Trapani to Girona

22nd June 2015

Lovin’ it around the Trapani Waterfront
Trapani waterfront walk

Well, on our last day in Trapani Mt Erice cleared of cloud, but we figure our misty photos of its buildings are good in their own way and will suffice. And, I encountered some wholemeal loaves: nice too. I must not make sweeping generalisations – I must not make sweeping generalisations – I must not . . . But, dammit, the bread is good in Sicily.

Trapani fishing port & marina

Trapani Ferry Port Waterfront

Spent a lot of our last day here around the waterfront – walking around the fishing fleet at harbour and out on the point of the peninsula watching young ragazzi leaping casually (and including flips) off the rocks into the sparkling (azure, azure) water, and other local youth bathing in the rocky promontory’s rock pools. It appears to be school holidays, the young and their mothers wearing brief bikinis, the males not wearing those frightfully uncomfortable long ‘board shorts’ that seem to be the fashion in Australia. As everywhere, there were blokes fishing off the rocks but not with much luck that we saw, and a few small fishing craft off shore. It was very picturesque.

Trapani - popular spot

The local female sun-worshippers have taken to wearing their bikini bottoms a la Brazilianas – displaying their cheeks. That’s not a complaint. All, in whatever shape they are in, are very relaxed and comfortable with themselves – and with the males I have seen no posing or muscled posturing (I’m sure it’ll be happening on of the more fashionable beaches though). It all seems so . . . comfortably natural. But man it is hot here – and getting hotter.

We also found a wide, open area out beyond the fishing boat harbour where a nut seller was parked.

He also sold cold beer, so we used the outer sea wall as a bench and sipped our beer from a small plastic cup and shelled fresh peanuts while a couple of wedding groups were having their collective photos taken – using a drone. Very interesting, as it was quite windy that day, but the operator/photographer was very skilled and made some interesting sweeping (swooping) video with cries of “Ragazzi, Ragazzi!” the equivalent of “Look now and say cheese!” without losing his machine. We returned to this spot the next afternoon too as the views are charming and the atmosphere refreshing – as was the chilled beer, as our nut seller was there again. The pistachios were exceptional, too.

Trapani snacks

Our last night snack back in our unit was very cheap, but delicious and included luscious fresh figs, a local snack of fried chick-pea flour pieces (Panelle), one Arancini, a small loaf baked with ham and morzarella cheese inside it and a bottle of local Grillo white wine. Mmmm – not bad.

I almost forgot to mention the bus driver who brought us back from San Vito Lo Capo: he was a very chatty young man with the female passengers, and also spent considerable time on his mobile phone (responding to a call) while one-handedly driving us round the (many) bends. He was very voluble (very Italian) and I hoped he wouldn’t get too excited and require his other hand to gesticulate – he controlled the urge.

Girona – SPAIN 23rd June 2015
Girona Espana

Ryan Air have lifted their game and you can now actually get a seat number (but you pay extra if you nominate it and stand the chance that your two seats will not be together) so there is no longer the ugly rush of passengers to get seats. Still don’t like them but they were our only option of getting to Spain from Trapani. T’was an uneventful flight.

Accommodation
We have had some very interesting, airy, comfortable and secure apartments in Italy and Sicily. With The Crisis, many people are looking to the tourist market as a way to survive and those that can are buying up little (sometimes very old) apartments, kitting them out nicely and letting them to the likes of us. Most are in the lower budget price range, which suits us, but they’re not exceedingly cheap. They all tend to have some sort of kitchenette with refrigerator which can be handy as it gives you the option of dining cheaply and in comfort ‘at home’ on occasion. In the past we have been used to using Pensions or Hostal (not ‘Youth’) type places which are your basic very small hotel. They have been adequate but they usually lack any ‘kitchenette’. Driven by price, our first two nights in Spain (in Girona/Gerona) are in a frightfully dull, soul-less hotel room – the Ibis Budget Hotel – quite a come-down from the characterful and colourful places we became used to in Italy. We have booked 5 nights in a Pension in Zaragosa though (our next major point of interest in Spain) for an incredible 25Euros/night but are not expecting much for that. As long as it is clean, comfortable and secure – at least it will save us some money.

