Getting there: 19 Sept
Cycling today was in two parts: flat along the coast via Pescara to Francavilla al Mare; then inland up quite steep hills to Ari. Getting to Pescara was by the usual mix of coast road and SS16. In Pescara I tried to visit the Modern Art Museum but it was closed. I got into conversation with a local chap called Pietro outside the museum. Very friendly but after I while I sensed a hint of a con, so made my excuses and set off for the main square where I had a coffee. Then on to Francavilla to buy a couple of gifts, and on up the steep hill to the little village of Ari (following a tractor with a trailer overflowing with grapes) where I arrived, as instructed, outside the chemist shop on the main street 10mins before ETA. Supposedly my cousin Anne's summer residence would be obvious from here, but I've been told before that I wouldn't see an elephant if it was in front of me, so not surprisingly I couldn't see the house. Eventually I texted Anne, and she and her husband Gordon appeared at the end of a driveway! (The house is a bit set back from the road). It was great to meet up again (see photo). We had a great dinner and chatted till well after midnight.
Around Ari: 20 - 24 Sept
The six days I spent in Ari were very enjoyable and relaxing. To begin with I was the only guest, but after a couple of days Gordon's brother Bruce and his wife arrived. Anne & Gordon's hospitality was amazing!
I am writing this five years after the event, but my memories include the following:
- watching the sky at night from the flat roof of the house, using an Apple app to identify the constellations.
- taking a wander round the village to get the feel of the place.
- visiting a large supermarket in Chieti, and not being able to find any porridge oats - despite there being a hundred different types of pasta!
- deciding whether to make a side trip to Rome (where I have yet to visit).
- working out how to get to Den Haag (for the ferry to Hull) by bike and train. At one stage this seemed impossible, and I was considering hiring a car one-way. Eventually with the help of 'the man in seat 61' website I figured out how to do it.
- booking my bike on the train from Pescara to Milan via the internet.
- sorting out the problem with my Barclaycard. Despite having told them in advance that I would be travelling abroad, they had detected 'unusual' purchases and stopped the card. It required a phone call back to UK to sort it out. Not happy!
- a day down at the harbour in Francavilla, where Gordon and Anne's yacht was berthed. This is the yacht in which they sailed round the world from July 2007 to June 2010. (Google offexploring campionscapers). It was literally all hands on deck to prepare the yacht for winter (see photos).
- everyone having a big lunch in a family-run restaurant in the village (see photos).