The Gargano Peninsula

Vieste, Puglia

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


Brian got up at midnight to open the patio door to let in some fresh air. There were still people eating pizza in the alley below.  Brian put his earplugs in. I did not hear anyone. The bed was extra comfortable. Our breakfast was waiting for us outside our door. Brian made his coffee and a cup of tea for me, my first morning tea! Juice, yogourt, fruit, muffins, chocolate cake, chocolate tart: a standard Italian breakfast, at least what is usually offered to tourists.

What a difference walking in Trani this morning! Just the fishermen, a few people shopping for fresh fish and us.  The harbour was no longer for pedestrians only but there were not many vehicles and there were plenty of parking spaces.

When driving yesterday we passed olive groves and cherry orchards. Some of the cherries looked like our sweet white ones: Victors! I would love to have tried them although they were probably not quite ripe. I have not seen any for sale.

For the first half of our 130 kilometres today we started seeing cherries then peaches but we were soon on an isthmus along the Adriatic. To the west of the road were large salt pans. Any land on either side of the road was filled and planted with vegetables. The asparagus was finished. New carrots were up. Tomatoes and potatoes were blooming. The air was redolent with garlic being harvested, rows and rows of white mounds of garlic were being loaded into bushels and then into trucks. Red poppies and yellow sow thistle grabbed any ground they could.

Homes were much more humble, small concrete rectangular prisms, many in need of repair. There were also many, many abandoned houses, many of which were two storey, probably abandoned since the war. The area had seen more prosperous times.

The second half of our drive was going to the tip of the Gargano peninsula to the fishing village of Vieste. The Gargano is mostly national park with hiking trails, sandy beaches or rocky coves with grottoes. I would like to have done some kayaking but we are not yet “in season”. Today kayaking would have been a little difficult as there were waves. We have only seen very calm sea until today. 

To get to Vieste we travelled through four tunnels, on after the other, for five kilometres. The longest tunnel was 2.5 kilometres. When not in tunnels we were driving switchbacks up and down the mountain. We encountered a few transport trucks but no tour buses. We were glad that it was not yet “the season”.

People are getting ready for the season. As we walked up and down the streets of Vieste, people were busy repairing, painting, raking beaches, cleaning up litter, preparing campgrounds, setting out lounge chairs and beach umbrellas. We walked the long sand beach then I had a swim and Brian waded but even he said it was the warmest water yet.

The cathedral is richly decorated for the month of May, the feast of Mary. A number of evening concerts are planned. When we visited, video cameras were being set up and the organ was being tuned.

We will be looking for a fish dinner tonight with orecchiette pasta, a specialty of Puglia.


Adriatic Sea, Puglia

Adriatic Sea, Puglia

Monday, April 30, 2018

To the sandy beach! Yeah! It was less than twenty kilometres to drive to the beach at Capitolo. Free parking. You only pay for parking from June 1st to September 30th, 1 euro per hour to a 5 euro maximum for the day. A lesson for Sauble Beach? Because of the holiday, there were plenty of people at the beach and in the water although more were wading rather than swimming. I swam. Delightful! The warmest so far! Brian waded. We walked the length of the beach and back in the water. There were not many seashells but I picked up four little ones. The beach is sandy but there are rocky shelves in patches just below the surface. The Adriatic is varying shades of aqua, turquoise and blue. There were about forty individual change houses and a couple of washrooms along the beach but they were not yet open for the season, which apparently does not begin until June. I think when the air temperature is over 25C the season is now!

We drove passing above Fasano to the beach. Fasano is a city in a valley surrounded by olive trees. Most of the groves (orchards?) have been filled showing a red pebbly soil. Many of the orchards have been planted with vegetables: row upon row of tomatoes, beans, onions, artichokes. The cherry orchard beside our trullo has been filled but not yet planted. By the size of the green cherries I think they will be ready for picking in three weeks.

