Friday, January 10, 2014

8th January – Anna brings fresh local pastries for breakfast

This morning is dedicated to exploring the Valley of the Temples…. the main reason people come to Agrigento. A perfect winters day with temperatures close to 20 deg C. We get off to a great start with Anna bringing fresh local pastries and making us fresh orange juice and mega cappuccino. Anna is a passionate Sicilian but like others we suspect, under-employed. She lives with her mother and family in a village not far from where we had got lost and looking after the B&B is her only occupation. We bemoan the fact that Sicily actually has an off-season and that Italian’s for some crazy reason, all choose to holiday in the same month – August, rather than spreading it out a bit. We are the only guests in the B&B, something that is common on this trip. We sense that all our AirBnB hosts have been keen to see us, with many messages asking when we expect to arrive. Elena from where we are now in Palermo, sent her first message a week ago, just as we arrived in Sicily and Palermo is our last stop here. Like our Nova Scotian contacts a Sicilian winter is summer for a good part of the world’s population. The Sicilian economy has little industrial support. Anna said the Fiat factory near Palermo closed a while ago so Tourism is arguably their best opportunity to prosper.

We manage to navigate to the recommended car park in the Valley and then take a taxi to the top of the site and walk the 2 klms back down through the old town and the surviving Temple relics. Again there are only a handful of cars in a carpark that holds hundreds of cars. We have a relaxed stroll through the relics on a perfect sunny day, no crowds, even no hawkers …. Unlike a previous experience in Pompeii several years ago, which was crowded and stifling hot, this was as relaxing as it can get. We could have spent a whole day wandering around here. It defies logic that such an attraction can be so under exploited simply due to holidaying traditions.

Unfortunately we need to leave for Palermo after midday. Even though its not that far away we have learnt from experience that travelling times in Italy are not the same as in Australia…we have to double the times. There are very few passing lanes on the roads. I guess they don’t need them as Italians get their thrills from overtaking on bends! We however are happy to potter along behind the trucks and buses.

I’m always relieved when I can return a hire car in Italy undamaged. Other than the little mirror incident on the first day we manage to avoid other incidents. I recall on a prior trip we did scrape the hubcaps on the gutter on a footpath/road. Obviously this was just normal wear and tear in Italy as the Hire company thankfully was not concerned. The airport was not busy and the rental car return even a little sleepy. No attendants at the desks …. I think it was siesta time (another tradition!) but finally we found someone (perhaps coming back from a smoko) and then there were 4 or 5 guys dealing with our returned car.

The airport bus into Palermo convinced me we made the right choice to return the car at the airport rather than the city, even though it was out of our way. The 35 mins trip took more like 70 minutes in the traffic (about right….take the time you think or they tell you and double it). Finding the apartment is easy however, right near the centre and Elena is waiting for us.  I decide not to trust the aging lift as it was only on the second floor. We start to regret this after walking up 5 flights of stairs before we get to floor 2…. The ceilings must be at least 15 feet high!

We are still getting used to not eating dinner till 9-9:30pm, so went out for a snack and a bit of a walk where Elena suggested. Palermo is not really a walking city unless you want a Vespa up your rear end. After spending a couple of hours playing chicken with the traffic we went back to the apartment to wait for dinner time. We had already checked out the recommended restaurant but it was only 7:00pm and everyone was still getting set up. At about 9pm Julie decided she wasn’t feeling up to going out anyway so I took the opportunity to hit the Burger King. There is only so much pizza and pasta that one can have (only joking…we had been eating seafood most of the time in Sicily)

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