270-279: Squealing Mud and Relaxing

270 – Friday 15th January 2016:  Leisurely Day

A run for both us.  James tested his calf and kept it short.

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Pix taken on phone (so a bit dark) of the run route …

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… it really is an amazing coastline…

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… the sun just coming out changes the water colour.  It doesn’t get better than this!

We’d planned a leisurely day, but we had not planned on rain!  We started tennis and only got two games in before the rain overcame us.  ‘Our’ stray dog visited  and we fed him again …. No, we are still not taking him with us.  To be honest, neither of us tried to persuade the other, as it would have been a close call!

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Our dog … we named him Vito, after the area.

271 – Saturday 16th January 2016:  Shopping & Castellammare del Golfo

We left the campsite, which by now had all of 3 other motorhomes … really surprising when the site with electric is only EUR12, but most motorhomes seem to be on the south coast where the weather is a little warmer.  A little sad to leave the area as we reckon it is the BEST scenery in Sicily.  A few basic shopping food items and an electric heater – this we will use when on sites with electric, as our on board heating trips the electric.  We drove to Castellammare del Golfo.  An attractive town with a castle (shut) and harbour.  We lunched in the van and had a walk around and then K walked a route out as we came to conclusion that the obvious route would be a little tight … J had been pacing it out between steps and parked cars.. never a good sign!

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We drove east along the coast and found a super car park right on the sandy beach to spend the night.  However…

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Yes, this hail collected on the windscreen wiper! Two lots of hail before supper!

J takes over:

Windy and watery parking place – but hey – we are experienced motorhomers – what’s a little wind and rain….? We sensibly parked beam end on to the wind direction and settled down for the evening….  The wind grew stronger but our confidence was undiminished – Chardonnay is a big strapping girl from the sea coast of Sussex!  Snug under our duvet, it appeared that the wind speed was increasing….at 2:00 am, it was Nordkapp-esque in strength!  Our confidence was diminishing – we moved from the car park to what we hoped was some shelter from building on the main road – wrong! We moved again behind other buildings – the wind followed us – wrong again! At 4:00 am – we abandoned the area completely – discretion being the better part of something-or-other – drove back towards the town to seek proper shelter….  On the way into town heading for somewhere-or-other, K spied a small car park – with a motorhome within – a quick turn – and we were deftly parked alongside – no wind buffeting – our third visit to the good old duvet was infinitely peaceful – at 4:30 am!  Morning came late to us – we were in an overflow supermarket car park – but as it was Sunday, no problem with shoppers…..

272 – Sunday 17th January 2016:  Gibellina Twice – Almost!

K back again

Breakfast was a coffee and bun at the first cafe we came to (we needed the caffeine and calorie injection after the disturbed night) and then we drove to Gibellina Nuova.  This was built on a new site after the old town was completely demolished in 1968 by an earthquake.  The Mayor employed top notch town planners to create what must be Sicily’s only town with wide boulevards and houses with front gardens.  Other earthquake damaged towns had little help and support … no Mayoral ‘connections’.  In Gibellina, artists were invited to create modern statues which are found on virtually every corner and in the numerous piazzas.  In fact, so much art was donated that the town created its own museum of modern art ….   Our plan was to ‘admire’ the outdoors and indoors art.

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 En route:  the whole mountain side was a series of quarries … massive square blocks extracted.

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At the entrance to Gibellina Nuova … a taste of what was to come…..

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… All this modern art left James feeling a little bemused.

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Not art this one … rubbish bags left hung up so the cats and dogs don’t burst open the bags.  We have even seen rubbish descending on a long line from flats for the bin men.

We completely failed to find the art museum despite directions from locals … we later passed one building which was completely derelict, like the victim of another earthquake.  The town had had so much invested in it, but there was evidently no money to maintain it.  It could easily have made more of the tourism.  Another coffee and we set of in search of the Gibellina ruins and the concreted part of the town that is Cretto di Buri. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretto_di_Burri

James here…

The first route by SatNav or MapsMe or Guided Pee Sorted (GPS) started promisingly – uphill passing a sign that said “routo non navigolo unless you’re daft motorhomers” – but we don’t always read signs when we (K) are/is on a mission !  After some time, the barrier across the road indicated ‘road closed’ – “non navigolo ?”  We turned the van and retraced our stoopfets (let’s have another glass of Stamfuca – or something) – to prepare for the next Good Path Stymied (GPS) route !  Off we went down a slightly narrower road than the Road Closed You Berks (RCYB) route – I’ve worked too long with Government `departments and their nacrohymns…  We passed through subsiding surfaces slowly (acronym resisted) – and came to a BSiR (big step in road) – major subsidence – Chardonnay doesn’t do big steps down….  No room to turn (have we been here before ?)  K to the fore (as always) – reversing the only option – for 1 kilometre ?  Hand signals like semaphore – K lined me up for the Subsiding Mud Patch (SMP ?) – shut up, James and drive !  Manuel Fangio would have approved (the mature reader will know of him)  – ok he was Argentinian but I couldn’t think immediately of an Italian champion from yore… I gunned the motor and reversed at great speed (at least 5 km per week !) and shot out onto firmer surface – to a huge accolade from – K !  Third route by Great Prat Supercilious (GPS) – was abandoned – with some reservations from K – we set sail by GPS (Great Peacefull Something-or-others) for good old Punta Braccetto – again….

ETA (not a nacrorythym in sight) was 6:00 and We Landed Softly (WLS ?) – to sleep…..in the car park as the site was chokka (what does that mean ? – I’m Irish after all…) – “parlo Samantha domenico”….

