It worked - my friend Fiona dropped me off at Heathrow and I got the 7:05 bus to Stansted. Luckily I'd packed hand luggage because you can't check in on Ryan Air until 3 hours before your flight but you can go through to departures. Stansted is actually pretty good! I booked the posh lounge from 1pm and drank fizzy wine until my 5:45pm flight to Bari in Puglia, Italy where my taxi driver was waiting to drive me to the starting point of my tour in Altamura.
Finally after a nights sleep I met up with the rest of the members of the tour at breakfast the next morning. There had been speculation and I had been replaced by a plant pot at the evening meal! Was I from Stroud, why couldn't I fly at 7am from Gatwick on the Sunday Morning! I didn't tip the balance any further - 4 members of the party were from Stroud, 2 from East Yorkshire and then me a Londoner from Derby!
The cycling tour around Puglia was amazing wonderfully guided by Stefano and organised by Explore.
It was graded easy but lots of hills - you either need to train hard, be a member of Stroud Cycling Club or get an Ebike to really enjoy this tour.
We had amazing fun my highlights were:
Castel del Monte unesco link
Baking bread in Altamura
Cycling through fields of Poppies
We then went to a lovely farm and learnt how to make Mozzerella ,
Alberobello is the city of Trulli dwellings, they are dry stone huts with cone shaped roofs which could be pulled down in a instant to avoid paying taxes by removing the keystone.!
From Alberobello we did a circular route and visited the town of Cisternio and then on to visit the Olive oil mill - wow I didn't know how many types of oil could be extracted from the same olives - it was amazing to taste them all and buy some to bring home!
We Cycled on to Locorotondo a "round place" on a hill and then to a vineyard where we tasted wines made by I Pastini - what a lovely place and what amazing wine! I'm enjoying a glass as I sit blogging - I shipped a case home! It was a wobbly 10km back to Alberobello!
I spent a lovely morning exploring Alberobello and then we cycled to Monopoli.
Monopoli is a bustling fishing town and our hotel was amazing it was an Albergo Diffuso Hotel Website My room was an apartment with a balcony onto the old town. The hotel had a central reception and breakfast cafe and then the rooms were dispersed through the old town.
The following day we cycled along the coast. A highlight was stopping at the ancient town of Egnazia, the museum was great and the town was fantastic - the best bit was having Nick who was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the town.
The tour was amazing! The group were brilliant fun and great to be with and Stefano our guide was so patient and chilled it just made it very special!
Good luck Stefano with your walk along the Camino and wedding at the end!
All of my photos are on google Puglia Cycling May 2018