Archive for November, 2016
I was watching ‘The Way’ last night and I had some thoughts about the last few months. The Way is the Emilio Estevez film starring himself and his dad, Martin Sheen, and is based around the Camino de Santiago or the Way of St James, a pilgrimage that thousands take from France through to the Spanish coast. Its a story of a man (Sheen ) who has disconnected from the world and through the death of his estranged son, and the companionship of three fellow travellers, regains his faith in humanity. It was my second viewing, this time in Italian, so I could more read between the lines.
Some background. I have been living pretty much on my own for the last few years. Alison commutes to Christchurch most weeks for several days so I rattle around in a big house on my own. This trip has forced us back together about a week after she retired so there has been that but also having to be amongst new people everyday. It has been good for me and despite struggling with the language (particularly the further south we go) it has been a terribly rewarding experience. I have kept up links with NZ through this blog and I have joined Facebook and many groups where some very opinionated people have given their world views.
I have also encountered some lovely people who, despite never having met them before, have been friendly, gracious, welcoming and made me feel more welcome here than in my own country.
Why? Well I think a combination of things. Overseas I have engaged more with people, established eye contact, smiled at small things, touched, sought out new experiences. This attracts people to you. And not only Italians. On hearing a language I can identify I ask them if I am correct and that can always start up a conversation. This morning a man smiled at me , I nodded back, he saw my passport, we struck up a conversation, his wife joined on, Alison joined in and all of a sudden we learned of his holiday, their experiences, what they were doing etc. It had happened on a remote railway platform. We spoke to a young man with a bicycle who was lost. Turned out he was an Italian doctor cycling through southern Italy and he wanted to get off the road for a few days. We started talking and it all ended with an invitation to visit and stay with us in NZ . In NZ I do this to a lesser extent. Just get to where you need to be, do whatever you need to do, get out as fast as possible. Take my cardiac rehab class of 20 sessions. It was only part way through that I was informed that the physical exercise was only secondary to the purpose of the class. We were there primarily for social integration. Oh dear! How had I missed that? Di conseguenza be more open to people and engage more rather than being a hermit. And listen to what they have to say. And ask more questions of their experiences. And open myself up to new experiences. When I look back over these last few months the best things have been things that Alison forced me to do. I resisted, preferring my own safe insular world, but ultimately my fears and anxieties are holding me back from experiencing a much fuller life.
Anyway Ryanair got us to Rome where we were picked up by our suave, Mercedes driving chauffeur, who whisked us at 150 kph to our luxury apartment in Central Rome. So cooool. We should do this every stop but once in a while is affordable and a nice change.
Crowd watching at the Coliseum . Selfie hell. No5 only thousands of people taking selfies but getting whacked in the face with selfie sticks, selfie stick sellers pushing selfie sticks at you. Whoever invented them has made a fortune and should be taken to a quiet place along with the guy who invented that trumpet thing that wrecked a World Cup soccer tournament, put against a wall and be flogged to death with a Sedgway.
The family from Morrisville. Desperate to find a toilet at the Coliseum . You would think there would be public toilets where thousands of people visit but the only toilet is in a tiny pizzeria perched atop a hill about 300 metres from the place. Huge queues but I have been successful at sneaking into the ladies so did my business without fuss. We decided to have a pizza and coffee and a couple and their teenage daughter sat down beside us. I thought they were australians but turns out they were New Zealanders from Morrinsville. They have been in Holland, Italy and Denmark. Nice folks and their experience of Europe so refreshingly different. When they asked what foods Iiked most they kind of looked like they were a little bit sick. The only New Zealanders we met our whole time in Italy.
Seriously good food. Stopped off on Piazza Nouva and listened to live buskers for a couple of hours, watched street artists and all sorts of trikery by sidewalk artists. I now know how the suspended man trick works. Marvelous square. Indian in the air. How does he do it.Now, thanks to some serious thinking I worked out the only possible way it could ne done and found the props on the Internet. Then we wandered into Quirino restaurant where we enjoyed the best antipasto followed by grilled lamb chops and a salad to die for and Alisons saltimbocca was heavenly. Curiously Trip Advisor rates it poorly for the surly waiter and the incredibly rude and loud female owner who tore a strip off me for using my credit card then her head waiter for making me wait for five minutes so she could deal with me. I loved her.
Knees and hamstrings. Haven’t had a good couple of days of it as my knee and calf muscles have taken a pounding from Romes cobbled streets and the very poor walking surface which found me twisting my ankle and knee several times.
Its Goodbye bata bullets. A new pair when I left and with all the walking the insoles are destroyed, there are holes in the heels and sides, and…… they smell. I tried cleaning them by wading in the sea at Cefalu but they have just given up the ghost. Well done and well done me as my ability to walk everywhere was called into doubt before we departed. Those cardiac rehab classes were more than socialising then. Mind you I have a seriously sore right knee and I lulled a calf muscle climbing over a f3nce which has given me a day of grief in Rome.
A day of rest and reading whilst Alison goes shopping but she returns after an hour. Rome is not a shoppers paradise this time of year although I saw tons of things I could buy but well above my pensioners budget. A decent jacket for €400 is not something I can contemplate right now.
