I notice I have skipped yesterday(Tues)—which was a nice day in Gallipoli, about 20 min from here. This is also an old town with a large fishing port. The area is pretty and interesting, but it's very touristy with lots of shops selling overpriced tourist crap. We ate at another recommendation from one of our many books. Puglia is known for certain specialties, and the one at this restaurant that sounded like a good idea was sharing their antipasti dishes as a main course. They had 4 or 5 different dishes, many of which turned out to be fish—octopus in vegetables, octopus in tomato sauce, polpette which is the rolled thing, this time it was snapper with something inside, eggplant minced with other stuff, a small piece of bread with something on it, also unrecognizable. Matthew really liked everything—I bet you can tell I was not overwhelmed.
By the time we returned to the apartment, we decided to hit the pool for awhile with our Kindles. The neighbors from Oregon were down there—we have spent quite a bit of time talking to Cheryl and Milon. We haven't seen the other couple as much, and it turns out, they're the ones who have the timeshare and like to lay low and not race around as much. We saw them tonight at the corner near out condo watching the sunset, and they've been having dinner in most nights. We don't get it—come to Italy and sit by the pool, then cook dinner for yourselves. The other couple, Milon and Cheryl, are more on-the-go types who'd like to be seeing more and going out more, but they're sort of guests of Terri and Bill, plus I don't think they've traveled much, so are following the other couple's lead. The men are retired military, so we doubt we have lots in common, especially politically, but they've been very nice and we've just stayed away from certain topics, though I did mention meeting a man by the pool this afternoon who turned me off immediately by talking his political views and other things in the first 5 min. of conversation. What he said was he's from CT. and we said our good friends' daughter and family live there, so he said CT's a horrible state to live in because it's the “most liberal state in the country.” He went on to say he's anti-abortion and belongs to a group of anti-abortionists, so he won't leave CT, even though it's full of liberals.... Before he left, he said his wife has been in bed since they arrived on Saturday (this is Wed) with a bad back, reminding him she's 78, then wanted to know if we're going to the barbeque grill night tomorrow here. It didn't take me long to decide I didn't want to go and spend an evening anywhere near this guy. So I guess our views are out of the bag now to the Oregonians...though they probably guessed them.
Wed: Glad we got online today..that was truly amazing because we went into this store in Lecce (tried again after that last fiasco) that sells computer equipment and works on them, but isn't an Internet site....but after we pantomimed what we needed and I mentioned wi-fi, he offered to let me sit there and get onto his server for 30 min. We asked if we could pay him, and he said no. We've met the nicest people here on this trip.
How our day began: We arrived in Lecce early enough today—around 10—but then did the circle around the town game...though this time we were within the old city's walls. We had a much better map with more street names, but many streets were marked limited access, which means only those who live or work there are allowed, so we went in a circle trying to get into the center near where our map showed parking. We never made it, then a traffic cop tell us where we could find parking, but that was a bust. Finally we found the information center, and I ran in and was told how to get out of the old town and park outside, which is where we were in the first place about an hour before. Crap.
We had skipped breakfast—yes, we actually skipped a meal—so were starving. Two books Matthew has suggested the same restaurant, so we headed over there. By now, it's close to noon, so of course, we find it and they're not ready till 12:30. we made a reservation and that's when we found the computer store just down the street.
The restaurant was small and homey with 3 or 4 women running the place, probably all familia. Later a man joined them helping serve when the place filled up. The travel book says they're known for their fresh vegetable dishes as starters, so we started with them as a shared course. They served 2 slices of grilled eggplant, red and green peppers cooked to perfection, white beans, and potato salad with fresh celery and carrots. Then we each had a small bowl of homemade pasta—mine was long curly noodles that seemed made of wheat with a meat sauce, and Matthew's was a traditional Pugliese dish of flat white noodles with garbanzo beans and fried pasta pieces. Both were delicious. We shared another course because it's also a traditional Pugliese dish we'd read about, which is the polpetti—meatballs. These were veal stuffed with some kind of wonderful white cheese that oozed out as you cut into them. They were the best thing I've had in Italy so far. With such a fantastic meal, we couldn't resist dessert too—figuring we'd eat light at dinner, if at all. They had a “cake” with cherry filling that wasn't really like cake as we know it. This was moist and creamy with a hint of the filling at the edge near the crust,, rather than all through it. Matthew had a chocolate bomb—ice cream—with a zabaglione filling. We were stuffed, but happy. We spent a couple of hours walking around the old town after that, but of course. everything was closed, including the churches, due to the afternoon Italian siesta.
this looks awful, but was so delicious with the cheese inside.. I've since found a setting on my camera for food, so they'll look better after this.
We loaned Milon our book on Puglia, then Matthew gave him his Discover magazine after he finished it because Milon has already run out of reading material (when you spend most of the trip at the pool, that can happen) and also because his shipment for books for the trip didn't arrive before they left. Anyway, to return the favor, he's loaning us his GPS for which he bought a European chip. We'll take it tomorrow and see where it leads us. We're also hoping to use it to find the directions for our hotel in Sorrento. I have an address, but no idea how to get there. I hope we have Internet in our hotel Sat. night but we're thinking of staying in a cave hotel. We have no reservations for that night—we're driving about halfway to Sorrento, then stopping in one of two towns for the night. . I thought it awesome when we stayed in that cave hotel in Cappodocia, Turkey.
