217 – 219: Staff Lunch and Rain in the Mountains

217 – Monday 23rd November 2015:  Staff Lunch

The Aged P’s do a huge amount for us:  Personal Assistants – opening post, scanning and emailing docs to us, receiving and collecting parcels, and car care etc.  This was their last day so we picked them up and took them for a staff lunch.  Don’t you find if you treat your staff right, they stay with you?  And we need them to sign up for at least another 5 years!

Seafood - we all wore bibs

Seafood – we all wore bibs

My starter - fried limpets. A very different shape to those on the UK coast. Yummy with all the garlic and a hint of chilli.

My starter – fried limpets. A very different shape to those on the UK coast. Yummy with all the garlic and a hint of chilli.

We have spent two weeks with them and miss them hugely.

218 – Tuesday 24th November 2015:  ‘Gorge’-ous 

Big runs for us and nothing to do with the toilet!  J did 4 miles and I did 5 km … doesn’t that make it sound as if I did more?

We have about a 9 day window before Kerstin joins us from Germany, so we have a window in which to explore a section of Sicily in more detail.  The thought was to head for the hills before winter really sets in as it can be a 10C temperature difference from the coast.  We knew the forecast was clouds and showers, but since we planned to do a bit of walking … no problem!  Huh!

We visited Gole Alcantara.  A seriously large visitor attraction, as the roads to it were really good and they obviously catered for hoards of summer tourists and lots of things for young children to do.  We started with a short film in English about how the deep and narrow gorge had been formed, cutting through the volcanic basalt that had filled a valley.  It was 3d and the narrator – an ant needed stepping on and the butterflies needed swatting so you could see the rock formations!  As it is winter (!) and the gorge is prone to flash flooding, we could not get down to the water level, but there was a route around the top, through a botanical garden, with viewing points.  The heavens opened and served to make the rocks even blacker.  We have seen lots of gorges, but this was seriously different due to the rock formations.  Hence so many pix!

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Prickly Pear – once the thorns are removed it can be used as a juice and added to booze.

We attempted to overnight on a Fattore Amicale (Italian version of France Passion:  farms with free space), but had read on forums that a lot of the farms deny knowledge of ever signing up to the scheme.  And so it proved.  Never mind … Plan B was brilliant.  It was an Agritourism:  vineyard, restaurant, rooms, pool, pukka motorhome services, a shower / toilet block and a VIEW.  We really did not mind the EUR15 fee.

Our pitch with views, once the clouds lifted a bit.

Our pitch with views, once the clouds lifted a bit.

We had arrived early, so both of us did banking and K some Christmas gift ordering.  Lovely phone call with Bron.  During the evening we watched the lightening roll around the hills behind cloud formations.  We had a fair bit of the storm over us too!

 

219 – Wednesday 25th November 2015

Heavy rain, so we had a slow and leisurely start.  We headed for Randazzo and as the skies cleared we parked up and wandered into the town.  We had no sooner alighted from Chardonnay and the heavens opened again (as bad as any Brizzle Drizzle), so we battled to the Duomo (interesting tower as it was predominantly black basalt) and bolted for a cafe … coffee and pizza slices :).  As they are not so used to rain here, the water pours down the streets out of gutterings and gaps in walls.  So heavy, we aborted and headed back to Chardonnay.

 

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James, would that be a cheeky little pizza slice?

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Stashing the beers!

We drove through Bronte (formerly gifted to Horatio Nelson), Adrano and Regelbuto – all in the guide book, but still pretty wet, so no stop offs.  At times the clouds did lift a bit and we could see the hill peaks with ruins atop and the rolling patchwork of fields.  Destination:  Lake Pozzillo Dam – the largest artificial basin in Sicily.  Sunshine as we arrived so we had quick and muddy walk along the shore.

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Our pitch … in front of a running track … and did we use it? But it started to rain!!!!

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It really was very windy and muddy.

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212 – 216 : East Side of Sicily

212 – Wednesday 18th November 2015: Aci Trezza Walk and … Lunch

We had thought being in the town would be noisy, but it was actually very peaceful.  J was up and about very early for the sunrise – you can tell how long he was out there by the changing light – I thought he gone fishing with one of the locals!