We did…

273 – Monday 18th January 2016: A Proper Pitch

The lovely Samantha, nothing to do with ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’s’ now redundant Samantha, who runs the campsite office offered us the very small vacant pitch No. 8.  J was out pacing again.  We would just fit with our nose poking out … we’d take it.

I decided to do a big shop … we don’t want to move too often from this titchy pitch, and this became possibly the biggest shop we have down to date …. EUR180!  And nearly half of this was booze … funny that! The booze squeezed under a seat and Chardonnay squeezed into the pitch.

Dan fed us a proper Scotch Broth for lunch and then Yvonne and Ingemar came over for supper.  The Sambucca made an appearance after about 4 bottles of red.  J had to visit the bottle bank the next morning before our neighbours were up and spying the old soaks!

274 – Tuesday 19th January 2016:  Not Moving Much!

Very little movement … we managed to walk to the local bar for a coffee and pastry for lunch.  It was a return match with Yvonne and Ingemar … they had brought over a large bottle of red last night which we had not managed to fully consume, so we took it back to them …  unfinished business and all that!  They had kindly bought a bottle of … Sambucca!  Yummy Swedish style starter … boiled egg and prawn open sandwich followed by mussels … right up K’s street.

275 – Wednesday 20th January 2016:  Bike Ride and Lunch

We cycled to Marinia di Ragusa with the plan of finding the large DIY store that Dan had told us about.  We needed some fuses.  The new electric heater had blown the 2 to 3 pin adapter fuse (only 1 amp, so not surprising) and then the adapter plug fuse out of K’s hair tongs … the 13 amp one from the hairdryer seems to be fine … but we are still 2 fuses short.  Even with Dan and a policeman’s directions we failed to find the DIY store.  It was lunchtime and K’s tummy was a rumbling and this became the priority.  We wandered into what we thought was a snack bar, but when the menu was brought out, it was pukka cooking.  One lovely waitress and the chef visible in the back cooking to order.  How’s this for different food tastes … J had deep fried mozarella sarney with chips and K had ricotta filled ravioli and squid ink sauce?    We both loved our choices, which is all that matters.  After 3 large glasses of wine it was a sobering ride back in the head wind.

BBQ in the evening with Dan … who has a garage full of UK, often specifically Scottish, goodies; tonight was Scottish fudge 🙂  He still has UK bacon in his freezer …. wonder if he would notice a SAS style raid?  I can almost smell a bacon sarney!  Would need a bloomer loaf, though.

276 – Thursday 21st January 2016: Santa Croce Market

We drove to the Saint Crotch market … J winces every time I call it this.  Fab market once we found this … we’d parked at the bottom of the town and again took directions from locals across the town to find it.  Worth it, as we came away with a shopping trolley (I love my trolley) full of fresh veggies and fruit. I am now officially a trolley dolly!   I have had to rearrange my menu planning, as one had to buy by the bag: 6 fennel, 5 large peppers and 6 aubergine … each bag for the pricey sum of EUR1 each!!  Another Caponata made and bagged … struggling for freezer space.  Sardines and fennel pasta.  Orange, fennel and anchovy salad.  Fennel risotto coming up soon!  Aubergine Parmigiana too 🙂  Thank goodness for the internet for finding recipes!

We basked in the sun in the main square with a coffee and decided against driving onto Scicli, too nice a day  to be in the ‘van.  Back to the campsite to sit in the sun, chill and feel smug about our wonderful life.

277 – Friday 22nd January 2016:  Moving Pitch and a Chardonnay Clean

Big event:  we took over Yvonne and Ingemar’s pitch.  Not with them in it, you understand.  They were off to resume wild camping and their pitch is rather good.  It gets morning and afternoon sun.  it’s large and right next to the hot water washing up area.  In fact the German couple who had moved into our pitch next door on our departure a few weeks ago were after it … but we had previously made it official with the ‘lovely Samantha’ …

On the way from titchy pitch to sumptuous pitch we went via the motorhome services. Despite the sign to the contrary, the lovely Samantha had given us permission to wash the exterior of Chard.  This had not been done since Trento in September.  She had the accumulation of months of dirt, Etna black volcanic dust and the mud up the sides from the other day.  She was looking very battle tired and yellow.  Nobly, J took the roof and I did the sides.  After 3 hours, it is not perfect, but she is almost white again.

We then just sat and basked in the sun ….  not trying to rub our German neighbours’ noses in it .. honest!

278 – Saturday 23rd January 2016: Ragusa and Scicli

A slight detour via Ragusa to buy ingredients I needed for my new planned menu and an abortive attempt to find a calf brace / support for J.  Then onto Scicli.  You may recall my way of remembering how to pronounce Sciacca (Shag her), so I was on a roll with Shickley … J checked it with a local … spot on :).  Our planned parking was blocked off for an afternoon market … not seen many of these, but we easily parked nearby.  When you have an 8m motorhome, parking takes on a disproportionate importance.  A lovely town … another victim of the 1693 earthquake and rebuilt in…. you guessed it … Sicilian Baroque.  Lovely to wander through … steep cliffs with grottos, loads of churches and overshadowed by the castles and monasteries.

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Our first impressions of Scicli … 

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some money here … renovations.  Great to see the styles followed, but shame the detailing of 1700’s not there.

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Coffee stop …

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and cake for K … could’ve licked the plate!

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Just beautiful and restful

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A certain person, who shall remain nameless, did not want to walk up to the top!

