Thursday, April 3, 2008

And There's More......

Through the list of regrettably many bad meals and/or bad restaurants, I have had the misfortunate to visit, the one disaster that stands out as the worst of all time happened on our honeymoon in Italy.

And just to prove that it doesn’t have to be entirely the food or entirely the service to make a meal out unforgettable this tale is more a catalogue of disastrous decision making on my part and an elephant’s memory on the part of my Lovely Wife.

We were heading south from the incomparable beauty of Florence to Lake Bolsena in Umbria to the villa we had rented for a week. When it comes to travelling I become quite military and very anal about the whole exercise and so I had calculated the expected journey time and therefore the time we needed to leave Florence in order to make our pre-agreed rendezvous with the villa-owner.

The route south took us through the stunning hillsides of Tuscany, along the Val d’Elsa and into the gentle rolling hills of Umbria, truly a magical drive. Within a very surprisingly short time we found ourselves approaching Siena, a town I hadn’t expected to reach for quite a while and whilst that should have alerted me to the fact that I clearly had my timings wrong I insisted we push on. I ignored my new Wife’s entreaties to stop and have lunch in Siena and continued to steer the car southwards.

Lunchtime approached and I decided that we should just grab a quick bite en route and so having spotted a restaurant set back from the autostrada we pulled off and drove up the little hill. It was a Saturday lunchtime and the place was deserted. We should have obeyed Alexander’s rule number one and turned around then.

We had a remarkably awful meal and this is in a country where you really have to search high and low to have a bad meal. I recall that I had a pappardelle with a rabbit ragu. Well the chef had clearly got bored with trying to bone the poor little beast so had just gone at it with a meat cleaver. It was full of tiny, very sharp, splintered bones and I was in real danger of losing teeth. I don’t recall what Lovely New Wife ordered but I do remember that it was pushed around the plate and left uneaten. It was grim, the place was dark and dingy, the floor all dirty and the food quite awful.

Between us hung heavy in the air was the refrain “we should have stopped in Siena, we should have stopped in Siena”.

Rather morosely we got back into the car and pushed on with me trying to put a brave face on it all. Of course, as night follows day, we arrived at the villa three hours too early and there was no one to greet us and let us in, which didn’t exactly improve matters nor lighten my Wife’s mood.

Ten years on when we sit together and plan trips my Wife will look at me, arch an eyebrow and mention the word ‘Siena’ which is usually enough for me to scale back timings and plans and look up a suitable location for a lunch break.

And also ten years on my Lovely Wife has not yet seemingly tired of telling people that on our honeymoon I made her eat in a motorway café and made her miss out on visiting Siena.

And thus forever will that fateful lunch remain in my top ten worst ever meals.

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