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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lipari, Aeolian Islands, Sicily

Well our trip over to Lipari on the Aeolian Islands wasn't the best. The ferries hadn't been running all morning because of bad conditions. We got on one of the first ferries heading out and WOW, it was rough!!!!! Poor Reese went like a sheet of paper about 3/4 of the way over and then went clammy and threw up. Thankfully I'd recognized all the impending signs of puke and I'd thrown my north face rain jacket in front of her and she puked all over that. CHARMING. She recovered quickly as soon as we were off the boat though. Lipari is a beautiful island, however I think our opinions were dampened by the poor weather and the fact that we visited in the off season, on a SUNDAY. So hardly anything was open, and we wandered around in the streets which were empty and quite dreary looking with all the businesses closed up!!!! The  hotel we stayed at, Residence Hotel La Giara was lovely, and we if I returned in the summer we would stay there. It had groves of citrus trees in the gardens, and a swimming pool, plus it was very close to the port and the main street with all the shops and restaurants.  There had been a cancellation with the first hotel we booked, they had to close due to some sort of emergency and this hotel was recommended to us. I'm certainly glad it was!!! The trip back to the mainland in the boat wasn't that bad. I think you definitely need more than one night here though. Because we would have liked to have explored Vulcano( the island next to it) which is actually a volcano, and Stomboli which is an active volcano, but we just didn't have time.
ALSO...if you ever decide to go here and have a rental car, you can park it at Garage delle Isole in Milazzo and they pile you into an old car without seatbelts( yeah kind of scary!!!) and drive you to the port and pick you up. It was dirt cheap to do and they had EXCELLENT service!!!!!!!
The streets in Lipari(LEE-pah-ree). I'm sure these islands are awesome in the summer,but they seemed quite  desolate and  depressing in the winter!!!! Lots of the businesses were closed until the "season" started again and the weather was crappy the day we arrived.


Had lots of little alleyways though :)

I adore these steps!!!!!

The cliffs on one side of the island

a peek into the main harbour of Lipari. The ferry comes in and docks just below where I was taking the picture

my artsy shot of a lemon tree in the gardens of the  hotel we stayed in. 

Reese standing among the lemon and orange trees that were EVERYWHERE at the hotel!! It was pretty cool.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cefalu, Sicily

Cefalu was a beautiful little town on the north coast of Sicily about an hour away from Palermo. We stayed at the Hotel Kalura, which was a very nice hotel, but it was a little too far out of the old town for our liking. It was kind of a resort in itself so if you wanted to go and do that kind of thing in the summer I think it would be a nice one to stay at. If I ever returned to Cefalu though I would stay closer to the main beach/town. 

Cefalu is a town that is mentioned in the histories as far back as 307BC. It sits on a rocky part of land jutting out into the sea. It has a beautiful beach just off the old town. 
It has also been named as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy!!!


These were the mountains we could see driving from Palermo to Cefalu on the North Coast of Sicily. 
The towns are so cool!! This one is built up on the ridge going up a mountain. 

This was the view from our balcony at the Hotel Kalura!! So stunning!

The outdoor eating area viewed from our balcony

Looking along the balconies towards the cliffs that had castle ruins on them. 
Reese getting some park time in at the resort

She also decided that she needed to lie in this chair in the sun for a bit. We were uber paranoid though because if you look in the background there isn't much stopping a two year old from throwing herself over the cliff, which is why Richard is holding onto her!!! They move quick at this age!

The cliffs going down the path to the "beach"

Richard and Reese hanging out on the rocks down at the hotel beach

The "beach" There was a rocky beach type area at the far end, but I imagine that the sun loungers are probably set up here and its probably packed in the summer. There is also a very large pool so I suppose you could sit by that too!

The beach in Cefalu, with the old town in the background. 

Reese and Richard drawing with sticks

It was some serious work

She wouldn't put that thing down!!!!

artsy shot, sunset and beach

Here's your alley shot Karen!!! The streets seemed to go up forever!!

Old Roman healing baths

A archway/tunnel leading from the old town streets out to the beach/docks

Richard and Reese in silhouette

I actually have no idea what we're doing in this picture!!!

