy

I used the last of my energy today to make the roof/terrace all spic n’ span. I took the outdoor table and umbrella out of storage and set them up with the new (must have in Morocco) plastic table cover, and I now sit writing on my laptop in the cool breeze, overlooking the city and the river, and listening to the evening sounds of the Oudayas. The ladies on the adjoining roofs are bringing in their laundry and having shout-across conversations with the neighbors. I see next door is also doing spring cleaning as it appears the entire contents of the house is now spread out on the roof airing out! There are numerous and varid delicious smells of cooking dinners curling up out of the nearby windows, making their way to my rooftop, and tickling my nose. I can hear the youngsters playing football on our cobbled street below, and the prayer calls will go out any minute now from the neighborhood mosque – yes I am in Morocco, Tibetan prayer flags not withstanding. JT is in Sale’ with the Tagine crowd doing research. What a delight she is to have around – all enthusiasm and great plans.

But that’s not what you want to hear is it? You hopeless romantics you – you want to hear about Italy yes? Yes. Right then, here we go, Part II of the Amalfi Coast/Valentine’s Day 2008.

The villa appeared to grow out of the mountain (and I use the word mountain, loosely) and was covered in bougainvillea and ivy. The butler, a chap right out of ‘Remains of the Day’ but Italian and clothed in the Positano style of soft earth-colored pastels and flowing fabric, took my bag from the driver and preceded me up the stairs that led from the foyer. The entrance from what I could see in a brief glace is reminiscent of a posh antique store with marble statues and gold and russet urns and vases stacked and lined up neck and neck with oil paintings of women recumbent in various stages of undress – a feast of amber, rust, and indigo, with a stunning white marble floor as backdrop.

My room was upstairs and to the right - a study in blue. The queen size bed, with the head against the far wall, was covered in a deep cobalt silk duvet with a village of silk cushions at the head in every shade of blue fabric - striped, plaid, swirls, embroidered, satin, chintz, and tartan. Surrounding the bed was a sheer tent of sapphire fabric falling from the four-poster frame and billowing in the breeze from the twin windows that with wooden shutters open, looked out to a view of the sea where I swear I could see the outline of Capri in the fading light. I don’t think anyone had been here for a while. The room had that just cleaned by the maid smell, with a hint of roses in the air. Nestled in the far left corner was a divan (Q loves those) upholstered in Prussian blue silk with white cotton cushions stacked and forming an invitation to lie back and gaze out the window at the sea for hours. A small mahogany table sat near the head with a cyan crystal vase sitting center, and catching the last rays of light in the room as it cradled a bounty of white roses.

Another window set high, narrow, and long in the wall of the opposite corner was closed to the cool evening air. A white Queen Anne desk (bear with me, my antiques IQ is below average) with gold and powder blue etchings and cabriole legs sat in front of the near window facing the gardens below that I could see rolled down the hillside. The desk was complete with an antiquated white telephone and plush Louis IVX chair upholstered in royal blue silk with tassels off the back, matching the ottoman at the foot of the bed.. Midnight blue shutters framed the view from both the windows looking out to the sea like paintings with an ever changing, yet always the same, view. The floor was that same white marble as downstairs with striations in it that made me think of snowdrifts or feathers dancing in a breeze.

And the toilet! Ah the toilet, had to have been designed by a woman. It was half again the size of the bedroom with a sunken tub/shower done in shades of white and pale sky blue with the faucets and other metals in a soft gold. In the wall, over the tub, was a built-in glass cabinet with various shampoos, bath salts, and lotions. Entering the door, to the left was a marble sink set into a peacock blue counter that flanked the left wall, surrounded by makeup lights. Head to toe mirrors hung on the back of the door and were inset surrounding the bath (so you don’t miss those hard to get to spots eh? Of course I was having other thoughts.. “Scrub your back?”) There was a huge window set high enough in the wall to catch the breeze and the light while discouraging anyone with binoculars, set in midnight blue wooden shutters. The dressing table set apart, as it should be, from the sink had a matching chair to the desk in the bedroom, and an oval magnifying mirror set into at the levels for sitting or standing face work! Now I call that pampering. The lush, soft, and oversized towels and face cloths matched the blue of the counter, and were plentiful. Now you know how I love attention to detail – the toilet paper (of which one becomes a harsh judge living in Morocco, the good stuff is hard to come by) was the same soft sky blue as the floor rugs that were so thick you could roll your toes in the weave. The cabinets under the counter were set back and into the wall a bit to give you leg room when sitting, with the most interesting handles that were shaped like dolphins.