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A superb and FREE parking location for two nights.

A superb and FREE parking location for two nights.

 

The Aged P’s arrived … on time!  If anything 2 minutes late …. had my ribbing about being always early had an effect?  It threw us off – we’d started a quick tidy and a hoovering.

A gent's tie cared in basalt ... J not having any of it! He has two remming ties in the Aged P's attic: weddings and funerals!

A gent’s tie carved in basalt … J not having any of it! He has two remming ties in the Aged P’s attic: weddings and funerals!

Coffee in Chardonnay and then a walk along the front to Acicastello, passing the Isole dei Cyclops:  basalt rocks creating usual shapes near the harbour.  According to Homer, Polyphemus threw them at Ulysses who had blinded him.   Part of the path wended through a private lido with changing huts, plants and sun bathing areas … yours for EUR3.  J and I wandered up the stairs into the town – the town where we had struggled with tight turns in Chardonnay yesterday, but we forgave it.  It had a nice high piazza by the castle and views over the sea.

 

 

 

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It was a little early for lunch, so we tried another of the Slovenian wines we had brought back for Horvat winery in Maribor … this is the second we have tried with the Aged Ps and they are really good.  Despite trying for pizza; most seemed to be shut, we ended up with a very good lunch of swordfish overlooking the harbour.

Coffees after lunch sitting on the harbour wall.

Coffees after lunch sitting on the harbour wall.

OK for those of you who think we look alike ... we obviously have the same mannerisms too!

OK for those of you who think we look alike … we obviously have the same mannerisms too!

Sylvie: This one's for you. Tiramsu WITH coffee and chocolate ice cream and cream .....

Sylvie: This one’s for you. Tiramsu WITH coffee and chocolate ice cream and cream …..

213 – Thursday 19th November 2015:  Mount Etna

A plan for Etna today.  The Aged P’s had driven up part of it some years ago (they have been most places!), but it is so much part of Sicily and the largest volcano in Europe, that it really is a must.  The other name for it is Mongibello: from the Italian ‘monte’ meaning mountain and the Arab ‘gebel’ meaning mountain too.  So ‘Mount Mountain’.  Regular eruptions from the main core and side craters – so constantly re-‘cratering’ itself, that it gets to be named twice!  I hope you spotted my weak pun there!

We drove via a motorway services for imperfect motorhome services … I won’t go into detail about the concrete hole in the ground …..  Another stop for GPL.  And several abortive stops for water.  Ho hum … we were a little late at our rendezvous of Zafferano Etnea with the Aged P’s …. just as well.  They arrived before us and rang to say the road was unsuitable to get Chardonnay down.  We plugged in coordinates number 2 (we like to have a Plan B, and C and sometimes, even D) and met at Piazza Kennedy.  The Aged P’s failed to find coffee and cakes in town and so joined us in Chardonnay, whilst J munched through a volcano sized bowl of cereal.

Car view on the drive up. The Autumn leaves must further on here than we have seen anywhere else as it is so much cooler.

Car view on the drive up. The Autumn leaves were further on here than we have seen anywhere else, as it is so much cooler.

We drove in Chardonnay up to the Rifugio Sapienza, where the cable car starts for the summit of Etna starts.

K had googled:

  • That the road was suitable for motorhomes and so it proved – much easier than most Sicilian roads!  Wide and with a good surface for all the summer tourist coaches.
  • The prices for the Etna ascent.  Not going to happen for us … EUR30 for the cable car.  23 for the 4 wheel drive jeep and you still had to walk the rest.  And then 9 for the compulsory guide to get to mouth of the main crater.  A whopping total of EUR62!  EACH!!

However, Etna had kindly gushed a small crater near the carpark and we circled that.  A quick and disdainful look at the souvenir shops … who would pay EUR10 for a lump of rock when you can pick one up?  And then lunch in Chardonnay, admiring the effects of the changing light on the lava.  Fascinating to see the lava, both black and red, and how vegetation starts to grow on areas of volcanic rock.  Drifts of volcanic ash that covered the road in places and must be a real hazard to walkers and cars in high winds.

