Two drifters…

July 22, 2013

51. Sicily Wrap

Filed under: Italy — Andy @ 10:57 pm

I, like the rest of the world, am on tenterhooks. What could be more exciting than waiting for the arrival of the Royal Baby. Here in Italy, people are ‘aghasto’, column inches set aside for pictures of il Royal Bambino, etc. It’s quite odd: we left Blighty on the morning of the Royal Vomit and we’ll be returning unnoticed as the UK’s attention is distracted by some similarly less-worthy event – the Royal Plop.

There is an upside: that world-famous sex-tourist, Herr Pope, will see his visit to the slums of Rio go largely unnoticed too.

Yes, we spent the last 7 months on the island of Sicily and it’s time to move off again. We’re in a town called Tivoli at the moment, on the outskirts of Rome, readying ourselves for a return to decent ale, Asda, fish ‘n’ chips, cheap analgesics and responsible driving. OK, I know, you’ve just driven half a mile and met every incompetent driver in the world who could all take advantage of learning a thing or two from your impeccable road skills but, trust me, it’s nothing compared to the utter stupidity, ignorance and arrogance of the drivers here. The driving test is quite tough, according to my students, but who bothers to take it when you can slip the examiner a few Euros…?

Amazing tree, Malfitano

Amazing tree, Malfitano

However, there are some plus points. Here’s our wrap up of the idiosyncrasies and pros and cons:

Memories:

  • Amazing trees
  • Fantastic scenery on the island as you travel across the mountains.
  • The most amazing road engineering, from Palermo to Messina, dozens of tunnels and heart-stopping viaducts. Beautiful hills and perilously-perched hilltop towns.
  • Almost continual sound of emergency vehicles in Palermo (and Naples)
  • Some delightful students – offset by the predictable teenager group, containing the least-interesting people in the world with unwarranted angst (a title previously held by my teenager group in Vietnam).
  • Guys driving with left arm dangling from the open window, I mean, how macho is that?!
  • Motorbikes
  • Passagiata – the curious habit of emerging from your afternoon stupor to parade down the high street in your finery, stopping to exchange perfunctory tittle-tattle with the dudes you saw yesterday.
  • Dog crap. On the way to the school, I used to sing that old Eddie Grant classic: ‘I’m gonna slide down through, Dogshit Avenue, and it can’t get much higher’. A real Palermo problem.P1040008
  • Dinky men, gathered around central town areas, always reminds me of Munchkin Conventions. Unsurprisingly, ‘Small Man Syndrome’ is the country’s biggest health-hazard.
  • Small supermarkets
  • Savoca – scene of the Godfather, Part 1

FOOD

  • Gelaterias. Pasticcerias. These places are so popular it is quite normal to find yourself unable to eat anything other than cakes and ice cream at tea time. Restaurants close when we Brits are the hungriest (6 – 7 pm), leaving one with no choice other than to get fatter.
  • The sfinciona man, shouting from his tuk-tuk every morning, selling this local foodstuff (a pizza-like bread cake).
  • Great pizzas (but also some of the worst in the world – tourist rip-off mode)
  • The students’ hilarious confusion with the words ’kitchen’ and ‘chicken’. ‘Yeah, we spend a lot of time in our large, modern chicken…’ etc.
  • Espresso coffees – what is the point of these?!
  • Delicious, filling cannoli. Gorgeous tomatoes. The ubiquitous aubergine – the ultimate definition of disappointment. Pistacchio (pronounced ‘pistakio’) and capers. 1 metre-long zucchinis.
  • POTATOES! Yes, we thought that Italy was all about spaghetti and tiramisu but, no… the preferred antipasto of our students was invariably the potato-based pot pourri of chips, croquets, panelli (small, fried potato cakes) and cheese balls – a thoroughly British booze-soaker.
  • Breakfast – no eggs! Lots of cakes and pastries – why aren’t the Italians huge gutbuckets? (Actually, looking at some of the kids, things are heading that way. ‘Blobbo Bambino’ is on the rise.
  • Nutella, in everything. Aisles full of the stuff in supermarkets.
  • Our curries at our parties – phenomenally successful with our students!
Sassi, Matera

