Thursday night we took a taxi into the lovely little town of Polignano – ancient and perched dangerously on a cliff above the ocean.
We ate at a tiny Osteria. What a discovery!
The chef is a nervous, bespectacled, crop-haired, 30 something genius who once worked in Harrogate. The owner is Michele, who looks like Dustin Hoffman in Kramer v Kramer and, it soon transpired, rides a BMW. On learning that we were en route to China, Michele told us that we were living his dream and he called his 2 biking pals to tell them to come and meet us. They didn’t speak English and we don’t ‘t speak Italian, so we all smiled at each other and nodded a while, then showed off photos of our motorbikes – international male bonding, but didn’t feel like something ‘real bikers’ would do. While this was going on, Michele talked fast to his friends in Italian and gestured at us. He was clearly saying ‘Look, if these old bastards can do it, how hard can it be?’.
The meal was outstanding – the best so far – and we decided to return soon. So…
Friday lunchtime, after a quiet morning catching up on emails, doing grocery shopping etc., we rode back into Polignano and the chef confirmed his genius with a series of even more tasty and innovative dishes. If only we could take him with us…
Later we rode back to Bari and onto the ferry…
…bound for Igoumenista in Northern Greece.
A calm overnight crossing, landed circa 7AM.
Spectacular snow-capped mountains to the east where we were headed. The motorway was wonderful – we had it pretty much to ourselves, the other drivers were NOT ITALIAN and the views were jaw-dropping.
As we climbed into the mountains, the early-morning temperature, already chilly, dropped steadily till our gauges flashed to warn us it was 0 degrees C. But the stunning, mist-shrouded views compensated for our well-chilled bones.
For hours there were few signs of life – just the occasional small farm or shepherd’s house. This is beautiful but rugged and inhospitable land.
Finally the road swooped down from the mountains through a series of villages that were all built since WWII – sad-looking and shoddy – stucco peeling from breeze block walls, abandoned commercial buildings, piles of trash etc. Apart from the hugely expensive and practically unused motorway, Euro-money doesn’t appear to have benefited the people here.
Richard led us off the motorway, through yet another sad village, and up a narrow, winding side-road. Not at all promising. But suddenly, on the hilltop ahead, was a curious, multi-colored building – our hotel.
Thomas, a 40 year-old member of the local family that owns the hotel, came out to great us in a broad Midlands accent. Turns out he did A levels in Coventry and a degree in technology and business at Warwick University. His younger brother, who studied architecture in England, designed the hotel, that was completed 4 years ago, Sadly, it seems that business has not been good in these troubled times and Thomas’s anxiety re. their prospects was close to the surface.
As soon as we checked in, Simon headed off to Thessalonika to collect Susan at the airport. They returned at dinner time. Great to see Susan, but it It appears that even her presence is not going to be enough to rescue the tone of the conversation that has sunk to third form level.
Best to you all,