We drove back by a different route, less traffic but more twists and turns also through many olive groves, past many trullis. We passed near Alberobello where we stopped for gas. We have done about six hundred kilometres on three quarters of a tank of gas. It cost twenty one euros to fill the tank. The newer houses that are not trullis are flat roofed and rectangular often with arches on an open porch, usually painted white, parged over concrete blocks.

We had to drive to Locorotondo this morning for our breakfast that is included with our accommodation it is not served here. We had been given tickets to turn in at a bar/cafe/gelateria. We were almost there when we received a message from our manager to go to a different bar as the owner of the first decided he would close for the holiday. Fortunately Bar Guida was just around the corner. Our server delivered our cappuccino and filled

The table with a variety of pastries, yogourt and muesli. We liked the custard tarts with kiwi, strawberry or blueberries best. With our second cappuccino the server brought more pastries. We said we did not need any more but she insisted. We took them for a snack later.

The bar had internet; so, I posted yesterday’s blog.

Last night we prepared our own supper. We had bought a roasted chicken. We fried mushrooms and added tomato sauce (from Sicily) to our sausage stuffed pasta. We had a prepared salad that included three greens, tomatoes flakes of parmigiana and prosciutto. We finished with chocolate ice cream. We still have some leftovers for tonight to add to our beef/sausage kebabs. Brian splurged on a red wine from Puglia for 2.94 euros. He wanted one red pepper to fry with the mushrooms but they came as two huge ones in a package. Lots of vitamins! We used the remains of the chicken in sandwiches for today’s lunch.

Back to reading on the patio in the shade of the grape vine that already has tiny grapes.

The full moon the past two nights has been magnificent. In Matera it was a bright moonscape flooding our room from above. Last night it spilled in through our patio doors. We left the wooden shutters open.

Cersuta di Maratea

Cersuta di Maratea

Wednesday April 25, 2018

We are staying at La Calandrella B and B a few kilometres north to the port of Maratea, but probably closer to ten kilometres from the historical centre of Maratea which is high up on a hill, but not as high up as the statue of Christ the Redemptor, the second tallest statue in the world after the one in Rio di Janeiro. Last night Brian and I planned to drive into Maratea for supper then pick up Eliane from the train station shortly after 8 PM. After a few wrong turns and extra driving we found the railway station then went to Fiumicino to buy two pizzas and return to the station. The train was not at all on time. Eliane did not arrive until 9:40 PM . Much worse for her than us since she left home in France at 8 AM and had both plane and train delays. A long day! The pizza was good!

This morning, after our first egg breakfast in a week, with fresh croissants warm from the oven, we drove up to Maratea. We had to wait for one of the few parking spaces. Someone had to leave before we could park.  The centre is for pedestrians only. We walked up and down the old town. There were crowds of people in the streets, lots of children. One of the many churches was packed solid for mass. We stood in the doorway for a few minutes wondering why it was so busy. April 25th is a national holiday celebrating liberation marking the end of the Italian Civil War and liberation from the German forces in 1945. 

Our host filled us with the intricacies of the Italian legal and political system. In fewer words than he spoke: you need permits for everything and getting permits cost lots of money and time (years). Politicians and lawyers are evil. Our host used more colourful words.

this is also a property that has been in the family for centuries and was restored from a ruined state. There used to be many hectares below it to the sea and above to the mountain top, covered in vineyards, olive and lemon trees.  They lived off the land and from the sea. Now commercial fishing has put an end to fishing for family needs.

We returned to Cersuta where we ate pizza and sandwich leftovers from yesterday and had a rest. Brian slept on the sofa; I fell asleep in the sunny garden and Eliane wrote postcards in the shade.

Next up was a walk down to the water where Eliane and I had a glorious swim and Brian hung out on the rocks. Since it is a rocky shore we had to fall into the water. It was instantly deep. The surface water was very warm but just below the surface, a little chilly.  We swam with tiny fishes.

