231 – 233: Noto Nocturnes

 231 – Monday 7th December 2015:  A Noto Ordination

Text by James … who will K find next to do the write up?

The morning run started a bit late but we reached Acicastello – I did a bit of speedwork along the Promenade – I am quite determined to race in the next month….

Adieu to Aci Trezza and we journeyed south on the A18 motorway – heading back to Noto. On our previous visit with our guest writer Kerstin, we had met a German lady who lived part time in the area. She told us that 2 new priests would be ordained on Monday night and on Tuesday there would be a large procession and lots of celebrations – this seemed an excellent reason to return – not just to see the wonderful Baroque buildings and churches.

Driving smoothly down the A18 motorway – K at the helm – just approaching the turn off for Syracusa – there was an almighty bang beside us – a shower of wreckage and bits in the air – a car had a high speed impact against the central reservation fence of the opposite carriageway ! We stopped on the hard shoulder and k phoned the Police – a number of other drivers must have done so – the Polizia arrived quite quickly.  The accident car looked completely wrecked – we just hoped the occupants survived….  Our van suffered some scrapes and a small hole in the bonnet from flying shrapnel – if it had hit our windscreen – it would have shattered !  Nothing compared to the possible injuries to the accident victims….  We have come to learn that the driving culture in Sicily is inherently unsafe – because we are 28’ long and a large vehicle travelling slowly, we probably have some advantages (unless it’s a mountain town !).

The free overnight parking area (photo below) looked good and just on the fringe of the old/rebuilt post-1693 earthquake city.  To get to the heart of Noto – there were steps to climb – not too many thankfully and just 10 minutes from the Citta di Noto.  Recce’d (what horrible English, James – just as well it’s not your first language !) and retired to Chardonnay to get suited and booted for the ordinations at 5:30 pm.   Now then – the last such event I attended was 30+ years ago – but I recall it was just like a wedding – invited guests only. However, we already knew members of the public were ok to attend in Noto.  We arrived at the Cathedral at 5:15 (plenty of time, we thought) – to find it was already filled to capacity (standing room only) – a thousand folk ?  Eventually, we sat on the step of a side altar – which had quite a good view. 5:45-ish, the grand occasion kicked off – a hundred priests (!) processed through the Cathedral – K reckoned all the priests of Sicily were there.  The Bishop of Noto delivered a homily – it was theatrical – my Italian/Latin is good enough to identify much use of “pecatta mundi” – the sins of the world.  As a Catholic (not a regular churchgoer), I have had my fill of fire and brimstone in the 60’s.  But, the bishop calmed down and the celebration continued with lovely choir singing – and finally Giovanni and Paolo became ordained priests – to rapturous applause from the huge congregation !  After 2 and a half hours, we slipped away – a lovely warm family occasion – a first for K.  

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View to Acicastello on our morning run

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View back to the Cyclopi Rocks at Aci Trezza

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We took this going back up the motorway on Wednesday: you can see with what force the car hit the barrier, and the barriers here are seriously strong – they need to be.  Less than 1 km further up the road we saw a newly overturned car on the opposite carriageway.

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Bishop’s looong sermon: it sounded full of brimstone and fire

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232 – Tuesday 8th December 2015:  Feast of the Immaculate Conception

We were awoken by 8 thunderous artillery rounds at 8:00 am – K was convinced that Mt Etna was erupting on our parking area – and she complains about my geographical prowess ! No signs of lava in the photo though…..

I had forgotten that 8th December is the feast of the Immaculate Conception – a most important occasion in the Catholic Church. K’s photos show the completely novel (to us) way of placing the floral garland on the statue of the Virgin – at midday outside the Church of St Francis of Assisi.  I even remembered the Latin words of the Angelus hymn – Amelia – can you sing it please ?  

The main procession was scheduled for 5:30 pm and we managed a quick glass of wine at Paolo’s cafe near the Cathedral…. Paolo knew every man, woman and child who passed by en route to the procession… He also serves a good Marsala, K assures me…..

The photos excellently capture the spirit of the procession – it took 40 strong men in relays to carry the statue of the Virgin around town – including one uphill section !

