Last morning in Cefalu. We stroll up to the old town as the day climbs toward 30+ degrees and take our last coffee and pistachio treats for breakfast. I am tempted to buy that coppola that I spied earlier on but fortunately the shop is closed and I can only look longingly through the window at the poles of €25 hats. Later as we stroll for the last time down the waterfront and gaze jealously at swimmers taking an early morning dip I spy a similar hat for €10, but wrong size. We pay a last visit to the Superstore for refreshments for the train ride and I sit on the bench outside waiting for Alison and ponder on the begging. Sitting next to me is a young African man and his scam is to approach people who are struggling with their groceries and, for a small offering, carry them to the car or taxi. Earlier we were approached by the lesser form of an African guy holding out his hat and asking for money, he does this up and down the street, in shops, in restaurants, along the beach. A variation is a woman, usually with a baby doing the same thing. Then there are the (usually Indian) people selling crap, again along the beach or on the promenade. Yesterday the municipal police turned up and as the cheroot smoking officer with his low slung Glock, looked on, the vendors scattered left and right moving their stuff down alleys, into waiting cars or just over the wall onto the beach. There are signs everywhere warning of pickpockets and thieves on the treno notte but this barely legitimized and marginally tolerated begging seems to be the norm. And 90% of the time is fruitless. At least the masses who roam the beach offer something for your money. I figure they earn about € 160-200 a day, seven days a week, tax free. Not bad and this is the off season so it could be considerably more July- September.
Cefalu has been great. The beach is fantastic, the amenities only a few minutes stroll through the railway tunnel. The supermarket has everything. There are fruit and vegetable and fish stalls everywhere. The apartment, although north facing has a large balcony. There is a great bathroom and apart from nightly visits from mosquitoes good sleeping facilities. We could try harder to avoid them but it’s a luxury to sleep with all the doors and windows open and repellants smell so bad. The old town is fascinating, good eateries , and high end fashion shops.
She came out of the sea. Blue suit, my favorite. Pale. Probably not local. Stretched towel. Daughter, I phone, furiously texting. She shook off the sand, donned goggles, swam out an impossible distance. Glanced back. Had her lover returned. She had to pick up Raffeleo at 1339. Rush along the beach. All good. Change to swimwear agong. Stroke out. Don glasses. Dive. The sand is so white, the rocks so green. From out here she can see the beach. Stick figures. Closer, the men, leering at her, the women, envying her. Roffello arrives. “ Oappa is here. He has pizza’. The scheme ends.
Train journey to Palermo has its moments. We wait at the Cefalu train station, validate our tickets, we are leaving from platform 3 which is a trek across two lines. We have thirty minutes to wait in the now blistering sun and I idly consult the board and see that a train from Palermo arrives at 12.57 and one leaves for Palmero at 13.05. Alison and I first have an argument about whether it’s the same train (she it is, me it is not) much to the delight of the young Italian beauty sharing our platform seat. We consult the board and they are indeed 1291 and 1298, two different trains. I demand an apology which raises a smile from our onlooker and then the train from Palermo pulls in and suddenly the board changes and there is much station announcement in Italian, English and German I cannot hear because of some loud youths yelling and playing music. The train sits and both tourists and locals sit and then a guard comes running down the platform yelling Palermo, Palermo, and there is a mass scramble for seats on the very flash new train. I run up to the guard and ask Palermo and indicate that the train has just come from Palermo and is it possible its going back without going anywhere else. “si, si , Palermo” as he mimes a thumb back along the track. I throw my suitcase on board and see Alison stubbornly standing on the platform. I can see her little mind going “he’s wrong, wrong, wrong, and we have a bloody taxi waiting in Palermo to take us to Mondello, wrong, wrong”. Finally, her pride shattered she jumps on board and pretends that she can’t lift her suitcase up onto the rack in a vain attempt to make me feel even more guilty. She then sits and mutters under her breath how this is all going to turn to shit and we will be back in Messina and ……….. Actually I am a little concerned myself because I can’t see why a train would just retrace its steps like this but, much to my great relief, the train starts going to Palermo. And then… the loud youth from the station have populated our carriage and one of them has obviously got a boom box attachment for his cellphone and suddenly our carriage is bombarded by some really bad Italian rap. Despite dire warnings over the intercom that the railway police are on board and that all carriages are under police surveillance it doesn’t deter them from turning the crap up even louder. Suddenly Alison releases all her rage and ‘politely’ asks them to turn it down. And they do.
Lovely train ride and they get off at some dump about two stops on so we can enjoy the coastline and intensive agriculture on the other side of the tracks. I keep wondering about irrigation as Sicily does have a problem in that area and they don’t seem to store what little rain that falls.
Finally we pull into still bomb damaged from WW2 Palermo. It doesn’t look great. Some obvious rubbish problems (Mafia) and awful high rise dwellings. We are met by Carlo , our driver, who, for €15 is going to drive us to Mondello , on the airport side of Palermo.