Sassi, Matera

Since, we left Sicily we’ve visited a couple of really interesting places:

MATERA

Situated in the foot arch of the boot, this is an extraordinary place. Two valleys bisect the town full of old stone houses (‘sassi’) where the locals used to live. Nowadays, they are trendier places to live but the areas are home to the largest collection of kestrels you’re ever likely to see. We counted over a hundred.

Villa Adriana, Tivoli

Villa Adriana, Tivoli

TIVOLI

An amazing Greek ruin – home to the emporer Hadrian – the ‘Wall’ guy. He had a huge villa here. Apparently, he was quite depressed – what a wuss!

Andy

Tivoli, 22.7.13

Kestrel, Matera

Lesser Kestrel, Matera

May 19, 2013

50. More from Sicily

Filed under: Italy — Andy @ 8:00 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Palermo Update

Pictures

Thousands of swifts are screaming in the skies and it’s been shirt-sleeve weather for about a month now – this time of year is just about right for us. It’s still hot for us in the classrooms and, as in Turkey, Libya and Vietnam, we teachers from the UK and USA play the ‘Air-Con Shuffle’: we turn on the AirCon and hide the remote. The students come in, start shivering and insist on turning the thing off. After a while, we sneak it back on again. This toing and froing goes on for the whole 90 minutes. I know this experience resonates with many of our TEFLing friends around the globe – it’s so much fun!

Helen, our apartment stable doors and the 3 kilos of Trapani salt we bought for 1 Euro

Helen, our apartment stable doors and the 3 kilos of Trapani salt we bought for 1 Euro

Some more observations here in Palermo. As I’m approaching that age where pensions become important, I’ve recently had to communicate with financial institutions in the UK not yet geared to 21st century technology. One such company, Dickens and Dinosaur Insurance, insist on written communication. This requires a visit to the post office here in Palermo, something that Helen has always enjoyed, being a prolific letter-writer, but fills me with dread. Our local post office is always heaving; some people must spend their lives in there. Some people start queueing for their pensions well before they reach pensionable age! You first have to enter through a double-door screening capsule, reminiscent of MI5 buildings (did you see Spooks on UK TV?) and join the overbooked, Alzheimer’s Convention inside. Then you collect your ticket and calculate the approximate wait you’ll have. It’s customary at this point to leave and do your weekly shopping, visit a show, etc. I did this last week, returned to the post office only to find the number had not yet progressed half way so I took my shopping home. I returned to the post office to find that my number plus one was being served so I muttered an expletive and gave up. One of the pleasures of living in a foreign country is being able to shout ‘Oh For F***’s Sake’ at the top of your voice and people around you assume you’re sneezing.

We’ll be lucky to escape with our lives in tact in July: the driving seems to be getting worse. My students tell me that if you can drive in Palermo, you can drive anywhere. Actually, I remind them that these drivers would not be allowed to drive in the UK as I have yet to see anyone remotely capable of passing a UK driving test. The hot weather has also sparked a ‘who’s-got-the-loudest-car-stereo’ contest which can almost blow in the windows of our classrooms rendering pronunciation practice somewhat futile. Our friend Damian told me recently that he saw the ultimate: a guy on a pushbike with the biggest pair of speakers and battery he’d ever seen, strapped to the sides. What a clod!

Helen’s quite chuffed with herself. As usual, her application to learning the local lingo leaves me shamefully lagging behind and relying on the standard British approach to Johnny Foreigner: shouting louder and giving up if the stupid shop assistant, etc., is too dumb to understand simple English. She managed to direct someone from the city to the motorway, something she would have difficulty doing in Leeds! Anyway, she was rightly proud of herself.

