Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday Morning in May. . . . . . . . .

Sun is up. . . . . . . .it's a lovely start to the day during these early morning hours. 
Perhaps a thunderstorm later in the afternoon as the heat builds, typical late
spring weather in our area. Some garden chores await.

I'm trying to eat more raw fruit, especially from the berry family. 
Because I have some difficulty swallowing it, I've started making 'smoothie' breakfasts. 
 Nothing complicated - for the base I use so good for you Kefir, a couple of ice cubes,
 a handful of strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and a third of a banana.
 Toss in some chia seeds, sometimes a half teaspoon of honey, and I'm good to liquefy!

Yes, definitely a promising morning - I'm off to enjoy it.
Have a happy Memorial Day weekend. . . . . . and please remember
 the true meaning of this very special holiday.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Erice, Sicily - Part I

May 7, 2017 ~ 7:00 AM Docked in Trapani, Sicily

On another clear and sunny day we awoke to find Sea Cloud, legendary windjammer
 the 'cruise ship of millionaires', had berthed next to us overnight.
  Sadly, she sailed from the harbor later under power and we didn't get to see them set
 the sails - I imagine that's a lovely sight.

The day was promising and for the morning shore excursion we'd signed up to
 visit the medieval town of Erice balanced on the mountain top above Trapani, 
the Egadi islands and famous salt pans visible in the distance.
 There was a problem with the cable car, not mechanical thankfully, just someone
 who didn't show up for work on time! We were bussed to the top around narrow
 hairpin bends - took the cable car back down later.

When it takes me two parts to post the story of a special place, you just know I
 was out there breathing in local color, history, and taking many photos to
 share with you! Erice was such a place and I loved it.

The early morning was quiet, a lovely time to wander through the winding streets.

The Gothic style Mother Church of Erice - construction began in 1312 - was 
breathtaking. I thought this the most beautiful church interior in Sicily. 
At its heart, true treasures await the visitor, 70 precious works of silver, jewelry,
 alabaster, ivory, paintings, frescoes, sculpture, coral, gold and silk embroidery from
 the 14th to 19th centuries. 
It is known as the city's museum and I could see why.

More later on this lovely morning in Erice. . . . . . castles and wildflowers, views across 
the Mediterranean, the olive farm for a most memorable Italian lunch!

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.

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