I just really liked the lighting

And I absolutely ADORE this shot

The Cefalu Duomo- built in 1131 in Norman architecture style. 

The apse is decorated with what is known as a "Pantocrater" which is Christ represented in a very specific way
"It depicts Christ facing forward, looking melancholy/stern and with his right hand raised in blessing. In his left he always is holding a book. Generally against a gold background and in a semi-dome type of area"

I just liked how the cathedral and statue looked against the cliffs

End of the nice weather, this was the next morning when a huge storm had rolled in overnight and there was gale force winds!! Unfortunately that was also the morning we had to take a ferry across to the Aeolian Islands!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Palermo, Sicily

We went and visited Sicily for 10 days. It was fabulous!!!! I can definitely say that I love Sicily. I loved the food, I loved the landscape, I loved the people. I did NOT love the way they drove, the beggers, or the weather for 5 out of the 10 days. The food was absolutely divine. There is something they do to their spaghetti down there that made me want to eat spaghetti over and over for 10 days straight! I'm not sure what the mystery ingredient was but I'm on a mission to find out.  We ate at a place called Klika near our hotel and it was awesome. It was there that we tasted our first Sicilian wine, Nero D'Avola and it was great!

We stayed at the Hotel Garibaldi which was much better than I was expecting. It was close enough that we walked to everything and it was very modern and had funky twists here and there. It also had an AMAZING breakfast that was included in the price of a room. Normally in Italy breakfast is a brioche and a coffee, but this place had eggs and bacon, the normal cereal, yogurt, breads, desserts, it was quite the spread! It also had sitting areas and a small bar and business office. For the price(63 Euros a night in the low season!) this hotel is totally worth it and if I was ever in Palermo I'd stay there again!
We also ate at a place called Spinnato near the hotel, this is where the crazy pigeons and beggars showed up. They send their kids into the tables to beg for money. However since the kids were dressed almost as nice as my own kid I have a hard time believing that they are destitute. They skipped happily away when people told them no, it was heartbreaking. However all I've read told me that the mafia controls a lot of the beggars in Palermo, so by giving them money you're essentially giving it to the mafia. Lovely.
We also ate at a lovely little family run restaurant and I took a card because it was great and I wanted to be able to send other people there, well do you think I can find the card....nope. 
The driving is INSANE. I'm not kidding, you may have read my rants on the northern Italians and their piss poor driving habits. WELL....the Sicilians make the Milanese look like driving miss daisy. They are VERY aggressive drivers in Sicily and they pretty much just ignore all the rules of the road and its a free for all!!!!!! I thought I was going to have a heart attack for the first few days but by the day we came home I didn't even blink an eye when someone overtook us on a blind corner on a tiny mountain road...meh.....they're Sicilian, they'll figure it out :)
I definitely wouldn't miss Monreale if I were in Palermo, the Cathedral is beautiful and the two euros to walk to the top is definitely worth it!!!!!
All in all, if you're the type of person who can't appreciate beauty in urban decay, then Palermo might not be for you. The small streets, the markets, the theatres and cathedrals are beautiful, but you do have to walk past beggars and a bit of squalor to get there!!!!!
Reese looking out the window in out hotel 

Teatro Massimo- The Opera House in Palermo renowned for its wonderful accoustics. It is apparently the biggest Opera house in Italy and the third largest in Europe. 

The market street. It was insane!!! The fish men were yelling back and forth at each other. Then one seller would randomly start yelling prices out. There were people everywhere, fish on ice, amazing looking vegetables. There were even stalls selling all the common cleaning products. You seriously could have gotten everything you needed from this market. It was really fun to walk down!

Some of the fish on sale in the market. 

A fairly accurate example of what the streets in old town Palermo look like. We were walking from the Teatro Massimo, through the market to end up at the Duomo. There were crazy small roads, and laundry hanging from everywhere. Buildings were crumbling down, it was exactly what I thought Sicily would look like. Beautiful in a very urban decay kind of way!

Traditional Sicilian carts. They were very brightly coloured and lined up down the street outside of a marionette museum.

