Thursday, November 23, 2006


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


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.

Monday, November 06, 2006

My First Week In Sicily

We arrived safely in Sicily last Monday evening after three LONG days of travel. On Saturday we flew from San Diego, CA to Norfolk, VA. We stayed Saturday night at a hotel in Norfolk and were able to sleep in Sunday morning. We arrived at the airport around 1pm Sunday afternoon and finally boarded our flight somewhere around 6pm. We flew through the night to Spain.

What was supposed to be a two hour stop in Spain turned into six long hours. Unfortunately we couldn't leave the terminal and there wasn't much to see out the window. We tried to sleep on the benches, but it was hard to get comfortable with the A/C up full blast (I left my sweater on the plane). We also had to go through security several times - as in everyone out of the gate area, stand in line, check ID, go back to gate area, sit for awhile, then everyone out of the gate area, stand in line, check ID, then back to the gate area. We (everyone on the flight) decided that the Spanish must think its hilarous to make all of the Americans stand in lines and then sit down and stand in lines and sit down and get the idea.

We finally re-boarded the plane for the final leg of the trip to Sicily. We arrived around 7:00P in the dark so we really didn't have a clue about our surroundings. The only thing we could see, other than the lights of the towns was the red glow from the lava flow on Mt. Etna - amazing!

Monday night wasn't the best...something about three days of airline/airport food didn't agree with me and I was up sick most of the night and then slept it off most of Tuesday. Not my first choice of activities for my first day in Sicily. It wasn't until Tuesday evening that I got a peek at my surroundings. Wow!

We are staying in temporary housing in a little town called Motta. It is built up on a hill with a castle/fortress at the top and has majestic Mt. Etna as the backdrop - truely spectacular. At night we can see the lava flows and fountains at the top of Mt. Etna. We are hoping to take a tour up the mountain in the near future to get a closer look.

Most of the week was spent in orientation classes to get us acquainted with the culture of the island. In the evenings we did a little bit of exploring, but we didn't go very far until Friday night. We discovered the local mall which has a lot of great stores, ate at a great little restuarant in Motta and got lost in Catania.

Driving in Catania was an experience! Italian drivers certainly have a different philosophy than American drivers. One of our classes this week was for driving and they showed us this little video to illustrate the differences between Italy and the rest of Europe. Italians Vs Europeans

Yesterday I finally pulled out my camera for our tour to Nicosia and Sperlinga. Our tour left at 8:30A and took us west for about an hour and a half to Nicosia.

Nicosia from the bus

Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore

Ceiling of Cattedrale di San Nicolo

Organ in Cattedrale di San Nicolo

The next stop on our tour was Sperlinga. Sperlinga is known for its cave dwellings and Norman castle.

Sperlinga from the bus

One of many homes built into the rock

Remains of the Norman Castle

During our tour of the castle we had the opportunity to climb to the top. It was steep and perilous, but we made it! The steps were carved out of the mountain and worn down to an angle by hundreds of years of use.

The view from the castle with Mt. Etna in the distance

Looking down on Sperlinga from the top of the castle

After our trek up to the top of the castle we were famished and traveled to an agriturismo near Gangi named Casale Villa Raino. We had a fabulous meal with food that just kept coming. I think there were five courses in all! The meal took about two and a half hours - we started with antipasti, all manner of vegetables, bread, and hommade wine; then we moved on to the primi piatti of pasta, two different kinds, one with a tomato sauce and the other with a mushroom sauce; for secondi piatti we had a sausage, small thin piece of pork, lamb, and potatos; after the meat they brought out a salad; and for dessert it was fresh fruit, a cannoli and hommade limoncello.

Casale Villa Raino

Today we drove out to Mineo, the town that we will be living near. We move into our three bedroom townhome towards the end of the month. It will be amazing to have nearly three times the living space that we did in California! I can't wait for this weekend so we can get out and see more of the countryside.