Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Rainy Day in Caltigirone

We live about 20 minutes drive from Caltigirone. One evening a couple of weeks ago, we decided to go explore. We found some great shopping, but after about an hour my hubbie was ready to go. As we tried to find our way out of town we found the old section - absolutely beautiful, but Les didn't feel well and wanted to get home so we didn't stop.

This last Thursday we were able to take a tour of Caltigirone. I was dying to take pictures of the places I had only glimpsed before.

Thursday dawned (I use that term loosely) dark, gloomy and rainy. We debated on which coats to wear and how many umbrellas to take and finally settled on our heavy coats and both umbrellas. It was still pouring when we arrived in Caltigirone. We were fortunate that we brought both umbrellas. The tour turned out to be mainly a walking tour so we sloshed our was around trying to take in the sights and stay as dry as possible. I didn't get nearly as many pictures as I had hoped for, but here are the few that turned out.





Inside the Cathedral




Nativity on the 144 Steps, Each step has beautiful ceramic tiles made in Caltigirone


There area lot of great shops and beautiful sights that I can't wait to go take in when it is SUNNY!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Monreale and Palermo

Yesterday we finally got out of the house and went on another tour - this time to Palermo. We've been in our new apartment for a few weeks, and now that we are finally settled (for the most part) we decided that it was high time we got out and started having FUN again!

Our first stop was the small town of Monreale, in the hills south of Palermo. Monreale Cathedral is known for its amazing mosaics of both the old and new testaments. It was built, or rather, funded, by King WIlliam II (also known as King William the Good). The cathedral was built started in 1174 and finished in a mere 15 years. The inside of the cathedral is lined with over 2,000 mosaics made of gold, silver and colored glass. Hundreds of craftsmen worked on the mosaics and as a result, several different artistic styles are woven together in this masterpiece.

Moasic of Noah's Ark


Cathedral Cieling






Cathedral Apse


12th Century Political Propaganda, King William II being crowned by Christ


After Monreale we made our way to the Catacombe dei Cappuccini. I wasn't thrilled about this part of the tour, but I figured I should at least see it once. We made our way beneath the Capuchin Monastery where over 7,000 mummified bodies have been laid to rest. No photography was allowed, so I have no pictures, though I'm not sure if I would have wanted to remember it that graphically. It was creepy. Been there, done that, don't need to do it again.

Once everyone was mentally scarred for the rest of their lives we loaded back onto the bus and made our way to the Cathedral of Palermo. From the outside it is an impressive and beautiful, but after being inside Monreale with its sparkling mosaics, the inside of the Palermo Cathedral was a bit more bland. It did, however, have several beautiful paintings.















Once we were finished at the Cathedral it was time to eat. We ended up eating with some of the other members of our tour and had a delightful lunch. After lunch we have about a half hour left and decided to take a walk to the Opera House. It was quite beautiful, all decked out for Christmas. The front stairs were lined with poinsettias.



As we were taking pictures of the opera house I saw several horse drawn carriages, and noticed that the horses were wearing ear muffs! Too funny!



After the Opera House we made our way back to the bus for the long drive back home. It was a great day and I can't wait to see more of Palermo. There is so much to see there and we barely scratched the surface!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Taormina

For our first three weeks in Sicily we had the pleasure of staying at the coolest hotel ever!

Cool things:

1. Complementary Coffee Bar in the Lobby - free cappuccinos and caffe macchiatos anytime!
2. The friendliest staff anyone could ask for, they are my new Italian friends that I go shopping and hang out with
3. Genuinely nice management - the last weekend we were there the owners took all of the guests, past and present, to Taormina for sightseeing and pizza, just because they love it there and thought we needed to go

Taormina was a beautiful city! I was told before I left the states that it is the La Jolla of Sicily, and they were right.

Here are some of the sights of the evening:

View of Taormina from Giardini Naxos


The Ionian Coastline


View of Mt. Etna and sunset from Giardini Naxos


City Gate in Taormina


The other side of the City Gate










Random ruins near the bus stop, I couldn't decipher the sign as to what they were, maybe I'll email a picture of the sign to Jenn for translation...


Musicians at the Pizzeria




Everyone enjoying the music after a delicious meal


Even though it is nice to now be moved into our own place, I will definitely miss our hotel. It really did feel like home, even if it was only a few weeks.

More to come later about our new apartment...

Giving Thanks

Even though this Thanksgiving holiday is remarkably different from any other I’ve had in the past I have much to be thankful for.

