Belle is the most beautiful baby on the beach. Everyone is highly impressed with her prodigious language skills and her exceptional spoon-handling abilities.
Solanas, Cagliari, Elmas, Sardegna
In the event, upon our landing at Elmas airport, Cagliari, SouthEast Sardinia, landlady’s mum was NOT waiting for us in the arrivals lounge with the house keys and directions. This was a touch disconcerting.
Car Hire + unfamiliar car, different driving side, different indicators, different aircon, and handbrake works by foot, would you believe! Confusing or what? The trouble with different places is that they can be quite different from everything that you are used to.
Like you expect people to have a language in which you can communicate with each other; and you expect road signs to display information regarding place names & directions & distances. But it ain’t necessarily so. And speaking loudly in English or French or Spanish orGerman just doesn’t have any effect. Sardinia has been inhabited for 6000 years and they have their own languages quite independent of the successive waves of would-be occupiers from every corner of the Meditaranean & Europe & The Middle East. For next time around, we have decided to retain a batman – who will speak Sardinian, drive the car, know the routes, lead us to beauty spots, cook, clean & wash the bottles. And she or he will not get in the way the rest of the time: when not on duty, s/he will just sleep in a box in the yard.
The suburbs of Cagliari are challenging: several savvy-looking people we approached for directions, simply said “No, it is too difficult to explain to you; go away; go somewhere else; ask in a different place.”. We had 3 maps but no notion of where we were.
The roads misdirected us and motorists backed up behind us and traffic lights leapt out of the night to stop our progress, and nowhere to pause and no light to lead us on.
Christiane is rubbish at star-based navigation and orienteering. At one point, not knowing that we were actuajlly in the right place, i.e. in our destination village, we asked a cluster of elders sitting on chairs on the pavement, outside a dimly-lit convenience store, where was our street. And they said “go to the next village, it’s over there, about 3kms.” They were clearly possessed by a hostile spirit, but I will not hold this against them personally, (one of them runs our local minimarket shop, and I have, since that night, joshed with her light-heartedly, in a spirit of cheerful reproach).
SO, it was really lucky for us then, that, just when we were becoming most desperate, and resorting to truly horrible thoughts, a good angel was passing by and was moved by our distress., to intervene personally. The angel guided us all the way to the address of our self-catering accommodation and we met the proprietor’s mum and dad standing in the street in the dark, at 11.30pm!
The angel was not physically beautiful or impressive and did not show wings nor halo. But spoke English fine well enough for our predicament, and how kindly and helpful and caring and resourceful; a true problem-solver! Now I see why they say that actions speak louder than words. And, as soon as job done, and lost souls rescued, the angel moved on – in a very ordinary Fiat 500.
The most surprising fact about Sardinia, is that sardines actually come up very little, if at all! Not in restaurants, nor in supermarkets, nor on the beach nor around boats, nor in conversation. Just no sign of them anywhere! Cigarettes are very widespread – on the beach, in cafes, in the street, all around. And mobile phones are ubiquitous – especially on the beach, in cafes and on the street – with very lengthy, loud & animated conversations on all sides, probably while lighting a ciggy at the same time.
Next time, some archeology, stone buildings and a bit of culture. Shopping? Only if Im very lucky!
There are many fine palm trees in Palermo, which I guess the Italian people planted when they discovered the name of the town. Not many people know that Palermo is an anagram of Opera ML and you can see the consequences of that.
After the ruritanian idyll and picturesque charm of Ischia, Palermo in Sicilia is an excellent place to go see the bomb damage and grime of World War 2. Few places have preserved the shell craters and bullet holes and encrusted grime of 70 years as well as Palermo. Berlin, Birmingham, Beijing, Beirut & Bosnia have all rebuilt & renovated their war-damaged buildings entirely since the end of hostilities, but they all begin with a “B” and there is no B in Palermo. Perhaps there is a special explanation.
There is a nice piazza called Verdi, where by coincidence there was a very large theatre opera house for the composer to put on his masterpieces, there is Politeama Square, which is for kids to skateboard and play football. There are several things related to Garibaldi; I think they are about the biscuits, which Italian ladies like very much.
Sicilia is the biggest island in the Meditarranean sea and so it is a fine place from which to control the whole region. The Normans visited and they liked the place and built some doorways and windows with curved arches, not pointy ones.
The Saracens came too, but I already asked you about them. They are your homework assignment, to be handed-in tomorrow without fail.
Some Angevins passed through, but I have never even heard of them. If you know anything at all about Angevins, for goodness sake – share, will you please.