Beautiful apartment but dodgy Italian infrstructure rears its ugly head. Point one, I have documented the hot water situation. This morning, following the instructions on the wall, I could not get any hot water. Finally, after an hour of resetting everything, trying on vain to find the pilot light, I thress the instructions to the wind and followed my instincts. Hey presto! Instant hot water.
Next there is a sign in the bathroom DO NOT PUT ANYTHING DOWN THE TOILET. THIS HOUSE HAS A SEPTIC TANK WHICH MAY BACK UP. Now my limited understanding is that a septic tank will only back up if its not wmptied occassionally. I still have visions of my good friend Gordon up to his elb9ws in excrement after emptying his. AndbI am not going to deposit shitty toilet oaper in the wee bin to remind me what I have eaten last night. Cant see any obvious companies doing septic tank cleanouts and why a septic tank less than 5km from the capital of Italy in a built up suburban area. The house is relatively modern.
Then Alison turns on a switch and there is a loud buzzing noise sounding ominously like a short circuit. Another sign warns us not to run more than three electrical devices at the same time and that Italian households have a daily limit on tbe power they can consumme. This, in a country which has the highest uptake of solar power in the wo4ld.
And, door and gate locks – the bane of my life. Italians have this complicated three lock system which only seehs to deter the homeowner. Three to the left and then back one or two, or thre then righ5, left, right. We broke and jammed ( I should say I broke and jammed) three keys and were given numerous tutorials so as not to break, jam keys. Cant see why the old ,put key in lock, 5urn righ5, door unlocks cant work.
A huge storm in Mondello in the past few days. The bay is usually like glass and the colorful fishing boats bob up and down at their moorings. Much thunder and lightbning and then a tremendous downpour of rain which floods the streets. No water conservation here. Havent seen a water tank and when it rains you could fill a 3000 litre tank easily. Then the waves arrive in a strong (30-40 knot) NNW wind. Breakers crashing over the promenade, fishing boats bashing into each other, objects flying through the air. A day later it is only starting to die down but once the sun goes down you know that winter is fast approaching, although, I couldnt stay out on the balcony midafternoon as the sun was so hot.
We have a d3cent TV here so I have been indulging myself. Italian TV is crappier (if possible ) than NZ TV. Long out-of-date american crime shows, ancient american, french movies badly dubbed, endless shopping channels, really bad news channels which seem to be obssessed with immigration, earthquakes 9ten live feed cuts in one half hour segment and all showi g the same shot of a church crumbling), and advertising worse than any I have seen in any country. There are some gems though. I caught Vera Cruz with Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper, I caught a Scandinav8an comedy film which had many of the actors from a miniserues I watched called Jordskott, which was interesting and a car show which al5hough having the same format for each hour segment; man buys car; man shows all the defects in car; man takes car to mechanic friend; mechanic friend fixes car; man flogs off car at a profit or not. What is different is the show goes into a lot of technical stuff like how to remove bearings, how to do a valve gri d, how yo rem9ve rust, how to bleed brakes, how to replace a softtop, how to install an exhaust system – stuff that appeals to me rather than Jeremy and Co doing spinouts and abusing johnny foreigner. Also some d3cent music shows. We eat hed Mark Knoefler doing a show in London which I hadnt seen befoe and a documentary on Bobby Rush (dubbed in Italian)
I have a rabbit to cook tonight so am off to the village to get something to go with it. €14 -complete with head and eyes which I probably won,t use. Something Sicilian, I think.
Alison has today planned out for our last day here. We are going to visit Palermo. First to explore the markets, secondly so I can have some famous Sicilian street food, and lastly fix up a glitch with the incredibly cheap but devious Ryanair. We found out last night that we must have printed boarding passes to get onboard our Ryanair flight to Rome or will incur a €45 fine for each of us. We had been warned that this was a Ryanair trick to provide cheap fares then load them up with fiddly things
Ike this. Alisons attempts’ with Livechat only got us to the point where their wonderful new app would suffice but we have discovered this only applies to EU members. We have to print out a boarding pass and as we don’t travel around with a printer, and, Internet cafes with printers we can connect to are rare in Sicily we are hoping, by some miracle that Palermo will provide us with a solution.
The markets are a huge disappointment. Selling the same tat as you get on most beachfronts in Italy. The food stalls are better but as our home cooking days draw to a close not much to see. And the smells and rubbish are really offputting. Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor both say the Old Market is dead and gone and these are the places to be but I am increasingly questioning who these peoole write for. The Old Market has some cool bric a brac and the food is much more pleasantly presented.
Then, my next disappointment. I find my beef spleen in a bun but only served with lemon. Its not nice but I could see how with fried onion, cheese and lemon it could grow on me. A big thumbs down.
Then, we find a hotel who agree to print our boarding passes and presto , problem solved.
Palermo, a mixed bag. The city itself is dominated by Mafia built apartment blocks which are in stark contrast to those in Mondello which are characterised by the Art Nouvea villas.
The Art Nouveau villas characterize the architecture of the place, making it an important landmark in the history of international modernism . These buildings (many by the famous architect Ernesto Basile) are among the best examples of Art Nouveau in Italy and Europe.
Tomorrow all paths lead to Rome if Ryanair doesn’t spring another little Irish surprise and if the earthquakes don’t crack the runway in Rome or if …………….