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279 – Sunday 24th January 2016: Jobettes

Admin, jobs, a bit of sun and relaxing.  Both trying not to let a cold / sore throat take hold.  J back on form:  tennis 6 -1 😦

 

 

 

 

 

256-262 : All the S’s … Seccagrande, Sciacca, Selinunte and Sitting Still

256 – Friday 1st January 2016:  Start of the New Year

How about this for a New Year’s thought … this will be my first full calendar year with no work or meetings and it is James’ second such.  And we have been travelling in Europe for 256 days now … just wonderful.

We had a leisurely start, given how much booze and food we had consumed last night, we felt remarkably well!  We said good bye to Frances and Edward, having roped in a passing young lad to take a pix of us all, who then shook us each by the hand and wished us Buon Anno.  We will definitely meet up with F & E again at some point.

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Frances and Edward – our booze partners of the previous two evenings!

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Chardonnay and Frances & Edward’s van in the Porto Empedocles free parking.

We did not plan to travel far and nor did we.  Parked in Siculiana and had a quick walk, but decided it was a bit rough looking so we did not even stop for a coffee!  There is a castle there, but since we had no intention of going round, even had it been open …..  We also decided against stopping at Eraclea Minoa.  Apparently it is in a lovely setting, but again it would not have been open and the Valley of the Temples yesterday had given us enough ruin viewing for a few days.

Dan had told us about a wild camp spot in a car park right on the beach at Seccagrande … 4 Italian vans who were just there during daylight and over night it was us and a German.  We basked in the afternoon sun and read … very peaceful with lovely views along the coast.

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257 – Saturday 2nd January 2016:  Sciacca and Pronunciation!

K ran along the beach road and we half breakfasted outside watching two scuba divers.  K made a bacon, vegetable and puy lentil soup for lunch … I love the pressure cooker.  And then we did a clean and hoover.  We passed over EUR5 to the nearby campsite to use the services and drove to Sciacca.  I got the pronunciation all wrong until James helped, with … it rhymes with SHAG HER!  This I can remember!  So the phonetic spelling is Shaka.

We have parked up at the harbour here.  Frances and Edward said there were 11 vans when they were here a few days ago … we are one of 14 and all Italian.  It is so large a parking, that we have been able to park facing some boats and not wedged in by other vans.  

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Again a lovely view.

We wandered around the town with no fixed plan and found lots of steep alleys (of course), churches, a market packing up, the town wall with several gates and lots of Palazzos.  It has an Arab influence which is evident in the architecture.  

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Stairs up ….

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 … up and up!

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Another quirky Christmas Tree … lot of fun in emptying the bottles!

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One of the old town gates with amazingly huge and old wooden doors.

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Yes really??? Cars are coming through this gap!  We still suffer palpitations from us wedging Chardonnay in too tight corners.

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We’d missed a market.  The rubbish they left was stupendous and horrendous …no effort to clear up after themselves …

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… but it looks like Bono of U2 is moonlighting as a street cleaner.

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The Arab influence is strong in this town.

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Part of the town wall.  What you can’t see is the modern blocks of flats built on top of the wall.

We so like the town and our parking (although we have yet to experience how quiet it is at night … I have read about noise from gnats [gormlous noisy adolescent turds] on mopeds on forums), there is a supermarket within 3 mins walk, so we plan to stay here tomorrow too.

 

258 – Sunday 3rd January 2016:  Sciacca Again

K ran and pilates’d in front of the van until she noticed her audience of local fishermen!  We wandered up to the old town for another walk and an ice-cream.  We both did lots of admin jobs and J started on the dreaded tax return!  Why is is you never quite have all the information you need on the first go.

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Have you ever seen thorns this size?

 

259 – Monday 4th January 2016: And Again!

J attempted a run only to realise his calf had done no healing … it is going to be a stay still day with ice and heat treatments.  Tax return for J continued.  Rain heavy on and off.  An admin jobs day.   K did a little walk and J joined her for a short walk for some air and a coffee.

 

260 – Tuesday 5th January 2016:  And off again … Selinunte

We made use of the supermarket and stocked up for the next few days with fruit and veg.  We failed to buy an electric heater for when we are on sites, as our on board heating always trips the site electric.  We did buy a basic set of weighing scales as K has been eating like a horse since the run up to Christmas and needs to scare herself with seeing the kilos pile on … so far the theory is, however, not working!  

Having free camped for 3 days at Sciacca, our black and grey water were pretty full.  Laundry bag full.  K’s hair needed a wash.  Motorhome service areas are pretty thin on the ground so we headed for a campsite near Selinunte.  We booked in for one night, but the washing machine took such a long time to complete a cycle it was night fall before both loads were done.  It rained in the night too, so we had to retrieve all the wet washing and bring it in :(.

BBQ for supper though 🙂

 

261 – Wednesday 6th January 2016:  Sitting still in Selinunte

Awning out and the two loads of wet laundry dangling under it …. too much to dry off the bike rack and/or in the van, so we were set put for another day.

Rain on and off so we rested J’s leg, did more admin and planning.  Including booking K’s flight back to the UK to see her Munchkin in February half Term :).  We walked to the town in the afternoon for a coffee.  Pretty chilly so the BBQ chicken became chicken cacciatore!

