Monthly Archives: August 2011

Salento – Sun, Sea and Winds by Train

When there's wind you can always watch even if you don't windsurf

Windsurfing at Lendinuso, Puglia

Just back after another vacation down in Puglia. The region around and below Lecce is known as Salento, named after ‘sale’ or salt (thanks Silvestro) but known as the land of sun, sea and wind. The whole journey was done from Campsea Ashe in Suffolk down and back to Brindisi by train. None of this would be possible without the man in seat 61, the guide to when and how to book the various stages of the journey. All the trains ran smoothly and the contrast between the halt at Camspea Ashe [sorry as far as the trains are concerned it’s Wickham Market, but it’s not] and the massive station at Bologna is amazing.

This year the upgrade to Leisure Select on Eurostar was well worth the effort as the at seat meal trays were tasty lunches and the journey times were perfect. The food on the night sleeper from Paris Bercy to Bologna was a huge improvement on last year and the company was first class; a spectacular French/Italian lady who layered conversations in both languages at fast speed. I’m sure we discussed everything from religion to cleaning plates with bread (making a little shoe in Italian – faccio la scarpetta) but whole chunks of it slid by with me nodding madly and hoping the nods were in the right places. It was a pity we didn’t have a bit more transfer time in France to meet up with family.

Safely at Villa Rosa this was destined to be an unwind holiday, with minimum travelling about, plenty of socialising with cooking from the abundant market and gorgeous meals out.

Of course there was the pilgrimage to Lecce, home of the purple bike, locks on posts and espressino freddo.

Top places to eat this trip were:

  • Bahianegra, Casa l’abate sea views, fish and pizzas the specialities
  • Il Botteghino, Lendinusso; mussels, in fact so much antipasti no more food was required!
  • Masseria Li Manchi, Squinanno great antipasti and fabulous courtyard setting
  • Cin Cin Bar, Lecce – central spot to drink Espressino freddo and eat pastries whilst people watching, go after 12.00 for the espression freddo, each one different depending on who makes it.
  • Also managed to find somewhere slightly better than the restaurants next to the station at Bologna.  Ristoranti Victoria, snappy service and pretty good nosh.

The high spot in terms of outings was a trip to three cantinas.  Debbie and Bob (owners of Villa Rosa) have linked with the wonderful Donna and Paola, Italian speaking Americans, to create a tour which ranges from a co-operative, to a high-tech winery, to a small family set up. The wines are all excellent award winners.  The glory is having the tour, the on hand translation, the story of the individual cantina and the chance to taste extensively from their ranges from light fizzy whites, to summery rosatto and robust reds with some stronger and sweeter wines to go with Christmas pud.

The reading list this trip:

  • Risk – the science and politics of fear by Dan Gardner.  Worth a read, I felt it laboured the point a bit and at times I wanted to scream. However, there are elements in this that everyone should read, about why we are frightened of the wrong things and not the things that are far more likely to happen.
  • Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes – well when in Italy…..
  • Map Addict by Mike Parker – I started this ages ago and then didn’t finish it.  I love it, my kind of book but then I share his addiction.
  • The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg – sort of a Scandinavian Psychoville
  • Mostly though it was Take off in Italian, I keep trying but still not sure if it my complete absence of learning or the fact that the Salento dialect is so different; most of my shopping is pointing strung together with a few key phrases.
One last comment.  Part way through the break I was determined that my blog post would mention the litter problem in Salento.  It’s mostly dry waste, plastic bags and water bottles some glass bottles and if ever they sort it out people will flock to this dusty heel.  You know what though, just when I thought I would talk about people respecting their environments I caught the British news and this was happening.
Puts everything into perspective.  But read Risk too and decide whether these images ploughing a furrow in your brain via 24 news coverage puts the story into the right light or not.
Huge thanks to Debbie and Bob, Villa Rosa (and the larger Casa Mare) is a perfect base for a stay in Salento – we had a wonderfully relaxing time, see you soon.

Flinging it to Scotland – overnight by train sleeper

A marvellous trip to Scotland earlier in the Summer, overnight by sleeper from King’s Cross to Inverness. The great thing about Scotland in the summer is the length of daylight. Plenty of time for a walk up the Ness and back before sitting outside Macnab’s bar and listening to music with the sun still setting in the background.

A day trip out took us via the Old Station at Strathpeffer, now the Highland Museum of Childhood, past the Wistlestop Cafe, which is still the least prepossessing but best café in Scotland.

Then onwards to Ullapool where the lovely folks at the Seaforth dished up their beautiful big prawns even though they weren’t on the menu.

Ullapool could make a great hub for a holiday, including trips to the Summer Isles on the Summer Queen.

After all that eating, time for a swim at Admair, now added to the new Wildswim map, which is a great resource for open water swimmers.

It was a great break, other trips included Gairloch and Urquart; then the long ride home on the train.

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