Saturday, June 17, 2006

E Una Fatticaccia!

I have walked so much these past 6 days that I must have legs of steel. My pedicured feet are blistered and stung (more on that later). Im now in Taormina, this glitzy, ritzy town thats very much like Capri, set high on a cliff with sparkling waters way down below, expensive shops, dotted with wildflowers and littered with tourists. As soon as I arrived after a morning of buses and more trekking to the hostel, I dropped my bags, detoured via the beautiful Teatro Greco and got the cable car down to the beach. Of course the free beach is quite a hike and I was surprised to see no one in the water, although the beach itself was packed. I jumped over the hot stones to the waters edge and dipped my feet in...only to see thousands of small red jellyfish hogging the water. Aaaah! I got stung just by one, and so had to contend myself with baking and not cooling off.

Taormina is a ridiculously romantic place as well, how can it not be, and its beautiful to see all the couples (there are only couples), of all ages, walk hand in hand, kiss, talk, stroll. Yes, its hit me a little today, just a little. But the men have been good here, and its true, that the Sicilian men arent nearly as bad as the northeners, that its just a myth from ye olden days. There was a ragazzi who planted himself practically on top of me at the beach yesterday, and for the first time I slipped on a ring on that finger, to disuade him. Felt very false, and I had to take it off.

So Im at a hostel, and the place has its freaks, and Im reminded of that feeling of never wanting to stay in hostels again. Older men should not stay in hostels. Hes a nice enough guy, but goes on and on about how cheap he is, his eyes light up when he shares his secrets of trekking for miles to some grocery store to save 5 cents here or 15 cents there. Woo hoo! Theres an older woman, obviously recently heart-broken, treating herself to her first vacation, but she looks a nervous wreck. And then those Canadian backpackers, tattooing their huge packs with Canadian flags and pins. OK, so youre telling us youre not American, we get the point! You still look like prats though!

Siracusa was wonderful. So old, so decrepid, making Venice look like Dubai, and there lies its charm. I fell in love with its tiny lanes and traffic jams and small town ambiance. My last night I went to see Ecuba at the Teatro Greco and that was an awesome experience. And Ive been reading Alberto Moravia's Contempt, and that has put my head into a spin...I wanted to read it here as a significant part is set in Capri, and wanted to feel the Greek gods' power resontate with the power of the modern day story of a relationship falling apart...I love the book, but kinda wish Id started something less thought-provoking.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Happiness Is

...Cool sweet almond granita for breakfast overlooking the sea.
...A snail's pace stroll with cigarette through the myriad of tiny little alleys.
...Stumbling upon the markets, with produce riping in the shade and sellers yelling, beautiful shiny fish of all kinds, figs the size of apples for 2E a kilo, capers smothered in salt.
...Swimming in the Meditteranean.
...The first kisses of the sun on my skin, turning it the colour of honey.
...A cold Peroni and plate of spaghetti ai gamberi et panna, the prawns fragrant and tasting of the sea, followed by a limoncello that goes down a dream, a Sicilian dream.
...An afternoon nap on a full tummy.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

June 13, 2006

I woke up extra early (need an alarm clock) and thought of doing a few things (Porsche museum, art gallery for the Monet exhibit) but hit the schlossplatz and knew it was a day of flaneurie. They love a self-service pastry shop here (think Chinatown/Bread Story but with pastries, donuts and paninis) so I grabbed a pastry and wondered the streets. A fruit, vegetable and flower market was starting and the produce was amazing. Beautiful white asparagus, mushrooms of all kinds, perfumed roses. I gorged myelf on a huge punnet of the most fragrant, deliciously warm strawberries, and while I wanted to try the local spetzl - potato dumplnigs that look like worms which I love - I was enchanted by a deli on the main square, one which specialised in all kinds of wurst, the other two doors up with cheese. I bought a slice of incredible baked salmon and spinach quiche, a slice of beef wurst, and a salad of deliciously gelatinous shaved beef wurst with pickles, and had a picnic in the park. On such a warm, blue sky day, it was pure delight.