 

262 – Thursday 7th January 2016:  Selinunte Ruins and Tre Fontane

Packed up and put away nearly all the now dry laundry.  Drove the very short distance to the ruins at Selinunte.  It is a large site with a lot of walking, so K explored alone whilst J rested his calf.  OK, so the Greek Temples in Paestum were the best.  The Valley of Temples was also fairly impressive, but a bit reconstructed and touristy.  But I really liked Selinunte.  It is barely restored, just a couple of semi restored temples. Most of the stones are still on the ground where they have fallen when the city was attacked by Carthage on 409BC or as a result of earth quakes.  This city was not pulled apart, nor stone recycled, for subsequent Roman rulers.  It was a city and a vast city.  As I walked around I could really get the sense of the scale and the importance of it, and in a lovely coastal setting.  As well as the temples, there are the huge fortifications, admin and residential areas.

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Temple E 490-480BC: pure Doric style with 68 columns

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Temple C 580-550BC:  the oldest and largest in this section

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View across to the Acropolis 

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View back to Temple E.  Odd stones stick up and a lot of the area is still to be excavated.

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A couple of main roads with arterial roads off

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Part of the fortification area at the North Gate

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An artist’s impression of what the fortifications would have looked like … three floors for the army to shoot out of. 

The whole of the acropolis was built on a massive reinforced stone plinth

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We lunched on pea and mint soup in the car park and then drove the short distance to Tre Fontane.  A small seaside town with a long sandy beach; our Swedish neighbours had told us about the free overnight parking here.  The town is pretty deserted, but we found two open cafes.  We are not going to enjoy the beach other than the view (and the pinky grey sunset, as I type) as it is pretty blowy with the odd shower.  We are parked facing the sea and into the wind. I wonder if we will be rocked much in the night?

 

 

 

 

 

251 – 255: Modica, Agrigento and New Year

251 – Sunday 27th December 2015:  Modica Steps and Chocolate

Whilst the campsite and the people are lovely, K was starting to feel the effects of cabin fever …. I suppose it comes for being on the move so much and for so long.  When the Aged P’s visited us in Sicily, they commented that we seem so settled in our way of life, they did not see how we could return to a ‘normal’ life.  Since they spend about 6 months each year travelling and are the ONLY people I know of to have visited every State in the USA (except Hawaii), I think I know where I get it from!

Modica is one of the main towns rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake in the Sicilian Baroque style.  It is less well preserved and restored than Noto or Ragusa, but still attractive.  It is also know for its chocolate … of course we had to try and buy.  Shan’t buy again though, as it is tastes pretty rough … dark with the sugar crunchy where it does not dissolve …. CDM (Cadbury Dairy Milk) is MUCH better!

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More Sicilian Baroque

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And of course, lots more balconies … 

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Modica is built in the valleys and hills of two converging rivers.

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Lots of steep steps to get to the top of the old town 

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More steps up to the Church …

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… I don’t know if you can tell, but it is the only church I’ve been in with a seriously sloping floor

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Lots of steep steps up to this Church too!

252 – Monday 28th December 2015:  Abortive Blood Test (and Beach!)

We cycled to Santa Croche to try to get J a routine blood test, which we had been told could be done here when we popped in before Christmas …. no, we would have to go to the hospital in Ragusa … ho hum.  We’ll probably leave it till April when we are back home.

Having the rest of the day on our hands, we actually made it onto the beach to sit and read for an hour.  K even got into her cosie, but did not attempt a sea entry!

BBQ for supper as we don’t know when we will be able to BBQ again, as we can’t when wild camping.

253 – Tuesday 29th December 2015:  Litaca

We said au revoir to our new friends on the campsite, but plan to drop by again towards the end of January.  We drove along the coast heading West – we will ‘do’ the SW side of Sicily which we have not yet seen.  We paused to look at the outside of one of that castles perched on the coastal rocks when we had lunch and then drove into Litaca.  We parked up next to the port and walked into the town for a coffee.  Can tell this is off the beaten tourist track … coffees only 80 cents each!  No, I must be wrong, James spotted a tourist train with passengers … it is on the tourist trail after all.

Indifferent night’s sleep as ALL the dogs in the town set off caterwauling (or should that be dogawauling?) most of the night!

254 – Wednesday 30th December 2015:  Agrigento and Porto Empedocle

Only a short drive to check out the coordinates for our night’s free parking by a spit and a beach.  James stepped out of Chardonnay onto a used condom and there was constant flow of single men in cars arriving, turing around and leaving …. can’t think what sort of business goes on here!  So we had a coffee and spotted another port parking about half a kilometre on.  This was perfect and J practiced his Italian to establish there is a bus up Agriegento town … we will keep the Valley of the Temples for tomorrow when we are less tired.

Bus on time and some really helpful locals.  First the chaps who told us where to get the bus.  Secondly, a lady who told us to follow her as she was catching the same bus.  Thirdly, the chap in the bus info office, who gave me timetables and a street map.  Fourthly, a customer (who spoke reasonable English), not only told us how to get to the Duomo, but came out and walked a bit with us so we did not mistake the way.

Agrigento is atop a seriously steep hill and I imagine few tourists make it here, but just visit the Greek temples.  It is literally crumbling away.  An art installation on the steps of the Duomo of multiple plaster feet was to raise awareness that people do care that the cathedral and other buildings are crumbling.  We even saw a For Sale board which advertised that the interior was stable!

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The Duomo feet … we could not walk amongst them despite the idea that you should post a selfie of you with your favourite foot to promote awareness of the need for restoration / repair

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Seriously crumbling town

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And here’s one I made earlier … a Christmas tree out of empty drinks bottles and cling film.

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A couple of incongruous modern art installations – juxtaposed with the crumbling old structures.