Yet another warm family event – all ages out on the streets. We probably celebrated these feasts in Ireland in a similar fashion 50+ years ago – clearly, Italy has maintained traditions that go back many centuries…  It definitely gets the whole community involved – not a bad thing ?

Paolo’s cafe seemed to draw us in again – was that Marsala K ? (K: yes another two glasses and they were not sherry schooner sized!!!)

A lovely day – one of those magic moments that we are lucky enough to find.  Will K become a convert – and drag me off to church every Sunday ?  I don’t have the heart to tell her that altar wine is not Marsala !  

Ciao, amici….

 

 

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View down to our car park – 4 of the Italian vans went off early – up and at ‘em

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Part of a nativity scene that filled a small room in a side street.

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The Bishop emerges with the floral tribute to the Madonna …

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… who hands it over to the fire fighters? ….

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… aah – now I see why.

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Tied carefully in place.  And then a cacophony of canon fire.

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Town officials … sporting white blouson jackets … some were filled by their bellies!

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The band struck up and this cheeky chappie caught my eye.

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Bishop and church dignitaries posing for the press.

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We celebrated with a coffee and J had a Tiramsu (just for you Sylvie – he did not really want it! – forced himself, honest!!!)

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Church of Francis of Assisi ready for the parade of the Madonna

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Clerics and church orders descended from the Mass first …

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The Madonna carried by a lot of burly priests and accompanied not by canon fire, but fireworks and showers of paper contain the words ‘W Madonna’ 

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People and the band followed through the streets of Noto

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Many watched on their balconies … this lady dressed to match her poinsettia plants.

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We peeled off and returned to the bar, and about an hour later the nuns arrived, heading the procession

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Once the Madonna was safely back at the church, there was a superb firework display

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233 – Wednesday 9th December 2015:  Abortive Dentist and Motorway to Palermo

Minor dental treatment is required – not to sew up the outlet for the hot air – but a filling of sorts.  I visited a dental clinic in Noto but failed to get an appointment – K photo blogged while I pounded the cobbles and steps…..

Palermo beckons – for the second time – A18 again northbound this time. We passed the scene of the bad accident – the photo above speaks for itself. Later, a car on it’s roof on the carriageway – these motorways are not busy – what is it ? Speed seems to be the problem everywhere…..  Rush hour in the streets of Palermo en route to our overnight stay – the van fuel gauge suddenly indicated empty – somewhat adding to my driving stress levels….  a quick fuel fill and onwards.  K navigating by Google maps (Brad sidelined) – I managed to overshoot the gate of the parking area – K had to guide me reversing (the van, not K reversing) in the dark and rain and traffic, successfully…..

Buone notte, readers……

 

Postscript:  Well done Maddy

Well done to my Munchkin:

a) massive hair chop and donated it to Little Princess Trust

b) all selected Universities have offered her a place … she just needs to do enough work to get into the one she really wants … Kent Uni.

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229-230: Eruptions and an Almost Satisfied German!!!

229 – Saturday 5th December 2015:

Guest writer, by popular request!:

Today is E-Day, Katherine came up with a place that is (in her opinion) far enough from Etna but close enough for her not to be struck of my x-mas card list  But before setting off from the campsite, the two went running. I got such a bad conscience that I went swimming instead (well actually I love swimming). The water was probably as warm as our showers in the campsite. I also had a male guest watcher whose best part got very excited seeing me on the beach fully dressed… 

We arrived at the very idilic harbour of Taormina to park the van. By public transport we went up to this hilltop town (I am not sure why the two always complain about the small roads, the bus driver charged up the roads as it was the motorway). Katherine guided us through the town like a local (pointing out restaurants that they already visited). Arriving at the wonderful gardens we were greeted by Mount Etna spitting lots of smoke. Fantastic sight. James took some really good photos as you can see for yourself. On our way to the town centre we struck gold. We saw the Etna light show! Amazing how much we could see and how high Etna could spit out the lava. But Etna lost the battle to wine. Two of my companions who again cannot be named due to confidentiality reasons left the light show before the end! Can you imagine this. The biggest happening in Sicily that night and they wonder off for some drinks.

