But for now, we delight in the setting of the sun—buonanotte
PEOPLE DON’T TAKE TRIPS, TRIPS TAKE PEOPLE ~ JOHN STEINBECK
Travel adventures are just that—adventures. Some are educational, some whimsical, some disappointing, some grueling and some exceptional. With travel there’s always this business with transportation—being shuttled to and from the place you really want to be.
After our wonderful stay in London, we flew out of Heathrow on Aer Lingus to Shannon Airport in Ireland. It’s the first time we’ve ever had to weigh, ticket and heave-ho our luggage on the conveyor belt to get it checked in. But other than that unusual experience, the flight from London to Shannon was uneventful. We had an amazing two week stay with our friends, Connie and Mike.
We had also booked Aer Lingus for our flight from Dublin to Catania. Once again we weighed, ticketed and heaved-ho our luggage onto the conveyor belt. We are no longer young and this exercise is strenuous. I couldn’t help thinking that in a few more years we wouldn’t be able to physically do this—than what? I’m guessing this is the direction automation is taking us but so far Aer Lingus is the only airline that’s embraced it (as far as we know).
It wasn’t genius that made us decide to eat lunch at the airport. We were simply hungry. The food was enjoyable and we had time to relax before our flight. We also purchased bottled water and added a couple of snack bars. The flight to Catania is long (close to 4 hours plus there’s a one hour time change). Our expectation was we’d be served dinner on the flight since our arrival in Sicily was scheduled for 10 pm.
A chilly wind was blowing with a drizzle as we braved the elements to walk across the tarmac to the steps of the plane—no covered walkway. The boarding process was long slow process as people dragged carryons up steps in wind and rain. After the aircraft door was secured, we waited on the tarmac. There were no announcements from the cockpit or the flight attendants. Ray and I buried our head in our books, but people around us were restless. Several needed to use the bathroom. That’s when we discovered we had two prison wardens posing as flight attendants. People were turned away and herded back to their seats. One in particular pleaded with desperation, but he was ignored and finally shushed like a kindergarten child.
Forty-five minutes later, we finally took off. Passengers raced for the bathroom but were once again told to remain in their seats. One man was in tears begging the very large, non-smiling warden. His agony was visible. But she ignored him.
It was easy to see a quarrel was brewing—which added to the already intense discomfort of three seats abreast crammed together on each side and every single seat full. To intensity the situation, the wardens pulled two carts into the aisle. Everything had a price—you couldn’t even get tap water for free. The two large wardens stomped up and down the aisle with carts, trapping the already miserable passengers in the small seats.
Ray and I had aisle seats across from each other as we’ve learned over the years you have a few more inches of space. We kept our heads submerged in our books, ate our snack bars, drank our water, and focused on warmer climes waiting for us in Sicily.
Since the flight arrived in Catania late at night, we booked a hotel room and will pick up the rental car tomorrow morning. None of the airport hotels had shuttles which left us with a transportation dilemma until our lovely friend from Catania came to the rescue. Every taxi company I Googled charged in the neighborhood of 87 euros to drive 5 kms to the hotel.
Manuel, our beautiful friend from Catania (now living in Columbia) came to the rescue. She called one of the taxi companies and discovered that there are legitimate and illegitimate taxis. She gave me the Italian words to use when hiring a taxi, “Tariffa fissa, venti euro, vero?”
This translates roughly into “fixed rate of twenty euros, true?” This Italian phrase was muttered under my breath over and over as our flight sloughed its way to Sicily. And it worked, the first taxi driver agreed to the 20 euros and deposited us at the Romano Palace Hotel on via Kennedy in a few minutes. The desk agent was welcoming and the bellhop whisked our luggage away. At 11:30 pm we were sitting on the terrace outside our room, a glass of magnificent Sicilian red wine and warm breezes wrapping around our exhausted bodies.
We’ve been in Sicily for a week. The laundry is done. The slow walks and long naps have restored us. Here is Villa Chiara. It’s the same villa we stayed in last year. We are grateful to be here again.
The terrace with a view of the ocean
A living room with a view
Our favorite room – la cucina and this one is spectacular
A place filled with flowers and sunshine and warm breezes
Olive trees in the yard waiting to be harvested
This is the view from the upstairs room where I write
Each morning I’m up early, anticipating another spectacular dawn
We are once again making our daily visits to Caffe’ delle Rose for cappuccino, granita and brioche. The servers and the owner recognized us with a warm welcome. I’ve learned how to order mignon’s which are tiny cream puffs stuffed with all sorts of good things—this one is chocolate—and is easier on the waist line than the brioche and/or cornetto
Our first night required a visit to our favorite pizzeria (The Pantheon) where we were also recognized and where two pizzas cost 10 euros—now that’s a deal and they are made in front of our eyes and pulled blistering from the wood-burning oven
We had lunch at our favorite beach side restaurant (Lido Azzurro 1953 da Serafino Beach Club). The manager recognized us and welcomed us back.
Ray had his favorite pasta alla vongole (no photo) and I had this scrumptious seafood salad.
A couple of days later we ate there again with a fresh from the sea platter of raw and cooked seafood—sea urchins, caviar, oysters, raw tuna, squid, octopus, sardines and cuttle fish
For dessert, Ray ordered cannoli with pistachio stuffing and pistachio ice cream. The best cannoli we’ve ever had was in Taormina but this was every bit as good
And for me tiramisu — WOW — I was not expecting this ball of chocolate
Wait for it—the surprise—oh my, it was the best tiramisu ever—crunchy cake in the bottom, ricotta cream, coffee gelato—all surrounded with the chocolate circle—guess how many times I’m going to order this?
We’ve been to the grocery store and the market and our pantry is full. Most evening we prepare our meals and sit on the terrace with Padre Pio candles (the only candles we could find) and enjoy our dinner and wine, as we lazily watching the night descend in peace and solitude.
Fennel, tomato and onion salad
Veal Parmesan and pasta with spicy Arrabbiata sauce
Grateful, grateful joy
Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively, unless you can choose a challenge instead of a competence.” — Eleanor Roosevelt