Whilst we waited for the infrequent bus, we patronised three different bars …. as each brings out nibbles, we did not fancy supper later on.  One bar gave us a local soft bread stuffed with olives, ham and cheese … yummy.  At another we watched a man who bought scratch cards, trade in winning cards for more, pocket some cash and then had over more cash for more cards.  He must have been there for over half an hour – sad.

When we arrived back at our free parking, we had been joined by 3 Italian vans and a British one.  The Brits had parked leaving a gap between us and them, only to have the Italians infill all the gaps … the Italian herd mentality again as it is a large car park.  We knocked on the door to say hello … and Frances and Edward kindly invited us in for drinks later.  One bottle led to another ….

255 – Thursday 31st December 2015:  Agrigento Valley of the Temples and Seeing In New Year

We drove via a campsite to empty our full toilet and replenish our water supplies …. EUR8!  Not cheap when being environmental!  Then onto the car park right by the entrance to the Temples.  The usual guides offering their services and a taxi for the lazy or infirm to take you up to the far end of the archeological site.  We are neither so we walked.  A beautifully sunny and warm day.

The Valley of the Temples was founded in 581 BC and has undergone a large number of excavations.  A British army captain who came out for his health built a villa in the middle, having ‘persuaded’ other people to know down their houses that were built up against the temples.  But he was instrumental in a lot of the excavation and the raising of some of the columns.  The temples are not as complete as those at Paestum, but still very impressive.

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So much reconstruction, so trying to do my bit!

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We have FAI membership (It. National Trust) so the Gardens of Kolimbethra were free.  Restored agricultural area with citrus groves and some unusual species.

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Some really old olives trees with wonderfully gnarled trunks …

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… some 400-500 years old.

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Traditional music being played under the Nativity scene.  A sheepskin bagpipe.

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Ancient irrigation supported by … a steel girder!

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Included here as just soooo phallic!

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The ‘new’ town of Agrigento always visible through the fallen stones

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Trying to cover his modesty, but he is just tooooo big!

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In the Archeological Museum there was a section with pottery dating back to15-20 BC, making the Greek Temples seem very modern

Back to the free parking in Porto Empedocle and Frances and Edward joined us for supper.  We saw the New Year in well – several trips to the bottle bank!.  A group of youths kindly put on a firework display in our car park and Frances supplied some sparklers.  Most excellent.

239 – 250: Maddy, a Birthday and Christmas

239 – Tuesday 15th December 2015:  Maddy’s Quick Culinary Experience and Etna

Tim arrived armed with 40 litres of Diesel and workmen’ gloves.  A bargain at EUR1 / litre.  The source: a local fisherman fills his boat at the naval docks in Augusta and brings back jerry cans to sell to the village.  What it is to know people – the right people!

We collected Maddy Munchkin at lunchtime and drove up to Etna.  We know the way pretty well now as we visited with the Aged Ps and Kerstin, but no visit to Sicily is complete without Etna.

 

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Etna dirt

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Honest … it has stopped erupting!

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And honest it won’t erupt… this crater goes back to 1988!

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Maddy is the master Christmas decorations designer … I’m just the cellotape supplier.

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awesome job!


Supper was in the campsite restaurant and Maddy had pizza and a lemon granita (sorbet) … tick and tick off her Sicilian culinary check list.

 

240 – Wednesday 16th December:  Birthday and Acireale

Maddy had arrived on about 8 hours sleep over the last three nights, so we just had to let her sleep in … which meant we had to too :).  Breakfast and gift opening on a deck, in the sun overlooking the cliffs … just lovely.  I’d bought some supermarket cornetto for Maddy … Nutella filled croissant …. very popular here and delicious, but nothing like as good as the fresh ones.  

James and I even gave the badminton rackets (bought in Slovenia and as yet unused) an airing … whilst Maddy slept … again!

Lunch in Chardonnay and then we walked to Acireale, via a detour to the local town Santa Maria La Scala.  La Scala means steps or stairs …. it was quite a steep walk up to Acireale and a certain young person had leg ache!  Coffee in town and I got to try a boob cake … I’d seen them before …. Saint Agatha had her breast removed by pincers, but the cake was yummy … filled with ricotta cheese.

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For more info:  http://www.goodfoodstories.com/minni-di-virgini/

We wandered around the town, poked our noses into a couple of Churches … Maddy left in a hurry when I pointed out the glass coffin with the embalmed priest!  Unusually, the Duomo has a long meridian line running through the nave.  After a drink and lots of nibbles, we walked back to the campsite for another drink, as restaurants don’t generally open till 8.00.   We then went down to Santa Maria to a trattoria recommended by the campsite.  An interesting experience … we were the only diners.  An elderly lady of about 80 served and cooked.  The menu was antipasto, spaghetti with clams or fish off the chiller counter.  Given how many nibbles we’d eaten earlier we opted for the best caponata yet (J and I)), spaghetti with tomato sauce i.e. no clams for the non seafood lovers, but I had a lovely pan cooked fish … don’t know what.  Some of the family arrived and were eating fresh baked donuts, so we were given some too.  So Maddy’s culinary experience now included a pasta dish.

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Drink in town and both on their phones!

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Our pitch … a sheer drop the other side of the railings.

241 – Thursday 17th December:  Back to Brucoli

Services sorted and a drive back to the airport to see my Munchkin off.  She was only with us for two nights and it was absolutely bloody wonderful having her here.  By Catania airport is a massive shopping centre.  We bought our Christmas presents to each other … tennis rackets.  We occasionally see courts that we could use and we both used to really enjoy a game.  Then into the massive Auchan … our biggest Euro shopping bill yet …. EUR279, but that included booze and most food to see us through to Christmas.  I also bought sunglasses and a shopping trolley with some birthday money (thank you Bron, Gill and Al).  I had wanted one for a trolley while, as when I use markets, the veggies seem to weigh a ton and it is a very looong walk always back to Chardonnay.  