We got the last bus back into town and had a good night (at least I had one because Katherine lost big time playing cribb against me, they might claim it is beginners luck, but I know better) 

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Open air showers amongst the lemon trees – shame they were near cold!

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Our overnight pitch 

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Taormina – Part of the Roman cistern.

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Taormina is full of small street up and down off the main drag.

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Whilst it was still daylight we wandered into the Park let to the town by Forence Trevelyn

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The weird and wonderful structures are called ‘beehives’.

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From the balcony of the gardens we could see the smoke plumes from Etna.

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As the sun was setting, the clouds cleared and it got a bit more interesting.

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We just made it out of the park before we got locked in and walked through the town

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From the large balcony, Etna started putting on a show for us …

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… and it got better and better

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Along the coast to Giardini Naxos, where Chardonnay is parked and Etna, not so very far away!

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Our overnight view: looking up to Taormina from the parking on the harbour wall

230 – Sunday 6th December 2015:

Katherine sold me the blogging as “due to popular demand”. I think she is just so happy to have found a poor sod who does the typing.

Today we got up late and left even later. The weather was not really nice therefore it made no sense pushing Katherine out of bed.

We arrived at the parking lot for the cable car station. I inquired about the fares. They are really taking you to the cleaners, 30 Euros to go up to the middle station and another 32 Euros to go up to the top. But as the weather was nice and Etna was busy smoking I decided that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and went up. Katherine and James could not be persuaded even with bribes to come with me. Once up it was an amazing sight. Etna was busy billowing out smoke. I would also hear the noise of the “explosions”. To some extend it sounded like a steam engine. The trips up to the crater were cancelled and visitors were advised to stay near the middle station. Watching Etna for nearly 2h I knew why. From time to time he jugged out stones, too. I did not see any lava. I very much enjoyed my trip up to see Etna. Katherine was able to secure her position of my x-mas list again. 

Now I have to check my flight details to see whether my flight leaves on time tonight.

To all dear readers thanks for staying with me. Enjoy the blogging.

K’s postscript.  On the evening trip to the airport, Kerstin was delighted to be able to observe Etna erupt again and then we could see a growing red lava flow.  Really amazing.

 

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Previous craters

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Kerstin went above the cloud line

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Kerstin saw a number of eruptions, smoke and spitting of debris.  Sorry, the video clips are not going on the blog … I’d have to upload to YouTube and embed!

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Smoke and steam

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Evidence:  She was most definitely there!

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227-228: Miracles – Etna Erupts, Weeping Ladies and Kerstin Arrives

227 – Thursday 3rd December 2015 – Tyre Fix, Syracuse with Kerstin

James was up and out taking more sunrise shots … don’t tell him, but I have deleted a lot of the Sunsets and Sunrises as they would fill the hard drives!

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IMG 3771 Our parking with water on two sides – may be getting used to the sound of the waves as we sleep.

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The view in the other direction.


One rear tyre had deflated a fair bit after being pumped up only yesterday, so it was imperative we got this fixed.  

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The first tyre place in Augusta attempted to jack our near 4 ton truck up using two 3 ton load bearing jacks much to our slight consternation.  Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, even with the addition of rubber wedges, the jacks would not go high enough so they had to abort.  They told us about another tyre place nearby …. that does trucks.

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Hard to see, but Chard is actually jacked up a) alongside the road and b) blocking in cars.

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Relaxed H&S: a make shift flag that kept falling down to warn motorists of the hazard!

Again it was a roadside repair using a very long compressed air cable.  The problem …. when the tyre had been repaired in Norway, they had not removed the nail.  So Italy 1 – Norway 0.  And at only EUR20 a bargain.

We collected Kerstin from Catania airport.  I did circuits around the airport in Chardonnay whilst J went into the airport to find Kerstin.  Her first question of J, was ‘are we still married?’  As if!!!

We parked up in Syracuse … right by the bridge to Ortygia.

A mystery Guest writer takes over from here!: Guess what, we had to walk around the old town before making our way to the real attractions of Syracuse – the Roman amphitheater. After going up and down the main street three times, (a female person not to be named lost confidence in her map reading and asked helpful Italians for directions!!) we finally made it up the hill! Just before closing time we were able to admire the Roman Amphitheater in the dark. It only meant that we had to come back the next day to see the rest of the archaeological sights. And I am not allowed to say anything about Mount Etna as this is only going to happen tomorrow. 

