Thursday, June 14, 2012

Beaching in Taranto

sigh. why cant i work here? (click to enlarge picture, i think)
this past weekend, i took a long weekend and went with a friend, Francesco, to visit his family in the south of italy in the province of Puglia. the town we went to is called Taranto and if you look at the boot shape of italy, Taranto is in the crook of the heel, effectively where the heel meets the shoe. i sampled many of the beaches along the coast. so many beaches, so little time
the bay of Taranto. the sea in the bay right next to the harbour is obviously not the cleanest, but drive a little further south and you will find the most spectacular beaches

we took a stroll along the road that runs along the sea

had a granita. its like an icy slush-puppie, but look at the straw! how clever! they have cut the end of a normal straw so  that its a spoon and a straw!!

along the boardwalk, almost every bench was occupied by a couple enjoying their... afternoon

I think Bob may have been offended but all he did was stare into my lens
lucky us were in the right place at the right time. this navy band just materialized  in the area we were in and started playing

they were quite self conscious
people dont look so different in uniform, they could be the simons town navy band. visiting Taranto and possibly the proximity to my return to SA, i felt more homesick than i have ever felt in italy. the sun, sea and riving alongside it, familyness, even the wind made me miss home, Taranto has a Navy as you can see... all this and more made my weekend just that more special.
the Palio di Taranto (local competition where suburbs of a town compete) is not raced on horseback like in Siena. in Taranto they race in rowing boats.

even so, they all still live in apartments. erm, living with this family for a weekend... they like to shout,  and speak their mind...

could this be Seaforth beach?

eh, nope. not really! they are not shy or small in the south of italy

this beach reminded me most of home. there was even a wind blowing to remind me of our beaches :)

bury me here

another day at the beach.
thanks for my awesome brazilian bikini clare. except i can only stand up when there are no people and then back away slowly making sure my rear end is out of sight...

another evening

this beach is called the green bay. wasnt very green but it was a complete pool. more sheltered than the rest of the coast, the water was crystal clear.
life was good. Anne told me i really changed colour since she saw me last. and Max kept comparing the colour of our arms.
there was more wildlife than i thought


A Moray eel. this guy was very scary, about 40cm long and not afraid of anything. he was attacking the stick we were dangling near him!
all he did was open and close his mouth, gaping at passing fish and.. breathing?

enjoying the pool of a sea, with Moray

enjoying the perfect sunset at 8:30pm

absolutely fantastic. this is their summer house. its about 10min drive from their apartment in town. i have no idea why they dont live here. its paradise and 5min walk from the seaforth beach!

braaied up a fat steak here. locked ourselves out of the house due to the damned self locking bombproof doors they have everywhere. broke lock to get back into the house. door doesnt lock anymore, had to stay the night (what a pity :). next day was sunday... try find an italian locksmith on a sunday or monday. Monday is still considered weekend by most italian businesses.

bourgainvilleas everywhere!

sunday lunch. women be cooking, always. francescos mom, and i found out later that this is an aunt called Franca (i think). francesco's mom is a fantastic chef and all day long she cooks or plans to cook. she continuously plied me with food and before it touched my lips asked "ti piace?" you like it? to which id reply, using 3 of the 5 italian words i know, si e Bouno! yes its good! and she smiled and was visibly happy, which made me wish i knew more italian words to praise her culinary delights. but the shyness and speed at which one must think when speaking another language always got the better of my tongue.

Enrica (sister), francesco and Nicola (fiance of sister). For sunday lunch people arrived. first Nicola then Nonna followed by 2 other people. (who i learn about 2 hours later were the parents of 2 hilarious cousins i met in rome.) Nonna (Gran) is apparently famous for her cakes and she came bearing a spectacular cream affair. it was huge. really like 40cm of cake, and i was translated that she wasnt happy with it because it wasnt as high as she wanted it. i want to know how she took it out the oven! it had a layer of what they call crema which is almost like custard with chocolate pieces and then a layer of chocolate cream stuff, all drenched in a typical Tarantino liqueur. absolutely fabulous. although i was too shy to ask for the recipe :(
this is quite funny. i had my camera in my hand and eveyone kind of motioned to me to take a photo of  Nicola and this cake. so i did, and i took a few more, confused as hell as to why i was picturing him alone with the cake!
 i only realised after i paused to read the writing which said 'congratulations' and watched him blow out his candle, that it was some occasion for him! 

noone told me we were celebrating his birthday that passed the previous week. and i was wondering why everyone was giving him presents. i thought maybe its because he is marrying into the family in july so its like a goodwill thing!.

 how dum can i get! its amazing when youre using all your energy to decifer whats going on around you, that you miss typical signals you actually would understand. like a birthday cake and presents. i spent a lot of this weekend just trying to not do something wrong at one point, mama asked me if i had slippers... for walking around in the house, you always wear shoes (slippers or slip-slops or some slippy slip on shoe) i went an put mine on and didnt take them off again.