Italy was first unified as a country in 1860 by Garibaldi who had a King called Vittore Emmanuele. Palermo has lots of little piazzas with statues of famous people and lots of traffic and narrow streets. There is a large department bookshop and stationery store called Mondo Dori which has a good range of computers and tablets and telephones on the 2nd floor. There are 300 sunny days every year in Sicilia and 2000 saints’ & religious holidays and Festas days. But it can rain intermittently quite often and then there are big puddles at all the intersections and on the pavements, making it hard to walk along any street..
There is a very big church in Monreale built around 1200-1400. The Normans were trying to design an airport with an indoor runway to get to heaven and to Canada, but the whole project regrettably went pear-shaped when the church got involved. The rest of Monreale is a micro climate delight like that place North of Lisbon. Warm breeze, perfect view of your ship coming in and plenty of time to put the kettle on for unexpected guests or to load the canon against immigrant invaders attempting a landing without visas.
Go West from Palermo. 150kms or 2 hrs later you reach the end of Sicilia at Trapani. The road is not quite motorway superstrada quality, but there are long fly¬overs on stilts and tunnels. The land undulates quite steeply and in places has multifarious tiny plots covering the slopes, all cultivated with different produce.
Continue reading “PALERMO”
In ancient Latin, ‘Ischia’ means “very small island pearl where boiling hot subterranean magma which did not escape during the last eruption, heats the ground and the water to 98C and so there is always warm water to swim near the beaches, but you can’t get any insurance against volcanic explosion or earthquake or the end of the world”.
In the Middle Ages, it was an acronym for “International Swimming Commune Hot Is Appreciated” and latterly it has become a byword for picture perfect film set location with no paparazzi, sweet and charming people, beaches of Elysium, fantastic food and unbelievable climate where everything grows like subtropical and spas agogo galore.
There are many people here who go about in white towelling dressing gowns, which is part of their ancient cultural legacy. These are mostly elderly folk and they hold that the dressing gowns make them live longer than other mortals. Most of the inhabitants of Ischia live to the age of 119 years and they eat huge quantities of spaghetti with lots of garlic and small cherry tomatoes and olives and olive oil and anchovies and parmesan cheese and fried fish and secret herbs. And everyone says “Bon Giorno” to everyone they pass and they stand and converse and gesticulate loudly.
Big glass of chilled white frizzante wine from Benevento, almost champagne. The clocks go round very quickly in Ischia because time is faster and so it is really hard to keep track of time passing and life unfolding so rapidly.
And schools of little white fishes leaping gracefully out of the water and diving back in, like juniors training for Olympics. And jumping into green translucid water with a splash, from the gunwhale of my yacht and sinking down in gurgling white bubbles and then up again to look for my cap. Truly it is bliss to basque in the full spectrum cognition of such luxurious sensations and to be alive under the sky and in the wonderful water at the same time, bobbing about.
And the delicious 3 bean dish with white beans and brown beans and squashed lentils. And Paolo and Pietro, the handsome young waiters in long black aprons with pinstripe bibs, who were so attentive and put on a comic charm banter performance worthy of La Scala, thrice daily. And cruising around the whole island with a captain who made us lunch and then spent all afternoon chatting and enchanting the ladies with amusing remarks and anecdotes and playful teasing gestures that really get on your nerves after 3 hours.
All the mountainsides are completely built-up and the roads be exceedingly steep and narrow and winding and totally paved or cobbled. Buses could not fit in these lanes, but they drive anyway. The first ever marble pavement was laid in Ischia in approx 5000 BC and the first ever street lighting with oil lamps was installed by Messrs A. Ladin in 4500BC. In November they close down and go to Berlin to earn money.
Now we need some serious help from you. Dear readers wikiblog needs to know who were the Saracens and where did they come from and where did they go? And what did they believe in? Because they seem to be the ancestors of the Ischians, but, as a Brit, I was only taught that they were the antichrist and we had to kill them during the crusades. Was Morgan Freeman a Saracen in Robin Hood? He knew so much about medicine and explosives and all things scientific; and he was wise and dignified and courageous and had really GSOH. But they did good things in these islands like building big walls and banning graffiti and skateboards.
Continue reading “ISCHIA”
Team PeckhamDulwich borders go Stansted for vacation 2012.
Team Leaders Chrisnmark taxi over the water through Shoreditch to a pavement on Bishopsgate near Liverpool Street Station then wait for the Express. In truth, a tad disappointed that Stansted Express does not warrant a nice smart terminal in central London, like the old BEA terminal in Victoria or the BOAC building with an early concrete ramp in Cromwell Road. Not even a counter with a clerk behind a glass screen nor even a booth like a hot dog stand, all we got was a lone post planted in the pavement and no shelter from the weather.