We both have teaching assignments outside our school: Helen has just finished a session teaching kiddies once a week at a convent; getting up on Friday mornings for this hour-long, ‘Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ screaming session used to really cheer her up!
I have a 2.5-hour session with a group of teachers in a town called Partinico, about an hour’s drive out of Palermo. According to my boss, these country yokels should first be learning Italian, rather than English! The Italian government has recently passed a law, requiring all state school teachers to achieve at least CEF Level B1 in the next 2 years. For the uninitiated in language-learning jargon, this equates to a pretty good level of competence, rather more than ‘2 beers please’ – the level I usually aim for. In Poland, before I could say the word for ‘three’, I had to say: ‘Two beers please, and one more beer please.’ Yes, it’s cumbersome, but it works!

We’ve almost covered the whole island now and here are a few of the highlights:

The grandkids, Selinunte

The grandkids, Selinunte

Segesta and Selinunte

Pictures

These are two of the most well-known archaeological sites in Sicily – full of the relics of the halcyon days of Greek hegemony. We visited Selinunte with Alan, Emily and the grandkids – see the picture of James and the severe regulations imposed upon entering. It was strictly forbidden to make any noise at all. We found this injunction impossible to follow and were eventually evicted from the site after Helen sneezed.
We were fortunate to visit Segesta on our way back to Palermo and found the place in full bloom of spring wild flowers. It was extraordinarily spectacular and ranks as Helen’s number one place.

Savoca

Pictures

Breat- taking views, Savoca

Breath-taking views, Savoca

This is my favourite place, so far. We took off for a long weekend to the tourist trap of Taormina on the east coast and spent a day in the nearby town of Savoca. Godfather aficionados will recognise this place: the Sicily scenes from the first film were shot here. The rustic, simple life is enjoyed by Al Pacino as he falls in love and marries the lovely Apollonia. Although the viewer is lead to believe this is in the village of Corleone, it was actually filmed in Savoca. Some of that rustic simplicity has now disappeared but the town is a delight nonetheless. High up in the hills through winding hairpins it has the winning blend of narrow cobbled streets, breath-taking views and quaint bars. It even rewarded us with a pair of ravens and a blue rock thrush. Who could ask for more?!

Siracusa (Syracuse)

Pictures

Last weekend we visited here in the company of two of our colleagues, Charles and Damian. Here was where much of Sicilian history started and is famous for its Greek ruins and as the birthplace of Archimedes. We visited our local café when we arrived for the traditional slug of whisky. We repeated this before we left and were pleasantly surprised at the ‘we-don’t-rip-off-the-tourists-here’ attitude: 3 enormous malts (each about the measure of a large wine!) and a large bottle of water, less than €5. If we ever come back to Sicily, we’ll be living in the sticks; all the towns and cities we’ve visited have knocked Palermo into a cocked hat.

Anyway, we spent a day in Cava Grande, an Italian Grand Canyon. It was a long way down so we let the youngsters go down quickly, we didn’t want to upset them with our speed and dexterity. We almost made it to the bottom, we had timed it to get back in two hours (the guidebook – 1 hour, for some super-fit git). We passed some splendid conversations, one Helen overheard: “I’ll never walk up here again in a thousand years!”. It might give you some idea of the stupidity of the mission. Anyway, we had a bird-spotting dream, getting Zitt Cis, Black Redstart, Raven, Grey Wag., Icky and Sardi Warbler, Stonechat, Green and Goldfinches, Jays and Housemartins. We ended up with a 30+ bird list – splendid.

Today, in Palermo near the touristy market area, we stopped off for a beer and an ice cream. The bill? €13! (Yes, that’s one beer for me and an ice cream for Helen). It’s outrageous! So we left and proceeded to a back street Sri Lankan shop, bought a litre of vodka, large carton of orange juice, two bags of Bombay Mix and a can of super strength beer for €12. Job done!