Brian checked our ascent from the shore on Gaia: 165 metres. Eliane and I walked along the path above the shore admiring the varying shades of aqua and taking photos. The sea sure has been calm.

Today we bought supplies at the grocery store for tomorrow’s supper: fresh pasta, Amitriciana tomato sauce, panicetta and parmigiana. Eliane bought salad, chocolate and pastry. We are all set. Tonight we will walk down to the family restaurant, Cesar’s, about five hundred metres away. Apparently they have great seafood dishes.

October Delights

Kayaking and Swimming
October 2, 2017
5:23 PM

That was delightful. We just came home from kayaking along the shore of Georgian Bay here at Cobble Beach. This morning when we were golfing the bay was a sheet of glass. Not so this afternoon. The waves were rolling in from the northeast; so, we paddled north with the waves swiping at our side and occasionally landing in our kayaks. It would have been a good day for kayak skirts. That is something for our purchasing list.

It is so quiet kayaking in the bay with only the occasional cry of a gull or the waves splashing the shore or spilling over boulders rot make white caps. It has been three weeks since we finished kayaking the Douro and our first time back in a kayak, this time our own, a little sleeker and cushier. I think our trip gave me a keener interest in kayaking. We had never done a multi-day trip before. I really enjoyed it.

We kayaked back to the beach in a stream of sunshine, the sun warm on our bodies. That made it perfect for a swim after kayaking. Brian did not think so, but when the air and water temperatures match at 20C, I think it is perfect. I love to be able to swim in October. That is so special. Still more swimming, Kate!

I spent a few hours this afternoon dead-heading flowers, trimming and edging the garden. I prefer cleaning the garden to cleaning the house. We grew our tomatoes with our dahlias this year, with greater success. If the long range forecast holds true we should keep getting tomatoes for a couple of weeks.

Home at Cobble Beach

Cobble Beach
Home again, home again! Yeah!
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

We love travelling but we love coming home! There is nothing quite like our own bed, our own shower, our own home. Our fall garden is well underway. There is plenty of deadheading to do, but my roses still are colourful and those splashy red and white dahlias make me smile. We had overnight guests here on the weekend. They loved our sunrise and enjoyed watching the heron pick his way over each fish line to the pond. They did not see him eat any koi. Brian was hoping a neighbour would have had barbecued heron by now.

Our fridge is not working. We had heard of problems with it a couple of weeks ago but anticipated the problem only being in the freezer compartment which was emptied. Sadly the fridge itself is at 61F. The good news is the repairman will come this afternoon. The last time we asked for a repair, it took two weeks for someone to come. Arghhh…$1000 compressor needed…buy a new fridge!

We watched a beautiful sunset sink into a hazy horizon as we approached Owen Sound last night. We stopped for some groceries and thought we would have a Hamburg on the barbecue when we arrived at home but neither of us felt especially hungry; so, we thought it might be a popcorn evening. As we drove past Kate’s, Brian called out to whoever was standing at the barbecue, “Is supper ready?” We kept driving but minutes after being in our house, Kate called and invited us for ribs. So happy to hug our friends again.

A welcome home emergency food kit was waiting in a cooler on our front steps. Bryan and Susan made sure we would have some essentials: tonic, cheese, crackers, eggs. We have good friends here who took care of us and our property. Will made sure the grass was cut and windows open.  Helen watched out for intruders and Susan watered plants. Adrian has been feeding the fish. Lots of willing hands. We are so grateful!

This morning I cycled in a few drops of rain to the beach to meet Kate for a swim. En route I stopped for welcome home hugs. Susan rode down for a swim too. After Brian had secured a fridge repairman he rode down for a swim too. The water is an awesome 72F. Even though yesterday’s air temperature of 32C has cooled to 20C, it felt great.

I planted my few Portuguese seashells in my beach garden.

Three new houses and a set of townhouses have been started in our absence and several of the newest houses now have green lawns. By all accounts the Concours was a great success, the first of five that we missed.