All morning the schlossplatz was gathering with red and white, and red, blue and white. By noon the streets were buzzing with team chants, horns, flags waved and beer glasses chinking. The atmosphere was unlike anything I could imagine and it was so much fun. Camera crews filled the scene, desperate fans held signs up begging for tickets (one offered 2000E for a game) and one of the biggest French fans who Id seen the night before at the Italy-Ghana game handed me a rose, because 'la rose dans la vie, c'est toi'.

When I walked out of the hostel decked in my French tshirt, 98 World Cup scarf, and my newest purchases, a huge flag and a whistle, I felt like the triumphant Hitler walking towards the Eiffel Tower.

The feeling of being there is indescribable, and I cant put it into words. Except for these: when I walked into the stadium and saw my seats, and just how good they were, my smile said it all. I was in the French section, in the corner, row 24, and saw it all. I never imagined such great seats. (Sidenote: the pork sandwich I had at the food stands was one of the most delicious things Ive ever eaten, the pork steak barbecued to perfection). Ricky Martin blasted through the speakers of a beautiful stadium, which was sold out with 52,000 fans. I sang that beautiful anthem at the top of my lungs and cheered Zizou, Henry, Ribery, Barthez. I was consciously aware throughout the whole time that I was fulfiling a dream, and what an electric feeling that is. Despite the 0-0 draw, it was a great game, Switzerland played very well, France needed to be faster and Zidane and Henry dominated. Not a heave of disappointment that no goals were scored. Id seen France play in the World Cup.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I forgot the long days of summer in Europe, and how wonderful it is. Not even before I could open my door at the hostel, there was an invite to join some people in the main square to watch Italy-Ghana. That first shower is heaven. But it was a quick one and then out the door to join thousands and thousands of Italy-supporting locals for the 9pm kickoff, and it was bright light until 9.40, and so warm, and there it was, with delicious rotewurst and cold beer, and cigarettes (the French have nothing on these people) I watched a great game of football, laughed and cheered amongst a sea of people as far as the eye could see.

A Few Hours In London

...and jesus it was great.

The Tube; the overcrowded, overly hot Tube; the station names; "Mind The Gap"; mini cabs; the feeling of summer in the air; friendly people in shops and stations; a crayfish and rocket sandwich at my beloved Pret.

I met R at the same place I met her last time, and she took me to to the funky meatpacking district for brunch (past St Johns, one day...). Over fried eggs, cigarettes and coffee, we had a great girltalk in a gorgeous warehouse cafe and the anxieties of the past few weeks melted away. I know there are people more deserving of a holiday than me, and this weighed me down, but now Im here, Im just so happy.

I shopped up a storm in record time over at Oxford Circus. TopShop, which just bewildered me before, was a treasure trove of pure delight. While everything I was gaga over was sold out in my size, I picked up a gorgeous black shift dress and two pairs of earrings, then next door a red PVC belt, and lots and lots of goodies at Boots. Boots! Then back to Heathrow...


Spent 1 hour of the 9 hour Sydney-Bankgok leg of the 22 hour flight over here seriously calculating how to afford business class next time. "One less coffee a week, one less 'go-on-treat-yourself' lunch or dress...". You know me, I LOVE flying, but it was torture. A full flight, so cramped, very hard. Luckily I had a sweet couple from Adelaide on the way to Bangkok and then to London a lovely English-French moneyed-up-but-$US2-a-night-is-way-too-much-to-spend-on-hotels hippy who sealed our short friendship with the eternal backpackers gift, a beaded shell string bracelet from Laos.
My new toy is a wonderful 8 megapixel digital SLR camera. It was $799 (a grand in Bangkok). It feels just like a film SLR and I love it. They dont even sell the latter anymore. Fingers crossed the photos are as great as the camera, or that they even turn out.