Jet Lagged, But Happy
Originally posted September 18, 2009
Just got back from two weeks in Italy and, let me tell you, the trip was well worth the jet lag I’m still suffering two days after my return. So let me tell you all about it, starting with …
Our Grand Tour of Italy, Part 1
Italy is truly an awesome country. My husband and I started off the trip in Sicily. Our hotel was in Palermo — probably not the nicest section, for good or ill. Unfortunately, we spent only three nights in Sicily, which didn’t give us a lot of time to get our bearings and really get into the spirit of the place.
Suffice to say, Sicily is mostly rural. It’s the kind of place you might want to go if you’re looking for a quiet get-away. Palermo, on the other hand …
All I can say is, if you think the drivers in Rome are crazy, you haven’t been to Sicily. Imagine, if you will, a demolition derby taking place on city streets, without anyone actually hitting another driver. That’s Sicilian traffic for you.
While you’re at it, picture the typical street having, say, three lanes. And yet the cars are four (or even five) abreast. That’s because no one really cares about staying in the lanes. Those lines on the road? They’re just suggestions, really. Stay in the lane or don’t — your choice.
And don’t get me started on the scooter drivers. They dart in and out of traffic, zoom up the road between lines of cars, sneak up beside you while you’re trying to make turns — my husband thought for sure he’d end up hitting one of them, since they seemed so anxious to put themselves in harm’s way. Fortunately, it never happened.
Outside of Palermo, things get a bit quieter, though drivers do have this odd tendency to roar past you in the fast lane with their left turn signal blinking for miles (or, rather, kilometers). The countryside is nice. The landscape was reminiscent of Northern California with a bit of Arizona thrown in — hilly, with lots of palm trees and quite a few cactus.
Our first full day, we took a quick drive along the coast, then turned inland toward an old village with a castle. The road to the village was twisty and full of hairpin turns. The streets were cobblestone and incredibly skinny. Very quaint.
We ducked into the castle, while we were there. It looked pretty much the way you’d expect a castle to look. Old, musty, dark in places. Lots of medieval battle implements in glass cases or hanging on the wall. The usual castle stuff.
We also stopped for gelato in the village. It was our first experience doing business with someone who didn’t speak a word of English. (Most of the hotel staff in Palermo spoke some English.) It’s amazing how well one can get by in such a situation with minimal knowledge of Italian, a bit more knowledge of Spanish, plus hand gestures.
On the food front, our hotel was located close to a really nice restaurant. Not cheap, but nice. Our first meal in Italy consisted of a variety of antipasto dishes and pasta, followed by cassata (a Sicilian sponge cake-and-ricotta combo topped with marzipan icing and candied fruit) and espresso for dessert. Yum!
The next day, we went to the seaside resort of Cefalu. Small, quiet and modest, we decided to visit it because my mother-in-law was born there. We thought about looking up potential relatives in a local phone book, but never ran across a public phone or a book to go with it, so . . . that didn’t happen.
That night, we walked by the McDonald’s near our hotel. The place was friggin’ packed! A regular madhouse. They even had a guard on duty, I guess to make sure people (mostly older teens and young 20-somethings, from the look of them) didn’t cut in line or whatever weirdness might go down at a jam-packed McDonald’s on a Saturday night. Anyhow, Mickey D’s is apparently hot stuff among the young adult crowd there — at least, in Palermo.
The next day, we flew to Rome. That city, in my opinion, is where our vacation really started in earnest.
To be continued . . .