Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Gargano - Baia delle Zagare

What a rush! Driving the winding roads around the Gargano in the dark of night. I have traveled this road so many times I can sense the next turn in the road before I get to it. How fast can I make it this time? I turned up the volume on my “Neri per Caso”, and push a little on my dark blue with black leather interior Lancia K. The 2.0 liter turbocharged engine let out that typical “WAMFUF” of the turbo kicking in. I was still in second gear and doing about 60 km/hour. As I navigate the curves this machine just sits to the inside and hugs the road. Oh, what a feeling.

Out of nowhere a horn. How can that be? No one is on the road, no lights, yet there it is again. Then I realize I can’t see anything. All is black. I am asleep at the wheel. I try to open my eyes but nothing. How can I stop the car. Surely I will end up in the ravine. The adrenalin rushes and I still cannot open my eyes. Again; this time much louder, that horn.

Slowly I open one eye, it is still dark in the room. It was just a dream. The horn is that terrible alarm clock. I really have to slow down. Those 1500 km days with 3 meetings don’t leave enough time for sleep.

As the second eye opens I hear the birds chirping at the dawn light peeping over the horizon creating a long trail across the sea. The sun breaks into view in the distance, seems like the sun is having as difficult time as I am getting up this morning. There is a slight dampness in the air as the sun begins to warm the surroundings and I can smell the coffee from the breakfast lounge.

I throw on jeans and a sweater, although it is July the nights and early morning can be quite chilly. “Girls, time to get up, let’s get breakfast.” After a few “oh, Daddy. I want to sleep,” and “just a few more minutes.” The girls are up, dressed and we are heading through the wooded compound to the breakfast area. Few guests are up at that hour but the breakfast hall is decked out with a buffet that runs the entire length of the hall. The tables are all set with white tablecloths and stainless steel utensils. Not made of tin that bends as soon as you pick them up, but nice heavy stainless steel.

I choose the table in the back and order 3 double espresso and a pitcher of hot frothing milk. The girls start out with freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice. I love breakfast and go for freshly baked bread with butter and jam and some Danish. The girls instead have cereal and fresh fruit Macedonia. After this I am ready to go back to bed but I promised the girls that I would spend the day with them so our first stop is the beach.

Baia delle Zagare has its own private beach at the foot of the cliffs where the compound is located. Right off the shore there are two “faraglioni”. These are pieces of the mountain that were separated from the main mass and over time the sea has eroded the sides and the base. They are impressive, shooting straight up out of the water about 100 feet. There are only two ways to get to this beach, one by elevator ride for about 5 floors, and the other by sea. The resort offers beach umbrellas and reclining chairs for about 10 $ a day. You can also just lay your towel down but if you plan to spend the day in the sun the umbrella is definitely worth the money.

A couple of hours on the beach its back to the room for a shower and off to the resort’s restaurant for lunch. Be prepared this is Puglia, so lunch is a serious affair. Do not be thinking a quick sandwich, unless that is what you really want. We take a table close to the window. The restaurant looks out over sea and by lunch the sun is high in the sky and does not shine directly through the windows. You can have a full, several course meal or just a first or second plate but in any case you come away from the table well satisfied. Remember the local wines are relatively good but usually have a more fruity flavor and a higher alcohol content so go slow; they can sneak up on you. Fish is the primary staple for most of the dishes and since it is fresh there is no reason to order anything else. Now you should know I am very difficult on fish. Either it is really fresh (still moving when it gets to the kitchen) or I just can’t eat it. At Baia delle Zagare I would do about 2 weeks of fish.

After lunch I take the girls to the Tremiti for an afternoon. You can catch the boat directly at the private beach or make arrangements for a taxi motorboat. This is an experience in its own right and I will not write about it today.

After an afternoon of the Tremiti and all of the grotte (sea caverns) underneath the Gargano we return to the resort. Ah shucks, its almost time to eat again… I guess you can tell I really like good food. We get cleaned up and dressed. Remember this is Italy, casual should look good. Although the staff understands that not everyone understands proper dress and that when people are on vacation they like to shed the rigors of social acceptance it is appropriate to dress properly for dinner. This does not necessarily mean coat and tie but it does mean a dress shirt and slacks perhaps with a sweater or light evening jacket.

Do not think anyone will turn you away if you dress in cut-offs and a Tshirt but our objective here is to vacation like an Italian and not immediately stand out as the American tourist. Respect for the local customs will usually result in a better table, better service and a more reasonable price.

Dinner is a marvelous experience. About 8:00 pm is right for me and the family. Again the table close to the window is a must. By now the sun is setting and the light trail over the water extends in the opposite direction from the morning toward the horizon. Service is excellent. Most of the staff has been sourced from the tourism trade school and the chefs are top grade. The food is good balance between fresh pasta and light fish. Deserts, as just about everywhere in this region, are flavorful, not to sweet, and the presentation is colorful and imaginative.

The day is not over. Baia delle Zagare is a family resort. They hire in entertainers and there are nightly skits, presentations, and shows. The kids can go alone, as the staff are very attentive, or the entire family can participate. The fun is family oriented and you can laugh your insides out until about 11:00. By that time just about everyone is ready for bed.

To sum up: This is a family vacation. You do not need to leave the resort to have a marvelous time. There is not much around if you are looking for night life but the entertainment style is much like that of a cruise ship. This is the place to go to experience a family vacation, with excellent service, entertainment and to eat like a king.


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Blogger tjames said...

You really need to put some pictures up. It breaks up the text and adds interest.

10:26 AM


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