carolbuckles (carolbuckles) wrote,

New Newport News News: Sicily edition

           First, a lesson in Italian.  In Sicily, every word ends in –eh.  For example, our shore excursion guide, Stephania, gave us 2 recipes in the course of the day:

“Pizza with-eh smashed-eh tomatoes-eh, ricottzza cheese-eh and tangerines-eh.”  Or

“Lemur-eh with mozzarella”

Sicily is a land dark with blood.  From the waves of invaders in pre-history, to the Greeks, Phoenicians, then the Romans and finally the Mafia, every inch of land has been contested.  On our last cruise, we docked in Messina and visited the east coast, driving down the rugged, cliff bound coast to Taormina, a classic defensive hill town.  Here we could see how each village was isolated by geography from the next.  But I wanted to know what about Sicily was worth dying for.

This cruise, we docked in Palermo, on the north coast.  Our excursion took us west to the hill fort of Erice. [In mainland Italian =AIR-ee-chay.  On Sicily = AIR-ee-see]  As we left the port, our guide pointed out where, only 20 years ago, a judge sent from Rome was car-bombed on the highway by the Mafia.  Since then, police officers have been sent from the mainland and all Mafiosi are sent to jail there instead of locally.  We even saw “No Mafia” graffiti.  And I couldn’t forget the young tourist family murdered in the mountains by banditti, not many years ago.

Past that point, we began to see the to-die-for Sicily.  The weather is tropical and anything will grow in the volcanic soil [Mt. Etna].  Grapes, olives, cotton, peaches, almonds, even wheat grow here in large unfenced fields.  Vegetables of every kind, including 3 meter-long zucchini, and wonderful eggplant grow.  The Spanish introduced prickly pear cactus from S. America and kapok was brought in from the Pacific islands.

In early summer, huge blue fin tuna school in, to be canned in oil or sent to Japan for sushi.  Salt pans offer up a “harvest” 3x a year.  There are quarries for red, white, pink and yellow marble.  All this abundance would be nice enough, but Sicily has ports on all three coasts to send the produce all around the Mediterranean.

And to top it all off, the sea at Trapani, which Erice overlooks, is famous for its coral.  I really like coral.

Erice is a microcosm of Sicily, including the triangle shape.  Founded by Phoenicians [or fleeing Trojans, if you prefer the myth], the fort changed hands with regularity, until it is now under invasion by tourists.  The difference is that the last are welcomed.  The main battle these days is the haggling between sellers and buyers; as well as the rout of those who said no, pursued by shopkeepers.

There have been several films made in this area of Sicily, including “Ocean’s 12” and “Largo Weech”. Anyone have a clue about the real name of the last film?

We wandered the old town, first as a guided group, then alone.  We got free samples of almond-paste [marzipan] sweets.  They are both beautiful and delicious.

Free means you get samples, but cannot get out of the store without passing the sales counter twice; this seems fair to me, but a number of people got snippy about it. 

            We bought a small dimension weaving and a gorgeous silver and coral ring.  We had looked at many, but the stores were all CTC [cheap tourist crap] and I couldn’t trust the wares to be real coral.  We chanced upon a true jewelry store, with comparable prices and I felt assured there.  After choosing the ring, Ron gets out his charge card and says, “Plastic ok?”

            The clerk, horrified, said, “NO!!”  I then realized she thought he was asking if the coral was really plastic.  All being settled, with great mirth, Ron said to me, “does this mean I get sex tonight?”  The clerk laughed, but 2 grannies [probably the shop owners] sitting there looked puzzled.  Using an array of crude Italian hand gestures, I indicated what he had asked.  Much laughter ensued.

            We returned to the bus through the narrow, steep, cobbled streets and endured dramatic switchbacks down to sea level for the drive to the ship.  At this point, most of the trekkers fell asleep, but Ron and I enjoy the process of travel as much as the arrival, and we remained glued to the window, taking photos and discussing war, agriculture, geography, geology and food. As we returned to the ship, we noticed we were docked next to the MSC Fantasia, our ship from our last cruise.  RC Mariner is far superior.

            We boarded and went through the metal detector, which I set off as always.  Asked what metal I might have on me, I pulled up my shirt like a 2-year-old and said, “Only my bra.”  Gosh fatigue does things to a brain.

N4 45 Med cruise 4: Sicily edition for photos for my blog

Tags: new newport news news

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