Siracusa: First night

Thank the goddesses that there was a taxi at the bus stop when a traumatized dog and her slightly traumatized human arrived in Siracusa on Saturday night. I was worried that Pearl would not get in another vehicle, but she was quite willing to jump into the taxi for our unexpected tour of the city at night. The street where I’m living is 2 small blocks long and the gps in the cab plus google and apple maps failed to find it! Eventually the taxi driver called my new landlord. That in itself was an adventure Io parlo un piccolo ( a little) italiano and the driver spoke even less English, so my poor, tired, traumatized brain had great difficulty in figuring out what he wanted – for me to phone her. Once that was figured out and I got Angela on the line she was able to give him specific instructions and we were at least close to my new home away from home in about five minutes. The journey from the bus station had taken about 25 or 30 minutes in total. This would turn out to be a standard for the next week at least. Take the time it should take and multiply it 5-10 times. The driver was very nice and had turned off the metre about 15 minutes into the drive. As I was to discover getting to my street in a car is actually quite difficult you need to go blocks out of the way because of a series of very complicated one-way streets. Lots of cities have one-way streets but generally speaking if one street goes north the next street goes south. Not so in Sara cruiser! You could have 23 or even four streets all going in the same direction before you encounter a street going in the opposite direction. I’m sure once you know the city really well it’s fine, unless of course you need to know one of those tiny little sidestreets, but when you’re getting to learn it Mamma Mia I can’t imagine trying to drive in this city! I saw a woman waving down the block and headed in that direction with suitcases and dog. Yes it was Angela and Pearl and I were home. Angela greeted me with an air kiss to each cheek, plus a string of instructions, of which I possibly understood 20% My biggest concern at the moment was to get us fed. Angela looked a little alarmed when I asked her where I could find someplace to eat close by. She said all the restaurants were quite far away. “Pizza is just fine” I said “Is there a pizza place close by?” Thank heavens she answered “Yes” and gave me directions for a pizza place just a few blocks away.

So I fed and watered Pearl and we were off to find our first local eating place. Walking the streets of a strange city in the dark when you’re starving and dead tired is very different and walking through them in the daytime once you’ve gotten to know them. I was so happy when we arrived at Don Chixote pizza in Panini Ristorante until I saw the huge lineup. Oh well nothing ventured, nothing gained. When the waiter asked if I wanted a table for one I said no for la Porta la via. This was what they said in room and in Palermo but apparently not in Syracuse though because he looked at me blankly so I pointed at the door, made my fingers do a walking motion and he understood! Then the Nonna came rushing over and kicked me out along with three other people and changed the sign to closed. We were apparently to wait outside. I thought briefly about taking a little walk and stretching my legs that were stuffed from a five hour bus ride that was supposed to be three hours long, but I was afraid I’d get lost and not be able to find my way back to the pizza place or to my little casita. I watch the neighbourhood while I tried to keep pearl out of the grips of large dogs with security that’s on them and leap out of the way of the motorcycles taking shortcuts on the sidewalk. I wasn’t sure how I liked this place and kind of wanted to turn around and go back to Palermo. After about half an hour I got my pizza and asked for my beer which Thursday another big stink with Nona who is just trying to get me out of there but I persisted and you kept waving my receipt at her. One of the sons came to the rescue, told her sì, sì and brought me my beer. I was more than ready to go home!

The pizza was delicious and I discovered that the further away I got from Rome the cheaper the pizza was. In Rome this pizza would’ve been €11, in Palermo €9 and in Siracusa it was €6! After eating most of the pizza and drinking half of the beer I tossed pearl out into the garden while I brushed my teeth and then we both fell into bed for a well-deserved sleep.

Day 12: Last full day in Palermo. Time to see the sights

After my now standard breakfast of espresso and toast with jam Pearl and I were off for a day of sightseeing. I wanted another look at City Hall, having discovered that that was the building behind the fountain full of naked statues. I also wanted to check out the palace, the castle, the cathedral and at least one of the gates. Palermo was a gated city and all four of the gates are still standing.