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Definitely much cooler up here

Definitely much cooler up here.

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J at the bottom of a small crater ... oops, at the bottom of a massive one, of course. If it blows, the only way is up.

J at the bottom of a small crater … oops, at the bottom of a massive one, of course!  If it blows, the only way is up.

Looks as if dad is about to chuck Mum into the crater ... she was actually being camera shy!

Looks as if Dad is about to chuck Mum into the crater … she was actually being camera shy!

The car park was used for a mass paraglider landing.

The car park was used for a mass paraglider landing, having come down from near the top of Etna. Bet this was more than the EUR 62 to get to the top!

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Our Belgian neighbours from  Aci Trezza had arrived too.  They would stay overnight nearby and he would pay for the cable car and then walk the 5km up, but tomorrow morning as it was too late today.

We could have stayed overnight in the car park in Zafferano Etnea, but the guide book had promised a permanent agricultural fair with local wine and produce …. since there was no sight of either, a whining dog well within ear shot, and the rain had started … three good reasons to head back down the side of Etna towards the coast and higher temperatures.

Brad SatNav was duly tasked with taking us directly to an overnight parking near San Marco close to the coast…..  Well, we coasted along following his directions….until he guided us down a quite narrow nondescript road. We followed confidently – the road got more narrow with trees brushing our roof…  The road which seemed very narrow got more and more narrow. Did I just use the word narrow twice in the same sentence ?  It then got narrowissimo ! Molto narrow, pissedoffissimo narrow, in fact…  We came to a point where further progress was actually impossible with nowhere to turn around ! We have been in tight spots before, but this was definitely the worst. Calmly (not), we assessed the options – reverse our 28′ beauty along a ‘kinometre of blind mans alley – or (on finding a sort of gateway) turn in down a gravelly sandy slope with multifarious potholes – and then reverse up the slope and around an impossibly tight corner !  K (calmly) volunteered to drive – and I  gave directions from outside the van. Reversing up the gravelly slope led to many wheel spins and slides – this was not promising… Finally, K administered some teacherly wellie – and Chardonnay made it up the gradient.  As we share everything, I took my turn behind the wheel at this point. After a 27 point turn, we somehow got our home straightened enough to head back in the direction from whence we came !  Gulps of air (and relief) all round – the gin would have come later, except we don’t have any…

Brad (suitably admonished) finally led us to an alternative oasis – that just happened to be – a campsite!  It was the one we planned to stay at tomorrow.  We decide it was fate – and bivouacked for a peaceful evening…..

 

214 – Friday 20th November 2015:  Defeated by Taormina Parking and a BBQ

The Aged P’s left their car at our campsite and J drove along the coast (after a direction error by K and had to do a tight 5 point turn at the entrance to the hospital), which was actually really pretty.  A bay with islands and amazing clear water.

They have put a long tunnel under Taormina  to get to the multi-storey car park as cars, thankfully, are banned from the old town centre.  Bugger …. height barriers and not for motorhomes.  We followed a motorhome parking sign, another tight turn, down a slope, just scraping the exhaust pipe and a 7 point turn this time.  The ticket booth stated that motorhome parking was a whopping EUR5/hour but it seemed pretty deserted.  We walked up the slope and looked at the tunnel we would have to walk through …. none of us fancied this, so we scarpered.  Dad had suggested returning the the campsite via the supermarket to buy some fodder for lunch.  We elected on a BBQ, which went slightly awry as the charcoal would not get going.  J even chucked more lighting fuel on it … (from a safe distance, of course) and that just smoked.  Abort.  Chardonnay’s grill was deployed for the second time in 7 months, until K remembered the Cadac Safari grill … success … we managed to eat …. eventually.

Unbelievably, our Belgian neighbours turned up at the camping.  It is a shame we were all too tired to make an evening of it (we had eaten and drunk too much and he had done the 5km walk up and then down Etna), and they only planned to stay the one night.

 

215 – Saturday 21st November 2015:  Taormina and Pizza

Second attempt to reach and park in Taormina was successful.  Dad drove in the small hire car … we discovered the rear suspension had gone.  It groaned and growled over every bump and particularly did not like the tight hairpins.