The Last Hurrah

January 25, 2017

If you are confused by what appeared to be a duplicate blog two days in a row, there really is a write-up for January 24th. Just click on the link that still appears to be about critters and you should be able Tom find out about our hiking adventure. We have since read that others had very similar experiences trying to find their way on the Cot Trail. More signage is needed.

This morning Brian walked down to the beach at Hank’s Bar to try for one last attempt at fishing. Again the brown pelicans were more successful. I walked with Brian to where the road split then walked up Garibaldi Hill to where Stephan is building a 6000 square foot home. I don’t know Stephan but we heard the house has been in the building process for a year and a half. So far they are just starting to lay plywood over the foundation. The owner will have a great view of Isles Bay.

I walked 5.8 kilometres this morning in an hour and twenty minutes, stopping to take photos. I also took time out for a swim in waveless water at the beach. How unusual! I had my goggles on. Although the water was clear, all I saw below the surface were sand patterns.

Back at the Taj I needed another swim in the pool before all of us boarded the people mover, an eight passenger rental van, for a descent to a bank run and shopping in Cudjoe Head. Except for withdrawing money from the bank and buying fresh buns at the bakery, most other errands were unsuccessful because of a closed store or office or a store with no products. Some of us visited the artistic clothing store. The artist makes bright colourful dresses tops, pants and sheets in batik or tie dye. No purchases were made; so, some might say we were successful in not spending money.

I checked out a couple of the nearby stores; most were packed in narrow aisles with a huge assortment of goods. The best place to visit was the public library. It was air conditioned.

It was great to get back to the Taj to relax with a tuna melt and cold drink.

Yesterday afternoon we had one of our daily swims at our Isles Bay Beach just below us. The waves were calmer but nothing like this morning’s calm seas.

We went out for dinner at the Watermelon Cottage a couple of kilometres north of us. Trevor, the owner, chef and server, lives in the cottage which is completely surrounded by foliage. We felt as if we were in the rain forest. The dining area is open on three sides. One side opens to a pool and loung area. We had a table set for eight in the middle of the restaurant. Dining is by reservation only and Trevor never accepts more than twelve people. Last night he limited it to the eight of us. The one page menu changes daily. Everyone pretty well opted for the four course menu: coconut shrimp or escargots, lettuce salad with beets, filet wrapped in bacon with fries, broccoli and cauliflower, chocolate layer cake with mocha icing or butter pecan ice cream. All delicious. All accompanied by a steady stream of chatter from Trevor who has lived on the island for thirty-nine years after years spent entertaining on cruise ships and a couple of years in musicals on Broadway.

Trevor’s restaurant was filled with an eclectic mix of art and artifacts including a tiny operating carousel, carved masks, a camel, figurines from various cultures, a large hanging drum, a huge yellow butterfly kite suspended from the ceiling, the flower arrangements on the table include tiny birds of paradise.

We finished our evening star gazing.

Island Critters

This blog got replaced by January 24th; so, I will try again.

January 23,2017

We did go for another walk, checking out the homes hanging on cliff tops draped in colourful flowers. We were accompanied by a kestrel as we kept our eyes peeled for iguanas. They have not chosen to give me a close up view. My telephoto just is not good enough. The forty foot tall almond tree beside the house is home to at least three iguanas. We spot one to two foot long striped tails hanging from the thick foliage. Occasionally we see a spiny back. One fell from a branch yesterday but successfully clung to a lower branch and would not look at us. This afternoon one posed for me, caught as he was between a concrete wall and the road.

Brian and Bryan cracked open a coconut yesterday throwing a big rock down on the coconut. That action successfully severed the husk off the coconut but did not crush any feet. Yeah! Today they are busy playing in the dirt, reconstructing a stone wall that collapsed when the gardener was trimming. The third Bryan, renamed Peter, is using a pick axe to try to remove stumps. Are any of them wearing steel-toed boots? No! Apparently Keene sandals or canvas tennis shoes are sufficient.

