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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Puglia with no Internet...GRRR

BLOG 2--


PUGLIA—NARDO

Arrived today at 2 after the 3-hour drive to Rome Airport. We forgot to stop for gas, so found a station just outside the airport, but no way back in for the car return....10 min later we found a turn off outside a town where we had to pay to turn around at the autostrade, then pay again to get back...like 2 for the experience of a u-turn.
We finally got back in and returned the car with about an hour till our flight was to leave and us not even in the terminal. Got the bags checked, found where to go, and made it just in time to stand in line to board. Whew. All this and hot and humid to us (no to others, I’m sure, since it’s not over 80*).
We had more trouble finding the condo complex than finding the town, so arrived here around 4:30. check-in is supposedly at 6, but thankfully they were checking people in and we were in condo #1, which is near the office on the ground floor. We spent just a few minutes in there before deciding to ask if they had something on the second floor. One of the women took us around the corner and through the woods (not really, but on the other side of the complex) to see if we liked this other one better, which we did. It has a lovely view of the water and tonight we watched the sun turn bright orange as it seemed to literally fall into the ocean. Nice.......
The complex is the weirdest we’ve ever encountered---not one bar of soap is provided for either the bathroom or the kitchen. There is NO Internet at all anywhere, so I’m writing the blog at the table in hopes of cutting and pasting online when we find it in town. So not so much communication, Mom. We do have air-con, however, so have no idea what the info paper was all about.
We briefly met our downstairs neighbors—two couples from Pennsylvania—and our upstairs ones who are from Salem, OR. They were slightly upset since their electricity isn’t working. It’s the kind where you put your key/card into the slot when you come in and the lights and air-con go on. I like that since it forces people to conserve.
We were starving by the time we got here, so went to the bar at the pool for some pre-packaged panini. They were pretty awful, but he –Diego, the barkeep—recommended a restaurant in the small nearby coastal town for dinner. BUT he ways it doesn’t open till 9. Reminds me of Spain... The pool is large and very nice, so we’ll probably do some sitting and reading tomorrow after going to the local farmers’ market. The specialties of the area are olives and great fruits and vegetables, so we’re looking forward to bringing some back here for breakfast and snacks. We saw watermelon growing in fields as we came in.
One thing I can never get used to about traveling is the stickiness when it’s humid. I already feel like most of my clothes smell, even after I’ve washed them. Anyone remember the old joke with this punchline: Who knows you in Japan?
Dinner turned out to be in a town about 8.5+k from here and we were surprised when we got to Porta Cesareo that it was larger than we expected. That meant there are more restaurants and we had no idea where this one Diego mentioned was. We drove around the dock area and just as we were about to give up, there was Lu Cannizzu right in front of us. We got a table right away in the outside area and the place was already hopping and almost full. We ordered salad verde, which was just lettuce and tomatoes with oil and balsamic served in bottles on the side for you to add yourself. Then we shared a pasta dish for 2—scampi with linguine. The shrimp are served whole and you have to crack it like a crab and eat out the meat. I started by removing the heads and discarding them, ignored the legs which are tiny (Matthew tried his best to suck out every little bit from his legs), then ate the main part, which was absolutely delicious! The pasta didn't have a fishy taste at all and was fantastic. We shared a bottle of rose since it only cost €8. We skipped dessert there and opted to go across the street and see what flavors of gelato they had. Interestingly, they had new ones we hadn't seen in other areas, so Matthew tried the fondadente Minimare which was the darkest chocolate ever. He also had coffee flavored, which I had too, plus I had amareno, cherry. They were also delicious. We walked around the town, which was about 11 by now and everyone was out walking, eating, chatting, laughing..people of all ages, many families with young children.
Day 2: We slept poorly—this time because the air conditioning made us cold and we didn't put enough coverage on ourselves. We'd been too hot in the last place with just a fan for circulation, so we didn't prepare the bedding well. Tonight will be better—lower the air-con and put a blanket on.
We went in search of the farmers' market today, passed one that was part flea market since we were told the big one was near where we had dinner in the next town. We got there and found 3 farmers only and nothing else, so bought some great figs and went back to the other one for more fruit. We now have nectarines, grapes, and a melon, but realized as we drove all over, including back into Nardo, that we'd missed the food time and would have to wait 1.5 hours till pizzerias and other places opened for lunch around 1:30. Instead, we went to the super mercado and bought bread, salami, and cheese to bring back and make sandwiches. We also got coffee and milk and yogurt so we could eat in the mornings and have coffee in. Someone from the front desk delivered an espresso maker today since we told them our unit was without one. It's small and will only make one cup at a time if we use the large cups they gave us. Weird setup.
We spent much of the afternoon here, me catching up on some laundry, then hanging it outside on the plastic laundry hangar they give you, which works well except for a day like today when the wind takes things down. Thank goodness nothing flew over the balcony into the neighbor's yard! Matthew caught up on some sleep on the couch, I went down to the condo 2 doors away where the couples from Salem were out talking. We shared stories of timeshares and jobs—Terry's a retired teacher, Cheryl was an administrator in education, and the two men are retired from the military where they built helicopters for 35 years. They seem very nice and hopefully we won't have reason to talk politics...
