Sunday, May 30, 2010


If you grew up in my house, your impressions of Sicily have been shaped by stories from Sophia of the Golden Girls. 'Back in Sicily…' . But, just as I found in India, there's more to a place than you can learn on television.
A total of 31 of us, representing 23 different nationalities headed to Sicily this weekend. We rented mini-buses…and I had the lucky task of driving. Italian driving lives up to its reputation. By coincidence, I ended up with a vehicle full of girls, which earned our minibus the nickname 'the pussy wagon'. Our stereo didn't work, so we made due with my mini-speaker and an ipod as our source of entertainment. It is on occasions such as this when personal and regional musical preferences can become a source of disagreement. Thank goodness for ABBA.
We kicked off this gastronimical journey with what would be the first of many fabulous feasts on this island. The swordfish, the wine, the fabulous laid back vibe. There's no better setting for fantastic conversation and friends. 
One of our first stops as we headed out of Palermo was a cathedral not too far from the city. We couldn't find a parking spot, so we parked the mini-buses in front of the cathedral. One of the luxuries of having a fleet as we do is that we look like something more official than a bunch of tourists. So, we managed to get a few hours of parking right in front of the cathedral in without (too much) problem. That was our 'Italy for Beginners' lesson. After that, things got a bit more complicated. 
A GPS is an essential tool in europe, particularly in rural areas, and Sicily is no exception. However, here, it can be a bit of a liability, if you follow it too closely. To make things a bit more challenging still, we had fewer GPS's than mini-buses, so we had to rotate who the 'blind' driver would be. On one occasion, we took a detour down what was listed as a highway, but which more closely resembled wide mountain bike trail. It was the sort of place that I wouldn't even take my SUV. Considering that we were driving on it for more than an hour, it's a miracle that we made it out without any damage to the vehicles. We were not so lucky a second time, when the GPS took us down a road that was framed on one side by a thick hedge and on the other by a stone wall. about One kilometre in, the road began to narrow beyond the limits of the vehicle and we made the difficult decision that we would have to back out as this would be a dead end. A side mirror and a window later, we made it out.
Lest I give the impression that driving and eating are my only memories of Sicily so far, I should point out that there is more to this Island. Yes, we have eaten like kings every day and every night - feasting on local delights like swordfish, gelato, wine - everything that the body needs. And we have stretched the bounds of the 9-passenger van. But..We have also visited some ancient ruins,
taken in a delightful hike along the rugged coast line,
done some beaching,
done a wine tasting and stayed at a winery. And, of course, taken advantage of the tremendously laid back, yet flamboyant, vibe that defines this island.


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