Hawkes Bay NZ Water trail

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Italy, in a web address

It's been a fun way to take Spring Break. When I return to my ESL classroom on Monday I trust my empathy will be completely renewed. It's very stressful and tiring to struggle to communicate in a language that's not your first one. I have had the benefit of learning Italian in an immersive university program nearly 40 years ago. I tip my hat to my college teachers Laura and Gaetano, who taught me this wonderful language. Partly because of them, both Sicilians, I've always wanted to visit. Now I have.
Molte grazie e io penso da voi.

Found in Rome's airport as I wait for my flight

"The night is full of surprises. Purr purr, look at the fireflies"
I'm not sure to whom I will give this lovely book called Black Cat, White Cat", child or grown up, but it really doesn't matter. It's such a lovely, parallel story. Again, an example of why the world admires Italians for their style. Bravissimo!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A toast to Palermo

My daily spremuta, freshly squeezed OJ, in a location looking at the crenelations of St Domenic's cathedral. "Dolce far niente". ha ha easy to think you're in a 1960s Sofia Loren film. Not something I do very often, but sometimes things just work out.
I hope I get to return to Sicily soon, I still need to check out the Ionian Coast, what is called Magna Graecia, and Siracusa.

Lunchtime in the park Villa Bonanno

I plan to fly back to the US tomorrow, with an early flight from Palermo to Rome, so I decided to spend my last day in Palermo walking its now familiar streets before hanging out in the rooftop patio of the Rinascente department store and reading the book on Sicily by Mary Simeti called On Persephone's Island that I brought along. It's been fun walking the quarters of Palermo that she writes about. A lot of it is still here, despite the book being published 30 years ago.
I decided to make the most of another lovely spring day. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to do this trip.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Temple of Concordia Agrigento

It's an easy 2 hour train trip to the Mediterranean side of Sicily, where you can visit this for 10 euros. It's close to 2,500 years old.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Sunday at the cathedral.

Just like the Italian flag

I like the color green, so this is my favorite color way by far.

Even the tiles are gorgeous

From this afternoon's walk back from Aquasanto, a gritty non touristy part of town at the foot of Monte Pellegrino. You just have to keep your eyes open for beauty wherever you find it.

Liberty style (Italian Art Deco)

Today is Pasquetta (Easter Monday), so a public holiday and a great day to admire buildings without any distraction from open stores. The sunny day helps too.

More style for the house too

It's also such a pleasure to see the Italian style applied to the home too. Beautiful fabric, simple lines, superb color coordination.

The beautiful clothes of Italy

It's a pleasure to see the new spring clothes in store windows in Palermo.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

This morning at Pasticceria Capella

An extra special selection for anyone visiting family today. This cake shop is around the corner from my hostel, so the staff recognize me by now. The chocolate cake in the middle of the display is called setteveli (7 layers) and these guys invented it. The green thing next to it is called Delizia Pistacchio, and it's quite wonderful too. I'm very partial to baked things and Palermo is delivering on my expectations.

Late afternoon on the seafront

Archetypal for Italy naturally. I sat among the families having fun on a sunny breezy Sunday afternoon and watched the car ferries sail into port.

Easter service in Capo

I decided to attend Easter Sunday mass in this church, because it's sunny, the door was open, and I felt like spending time luxuriating in the baroque interior. This is the C17th Immaculate Conception Church. There was even a baptism being held. Such a treat before I went looking for lunch.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


From a bakery on Via Maqueda, on my walk to the train station.

Gifts from the Ballaro Sat night market

On the walk back from Palermo's train station, I wandered into the 3rd of the city's famous markets. They were doing a roaring trade. I paid 10 Euros for these 2 trays of marzipan fruit. Best price in the city. In Cefalu, they were selling for 30 Euros/kg. These trays easily weigh one kilo.
The sweets of Sicily are exquisite. These look like Della Robbia ceramics.

Flowers on La Rocca

A wild anemome sheltering on the fortress wall.


Today's weather was deteriorating, so I did a day trip by train to this coastal town at the foot of La Rocca. I climbed to the castle on the rock, but by 1pm it started to drizzle, which made my descent on the steep limestone path a bit challenging.

Friday, March 25, 2016

More I Misteri


Kids in Trapani

I read somewhere once that the idea of heaven was to reincarnated as an Italian baby.
They got that right. It's ridiculous how cute the kids are around here. Here are 3 escapees from Christmas and 4 more in miniature black tie, trying to march solemnly in the Holy Week procession.

I Misteri procession in Trapani

Today is Good Friday, and I took a bus from Palermo, 14 Euro and change, return, for a 2 hour bus ride for an extraordinary parade that snaked around the center of town from the Church of Purgatory, to somewhere I couldn't quite figure out. Each Station of the Cross was carried by a bunch of guys in their Armani suits, with arms wrapped around each other to support something that's obviously very heavy. They march with in a hypnotic rhythm of slow steps, accompanied by a full brass band playing melodic dirges. It took 2 hours for 5 of these to pass, so I had to call it quits and sit down in a cafe with a shot of espresso.
Not like any Good Friday I've ever seen before. Worth the bus ride along the edge of the Marsala wine region. It's green and the sun was out. A great day trip from grubby and confusing Palermo.

