Monday, April 30, 2012

Lingua, Salina - A Cannata

We happened upon this place bc Chris needed to email for work. It smells fabulous! I have high hopes bc it has a slow food reccomendation.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cape Faro Lunch

Due to unexpected switchbacks we have ended up eating lunh at a surreal Italian resort. Little did I realize what we were in for when we took this turn. Hotel California any one?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Salina, the Sweet Life

No sooner did we arrive at this lovely island, than our camera quit on us. So, not only can't I show you how lovely this part of the world is, I don't have an internet connection often enough to describe it to you either. Our little apartment is exactly as pictured and includes 2 terraces and a 180 degree view of the ocean including the islands of Lipari, Stromboli, and Panarea. We keep hoping that Stromboli will pitch a fit and erupt one of the evenings we are here. We are able to see it fulminating, along with it's companion volcano on the mainland, Etna.

So far the food had been fabulous. Both what we've eaten out and what we've hunted, gathered and cooked ourselves. As you may imagine, breakfast on the terrace is a daily highlight. Our first evening here we watched the sun set colour Lipari from our terrace, and then headed to one of the acclaimed restaurants in the tiny town where we are staying (Lingua). We have had fabulous little bony fish, raw 'sea fruits' of various types and forms, lots of fresh lemons, espresso and some sadly mediocre bread (the only slightly sour note on the food front).

Tomorrow we hope to bicyle around the mountain seperating us from the rest of the island. Today we tried to climb it, and were soundly defeated by thorns, reptiles and brambles. Also, after returning to the road the second time we decided that it is really an all day climb, not something to be knocked off in an afternoon. If I could send you a photo, you'd understand...

Our little town is so quiet that at night you can hear everything. The best part of that quiet nature was the first night when we watched a copule fishermen dragging in their nets and listend to them laughing about the time they were having. The worst part is that the neighbour's dog is very bothered by my laughter - every time I burst out laughing that dog starts barking. and barking. and barking.

It's unliely that we'll be posting again before we hit Rome, but don't worry about us, we're having a wonderful time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Palermo Reprise

This is our second visit to Palermo, Sicily and we must admit to having developed a soft spot for this place. On our prior visit it compared badly to Rome and suffered from it's first impression being after a night on the train. This time we arrived in relaxed, luxurious style with the Grand Navi Veloci ferry from Genoa. Let me tell you, this port compares very favourably to Genoa. We arrived and disembarked very smoothly and were able to find our hotel without trouble thanks to it's large neon sign. Don't let the neon fool you, this is a classy joint, with Murano glass chandeliers throughout.

We ate a very tasty meal at Vino and Pomodoro "ristaurante, pizzeria, wine bar". The closing apperitivo was an almond flavoured liquor that we were so taken with we asked where we could buy it. Ah, let me see said our multi lingual waiter. The reply? Only here at the restaurant for Euro 25. We succumbed and the pre-used, and re-corked, Kientzler wine bottle was presented to us with the bill.

After our meal we felt in need of a walk. During our prior visit to Palermo, we felt rather inhibited when it came to evening walks. This time, we were part of a throng of people out walking. As it turned out, some of them were walking with a purpose as we discovered once we heard live music. In front of the Palermo opera house (just finishing a run of Don Quixote) was a stage and the live band was playing salsa! We danced a little, Chris danced more, most impressed with him self for remembering the steps. Who would think we'd dance salsa in Palermo, Sicily and not in Colombia?

Ferry to Palermo with Grand Navi Veloci

I was very pleased that the bicycles were no problem at all - they even gave us some priority for boarding and there's a special spot reserved for bikes with restraining straps and everything. We've got a room with a bathroom (thank-you Direct Ferries) and manged to get some sleep last night despite the huge seas. Chris has been holding up for well, although I notice there are not that many people in the dining room for lunch...

This is the most luxurious 'ferry' I've ever been on. It has a piano bar, casino, restaurants and marble floors throughout. It is quite a contrast to the extremely skeezy location it departs from.