Taormina is very pretty, nestled on rocks above the sea.  Restaurant and shops, a small Duomo and lots of small narrow side streets.  Nice, but must be horrendous in summer.

J tour guide for the day and he has the correct book :)

J tour guide for the day and he has the correct book :).  We know where we are!!!

Rules as you enter Taormina .... Really?!?

Rules as you enter Taormina …. Really?!?

Part of the statue outside the Duomo

Part of the statue outside the Duomo

A little rest for the menfolk, as the women checked out a mosaic (unremarkable and up steps)!

A little rest for the menfolk, as the women checked out a mosaic (unremarkable and up steps), but at least we went to see!

Lots of quaint side streets.

Lots of quaint side streets.

J is Adam, eating Eve's apple .... it is the carving on the balcony.

J is Adam, eating Eve’s apple …. it is the carving on the balcony.

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Cactus hair

Cactus hair … the whole balcony had a family of cactus heads.

The Villa Communale was donated to th town by the Englishwoman Florence Trevelyan.

The Villa Communale was donated to the town by the Englishwoman Florence Trevelyan (could be of the Cornwall garden’s family).  Great views of Etna and the coast.

A kooky construction in the Villa Comunale that Ms Trevelyn used for bird watching.

A kooky construction in the Villa Comunale that Ms Trevelyn used for bird watching.

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We chose not to have coffees or lunch in the Wunderbar Cafe where Taylor and Burton used to sip cocktails … not at EUR7.50 for an espresso!  Swordfish (again, but so good) for Mum and I, and pizza for Dad and James … sitting in the sun overlooking the coast.  Try not to feel too sorry for us!

Couldn't come to Italy and not have at least one pizza.

Couldn’t come to Italy and not have at least one pizza.

 

216 – Sunday November 22nd November 2015 – Traffic Report … Aci Trezza again and Catania

Planned:  A rendezvous in Aci Trezza (where we had previously overnighted) and then a bus to Catania … buses few on a Sunday so an early start.

Actual:  K and J arrived in good time at the harbour car park … Aged P’s back on form … Early.  Very early and had discovered that the published timetable on the web *updated Sept 2015* was incorrect, which it would have meant a long wait.  K stocked up on veggies at the small market and then Dad drove.

Catania:  Quiet roads and free parking.  Main highlight is the the Piazza del Duomo which is really attractive.

A Town Hall security guard with good English explained about the presence of the elephant statue in the square ... Hannibal was believed to have passed through and elephant remains were found under the square.

A Town Hall security guard with good English explained about the presence of the elephant statue in the square … Hannibal was believed to have passed through and elephant remains were found under the square.

The elephant symbol is also found on the city carriage which is only used annually in a February procession.

You'll have to wait till February for a lift!

You’ll have to wait till February for a lift!

Coffee and cake. Both J and Dad ended up waring the oozing chocolate!

Coffee and cake. Both J and Dad ended up wearing the oozing chocolate!

The town was flattened in an earthquake in 1693. so all the main buildings are C18 …. Baroque.

Some of the characterful gargoyles supporting balconies.

Some of the characterful gargoyles supporting balconies.

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Inside the Duomo: Buy your own plastic saint!!! Otherwise stare at the Cardinal's corpse - face mask but withered bejewelled hands.

Inside the Duomo: Buy your own plastic saint!!! Otherwise stare at the Cardinal Dusmet’s corpse in a glass coffin – he had a face mask but his withered bejewelled hands were there to see.

I want one of those! Child is happy: he has his own car. Dad is happy: he has the remote control!!!!

I want one of those!  Child is happy: he has his own car. Dad is happy: he has the remote control!!!!

The Roman baths under the Cathedral were shut and we did not fancy the Roman amphitheatre (a bit Roman Remains’d Out!), so we decided to return to Aci Trezzo for a risotto in Chardonnay. We picked up some fish on our way back to the car from the Pescheria:  a relatively expensive fish, but meaty and lots of flavour … no idea what , but not dissimilar to monkfish.

The fruit market leading to the fish market under the arches.

The fruit market leading to the fish market under the arches.

