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 😦

 

 

 

 

 

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.