But the Express arrived and departed, and crawled along past the cool new builds of Whitechapel and through the trendy IT tech area of Old Street and down the narrow shopping high streets of Bow, down the Roman Road area and through Tower Hamlets and Newham. In Stratford, floribundant with hanging baskets in pink and fuchsia and giant hoardings of our glrious sporting heroes, we saw the smiling crowds pouring over the footbridge to Westfield to see the final day of competition in the ParaOlympics 2012.
We beheld the wondrous plexiwood torch, icon of our times and were inspired by the excellent stadium and the prestige swimming centre. We won Platinum for Punctuality, Aluminium for Luggage Relay, but only Tin for speed on the M11. Then onward past the green fields and industrial estates of Essex to reach our destinatiopn.
Priority Speedy Boarding is pretty much like any other boarding – how can all passengers have priority? Napoli taxi to the port, buy two ferry tickets and wait on harbour for ferry ships to disgorge cars and foot travellers and it is dark by now and legs and high heels and smoking and hanging around and chatting with the harbour guys and gesticulating we are in Italy. Then Ischia boat arrives. Lots of families and small children and smoking on all decks and dad sleeping while the women watch over the youth.
No restaurant or cafeteria but Chris buys a couple of mozzarella and tomato sandwiches made of Mothers Pride would you believe, ring the hotel who will meet us at Ischia harbour. Alberto is there and helps us into the minibus. Some pasta at 11.00pm and fresh fish and fruit and a coffee and to bed.
After swimming, lying on a comfy sun-lounger under the blue sky with a light breeze blowing over me, I fell into a deep sleep.I found myself in a beautiful garden, next to a babbling pool with hibiscus blossom and oleander waving from the flower beds. Fragrant scents drifted from roses and jasmine flowers.
I was tripping down the elegant steps to join a crowd of admirers who hushed at my approach. As I passed, they clapped and nodded to me and exclaimed “well done”. I glanced at my reflection in the pool and I was so young-looking – not more than 25yrs old and slim and fit and tanned. The reception committee handed me the Nobel-Oscar-Wimbledon -winning statuette and hung medals around my neck.
The sunset was glorious and the sky went dark, then lit up with countless points of bright shining sparks. They called out “encore, encore” so I gave them another perfect rendition of ‘La dona e mobile’ as the younger ladies threw flowers at my feet. Barack stepped out of the crowd and pleaded with me “Now, please will you be my running mate?”. I quickly signed a new treaty giving the Palestinians their own state and the right to return and recognising a legitimate state of Israel within the 1967 borders. The question of Jerusalem took a few more minutes to sort out, and then I rang Bashr Al Assad and set terms for his departure. The condition of women and LGBT people and disabled and other usually excluded groups and the state of the planet were resolved without a fuss. World poverty, hunger, malnutrition, disease, inequality and loneliness are a thing of the past under my latest proclamation. This is a decidedly good place for a snooze.
Al Quseir is a very nice little bay town with a long promenade along the beach and lots of tea/coffee/shisha places to pause and enjoy the view of the sea. The houses stretch all along the coast. We wandered around the souk looking for a wedding gift and, on a bric-a-brac stall, we came upon a little silvered and hammered lamp, with quite a sweet design, which Christiane liked.
It was on the hot air balloon trip that things started to go wrong. They said “don’t leave any valuables in the rooms”, so Chris put all the passports and tickets in her rucksack to be on the safe side. She was leaning over the edge of the basket when all the contents of the small pocket on the back of the rucksack fell out and spiralled down into the desert sands. This was a bit of a worry and once we were back on the ground, we quickly enlisted for the quad biking ride to go hunt for our documents, but to no avail and we returned to the hotel somewhat dejected and anxious.
Meanwhile, Rose has chosen to go on the scuba/snorkelling session and she saw some small pink things on the bottom, which she collected as souvenirs. There were no sharks at all to worry about but 15 varieties of deadly sea snakes, fatal tigerfiand venomous stingrays & stone fish. She said there was a man who was just as much nuisance as any sea creature. I am sure she should not have done it, but she said something unspeakably rude about his manhood and his mother and he accused her of taking coral from a protected area. The police took all the remaining money to release her.
So now we were stranded in the middle of the desert with pirates off shore and without any papers or tickets or money and not even a quad bike to get us to the airport. I blamed Christiane for wasting it all on a silly old lamp. We quarrelled, Chris was crying and wiping her eyes and rubbing the lamp… and guess what?
There suddenly appeared on the scene an Egyptian belly dancer from Croydon, who is a holiday rep in the low season. She admonished us for fighting when we really love each other and she said it was all Rose’s fault anyway. Then she waved her ID card at the checkpoints and whisked us all through to live happily ever after.