Saturday, July 01, 2006

SATURDAY, JULY 01: - Day 16 - Gambassi Terme to St Gimignano 19.5 km

Rayna and Kathy: Rayna was our group leader today and did very well, guiding us on a path described in our cryptic clues as..."dual in front of the agricultural company...." "along the skilful side of the field..." and then "go up along the little visible track in the forest....". We had to pay very close attention because the path was neither "traced" nor "marked"! But we survived, arriving at St Gimignano at about 10.15am. Then to the internet cafe before entering the City gates (walled City) at lunchtime. Very hot again - but as it was a shorter distance (14.5 to San Gimignano) on tar and paths we felt strong.

Marion: In the late afternoon's before we go out for dinner, we have a shower and put on our clothes for the next day - well last night we were already except for Val. We were all waiting for her to come out of the bathroom. The next moment Val appeared - 'what a surprise we received - she looked stunning in a special number she had hidden in her backpack!'

What a wonderful day again today, we were lucky because it was a short distance and it was very hot. We spend the afternoon expoloring St Gimignano - I was looking for an immersion heater for Rayna as on our first night I was using her heater and I'm not sure what happened - I must have got the cord wet and the next moment it exploded, sparks flying everywhere and my eyelashes were singed. What a fright I received. Lucky we do have another immersion heater. I would like to find one to replace it but so far no luck!

Syl: Today was a lovely days walking even though the sweat was pouring off us by 7.30am. For the first time on our trip we had breakfast "out" - at a Patiseraire at 6.15am. Nothing like hot chocolate and a custard slice for breakfast! We walked on good dirt roads, with one section across an overgrown field with a VF arrow pointing through a hedge to nowhere. But with the help of the Associazione VF Guide (which we translated from Italian using Google and Babelfish) and some innovative VF signs, we made San Gimignano 4 hours later. We could see the towers of San Gimignano long before we reached it and we climbed the narrow road to the ancient Porta San Matteo - one of the main gates into the old town through the fortified walls. Right at this entrance was a small shop set into the base of the wall that offered an Internet service. It was too early to book into our B & B so we took two computers and posted 4 days onto our blogg. San Gimignano is an amazing town with Disney-like streets, tall stone buildings, stately Piazza's, fountains, a catherdral and tall towers. The walls date from the 10th to 13th Century. In ancient times these were destroyed and the stones recycled to build houses. In recent history the houses were demolished and the walls reconstructed to their former glory with the original stones. Only +/- 1000 people live permanently within the walls but the town was overflowing with thousands of tourists of all nationalities. Our B & B - Cassa Giovanna - was at the other end of the old town about 100m from the Giovanni gate. The road is narrow - only a 'wagon width' with stone walls rising on both sides. With massive doors and shuttered windows one has no idea of what might be behind them. Our double doors swung open to reveal a long gracious passage with moulding walls and a wide stone staircase leading to the first floor on the left.Senora Giovanna lives in this enormous Cassa and our rooms were straight out of an Italian movie. Beautiful wooden doors, small mosaic tiled floor, a chaise lounge in the entrance, brass beds, lovely light fittings a dome ceiling and anglaise cotton curtains on the frosted glass doors. All this - with spacious modern en suite bathroom for Euro 24. We walked an extra 5km sightseeing so will use this to get transport some of the way towards Monterigionni so that we do not have to walk in the mid-day sun. (Monteriggione should be 28kms but the locals tell us that it is at least 32kms)Checking that you have everything is vital before setting off. When you have minimum equipment - 3 pairs of socks, 3 pants, 2 bra tops etc. you cannot afford to leave anything behind, so a stocktake is done each morning before we set off.

Val: Well today we all agreed that in the name of the Real Food Movement we would be true Italians for the day so:

Breakfast, forget the yoghurt and fruit - it was straight to the "La Pasticceria and savoury and sweet croissants, pastries and cappuccino and hot chocolate. On the road - arrive at magical St Gimignano (as someone before us described - in similar words - "if you used this place to make a movie the critics would say you tried too hard to recreate a Medieval Village" - it can only be described as a 'wonderment' (I believe there is such a word you players of scrabble!)

Well lunch "when in Rome" - crostoni (not to be confused with crostini) Euro 3 - Euro 3.50 -toasted bread with a selection of toppings, olives, capers, cheese, aubergines and mushrooms - washed down with a glass of Vino Bianco Frizzante (becoming rather partial to this!) followed by Espresso and Cappaccino and English Breakfast Tea (as the only Pommie, I don't drink tea). Marion and I decided to mark our Cappaccino's out of 5 - they have been getting progressively worse as we left the however, we got to 4 out of 5. Most have been luke warm milk but today's was hot with a good flavour and a top froth, yes very good indeed.

San Gimignano is a tourist spot of note - we feel like we are Hillbillies come down from the mountains, so unuse have we become to crowds. Lots of Americans and would you belive it a crowd from Durban. We all had an ice cream as we walked around the tourist spots - so much choice - shops dedicated purely and simply to ice cream - "I'm in heaven".

For tonights meal we needed to escape the Tourists - out of interest I read a number of menu's outside the "posh" places - admittedly devine sounding food but it was 'tourist food'. We opted for a ristorante in a back street, family run with only 6 tables. The "smells of real food" reached us as we opened the door. We didn't get to meet Mama but she was definitely in the kitchen.

Rayna and Marion had the Crespellas, light pancakes with spinach and ricotta - really good. Kathy chose spaghetti with a meat sauce (it must have been good because she wouldn't talk to us until she had finished). Rayna is my photographic food stylist and we are irrating the others because they have to wait for us to photograph their food before they can eat it!) Kathy just gives us that look which says "don't mess with my food!" Sylvia had gnocchi with tomato and cream - "the best ever" was her verdict. I had Ossobuco in crema di oderce (Ossobucco - shin cooked in the most delicious mixture of herbs, vegetables - it fell away from the bone - I moped up the juices with bread but the finale was to put the marrow on another piece of bread - just as well we walk again tomorrow.

Dolci - Rayna had Tiramisu - like our Cappaccino's wer are marking these - this one go a big thumbs down - it was just like a weak custard. Kathy had Apple tart - this appeared to be sliced apples with a "batter" poured over and baked - very good. I had Panna Cotta with Chocolate - as it was set down before me it wobbled on the plate - that was a good sign. "Heaven, I'm in Heaven!" it was perfection. So light, hint of vanilla and dark, pure chocolate across the top - 10 out of 10. The latest trend is to make this desert with yoghurt instead of cream to appeal to the more health conscious - I am of the school that you either have this desert as it is intended or don't have it at all. I am always amazed at Diet Cook Books that go to great lengths to give recipes for deserts so you can eat one every day. Rather go without and enjoy just one real one occasionally!

We rolled to bed.........................

Today wasn't all about food, a Tourist Town it might be - they had shops! I couldn't resist, yes I bought but they are all in a big parcel which I only have to carry for two days and will then post to "myself" to collect in Rome!! But the best of all - after wearing my little black number last night, some of the girls sucumbed and bought themselves outfits. Now their backpacks are a little heavier too!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Being back at home now and reading your blog makes me soooooo jealous! I do not have time to comment but am reading your adventures with great interest. Nina has said " forget the Camino mom - this looks like much more fun and let's do it together when I finish matric!" So there you have it ladies - many will follow in your footsteps! Ciao, Fiorenza