Notes from Puzzle Palace

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Puzzle Palace Hotel

By now you if you read this blog you will have realized that we have purchased two more properties in Panicale.  You didn’t think we were really doing nothing all this time did you?

Honestly, it all started as a way to find a parking spot for our Tesla. We looked at a number of places that were too far away from us, and the one right next door would have been perfect, except that the current owners dropped the floor by a foot to make the garage an apartment.  Not to worry.  We found the hotel.  Now all we need to do is break down a wall, add a garage door and we have parking.  

We initially saw the for sale sign on the hotel when we came and visited the castle last April.  It registered with me and I had mentioned it to George once or twice as a lark in case we ran out of room.  Well, we did.  

When I was pouring over the blue prints for the castle and placing our puzzles in rooms I began to realize that we would be placing some puzzles 13 feet up and others would be 2 or 3 deep.  Now there is nothing wrong with that.  It’s just not ideal.   Problem solved with the purchase of the hotel.  Now we have a room for almost every puzzle individually.  I jest.  But the extra rooms really help to ensure that we will have room for further purchases and donations.  

Now to answer a few questions I’ve had from those who were not at DCD this year.  No, we will not rent out the rooms.  We now have 20 bedrooms 12 of which have en-suites for our guests.  We don’t want to deal with the tax implications.  But this really is only a few more bedrooms than we had in Florida.  

Yes we plan to have puzzle parties. My ideal would be to have 2 a year, one during the early spring, and another in the fall.  Of course this depends on the timing of other puzzle parties.  George is more inclined to have people just come and visit when ever they want.  He’s a curmudgeon and doesn’t like large groups.  He doesn’t want me to cook so much. :)

Initially we will be living in the castle because I realize now that we will be unable to get the bathroom and kitchen set up before we return in April.  I don’t expect this to last long (I’ve been told in Italy, a year is fast).  But once I get here, we can begin to do things ourselves.  It will be better with me here supervising things.  This really is a repeat of putting together the big house while we were in Hong Kong.  Thankfully, it is only 6 months that we will be gone instead of 8.  

Everyone asks me if the hotel is ready to move into and the answer is no.  The previous "owners" removed everything they could.  Even the wall sconces have been removed.

We have hired a couple to do most of the electrical work, clean, and to supervise all the other work that needs doing.  

Every time I look at the floor plans, I make changes, well, yesterday I went in with painters tape and started marking up changes that need doing.  We are tearing out 2 bathrooms and extending them to the size of a small bedroom.  This will become the master bathroom.  We are also adding a few broom cupboards, and of course I get to completely design a new kitchen!  We’ve decided to do one room a month for any major changes.  Basically, there are none.  Each room will have a sofa sleeper and a wardrobe for guests to hang their things in, And of course, they will have the obligatory puzzles on display.  With 95 rooms between all of the buildings we should have enough space for them.  

Instead of giving you photos this week, I’ve loaded walk through videos and a copy of our presentation at DCD on my YouTube Castello di Panicale playlist.  Please enjoy e fino alla prossima settimana, arrivaderci e continua a rompicapo. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Dutch Cube Day 2022 Presentation

 We were once again invited to speak at Dutch Cube Day on our move to Italy.  The following is the presentation we gave.  Watch it fully, there is BIG news inside.  Don't worry, it's very short.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

A puzzling visitor and other weekly musings

 Not much is happening in the castle.  We keep playing Eurorails and enjoying our time together.  We know when we return to Florida we will be too busy to do that. 

I have gone into the dungeon and opened all of the boxes that have a snap close lid, or that are cardboard that could be easily taped closed.   Sadly, I can't really unbox until the current owner removes all of his things.  Lord knows when that will be.  

I discovered quite a few interesting puzzles inside.  One of which George has been trying to program a solution for. It is pretty neat.  I'm sure he will solve it eventually.

I've poured over the floor plans for the castle and have discovered that we have enough room to house our entire collection and double that amount.  We even have 4 large areas to store our duplicate puzzles.  This was unexpected.  

We have prepared a short talk on the New Puzzle Palace for DCD and it will be posted here next week for all to see.  I don't want to give it away before then.  

George has been teaching our new friend Antonio how to design in CAD so he can make some gears for his clock.  The two of them are funny to watch.  Antonio has little English and George has even less Italian, but they seem to do quite well together.