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We have returned for three nights to the free parking in Broccoli.  

Today is the anniversary of my best and oldest friend, Nicky, death.  Jimmy was off school and had a Mummy Fun day with Ian, Tracy and the Mums.  Much love xxx

 

242 – Friday 18th December 2015:  BBQing in Brucoli

We must be relaxing …. a slow start.  A wander around the town.  An ice cream and a coffee …. and that was it for the day.  Tim and Karen shared a BBQ with us early evening.  Tim had combed the beach for wood and built an incinerator fire.  He tells people that when they get cold, he just burns a few boats!  

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TKMax (Tim, Karen and Max the cat, who gets his own chair!

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Nicky had given me sachets of fire magic, which turn the fire blue.

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Tim’s Christmas tree

 

243 – Saturday 19th December 2015:  Basking in Brucoli

Today followed a very similar pattern: slow start, walk into town, ice creams.  James was, however, moved to run.  Sitting on the beach, and watching the sky change colour with the sun set.    We had a game of backgammon on a lovely inlaid wooden board that Tim and Karen gave us.  James had beginners luck and won!  Kerstin had beginner’s luck and beat me at Cribb!  Am I loosing my knack?

I managed to pay for annual motorhome insurance and paid some other bills.  Amazing how different policies for motorhomes vary; amount of time you can travel, time in Europe, mileage and price …. you have to spend a good long time getting quotes … my excuse for a pretty lazy day.

News flash:  We have been mobbed.  Yesterday morning our pitch comprised Tim and Karen and Andrea and his two dogs.  The motorhome parking at the end of the town had a German small VW and an Italian van.  This afternoon and evening, they have been moving in – in convoys.  The far parking had 12 vans at last count.  A convoy of 4 drove past our pitch to one further around the bay.  But our lovely little community now has 3 other vans – all Italian.  One parked broadside along us, only a foot away.  We don’t like him as he barked at James when our engine was running so James could do the hoovering … this can wait till tomorrow, but he irony of it is, that he had his generator running earlier!  He also came to ask if we could move so he could get in to obtain a sea view …. we didn’t really understand, but told him that tomorrow we will be leaving.  Getano, one of the local chaps, told us it is like this every weekend, but the summer is even worse.  Given that Brucoli is not even in guidebooks, how do they all know about it?  Anyway, we will be off tomorrow.

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244 – Sunday 20th December 2015:  Onto Punta Bracetto

We are winding down for Christmas … so all we did today was fill up with diesel and GPL and drive to our new home for the next week.   We’d booked into a site where there is nest of Brits so we have some company over Christmas.  This site is amazing.  Each pitch has its own private washroom which means you can leave your wash gear in it.  Electricity is included in the rate of all of EUR 12 (5 nights plus).  The bay is super sandy.  It is very quiet.  Rave enough!  

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Consolation for you people under the grey damp skies of Britain, it absolutely poured today as we left Catania.  However, when we arrived in Bracetto, they had only had a light shower.  A German lady said since October it had rained only 3 times.  Apparently it is a little microclimate here and the weather takes it’s lead from Tunisia … should be in for some lovely weather.

We popped into say hello to Dan who had responded to my Wild Camping forum post about ‘anyone in Sicily’, hence our presence here.  He kindly invited us over for supper tomorrow.

 

245 – Monday 21st December 2015:  Cleaning or Putzen 

We have cleaned Chardonnay on our travels since April, of course we have!  But not a spring clean.  Not a proper one since we left 8 months ago.  After a run along the coast (J did a fast and long one 🙂  ), we hoovered and lifted the carpet … they got a clean and the van got a spring clean.  There is a small tennis court and our mutual Christmas gifts of rackets got their first outing.  We used to play quite regularly, but have not played for about 6 years … it felt really good, but I struggled to hit softly and accurately to get a rally going.  I blamed it on muscle memory!

Over to Dan’s for supper.  His van is sited overlooking the bay …. we watched the sun go down and create amber and pink glows … reckon he has the best pitch, but he is here for a few months and is a regular.  Not only was his ‘signature’ dish of shephard’s pie truly tasty, he brought out cheese followed by a tub of Roses.  Anyone that knows me, knows my weakness for cheese … it goes into a separate stomach.  We wobbled home, full of booze and good food.  Blame the booze, cheese and chocolate combination, but they had a detrimental effect on my sinuses … although I didn’t hear the snores … funny that!

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246 – Tuesday 22nd December 2015:  Cycle to Santa Croce

Another run and my new Pilates mat got its first airing …. can tell it is some months since i did these exercises … ouch!  The nearest main town is only about 5 miles so we cycled past the polytunnels (tomatoes, carnations and aubergine mostly).  Found the medical centre who can do a blood test (routine) for James but not until the 28th – so we will have to stay here until then …. dammit!  Not!  A wander around the town and couple of glasses of vino and an arancini for lunch.  For those not familiar with anranci, they sound gross but are actually very delicious.  A ball of rice will a meat ragu centre, covered in orange crumb and deep fat fried … honest, they are yummy.  Could become addicted.