Girona – Casco Viejo (old city)
Girona Casco Viejo Spain

Girona Casco Viejo Olde Walls

Went walkabout on our day here and found it to be a very interesting and scenic city – once again with an incredible history. It was a walled city and they have restored much of the wall with integrity, allowing you to walk around the old castles, their grounds, habitations, gardens and watch towers. The walls and towers are riddled with those tapered archer’s slots, which gives an indication of the precariousness of life within. It gives you a real feel of how it was: life must have been pretty grand for those within the cloistered walls – when not under attack.

Girona also has a lovey, large botanical gardens (with obligatory peacocks – and peahens) and a huge wooded area which is crisscrossed by wide paths.

Girona Garden Reserve

We struck the perfect day (Wednesday) to wander because everything was closed. It was the Fiesta de Sant Joan/San Juan and a well-attended local celebration was also in place that night in the suburb near our hotel. It was more a family affair, but it was fun to watch the dance troupes strutting their stuff as entertainment. The park where this took place was on our route back to our hotel from a local bar that we favoured. This bar was run by an attractive young Brazilian lady along with the older owner, whose wife kept an eagle eye on proceedings from our side of the bar. Rachel got on with very well with Priscilla (the Brazilian) and she served up delicious snacks: her Papas Bravas – were some of the best we had tasted and the Coca bread with bacon, goats cheese, caramelised onions, olives and tomatoes was scrumptious – damn it was good!

Girona Lunch Snack

Girona Local Fiesta

Fireworks featured large in the celebrations.

It really is strange to recall that it is illegal to sell or purchase fireworks in Australia or NZ. Here, anyone can buy them – and many are spectacular.

This place is staunchly Catalan, and like Scotland, has recently failed in an attempt to democratically ‘secede from the union’ of Spain. Catalunia will try again to become independent, of that I am sure. They mostly speak both Catalan and Castilian Spanish here so we get by (it is Castilian Spanish we have learnt).

It was such a relief, I have to tell you, to be able to communicate and be understood, and to understand what is being said, after struggling with the Italian language. Our ears were becoming attuned though, and this morning on our walk I was getting stony looks from everyone I addressed with ‘Bongiorno’ – forgetting that it should be Buen dia, and we keep saying ‘domani’ instead of ‘mañana’, and so on.

We’ll get over it.

TESLA is unveiling an ELECTRIC CAR CHARGING station right next to our hotel. What with this advance into electric cars, its Solar farms and Wind farms, Spain is way ahead of Australia doncha think?

Girona Tesla Charge Station

Tomorrow, Zaragoza by bus via Barcelona (transit).

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Trapani

18th June 2015

Time to say goodbye to Sicily’s fertile and sunny shores . . . .

Symbol of Sicilia

Sicily – Its much repeated three-legged symbol with snake-wound head representing the three corners of its triangular shaped island–Hic Sicania Est. We are now in Sicily’s north western corner, Trapani.


Trapani
Have been indulging in particularly good ‘vino locale’ and superb pistachio gelati – “This disgusting habit must cease forthwith.” did I hear you say? But, gee, we’ve managed to resist those chocolate dipped ones – so give us a break :). Also, we’ve been indulging ourselves with the best cherries we have ever tasted at the outrageous price of 2.5 Euros per kilo (at the most, about $AUD6/kg). Southern Sicily grows vast acreages of cherries, lemons, oranges, apricots and other stone fruit, the quality and price of which makes us reflect askance at the poor apologies for the same we get from the sands of Western Australia. It is going to be difficult to settle back to paying Oz prices for simple necessities such as beer and wine – for a start. But I guess I’ll settle down after a few weeks of grumbling. The seasonal fruit of this region, which includes mulberries (both black and a white variety), loquats, figs, peaches, nectarines, and apples, is impressive in its quality. Further north, an excellent variety of Kiwi fruit (Chinese gooseberry anyone?) was on our breakfast table at Giarre Riposto – grown on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna.