Matthew and I drove down to the rocky beach—it's impossible to walk on, so they've built a large wooden deck with many chairs and umbrellas to rent and even have a walkway and stairs into the ocean, which looks dangerous as hell. No f'ing way would I attempt that one. Even Matthew, who's always much braver than I, says no way. The rocks look like lava or limestone—very sharp edges. We then drove to San Ysadora's beach and checked out one of the old torres (towers) and the nearby beach. It's a little tough to walk on, even in good shoes, but we went out to see the guy who'd just caught a beautiful large fish, then continued out to near the water's edge. It's sad to see how thoughtless the Italians are about their land—crap left everywhere—broken bottles, cigarette butts, plastic, etc.
Then we were in search of a farmacia—this time for me! The damn mosquitoes love me; I must be delicious. I had to find some anti-itch cream so I can survive without leaving itching scars. By now we were ready to leave the town and head back, but unsure about food, so by the time we got near our condo, we started looking for someplace to eat nearby. The signs for the pizzerias were deceiving since it was before 7 and none were open. We finally followed some signs that lead us up a wild road to the top of a small hill. The place looked nice, but we were told it wouldn't be open till 8 and it was only 7:10. We checked out the menu—they have quite a selection of food, including horse meat, so we thought we'd drive back to our apartment and wait. On the way, we saw a place that looked open, so we drove in. they had the traditional meat dish where you see the meat displayed and they grill it for you, so we thought this would be good to try (plus, Matthew had said he'd try horse when he didn't think we'd find it on a menu, so knew I'd be expecting him to have it at the other place. Not really since I didn't want to watch him eat horse...). Our waitress was adorable—Francesca--and spoke pretty good English, so she answered questions about the menu. We shared polpette, which is also traditional Puglia food—small meatballs made from veal, in this case. They were delicious, served with chopped tomatoes and rocket. I had the mixed grill for my entree and Matthew had the rolled veal with cheese inside, also traditional fare. Mine was fair—much of the meat was chewy, even though it wasn't overcooked. If we go back there, I'll stick with the polpette and get a pizza, which looked good. So far the bread in this part of Italy is much better than what we had elsewhere—the Tuscan bread has no salt, so it pretty tasteless. Last night they served more of a pizza crust cut in wedges, which was great.
This area looks great for exploring. We have an awesome car, much bigger and more comfortable than our last one. It's a Fiat Punta, but since it's not an automatic, I can't drive. Oh shucks.... I'm now working on knitting my third hat of the trip and figure I might get 4 done while we're gone. Today we're off to Lecce, which is supposed to be an interesting town architecturally, then we might drive down the coast on the other side of the point and return straight across from there. Sounds weird, but it made sense when we said it looking at the map.
Monday:
we thought we were ready for an adventure...we drove to Lecce, a large town about 45 mnutes from here. When we got there, the traffic was heavy and the street signs few. We were on a main street that ended with a lovely obelisk, which I did find on the map in our book, but I had a hard time directing where to go from there to get to the center of town. There were no signs marking the centro and I think we wanted to turn left somewhere, though I couldn't figure out where since the maps we have didn't really show all the street names and I couldn't see them anyway. It took us an hour to wind our way around and then we ended up where we started, so we'd made a circle around the old town without ever finding it or getting near. There was a cop directing people away from the street we wanted, so Matthew said if he won't let us in there, we're leaving, and that was the end of Lecce. I found it a dreadful experience that made me want to book a flight home between the frustration of the traffic and getting lost added to my husband's displeasure. We usually look for the tourist information spot, but it was next to the duomo, which was in the center of town we couldn't get to.
Matthew wanted to drive the coast road back since we hadn't seen that area....by now it was noon. He was continuing to be frustrated since the signs he followed were less than helpful and didn't always show the towns he wanted, but we finally made it out of the city and onto the coastal road. We were hungry after awhile, but couldn't find anything open in the towns we went to. By now, it's after 1, I have to pee, and I'm getting hungrier. We hit one town and drove around,, followed signs for a pizzeria only to see it also closed. Everything looked quiet and closed up as in the other towns, but since this one was a little tiny larger, we kept looking. Finally we found the main square where it was dead...but we saw one man at a table outside and then miracuously, we saw someone walk into a 'cafeteria.' it turned out to be the only thing open, maybe for miles, so we had a not great sandwich with prochuitto and cheese, then since they had gelato..... We asked why everything was closed and we think they said everything closed at 12. we have no idea why. Or if that's really what he said.
We drove the coast the rest of the way back with fortunately nothing eventful to report. The water—Adriatic--looked beautiful. The weather has been sunny but very windy. My hair has looked wild and out of control daily, so i've given up trying to do anything much with it. Fortunately, I have a hat to wear! Soon, I'll have another one from which to choose. The other one is child size, though I don't know how I managed to make it so much smaller. I wasn't trying, but it will be a cute kid hat.
We rested when we returned to the condo, then went for a late dinner in San Cesareo again. We were trying for the next town, San Ysidoro, but couldn't find a single restaurant or pizzeria open. Cesareo is a fun place to walk anyway, so we went to the closed street where many food choices exist. We had huge salads, mine was lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and some artichoke hearts; Matthew had a potato-based salad with no lettuce, which was delicious. Then we eat had a pizza—in Italy, it's verboten to share a pizza. We each ate half and brought the rest home. We didn't finish dinner till 10:48—too late, but it's when the natives eat.
 More to write and catch up, but not today.  We're back in Lecce, this time we made it into the old town and still couldn;'t find the parking, so ended up outside the main old town to park.  just found a very nice man near the restaurant where we can't eat for another 15 min who owns a computer store, not internet site, but he let me use his wi-fi anyway.  that's it for now...more later. 

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