Sunday 28 February 2016

Over the hill

The day continued. As you might imagine the bells starting at 8am did encourage Clare to leap out of bed. And then scurry up to the roof terrace to have a look. It turned out that I am a bad person and that when I opened my door, which scraped as I’d not worked out I needed to lift it, I woke madam up. Pfft, she’s always complaining I don’t write enough and I was heading to where I could get WiFi to publish said writing.

Where was I?

Oh yes, so we’re awake, we had some wild boar sausage and a little cheese left from the night before but we needed other bits and bobs for breakfast, there was only one solution… Lidl. Oh yes children the Fortnum & Mason of E14 is available in Italy. Now I have mentioned them before but I have a new observation, the Italian ones very much push the fact that they are Italian. Even down to special badges in their uniforms that proclaim this is the Italia Lidl. Interesting stuff and it did lead us to discuss what the reaction would be if such national pride was displayed on the Lidl uniform in the UK.

Yep, exactly.

Anyway, we toddled off and from our perch in the old town we could see the local branch in the distance, obviously we couldn’t get there for the opening as well we had making ourselves presentable to be done, this is Italy after all. Not that Clare would be disappointed, more on that in a bit. It was clear that the Italian cavalier approach to road surfacing applied to pavements and the layout thereof, namely you walk for a bit on one side of a road and then you have to run shrieking to the other as the sides change. Utterly at random. Fortunately you smile and the blokes stop, it’s a super power.

We eventually managed to arrive at the local branch, passed some old bloke and the inevitable beggar and as I was pulling a trolley out Clare noted that the old bloke had loudly passed comment to another about “looking at legs on her”, I presume the her wasn’t me as between coat and boots there wasn’t much showing. This of course lead to yet another discussion about the social differences, would somebody in the UK get away with such comments or was it simply that they didn’t recognise as as locals and let’s face it we don’t look Italian and so it was considered okay to pass such comments.

We moved on, we had breakfast stuff to buy! Yet again the layout was quite different, but this was a left hand store rather than the right hand stores I’m used to so I was confused anyway, fortunately we didn’t need that much so harvesting didn’t take long and before we knew it we were out and heading back to Palazzo Barbini for food and more importantly… Tea with milk!

Goodness we’ve missed decent tea with milk. This morning we did have tea before the shower, but without milk and somewhat lacking. On our return the first thing to be done was boil the water, in a pan of course, and then ferry the things up to the roof terrace, well, after a little cleaning of the table we would use to lay out food.

And what a layout. We had dirty triangle cheese, little noranges™, croissants of the clean and dirty variety, cheese, wild boar sausage, yoghurt, nananas™, red orange juice, tomatoes, tea and so on. It was lovely. As was the view. Fortunately missy’s phone was out of space so she couldn’t capture some of the disgusting concoctions I came out with. Phew.

It was during breakfast that we decided roughly what we’d do for the day, as you may recall we’d decided that we would go for a walk/hike, this plan was extended to include a nap followed by actually finding somewhere to eat for what would be the last evening in Italy and, actually, the last evening of the first leg of the Contrary Roadtrip. Sounds like a plan.

After breakfast a suitable route was tracked down, a relatively tame 11km route that started on the other side of the lake, round a mountain and come back. Easy.

If you’re not an airhead.

Post breakfast sandwiches were made for the trip, well, when I say sandwiches they were focaccia with wild boar, tomato, cheese and instead of butter some dirty cheese spread to stick it all together. We trundled off, arrived in Passignano, grabbed the bag and wandered off to the start of the route. Trouble was I couldn’t recall if I’d locked the car. The one with lots of academic research stuff in. Oops. So we went back. Fortunately by this point we realised that the end of the suggested trail was at a free parking spot. Hurrah!

Needless to say I felt like an idiot, but better safe than sorry. So the next attempt involved us moving the Contrary Clio to the start of the trail and starting again. Seems simple…

…but maybe it wasn’t. Within 100yards it was clear things were tricky, we’d already got lost. 100yards. Yes. Hopeless. This was classic Contrary Towers in action. Eventually we were on the right track, trouble was the angle. Steep. No, steeper than that. And then the road disappeared only to be replaced with a dirt track helpfully filled with broken bricks, broken porcelain insulators and anything else to hand that would stop it turning in to a mud quagmire.