1. I have a husband that loves me
2. I have a wonderful family – I couldn’t ask for better!
3. I have amazing friends that have stuck by me through thick and thin
4. My cat isn’t lost anymore (yes, our first day here Pumpkin disappeared for a couple of hours when the maintenance guy left my front door wide open)
5. I live in Sicily
6. In the short time I’ve been in Sicily I’ve made new friends
7. Even though Les has duty today (sucks being the new guy) I'm getting together with the friends mentioned above for dinner
8. We now have internet access in our new home
9. With blazing fast speed, our personal property arrives tomorrow (unlike many of our friends, some of whom shipped their stuff earlier than we did)
10. I live in a house that is nearly three times the size of the place we had in San Diego
11. I have my own office
12. I get to eat yummy Italian/Sicilian food anytime I want
13. A cappuccino here costs at most 1.50 Euro (I don’t know if I will be able to handle $4.00 for a latte at Starbucks when I get back to the states!)

I’m sure if I sit here long enough I’ll think of many more, but that is what comes to mind at the moment.

I would love to know what you are thankful for today, so if you feel like it, post your list(s) as a comment to this post.

To all my wonderful friends and family – Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Magical Woman

Our second full day in Sicily (about 2 1/2 weeks ago) didn't quite go as planned. We went downstairs to have our coffee and breakfast as usual. After breakfast I went back up to the room ahead of Les. We had about 20 minutes before we had to leave for base. This was the first time I had unlocked our room myself, Les always carries the keys.

I had a hard time figuring out which key to use - there were several on our keyring (i.e. gate, safe, room, garage). I stuck a key in the door and gave it a firm, but not forceful turn.... but the turn that I felt wasn't the movement of the lock, it was the bending and snapping of the key.

I made my way sheepishly downstairs and told the girl at the front desk that I had broken my key in the door. Her first response was that it happens all the time and that she can just buzz me in the gate. I felt better for a split second, but then I realized that she thought I had broken the gate key in the gate, not the gate key in my room door. I took her upstairs and showed her, and in broken English she said she would call her boss.

By this time Les had arrived on the scene. He asked if I needed anything out of the room because we had to leave for base. The receptionist said it would be a little while before her boss could get there. I decided to wait and sent Les to base without me. Shortly thereafter the new shift at the front desk began and the lady who was leaving and I had to explain the silly thing I had done.

The short ending is that the owner was able to bring some tools and get me back into the room, get my purse, lock everything up and then let me borrow a car to get down to base.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to tonight - I was doing laundry. The same girl was at the front desk from the key incident. I finished my laundry and returned the key to the laundry room to her. As i finished folding my laundry I noticed that one of Les' socks was missing. I look all over the room, up and down the stairs, in the elevator, laundry room, etc., but no sock.

I returned the key to the laundry room once again and told her that the sock was missing in case someone found it. At first she thought I was saying someone took it, but I said "you know how sometime when you do laundry and a sock disappears?" she just looked at me blankly, I said "like, poof!" She started cracking up - she said I am the magical woman, not only do I make keys disappear into doors, now I can make socks vanish!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ficuzza and Corleone

Sunday we woke up bright and early...well, early; nothing bright about it. Our tour group met up at 7:00A and we were on the Catania-Palermo highway by 7:30A. After about three hours on the road we turned off of the main drag and headed south toward Ficuzza and Corleone, our destinations for the day.

Our stop in Ficuzza was brief. We were anticipating a tour of the Royal Hunting Lodge of Ferdinand III of Burbon, but it was under construction. We took in the landscape, grabbed a caffe' and hit the road to Corleone.

The View from Ficuzza


The Road to Corleone


We arrived in Corleone around 11:00A and had about an hour and half to explore. Corleone is credited with being the home of the Mafia and was also the setting for the Godfather movies. Certain scenes were actually shot in the Central Bar in Corleone.















After our visit to the town of Corleone we made our way to the Principe Di Corleone winery for a traditional Sicilian lunch.





We finished lunch, purchased some wine and then piled back into the bus for the long drive back home.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Catania

Today, as part of our orientation to the island, we were taken on a field trip to Catania. Twas great fun!

We arrived around 9:30A and after a brief explanation of where we were to meet up with the group and later the bus we were free to explore on our own. We started at the Piazza del Duomo next to St. Agata's Cathedral. In the middle of the piazza is the Fontana dell'Elefante.

St. Agata's Cathedral


Detail on the facade of St. Agata's Cathedral


Fontana dell'Elefante


Les & I took off down Via Etnea, the main shopping throughfare in Catania. Along the way there were several beautiful buildings.

Circulorum Gymnasium


Collegiata S. Maria dell'Elemosina


There were several nice, but expensive looking shops, but we decided to walk a bit further to the open air market. This market is held daily in Catania. What an experience! Everything from produce to curtains to designer knockoff handbags for amazing prices - I came away with about 5 things and spent less than 30 Euro!

After our fun in the mercado, we met up with our group for lunch at i'Crociferi. It is located on the Piazza San Francesco.

Chiesa di San Francesco


Statue of Cardinal Dusmet in Piazza San Francesco


After our lovely lunch we made our way back to the bus and then back to base. It was a great way to get out and experience Catania and learn our way around.