This gate is attached to one of the oldest royal residences in Europe. Both were initially built in the ninth century by the Arabs who lived in Sicily at that point in time. The Normans gave them a facelift in the 15th century. Palermo reminds me a lot of Bordeaux. Everywhere you turn there is another magnificent historical building or fountain!

The gate sits between the Cathedral and royal palace.

Pearl is more interested in the dog walking nearby.
The cathedral is off to the left.

I wish that I had read about the cathedral before I left Palermo. Apparently it is spectacular. I wasn’t in the best frame of mind for sightseeing while I was in Palermo, but I may spend another couple of days there before I leave Sicily.

Because there can never be too many royal residences, Palermo also has a royal castle a stones throw away from the palace! What I liked best about the castle was the garden is in front of it. Definitely the place to go in Palermo if you have a craving for dates. There a date palms everywhere and dates underfoot everywhere.

There are also giant cacti in every city garden.
Bad photo of the castle

I should have marked these better because the quatro canti all looked the same unless you are very close.

The draping on the church door across from my little alley changed twice while I was there.

Last dinner in Palermo was at a small restaurant down an alley.

Tomorrow Pearl and O are off to Siracusa, our home for the next two months.

Day 10: Visitations in Dundas, sad and lonely day in Palermo walking along the seafront

My mother and home were constantly on my mind today. I kept trying to figure out what time would work to call home. The funeral home visitations were at 2–4 p.m. and 7–9 p.m. That was 6-8 p.m. and 1-3 a.m. the following day for me. My brain was not working very well but eventually I figured out that basically I had the whole day to wait before I could talk to anybody from home. 

After an espresso, some toast and an orange Pearl and I were ready to head out. This was not our first walk of the day of course, but I had kept the earlier one short. You could see the Sea from the main street that my alley comes off of, so I figured we would just walk straight down to the sea. Of course the nothing is that simple! We did get near the sea before running into a major road funnelling transportation to the port. I tried crossing it and walking along the road, but the sidewalk kept disappearing and it was very, very dirty and sketchy. The sidewalks were covered with tons of garbage and broken glass.  It seemed like heading back toward the town centre and finding a different route was a good idea! Back across the major road and a few blocks west towards the town centre, I found a more promising and less scary road. Pearl and I followed it for a few blocks and it started veering towards the sea — hurray! Just a couple of short blocks east and I could see the park and boardwalk that ran along the seashore for a mile or 2. Now we just had to cross another busy road to get there. My strategy for crossing roads, was to wait until some other people were crossing whenever possible, in the belief that drivers were less likely to run over multiple pedestrians. I do cross at crosswalks, it is just that unlike Rome, in Palermo many drivers just ignore pedestrian crosswalks.

Oooh the sea, the sea, the beautiful sea! The was not a sandy beach, those are a little ways out of town. This shoreline was full of rocks and large boulders, but still beautiful. There must be a school nearby because there were groups of teenagers lounging on the rocks and benches eating lunch. There were also people walking, some with dogs some just meandering along the seashore in couples or on their own. Pearl was able to meet a puppy and have a good sniff so she was happy for a while, until we met some not friendly dogs. She does not take well to being growled at. I looked for a better spot to walk and saw a maze-like park up ahead, so we headed for that. I could still smell and hear the sea, but I could also prevent Pearl from seeing other dogs and ruining my tranquility. There is something about the sound and smell that is truly calming. After a long walk by the sea we headed back home for some lunch. I actually remembered to take a few pictures along the way. We went by this amazing botanical garden and I found Siracusa’s Chinatown!

Bread was hard to find, but brioche was not, so I had a sandwich with my meat and cheese from the market in a brioche along with some local cherry tomatoes and olives. A veritable feast! I tired to do some writing while drinking this weird, but delicious tea I’d found. I was looking for a herbal tea and not having much luck, so I figured it was worth a try.

The main ingredients are cumin, oranges and ginger!

