Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sicily: Opening Hours

It's another country. That is what you must remember. Whenever you think you've got it sorted out,  new exception arises. Take the local Sisa - the grocery store. It is generally open from 8:30 until 1pm, then closes until 4pm and remains open until 8pm. But not on Wednesdays. On Wednesday it is only open in the morning. Or, how about the tobacconist, which has been reliably open every time I stop by. Nope. Closed on Sunday. All day. Sigh.  Last Sunday... was it closed you ask?  No it was not.

Remember... do not get frustrated... it is just not possible that day or at that particular time of day.  A RULE OF THUMB... very little is open from 1300hrs to 1500hrs.  The Sicilians are at home working or going for a bike ride or cooking or cleaning... or, they just went to the beach for the day if it is a hot day.  There no point getting worked up about it... just accept that it is not possible right now and move on.  LEARN SOME FRIGGIN PATIENCE!!!

I must admit to getting a little frustrated with Italians while Christopher was gone.  This may have built to a bit of a stress crescendo when he did not come back as quickly as expected.  Christopher brought back a bit of a chest cold from his time on the germ tube... Now I have a brutal chest cold... have pity for me gentle readers...

Nappitude with cocoon


Christopher is still in Belgium as I write. He reports he's been 'adopted' by a lovely Belgian couple who were on their way to Palermo as well. They are planning to travel together tomorrow to a different airport, perhaps Antwerp? Amsterdam? At any rate, all's well. There are good people every where.

Christopher's Savior's Anne and Walter Hens from Belgium
It seems as though because of these wonderful people... Belgium has made it to our list of places we should travel to... maybe by train this time ;-)

1.5 extra days of travel and Christopher made it back to Sicilia thanks to the generosity of others... he is exhausted and getting sick (of course)... but we imagine that colds, even chest colds are easier to take under the sun, looking out at our beautiful view.

Embuggeration in Brussels

So, at around 9:15am the entire electrical grid of Belgium was disrupted. You, gentle readers, are asking why we should care? Well, Christopher's flight to Palermo from Brussels didn't get off the ground. As a general rule, we both try to see these things as opportunity rather than disaster. Its not as if he were fleeing Syria. He's in a safe place with the chance to see the town. Sadly, this does mean he won't be home today, which also means we won't be able to make our appointment with the Questura tomorrow for his 'permission to sojourn'. Plus, I just miss him. In an odd way, I wish I was there with him. We are much better dealing with these sorts of set-backs together.

Christopher tells me that the lines for getting your flights charged are interminable, and apparently because it was a national issue with electricity the airlines are taking no responsibility for getting passengers to their destinations... On the up side, their French is very good!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sicily Food: Culinary Quirks

Now I have no doubt loyal readers, that you will find this insane, but I'm craving Mexican cuisine, or maybe a nice scrimp curry, or Sichuan beans?

It is a quirk of nature as far as I am concerned that in Mexico one cannot purchase a lemon for love nor money. Here in Sicily limes are just as scarce. I know that I should embrace this, indicative as it is of the local nature of food and the rejection of globalization... but my GOD! What I wouldn't give for a few good limes to make a mojito... thinking about it, I guess that is a sign of the hegemony of global food. I crave a drink made from lime juice, mint and rum, (Carribean in origin due to the low cost of sugar/molasses due to the slave trade) but made famous by Hemingway, or perhaps James Bond, depending on your perspective.

Let me instead embrace the Sicilian equivalent, when I find it it will undoubtedly include lemons, probably grappa made from left over crushed wine grapes and mint... Note to self, acquire some grappa...

P.S. I've just finished listening to a book on tape called "A History of the World in 6 Glasses" by Tom Standage which covers the Caribbean rum trade very well. If I tell you I just recently finished listening to "Consider the Fork" by Bee Wilson you may sense a trend. Never fear, a few Andrea Camilleri murder mysteries were interspersed too. Next up? "The Second World War" by Sir Winston Churchill - it was on sale, at Audible and English language books are impossible to find here so I'm not in favour of brevity...

Sicily: Our House

Here's a photo from a while back of our house, so you can see it in the context of the landscape.
And here's 'the girls', the neighbour's guard dogs. They HATE the horses. There's one horse in particular, Mr. One Sock I call him, who shares their emnity and curls his lip each time he passes as if to say; "you come out here and see how much breath you have left to bark after I crush you under my hooves".

Sicily: Slow Farming

I've seen this fellow a number of times chugging along. I always have plenty of time to grab my camera because his 'tractor' has a top speed, whether uphill or down, of around 2km/hr.

Sicily: Palermo Part II, Marketo dei Pulci

After we finished at the palazzo, we wandered off in search of coffee and stumbled on an area of antiques shops and a street of stalls with the same. We entered from the back side of the market, so it wasn't until we were at the other end that I saw the sign;

Then, when I told Sheila that we were in the marketo dei Pulci, she said; 'that can't be, pulci are fleas!' The funniest parts I didn't catch on camera because I was laughing so hard, this fellow who has a stall in the merkato dei pulci explained how all the little trinkets were like fleas. An almost direct translation of the North American 'flea market'.

Some of the objects were really something. Lots of old venetian glass, pottery, antique tiles, photos, paintings, furniture, china, the works! By the way, each of the antique tiles cost 10 Euros, imagine how much a floor would cost?
Some of the venetian light fixtures. Other stores were littered with them, but none were lit up, so these photographed well...

Some of the "fleas".

A tile painting of a lovely Italian piazza - I'd almost say that it is some where in Palermo or Ragusa...

A tile centre piece that caught my attention for the characters including a woman warrior?

Some of the tiles in this one shop.
The flea market alley, just around the corner from Palazzo Normanni, just off Corso Alberto I think. If you go, go in the morning, the vendors pack everything into ramshackle sheds at around 12:30.