I have continued to purchase puzzles, and am pleased to say that I now understand the system here.  Th postman leaves a note saying he tried to deliver (even though he didn't), the delivery people call me a few minutes before arriving at the door, and Amazon uses the post office for deliveries.  If on the off chance we are not here, the delivery people will leave the packages at the local post. Some delivery companies will try again the next day or two, and everything that is in the post office takes ages to receive.  You see, our post office is only open 3 mornings a week and everyone goes there just to chat with the girl behind the counter. It's an experience.  I'm not complaining, just working things out. 

Our last little bit of fun this past week was having Tanya come visit us.  She was at Essen toys fair and is headed to a weeks vacation with her husband so between the two, she spent 2 days with us.  We took her to Città della Pieve for lunch and a wander around the town.  It was a nice meal, and (sigh) just another medieval hilltop town.  Much larger than Panicale, but it's now hard to get over excited about places like this when you live in paradise.  Ok, I know. I'm biased.  We did see some lovely doors though.  

While there, I found the car I simply must buy.  

And then we taught here how to play Eurorails.  All in all, it was a very nice visit.

Fino alla prossima settimana, arrivaderci e continua a rompicapo.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Minor problems and major deliveries

Another week gone and nothing to show for it.  

Ok, that’s not true.  We got our first shipment of puzzles here in Italy.  The truck arrived early Monday morning with 160 boxes of puzzles ready to be stored in the dungeon awaiting shelves that need building in the castle. 

We had Antonio and Elena here to help us unload, and the thing was finished within 1/2 an hour.  This was astounding to us as we expected it to take 4 hours.  In fact, we had a bit of an emergency problem to solve.  I didn’t know we needed to notify the commune in advance that we would have a truck coming.  Problem solved though.  Antonio is brilliant and got our permission.  We put out a few signs to have the vehicles removed by 8 am Monday and were ready to go.  

As expected, people don’t always read signs and one car was left in our reserved spot. No problem, the truck just blocked 1/2 a lane of traffic for an hour.  Now I know this sounds terrible, but it’s October, and well, Panicale.  The 'season' is over and there is little traffic now.  

I got a kick out of watching the truck driver run around the castle taking photos of it.  He looked like me when we first decided to buy the place.  He’s from Prague and thought this was more beautiful.  Nice guy.

When we finished, George and I went upstairs and had lunch.  But me being me, I ran back down and opened as many of the containers with lids on them as I could.  I wanted to see what it was we got.  You see, this is a collection we purchased and much like many things in our marriage, we hadn’t seen it before we bought it.  

We expected to have maybe half of the collection already, but were thrilled to see that in fact, most of it was new to us!   We’ve probably added another 5000 items to our growing museum.  

On Tuesday we had our language lessons as usual, and on Wednesday I decided to go open some more of those boxes.  I managed to go into Tavernella and get some packing tape, so again after lunch I headed downstairs.  This was fantastic!  Like Christmas.  The first 5 or 6 boxes I opened contained company catalogues.  Even better.  When I left Hong Kong I left all of mine behind.  It was just too much to send over.  Our library just grew some more with some very needed missing pieces.  

On our trip to get packing tape, George suddenly shouted at me to stop the car!  I did as requested and pulled into a parking lot.  He saw a field full of Marijuana growing on the edge of town.  This was a real shock to us.  We of course walked over and took a look.  We then noticed a small farmers market stand and decided to look at that as well.  The owner came over and asked us if we wanted to buy some weed!  Pass. But how funny.   

And you just know I'll be buying my shallots and garlic here. 

We have rather substantially increased our disentanglement and glass puzzles with this purchase.  There is of course some 'big wood' as well.  I still have well over 1/2 of the boxes left to open.  Sadly, we decided to leave them taped up until our return next May.  While I am eager to see what is inside, I agree that we should wait until the shelving is all in place.

This of course brought us to another problem.  We have to redo our floor plan of where everything will go.  You see, we bought this castle because ALL of our puzzles would fit in it with room to grow.  We didn’t take into consideration my buying more puzzles on the scale that I do.  Not to worry though, the ceilings here are in many rooms, almost 4 meters high.  We plan to use the full extent of that for puzzle display.  More fun for me to work on while we are here.

We had the man who designed the water and heating system of the castle come out and turn on the heat this week.  It dropped down so cold that we have had an electric heater turned on at night.  As it turned out, the system was still not working.  I had to replace the batteries in the on/off controls.  We did, and no joy.  But at least the weather has turned warm again.  

We had breakfast with a lady from the village on Friday.  Nice girl who gave us a lot of information on the city and how to do things.  I think we will get along just fine here.  Now to get those visas sorted.  One of the things she told us was that people here just stop in the middle of the road to answer their phones. I was surprised to hear this as I'd never seen it.  She cursed us! On the way to Perugia that afternoon, it happened twice!  

