Monday, 1 April 2013

surf's up

We are staying with Mario and Eliana again over the Easter weekend which is a real pleasure for us.  At the same time we are hoping to catch up with Rachel and Alistair who have flown here for the long holiday weekend.  We first met in a bike shop in Bangkok three years ago - having both decided to try out cycle-touring.  And then about a month later we walked into a little restaurant in a town in Laos and there they were again.  We know where they are staying but we once again are struggling for want of a phone - they have arrived before us and gone out but we don't know when they'll be back. Never mind - we have other jobs to do and it's great to wander the city centre anyway.  It's even better when you happen across possibly the finest gelateria in Sicily, if not Italy. 
our favourite gelateria (so far)....

 We follow in reverse a trail of people bearing enormous cones or brioche filled with ice cream.  Is that really an ice-cream sandwich?  Eliana tells us later that in Summer many people will have one of these for lunch.  We stick to cones, which are first lined with melted chocolate before the gelato is paddled onto the cone.  We cannot walk down the street with them - we have to sit down to eat.  Around 2pm most of the streets are quiet but the gelateria is buzzing steadily with customers coming and going just like a beehive.

Alistair and Rachel have hired a car and have been travelling madly around the island to catch some of the Easter activities going on in some of the smaller towns.  We head into the hills with them on Easter Day and stop in Piana del Albanesi, a small town with inhabitants of Albanian origin.
Piana del Albanesi
There's a fair number of people milling around the church on the main street and quite a lot of locals in traditional dress.  They finally gather together to form a procession towards the church. We head off across the high hills towards the coast.  This is our first look at the rest of Sicily and we're not disappointed - lots of green, lots of hills and lots of wild flowers. 
Piana del Albanesi

But navigating the small roads and new autostrada is a bit of a pain.  We finally pop out on the coast and visit a tiny village given rave reviews in the guidebook - it's pretty but not remarkable - the curse of the guidebook.  There are lots of Italian tourists about but it's not too hectic.  The time has flown by and it seems we are saying goodbye to Rachel and Alistair almost as soon as we've said hello.
near Scopello
The Spring is here for certain and Mario and Eliana have plenty of work with their roof garden.  We are finally getting the hang of Italian eating habits too.  It seems breakfast consists principally of coffee.  Lunch is the main meal at around 2pm when all shops and offices close for most of the afternoon.  There may be a starter of soup, then pasta, and then perhaps meat and some vegetables followed by fruit for dessert and an expresso.  Dinner in the evening is usually a lighter affair.  We spend a couple of relaxing evenings watching films - Mario has picked them out for us especially.  He's still blogging about films.  Sonia, their daughter living downstairs is also going to start hosting on couch-surfing.  She asks Gayle to check the English in her profile - but her English is very good.  There's a funny moment when she discusses a photo of herself to use on the site with Eliana and Mario.  The bikini shot of her in a boat is probably not the right one - we tell her we think that Italian men seem to use couch-surfing as a dating agency.  We've noticed how there are lots of men offering to host, but when you check the references of people who have stayed with them, they're all young women.
in Scopello with Rachel & Alistair

It's a holiday on Easter Monday so the roads are quiet when we head off from Palermo.  We've had a really enjoyable time here and we know that our stay with Mario and Eliana has made it a better one.  Our one regret is our poor Italian - everyone here is very open and friendly and we can only say a few basic things. 

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