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Temple of Apollo: early 6BC is the oldest surviving Doric temple in Western Europe

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IMG 3822Duomo: Baroque architecture outside …

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… an wonderfully plain interior main nave.

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More real bones!

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Part of the attraction of the Piazza 

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We’d all like one of these!

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Another sunset … from the bridge between Ortigia and Siracuse

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Into Siracuse – an example of Fascist Architecture

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Poinsettia’s being sold on many street corners.

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Roman Amphitheatre by night

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Our overnight parking.  We got confused on how to pay for the ticket, and ended up getting away with EUR1 instead of 30… not sure how we got away with it, but we did!


228 – Friday 4th December 2015:  up the hill again and your are not to mention Mount Etna 

Now I am allowed to say something about today, Friday 4th December and the eruption of Mount Etna. James and I were fascinated to hear that Mount Etna has erupted. Unfortunately a certain person prefers to stick to her traveling plans (and I thought  campers are flexible) therefore we first picked up our tourist trail from yesterday.

Going up the hill once more we looked at the Greek theatre and the cave of Dioniso. This cave is huge in terms of its hight and I mean huge. The acoustic is great, whispers are transformed to loud echoes. Then we went to the catacombs of San Giovanni. On 10.000 m2 more than 10.000 bodies were buried. As far as I understood the guide, the bones are all gone to dust, that is why the tombs are all empty (in case somebody wonders). We checked on the weeping Madonna but there was no reaction from her seeing James.

Still my wishes for seeing Etna were ignored (this is me coming all the way from Germany and just being ignored)  and we had to walk up to another town – Noto. I was checking out the highest building in Noto but there was not one tall enough to see Etna. 

Tonight I thought I get my chance, because the hostess asked me what I would like to do tomorrow. Before I could mention the E word, she said apart from going to Etna. I think she is only worried that Chardonnay is going to be covered in ash. But would not this be a really good picture for the blog? 

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Greek amphitheatre: end of an aqueduct.

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Greek amphitheatre 5BC: it was more complex than indicated by the ruins here as Emperor Charles V nicked much of the stone to build walls around Ortygia

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The Ear of Dioniso

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The K’s bemused watching an Asian lady mince and tip toe over the bird droppings

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OK, so it took two of us to hold up the rock …

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… and a certain person did with his little pinkie!

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Santurio of Madonna delle Lacrime (Madonna that cried in 1953). The church was erected to house the Madonna. Information on this: http://www.visionsofjesuschrist.com/weeping1.htm

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All these miracles … people no longer needing their back and limb supports.

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The Weeping Madonna – only a small mass produced plaster work.

Sadly no pix of the catacombs, but they were pretty amazing … 

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Noto: also flattened by the 1693 earthquake and rebuilt in Baroque style

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The Duomo: more impressive on the outside than …

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… the inside

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Palazzo Ducezio 1746: with ‘an impressive series of columns’

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Annually flower petals create images that fill the street

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Ornate balconies of the Palazzo Nicolaci Villadorata. The socially aspiring family did rather well out of the earthquake as it killed off 10 of the 19 noble families in Noto, so they became more important and even purchased a number of titles.  They made their money in tuna processing … money in fish – then!

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A bit dark but Kerstin is battering (oops sorry, think I mean bartering!).

222 – 226: R, R ‘n R … Resting, Recovering ‘n Ragusa

222 – Saturday 28th November 2015:  Down the coast to Punta Secca

We ran along the deserted beach road – we may have seen one occupied house.  Truly a ghost town, other than the steadily busy bar/cafe next to us.  Where did the customers come from?  

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Having cleaned our muddy walking boots (the outcome of the wet and wild lake), I was then moved to polish all my shoes…  

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We decided to pootle along the coast and not travel too far, passing acre upon acre of Polytunnels.  

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This is Maps view of the area – the blocks are the polytunnels.