Sunset was a long display, changing from lemon to fuchsia to papaya with all the shades in between. The colours lasted for at least twenty minutes past sunset and every photographer was trying to capture the uncapturable. Awesome beauty!

We played an outrageous game of Trivial Pursuit, Baby Boomer edition. If you have never played this edition and you are a baby boomer, don’t bother. Most questions focus on the fifties. It is advisable that you were born in the thirties to answer these questions. Even our two kings of trivia, Brian and Peter (how did they get on the same team?), were struggling after what looked like an easy start.

I baked an angel food cake in a springform pan for Brian’s birthday. We are a day ahead of schedule for that but we will be out for dinner tomorrow night. I was pleased that the cake did not flow over the sides and make a mess of the oven. It sunk a little in the middle after I took it out of the oven. That just makes a bigger receptacle for chocolate whipped cream. Susan is going to make an island treat: coconut chicken for supper.

Three out of the four us who went to the beach at noon challenged the huge waves. It was easier to get back to shore than I feared.

This afternoon the ladies walked up, up the hill to Shann Murrell’s art studio. She does very pretty collages and paintings, makes cushions, silk scarves, note cards and jewelry. I took a photo of Shan with a large Montserrat WI batik. I took the photo for you, Cory. I thought it was for the Women’s Institute, but of course, it WI stands for West Indies. Shann said lots of people make that mistake. You can see her art on Facebook.

I really wish I had my hiking poles with me. I am sure I could do double time climbing all these hills if only I had my poles.

Time for a swim!





Riding the Waves

January 22, 2017


Last night we danced under the stars. Al and Barb gave us bachata lessons. I would say that they taught us the bachata but that might imply we learned it. More lessons may be required. We, even Brian, notorious for not dancing, had lots of fun trying.

John and Pam regretfully left for the airport and Canada this morning. Their month passed too quickly. And then there were eight.

A gardener spent the morning cleaning up the undergrowth. In the process a wall, lime tree, banana trees no frangipani were rediscovered. The kestrels have been sitting on the wire to profit from what the gardener exposes. A lizard lost his tail to a kestrel.

We drove to Woodlands Beach this morning hoping to find clear water for snorkelling. The water was very clear but there were also large waves crashing on the shore. Once past the waves it was easier swimming than it has been in big waves, but also a little cooler. The rocky area at the point, closer to the shore, would have been the best snorkelling area but it was too rough. Brian and I only saw sand patterns as we did not swim as far as Al and Bryan who wore life preservers and flippers. They saw a variety of colourful fish.

We had fun swimming then walking the beach trying to get interesting wave shots. A sign at the beach wishes us well: “May your life be filled with relaxing sunsets, cool drinks and sand between your toes.”

Once again, supper provided us with lunch for today: rotis, salad and the remains of chocolate cake. Brian and I are on chef duty this evening: roast beef and vegetable stir fry and roasted squash. Brian has made a few loaves of bread this week. Each one has been gobbled up.

I might work up the energy for a walk and another swim…or not. Reading in the shade of the coconut tree is good too.

Montserrat Memorabilia

January 21, 2017

The past two evenings we have reclined on the deck marvelling at the stars. Every now and then someone gets out an iPad to identify a constellation. The brightest star in the sky is the planet, Venus, in the northwest. It is so bright there is a reflection as it descends into the sea. When it disappears into the water, that signals bedtime, usually around 9:40 PM. I am not positive as I am often among the first to head for bed. We do not often, if ever, observe the heavens as long in Ontario, as we need more clothing and/or insect repellent. No mosquitoes send us for cover here.

Each evening one cruise ship sails past from north to south. While at Hank’s we watched the sun set with a sailboat in the foreground, a barge of sand crossing through the sun and platoons of brown pelicans putting on a comic air show crashing into the sea. What a pleasurable way to eat our seafood platters and drink Carib beer or rum punches.

