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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 25, 2014

Thursday-a nice day and long story

Thursday being my last full day in Ortigia and still awaiting the arrival of a new credit card, I didn't do any official sightseeing.  I pondered going to the Archeological Museum back in Siracusa but couldn't work up any enthusiasm for it and decided to "stay close to home". First, after my morning look at the water which was beautiful as always, I went to Clandestino where they serve a 6E Sicilian breakfast I wanted to try.  Got a nice pot of tea and a glass of fresh-squeezed OJ with it and a hard-boiled egg sliced, some Sicilian salami which was really tasty but pretty spicy for first thing in the morning so I didn't finish it, a number of big, fat cherry tomatoes, some absolutely fresh mushrooms sliced and fanned out on the plate, a couple small pieces of toast, two skinny little wedges of cheese and two or three tasty olives  I wish I had taken a picture of that - it was so pretty.  And there was just a little drizzle of olive oil here and there.  I'm impressed with even lower priced d places  take pains with the presentation of the food.  It makes eating it that much more enjoyable.

I went back to the hotel, worked on the blog and other computer stuff for a bit and decided to get some of my packing out of the way.  Took a break to do some wandering through the many streets of Ortigia and find a new place for lunch and found a few new things to take pictures of. :)

This first picture I took because when I turned the corner onto this street, it was like walking into an open-air plant market!  The balconies all had draping plants (the same kind) which were being blown sideways by the wind and then there were all these huge pots with all different plants lining the sidewalk. 

And this next one is a small building and the center doors are open and you can see into a little altar.  It's not a church, and the pavement in front is roped off so I didn't go any closer and it will have to remain a mystery.  As you can see from the bit of sky showing, it was quite cloudy and very windy, and amazingly enough not HOT!

I came across a little cafe that had a kind of hard to understand menu outside but they also had cards with a list of a bunch of different arancini ballsa and I thought I might try one of those again.  The one I had a few days back was tasty but I thought at the time that there must be better ones somewhere because every guidebook mentions them as a delicious, authentic Sicilian food.  Went in and ordered a simple salad and an arancinia  with  delightful name that I can't remember except that it ended in "Bronte".  I could see from the name that it would have some cheese and pistachio nuts in it and I asked what the Bronte was.  She said it meant the pistachios were local.  So...never knowing for sure if my conversations are well understood on either side,  I'm going with that.  The salad was another little work of art - big oval plate   with a lot of lettuce and radiccio surrounded all the way around the plate with grated carrots.  The salad also had corn which I love in salads and sliced cherry tomatoes and as I recall, that was about it.  You had to dress it yourself with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and the plate was so full it was kind of hard to accomplish that, but I did my best.  And then she brought the arancini and, oh my goodness!  First of all, it was hot!  My feeling is it was fresh fried.  Nice dark crust and it smelled so good.  The cheese inside was all melted and just a little bit stringy - the pistachios added a nice crunch and it was delicious and very filling.  That and a glass of wine would have been plenty for a lunch.  And that delicious ball of tastiness was 2.50E!  Of course, again, I neglected to take a picture. 
So, very pleased with all that, I again wandered about in the chilly, sunny, cloudy, windy day and found a few more new things for photos.

 One of those lovely courtyards that you don't see if you don't turn your head as you pass.  I really wanted to stay in this one because it was out of the wind.  I was taking my pictures with my I-phone and I've discovered that if it's really windy the phone tends to act like a little flag and flutter a little.
 Really liked the sky here and the two boats way out on the dark water.
 And then we're back to clear sky and a little harbor.
 This was the center front of a quite large building.  I have no idea if it was/is a church or was/is some kind of government building or what.  There was no sign anywhere about it, but it was quite monumental.  Too big to get anywhere near the whole front in one picture because it was on one of the exceptionally narrow streets.
I finally headed back to the hotel telling myself, it won't have come, it won't have come but you still have until 1:00pm Friday.  And like I reported at the end of Wednesday's post I went to collect my key and there it was.  I was so happy I didn't have to sweat through until Friday.   I took my cherished UPS "very urgent material enclosed" envelope to my room and opened it slowly just to savor the moment.  I read all the information they sent (which I hardly ever do) and just was a new woman when that was all done
Sorted through things a bit more, rearranged some of the packing, at some point fiddled with the blog and such, and finally around 8:00 decided that even though I wasn't what you'd call really hungry, I should get something to eat.  Decided that I would go back to Caravaggio's for my "last night" meal and maybe get a nice salad.  I got there and the same young man who has been there each time I go was there and  I'll back up a little to tell you about him.  The first time I went searching for restaurants near my hotel where I could eat for not too many millions, I was stopping and reading the menus outside. It was lunchtime and  I've discovered that a lot of places have someone outside who will ask you if you're hungry and ready to eat.  It was probably around 3:00 and I asked if it was too late to get a pizza - they had like almost two pages of different pizzas and it made me hanker for one - and he assured me it wasn't and led me in.  Told the chef who was in the restaurant area that I was wanting a pizza (at least I assume he did - it was all Italian to me) and the chef I assume said no, no it's too late because the young man turned to me quite distressed and apologized to "madam".  I said no, no that was fine, I'd be back and he even reached out and touched my arm and said "so sorry..."  Obviously, a tender-hearted young man.  I think it was probably the next night I went back for dinner thinking I'm going to get my pizza darn it and there he was and recognized me.  The menu he brought didn't have pizza so I asked "no pizza?" and he brought me the pizza menu.  That's when I ended up with the huge and delicious pizza and the half liter of wine.  I got really tickled at both of those arrivals and who knows what he thought, but he seemed to enjoy my amusement.  Then I went a couple nights later, he put me at the same table, and I got that wonderful caponata dish and a glass of wine with us sharing a chuckle over that.  So last night I went again and there he was and this time asked "one?" like hadn't I found anyone to eat with yet? and I said yes and he said "alone" with a slightly distressed air and I said yes so he automatically took me to "my" table and we made a little joke about that.  He's just so darned cute!  And, no, all my friends who always say "maybe you'll meet a nice Italian man" this guy is probably in his mid-twenties.