Mind you, this is what the TEFL business is usually about; in Charles’s words, you have to teach in the butthole and get away to the sights at the weekends. Delicately and so accurately put.

Andy
Palermo, 19.5.13

March 16, 2013

49. Sicilian Travels

Filed under: Italy — Andy @ 8:02 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

P1020634

Palermo and surrounds

Pictures

Time for a quick update. It seems like ages since I last wrote; we’ve been quite busy working which still tends to get in the way of one’s lives. We have full timetables in a well-organised school (extraordinary, in our experience!) and the staff and teachers here are all decent and splendid individuals. I’m fortunate to have classes with mostly adults but Helen does seem to have a lot of baby-sitting duties to perform! We still plan to stay here until July when we’ll return to the UK for my 30th birthday bash in Leeds – currently scheduled for Saturday the 27th – we’d love to see you there.

We have found the time to get away from canis turdus ubiquitarius for a few weekends and explore this stunningly beautiful island. The train line from Palermo to the east runs continually along the breath-taking coastline and the line to the south goes through fantastic mountainous scenery. The island is not too big and you can get from one side to the other in about three hours, or so.

Passeggiatta on Ruggero Settimo, P

Passeggiatta on Ruggero Settimo, Palermo.

A peculiar practice among Sicilianos (and southern Italians) is the early evening Passeggiata. Thousands of locals dress up and simply wander up and down the main streets, stopping to talk to other groups on their way. In Palermo, the central Via Ruggero Settimo is made into a pedestrian area for a few hours every evening for this very purpose and is chocker with folk.

The young guys here mostly sport the trendy, designer-stubble look which I have also perfected but without the ‘trendy’ and ‘designer’ aspects. Many of the women seem to be having a ‘bad hair day’.

Of course, the Italians have been busy in the last few weeks choosing a new government and pope and managing only one. The political scene is mired in more than the normal imbroglio as even the usual coalition system seems to be unworkable. Another election is likely.

The traffic continues to annoy although we are getting more comfortable with crossing the road defying oncoming vehicles, partially controlled by the fag- and phone-toting ‘driver’. It is common for cars to be parked two abreast, on zebra crossings and in various states of disarray and, despite there being many tiers of police present, never seem to attract any attention from the aforementioned.

P1020680

Inside the Vila Malfitano

Near where we live is the marvellous Villa Malfitano. This old mansion was built by Joseph Whitaker in 1886. Whitaker was a member of an entrepreneurial English family which had a big influence on Sicily in the late 19th and early 20th centuries after making a fortune exporting Marsala wine to all parts of the world. The son of one of our fellow teachers is doing research here and has already uncovered some fascinating archaeological findings which threaten to rewrite the history books.

Serins abound and last weekend we heard our first chiffchaff; we can’t wait for the spring migration season as we should get some belting passage sightings. (Sorry, that last sentence was probably quite meaningless to my normal readers!)

Mondello

Pictures

On the outskirts of Palermo’s north is the summer haven of Mondello – a kind of local Blackpool. It was crowded in February so god knows what this place will be like when the spring arrives. We probably won’t be going back!

Catania

PicturesP1020785

Situated on the eastern coast, at the foot of Mount Etna, this town is full of character. It was totally wiped out in 1669 when Etna erupted and swamped the town in lava. Many Sicilianos don’t like Catania and think it is too dark and depressing. This is because the city was rebuilt using the volcanic rock which covered it. We liked it. We had the best value 5 Euro tourist bus trip ever and had an outside dinner late in the evening – there’s a real café society feeling about the place in complete contrast to the utilitarian capital.

A local speciality is the smoked artichoke: we came across a very popular street stall on the Sunday morning where half the population of Catania seem to have gathered to purchase this item.

We learnt the following day that there had indeed been rumblings from the famous mountain – clearly it hadn’t realised we were there and a full eruption was avoided.

