Thursday, May 25, 2017

A thing of beauty, a job forever!


Late May Garden update ~~~~~~~~


We've tried to put the garden straight since returning from Sicily - not easy 
when feeling so rough with Europe's 'bug from hell' which came home with us,
 and weather which although lovely for a couple of days, has now turned cool 
with several continuous rainy days saturating the ground and giving a new growth
 spurt to weeds! Fortunately, two days of tornado activity stayed away from our 
area - we are sad for the North Carolinians who lost their homes in rural
 areas - thankfully there were no deaths or severe injuries.

A swing by the garden center for mulch, potting soil, and packets of herb seeds,
 morning glories and moonflowers to plant in those waiting pots, also brought
 sighs over all the lovely pots of plants, perennials and annuals now in bloom,
 all calling out "choose me" of course!
How could I resist the foxglove, one of my favorites even though it doesn't 
like our hot/humid climate here and will usually only last one summer season.
I've kept it mostly on the porch under cover as the heavy rains came down,
trying to save the flower spires to enjoy on sunny, drier days coming soon.

The hydrangeas have hardly a bloom due to the severe freeze we had in early
 spring killing the new buds - I doubt we'll see those lovely blues this year, or many 
figs on our two trees as they were also hit hard. The jasmines were damaged 
but with a hard prune they have returned and are raucously climbing, blooming
 and perfuming the front porch now.

I took down the nesting boxes as all babies have gone, and I've hung my 
hummingbird feeder early this year in hopes the tiny beauties will
 return as usual. For some reason I feel ahead of myself regarding the 
outdoors for this summer season. Probably due to being away in the non-stop
sunshine and heat of Italy. . . . . . I feel I've had, and enjoyed, my summer already.
I like this feeling though, knowing I still have a good three months ahead where 
I can work around the cottage and garden, relax in the gazebo, perhaps plan some
 outdoor get-togethers with family, friends and neighbors. . . . . . . and maybe take a
 few overnights out of town to enjoy the North Carolina countryside and the
 summer bounty of its farms and markets. 

What are your summertime plans?


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Palermo Highlights. . . . . . . .


May 6, 2017 - 7 AM - Docked in Palermo, Sicily


The history of Palermo is complicated and colorful. Following the founding of Palermo on Sicily's northwestern coast at the head of the Bay of Palermo by Phoenician traders in the 8th century BC, it became a Carthaginian settlement until its capture by the Romans in 254 BC. It then decayed under the Romans but later prospered under the Arabs in 831 and flourished as a center of trade with North Africa. Later, under Norman rule 1072-1194, Palermo reached its golden age and became capital of this kingdom in which Greeks, Arabs, Jews and Normans worked together in harmony to create a cosmopolitan culture of remarkable vitality, all leaving vestiges of their domination.


Our morning visit was to the small village of Monreale. Arab in origin and surrounded
 by the fertile plain, "Conca d'Oro" (golden shell), with a panoramic view over the
 Gulf of Palermo.
The cathedral and cloister - Norman architecture (1172) - were stunningly beautiful,
 with the church, Benedictine monastery and royal palace for King William II (1166-1189).
The cloister was definitely a favorite with me.






The shameless magnificence of Palermo's Pretoria Fountain - read more about it here.


Our afternoon in the city was busy with much to see including the newly restored
 Martorana church, and other places of interest. . . . . . . . and here I will stop because
 I know how churches, cathedrals, palaces and public buildings can become
 overwhelming, not only to those of us visiting them, but to readers who find it 
monotonous reading about them!



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The sad times of life. . . . . . . . .




Sometimes life is incredibly cruel and one has to pause and question.
Just a week ago, strolling through the Baroque town of Noto, Sicily,
 completely destroyed by the terrible 1693 earthquake, and then rebuilt, 
I found my name carved into an ancient wall. 


Today I pray parents find their lost children, can speak their names,
 and hold them close.



Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sicily ~ Arrival in Messina for the exciting visit to Taormina. . . . . .


May 5, 2017 ~ 7:00 AM and docked in the port of Messina, Sicily for Taormina.

World leaders will be arriving here this week for the G7 Summit. Thankfully we were there first! Although the hillside town, located on a terrace of Mt. Mauro, was in utter chaos whilst in the throes of upgrading streets and public areas, and increasing security to accommodate politicians, the overall feel of this beautiful place perched in the shadow of Mt. Etna, Europe's highest volcano, was that one was still strolling through one of the most spectacular spots in the Mediterranean. 



Looking across the Bay of Naxos from Taormina westward to Mt. Etna which erupted
 in March and caused injuries to a BBC film crew and some tourists who were a
 little too close to the summit.
Needless to say, we enjoyed the rumbling mountain from a distance!

Colorful streets - cafes for gelato, cappuccino, lemon granite, cannoli, beer,
prosecco, limoncello (the local lemons are gigantic), and so much more. 
Fruit markets, jewelry, Italian fashion, weekday weddings, volcano peeping.


12th century Duomo has one of the largest astronomical clocks in the world in its bell tower.
The 16th century Fountain of Orion is located in the Piazza Duomo.