We BBQ’d for supper, which is something we don’t like to do when wild camping.  Dessert was Pocket Coffee.  Created in Italy, but available in the UK from Amazon.  Dark chocolate with an espresso liquid coffee inside … Dan had introduced us to them and I’d bought some today.  Not sure how long the box will last as they are truly addictive (perhaps I have an addictive personality?!).  And I tried the orange fortified wine which I had bought yesterday from the fruit and veg van that came on site.  Nothing special, but very quaffable …. have I been rambling?  And will my sinuses play up again tonight … ask James tomorrow!

 

247 – Wednesday 23rd December 2015:  Pottering

We took the new shopping trolley for a little walk to the local small supermarket and came back with 2 x 6 packs of water.  The water on the site tastes foul so we have resorted to bottled.  Had a coffee and a yummy potato and cheese pastry from the cafe opposite.  The small supermarket is so small it did not have anything I needed, so we had another bike ride into Santa Croce to buy some a few final bits of food.

We took supper over to Dan’s and I certainly drank too much.  James told me that my mannerisms became very animated!

 

248 – Thursday 24th December 2015:  Cycle to Marina di Ragusa and Campsite Party

We cycled to Marina di Ragusa, only about 9km and pretty flat.  Beautifully sunny and we sat and watched a few families on the beach and a group of men wading in for a swim .. James thought they must be English as not other nationality would be that mad!  We couldn’t find anywhere in the town where we could sit out for lunch and watch the bikes, so we started back.  On the outskirts of the town there was a small cafe bar.  We ordered:  a burger and chips for J and an arancini for me.  The chips arrived, so I helped him out with these …. yummy and can’t remember when we last had chips!  J’s burger arrived so we came to the conclusion my arancini had been forgotten, so I helped out with that too.  Whoops … the arancini arrived …. piping hot and I cycled back with a stitch in my side from over eating!

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Cycle sock and J wobbling over

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The sea was an amazing blue

The campsite put on a little get together:  a drink and a table laden with sweet cakes and pies. As J walked into the room, he just saw a room of old people!  A German gent was playing and electronic keyboard and a couple were determined to skip around the room to it!  We extracated ourselves, but not before having a good chat with our Swedish neighbours.

 

249 – Friday 25th December 2015:  Christmas Day

I ran and did some Pilates ….J did a mile to test his calf muscle injury.   We had a knock about on the small tennis court using our joint Christmas racket gifts.  Late lunch was a roll of turkey cooked in wine and stock in the slow cooker so it did not dry out.  I even made mushroom and sausage balls, emptying out the meat from proper sausages.  

Great FaceTimes with Maddy as she opened her stocking and with the rest of my family who were having a Baker Christmas … they know how to do it really well.  We even had a conversation about possible being at home to join them next year!

 

250 – Saturday 26th December 2015:  Boxing Day and Drinks

Another run for K – 6 in a row!!!  A game of tennis … just one set and J won 6-3 … I never win!  Managed to format a hard drive so I could ‘acquire’ some of Dan’s films … including the Peter Wimsey series 🙂

Our Swedish neighbours joined us for drinks and cheese …. it all went really well until I started pouring Sambuca for Yvonne and myself … apparently I passed out when I went to bed and James had to sit on me in order to be able to actually get into bed … I don’t remember any of it, so he must be making it up.

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View over the sand dunes at the end of my run

 

 

 

 

236 – 238: Puppets and Corpses to Brucoli – the centre of the Universe!

236 – Saturday 12th December 2015:  Corpses and Puppets

We caught the now familiar bus into the centre.  We must be becoming local as there was little need to recourse to the map and by accident we found ourselves in the cafe of yesterday – the phones auto connected to the wifi!

We walked up Corso Vittoria Emanuele and James shopped for enough e vape juice to keep him going for about 3 months.  We poked our noses into the Cathedral again, which we had visited with the Aged P’s … it had not changed … still much more attractive on the outside.

We walked past the church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti.  A bit too pricey for us to go in, but I reckon we saw the best of it from outside.  It was built in 1132 and is set in a small citrus garden.

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San Giovanni degli Eremiti:  The Arab influence is clearly visible in the shape of red domes and cubic forms.

We also balked at the EUR9 each to go into the Capelle Palatine … I know it is supposed to be one of the main sites in Palermo, but we had seen and enjoyed the mosaics of Monreale cathedral and looking at the images in the guide book, the design at the Capelle look very similar.

We continued walking up to the Catacomb dei Cappuccini.  I’d read a bit about this … catacombs with the corpses still there.  We had really enjoyed the catacomb tour in Siracusa where the guide explained about the history and rituals.  Stupidly we expected a similar level of information.  It is a cynical money making exercise.   Most of the corpses have name tags and dates, are dressed, some have embalmed skin and hair.  They were segregated into men, women, virgins (!), children and professionals.  Some were on shelves, but a lot were wired up and hanging in niches.  Some faces were distorted into an Edvard Munch like Scream.  Gruesome.  No information about anything:

  • Why were they here?  We knew from the Siracusa catacombs that Christians started using out of town cemeteries in the 4th century.
  • Why were some up right and others on shelves?
  • Why segregated?
  • What was the embalming process?
James found this info later.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catacombe_dei_Cappuccini  Interestingly, the Capuchin’s held the deads’ families to ransom … pay up or your dead relatives stay in division 2 shelves.  No photos allowed out of respect, BUT you could buy postcards and TV programs have been in!  So much for the Capuchin philosophy of ‘life was to be one of extreme austerity, simplicity and poverty’. 
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The pix are all easily found on the internet.  
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And we walked and shook off the unpleasantness of the Catacombs to the Museo Internazionale delle Marionette.  This houses puppets from around the world, including shadow and water puppets.  We learnt that the Catanian puppets were bigger 1.4m and heavier so consequently the stages were shallower only allowing for limited movement.  Puppets can weigh as much as 20 kilos.