Don't worry he's not dead :) This was in the Duomo piazza. In Sicily apparently people just let their dogs out in the morning and they wander at will during the day returning home at night!!!! Seriously most of the dogs we saw wandering about were too healthy looking to be strays, and a lot had collars on. This one was just basking in the sunshine!!!!

The Duomo piazza in Palermo

It was strongly influenced by the Arabs that conquered here!!! It was started in 1185 and at one point actually became a Mosque after the Saracens captured Palermo. 

Reese getting her shoe fixed

Inside the Duomo

This is Reese's reaction to the aggressive pigeons at the restaurant that we ate at. I'm not kidding when I say that they would dive bomb tables to get at the potato chips that were coming out with people's drinks!!!!! Thankfully we didn't have any potato chips! They would dive bomb and people would go scattering away from the table, glasses falling over, it was pure chaos :)


The view driving on the Autostrada towards the west coast

I was quite surprised at how mountainous it was, I wasn't expecting that. 

Pretty view towards the peninsula

So contrary to popular belief, the roads in Sicily are totally NOT third world. They are quite good compared to say...Saskatchewan!!!!! No but seriously they were great on the Autostrada and small and windy once off the Autostrada, which is to be expected.

Artsy pic on the way to Segesta to see the temple

The Doric Temple at Segesta. Segesta was the political centre for the Elymian people, one of the indiginous people of Sicily.  This is one of the best preserved temples in the world of this type. Built in the late 5th century BC!!!!!! Experts believe that this temple was never actually finished, and no one knows how it remained this intact for this long!!! You think as an unfinished temple it would have been plundered for its stone a LONG time ago!

Yes you can take a bus up the hill to the archeological site, but why do that when its just a short 20 min walk to the site????*LIARS!!!!* it was NOT a short walk because it was straight up hill!!!! hahahaha we got great views though, walked through fields of wildflowers and got some great exercise doing it though :)

The view of the temple while climbing the path

Richard and Reese on the path with some wildflowers

The view...it was FABULOUS!

The old city walls

The  archeological site. Its is unknown how long a city has actually existed here, but definitely back to the 5th century BC, and probably long before that. It was pretty interesting to see the ruins and to read the descriptions of how the town might have looked back then. 

Ruins of the church

The view again!!!

The theatre, it was awesome!! Look at that view!!!!!

Richard and Reese in the Segesta theatre. 

Reese and Mama

getting a ride from Daddy!

Mama playing tour guide barbie :) I think I'm pointing out rooms in the castle. 

The Segesta Temple- 5th century BC

Monreale Cathedral just outside Palermo. This cathedral is decorated with a gazillion little glass pieces of tile to create mosaics. It really was absolutely beautiful, and it was crazy to think how long it would have taken someone to do this back in the 12th century!!!

The alter

A close up of the tile work, this cathedral is HUGE...and it is completely decorated in tile!!!!!!!

The cloisters, viewed from the walkway above

The view of Palermo and the coast from the top of the cathedral

The view out the other side

a look at the town of Monreale, nestled into the hillside.

The Norman Corridors. It was a long, dim hallway going up to the roof of the cathedral. It was also quite short and I was sure I was going to bang my head on the ceiling!!!

artsy take on the window with the mosaics 

This picture was just to show the difference in dress. The Sicilians were all bundled up and it was lovely and warm out!! Richard is in short sleeves and everyone else was in parkas and toques :)

About Me

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Milan, Italy
I am 34 years old, married to my wonderful husband Richard and mother to a beautiful 8 year old daughter named Reese. We lived in the suburbs of Calgary until January 2010 where I worked as an ER Nurse. Then my husband was transferred to Vancouver for a 6 month temporary project. Our blog Tripping over the Sidewalk told all about our adventure living on the 30th floor of an apartment building in the middle of downtown Vancouver. Then we moved to Milan, Italy for 18 months, Ciao-Eh was the online forum for our Italian adventures. We moved to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates in January 2012 and lived there for two and a half years. Sandscrapers, Souks and Sand is the blog of our adventures in the Middle East! We are now happy to be back on a little acreage just outside of Calgary where I'm sure more adventures await!!!!

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