Levanto to Iqubal Masih - Genoa's Port

We arrived by train from Monterosso into Levanto with plenty of time to hunt out some snacks for the journey to Genoa. We were given good advice by the Trenitalia folks and were able to take a train with space for bikes. It was also populated by some rather unsavory smelly characters. Upon our arrival in Genoa we followed the Uscita (exit) and were surprised to find ourselves on a busy street without a taxi cab in sight. A kind fellow directed us to the cab rank around the corner at what was the 'front' entrance to the station. As we were folding our bikes in preparation to put them in the cab the driver told us it was only 1km to the ferry terminal, easy, only 5 lights. He was right in one way. For Italy it was reasonably straight forward. I was really glad that it was not rush hour. We arrived safely at the shopping mall which houses the offices for 3 major ferry lines. I succeeded in getting our tickets very easily and was very happy to hear that we could board straight away and that the bicycles would be no problem. Only partially true. We had an hour and a half wait. We could wait in the very creepy mall with shuttered businesses, durty floors and sketchy characters; or we could wait in the upper parking lot in the cold and wind; or we could go to the Italian Chinese restaurant. Which would you pick? We did too. The food was really tasty, the wine was cheep and we were happy to be out of the wind and feeling safe.

Levanto to Monterosso and Back Again

After a late start and discussion about whether to continue with the itinerary or pack it all in, we decided to go on with it. We ate lunch at a lovley little 'tipico' place in Levanto and wandered to the trail head for the hike to Monterosso. We left our bikes and bags locked together at the train station except for Christopher's computer which he elected to carry for the training benefit.

The walk was lovely and well worth the time and effort. Especially the end as we arrived in Monterosso and cold see the 5 little towns of the Cinque Terre lined up along the ocean. The hike took 2 hours of steady walking. The train back? 3.60 for two and only 4 minutes.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Venice In Review

There were lovely parts, but they can be enjoyed quite nicely without subjecting yourself to accomodation in the heart of the action. I'd advise anyone planning to go to Venice to stay on one of the other islands like Murano or Pellestrina and just take the vaporetto into town. Our hotel had wonderful staff, but was very hard to find down a tiny little alley, which was less than an umbrella wide. The photo is late evening after all the cruise ship passengers had gone home and on the day of a national train strike.
The Grand Canal was very grand and one of my favourite things was to ride the vaporetto around and just look at the scenery.

The romance just wasn't there for me I'm afraid.

Travel Day to Levanto

I should not expect miracles, but I do expect more from 1st class on a train in a country which is allegedly a party to the EU. The bloody toilet was simply a hole onto the tracks! There was no where for luggage larger than a purse, and, despite giving themselves the day off with a national strike on Sunday, the Trenitalia workers on the Freccabianca were little better than useless. We were not the only folks astounded by the lack of accommodation for luggage. Part of the problem loading the train was the bottle neck caused by broken doors and dismayed passengers. The train doesn't even arrive until 10 minutes before it's departure, because, according to the conductor I asked that is plenty of time.

Somehow I thought we'd arrive in Levanto with enough time and energy to do a hike to Monterosso. Not so. The whole train journey has exhausted us and the weather remains cold and rainy. Having finally arrived here we are considering packing in the rest of the journeying and simply staying here. We will let you all know.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Venice Murano Food - Trattoria Al Frati

For our lunch today we happened across the Trattoria Al Frati. If you are in Venice take the 4.2 to Murano, get off at the Venier stop and turn right. Walk with the canal on your right about 50 meters to this amazing place. The food was absolutely to die for. Fantastic start to stop. The owner worked the kitchen, the wait staff ran the food and wine to their hungry, thirsty customers.
 We both started with 'frutti de mari', which turned out to be little clams in some amazing broth.
 Then I had tagliatelle (flat pasta) with scampi that just knocked my socks off. Chris had spaghetti with scallops that was equally good.

This place is a local favourite too - an entire soccer team came for lunch in the back room, with all their wives, children etc.

