Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Hilton Garden Inn (Lecce, Italy)

I’m on my way to Otranto this morning. I checked the weather forecast for this city and see that it could be sunny all day. A little overcast here in Lecce this morning. Glad the weather has been holding up during my visit to this part of Italy.

The train schedules via Google don’t seem to match up with the train times that I was given by the people at the receptionist desk last night. Guess I’ll buy a ticket at the station. I’m going to be lazy this morning and ordered a taxi to the station.

The taxi ride to the station was interesting. The guy driving the taxi spoke to me in his best English and asked where I was going today. He honked at another taxi during the ride to the station. He said it was his brother. He then said that he had four brothers and all of them drive taxis in Lecce.

When I arrived at the station I bought my ticket out of a machine. The train time via the machine matched what I was told by the hotel reception last night. Now, to find the platform. Guess I’m a little spoiled by traveling by trains that are clearly marked, both on the train, the platform and on the monitors in the station. I’m learning to ask, and sometime re-ask, people if I’m taking the correct train.

I was fortunate to meet up with a couple of fellow Americans (Alan and Ginny) who were also traveling to Otranto today. Ginny spoke Italian well enough to confirm the train and make sense of the transfers that we might need to make to reach our destination. We sat near each other and talked the whole way to Otranto. Once I found out they were from New York City we had plenty to talk about.

We went our separate ways once we reached Otranto. I was anxious to find a restroom and a place to have lunch, so I quickly made my way down to the water and looked for a restaurant that served seafood. Out of the three restaurants that I found, one was open for lunch and was given a table facing the harbor.

For whatever reason I was hungry and decided to order a starter and a main meal. For a starter I ordered mussels and my main dish was ravioli stuffed with zucchini. I sat near a table with two couples who were speaking French, then when it came time for them to order, they ordered in Italian. Even after traveling these past few years I’m still impressed with the number of people who can speak several languages fluently.

What a wonderful lunch! My order of mussels was perfectly prepared and I used the bread to soak up the sauce while I ate the mussels. I remember ordering mussels in Bruges and it turned out to be a bucket of mussels. This time, the size of the order was just right. The ravioli was excellent as well. And it was served with about 10 mussels placed around the ravioli. Now to get outside and walk off the meal.

Typical for me, I had no plan. Just walked along the water and into the older part of the city. First along the harbor, around the castle (castello), through the narrow streets, along a few of the streets in the newer part of the city, then back into the older section again. I tried to find the basilica, but didn’t see it.

I then walked over to the other side of the harbor. Very few people were out and about on this fine sunny day. It was a little windy, but I didn’t mind. I climbed up a few flights of stairs from the harbor to the upper part of the town. Once there I looked for a cafe to enjoy a cup while I rested. And to use their restroom.

I found a place that seemed full of locals. While I was sitting outside with my espresso I could hear them discussing very loudly some issue of importance. I had no idea what they were talking about but several of the men were very passionate and raised their voices several times.

Ginny had mentioned that there was a return train to Lecce that was leaving around 4:00. I didn’t even check via Google. I walked towards the station and bought a ticket once I got there. Alan and Ginny arrived a little after that.

We continued our visiting on the way back to Lecce. More about NYC and then they mentioned Sandringham, a home owned by the Queen. I’ve always wanted to visit there. They have some connection with the area. Very interesting stories. Of course we talked a little about Prince Philip’s accident.

When we arrived back in Lecce they mentioned that they will be visiting Gallipoli tomorrow and gave me the train time. I was thinking about Taranto and perhaps Gallipoli.

Had another interesting taxi driver on the way back to the hotel. She was very outspoken and tried to speak to me in Italian. She asked if I knew any French or German. I said only very little of each. I discovered that her French and German was as limited as mine. She cursed at the other drivers and pedestrians during this short drive. She was quite a character and tipped her a bit extra.

For dinner, I went down to the hotel restaurant. When I read over the menu, nothing seemed very interesting. But I knew if I didn’t order something I would be super hungry later on. A pasta dish looked okay and ordered that. Very seldom do I order something that I really can’t eat, and this meal of stuffed pasta was one of those times. It wasn’t bad, it just was not appealing. I ate half, stuffed a couple of pieces of bread in my pocket and returned to my room.

I was tired when I got back to my room. I finished my posting from yesterday, watched a little TV and went to sleep. Think I’ll go to Gallipoli tomorrow.

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