Messina

Pictures

The Straits of Messina separate Sicily from the mainland and, at its nearest, is only about 5 kilometres wide. Successive governments have toyed with the thought of building a bridge across but this has always been shelved. This is largely because the straits lies on top of one of the world’s liveliest tectonic cracks which caused Europe’s biggest ever earthquake in 1908. We decided, therefore, not to

Messina duomo at night

Messina duomo at night

visit this place on the weekend at the end of February – being the anniversary of both our Libyan evacuation and Chilean earthquake – too risky!

Messina is not the prettiest place on earth but it does have a beautiful cathedral with a bizarre tower and astronomical clock (reminiscent of Prague’s Staroměstské náměstí). Every midday, the clock tower comes to life and people gather round to see the spectacle of the roaring lion and strutting cockerel for a fifteen minute hoot! Also, the city has a tram!  Sadly, it is probably the worst tram in the world: most of the seats are so badly-designed it’s virtually impossible to sit on them with a normal-sized butt and the tracks appear to have been engineered to some white-knuckle, fairground-ride standard – throwing the passengers from side to side with neck-breaking alacrity.

Agrigento

Pictures

Across the island on the south side lies this historic town, home to some of Europe’s best-kept Greek temple ruins. Having seen many ruins before in our lives we decided not to bother going round these and spent a day in the nearby coastal resort of San Leone which was virtually deserted at this time of year.

Cefalù

An hour’s train journey east from Palermo you arrive at the delightful tourist trap of Cefalù. Sadly, we had forgotten to bring the camera so there’s no piccies but the sea-front has a wonderful path hewn out of the rocks and you walk along under hotels and restaurants, dodging the waves and the rock pools. It’s really quite exciting!

Castellammare del Golfo

Dodgy dude in Castellammare

Dodgy dude in Castellammare

Pictures

We had our first visitor at the beginning of February: Matthew (the son of our good friends Bob and Jan) came from frozen Blighty to soak up the Sicilian sun and ended up simply getting soaked. The weather was atrocious but this didn’t dampen our spirits. We got a car for the weekend and having miraculously got out of Palermo with our lives intact, we made our way over to Castellammare, a picturesque harbour town west of Palermo. I’ve just finished reading a book about the history of the Cosa Nostra and this place was the birthplace of one of the influential godfathers and many a plot was hatched from here. Helen wandered off alone for 10 minutes on the Sunday morning and she managed to get befriended by a shifty-looking, local raconteur who tried to interest us in his detached-horse-head business.

Just up the road from here is the Zingaro national park – famous (as I’m sure you’re aware) for Bonelli’s Eagle. We arrived at 3.45 to find that the place closed at 4, so we got in free provided we didn’t stray more than 7.5 minutes into the park. We plan to return here later when I’m sure we’ll miss the damn bird again – our track record on eagle spotting is not impressive!

OK, enough for now. It’s Saturday and it’s been wazzing it down all day – it’s not all it’s cracked up to be here, you know!

Andy

Palermo, 16.3.13

January 17, 2013

48. Palermo

Filed under: Italy — Andy @ 3:27 pm

P1020147Picture album:

https://picasaweb.google.com/100342402825089704103/20130106Palermo#

Time for a quick update.

Our street, Via Whitaker

Our street, Via Whitaker

We’ve managed to get ourselves employed again in a school called British Institutes in Palermo on a 6-month contract: time enough to ensure we’re back in Blighty for my big birthday bash at the end of July; please start marking your calendars and diaries now. We’re into our second week and have a few classes already. We’ve moved into a flat in a typical Italian-sounding street called Via Whitaker: this guy was a British entrepreneur of the 19th century who made a fortune peddling the local tipple, Marsala wine, around the world.

It’s actually quite cold at the moment, we’re almost in single figures Celsius and it’s raining all day! Our flat has very little in the way of heating and we can’t have more than two electrical devices on at the same time as the fuse blows. Still, I’m sure we won’t be moaning about the cold when the summer comes.