What fun.

Bloody photobombers
We stomped, we crawled, we pulled brambles out of arms, we lost the route quite a few times. It was *brilliant*. The best loss of the day was when we realised we were in the wrong place, retraced our steps and then lost the GPS signal. It returned when we were some distance away and, well, the wrong way. but heading to the right way if only we could take a short cut and not go back. Through almost virgin terrain. Which was very steep. And muddy.

Then we lost the way again. And again. By this point it was getting a little tedious and *very* wet owing to extended precipitation. This is what happens when you curse the bells in the church opposite, God decides to play chicken with Contrary Towers. Such a mistake.

Not an olive terrace...
As we were getting tired we decided some more short cuts were needed, my favourite being running through an olive terrace as this would save about 500m of walking to a hairpin and back again. Fortunately they weren’t shooting trespassers today. Or are really bad shots.

Even when we were nearly back we managed to lose our way because, well, err, we were talking, I can’t remember what about but it was clearly *very* important™ and you wouldn’t understand. Come to think of it this may have been why we got lost most times. If we’d been at school together we would have been separated for talking too much.

So yes, we lost our way, but also realised that it was better to move forward as the routes intersected, this lead to a game of last one to the top is a whatever and we started to run. After eight hard slog miles with over a thousand feet of altitude change and though mud. We didn’t get very far as this stretch was of course very steep and I’m a rubbish runner. So I’m a whatever.

Finally we made it back to the Contrary Clio and headed off in to town to find a spot near the lake to enjoy the sandwiches we’d brought along. Obviously this was done in true brit style, sitting on a  bench in the blasting wind ignoring all stares. At least until the parking attendants turned up and we made a run for it as payment may not have been made. I’m sure it was a popular place but this was FEBRUARY and the place was empty.

On returning to the Palazzo the pan was put on to boil ready to make tea. It was now too late to have a nap but after a cup of tea, a giggle and a shower we felt ready to face whatever Sunday night in Castiglione del Lago could throw at us.

Glad rags on we headed out to the chosen restaurant for the evening, it was after all the last night of the first leg so it had to be dressed nicely and fawning waiters. We got there at 18:45.

Sorry, we don’t start serving until quarter to seven

Errr… Oh well, clearly the warnings had got through. We went back, all of a hundred yards and opened a bottle of wine from the day before. It was very nice. After about 45 minutes we headed back. Finally they were prepared to let us in…

The reviews we’d seen were pretty good, so we had high expectations, very high. We weren’t disappointed. Eventually. The first two things I tried to order weren’t available. The downside of being here in February!

My starter was octopus. A bowl full of them. Fully formed and fully cooked. Quite weird to look at but oh so tasty. The main was roast veal in the chef’s special sauce. Which might have lead to some giggling as a side I had beans with garlic and something or other plus roast spuds. All were perfect and the shared sides were soon depleted.

The wine? Pink and the second choice as being out of season the main choice wasn’t available. Pink was also a good choice as it was the what we first drank all those years ago in Bloomsbury Square to cement an unexpected friendship, one that lead us to be sitting in a restaurant in Italy after a bonkers road trip. Pink wine is good.

Being vaguely sensible there was no pudding or coffee and after paying the bill we headed out in to the main piazza for the hundred yard walk home. I did ponder whether we might reimagine La Dolce Vita and dance in the fountain, but honestly middle-age does bring its limits. Especially in February.

And that brings us to now, I’m sitting writing, as is missy, music is playing and we have exhausted the the bottle of Chianti we started the evening with whilst also breaking out the grappa. The companionable silence is a good ending to a perfect day and a fitting testament to the four years we’ve spent being contrary. Of course the adventure isn’t quite over, tomorrow we get on a ferry to Split in Croatia and then, after a few days, I have to wend my way back with my lovely friend Clarissa who will be joining us for just this purpose.

Along the way new memories will be crafted and I’m hoping to meet with an old friend in Versailles for the ultimate catch-up. But that, as they say, is in the future. For the moment I will simply wish you a good night and leave you with this thought…

Never be dull.

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