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!




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


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…..



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


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.


Our first impressions of Scicli … 


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


Coffee stop …


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


Just beautiful and restful



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



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 😦






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.



Etna dirt


Honest … it has stopped erupting!


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


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


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.


Drink in town and both on their phones!


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