The Hungry Wanderer

My evening meal today consists of a packet of TUC biscuits and a chocolate Swiss roll. I say evening meal, but I must just clarify to you, dear reader, that as you may be concluding that the aforementioned repast is the third, or possibly fourth visit to the dining table on any particular day, on this holiday (though my feeding habits have seldom changed over the years), unless I particularly crave breakfast for any reason, I am usually to be found feasting once in a 24 hour cycle. So when I say ‘a packet of TUC biscuits and a Swiss roll’, I mean exactly that. I don’t mean a handful of cheesy wafers and a couple of slices of cake. I mean the whole thing. Both of them.  And those this may sound very plain to you, actually the biscuits were accompanied by butter, cheese slices and marmite. The cake, well it’s cake and was complemented with coffee.

So now I hear you asking what is the sudden interest in my imparting the contents of my now quite contented stomach? Well no interest really, though I have on occasion divulged the delicacies we have encountered en route to my promised land of pasta, apart from it being the 1st July. The 1st of the month being the day that most of my direct debits come out of the bank back home. Sensing this, I had had a week of keeping a low profile and only moving if I got itchy feet, which they kindly did one evening at 11pm, but that’s another story. When talking it over on the phone with Helen, who is the most adept person I know for budgeting, we understood the fear of having an open ended holiday and therefore not an open ended budget. Usually, if one was to go on holiday for a fortnight, you would have a very definite idea of your costs and constraints to amply get you through the two weeks, knowing that after that it’s back to normal. This trip, however, is proving to be nothing like that at all. The budget that I had in my head was blown to smithereens within the first week of having to spend 20 Euros a night in campsites whilst waiting on Belgium people to fix the indicators. Then the drastic weather ate through the gas, which in turn ate through the credit card. The one saving grace was not having to pay for accommodation whilst outside of Venice, whilst the alternator was chomping through the contingency reserves. In turn, those reserves had been unknowingly gnawed at through the mobile phone charging me £1.66 + VAT per day for data, even though I was getting a daily ‘mobile data allowance’. This is why I am now limited to where I can find free WiFi to upload stuff and say hello on Facebook.

Anyhow, I digress from the culinary activities of the voyage. With one saucepan and one frying pan, a two ring hob, a grill and an oven (though haven’t been using the oven for a while in consideration of the gas consumption) things have been limited to cook. If I haven’t mentioned it already, I love pasta with a capital P. So much that I can quite happily eat it with just a bit of butter on. Though to start off with we did do some pasta bakes in the oven, after finding onion soup for a basis of sauce, with a bit of ricotta and pesto, sometimes chicken, sometimes cashews, I could go on like that for days. I have mixed it up a bit by some days doing a risotto instead, or even sausages and mash (packet mash, in remembrance of my camping days in France where it was two tins over a camping gas stove, cook the mash in one, add some mixed veg, divide into the two tins and eat). And like France, where it was myself and a vegetarian, meat has been few and far between, mainly by direction of the cost analysis (hence cake instead of chocolate biscuits as they are £3 a pop!!).

Over the last week as I said I have been keeping a low cost profile and easing my way along the East coast. I kick started the month with a submission to 02 of my £1.66 + VAT and was surprised to see how healthy the bank balance was. So instead of passing the dew-claw of Italy, Del Gargano National Park, I thought I would have a drive round it, instead of missing it out and going straight for Foggia, in Puglia. The east coast does look like one complete sandy beach, complete with sunbeds and parasols and a man on the side to charge you for looking at them. Added to this the conspicuous car parks and charges by the hour, though it has been very, very pretty, nothing has invited you to stop and take a look. To that end, I came inland for 3 days and went and sat half way up a mountain and the only thing it cost me was a little extra in tyre rubber and sweat (though not in the evening, it was so cold one night, and determined as I am to not waste gas, I went to bed fully clothed. Which was all well and good til the sun came up at 7am and made like I was a jacket potato).

Del Gargano National Park seems to be the olive oil capital of this part of the country. Up until now, olive trees have been few and far between, interspersed with the occasional palm and agave. The hillsides of Gargano have been forested with olives, so much so, there was a village in a cove, but you couldn’t make out any streets, just the roofs of the houses and the street lamps amid a sea of silvery green. The mountainsides mixed with ancient groves of fat and split trunks on twisted terraces and new factory farmed regimented rows of perfectly pruned trees optimally spaced. A day full of the smells and suggestions of olives and oil accompanied with bruschetta bringing back memories of Jamie’s Italian Restaurant and the mouth watering, sensational fayre I’d had about a year ago. I decided that I would indulge my first of the month bonus and dine out this evening!

A trip around the coast, though it says 52 Kilometres, is in fact more like 350 Kilometres in time because of the hills and the hair pin bends. Old Caravaggio did exceptionally well as per normal, when not needing indicators or an alternator, simply driving she excels at! Where as Lake Garda was Bournemouth, Chioggia Skegness, Vieste on the dew-claw was like Weston-Super-Mare, miles and miles of campsites. And no of-road parking! I decided to carry on round the coast (by coast I mean following the main road over and through the mountains). I did give myself a pat on the back for not adopting stray animals en-route though, the animals being a stray dog and a stray mule. Although I will admit to parking the van and seeing if the dog caught up and was still unattended. He came bounding over the hillside barking in response to a whistle from a goat-herder, and I decided against staying and finding out whether or not the goat-herder was a stray…

By the time I found a bit of off-road parking just outside Manfredonia, I had a caffeine withdrawal headache. All very well and good, but I needed to find a Bancomat (cashpoint) before I could go and dine out. By the time I walked about 4 miles into the town centre, I wasn’t thinking or feeling straight, and aware that I have parked in the car park that is the main making-out point in the area. So I have returned home to my TUC biscuits and cake and caffeine and ready to spend my £1.66 + VAT to give you a long awaited update. I will dine out soon!!!

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