Symbols of Sicily

There are versions of these guys all over town, usually on cheaply mass produced tourist trinkets. These hand painted cushions are in a class utterly by themselves. Sadly, the store in Trapani was closed for today's procession. Had it been open I'd have been sorely tempted to spend most likely a large amount of Euros to buy one. They're simply gorgeous.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


I went to a short show of Sicilian puppets this evening. Plenty of clanking swords and stamping feet, as Orlando and Rinaldo took turns fighting each other for the love of Angelica, and slicing up various Saracens and other combatants. Not particularly subtle plot line. I wish they'd done the story where Orlando goes crazy when he discovers that Angelica has married some low ranking nobody. It would be great to see a naked puppet fighting all the animals in the woods and bellowing. I read Orlando Furioso many years ago, and it's one big soap opera.

Holy Thursday street procession

Not something you see every day. Tonight's passeggiata has extra oomph. The band is playing dirges, there are 2 guys dressed as Roman soldiers, and the hooded people are holding burning incense or swinging clanging clacking noisemakers. I haven't heard this sound for almost 40 years, yet I remembered it immediately, from the Good Friday service when I was a child. Sicily continues to fascinate.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


I thought I was getting a chicken kebab, but what I actually ordered was this grated fennel and asparagus and bechamel sauce filled breaded cutlet. It's rather difficult to know what to order as the meals are large. I think the locals must fast all week so that when they go out to eat, they clean their plates. Taking leftovers home in a box seems to be sacrilegious. It's not cheap, but I'm not really trying to survive on street food, including something that has "milza" (spleen) in it. Yeah, right. When I was in China I accidentally ate pieces of some animal's sphincter, so I have nothing to prove anymore.

Today's foul weather

At Monreale. The cathedral didn't open until 3:30pm and the weather is just like a bad day in Seattle. I must remember my hat and gloves tomorrow. People tell me the wind we had on Monday, the Sirrocco, always brings rain. I'll say. But that fruit screams: "Sicily!"

Felice Pasqua

I bought this pastry for 2,20 Euro in a hole in the wall bakery on Via Dante. I think it's some sort of basket-shaped yeast bread with a hard boiled egg in the center. Something "traditional" according to the 2 bakers and 3 Sicilian customers in the store at the time. Being from America and massacring the Italian I'm trying to speak, I'm providing new gossip for the locals. I heard the word "dove" several times, but this is a chicken egg for sure.

The Cloister at Monreale

It's been wretched weather, but my 4 euro ticket bought me a glimpse of a crazy ornate chapel in the North Transept (motto = more is always better when you have unlimited access to underemployed stone masons and sculptors) and this gorgeous Arabian style garden. Built in the C12th. Wow! Worth the overcrowded #389 AMAT bus and insane traffic from Piazza d'Independenza.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Such sad news from Belgium

This morning, while I was admiring this lovely chapel in the cathedral of St Dominic, people were injured and dead from a terrorist bombing. So sad. Rest in peace.

Saint Agatha

A lovely C15th fresco in the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, a museum in a renovated palazzo in the La Kalsa neighborhood, another slum that's being transformed. All the art is from destroyed churches, palazzi and other places. It's a well presented collection of the sorts of things you can never see this close, if they were still in situ. So many of Palermo's churches (and there are so many churches ) are badly lit, dusty, cold and in poor repair. Plenty of tombs of once grand people who no longer mean anything to anyone living. That's what you see in the churches that are open. Many are locked.

In Vucciria

A telling juxtaposition of old and new in Palermo's squalid and urban revitalising market neighborhood. An ornate baroque fountain that still serves water to the locals. I presume the date in the graffiti refers to the bombing of Palermo in world war 2. While I was studying the scene a local, pulling a shopping cart full of empty 1litre water bottles came by and proceeded to refill them at this fountain. Made me wonder about where those bottles were going. In some ways Palermo reminds me of the chaotic new/old clash in China. The streets stink and there's litter everywhere. But people are just going about their lives and not worrying about things outside their control.

Monday, March 21, 2016

La passeggiata near 4 corners downtown Palermo

Monday night here. The street is closed to cars and everyone strolls in the bike lane. Nary an angry ding a ling from the cyclists whizzing past. Seems Sicilians have a very flexible approach to road rules. The parking is like sardine can, and crossing the street, which involves walking directly into the whirling traffic is a real change. I try to time it for me to join a
Palermo granny stepping into the strew with no reaction at all to the traffic bearing down on them. As for the near misses of fender bender. Wow.

When I next need bike bags

I think these Florentine leather beauties are 429 Euros. Wow.

Palermo's cathedral

One part Norman fort, one part mosque. An extraordinary building from the crusader era (and before).
Such a change from chilly, grey, pretty and wet Seattle!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The alps on route to Italy

Wow. What a view.

Happy Easter from land of chocolate

Zurich airport's transit lounge is an easy place for you to part with more than a few Swiss Francs.

Where in the world

Even after the all-too-familiar experience of trying to curl up across a couple of too short seats and having the armrest stick in my neck, it never gets old to wake up to a map on the seat back entertainment screen.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

JFK 5pm Sat March 19

I am hoping to get to Palermo in Sicily tomorrow. My winter teaching ended yesterday, so I'm on my unpaid spring break. So now I have time to travel. Fingers crossed that I get seats on 3 more planes. It's been over 3 months since I traveled anywhere, and I feel grumpy and uninspired. I'm looking forward to recharging my batteries with some R&R somewhere a little warmer, and definitely very different to Seattle.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

At Skye Nursery on Aurora in Shoreline

It's early spring and the weather is unsettled, so it's nice to visit this big garden store and visit with the perfect plants. Of course there's a coffee stand so I can sip my cappuccino while inhaling the scents of mulch and pollen. I wonder if Louisa really wrote this lovely sentiment.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Happy birthday

My wish for this year is happiness and acceptance.