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This car was as battered on all side.  The interior was just as full, leaving small person shaped gap in the driving seat.

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Amazing attention to detail.

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Punch and Judy represented in the overseas section

Leaving here, we walked to the puppet street we had seen two days ago to attend the 6.30 pm. show.  Time for a glass of wine and as they brought so many snacks out, we did not need supper later!

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The square in front of the Teatro Massimo was buzzing with street performers and a procession … put on for us whilst we enjoyed our wine.

 

The performance was brilliant.  No other words for it.  A small theatre with a high stage, so all could see.  One man did all the voices, hardly changing his tone, but you know which puppet was talking by their movement.  Movement of the main arm was by a pole, and there were some double jointed arm movements!  Other movements were using the more familiar strings.  The story line is that of the Crusades; Christians defeating the Arabs.  There was a puppet who smoked a cigar and blew real smoke.  A maiden burnt at the stake.  Swashbuckling sword and sabre fights, where limbs and a head flew off.  Just brilliant.  Really brilliant.

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You probably picked up that we walked  a lot today.  James had very sore feet.  I have not yet told him, that we may have done about 15km on hard pavements!

237 – Sunday 13th December 2015:  Brucoli – the Centre of the Universe

With Maddy arriving on Tuesday, we needed to be near Catania airport, so it was another flit across the middle of Sicily on the motorway.  We are getting quite familiar with this route.  We stopped off to do our Christmas shopping at the Outlet Centre.  How times have changed … what use have we of designer brands?  We came away empty handed.

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Excellent views of a now gently smoking Etna as we approach Catania

Closer to Catania, we saw what I initially thought was black smoke, but then it moved … flew.  A flock of birds doing the most amazing formations.  They swarmed up and down and across.  I was driving and so fascinated, I could have added to the Sicilian road stats, had James not reminded me to keep my eyes on the road!

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I only knew what it was as I had seen video footage of the birds over the Somerset Levels

Our desination was Brucoli – not even in the guide book and the internet described it as a small and quiet fishing village.  How wrong!

J here – as we turned down another very small road to identify our overnight parking, I was a little nervous of the passing places…. it got narrower – has our reader heard this before ?  Around one bend – and we were faced with another motorhome coming in our direction – absolutely no millimetres to pass. K gave me directions from the road behind – to retrace my centimetres and allow the other van to pass by – he was in a rush and countered each of K’s moves with – the Sicilian Defence !  All you avid chess players will know that this defence is actually an aggressive attack ! I’m no Grand Master but my dilemma was apparent – following K’s moves – or being outflanked by Boris Karlovski ! (Apologies – I cannot think of the 1970s well known Russian Grand Master who had that legendary battle with his American opponent…). Either way, I was going to be stuffed, so I retreated my pawn en passant to a gateway – Boris shot past without as much as a “Grazi”  He would have been truly “Prego’d” if `i was 50 years younger ! (Was it Fischer the American chess Master – Bobby)?

We retreated to a nice sandy parking – Tim (who with Karen was parked there) helped us navigate a steep step and directed us to the best view – looking out across the bay to Etna and Catania – see K’s photos…..

Intros all around and chats – and Tim made what was to become the quote of the evening “We’re off to the bar !”. Could we resist ? Fat dogs and lino – again, Amelia/Thomas O’Reilly ?  First bar – wine – ok an innocuous start – good. We also had Arancini – Sicilian dumpling/roll filled sometimes with rice, cheese or other delicacy – no need for dinner later…  Second bar – did not stock wine – Aperol for `k and beer for moi – still innocuous…. We had by now met Natale, Francisco and Gaedano – all local friends with wonderful stories and very good English. Gaedano had gone (Tim said) to light his Christmas tree.  We supped – and Gaedano appeared into the bar- wearing his Christmas tree – see photo !  Then Tim said “How about some Sambucca ?”  (The fat dog perked up).  We supped again and chatted….. Then back to the first bar for – you guessed it – Sambucca ! Innoculous ? Inoculated ? Innoculosis ? Something like that….  We eventually strolled back to our Vardonnay… Slept for England and Ireland – a great start to our stay in Brucoli….

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The view from the door.  Yes, that is Etna still smoking in the background.  On the right you can just make out the Blackpool / Brucoli Illuminations:  Tim’s tinselled, decorated and lit up Christmas Tree.

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 238 – Monday 14th December 2015:

Leisurely start.  Tried running along the coast, only to be blocked by a large and locked gate.  Nothing for it but to head up the looooong hill up out of the town.  James tells me it is good training!  We pottered and replenished our wine supplies.  Sat on the beach and read and pottered some more.  We eventually made it out for a walk along the coast, for a little way, clambering over rocks.  The path was between the sea and the bottom of some rather nice villas.  We had assumed that the villas were unoccupied in the winter, but barking dogs proved otherwise.  A German Shepard on the way out and three Dobermans, who really looked as if they would hurl themselves off their property walls at us.  Security is obviously taken seriously here, and yet Tim and Karen don’t lock their motorcycle etc.

Later Tim and Karen popped over for a wee drink before supper.  Supper became cheese and biscuits … too late and too pickled to cook the planned risotto!

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Looking across to the town of Brucoli

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Nestling amongst the fishing boats

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Wild orchids growing on a common along the coast

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