George and his mom, Michelle ~ Brisbane, Australia.

I first met lovely Michelle, and her charming husband Mark - sadly missed on this
 trip - when a guest at their awesome country home in Queensland's rain forest
 in 2012 - then again with them and their son George in California a few summers ago.

As I share the highlights of this trip I will of course be adding photos of our
wonderful group of friends. All eleven of us have met before and have
 traveled together to some amazing places.


A typical jumbled Taormina alley with bougainvillea cascading, statuary delights,
and signs expressing mysteries within. . . . . .my kind of place.


Never out of sight - and sometimes looking simple and peaceful beyond the crowds.
Yes, that is snow and people do ski there in winter.
Personally I loved Mt. Etna and I hope the gentle people living on the slopes are
 always safe.

Next stop will be Palermo - founded by Phoenician traders in the 8th century BC.

Thanks so much for all your kind 'get well' messages. 
We are doing just that and beginning to feel
almost human again.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

All aboard for Agropoli. . . . . . .and a visit to Paestum


May 3-4, 2017 - The first afternoon and evening on a new ship is always exciting. 
Some of us had already had brief exchanges with other passengers (who later
 became friends on board) at the meet up at Gatwick airport. We all flew to Naples
 together on British Airways and were then taken by coach to the port where the
MS Island Sky awaited in brilliant sunshine.
After meeting up with the remainder of our group of eleven friends with hugs and
 quick catch ups - a brief look around the awesome and spacious cabin where the bags
 have been delivered quickly for later unpacking, and meeting our delightful attendant
 Ana Lisa who was truly a gem the entire trip. . . .afternoon tea was served. This was a
 British ship so no holds barred at teatime, or another meal actually!
This was followed by the mandatory safety drill for all guests in the lounge, on a ship
 this size you actually get to see just about everyone before you sail. . . . . . . the
 happy 114 passengers, and the fabulous crew of 80 smiling faces who, in no
 time flat, seem to know you as Ms. Mary, Mr. Bob etc. and always address you 
by name.
A Welcome Aboard Briefing introduced us to our fantastic Cruise Director Brenda,
 and her Assistant Reba, both of whom we came to know well and had such fun with
over the upcoming ten days.
At 6 PM we were ready for the sail away, followed by a quick unpack. Wonderful to
 have a huge closet with tons of hangers, room to move about, these are the things
 that count on a ship. A freshen up, and then off to dinner and a restful night at sea.

The small port of Agropoli was the convenient location for the first morning
 excursion to Paestum - go here for more details.
Founded by the Greeks in 600BC and dedicated to Poseidon,
the god of the sea, this ancient site, and the famous paintings in the adjoining
 museum, are the only examples of Greek architecture in Italy and are considered 
better preserved than the Parthenon in Athens. Walking through the amazing ruins
 enables one to see the best example of Greek culture outside Greece.


We were taken ashore by local tender boat and the quayside was bustling as
 the fishermen prepared their nets and small boats for the day ahead. . . . . . . on 
the bluest water and in warm sunshine.









The museum at Paestum contained some wonderful art. . . . . . . . it would require
an entire day to view all and read the story behind every piece found at the
ancient site.
Amphora ~ 510 BC





Returning to the ship, the blue water was calm and we enjoyed lunch on the deck,
 followed by a restful afternoon at sea after walking the ruins in hot sunshine.
 Heading across the Strait of Messina - 152 nautical miles to Messina, our first 
port in Sicily. Later the Captain's Cocktail Reception and Welcome Dinner 
was enjoyed by all - we were definitely a lively group!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Setting sail on the blue Mediterranean. . . . . . . .




This lovely journey started on May 2, 2017. 
Over the next couple of weeks (I'm back home now), I'll be sharing
 with you some of the beautiful places we visited in Sicily and Malta.
The entire trip went smoothly with no hitches and near perfect weather, however I,
 then Bob, and several other shipmates were hit by a really tough bug - after three 
days of laryngitis, an awful chest infection kicked in followed by non-stop
 coughing. I have coughed for Italy, Malta, England, and that endless 4,000 miles
 back across the pond where they looked at me like I was 'Typhoid Mary', and now
 here in the USA!
I'm on day eleven now BUT I swear tomorrow I am going to feel better and 
be much quieter so I can sit here and work on my photos and stories.
So, nighty nite - I'm off swigging a mug of hot milk and brandy as I head to bed.

More coming later. Hope you like history, ruins, volcanoes, cathedrals, art,
twisty roads, vineyards, tasting wine, tasting olive oil. . . . . . . and of course 
eating the best pizza and gelato on the planet!





Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Belated Mother's Day wishes 2017. . . . . .



I arrived home on Sunday, Mother's Day, and 
collapsed in my bed, forgetting I had even started
on this post for the special day!
There's no place like home. . . . . . . 
. . . . . especially when you're under the weather, or
in our case, sick as dogs!
Fabulous trip though and I'll be sharing it with
 you soon when I feel better.

Hoping your Mother's Day, and every day, have
been wonderful whilst I've been away. I've missed 
being able to keep up with you.


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