Aci Trezza:  Just getting here from Catania was an experience.  And one not to wish for.  Traffic everywhere.  The WHOLE of the region was out and about and all driving as badly as only Sicilians know how.  Once we got close to Aci Trezza we joined the back of serious traffic jam.  Everyone who was not in Catania had come here.  If one horn was beeped, then another, and then everyone had to join in.  Is it a herd mentality?  Everyone out in their car crawling along roads.  We assumed our car park would be jam packed … wrong!  Cars were scooting through hoping for a short cut and not parking.   K and J left the Aged P’s in the traffic queue to collect the food makings of a risotto, intending to take it up the the Aged P’s apartment and eat there.  Amazingly there were car park spaces – so what were all these people doing?  Just driving around?  Enjoying being in a traffic jam?   K started to cook in the van …. it must have been half an hour before the Aged P’s finally parked up.  Wine served immediately on arrival … medicinal.  Entertainment on hand as we watched cars try to pass in front of our nose for a short cut thorough the short cut of the car park, only to have to reverse as the only exit was into the water.  One young enterprising chap collected tips as he became the unofficial car park helper.

P1080253After lunch a little wander and into a cafe for dessert and coffee.  Another Tiramasu ice-cream, wine and a chocolate crepe.  K finally had a cafe correcto with Amoretto … expresso with a shot. 🙂

 

 

 

208 – 211: Picnics on the Coast and in the Hills

208 – Saturday 14th November:  Meal at ‘Home’ … How many units?

K shopped in Cefalu for the remaining food items and we drove to the Aged P’s apartment via (a half hour detour each way!) a motorway services that had motorhome services.  We are not sure that they wanted us to use the services as they had ‘no entry’ poles up, but we asked, smiled a lot, and they let us use them.  We could see why they were shut off.  Some people are just foul (literally!) …. excrement and wet wipes had been poured down the grey waste, when there was a perfectly good chemical toilet point.

Arriving at the apartment, K showered in luxury and K and J sorted the hand laundry (3 batches) that were still slowly drying on the balcony.  K cooked … all Sicilian recipes. We even had two different types of Marsala and two versions of Grillo white wine.  K blames her father for the toxic poisoned feeling she had the next day.  Thank you J for driving.

Chef at large ... in a pukka kitchen ... work space envy!

Chef at large … in a pukka kitchen … work space envy!

Dinner on the balcony.

Starters on the balcony.

View across to Cefalu

View across to Cefalu

209 – Sunday 15th November:

K started the day with two paracetamol 😦 .  How does Dad do it?!?  As we have a fridge and the picnic gear on board for a picnic, we picked up the Aged Ps and drove along the coast to two towns.

Santo Stefano di Camastra is known for its ceramics.  A locals’ town and busy with people out for a wander, coffee and greeting each other.  We liked it.

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Ceramics everywhere, even on the park fence under some winter jasmine

Ceramics everywhere, even on the park fence under some winter jasmine

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We caught then end of the band and the majorettes.

We caught then end of the band and the majorettes.

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We picnicked along side the sea …. and stayed for a couple of hours … peaceful, sun and sea… what’s to hurry for?

Castel di Tusa was less interesting … pretty fishing boats and rocks with the late afternoon glow.  It is known mostly for being the start of a contemporary (odd!) art trail.  And there was no gelateria open – a major failing!

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J's arms aren't long enough to give some support!

J’s arms aren’t long enough to give some support!

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210 – Monday 16th November:

Up to the hills today.  Caccamo: lies under a Norman castle, overlooking a lake, with lots of pretty church squares on different levels.  It was only supposed to be 10km from the motorway, but Brad (nice but dim Sat Nav) took us the scenic route up when K was driving (hairpins and a felled tree blockage) and a direct and quick route back when J was driving …. sexist?

It took a matter of minutes for these chaps to clear the road .... they moved fast. And hurled massive heavy trunk segments into the verge to allow traffic through.

It took a matter of minutes for these chaps to clear the road …. they moved fast. And strong as they hurled massive heavy trunk segments into the verge to allow traffic through.

