What an amazing place!
(But I still prefer my horrible American coffee!)
I have to keep this brief as I have a limited amount of time before we run for the train and the next town. Any typos belong to this European keyboard, not me!
I arrived in Milano to a lovely day and was picked up at the airport by Alessandro and Alice, and off we went on a drive to Parma. Contrary to what we expected, traffic was good and we sailed right through. On the way, they introduced me to ‘pocket espresso’. This, I have to admit, is a brilliant idea. It comes in a little packet taht is about twice the size of a jam packet from a Denny’s, but rather similar in design. It has with it a tiny straw that you punch in through the top. Inside is a chocolate-espresso, rather sweet and full of caffeine vitamins. (Yes, caffeine is a vitamin for me!) It was very good and exactly what I needed after a long plane journey.
After a bit of sleep and getting settled in at the Astoria hotel, I met Sara, my intrepid Italian author guide from Fanucci and we set off to find food. That’s extremely easy here in Parma, and for my first dinner, she chose food very typical of Parma. I will never use Parmesan cheese again without recalling it. The pasta was excellentò thatàs a typo, but I like how it looks! It was ‘drowned in butter and saved by the cheese’ which is, I am told, how it is best. Then we went for a stroll. The streets were full of young people.
I think we must be near a University. We passed through a park, and the air was fragrant with the perfume from the trees. We heard an owl call several times, and many night birds. This surprised me as we were in the heart of a city.
The next day we slept in a bit, and then we were off to ParmaFantasy. Itàs held in the open air, in a lovely park, with buildings nearby for presentations of art, gaming of all sorts and shelter from the occasional rain. For the most part it was VERY sunny and I was grateful Iàd thought to sunscreen before I left the hotel. I met with a group of members from Bloodmemories.it a fan-based Robin Hobb newsgroup. They were all meeting one another for the first time, and had matching Robin Hobb Italy Book Tour T-shirts. I have one to take homeç I felt like a rock-star! All very nice people, if a bit shy at first.
The ParmaFantasy festival was well attended, with many vendors, lots of LARP groups and costuming (some of the best Ive ever seen! The Avatar couple, complete with tails, won the competition.)There were vendor stalls to explore.
oops, running out of time. Must cut this short!
Well, a few minutes left so I will continue.
At the festival, I was very happy to encounter the members of Bloodmemories.it, a fan based Italian language Robin Hobb site. They were wearing black and white jesters caps with bells, and Robin Hobb Italy book tour T-shirts! And they gave me one! I felt like a rock star. They were very nice, if a bit shy at first.
My first task was to help with a short story tournament. The writers were divided into teams, each with a professional writer as a mentor, and given 1 1-2 hours to write a story that had to feature a different type of language, a phoenix, and a character with a unique ability. Now, I know absolutely that I could not produce anything coherent under those conditions! But at the end of the time, each team had a completed story. the judging was difficult for me, as I had to depend on a hasty translation of each tale. (Children, study fyour foreign languages for much richer life!) But I mostly deferred to the Italian judges who would know better about the grace of the language used. A winner was quickly decided based on the very solid ending of the tale (the most difficult part for me) and prizes of books were awarded.
Then there was time to wander the festival grounds for a bit. A wind came up and the tiny fragrant flowers began to shower down from the trees. It looked like an extremely expensive Hollywood special effect as the little yellow flowers rained down on the merchant stalls and the costumed fairgrowers and the sword fighters. .. It was just wonderful. (I did reflect for a moment that I am fortunat eNOT to suffer from allergies!) I think this will remain as my most powerful visual memory of ParmaFantasy.
In the evening, I went off to a wonderful dinner with the members of Bloodmemories. We had a nice evening walk to a restaurant in the center of the town, and an excellent meal. I was able to get to know a few members of BloodMemories a bit better. As always, I was hampered by being mono-linguistic. It always makes me feel a bit stupid that people have to come into my language to visit me! I can somewhat read Italian, but the spoken form is like fast flowing water in a stony brook. I can only catch a word here and there. But I had some excellent conversation with those who spoke English and it was a very enjoyable time.
I was also showered with gifts, which already make my suitcase hopelessly bulge! I think customs will have a very fun time with me!
The next day at the festival was equally enjoyable. There was a bit of rain just enough to settle the dust, and more costumes. I did a presentation on the books, with a good question and answer session, and then wandered the grounds signing books, looking at all the stalls and just having a good time. I did several interviews as well and met some fascinating people.
Eventually, I had to bid the festival farewell. Sara and I walked into the center of town, to sign some books at a bookstore and to take in some of the sights of Parma. After another excellent meal, we came back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.
And now here I am, typing a hasty entry with many errors. I think I just have time to go back to my room and finish that chapter. Iàve been very good about getting some pages every day so I feel very pleased with myself.
I think I jsut have enough minutes left on the internet to post this!
Wish me luck with the rest of the tour.