I woke, very late, to bright sunshine, the Sunday Times outside my door. Curled up with the paper and a cup of tea I forget that I am hungry, until a friend calls and I realize that we are fast passing the brunching hour. There is nothing to be done except head off to Volterra. Again. At this point perhaps I should reiterate that I am notorious for having absolutely no sense of direction, none at all, which has caused everyone who has either driven with me or been navigated by me endless frustration. In this case I am unfamiliar with the Ballard neighborhood where the restaurant nestles in the shade of the trees that line the streets, despite the fact that I have eaten there twice in the past week. A record; I cannot think of any restaurant where I have eaten three times in a month, let alone in a week, but here we are, fighting our way through traffic and the general uncertainty of trying to find someplace when you can't quite remember where it is.
But after some confusion and various turns down one-way streets that lead us to our destination in a ridiculously roundabout manner we find our way there, and I am mocked for my dramatic three-point-turn into a street-side parking space, when I could very well have pulled in easily (though facing the wrong direction) or made a U-turn at the end of the street (I have never been any good at U-turns, having learned to drive in a large army-green monster of a Range Rover as a teenager). The Sunday market, which takes up an entire block, the street barricaded at both ends and presided over by bored-looking traffic supervisors, is in full swing, as couples and young families and other shoppers make there way down the long double line of tents. There are stalls selling jewelry and art and clothes and handmade bags that seem to be made of scraps of hemp, breads and baked goods from local bakeries, jams and fruits and vegetables and herbs and alternative medicines. At the far end there is a hot-dog stand that sends forth enticing odors, but I have brunch fixed firmly in my sights and we walk on.
The restaurant is quiet as we are seated in the dining room; I tell C. about the photographs on the wall, the hand-carved alabaster lamps that hang from the ceiling. We order thyme-scented Bellinis; I couldn't decide whether I wanted lunch food - pappardelle with wild boar ragú, or a burger with roasted fingerling potatoes - or breakfast food - the same Eggs Benedict I had last weekend, or the scrambled with sausage and vegetables, or French toast. The French toast wins out, with its caramelized bananas and chewy, airy, egginess. I ask for a side order of hash browns, because brunch without hash browns is not brunch. The Bellinis are fizzy with Prosecco and fragrant with thyme (a sprig of which adorns each glass). It is the perfect island of calm before the week ahead, the frenzy of work during the day and the whirl of writing late into the night as I struggle to gather my thoughts into some semblance of coherency. But for now there is French toast, and a fizzy drink that tastes of fresh peaches and thyme, and a lazy afternoon ahead...