Friday, July 29, 2011

Ten Days in Puglia, Part 1: Gargano

It was a bit of a serendipitous babymoon.  A soon-to-expire voucher for a free rental of a HomeAway UK property via this Grantourismo travel blogging contest and my in-laws volunteering without prompting to take the kids for a while was the equivalent of the stars aligning to offer us what will most likely be our last vacation as two before the impending arrival of baby number three for the foreseeable future. I mean, maybe we will be able to do this again when a) baby three is weened b) the grandparents feel up to the challenge of taking on three at once and c) at least one child is old enough to cook dinner, do the laundry and perform CPR, just in case. Until then, we will revel in the memories of a gorgeous ten day get away to Puglia, otherwise known as "the heel of the boot".

We left the kids with tears in our eyes on the beach with their grandparents not far from Ferrara. An hour later, the tears were dry and we had the stereo cranked, the windows down and we were free on the open highway, just me, my man and one baby minus 14 weeks. First stop: the gorgeous Gargano Promontory and the slippery-stoned, peninsula-topped, jaw-dropping view offering town of Peschici.

There were delicious discoveries like little almond paste cookies that Ingo took one bite of and declared too rich, and a sort of Puglian scone, the Pane del Pescatore, a dense bun with sweet raisins and salty almonds that filled us up for the rest of the day. There were also slices of hot dog and french fry foccaccia which we passed on this time around.
After an amazing meal at Porta di Basso where we sat at a table literally ON a CLIFF, I mean one step over the guard rail and it would have been 100 meters straight down into the sea, we headed out the next day to trace the promontory. Cruising by the trabucci, these old fishing nets that reminded me of the ones in Cochin, where you can sit and eat fish from the sea, into the pan and onto your plate.

Stopping over the lunch hour in sweet little Vieste, we continued tracing the coast, stopping occassionally to oggle the view, like this:

And periodically stopping to hike down to some little spot of beach like this:

And then on to the Baia delle Zagare, a little bay and incredible hotel that Ingo had been hearing about from his parents since childhood when they would dump him and his brother at his grandmother's and head down south for a few weeks on their own (sound familiar?). They would occasionally stay at this hotel, a gorgeous place perched up on a cliff with an elevator built into the rock to take guests down to this secluded little expanse of white sand. The only way to get to this bay is to stay at the hotel, have your own yacht to cruise up in OR if you are sneaky like us, talk to someone at the front desk and tell them you are looking for a hotel and wanted to look around the grounds. They instructed us to make ourselves at home and pointed us toward the elevator. The famous elevator! To the famous bay!

Totally dreamy.

Pulling ourselves away from the bay, we continued along the coast, passing exceedingly ugly industrial Manfredonia, which spit us off of the promontory and into Trani:

where we got in just in time to see the sun set over the harbor and cathedral from our hotel room at Hotel San Paolo al Convento, a former convent with limestone walls and floor-to-ceiling windows. Thanks for the tip, in-laws!

From Trani through Matera and the Valle d'Istria and on to the tip of the heel... next.