I can’t believe I haven’t posted in a month! My apologies to everyone who follows my blog. Nick and I have just returned from Sicily where we had terrible internet access. Now that I am back on our Canadian WiFi, I really appreciate just how fast it is.
While we were in Sicily we were fortunate enough to be offered a friend’s apartment in Ortigia for a few days. (Thank you Linda!) Ortigia is a very small island immediately off of Siracuse. (see the map at the bottom of the post). It is a lovely island. Linda and her husband Bruno told us that Ortigia is the place where many of the celebs park their yachts – Steven Spielburg, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Cruise, Steve Martin – and of course many anonymous millionaires and some billionaires. We looked and looked and saw no celebs but did see some pretty amazing yachts from the Grand Cayman Islands and a few other places.
This is an island made for photographers. One of my favourite places there to take pictures was the duomo or cathedral. The photo at the top was one of the pillars at the entrance to the cathedral. It was so tall that it seemed made for taking the shot looking up. Here are a few more shots of the cathedral.
Ortigia was a wonderful place to visit – baroque architecture everywhere. However, the parking on the island is crazy and the tourists (including us) are everywhere. I don’t think I would want to live there but I am very glad we had the opportunity to see it!
When I was a kid, at least a couple of times every autumn and at least once in early summer, we would get in my dad’s old Econoline van or my mom’s Valiant and drive over the bridges that would take us from North Vancouver and into Richmond to Lulu Island. We would stop at the farms to buy produce. In the autumn it would be squash – we would come home with a big box that would sit in the cool of our basement and would last us all winter. In early summer we would pick big buckets of strawberries from which my mother would make freezer jam – very little tastes better on hot buttered toast than the ice cold sweetness of strawberry freezer jam. As I grew up, and the urban sprawl that is Richmond encroached on the farmlands, the trips to Lulu Island dwindled down to nothing. For a long time, the only vegetables and fruits that came into my kitchen came from the supermarket. Recently, I started frequenting Farmers’ Markets. The produce is wonderful but I find them expensive. Farmer’s markets have become trendy and the products, while undeniably delicious and top quality, are not, in my experience, for everyone. There are so many people who have incomes unable to support purchasing the best produce.
Markets in other parts of the world are different. The markets in Sicily are filled with the best fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, coffee, and so many other things yet the prices are affordable even for the poverty stricken – and Sicily, with its 25% unemployment, definitely have people who are poverty stricken.
Market day in our small town is on Tuesdays. From 8am to 1pm, one corner of Cianciana is filled with bright colours, aromatic smells, and the sharp sounds of the vendors hawking their wares.
These are a few pictures that I have shared before but fit together so well with this theme. It’s so true that we rarely take time to look up but when we do it can be magical. Ten things I have seen by looking up:
Clouds racing across the sky.
An eagle being chased by a blackbird.
Clouds morphing from one thing into another.
Glimpses into other people’s lives.
The beauty of days past.
The creativity of someone now long dead.
Unintended glimpses up someone’s skirt (I was at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower trying to take a picture – completely unintentional).
Crazy geometrical shapes.
The arms of trees reaching out to each other.
And very occasionally, because you really have to be in the right space, the hand of God.
In a few months this will be my view. I work as a teacher in a high school from September to June every year and I have been doing this since 1983. I have started teaching the children of the students I taught years ago! I love teaching and I love working with students. I still try to learn and improve my teaching practices every day. But, let’s face it, 30 years of teaching takes it’s toll. I have tendonitis in my shoulders from years of writing on the blackboard/whiteboard. I have tennis elbow from carrying books around. I have arthritis creeping into my hands from all the computer work. I have arthritis in my ankles exacerbated from years of standing in front of my classes and walking around to see how they are doing with their work, and I have arthritis in my neck and upper back worsened by years of bending over papers and marking. Yup, it’s official. I’m tired. But, there is something wonderful looming on the horizon! Last summer my husband and I flew to Sicily and bought a house. Nothing fancy, just a tall, four story stone house about 150 years old. It sits on a hill in a lovely mountain village, but if you are facing the right way you can get a glimpse of the Mediterranean. People I work with were talking about me in the staffroom when I wasn’t there (I have my spies, muahahahaha!) saying things like “Is she crazy?” “She’s really lost her mind this time.” “They are going to lose their shirts!”. I should say, there were people who were excited for my husband and I. From those people we heard “That’s wonderful! I wish I had the guts to do that!” But it didn’t take guts, it took a dream. A wonderful dream that Nick and I nurtured until we could make it possible. And so, this summer, and a few summers after, we will be spending summers in Sicily. Once we retire we will spend much more time there and I will sit on our terrazza, looking at this view and sipping il cafe’ every morning.
Just to the northeast of Tunis, on the coast, in the suburb of Carthage, lie the ruins of ancient Carthage. The political and military reach of Carthage in the 5th century BC extended all across north Africa, from Morocco to Libya and Mediterranean islands such as Corsica, Sicily, Crete Cyprus, and Sardinia.
My first foray into international travel introduced me to the magic of wandering through stones and structures that were built and used in people’s lives literally thousands of years before. It was awe inspiring, even though I really didn’t understand it fully at the time. I’m sure that my experiences of being able to touch history in this way played a real role in my becoming a history teacher.
The 50 Year Project inspired me to post this photo. TBM posted a photo of The Sherlock Holmes Pub. My husband, a friend and I went to Corleone last summer, the actual seat of the “Friends of Friends” or the Mafia, and the last name of “The Godfather”. This bar, and the town itself, underscores the degree to which the Mafia has lost control of Sicily. Just off the main piazza is the Anti-Mafia museum and then there is the Central Bar. It was filled with posters from all three of the Godfather films. There were bottles of Godfather amaretto and Godfather limoncello and Corleone beer. On a side note, the gentleman in the striped shirt, on discovering that we three were Canadian, insisted on speaking to us in French, even though we told him in Italian that we spoke English and not French. At least we were pretty sure it was French…he wasn’t wearing his false teeth and it was hard to tell what he was saying, no matter which language he was speaking!
I have mentioned before that my husband’s family comes from a tiny mountain village in Sicily. When he was 13 (1972), he and his family returned to Capizzi for a visit. Part of that was a return to the family farm. The caves in this hill were fitted with doors and this is where they stored all the vegetables they harvested in the fall. Obviously, this photo was not taken by me but by my husband.
My last post was of a castle in Capizzi. In this photo, the grinning young man who is working on restoring this beautiful work of art is the youngest of the family who owns the castle. Unlike many – not all but many – of the young people you find in the big Italian cities who are enamoured of American pop culture, fashion, films, etc. the group of young people that we met who were restoring the mother church’s artwork were not just content, but happy to live in their village and to be active participants in their own history.
Capizzi is the remote mountain village that my husband’s family comes from. This castle was built about 400 years ago and wasn’t finished because the family ran out of money. I was amazed to find out that one of the young men in the village that I had seen earlier working on restoring the paintings in the mother church was part of the family that still owns the castle. What an amazing thing to be able to have such long roots in a place and to be able to actually see and put your hands on something that your ancestors built!
What do you think of when you think of Italian food? Pasta? Pizza? You should probably add fish to your list. In Italy, perhaps with the exception of the extreme north, you can reach the sea from anywhere in a couple of hours and in many many places it is just minutes away. There is […]