Another thing we noticed is that people will just stop anywhere, block the road and talk to their friends and neighbors.  As I write this, I heard a motorcycle stop outside the window.  I got up to look and sure enough, there was the driver chatting away with a driver of a pickup truck.  You guessed it, the road is blocked.  I just love these little things here.  

Last night after dinner, I turned on the water to warm so I could do the dishes.  About 2 minutes later, it just stopped.  No water.  Sigh.  That means no shower and dirty dishes left in the sink. We are Floridians so I quickly ran in the bathroom and filled a basin full of water so we would at least be able to flush the loo in the morning.  I'll have to call out our guy again and get this fixed.  It seems rather odd that this happened right after the heating system got turned on. 

I’ve been to the post office twice this week to pick up packages that were not delivered to the house for one reason or another.  Most were puzzles, but one was a blanket I ordered from Amazon back in early September.  Amazon here uses the post office for deliveries, and the post office is only open 3 days a week.  So much for Prime delivery.  I’ll learn the system eventually.  In the interim we plan to have a punch code on one of the doors so the delivery folk  can open a slot and slide the packages in.  I’ll have to learn how to write that on my address in Italian too.  

And speaking of language, I’m getting along better each day.  I just wish the Spanish vocabulary would replace itself with Italian. That would sure make life easier.  I’ve now got post-it notes throughout the apartment we are staying in with everything labeled.  I’ve also made up 100’s of vocabulary cards to flip through daily.  This will help me lean quicker-or at least that is the theory.  I don’t want to be living here 30 years on and still not understand what people are saying to me.  I mean, if I can get enough Chinese to survive Italian should be a walk in the park right?  Fino alla prossima settimana, continua a rompicapo

Saturday, October 1, 2022

A few more Berrocal's

Sorry.  No exciting news as was promised. But, I actually have something puzzling to report this week.  It’s a miracle I tell you. 

As most of my dear readers probably know, I spend a great deal of time hunting down Berrocal puzzles and checking all of the auction sites on a daily basis.  Well last week I struck gold.  Or rather brass and iron.  I found a copy of Torso MFI.  This puzzle is a very simple Berrocal that consists of only 3 pieces, and one of those is a coin.  The puzzle was made in 1987 and was a run of only 200 pieces.  

I found it on an Italian resell site and placed the offer immediately. I picked it up for a song, and got a bit of driving practice in to get it.  As these pieces are heavy, it would have cost me 1/5th of what I paid to ship it to me and I was up for a drive so off we went.  It took about 5 hours to drive north of us to get this piece, but for me it was well worth it.

The piece was brasso'd shut and there was no opening it.  We tried WD40, but that didn't work, so we did the freezing trick. After 2 days in the freezer and a gentle tap, it opened up and we were able to see the coin inside. For heavens sake people!  Brasso has no business being anywhere near a puzzle! Don't ever use that!

Last week we also added a few more books on Berrocal to the library and I picked up another copy of Suite Veronese to be framed and added to the Berrocal wall in the castle.  We also managed to find a Many More Horses Coin which was made for the Society’s Equestris Hispalensis. 

The final Berrocal we picked up was an embossing entitled Algaidas.  It looks like our Berrocal room in the castle will be filling up nicely after all.  

We still do not much other than sit at home, shop for more puzzles, and play Eurorails.  We really have our hands tied and can really not do much until we return in April.  Our Italian lessons are plugging along and I’m really learning how to improvise in the kitchen with this little two burner thing I have here.  

The weather is turning colder, but the castle is surprisingly warm.  The heat won’t be turned on until the 5th of October as the current owner has a company come out and do it for him each year.  On in winter, off in summer.  Rest assured, this is something I will learn how to do.  

We have had some torrential rains, but have stayed nice and dry inside.  I keep walking around looking for leaks, but cannot find any.  And on that, my heart goes out to all of those in Ian’s wake.  Thankfully, the Puzzle Palace was far from the destructive winds of the hurricane and the packing goes on without us.  Our crew has almost finished packing the museum up.  Just short of one year from its grand opening.  I am NOT moving this collection again.  I’ve had enough and all I need to do is unpack.  

We had our first visitors come to the castle this past week.  Our friends Stu and Donna flew in for 24 hours to see what we are up to. They now understand.  Prior to their visit, like most of our friends, the thought we were mad.  We had a lovely hike up the mountain and just enjoyed spending a bit of time with them.

There really is not much to tell other than this.  Until next week, continua a rompicapo.