AUGUST SweetSpots – Home & Away – The Lake District & Puglia

Heading away on holiday in the next few weeks? To help you make the most of your outdoor leisure time, weathertrending highlights the Monthly SweetSpot. For August, we present not one but two SweetSpots! A short overseas trip to Italy or a ‘staycation’ in the Lake District. We pick out some of the events and attractions to look forward to in the area.

“Do you fancy joining us for a few days in Puglia?” said my friend on a cold March day in London.

 

Puglia, Italy

 

“Do you fancy joining us for a few days in Puglia?” said my friend on a cold March day in London. It didn’t take long for me to say yes especially as the question came just weeks after the Beast from the East had reared its head for the second time. It had felt like the longest Winter.

The kids had been invited but it would be so wrong to take them out of school so close to the end of term, wouldn’t it?  Grandad was drafted in to help with the childcare and we set about looking into flights.  BA, Easyjet and Ryanair all fly into Bari or Brindisi in under three hours.  Our flights were around £350 return for two.

Departure day arrived, Grandad moved in and we headed off for a weekend of sun, relaxation and some pretty delicious food.

As it was an evening flight we decided to spend our first night in Bari at Orientehotelbari. The hotel is  a couple of minutes walk from the sea front and the old town.  It was comfortable, spotlessly clean and offered a delicious breakfast with fantastic coffee, as you’d expect.  After breakfast we went for a wander around the old town stopping off at the Basilica Pontifica San Nicola. I was particularly keen to find an Instagram’able street with washing hanging from the windows.

The old town of Bari was very pretty and the streets were full of fruit and veg stalls and locals selling fresh pasta from outside their homes. One lady had a huge tray of Orrichiette outside her door,  a typical pasta from Puglia. It’s often served with a simple tomato sauce, or together with small meatballs. After another coffee, we set off to Caravigno, 75 minutes south along the coast.

 

The Proud Garden.

Wow! What a find.

 

Our friends had rented a place called The Proud Garden. Wow! What a find. It is set within 5 acres of organically managed olive groves and has been a real labour of love for the owner James. He has created the most beautiful and relaxing haven on the footprint of an old farmhouse.

There are four rooms surrounding a courtyard with fig and pomegranate trees (unfortunately we were a little early to sample the fruits, maybe next time).

Each room is beautifully furnished with a four poster bed, a kitchenette and rainfall showers that are heated from the solar panels on the roof.  The air conditioning is most welcome after a day by the pool where the temperature was hitting 35c.  It’s usually run as a B&B with rooms costing around 100 Euros per night and James is the most wonderful host. He knows so much about the local area with tips on great restaurants and beaches. He even draws fantastically detailed maps to show you the back routes.

                                                                                                                                          We arrived just in time for a delicious lunch of prawns cooked on an open fire.  The freshest tomatoes and a cheese called Stracciatella.  It is a product of Puglia and the name means shredded or ripped. Mozzarella is shredded  into strings and mixed with cream. This results in the most delicious soft cheese, all washed down with a couple of glasses of rose. The afternoon was spent on comfortable sun loungers by the pool.

 

That evening we headed into Caravigno to pick up supplies for dinner. It is a small working town, not big on tourism, but with plenty of individual shops selling fantastic local produce. Dinner for six was rotisserie chicken, potatoes roasted in the chicken juices, amazing pistachio gelato from www.pasticceriachocolate.com and the biggest watermelon I’ve ever seen, straight off the back of the farmers truck. All for under 50 Euros!

For those of you that don’t fancy the washing up there are lots of places to eat in Caravigno, there is even a Michelin starred restaurant housed in a Baroque building in the main square. Osteria Già Sotto L’Arco has been in the same family for four generations. And the friendly owner will talk you through not only the delightful menu, but also the wine list. Some vintages are produced at his families vineyard. The food was delicious. If you visit, make sure you save some space for Venus’ Breasts – the most amazing  sponge buns filled with cream – quite possibly one of the most exquisite things I’ve ever eaten.

 

I loved the orange and yellow colour scheme of the sunbeds and parasols against the bright blue sky.

 

A must do if you are in the area is a visit to the whitewashed hilltop town of Ostuni – La Citta Bianca.  Park in the car park at the bottom and take a ride in a motorised Tuk Tuk up through the narrow streets to the Cathedral at the top of the town. Then stop for an appertivo or two at one of the many local bars and enjoy the spectacular views over the Adriatic. You could stay for dinner or wander back down through the labyrinth of streets as the sun is setting; and enjoy the rose coloured hue on the buildings and the magnificent town square.

                

 

Local beaches are around 20 minutes away. But if you are willing to travel further then there are excellent beach clubs around the town of Monopoli. You’ll find white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and excellent restaurants. We spent the day at Lido Sabbiadoro I loved the orange and yellow colour scheme of the sunbeds and parasols against the bright blue sky.  The restaurant served wonderfully fresh seafood and the service was exceptional.

                                            

 

We had an amazing time in Puglia and would love to go back and spend longer exploring. The only downside to the whole trip was the long delay coming home. We booked a 9.45pm flight that got bumped to 1.30am, getting us back home at 5.00am, just in time for the school run!

For more information on attractions in the region visit the Official Puglia tourism website

 

… it’s possible to see Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland in one glance!

The Lake District

 

This uniquely beautiful National Park, with its craggy fells, U-shaped valleys and crystal clear lakes, has been moulded by ice, wind and rain for thousands of years.

Now, as then, The Lake District can be one of the wettest parts of the UK, with the mountains often shrouded in cloud. Not this summer! The long sunny days have shown off the stunning beauty of the landscape at its very best.  And whilst the high fells can sometimes record huge rainfall totals, the ‘rain shadow effect’ means that sheltered valley towns and villages see much less wet weather.

 

village gems that have remained almost as unaltered as the surrounding mountains, for hundreds of years

 

One bonus of visiting The Lake District at this time of year is how accessible the high fells are, compared with other times of year. So whichever corner of the region you reach, you’ll be guaranteed to find peace and calm amidst the mountains. And the views! From atop Scafell Pike, Helvellyn or The Old Man of Coniston, it’s possible to see Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland in one glance!

Fell-walking can be strenuous and hazardous. So go prepared. And coming down the mountains can be as tricky as going up! After such a dry spell, the becks and rivers are running low; but a downpour can soon turn a trickle into a torrent. So don’t be caught out.

But if you want to stick to the valleys on foot, bike or by car, the vistas are equally as varied and majestic.

All your activity is sure to work up an appetite. The good news is that there is no shortage of great places to eat – from cosy pub grub to top-end restaurants. Try l’Enclume at Cartmel or the Drunken Duck Inn near Hawkshead.

The larger towns, such as Kendal and Keswick, are ideal bases from which to explore ‘The Lakes’. But tucked away are some small village gems that have remained almost as unaltered as the surrounding mountains, for hundreds of years.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that the area has inspired so many artists and poets – no more so than William Wordsworth. His home, Dove Cottage in Grasmere, is a must for any literary enthusiast.

There are hundreds of visitor attractions and events taking place across The Lake District in August to whet your appetite. Here are just a few that we’ve picked out:

1st Aug: Cartmel Country Show

2nd and 21st Aug: Derwent Island House Open Days

4th-5th Aug: Cross Bay Walk

8th Aug:  Force Crag Mine Open Day

16th Aug: Rydal Sheepdog Trials

19th Aug: Lakeland Country Fair

21st Aug: Hawkshead Show

26th Aug: Lakeland Sports and Show

27th Aug: Keswick Agricultural Show

For more information on attractions in the region visit the Lake District National Park website

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