Palermo itself is not the most beautiful city in the world. It suffers excessively from the usual piles of crud and excrement on the paths as many cities and there is an over-abundance of vehicles clogging the streets. Indeed, it is often difficult to walk either on the path or get off it to cross the road: cars are parked so tightly. In British English, the protrusions at the front and back of cars are called ‘bumpers’ (‘fenders’ in the US, which are the classic, Hendrix-type guitars to us Brits!) and are perfectly named here. In order to get in or out of a parking space, you must nudge the cars on either side of you. Consequently, all cars have knackered bumpers.

Driving here is, unsurprisingly, a nightmare. We hired a car for two weeks to go down south (see Pozzallo below) and were shocked when we had to drive back into Palermo. It’s almost as though you are invisible – cars simply come out of side streets directly in front of you, or AT you. I thought it was just me but I was relieved to see in my rear-view mirror a motorcyclist being smacked by a car and delivered fuming with his mangled bike into the crud and canine turdage strewn on the sidewalk.

The Teatro Massimo

The Teatro Massimo

There are some interesting sights here. You’ll remember the final scene in The Godfather Trilogy where Al Pacino attends the performance of Cavalleria Rusticana only to have his beloved daughter gunned down on the steps of the theatre. This was filmed at the Teatro Massimo in the centre of the city.

The city is surrounded by some impressive mountains so we hope to get up one of them this weekend. Birding in the city is limited to, yes you’ve guessed it, the feral pigeon!

Fantastic oranges and pizzas (who would’ve thought?). Cheap wine. Rose-ringed parakeets in the botanical gardens. Who could ask for more?

Pozzallo

Over the Xmas and New Year period we took off to the south eastern part of the island and spent a couple of weeks in a small town called Pozzallo. We chose this area because the surrounding area looked promising for national parks, and it proved to be a very good spot. There’s a fantastic reserve called Vendicari nearby where we spent much of the time and largely had the place to ourselves.

Flamingos at Vendicari

Flamingos at Vendicari

It is chocker with flamingos, spoonbills and herons and a delightful place to walk around. You can even see Mount Etna, rising menacingly in the distance.

The roads around this part of the island have some stunning views with baroque towns perched on hillsides and breath-taking viaducts spanning valleys with villages dotted beneath you. The drive from Palermo across the island takes you for most part on stilts – really quite weird. We got lost as we drove into the clouds and visibility was reduced to a few yards; the road-signage here is not exactly up to UK standards!

Pozzallo and Vendicari pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/100342402825089704103/20121218PozzalloVendicari

Vendicari and surrounds birding photos: https://picasaweb.google.com/100342402825089704103/20121219VendicariBirding

Ciao!

Andy

17.01.13, Palermo, Sicily.

December 11, 2012

47. Naples

Filed under: Italy — Andy @ 9:32 pm

Looking over Naples from Concezione Monte Calvario

Looking over Naples from Concezione Monte Calvario

Picture album:

https://picasaweb.google.com/100342402825089704103/20121210Naples#

After a pleasant stay in the UK for three weeks or so, we decided to head off once again for warmer climes. As we were driving to the airport last Tuesday morning it became apparent that we’d just made it in time – all the news concentrating on Kate and the Royal Vomit.

We didn’t get the Egypt jobs (gutted!) and we’d always fancied living and working in Italy so here we are.

Naples was our first stop en-route to Sicily – well, the Parkin curse factor should ensure that either the Mafia or a volcano gets us; more fodder for a good blog.

Ubiquitous brolly sellers

Ubiquitous brolly sellers

It rains a lot down here: everywhere you go there are either brolly sellers or discarded brollies in amongst all the other crap that is strewn over the streets and pavements. Dog-dump dodging is part of the everyday stroll technique – not that many people do stroll, there being the overabundance of cars and motorbikes. It’s not as scary as Vietnam in that respect, though Helen begs to differ!