We soon arrived at an Agritourism campsite in Punta Secco next to the sea by late lunchtime.  Juicy, the receptionist … yes really, is a wonderfully buxom young lady (sadly we suspect her name is spelt Guice) was incredibly warm and welcoming …. layering up against the cold and showing us our pitch options.  Since there were only 3 other motorhomes on the site and due to the Italian herd mentality, they could have passed the milk between windows, we had a lot of choice.  We opted for a solitary pitch facing the sea.  Juicy said we could always move if the the wind made us bounce too much!!!!    And with a sliding scale on prices … EUR14 for 1 night, EUR13 for 2 nights and EUR12 for 4 nights, although we only plan to stay one night.

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K blending with a banana tree on the site.

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Another cracking sunset

We had a jobs afternoon:  cleaning, hoovering and washing … clothes and showering us 🙂  Lovely feeling – all clean 🙂 🙂 🙂  The farm owner walked around the site and gave each of us a bag of his new season tomatoes.  Nice ambiance … think we may stay two nights.


223 – Sunday 29th November 2015:  Punta Secco

A run into the town, past the house that was used in the Inspector Montalbano series (not something we had watched, but people were out taking pix of it) and along the short lungomare.  

When we later walked into the town … there really is not much here. And again, being out of season all the holiday home owners are 90% absent.  Even the little supermarket has gone on its annual holiday. We did, somehow, find a bar and imbibe a leisurely glass of wine as we watched the same cars and people drive / walk past the window doing circuits.

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 Inspector Montalbano’s house, which operates as a B&B in the summer.

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Relaxing … and the owner had told us that we could get a bus up to Ragusa tomorrow.  Oh joy … a hill town we don’t have to drive to and cause mayhem and gridlock in … as it happens, we would have been fine as there were several outside town large parkings.  Might stay another night here!

 

224 – Monday 30th November 2015:  Ragusa – both of them

As we popped into the office to check where the bus stop was, we were offered a lift up by the owner, as he had business there.  When driving in Chardonnay we are sedate:  slow and cautious due to our size, the pot holes and land slides on the road, and right hand drive.  We are not used to driving in the middle of the road, at speed and the twitching to tuck in or pull out to overtake.  We had googled that it is illegal to use your mobile phone, but is is evidently not enforced.  J took the front seat and witnessed our driver on his phone, searching for something in his pocket, change gear, and then the hand go back to his pocket …. and he was obviously tempering his driving for us.  However, we arrived safely and were dropped at the bus stop.  He had kindly offered us a return lift, but we thought we might need longer so said we would take the bus.  The scenery changed on the way up from the poly tunnels to undulating fields with dry stone walls – mostly cattle.

Ragusa is one of the cleanest towns we have been in.  We quickly found the TIC and obtained a street map and a walking route.  Firstly the new town – new, but constructed after the 1693 earthquake in the Baroque style.  

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The new cathedral …

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… a fine example of Baroque style … a lot of gold leaf and cherubs, but harmonious.

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The Episcopal Palace … and I want that hat!

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… it just won’t quite come free!

Down 340+ steps to Ragusa Ibla where the original town was created in 3BC.  After the earthquake the residents, mostly the old feudal nobles, refused to move to the new town and rebuilt in situ.  Again, lots of REALLY narrow streets, which are mostly pedestrianised, but every now and again a very small Fiat or moped would zip up and we flattened ourselves against walls…. and had a flash back to our ‘incident’ earlier in the week in the hill town.

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Looking down and across to the ‘old’ town Ragusa Ibla.

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Know which REAL man I want to take home!

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Great quirky statues around a bar … J did not emulate this one for good reasons!

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Old town Duomo, sadly all shut up.

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Lovely sunny day, even though the temperature was 4C lower than on the coast.  We thought a bottle of vino would go down well at lunchtime … but were put off by the stupid tourist prices they would have charged.  Sober, we had our non-alcoholic picnic at the gardens at the end, although we moved to a more public area as some ‘unsavouries’ plonked themselves a little too close.  And this was even after I had pulled out my cook’s knife to open my soup carton.  Not sure if they were more interested in the knife than J’s camera?  