When we approached the castle, an elderly gent scurried out of his museum / tasting shop and explained that despite all the guide books stating the castle was open on Monday it was not …. to be honest, we had completely forgotten that all the museums shut on Mondays …. duh!  He was so charmingly earnest that we took him up on his free tasting.  Why are these things never free … you feel beholden to buy something.  The Aged Ps left with a pistachio pesto for pasta and a prickly pear (cactus fruit) grappa for Grumps … K with jam for M and the pistachio pesto.  We LOVED the sweet tastings of lemon and pistachio …  but what would we do with them … none of us bake cakes etc.  Tempting as it is to buy and just eat from the jar on a spoon!

The elderly gent explaining the closed castle and offering the free tastings.

The elderly gent explaining the closed castle and offering the free tastings.

An ancient pasta press in the elderly gent's museum

An ancient pasta press in the elderly gent’s museum

Charmingly proud of his town

Charmingly proud of his town

We had a quick wander of the town and then had another long picnic – in the sun admiring the view.

Buildings clinging to the hill side

Buildings clinging to the hill side

Seriously clinging to the rocks

Seriously clinging to the rocks

An Englishman Abroad hat!!!

An Englishman Abroad hat!!!  For those that don’t know us … James is Irish.

Madonna and skull!!!

Madonna and skull!!!

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Lunch View :)

Lunch View 🙂

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Back to the Aged P’s apartment for supper … strange looking fish: spatola – silver scabbard fish … pretty tasteless, but we were just relieved it was not eel – none of us care for the oiliness.

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211 – Tuesday 17th November:  Moving East: Just North of Catania

The Aged P’s second apartment is just north of Catania, near Aci Trezzo.  K and J re-vistied the motorway services as there seem to be a lack of OPEN motorhome services.

Free motorway across the centre of Sicily:  rolling hills.  If it were not for the vegetation, it could have been the UK Dales.  We plan to spend a bit of time visiting the central mountains.

Lots of motorway sections are propped up on stilts. Italy must me a major concrete consumer. Hilltop Enna on the horizon.

Lots of motorway sections are propped up on stilts. Italy must be a major concrete consumer. Hilltop Enna on the horizon.

Etna and orange groves

Etna is visible from a long way off, wisps of smoke atop.  Approaching Catania, it is flatter with orange groves.

K and J ‘negotiated’ part of Catania and then a few too many near miss / awkward reversing / tight turns of Aci Castello.  Fortunately for K, J was driving, so she alighted several times and spotted for him.  Onto Aci Trezzo, which is quite close to the Aged P’s apartment and down a few more narrow roads … Oh Joy … a harbour with a free car park.  It is always reassuring to be near another motorhome … Belgian Knaus next door.  we communicated in French.  The first thing our neighbour said was how horrendous the narrow roads were! Yep, I said …. we were going to celebrate arriving with a glass of wine!  We duly found a bar and people watched.

A water canoe polo practice - entertainment right on our front porch!

A water canoe polo practice – entertainment right on our front porch!

Stop press:  J just called me outside… fish jumping.  Right outside our front porch, again.  Fat cat lurked and nabbed one as they landed on the lava rocks.

 

 

 

203-207: Into Sicily

203 – Monday 9th November 2015:  From one Beach to Another

We said farewell to our Austrian neighbours and set off with the intention of getting fairly close to the port for Sicily.  We mostly used the motorway as we wanted to make good progress, having lingered an extra day in Praia de Mare.

Given that it gets dark at 5.00, we headed off for the coast at about 4.00.  The Parking app guided us to a small marina in Lido di Palmi.  There was water (which we used) but no other services.  We may have been able to stay there but there was a large heavy gate and we don’t like the thought of being shut in … and the marina seemed to be in constant use, so potentially noisy.  A few hundred meters further on and the road stopped … and so did we.  We had passed a good few higgledy houses on the left, winter closed restaurants on the right with one remaining bar open …. all the local men seemed to be outside.  Boys playing football.  The beach was filthy … it looked like all the summer’s rubbish had not made it to a bin. But the sea was calm, fishing boasts darted back and forth and we were treated to another lovely sunset.  The closed up restaurant nearest us had kindly left a toilet unlocked … so guess where our toilet contents went!

