Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The best laid plans....

For anyone who has never holidayed with us, it is an experience simply not to be missed. There's always plenty of excitement, run-ins with authority and drama and Monday was just one more example of this. We decided to have a barbecue on the beach at Theoule. I have seen lots of people having barbecues on the sandy stretch leading into Cannes in previous summers so supposed that as long as we were quite careful, we would be fine.

Milly suggested Aiguille at Theoule, far away from roads and prying eyes, just along from the beach restaurant. So we arrived, lugging cool bags filled with fish kebabs, marinated chicken, prawns, lush salads and a bottle of two of wine. We took our disposable barbie, while Paul, not realising it wasn't wise to leave this purchase until the last minute, had to buy two scaled down proper barbecues as the disposable ones had ran out, as well as a huge bag of charcoal.

Lighting them in the escalating winds was a challenge but soon the flames were licking over the sides, glasses were chinking and children were enjoying the almost empty beach while we watched a beautiful sunset and contemplated putting the food on.

Alas it wasn't to be....Three burly police municipale sped up in a van looking menacing and suddenly it was game over. Despite our best efforts to bribe them with a sausage, they made us chuck sand all over them (the barbies, not the cops) because of forest fire risks. As you can see from the picture above, fire risks were minimal. Even Eleanor, who is a reincarnation of Carmela from The Sopranos, couldn't crack them despite her best efforts to flirt and joke, so €200 of food went back in the cool bags (which by now were no longer cool) and we had to slope off to the local restaurant as a small group of French picnickers sniggered smugly nearby.

We are convinced the nearby restaurant shopped us, spying 17 extra covers if they could rain on our parade and get us to eat there instead so we stoically marched past laden down like donkeys as Handyman loudly relayed the completely made up tale of how he had suffered chronic food poisoning the last time he ate there. At least we were forced to try a new eaterie on the water before Marco Polo, where the moules were probably the best I've ever had in France so all was certainly not lost.

I have a feeling the French and English Rivieras have been mysteriously swapped by aliens as we have been under grey clouds since yesterday and walloped by torrential rain today. This isn't July as we know it and frankly 40 degrees in the Italian south is sounding very attractive given that the girls have stolen the only capri pants, jeans and hoodie that I packed so my day has been spent freezing in summery cutdowns and trawling the net to find a great little place to stay en route to Puglia on Friday night.We have settled on Formia, just south of Rome on the coast, at a boutique hotel with a cool pool, an even cooler bar and a position on the coast just outside the medieval heart of the town.

After numerous hotel/restaurant disasters over the years, I have decided to eschew bland motorway motels and questionable establishments on the edge of industrial estates and red light districts and be, for once, the most well researched traveller Italy has ever seen. I am going with the highest rated picks on Trip Advisor from fellow Italian travellers. The fact that I can speak no Italian is of little importance as long as they have marked the place with five stars and mentioned bellisimmo and splendido a few times in their review. It's a risky strategy and you will know in three weeks time if it has paid off as our entire road trip to Puglia, Rome, Florence, Lucca and Formia is resting on this plan.