Last night, for the first time we pulled our blanket, a duvet cover, over our single sheet. The temperature must have dropped to 25C.

The last two night’s the roosters crowing in the wee hours have been seriously in need of voice lessons or someone has been murdering them. For sure they have failed Crowing 101.

This morning after yoga and a swim in the pool we went to the Hilltop Coffee House in Brades to have their Saturday special of waffles with delicious coffee. After David Lea gave us a tour of his photo and memorabilia collection, we decorated our waffles with whatever pleased us from the dishes assembled on the bar: blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, shredded coconut, chocolate, raisins, peanuts, chocolate sauce or male syrup and whipped cream. No sugar highs here!

David and his wife Sun have been here since their hippie days. Their son, Sun, gives tours of Plymouth. He was not available for us. David has been involved in several video productions about the volcano eruption and Plymouth. He also authored a book, Through My Lens, about Montserrat which include his photo collection about the volcano, Plymouth and George Martin’s Air Studios. His photos cover the walls and the tabletops under glass. He also has posters from those early days as well as signs and memorabilia recovered from Plymouth and the buried Belham Valley Golf Course. David is the local historian, a very engaging host.

We found Plymouth Nuts in the narrow aisles of Ashoks’ grocery store. Benjamin’s factory is just down the hill in Brades, but not open on Saturday.

The waves are big again. Yahoo! And the sky is cloudless blue. The volcano is very clear. All we were missing was a water ready camera with a photographer in the water to get our ten bobbing heads with the volcano in the background.

We ordered roti for tonight from Joe’s wife. Joe just delivered them. We are having an awesome chocolate birthday cake a day late for Al, but just right for my sister.

Happy birthday, Rosemary!

Hiking to Rendezvous Bay

January 18, 2017

We are frequently awake to greet the day before 7 AM. The 5 AM call from the rooster has nothing to do with this. It is light from 6 AM to 6 PM; so, more daylight than we are used to at home at this time of the year.

Brian brings me my orange juice followed by tea but since it is so beautiful to read the Owen Sound paper looking out at the morning sea, I take my cup of tea out of the bedroom. I am keeping up my thirty minute yoga habit. After a leisurely breakfast I was surprised that folks were rushing to be ready for a 9:30 AM departure for our hike to Rendezvous Bay. I thought we still had an hour. For some unknown reason my iPad had not switched to island time so I was an hour behind schedule. I still was ready in time for ride north to Little Bay.

We walked past the concrete block factory to access the trail to Rendezvous any, the only white sand beach on the island. It was a hot walk to the top on a narrow path where we watched our feet diligently to avoid the prickly acacia. We had to stop now and then to admire the view back to Little Bay where sailboats bobbed and container ships glided. We picked our way down carefully to Rendezvous, fortunately more shaded as sweaty rivulets already ran off my chin. What a delight to shed running shoes and shorts and plunge into the sea. Brian scolded me for swimming out too far but it was sublime!

It took us an hour and a half to hike 3.5 kilometres, an ascent of 172 metres and descent of 189 metres. We spent an hour and a half swimming and walking or tossing a frisbee on the beach, also chatting with an American couple who had kayaked around to the bay in twenty minutes. They almost got flipped out of their ocean kayak by a big wave, but they managed to keep it upright.

Upon our return all eight of us were more than ready for a drink at Johnny Ponts’ restaurant, built into the hillside by Little Bay. Even I had a Carib beer even though beer is not typically my drink of choice. I followed it with a rum punch that almost flattened me. I was content to have a spicy pumpkin soup followed by a green salad while others had the full meal deal of Wahu (fish), ribs or chicken accompanied by potato, salad and veggies. As we ate and chatted we watched hummingbirds and banana quits dart in and out of the foliage and boat paraphernalia that dangled from the ceiling.

Bryan was alert enough to drive us back to the Taj where everyone settled in for a siesta.

Then a dip in the pool to wake up. Life is wonderful!