We had an ice cream and a couple of beers in a café called Alice in Wonderland then headed into the hills… where things got weird.
The rural hotel was empty save for a woman in a flouncy cocktail dress (which seemed out of place considering we were in the middle of the countryside). She couldn’t speak much English and it sounded as though she’d muttered something about ‘wild animals’ as she showed us to our room.
It was mid afternoon, hot and we were sleepy after beers in the sunshine, so we wallowed in the tranquillity and enjoyed a siesta for a couple of hours.
When we woke up we were down the rabbit hole.
The empty, serene rural hotel had become the jam-packed rural hotel. From somewhere, a convoy of cars and camper vans had moved in. Children ran around the grounds whilst a couple of men sat cross-legged on the grassy lawn, strumming at guitars.
Beyond them were more people; many more people – looking as if they were dressed for a party. The women were clad in evening dresses, the men in sharp suits.
Bleary-eyed, we wandered into their midst; ironically, in our hiking gear, feeling like we were the ones that were dressed inappropriately.
Our bemused wandering through the grounds (the scenic route to the dining room) revealed what the wild animals were – two lynxes, a stag and a field full of bunnies in cages. Who knows why they were there?
We made our way through the ‘poshed up’ guests and into the rustic main building, where dinner had been arranged, to find ourselves in the middle of a christening.
It started happy-go-lucky enough. But as the night progressed and more drinks were downed it became clear that some members within the two sides of the family present didn’t seem to exactly hit it off with each other.
At one point there was a dispute over the ‘ownership’ of some balloons that ended with a puffing out of chests and an angry popping of said balloons. This resulted in a lot of disappointed children, which in turn lead to a soundtrack of Italian rugrat wailing as the balloon popper stormed off into the dark night.
It might have been a script straight out of many big family celebrations, but the remote countryside setting added a quite surreal element. It’s just not what you expect in a quiet, rural location… as you tuck into your polenta and grilled meats.
We ate our food, drank some wine (a lot as it helped with acclimatising to the scenes around us) and retired to our room to leave the revellers to their balloon popping.
When we woke the next morning, tranquillity had returned. No girls in cocktail dresses, no men in shiny suits.
We’d emerged from the rabbit hole.