 Anyway there I sat "alone" and a couple came in and sort of stood looking around this fairly empty restaurant (as it always seems to be).  The man happened to glance in my direction and I said it's really good..  He responded in accented English and  they waited a bit and the waiter came and took them to a table.  Then he brought me and them our menus and I was studying mine and wishing I was hungry enough to get that caponata one again when here came the man to ask was I alone (good grief!) and would I like to join him and his wife?  I dithered a bit cause how uncomfortable for them if they just were trying to be polite but he kept saying, no, no we would enjoy it and so I did!  And it was just so pleasant.  They are Phillipe and Isabelle and are Swiss,  travel extensively and spoke beautiful English.  He and I did most of the talking but Isabelle was quite pleased to join in.  When the waiter came I tried to ask him if I could get a smaller pizza and he responded with some Italian and his usual look of slightly bemused puzzlement when dealing with me. Phillipe explained to him what I was asking in what sounded like excellent Italian.  My waiter nodded yes, yes we can do that just order which one you want and we will make it  smaller.  He brought me the pizza menu and said "L'Ombra" and I remembered that was the one I ordered last time so I ordered it again.  And we agreed to share a half liter of wine and all laughed about that because I wouldn't have to take any back in a plastic bottle.  So, in a while here came our meals and I got the same big huge pizza!  He was sorry again and explained to the man (apparently) that once again the chef had said no but I said it was fine and my companions could help me eat it.  So they each had a piece and, again, I did the best I could with the rest.  I didn't try what they got but it looked good and they cleaned their plates.  Finally, after much pleasant conversation, we went out to pay the check which the waiter also takes care of - it seems to be just him and the chef and Phillipe  had quite a good Italian-style chat with the waiter.  When they seemed to be done, I had the wit to think to ask Phillipe to tell the waiter how much I had enjoyed every meal there and that this was my last night so arrivederci which he did and the waiter responded quite lengthily (probably saying this poor old lonely woman is crazy but nice enough) and Phillipe told me he had wished me a very sincere bon voyage but  he kind of had to work at phrasing that which is what made me wonder what the waiter really said.  When Phillipe was done translating, I shook hands with Phillipe and Isabelle and turned to shake hands with the waiter and...wait for it... I got a European two cheek kiss!!!  It just made me feel so accepted and kind of special for a bit.  He was just a real sweetie.  I wish they had more business like the place catty-corner from them that is crammed every night and when I ate there, no one spoke to me, period.

So what with the wonderful streets of Ortigia, the receipt of a credit card, my packing almost done, the delightful dinner with two very pleasant people, my simpatico waiter, and my two cheek kiss, it was a very good last day in Ortigia.


Christopher said...

Well, I would say it might be hard to ask for a better day overall… Not too hot, some new sites, the arrival of your credit card and all that relief, and what a wonderful, charming last meal in town… Kudos to you for accepting their invitation! I would say look for those opportunities more often, to strike up conversations and potential friendships, that could turn into, perhaps, invitations or places to stay in Europe… :-)

Jamie said...

What fun! Sounds like a great day all the way around. Can't believe you didn't get a picture of your waiter! He sounds adorable. Nice to have a great evening with fellow "world travelers"!

January said...

The pictures of the ocean are always so nice. River or no river, that's a view to miss when you get home! I'm glad you had such a friendly "regular" waiter - that makes it fun. You're almost a native!

rosanna said...

Dear Marylynne, I found your blog again at last !!
I sort of lost it someday, someway, and I hated not to able to keep in touch!
I read all the posts about your Italian travels until now and I am so GLAD that you are having fun.
I read about your purse and I trembled with untill you wrote that you found it. Sigh of relief !
Please, don't complain about the heat, it is far worst in summer...when I was there in September the average was 32/34 C.
It was like melting but August.... August is a totally different affair, think of 40° and you'll get close to it.
I am sure you'll love Palermo and I am a bit envious for what you've already seen and tasted and felt.
Although belated I send a big hug to you and my regrets for being a virtual one.
Excuse my long silence , it was not my will.
Un abbraccio, Rosanna

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