Entry #14 May 31 and June 1, 2011
Tuesday morning we were up early on our way to Cefalù where we would stay for 2 days. The bus left at 8AM and we all checked to see if our "buddy" was aboard. The buddy system works like this. Besides the person you are traveling with (Anne in Tom's case) you choose another person on the tour who becomes your buddy. When a buddy check is made, you make sure that your buddy is there before the bus leaves or a walk begins. With a 54 passenger bus (a bit of overkill for a tour of 24 people) this is essential to prevent anyone from getting lost. Antonio, our driver, wove through the crowded streets of Palermo and we followed the coast for about an hour. The first stop was in Monreale where Jackie (our local guide from yesterday) met us and conducted walking tour of this city and its Arab-flavored cathedral. It was an impressive church with a gigantic organ, bronze doors and very detailed marble work. The nearby cloister had ornate carved pillars and detailed inlays. One carving is the original that the Starbucks coffee mermaid is based on!
Around 11AM the bus left Monreale and we headed for lunch which was at a winery. A tour of this "moderate" sized establishment made us wonder what a large winery was like. The gigantic stainless steel tanks towered above us and appeared more like an oil refinery than a wine making establishment. The bottling process was a whirr of machinery with Quality Control (QC) monitoring like in any big factory. The cool aging warehouse was huge and the traditional wooden barrels reminded us of the Vino Project we did with our students in the Design of Experiments class at RIT.
Near the end of the lunch which was a multi-course extravaganza, the youngest couple (Ted and Julie) became engaged. Ted did the very romantic thing on his knee with an elegant speech and Julie joyfully accepted. This was a tear evoking event.
The drive to Cefalù took another hour and we stopped just outside the town to get a view of it and the nearby rocky hill, "The Rocca" which we were encouraged to climb on our completely free day tomorrow. Tom still was wearing moleskin for the blisters he acquired from his poor fitting, stiff LL Bean hiking shoes, so we took that recommendation with a grain of salt. Our dinner consisted only of appetizers since the big, late lunch had stuffed us in the afternoon.
One of the things about traveling for a few weeks is the almost constant need to do laundry since the laundry batch size is limited to only a few pieces due to drying space. Our hotel in Cefalu was an exception to this since it has an outside balcony and lots of space to hang the laundry out to dry. So, Tom did a big laundry on Wednesday that we hope is the last on this trip!
We essentially wandered around the town taking in the sights, many of which were down narrow alleys. The ubiquitous ceramic sun seemed to be in all the tourist souvenir shops. We thought it was gaudy. We also discovered the ancient public laundry where Tom faked it (after all our laundry was drying on our balcony). We had lunch by the beach and got to see the bikini clad sun-lovers frolicking, but not too many in the frigid water. Later in the early evening, we went back to the church where a wedding was just getting over. A group of celebrators were arranging a circle of flowers for the bride and groom. An aptly decorated Mercedes convertible waited for them. Tom observed that the a good medical profession would be podiatry since the women seem to all wear very high heel shoes and will in time suffer foot disorders!
We had made a reservation at a seaside restaurant and enjoyed a wonderful meal on this June 1 day in Italy!