July 14, 2010
July 1, 2010
We left Palau and ended up almost by accident in Cala Gonone, a town nestled into the base of a mountain on a gulf dotted with stunning beaches and coves accessable only by boat. Talk about happy accidents. And what could make this one have an even happier ending? How about an agriturismo perched on the side of a mountain with massive tent pitches? The idea of an agriturismo is to have a working farm offer rooms (or tent space) to tourists. The tourists get to see a farm up close, and the farm gets extra income. This farm was well-known for serving up amazing dinners, family style. The kind woman who ran the show (Signora McDonald?) didn’t bat an eye when I said we couldn’t have any gluten. She barely flinched when I added milk and cheese to the no-no list. I could hardly bring myself to mention my being a vegetarian, but I did, and she handled this final blow with grace and dignity. She informed me that they couldn’t serve me fish, since all the meals featured the products from their farm, that they could only offer me an egg dish for my main plate. I was thrilled. A seafood reprieve! We beamed at each other, Rory and her sons discovered that Pokemon transcends language, and a friendship was born.
Rory and Nora and I spent the next day taking a boat service from beach to beach. The water was incredible. The beaches were mostly white rocks, not sand, which hurt horribly climbing in and out of the steep surf, but didn’t cling and linger on our towel. We spent a happy hour doing “math,” grouping and regrouping the beautiful jellybean-like rocks there by the sea.
As fun as that was, my favorite memories will center around the food. Both nights we started with an antipasti, marinated eggplant and roasted peppers for me, prociutto and other meaty delicacies for Rory and Nora. Along with these came the best olives I’ve ever had. I know, I know, I’ve said that before. Still… after that came, the first night, a simple pasta in a tomato sauce. It was delicious. So delicious,in fact, that when we weren’t served it the second night, Rory sat at the table and cried. Really, it was that good. Just look at those big, sad brown eyes. The first night Rory and Nora were served braised “cabra.” Nora didn’t care for it and swiped my fritata, but Rory polished off his and hers, raving about the complex flavor that reminded him of cheese. He said it like meat from heaven covered with melted cheese. I thought, after that, that he wouldn’t mind being told it was goat, and he didn’t, although he was sad to think it would be hard to find back home. The second night we had the best lentil soup I’ve ever had, and I know beans. After we ate we were summoned around back to see Signor McDonald roasting some suckling pigs by an open fire. After fruit and coffee they came around with a digestivo, mirto, a Sardinian liquor, like concentrated red wine syrup. Monumental meals, both. This may be the pentacle of camping. We slept without our rain flap, under a full moon as orange as freshly squeezed juice. In the early morning I awoke to the deep rumbling of bells as the sheep were brought to their breakfast. All day we shuttled from one amazing beach to the next, and came back to a meal that was local, fresh, and delicious. Possibly the rest of our camping life will be, well, less. Such a burden to live with.
June 29, 2010
Question: What’s more fun than beautiful, swimmable sea?
Answer: Beautiful, swimmable sea plus great climbing rocks!
Last week we floated across the Mediterranean on a ferry from Barcelona to the Italian island of Sardinia. Well, it’s heaven. We’re camping in Palau, on the northeastern corner in a busy part of the island called the Costa Smeralda. Our campsite is surrounded by huge granite boulders and overlooks a tiny little inlet teeming with sea creatures. Rory spends all his time 30 feet off the ground, scampering around rocks and hiding from the sun and wind in a little cave he found, tucked into the side of a rock wall. Nora filled up her bucket with sea snails, hermit crabs, and loads of kelp, before commandeering my dish pan and graduating to sea urchins and jellyfish. She managed to catch five jellyfish before we learned that the gorgeous pink ones give a nasty sting. She escaped unharmed. An Italian named Aldo took us under his tutelage, and we learned all about urchins. We sat there by the edge of the sea and ate the creamy orange eggs straight from the shell. Then he took Rory out snorkeling to show him where to find them. No wonder we came, planning to stay a couple of nights, and stayed a week.