Felt spaced-out all day, so didn’t get much writing done. Had a little rest instead. Tried to call home, but did not get an answer, so Pearl and I wandered the streets again. After a bit, I decided to do what Italians do. Sit at a local bar. I ordered mineral water and thought that I ordered a slice of lemon. That is not what I got. I got essentially freshly squeezed lemonade with a packet of sugar to go with my acqua frizzante. Sitting in the little piazza was a good idea. I got a different view point then when walking in it. For instance, I had never noticed the Trompe-l’œil paintings on the building across the street.

Other than Pearl freaking out every so often about a dog going by, it was a very pleasant hour or two. Another walk to wear Pearl out and Bistro Bistrot would be serving cena. I have not become accustomed to the Italian lifestyle. I eat too early at night and sometimes find myself wanting pranzo at 1:30 pm, just as all the ristorantes and bars are closing until the evening. I go to bed early and get up late, but earlier than the Italian norm. They say it takes 7 years after the end of treatment for late stage breast cancer to completely recover (if you make it), so I only have 4 more years to go before I don’t need to spend so much of my time resting.

Pearl and I arrive at Bistro Bistrot at 7 on the dot thinking that we will have the place mostly to ourselves and that there will be no other dogs in residence. We have met quite a few of the staff of this restaurant because they hang out on the steps of our apartment building during their breaks. So we had met the young man who showed us to a table in the back after making a fuss over Pearl. He asked if we minded sharing the table with the two women already seated. At least that’s what I think he said! Next to that table was a table with yet another dog! This one a young German shepherd. He was instantly enamoured of Pearl, especially her things. It is a good thing that Pearl is willing to share! The puppy drank her water and I gave him some of her food. He was scratching at her water bowl so I filled it up again and again. Now it was time for his nap so he took her blanket and laid his head on it. LOL First I chatted with the people at the German Shepherd’s table. They wanted to know what I was doing in Italy and one of them Lisa Wade asked if I was a writer. It was kind of a strange question from a total stranger. I guess I kind of am. After all a great deal of research is writing proposals and then writing about the research and currently I’m writing this blog, so I said yes. I told her that I used to do scientific writing and that now I was writing a blog about travels with my dog. She asked if I would be interested incoming to a writers residence in Sicily and I said yes – of course – wouldn’t you? We exchanged info and she said she would be in touch. So this is that what I am now? A writer?

It took Pearl a while to settle, but once she did she just lay near my feet and had a little nap while I get got to know the women sharing the table. It was a mother and daughter from Queens New York. Although, the mother was originally from Yonkers and she sounded so much like my cousin Peggy or my mom after she’d been talking to my cousin Peggy. I thought it would make me sad but actually it was kind of comforting to listen to her talk. The mother didn’t normally travel but the daughter travelled a lot from work and had convinced her mother to come on a 10 day tour of Italy. The mother Debbie told me that she was glad she had come. She was really enjoying Italy, especially the food. She told me that her daughter, I think her name is Chelsea, was an expert at knowing what to order.

I shared some of Debbie’s Panella which is hard to explain. It’s like a chickpea fritter and is a favourite Street Food in Sicily. Now I know why. It is delicious! It was the daughter’s suggestion, so she did know something about what to order! Next I had what I thought was going to be lentil soup, but turned out to be bean soup — absolutely delicious, but extremely filling. I had already ordered a secondi of fish, so regretfully I didn’t finish my soup, but planned to come back for more before I left Palermo. The grilled sea bream was also delicious, as was the Sicilian Chardonnay. Something else I wanted to come back for! After a relaxed, satisfying dinner Pearl and I headed out for a short walk and then home.

Once we were back at the apartment I tried to contact my sister Joan my sister Teresa my niece Sophie and my niece Carla by FaceTime but nobody was available. I was really hoping that somebody would come home between the afternoon and evening visitation because by the time of the evening visitation finished it would be three in the morning for me. I tried to write for a bit but that wasn’t working. Netflix to the rescue. I have no idea what I watched but eventually my sister Joan contacted me via FaceTime and I heard about the visitation. We talked about other stuff until my eyes were closing. Time for bed for me and supper for Joan before returning to the funeral home.