Some things about the place: almost constant sound of emergency vehicle sirens in the streets (these were very unusual in Vietnam); cheap and easy transport; friendly hotel/shop/restaurant people; great pizzas (well, they would be, wouldn’t they?); Pinot Grigio in the shops for €3 (I didn’t know that the Italian ‘grigio’ means ‘grey’), and the local red wine for €1.50; mad traffic but, bizarrely, they obey zebra crossings!

General air of seediness: there are some very dodgy characters hanging around street corners, we saw soup kitchens and the streets never seem to get cleaned. There are lots of illegal street sellers (mostly Africans) with bags and other leather goods playing a ‘catch me’ game with the police: when the fuzz turns up, they bundle up their goods in a sheet and walk around like suspicious-looking, jolly swagmen.

Berlusconi has joined the figures of fun for the crib creators

Berlusconi has joined the figures of fun for the crib creators

At this time of year the local tradition of making cribs (‘Presepi’) is in full flow. The cribs and a huge variety of miscellaneous figures and objects are sold in the old town. The locals buy additional bits and pieces every year and build miniature towns and Christmas scenes in their homes, often forcing the occupants out onto the streets.

Pompei

Pompei pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/100342402825089704103/20121206Pompei

A half-hour’s train journey from Naples takes you to Pompei under the shadow of the volcano Vesuvius. Those of us old enough will remember that fateful day in AD79 when it erupted and covered the whole town in a couple of feet of ash. The townsfolk dusted themselves off, coughed and breathed a sigh of relief only to be confronted 10 minutes later by the deadly pyroclastic flow travelling at 80 kph which killed every living thing except, of course, the feral pigeon.

Looks nice now

Looks nice now

What you may not know is that, although the old town has been preserved as it was after the catastrophe, a new town has sprung up alongside and you can get the train to the new place or directly to the ruins. We, naturally, alighted at the new place by mistake and had to walk across town to the famous place. As we were walking a helpful, old guy came up to us and asked: “Ruins?” to which I had to reply: “Well, we’re not as old you, cheeky bugger!

Surprisingly, there were a few visitors who didn’t have cameras – a Korean nightmare! Thankfully, later we saw many Korean visitors with camera apparatus overload.

Pompei is well worth a visit and, for my money, knocks the other old Roman sites into a cocked hat. We’ve just about got the full set of these places: Pompei, Troy, Carthage, Leptis Magna & Sabratha so we can stop there. One interesting point of note: in all these sites one finds Black Redstarts in abundance – what’s that all about?

Fondo and Sperlonga

An hour and a half on the Rome-bound train (bargain price of €6) and we’re in the Lazio region. We visited the brother of a good friend of ours and his Italian girlfriend – both English teachers. OK, so it was a bit of a busman’s holiday but we were treated to traditional local food of pasta, tomatoes, fruit, ratatouille and peppers, mozzarella and parmesan etc. Cliff reminded us of the big story back home in Blighty – apparently all the Italian media are talking about is ‘Il Royal Baby‘.

The posh coastal resort of Sperlonga was almost deserted at this time of year and all the better for it.

We booked ourselves on to the Saturday night ferry but it was cancelled at the last moment due to rough seas so we had to walk around the town looking for another hotel – most were fully-booked. It’s times like this, dragging cases, when the romantic notion of cobbled streets is somewhat less appreciated. We managed to sail on Sunday’s overnight crossing.

We’re in Sicily now and looking for jobs here, however, today I had a phone interview with the British Council for jobs back in Tripoli, Libya. Helen had her interview yesterday; we won’t know the result until next week so, who knows what next? According to our interviewer, Tripoli has fewer entertainment options these days than when we were last there. It sounds like a real riot!

Wait… what’s that rumbling sound?

Andy

11.12.12, Palermo, Sicily.

Pictures from UK in last two months:

https://picasaweb.google.com/100342402825089704103/20121203UK

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