trying to fit it... and fit all the food into my tummy. eating slowly and eating a lot (dont go well together) i always get stuffed, no matter how much food i declined, there was always something to taste or put on my plate regardless of my feeble protests. thats nonna in the background.

they have a lovely house (apartment/flat to south africans). what they call a Villa, is what we call a house, something with a garden and gate and driveway of sorts. it was sooo humid, they have aircon in every room. my legs look like i rolled in poisonous cacti, you cant see the skin for the mozzie bites.

this is a monday morning. what did i say about not working on mondays..
anyway. tuesday came and work hit me like a speeding truck. next week is the annual conference for work and i dont have time to breathe, i should have stayed in Taranto. thank you Francesco and family

Monday, June 4, 2012

Beach Camping in Gaeta

This weekend was the absolute best weekend one can have in summer in italy.
i went camping on the beach in Gaeta, a small town a few hours outside of rome
and this is looking down onto the beach. its called: 300 steps...
italians are not imaginative with names.
we arrived to a perfect late afternoon

and struck up our campsite. the sign on the cliff behind us said: caution, falling rocks.
i pretended i didnt understand italian

the sun setting on happy campers. this lot were very happy. i think it was a beach party, they performed music/fire dancing, crazy other things and it seemed that they were actually living on the beach.

violin and accordian players to serenade us  while we sipped water and looked onto the mediterranean lake

for some reason, someone set off some fireworks, you can never escape fireworks in italy it seems

il mare- the sea. in all its glory. Italian are very particular about in what water they swim in. some parts of the coast are dirty and others prized for their crystal clear gorgeousness. This sea, just past Gaeta, that lapped onto our beach is rated the best near rome (1.5 hours out of Rome and inaccessible without a car and some serious calf muscles)

the water was fantastic. either ive gotten really fat or the water in the mediterranean sea has a lot more salt than ours because i can float effortlessly like im lying on a lilo.
the beach we camped on caters for everyone, there are both nude and gay sections.
and commercial sections. something that was very wierd for me and didnt bother the italians is that there are these fish, about 15cm long which follow you around and eat the dead skin off your feet.
i spent the entire time kicking the water, trying to get them to go away.
they swim about 40cm from your feet, eyeballing you. they are not afraid.
other than these fish, there is no sign of life in the sea. fine by me :D
hooray! NO CRABS!!!
spot the cliff hanger. this cliff ran along most of the beach and is the cause of the  nightmarish 300 steps

saturday night we went around Gaeta, dined at a butchery pub place. had an argentinian steak worthy of South african standards, ate hand crafted gelato and a type of pie think its called Tiella or something. that is typical of the town or area. afterwards we left full and happy, drove back, tripped down 300 steps and home to our beachy nest.

it looked so similar to cape town, it almost felt like i was home :)

view of the bay of with 2 towns, looking from Gaeta to Formia in the distance

each town in italy has a patron saint and once a year  they celebrate this saint. it happened to be the very night that i found myself in Gaeta. lights, fun park, sweets galore and lots of music, dancing and noise. lots of fun!

super conscious people parading and recanting some strange prayer. i was both curious and creeped out. maybe they were glaring at me for robbing the procession of its sacredness. anyway as a tourist armed with a camera im immune to the suggestive glares of Italians.
something beautiful about italians. there was a band playing italian 'golden oldies' and all the golden oldies were twirling around the dance floor in pairs. each song played a different dance and they knew them all. Attilio commented that it was reassuring to see old people dancing and know that when youre older, life is not over... somebody teach me quick!

there was a party for every age group. in this earblasting area for the cool people, the coolest people walked in the centre of this spinning ride. the fans seated around the edge watch these guys while they try push each  other into the middle. being in the middle isnt hard, its getting in and out while spinning

some even jump around inside!

Now listen South Africa, we have been seriously missing out here. this is a ride where you sit in swings  that as the carousel spins faster, you get higher and then you come down and yay, that was a nice swing. No, the Italians have totally licked us on this one. they have made it into a game...
you teamup with a partner. the one on the swing behind, at the beginning runs and pushes his buddy in front, the aim is to swing as high as possible before anyone else by, pulling empty chairs, pushing and kicking and any other way you can so that you push your partner high enough to..
grab this dangling jobby! how much more cool is that!!!! any no-one worries about chairs flying around, its like airbourne bumper cars on a mild scale

of course there are fun fair games, here you thriw balls in the holes and each sunk moves you horse at the top, the fastest wins. of course there were also lots of sweets. 2 kg chunks of nougat  and slabs of  caramelised almonds!!!.
...which i did not buy because im on diet.

"I must down to the seas again
For the call of the running tide,
Is a wild call and a clear call
That may not be denied."
thanks John Masefield

heppy campers

dancing in the moonlight
how lucky for us, it was 2 nights away from full moon 

Sunday morning. life is good when you wake up to a view like this and know that you  are forced to do nothing but sit on the beach or loll in the Mediterranean sea.

what a great weekend thanks to Attilio and Francesco
Bye Gaeta, and delicious napolitan style pizza! see you and your sparkling waters soon!