Our Pitch

Our Pitch

204 – Tuesday 10th November 2015 – And into Sicily

In the morning, we passed the same men by the bar or mending nets.  Quite a few young lads obviously had not made it to the school bus, preferring to help dad.  The women pushed old stroller style push chairs with a trays of fish to the roadside and sold from there. Cars and vans came, negotiated and bought.  As we left two women waved swordfish at us … but we did stop and I bought two fish, despite the seller trying to load me with about 5!  If I had known how cheap it was, I might have bought that swordfish … only EUR2 for whatI think are two decent sized sea bass.  I gutted them outside the motorhome and being so fresh … no smell at all.  But real life.  Unchanged since 1920s?

The ferry to Sicily is an experience.  We stopped to buy the tickets before going the queue to board and a chap helpfully (in German) translated my motorhome and a three month open return request to the attendant … and then in a very charming way, asked for EUR5 for his help.  We laughed that I was poor, but gave him the shrapnel out of my wallet …. he got the price of a small coffee.   The ferries do not seem to run to a timetable, but ply back and forth as quickly as they can.  It is organised chaos!  Lots of staff, fairly unidentifiable as no high vis, waving cars, busses and trucks on in all and conflicting directions, even before the boat was emptied of the arriving traffic.  Both boarding and disembarking saw 3/4 lanes merge (and I use the word ‘merge’ loosely) into fewer lanes.

Simultaneous on and off and the ferry runs around as fast as it can.

Simultaneous on and off and the ferry runs around as fast as it can.

We elected to use the motorway to get close to Cefalu, near where K’s Aged Ps have rented for week one.  Interesting … very over grown: sometimes on both sides making the hard shoulder unusable and the two active carriageways effective 1.5!  And frequently down to one lane with countless road works, although little evidence of the works.  A lot of tunnels, but pretty much hugged the coast.

We managed to avoid driving through the really narrow streets of Cefalu, thank goodness as Chardonnay would have been much the worse off – on all panels, as a couple of locals beeped at as and told us to turn around.  Back up over the town and onto the sea front and we are installed in a Parking.  To make life easier we will stay here 7 nights and negotiated a small discount.  Supermarket nearby and easy walking distance to the old town.  We joined the locals and a few tourists in the early evening perambulations and found the BEST ice cream vendor.  K’s mission:  partake every day!

 

205 – Wednesday 11th November 2015:  Chuffing Cefalu

We ran along the beach front … just over two miles … good, but need to find a longer route.

The Aged P’s drove down to us and parked nose to nose with Chardonnay.  We all needed an easy day so wandered the old town of Cefalu.  It is actually pronounced Chefaloo, not Sefaloo or Kefaloo.

We lunched in front of the Duomo – very indifferent (nasty) food but wonderful location.  Had an ice cream (day 2 mission accomplished) and investigated the train station.  Supper for 4 in Chardonnay.

Beach and the old fishermen houses hugging the waterfront.

Beach and the old fishermen houses hugging the waterfront.

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Food dropped from above the balcony ... the cats knew where to sit!

Food dropped from above the balcony … the cats knew where to sit!

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The almost matching towers and Roca behind make the cathedral an impressive sight, filling the Piazza.  Unfortunately the cloisters were undergoing work (we could actually hear work going on :)) and there was a barrier to prevent close inspection of the apse mosaics and marble work.

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I'm not overseen on marzipan, but these are art works.

I’m not overkeen on marzipan, but these are art works.

The town laundry, fed by mountain water and then out to sea. It only came out of use in the 1980's. With so many bays (you can't see them all) it must have been a hub of chatter, news and gossip. Tempted to bring our our laundry down.

The town laundry, fed by mountain water and then out to sea. It only came out of use in the 1980’s. With so many bays (you can’t see them all,  it must have been a hub of chatter, news and gossip. Tempted to bring our our laundry down.

206 – Thursday 12th November 2015 – Marsarla … Town and Wine and Battling Sat Navs

The Aged P’s were due at 9.30 … guess what they were 20 mins early …. fortunately we had expected them to be a bit early and were just about ready.