Venice - Murano Glass

Today we decided to get away from the crowds of San Marco and headed to Murano. We had a few false starts and saw many more parts of the Venetian public transit system than we'd intended. My original desire was to have a Murano glass paper weight. Then I discovered that the Chinese make them cheaper, so they don't make them in Murano any more. My desires were transferred to the acquisition of a chandelier. Luckily I had some common sense and managed to walk away from numerous spectacular chandeliers.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Venice Some More

I think the romance of Venice is lost on me amongst the crowds. I do think it is a lovely city, but my GOD! Could around 2M people please stay home today so I can enjoy it? The canal has been lovely and clean, not smelly as I'd expected. I think the water has been quite high of late because there are laid out all over town board walks which seem to be prepared to keep you above the water. The vaporetto system is fantastic and yesterday we had a fun time just getting on and getting off and seeing where we ended up.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Venice - Basilica San Marco

 The crowds were of all nationalities, with a really United Nations feel.

 I think the photos give you an idea of the dizzying feeling, the utterly overwhelming grandeur of the place.
 I was particularly fond of the mosaics over each of the entrances.
 And of these fellows, of whom there are four, called the Tetrachs who arrived under a cloud from Egypt...

 Can you spot the people?

Venice, San Marco the confusing

We took advice from some folks who'd already been to Venice and elected to just ride the vaporetto around and get lost in and around the town. We most certainly got lost and we rode around on the Venetian equivalent of the aqua bus - the vaporeto. We decided we had two missions to accomplish. Mission 1; the train station, location and baggage deposit. Mission 2; find our hotel. These two missions took most of the day. Along the way we enjoyed the fantastic scenery and endured the insane crowds. San Marco, one of Venice's neighbourhoods, is most certainly not for the claustrophobic - some of the alleys are less than an umbrella wide and jam packed with humanity.

 These fellows are practising for some races held later on in the year.


I am in Venice. I can hardly believe it. At dinner last night we were speaking with the Swedish couple at our table and I asked if they'd ever been to Venice before. They had. 39 years ago, on their honeymoon. A very romantic story I thought. Chris has been very game, going along with all of my schemes.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chioggia to Venice

We had some very enjoyable free time in Chioggia yesterday morning. We were able to do a little shopping at the morning market. Chris finally has an orange wallet, so he will be able to find it. There was even a bike shop in the morning market. We each got a leather belt and I bought an umbrella as insurance against rain. Which seems to have worked for now at least. The little towns on the island of Palestrina were most enjoyable. Many different fishing vessels and little canals.

 And then the rain came. Luckily Chris and I were back on the boat by then and were able to enjoy the rain as it washed in over the industrial area just outside of Venice. Our approach to Venice by boat was lovely, although the rain did dampen my enthusiasm for photography.

Going Postal

While we were in Chioggia, we stumbled upon the post office. We entered through a high security gate, which was our first problem. Two persons at a time, no more. A random Italian gal manged to get in with us before the door closed and we got the stink eye from the post mistress. After we had that sorted, there were five lines to choose from. I chose the correct line, or they just took pity on the obvious tourist and asked me what I needed. By this time I'd decided I'd buy 20 stamps so that I'd have enough to send a few post cards. Not possible. 'no stamps for Canada today', 'come back tomorrow'. We returned at 8:45, gained entry and again asked for international stamps for Canada. Again, none. BUT this time the suggestion was made that I could put two stamps on each post card to make up the amount. I left the post office with enough stamps for 20 post cards and did the fist pump happy dance. I even made up a little song about it...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Albarella to Chioggia

Today Christopher cycled with me for part of the journey and saw some of the loveliest scenery on the route. There were flamingos, cormorants, and some other zebra striped lovelies. Chris headed back to the boat after 6k and I carried on solo. It was lovely cycling weather, with some slightly challenging route finding. We are in the Po River delta with many canals.

 There were fields and fields of vegetables, mostly lettuce, but also carrots, potatoes, fava beans and others.
 Chioggia is a city of canals much like Venice.

 Chris also got his regular holiday hair cut. And doesn't it look good?
 We also sought out a net needle for Chris' honourary gramma May who fishes salmon in the Yukon River with nets. We had found one in Nova Scotia a couple years ago, but her house burned down this winter. No one was hurt, but she lost everything. The only net needle we found was a bit big...