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Not fancying the 340+ steps back up to the new town and then the walk to bus stop, we caught the local bus.  It was only when J tried to pay and was waved on, that I remembered that we should have bought tickets from the tobacconist – having been a little confused as I knew we could buy the Ragusa / Punta Secco tickets on the bus.  This is another reminder of the contradiction that is Sicily:  rules made to broken and not enforced at the unwitting tourist’s expense.  Having enjoyed the free ride, we splashed out on a coffee whist we waited for our bus back to Punta Secco.  Too late to move on, so another night here.

 

225 – Tuesday 1st December 2015:  Christmas Planned

We were very conscious, since we will not be with family, Christmas could be a very damp squib.  I had posted on a couple of Motorhome forums that we could still be in Sicily for Christmas, was anyone around.  Dan had got in touch – he, and about 8-10 other Brits, would be on a site for Christmas … and wait for this … their site was only 3 miles from where we are currently.  A few emails later and after our run, we cycled over.  Really friendly people … we will try to book tomorrow for a week over Christmas.  And thanks Dan for the wind up … we have checked and the 5th gear problem is on old Fiats that had a poorly made 5th gear bolted onto the 4 gears … we have a newer version:  6 gears!  Although we had thought we would go to Modica today, we came back on site for lunch and jobs, such as oiling bike chains, emptying the toilet cassette, laundry and J repaired my foxtrot uncle non-repair (where I made the original problem 1000x worse) on two door handles!  OK, so we made 4 nights and got the 4 night discount 🙂


226 – Wednesday 2nd December 2015:  Shopping and on the Move

Despite best intentions, we overslept and it was 9.38 precisely when we awoke… too late for a run.  After breakfast and packing up we headed over to the Brit’s Campsite and have booked in for a week from the 20th December.  We had been told about a Decathlon sports shop in a retail park outside Ragusa.  Since it was on our route we stopped off and managed to buy a basket of ‘necessary’ items we really could not do with out.  We did manage to walk by the body boards, dinghies and tennis rackets :(.   An iper shop at the Iper-Coop, so we are now fully stocked for Kerstin’s visit, including hearty bread!  Kerstin arrive tomorrow for 4 days …. really looking forward to seeing her.  An easy drive to a light house point just north of Augusta, which included a short detour to prevent us getting wedged under a low bridge.


220 – 221: Mosaics and Mountain Mishaps!

220 – Thursday 26th November 2015:  Brad in the Doghouse – and Chaos in Calascibetta !

We rose late-ish – me (J) first somehow – having sidestepped the idea of running as K was still conversing with the duvet…..  I started to prepare my breakfast which requires great skill – using a scissors to cut open the cereal packet without having to eat it off the floor!   Success reigned – but then K announced that she was going to run – on the running track just behind where we had parked !  Completely flummoxed, I felt obliged to join in and temporarily abandon my cereal…  cereal success having reigned earlier, the skies now rained – and the joint assault on Olympic track records was shelved – Ussain Bolt can rest easy for now !

Having been spoiled in recent times with sunshine and good temperatures, we decided that we do not fancy rain and UK-ish temperatures – how times change indeed…  Decision made to motor down the A-something-or-other – to an Outlet Shopping Centre to while away a few hours.  K managed to avoid buying a Gucci handbag for Euro 2,000 even though it had been reduced from Euro 4,000 !  That would have been our budget for 2016 down the toilet ! But, she is brave when the chips are down…  Lunch at the Centre was coffee, a caneloni bun for K and Tiramisu for moi – you just cannot beat this healthy living – who needs Soya ?

Brad was then programmed to guide us to an overnight parking site in a town called Calascibetta – we gave him the correct coordinates, and off we sailed. Now, we have been into some mountain towns without too much trouble but perhaps we might have seen the danger signals earlier…  For the benefit of our reader, Chardonnay our van is 28’ long, 9’ wide and weighs in at just under 4 tonnes – with frontwheel drive…