Last night, Wed, after returning here and hanging out for a few hours, we decided to go into Porto Cesareo for a light meal. By now, it's almost 8:30, and the restaurants are just opening for the dinner crowds. We're not thrilled at this timing, but when in Rome.... plus, you can't really get a meal any earlier. We walked around and around trying to decide which place to hit—I was interested in eggplant parmigiana; Matthew wanted a pizza. We finally agreed on this one place, though they don't have the eggplant on their menu. We'd seen many people ordering mussels the past few nights, so we decided to share some mussels gratin, then each have a pizza, and again, brought half home.
All seemed well enough, though Matthew was having a weird pain in his calf before going to bed. About an hour or two into the night, I awoke freezing—my feet especially. By the time I'd gotten up to put on socks, I was extremely cold, shivering tremendously, so I added my Turkish pants and a long-sleeved top before returning to bed. I tried bundling myself up, but I kept shivering uncontrollably, even when Matthew tried to warm me up by wrapping himself around me. I don't know how long this lasted—probably a few hours. I could not stop shaking. I've never had this happen before, so was worried since I didn't know what was causing it.
Meanwhile, Matthew's calf was causing him horrible pain. It has started when we got back from Lecce, but got worse after dinner and into the night. What a pair! I couldn't stop shaking enough to worry about him, but finally did get some rest. He was moaning all night, plus he tore the skin on his elbow on the mattress button, even though we put their thin mattress pad on.
By morning, around 8:45 when I finally got up, I was feeling a bit better though still not 100%. Matthew's leg was still in much pain, so he started the day with Ibuprofen. Needless to say, we decided on a day staying here, maybe by the pool. After elevating his leg and taking the pills, Matthew felt a little better, so we sat outside in the sun. Our neighbor had gone to the pool, but in the early afternoon, little raindrops suddenly appears as the sky clouded over and darkened. It was Pisa all over again—loud kaboom of thunder and close lightning strikes. The 4 from OR returned from the pool surprised to see the two wanderers “back so soon.” We explained why we'd never left the condo, and Milon's first question after hearing what I'd been through last night was, “Did you eat any shellfish?” He says he's had a similar reaction from it, so that explains my malady. He thinks Matthew's leg could be the same thing...it just landed on him differently. I sure hope so since we still have a fun leg ahead in Sorrento.
We've spent the day just relaxing, staying close to the bathroom, and trying to feel better. Milon stopped by earlier to see if we needed anything since he and Cheryl were heading into Nardio, which was very sweet. We decided to stay here to eat leftover pizza and whatever else we have in the refrig, and invited ourselves to Terri and Bill's with our extra bottles of wine to get help finishing them. They were cooking when we dropped by, which looked very good and said they wanted to invite us to join them tomorrow night in Porto Cesareo at a place they've found there. But we'd just made reservations for dinner at a little village for our last night in Puglia, so we declined.
We went over to Terri and Bill's condo after dinner and had a delightful evening with the four of them drinking wine and sharing stories for a couple of hours. They're so nice—very down-to-earth. Terri and Bill lived in Iran for 2 years when he worked for a private company during the Shah's era, teaching the people how to build and fly helicopters.
Today is our last day here, and we decided to go to the nature reserve near here and explore it for the day. We had a nice easy hike in, saw lots of lizards and giant bees that thought my white shirt was the flower they pollinate, then got to the end of one hiking area where the ocean hits and you can see some caves where people lived or used as shelter. The gazelle hiked down the ravine and up the next hill to see the ruins and the rock wall nearby while I communed with nature and tried to ignore the giant bees. For me, it was just enough, though I think the gazelle could have hiked and explored much more. He was only bleeding a little bit on his uncovered legs when he returned.
We headed out for lunch from there after talking to 2 young men with their large weimaraner, saw a sign for a B&B and drove in to see if they serve to the public. They didn't, but he directed us to St. Caterina, which we'd seen signs for, but hadn't checked out. We then headed back the way we came and followed signs to this town...which turned out to be full of large beautiful homes. Many of the eating establishments were closed, but we did find one and had a lovely lunch of fresh pasta and tzatziki with great crackers. I was stuffed, but since dinner was still about 7 hours away, figured it would be okay by then. Mainly it was fun to find a new spot so close...
Here's some of what you're missing:
We returned to the condo to relax—oh oh, both fell asleep, so we must be Italians now—then pack so we'd be ready to bolt when we want tomorrow. We've decided on a route—based on getting about half way to Sorrento, where we're expected Sunday, and the fact that Matthew's leg is feeling much better. If it hadn't been, we'd go the fastest route to get to the town with the cave hotels.
As the afternoon unfolded, the sky started to darken more and more. Our dinner is supposed to be about 40 min. away from here, and though I did get dressed as if to go, I kept thinking it's pretty far for food after eating well for 2 weeks...and if it's storming like yesterday, would we really want to be out in it in the pitch black? We decided to cancel our reservation...just too far and too nasty out. The rain has started. Hopefully it won't be like this tomorrow when we check out and start driving a couple of hours...