I thought this bike might be a nice acquisition...

More tiles in an art deco/Italian Liberty style.

Something to do with the pieces when your venetian light shatters... put the floral parts in a vase!
The Marketo dei Pulci is a lot of fun to just wander around. While a number of tour buses drove through, none stopped. It seems to be an attraction best seen in person so you can touch and feel and dive into the backs of the shacks.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sicily: Palermo Part 1 Palazzo dei Normanni (Sicily's Parliament) and Cappella Palatina

When Christopher and I travelled to Palermo the first time for the Questura, we took the train to Piazza Indipendenza and so discovered how close that station is to Palazzo dei Normanni. I prevailed on Sheila, my new friend, to go for a girls' day out and we took the train to Palermo to see the sights. We were slightly astounded by the lineups, but a kind Italian American told us that it was moving quickly, which it was. Nevertheless, here's the lineup to see the Capella Palatina - an 1130 church inside the Palazzo;

So, rather than stand in the big crush, we went to the next floor up, to check out the parliamentary seating arrangements. Yes, this stunning historic building, one of the most visited sights in Palermo, is their regional parliament. The House itself was suitably majestic, but the meeting rooms were something else! I'm particularly found of the 'red room' which has walls covered in crimson red silk damask.
The Yellow Room - one of the Parliamentary meeting rooms. 

I snuck this photo in the parliamentary meeting room of the set of doors which open just under Hercules' ass... I'm certain there is a rude name for this exit...

The Red Room, another Parliamentary Meeting Room
The Parliamentarians have their own glorious mosaic rooms, which are under renovation so we only got pocket views.

At this point I decided I needed a pee break... which was a horrible ordeal. In this enormous building there are no bathrooms. You have to leave through the ticket controlled exit, then queue for another ticket and wait in line to enter again. There are no photos of this insane process. On the other hand it was worth it to go back in for the chapel. I don't think the photos really give you any idea of the feeling of being inside .... the mosaics are like paintings, multi-dimensional and engaging. Sheila couldn't believe they were mosaic. It's the glitter that got me, all that gold! Apparently at the time the decoration was applied in 1140 the floors which are all inlaid were worth as much as all the rest of the decoration put together.

See all the gold?

I don't recognize all the characters, many are old testament. 

This fellow is Absalom... 

Can you imaging all the labour? All the glass? The Gold?
The interior of this chapel is famous for the image of christ in the dome - properly called the apse I think... He looks majestic;

Friday, May 22, 2015

Washrooms of the world: Dolce Vita Lounge Bar, Balestrate, Sicily

Now that I have the Mac and the photo chip talking I can add this nice toilet! It is one of the many reasons I keep going back to the dolce vita coffee bar. Not only is it nice and clean, it reliably has toilet paper and it is equipped for people with disabilities - almost never seen in Sicily. I'm not sure how a person in a wheel chair would get up the 2 steps into the bar...

Sicily: Dog's Day Out

Lucky Isla got two walks today. I wanted to mail some more post cards and it was a lovely evening, so we headed into town.
This random looking red box is the official post box. Yikes. You did get your postcard right?

Isla wonders if maybe she could join me on the comfy couch?


My go to cafe in Balestrate. 

We walked back home through the forest. There's a little creek crossing on the way. Isla is a bit freaked out by the croaking of the frogs...

This lovely stone avenue leads into the forest picnic area. 

Sicily Food: Antiche Scale, Castellemare Del Gulfo

Last week, before Christopher left, we had a lovely meal at this excellent restaurant. Christopher has the photos on his camera, or I'd share them with you. We had a rocky start, walking out of another restaurant after being ignored for half an hour. Then, Christopher had the idea to ask our favourite butcher where he would recommend. He was bang on. He asked us if we wanted fish, which we did. He then flagged down a passerby and asked her to take us to the restaurant, and we are so glad he did. We'd never have found it because it is draped in scaffolding and behind some barriers erected because the commune is pedestrianizing the road beside the restaurant.

Their speciality is fish, any way you want it. The chef is a woman, and fabulous at her job. For starters we had baby squid (tiny little neonates that I'm sure will send me to hell for devouring), a light fish in an orange reduction. Then Christopher had the best nero sepia pasta either of us has ever tasted and I had a delicious fish grilled. I finished with a lovely marsala. If you are near, go; Corso B. Mattarella, just on some stairs to the port, beside a park and across the street from the Castellemare Commune (City Hall).

Sicily: Balestrate Beach

I realize looking back over our posts, that as much as we enjoy the beach, we've posted no photos of it. That is probably because we are living in the moment, not thinking for the future! Today, I decided would be the day to photograph the beach. It was just the way I like it, deserted. Isla and I only had to share that 10km of sand with a handful of other people. Perfect!

The beach today from our deck.

 Isla loves going to the beach because it means she gets to fetch her frisbee lots and there is always swimming. Today, the waves were really big, almost surf, so there wasn't as much swimming as she likes. Here she is sitting at the bottom of our street, just as it hits the Beach. Incidentally, the street continues as a sort of sandy track and connects a number of beach homes.
 I'm certain I've mentioned the horse stables near us, the horses are regularly exercised by daily trots to and along the beach pulling a sulky. A sulky being a 2 wheeled open buggy.
 Isla surfing to get her frisbee. I did mis-calculate a few times when my throws went wild (due to wind) and she had some big surf to contend with.
 This is Alcamo Marina. These homes are right on the beach. The are largely deserted still, although we understand they come alive in July and August when every Italian wants to be on the beach.
 This was the beach today. Isn't it lovely?
I found a number of these on the beach - they look like hairballs from the sea...