Got a phone call today from Great Rail Journeys. A Tour Manager has become unwell and can’t operate his scheduled Tour, Puglia & The Salento Coast – All Inclusive. They asked if I would be happy to pick up the Tour at short notice; it leaves very early on on Saturday morning so I’ve got just over 3 days to get prepped up. This is a little tight but fortunately I’m used to it. I pick up quite a bit of extra work by covering for short notice call outs – I think it goes back to my days as Cabin Crew when I would get called out off Standby. You had to be ready to go now, not in an hour, and you could end up going anywhere so you learned how to pack quickly and ask questions about the details later.
The. Reason this Tour can operate is that we get to Italy (Brindisi) by flying rather than rail, meaning that we bypass the quarantine restrictions in Paris & Brussels that apply on Eurostar. We do however use local Italian rail to get around for our excursions, so the ‘rail’ is still there in Great Rail Journeys.
We’re in the same hotel all week, the excellent Grand Hotel Riviera, Santa Maria al Bagno so it’s going to be much easier than my usual Tours which involve up to 9 hotels and 12 trains in 14 days.
I’ve done a recent course on COVID protocols and there are a host of procedures in place to keep our customers safe while on holiday. For example, when travelling by coach we have separate entrance and exit doors, sanitiser gel and distanced seating. I’ll keep you up to date on how things work by blogging as we progress on the Tour. My goal for this Tour is to make sure we travel safely while also ensuring that clients don’t get so bogged down in COVID that they forget that they’re on holiday – Safe but Fun!
Puglia is the “Heel” of the Italian Boot. Parts of it have a Greek feel to them – Greece is only 50 miles away. It has historically been a poorer part of the country. Things close for lunch here, actually almost everything closes for lunch and a short nap afterwards. Probably its’ most well known attraction is the trulli district, around Alberobello (a UNESCO World Heritage site). A trullo is a simple dry-stone-walled building with a domed roof topped by a cone. You’ve seen them before.
The other thing (for me) is Olive Oil. Puglia supplies around 40% of olive oil production in Italy and around 12% of the olive oil production in the whole world! My standard every day breakfast at home is Home Made Bread, Olive Oil and Sea Salt – sometimes I splash out on a tomato. I’m going to try and find the very best Olive Oil in Puglia. The area is also famous for bread, wine and cheese.
At some point on the Tour I’m going to find a quiet corner and sit down for what has become a personal tradition whenever I do a Tour to Italy – Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino with a glass of local red.