Friday, March 30, 2012

Two Days in Palermo

03/28, Wednesday
Claudia gave us some more ideas for sightseeing today. Churches abound in Palermo so it is inevitable that we visit a few. Also, a Norman palace from the 12th century. It, like many other old buildings, is being restored, but we are able to walk about the chapel. It is very well preserved/restored and has impressive features, but the entry charge is over priced. Guess that is why it is gold everywhere. Another impressive area called four corners with ornate buildings and churches was on our way to the palace along with a huge white fountain with many, many statues all around it. Much larger than the famed Trevi fountain. Turning a corner we are confronted with an enormous cathedral, which we had not even been looking for. Seems like a gathering spot and lots of activity going on in the piazza. Great people watching ! Came across a pretty park/garden, but it was blocked off, so couldn't walk through it. The amount of construction, restoration and scaffolding is amazing. Some of it looks like it has been going on for years with very rusty, old parts. Would think they could employ lots of people, but doubt the money is accessible.

Parts of the old castle are now used for the regional parliament. There were bells ringing to call the members for a vote while we were wandering through the halls. Our guess is they had an emergency vote to resolve the garbage strike problem...more money for the garbage haulers...that is, for the gang that controls it.

Tomorrow we hope to attend L'Opera die Pupi, a puppet show. Susan and Robert Crawford saw a performance some years ago, and they highly recommend it. Today we found the theater and the performance time, 10:30. Also finally found the Post Office to mail off Nicky Mei's birthday card. Wonder if it will ever arrive. First they said they didn't have stamps and then put three huge ones on this tiny card with glue and then used paper clips to hold them !

Gin Rummy was our pastime of the day...we played two games, a split decision. And, at dinner, one game of Cribbage...I think I won, but I still owed Mom a massage from her previous 10-wins. Tonight I will pay off that debt before lights-out.

03/29, Thursday
We are sooo lucky...another sunny day. Spinetta, the cute dog, loves to be scratched and petted. We really like dogs! Claudia takes her out for a quick walk while we have breakfast.

And, we're off to see Gran Duello di Orlando e Rinaldo per Amore di Angelica, the great duel of Orlando and Rinaldo for the love of Angelica, at the puppet theater. We squeeze into the theater with a couple of grade school groups, sitting in the last row. There are 8 or 10 scenes with warriors, a horse, a dragon, lots of sword fights, and the duel in which Rinaldo gives Orlando the victory to save the country! Lots of laughing from the kids, and we get a half-price fee. It was very clever and much effort goes into the puppets and staging. Not sure why Palarmo is known for these shows. The puppets appear to be around three feet tall and take on a personality with all their adept movements.

Then we do a quick tour (until we are told we need to be on a guided one) of a massive theatre right on the main street. Some grand costumes on display from past performances.

We follow the route our hostess recommended near the water and in the Arab district. Streets very lively, lots of cars and even more garbage. Find the little local spot that Claudia told us about that is only open from 1 till 3 for lunch, Zia Pina. It has a serve yourself antipasta and then you pick out some fish. Really fun. We sit outside ( garbage free area) and meet an interesting couple from England. They have a get away home near Agrigento, and are here for the Easter break. We have a very interesting conversation and exchange E-mails. They live very near to York and the walking trail we hope to do some day, so we might just meet again.

Palermo is a mixed bag. A big city with some magnificent buildings, but most need lots of repairing. Lots of people hurrying about, but high, high unemployment, so it seems depressed. Plus their major garbage problem that seems to be a frequent occurrence. Still there is an excitement about the city and I'm glad we came. Lots of contrasts with old and new. Many upscale shops and then a few steps later they are selling mattresses on the street. The Arab and Muslim influence is very apparent in the architecture, clothing and food. Our hostess really made it special here. She speaks very little English, so we did lots of mime, smiling and laughing. Yesterday she had cassetas, cannolles and tea ready when we got home. She has a lovely place and a wonderful, carefree attitude that was great to be around.

Our ferry doesn't leave until 20:15, so we have time to relax back at the B&B until 17:30, then a 1/2-hour walk to the port. We're not allowed on the ship until 19:00. Boarding is easy and quick. Our assigned room is not what we window and four bunk beds. We request a change to a room with a window which is what we thought we had paid for. The Room Captain upgraded us, but that room had noisy air conditioning, and it was ultra cold. As I was trying to adjust it, a steward passed by, so we showed him. In the end, we are in a room on the top level with a big window and no noise and there's heat. A great upgrade! It has a private bathroom, too.

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