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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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October 19, 2014

Friday - my first day in Sicily on the Isle of Oritigia

It is an island although the space between it and the city of Siracusa on the mainland is very slight - just cross a bridge and there you are.

So my first day was mostly spent wandering around - didn't try to see any of the "sights" but enjoyed the wandering and especially the sea.  I took some pictures of the hotel where I'm staying for the ridiculously low price of 49E per night.  And basically, I don't have any complaints about it.  It's probably one of the cleaner, quieter, prettier places I've stayed.  But...I'm not crazy about their breakfasts - lots and lots of bread products, coffee type cakes and croissants and homemade yogurt which is not much thicker than heavy cream.  The first day there were no eggs and somewhere I found a list of extras you could purchase at breakfast including several ways with eggs.  Today (Saturday) there were hardboiled eggs and I guess I owe an apology to our hotel in Florence because I said it seemed weird for the eggs to be peeled already by somebody but the ones today weren't peeled and by the time I got the peel off what was obviously a very fresh egg, there was very little egg left.  Also the internet connection is quite erratic, particularly in the evenings which is when travelers would want to use it.  The air conditioning quit working at some point yesterday but that got fixed as soon as I told them about it.  And...I'm pretty disappointed that apparently the roof terrace that is featured on their website as a lovely place to visit or watch the sunrise or whatever, isn't available.  I have asked numerous times why the chairs that are up there (cause I went up to it and the door wasn't locked so I went out) are all covered in green tarp-like wraps and I think I am slowly being given to understand that the third floor (which accesses the terrace) is the hotel section for nuns so we're not allowed to go up there I guess.  When I do my review, I'm sure going to suggest that they don't post it as one of the lovely features.  I was really looking forward to it.

So, enough of that - overall and for the price, it's very nice - just those frustrations.  Plus, there is only one desk person who speaks relatively good English which since I speak no Italian, I can't really complain.

So, my first morning, I took some pictures of the hotel inside and will post those first.

 The breakfast room, obviously.  Very pretty and they play really lovely music which is nice.
 This is a seating area in the lobby near the front desk.  Guess what?  It's sunny here.  Could you tell from the glare?
 After my first breakfast, I went up to the roof terrace (this was before the mystery of the covered chairs developed) and this is looking down from there.  Actually the next four were all taken from the roof.



I'm wondering about that pointy thing in the distance - looks like what big buildings put up on their roof at Christmas time - strands of lights stretched from the top of the flag pole to the roof to make a Christmas tree, but I doubt it's that!
So after coming down from the roof when I get off my elevator I turn down this pretty hallway with a pretty chest of drawers at the end...
and then I turn down this pretty hallway to my room.  The room is basically a hotel room - bed, desk, bureau, but it's very clean as is the bathroom.

So even though I was getting a late start, I decided at least some sightseeing was in order.  First of all, I walked up the street that I was afraid to walk up my first night after the hotel person had told me there were two restaurants on that street.  I found three actually and noted them down in my phone.  And then I just basically wandered around a lot of twisty, narrow, old, old streets.  Sicily's history goes back to before Roman times (actually I don't know if they have a definite "this is when people first settled here" date) and I know none of the buildings are ancient but everything does look very old.  And it's a different look from Florence.  You see some fairly ornate buildings but a lot are quite plain - no decorative doorways and windows, etc.  But that didn't stop me from taking pictures!  I probably won't even know where I was for most of them but if I recognize anything, I'll give a shout.  I do know I was in Ortigia and up until some point I was walking up the street around the corner from my hotel.  How's that for precise?


 I love finding these hidden places...
 Walked past a big open doorway and saw signs about a DaVinci exhibition so went in to see what that was about but mainly to take a picture of this piano.  I have never seen a player piano like this.  I guess with one like this you don't even sit on a bench to pump pedals.  Wonder how it worked.  It's old...

 The water is crystal clear.
 Two or three of these large rock formations had stairs carved into them.

 Now, this I know where I was.  I don't know if I planned to or not, but I ended up a papyrus museum! And this was a courtyard outside.  Papyrus grows here - may have been brought in by Romans or Greeks or maybe it's native.  Anyway, an Italian man became very immersed in the history of papyrus, the ways it was used, how to make the things it was used for, particularly the "paper", and the museum is the result of his research, travels, and collections.  It turned out to be really quite interesting and the building and rooms in it were very pretty.  Of course, it didn't hurt at all that right outside the windows was the sea. :)
After I had been wandering around a bit all by myself, a gentleman came rushing to find me and said to follow him so I did.  There is a room where they have chairs and a TV and a DVD that tells the whole story and he was delighted that I was there to watch it.  I did watch it and that's what made it so interesting.  The displays by themselves were fine, but after seeing the DVD, I enjoyed them even more.  The picture above was a display of the different minerals and other things that they ground up for their colors and the shelf above has a couple of "paint" palettes, inscribing implements, and such.  The picture below is a table set up to start the process of making papyrus writing paper.  I'll try and find a link that shows the process rather than explain it just in case anyone is interested.
 The above picture also shows how pretty the rooms were with the very soft blue walls and floors with the ivory trim - very pleasant in a place by the sea.

This is a really large press - there was also one in the picture before this one.

Walking back to the hotel I passed a restaurant tucked in on a narrow street and they had plastic cubes like you usually put photos in on all the outdoor  tables.  But theirs had some of the things you could order which I thought was a neat idea.  One of the sides said "apertif - 6 or 7 finger foods 2E with a glass of wine".  And I thought that was pretty neat too.  So I asked the woman who came out if she would show me on my map where I was so I could find it again and then I came home, cooled off (it is HOT here) and went back out later, found it, and had a real interesting assortment of little bits to eat, the most unusual one being a little container with I think strips of onion and pineapple!!  I'm pretty sure it was marinated in something - maybe close to being pickled cause the pineapple chunks were softened.  But it was strangely tasty as was everything else.  Then I ordered an "insalata misto" which had bits of fruit in it and a very tasty (probably olive oil and balsamic) dressing.  Oh, and the restaurant's name was "Clandestino" which I liked.  And I think actually they're mostly about drinking cause their actual menu (aside from the cubes on the table) was nothing but liquor.  Another thing on the cube though was a 6E breakfast which I may try when I get too tired of the weird stuff downstairs.  So that was all nice and I came back and I think that's the night I finished the last day in Florence post.

And now I've finished this one and may do a little better remembering Saturdays doings although one never knows with old brains.

P.S.  I found this link for a "making papyrus paper" but I don't like it as well as the method I learned about on the video I watched.  It's strange how different the two were but I suppose there are ways and other ways.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCR8n7qS43w      A presto!

4 comments:

Christopher said...

Look at that sunshine!! Milan could use some, and so could Florence (though we did enjoy basically nice weather there, I suppose! Actually, I probably couldn't stand that much sun and heat--was looking at the weather where you are... Toasty!!).
Peculiar about the roof terrace... But what views you did get, and with the sea steps away, I suppose it doesn't matter!

Chinch said...

I enjoyed the youtube papyrus lesson but wish I could have seen the one you saw -- what a treat to have a private museum viewing! Also liked the tasty food place you found. Looking forward to the next episode. xoxo

January said...

A papyrus museum in Sicily! Who would've thunk it? So far, so lovely!

Mary Lynne said...

Actually, January, Greek lover that you are, my guidebook says, and I quote, "Siracusa was one of the great powers of the ancient world, eventually surpassing Athens in prestige. The decisive battle was Siracusa's defeat of Athens at sea in 413 BC....Archimedes, who was born here, was among its citizens." So Siracusa had a real hayday apparently.

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