Back in the bedroom, on the wall facing the bed was a stunning painting of a woman at her dressing table – put me in mind of the same attitude as that work by Renoir, The Seated Bather, that same wistfulness. It was one of those huge, framed in gold curlicues, looks like they brought it from the castle pieces, you know, that you have to have a huge room in order to display. The rugs scattered about the room (my rug IQ is higher than my antiques IQ) were Kashmir, silk, and had some age. Looking up, the ceiling is dropped (not sure of terms here) with white on white scroll work and an oval inset painting in the center of a garden. To the left of the entrance was another door to the walk in closet – yes ladies you heard me – with a wall for your shoes and two more chairs to match the one at the desk. I decided I could stay here happily for – a while…uh huh.

As soon as I had completed my impromptu self-tour of ‘ooo’ and ‘ahhhh’, Thomas – who is Italian, excuse me Sicilian, and did indeed study with the Rick Fink at his academy for butlers in England (news to me as well, but I’m just telling the story, and he made quite the point of it, so I wrote it down), was there with my Earl Grey and scones. Scones! Forget the décor, I would stay for the scones and worship at this man’s feet. Perhaps not quite so drastic, but do you have any idea how long it has been between scones? And they were delicious, decadently buttery and just sweet enough – no clotted crème but let us not be greedy. I sat at the desk, unfurling my computer (yes I took it with me, the addiction is too strong to break. I would hang my head, but I have so few vices these days..), looking out at the last of the sunset as the night walked up the hill and had my tea and scones in prefect bliss. The accompanying glass of Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon did not go amiss.

That’s your 1000+ words for today.


Kim said...

My, weren't you pampered with luxury. I do believe you were being buttered up.

jmb said...

This story is not moving along very fast my dear. I may not live to hear the end if you don't step it up! Just kidding, well I hope I am.

I see you are connected again thank goodness.

I Beatrice said...

I feel as if I know that villa! And could wallow happily there indefinitely. I'm searching for one for us again just now, and have drooled over several that look and sound just like that.

(And did you not feel just like Helena Bonham-Carter, and expect to hear an operatic tenor break out, each time you pushed open a shutter and leaned far out....?)

This seems the appropriate moment to recommend to you a rather wonderful author I have just discovered, who also writes about Italy - with high style and an almost mesmeric charm....

Look for Marlena de Blasi, an American woman who fell in love with a Venetian lateish in life, and went to live with him beside the Lido. Read her "A Thousand Days in Venice", and then go on to be entranced by "A Thousand Days in Tuscany" and "The Lady in the Palazzo". She is first and foremost a cookery writer, but tells a very sweet love story too, and is head over heels in love with Italy.

I don't think you will be disappointed - any more than we shall be, when you do finally consent to tell the rest of your story!

Whispering Walls said...

The suspense! (Cab Sauv with scones?!)

Leslie: said...

I am hanging on every word! Your descriptions are excellent - I am THERE! :D

Nicole said...

Hey how are you...your story seems so interesting and I keep checking back to see if you've posted the end yet!

I was wondering also if you knew somewhere in Rabat I can take my laundry. Some girls told me there's a lady that has a wash dry and fold service for like 70 dirhams, but I don't know where...thought you might know.

Looking forward to reading the rest of your story!


lady macleod said...

Ya' think? :-)
Thank you for coming by.

Now, now, patience my dear...
Thank you for coming by.

i beatrice
I can't imagine feeling like Helena Bonham-Carter, but yes it was like a dream. I will check out your recommendation of author, sounds wonderful. I hope you find a villa as magical as the one in which I found myself.
Thank you for coming by.

Suspense is good for your complexion. Don't YOU take wine with your afternoon tea? he he
Thank you for coming by.

Oh I am pleased you are enjoying the telling!
Thank you for coming by.

There is a great place just up from the cinema on the opposite side of the street just down the opening past the shop that sells nicks and nacks of every sort. Can you find it from that? If not, email me and I shall do better with directions. It's two young women and they do a great job.
Thank you for coming by.

Nicole said...

I think thats the one they were speaking of because we were at the cafe right next to the cinema when the told me about it. Zouhair should be able to find it from that description...if not, I will email you!

Thanks a bunch,