We found ourselves in a one-way series of streets which seemed to get narrower – twice we were completely blocked and had to bang on doors to get people to move their cars to let us inch past…  One very nice lady driver asked me “What are you doing here ?”  (in that large van).  I blamed our SatNav, lamely… she said “you shouldn’t come here in that van – especially in the rain” – prophetic words, as it happened…  No escape, we proceeded vey slowly, with a long line of cars building behind us. As we approached a lefthand turning narrow hairpin bend – with a steep uphill climb, we both said something like “Goodness gracious me – this could be a problem”.  It was.  K turned at the appropriate angle and prepared to accelerate gently around the bend. There was no way we could go around in one turn and stopped to get a better angle – on restarting the manoeuvre, the front wheels would only spin on the wet surface time after time !  By now, we were completely at an angle – blocking the entire street and the long line of vehicles behind – with no obvious solution.  Many drivers came up to look, shook their heads and sympathised in Italian.  Nobody appeared to question our sanity in just being there with our monster truck – stuck in a town where the biggest car is a Fiat Panda !  K phoned our emergency vehicle rescue service in UK who gave her another number for overseas rescues.  At that time, we gave little thought to the difficulty any rescue vehicle would have in even reaching us without having to demolish some very nice houses !  We tried using the floor mat to give some grip to the wheels – to no avail. While K was on the phone and with the guidance of two other drivers, I tried a different turn – away from the obviously correct direction – to our huge relief, the van moved to the right without sliding !   It now became an issue of just trying to angle our vehicle sufficiently to free the logjam we had created – after many turns, it worked and the traffic cleared.   Again with huge help from many drivers, we got the van straight again and climbed the slope around the bend.  One lady had waited in her small Fiat and told K she would guide us through the other bends down into the town – what an incredibly kind gesture !  One after the other, we slowly wound our way down – sometimes having to take multiple turns to get around corners. On one such turn, I caught the end of a light van and slightly damaged our back bumper….

Once into the downtown area and wider streets, K thanked our Good Samaritan profusely.  Serious note to selves – Chardonnay will visit no more mountain towns – we will visit by bus, bicycle or good old Shanks Mare !   Mega relief in our van.  Brad had actually tried to take us into some parking area in the town – he does not know our size…. Decision made to purchase a “caravan” SatNav system – Brad may need to take a sabbatical – or be relegated to the substitutes bench.

We found a parking area some miles further on away from Calascibetta – it was closed, unfortunately.  A perfectly acceptable lay-by near to hand became our oasis for the evening…

221 – Friday 27th November 2015: Mosaics but no more mountains!

The team slept – K dreamed of hairpin bends in mountain towns – I dreamed Ireland beat New Zealand 57-0 in the rugby World Cup Final – and I scored three tries ! Liar !  It was only 27-0 !  Brad dreamed of finding another job – being a tour guide in Calascibetta….his CV is somewhat lacking though but his reference from us will sway the Town Council…

Next to our overnight pitch there was an old-fashioned long water trough where the contents were constantly being replenished. The trough contained two goldfish ! I did not have too much wine last night, honestly – I was too busy showcasing my rugby skills…  It became obvious also that our lay-by was a local meeting place – for folk going to work and stopping to talk about all manner of gossip – including some mention of two looney strangers trying to drag an odd vehicle through the streets of Calascibellissimo as it’s now called – by us !  We stayed close to the duvet which did not seem too difficult in the circumstances…

For some time, we had noticed that one of our rear tyres was soft-ish and it needed air – up to 5 Bar – which in old money is probably 5,000 PSI !  K suggested that my almost endless supply of verbal hot air might be sufficient for the task !  My wife is all heart….  Try as I might, I just couldn’t get my lips properly around the tyre valve – even without my false teeth !  Nothing for it but to find a ‘pneumatici riparazioni’  somewhere. The somewhere was Piazza Armorina just off the SSP something-or-other road…

Freshly pumped up – and with my hot air intact – Latin “fartus intacticus majorem”, the Roman Villa Casale was our destination for the afternoon. It is an immensely impressive villa that contains the best collection of Roman mosaics possibly in the world – no exaggeration – K’s photos will show why. Shame they charge for parking and the entrance fee.

Mountain towns behind, the van was pointed towards the south coast – and a Marina for the night.  Now we are here – it is a ghost town (summer villas all closed up) – not a soul in sight – and the wind howling outside – wonderful high seas with lots of white horses. Will we run tomorrow in 25 mph gusts ?

K … the mosaics were truly something else.  The detail on the images was stunning … check out the anatomical details too!  The ladies in bikinis are, in fact, sports women!

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