We took the motorway along and down to Marsala.  The hire car Sat Nav was programmed in German, and Mutt named her Gudren, after her childhood pen friend.  However, just to be sure of the route, Mutt put Jane (brought from home) on too … it was like an England / Germany needle football match.  Who would get in first with a direction?  Did they agree?  Jane was less gushing with instructions, and on the nose until on a motorway she did not know about … so I reckon we will have to call it a draw!

The plan was to enjoy some wine tastings and have a light lunch.  We only half accomplished this as it was over 3 hours drive … we should have checked this out first … poor Dad …. he could have driven from home to Scotland in the time.  With Sicily being an island, we sort of forgot that it is one third of the size of Ireland … distances are not exactly down the road.

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Duomo: Thomas a becket on the left of the window. But what made me chuckle was the naughty cherubs who are playing on the roof!

Duomo: Thomas a Becket on the left of the window. But what made me chuckle was the naughty cherubs who are playing on the roof!

Not sure what was on the menu!?

Not sure what was on the menu!?  One of the letters?

Nearly lunchtime so a quick walk and then TripAdvisor to find a restaurant ‘around me’ …. excellent.  Good English and a great meal.  The wine was a Grillo, which we will try to buy in the supermarket.  But the starter …. two sorts of mozarella, one with fried ham/ bacon and the other stuffed with a sort of cream and anchovies …. this would have done us …. fabulous.  Mains and then we finished with a glass of … Marsala and the biscotti to dunk in it.  No more tastings as all the entoteca were on their long lunch … J and I will probably go back.

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We really liked Marsala once we got away from the children beggars in the the carpark and into the marble streets of the old town.  Peaceful and attractive and no traffic, as in Cefalu, where you are constantly leaping into doorways to avoid the locals’ cars and mopeds.

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My mission of an ice cream daily … no chance … too tired to walk into town …. and we’d been sat in the car for over 6 hours … how does that work?

 

207 – Friday 13th November:  Pulsing Palermo

We met the Aged P’s at the station.  Knowing they would be early, we planned to be 10 mins early …. they were there before us (of course!) and had already bought the tickets.

Palermo is bustling and alive.  Architecture is a mix of Norman, Arab, Spanish, Italian etc.  Some fabulous squares and a port.

Arab influence.

Arab influence.

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The Fountain of Shame: so called as all the nudes offended the local church goers. But it had wonderful marble animals around the base.

Some of the nudes ... whoops, they forgot to remove their clothes!

Some of the nudes … whoops, they forgot to remove their clothes!

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Mum giggling when the chap in an e cigarette shop demonstrated smoke coming out of every orifice ... sadly I was not quick enough to catch her as she fell apart. I should add that J was buying, not anyone else.

Mum giggling when the chap in an e cigarette shop demonstrated smoke coming out of every orifice … sadly I was not quick enough to catch her as she fell apart. I should add that J was buying, not anyone else.

Amazing fig tree roots in the centre of one of the main squares.

Amazing fig tree roots in the centre of one of the main squares.

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The wrought iron fencing was really unusual: a clutch of birds and arrows and spears on the uprights.

The wrought iron fencing was really unusual: a clutch of birds and arrows and spears on the uprights.

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Pukka fishing boats as well as leisure craft

The Duomo was a real mix of architecture ...

The Duomo was a real mix of architecture and more interesting on the outside …

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… the Arab influence

Another TripAdvisor lunch stop.  And this was AMAZING!  It was a small place in a back street, and initially we were the only diners.  The host Michele had a great patter … little English but with lots of gesticulations and emphasis on each dish being a ‘Michele invention’ …. yes we would have the EUR20 lunch ….

We all agreed it was the BEST (as in tastiest) Italian food we’ve had and we had a floor show from Michele to accompany it … from trying to explain that his wife Iolanda did no work (and in true pantomime style as sided with her) to explain he would cry if he had to throw our left overs away … we have a massive doggy bag!

Our very memorable meal

Our very memorable meal

It was a very slow walk back to the station … K and J via the Arab market to buy some of the ingredients for a long slow lunch tomorrow at the Aged P’s apartment … we plan an easy day, but good food – again!

Mission failure day 2:  no ice cream … no room!