Gelati Sicilia

Trapani Ferry Port

Our unit is one block behind this ferry port for the Egadi Islands of Favignana, Marettimo and Levanzo, and Mediterranean cruise ships. There’s a lot happening and lots of good refreshment and food places. Its waterfront sparkles (in that azure, blue way) in the bright sunshine. Yep, Trapani manages to keep us interested even though it is not the cheapest of places to eat in. On the eastern side of the peninsula are extensive salt pans – not that we found that particularly interesting.


San Vito lo Cabo
San Vito Lo Capo Sicilia

San Vito Lo Capo Sicily

On one day we bused out to San Vito lo Cabo and found a beach that verily I say unto you had water that was azure, pearlescent blue, clean, sparkling and with a pale-ish coloured sand reminiscent of Rockingham. In fact, I can personally azure you that it could compete with that home beach of ours on a good day. The only problem is that over here, as all around the Med, they section off the beach into competing bar/restaurant interests and litter it with their particular sun umbrellas and deck chairs. It does add colour though I must admit. Rachel had a swim and azured me it met with her approval. I paddled and looked after our phone and wallet. The cape itself is dominated by a Gibraltar sized massif stretching inland – a climber’s dream. An attractive place and another good day’s outing.

San Vito Lo Capo Beach

San Vito Lo Capo


A local Cous Cous meal in Trapani at Hostaria San Pietro. Couscous reflects the North African history of this particular region of Sicily.

Trapani Lunch

We’ve been eating out of a lot of plastic plates with plastic cutlery lately to try to hold back our burgeoning budget figures. Oddly, the quality of the food is not necessarily reflected in the material in which it sits – we have had some damned good food out of a plastic plate. We are concentrating on local wine (and Italian beer) and though some is cheaply packaged, its quality is quite adequate and the price is ridiculously cheap. We have also splashed out on dearer local wine, and yes, to our palates, it is good (yeah, but what would the Italians know about wine, eh 😉 ).

Below is one complete, and typical Southern Italian seafood meal. We had this one in Pozzuoli (in ceramic dishes 🙂 .) We have had to learn to cut back on our ordering as the quantities overall are far too much for us – and it can also be reflected in the price. Later, we’d learn to simply order one of their two (often three) piatti (plates) with some local wine – faggedabout da desoits! The bread, throughout, has been outstanding too: slightly yellow in colour with a bouncy texture and a flavoursome crust. It’s hard to put ones finger on the significant difference between bread here and down under, but our conclusion is that down under they grind the grain far to fine – I suspect they bleach it too and seem to have removed most of the goodness from the grain. The bread here does not block you up, and I have not seen a bread shop selling wholemeal bread – anywhere.

Pozzuoli Lunch

We walked out of there totally stuffed.

Pozzuoli Lunch & Dessert

 


Bella olde Trapani

Trapani Architecture

Trapani Italy

Trapani Italia

Trapani Sicily Italy

We did a day trip up nearby Erice, an olde hilltop town about 750m above sea level. It was, however, a complete tourist trap –it just teemed with them. The town was covered in cloud when we went up by the funicular and it was very cold (compared to down below) and we were dressed for the tropics. Actually, we haven’t seen the top of Mt Erice clear of cloud in the whole time we’ve been here. We walked half way up the mountain the previous day which was a helluva hike but felt good to be up in the high country – reminded us of Banks Peninsula in dear old Christchurch (not as steep as the bridal Path though :).

Photo top left is of Trapani taken from funicular. The city sits on a peninsula. The other three taken in misty old Erice.
Trapani Erice Sicily Italy

 
YeOlde Erice Road
Trapani Erice - back road

 
Ye olde Trapani Library
Trapani Library Sicilia Italia

Australian Health & Safety would probably have this library closed down!