Today is our first wet day for a month and with good internet I thought that maybe the time could be utilised with some blogging. So here I am in Paris sitting on my bed, listening to the rain outside and relaxing! What..you say! Yes I know…I can hardly believe it myself…but in my defense, the last 2 days have been full on! And, we are all so tired! So here I am in Paris and still in bed at 11am!
Now where did I blog last? Oh thats right…in Sicily, fabulous place that it is! I really can’t believe that our tour incorporated such fantastic accomodation for us there. Tours really are a fantastic option for having the best places to stay, and also quick access to all the sightseeing places. We certainly have been spoilt!
We had spent most of our time on the south west coast of Sicily but now needed to travel up to the North coast in preparation for the return trip to Rome, by boat. Along the route was another place to stop and walk through the ruins of Temples and palaces. The valley of the temples once formed part of the greek colony of Akragas, and we looked at them in awe…and took lots of photos.
On our last day in Sicily, we stayed at Palermo. We wandered through the local markets. Oh how I would have loved to have been able to purchase some of the lovely fresh fruits and vegetables, some of which I had never seen before. Each stand was full of colour, and exuded the smell of the produce available. The fish stands certainly stood out! But these were quite interesting with the many varieties of fish for sale…including many live ones!
We also did the optional tour at Palermo…the Capuchin catacombs! 8000 mummies…yes 8000, all from 1599-1881, and dressed in their pre-18th century finery, and perfectly preserved and on display! All grouped by their class or profession – even a hallway of brides! I was most taken with the 45 monks still in their clothes, but each having a three braded cord around their necks. The three cords represent penance, poverty and chastity. No photos were allowed at this place and understandibly so. They weren’t that lovely to look at…but well worth the visit.
After visiting the Catacombs, we all boarded the bus again and went off on another tour to discover Palermo’s golden age. A local tour guide took us to the Baroque Quattro Canti Square and we also had a glimpse of the fountain of shame. The story of the fountain is that a fountain was built and the designer/artist wanted naked statues placed all around it. The trouble was it was outside a Nunnery and the first sight the Nuns got when they pulled their curtains in the morning was the naked statues…all men! The Palermo Cathedral was awe inspiring…and place where your spirit was just touched by God! Inside the mosiacs depicted the bible story from Creation to Revelation. Absolutely amazing…and so very pretty! And the Palatine Chapel in the Palace of the Normans was huge and completely cobered in glittering 12th century mosaics. Have a look at these photos. They really don’t do it justice. You really have to see it all in person!
The last afternoon was spent at a local farm where we had a fabulous meal together sampling the local foods. The farm itself was high up in the hills and we got a magnificent view of Palermo. The food, the company, and the sights were amazing!
So to get back to the mainland we needed to board another boat, but this time an overnight stay on a ship! The bus pulled up alongside the ship and we got priority entrance and just walked on board (up a scary flight of steps) as a group. Our cabin was just big enough for the three of us but served it’s purpose nicely. I got the top bunk, and I must admit, clambouring up and down isn’t a very glamourish sight at all! My body doesn’t bend like it used to and the roof was only 18 inches above me! But all three of us were like excited teenagers and we made the most of the experience and giggled all night.
We arrived at Naples at 6.30am and had to be ready to walk out as soon as the ship berthed. The Bus took us to a local Hotel and we joined all the other Hotel patrons for breakfast.
We viewed all the sights of Naples from our bus windows as we didn’t have any stops in Naples itself, but headed straight to Pompeii! Yes…I have always wanted to go to Pompeii. I can remember learning all about it as a primary school student. We meandered through it’s streets looking at the ruins imagining how it all would have looked before Vesuveus? errupted. It was also hard to believe that archeologists had spent years unearthing the whole city. I was suprised to see inside a house that was used for prostitution and still see pictures on the wall which described their lifestyle! It was a very interesting place though and I am pleased that I have been there.
Travelling on…we stopped at Cassino. A beautiful memorial and graveyards for fallen soldiers. The grounds were perfectly manicured and the headstones well kept. Such an honouring place for all those men who gave up their lives for freedom for all. We wandered around looking for the NZ section and felt so proud when we found it. Even though we didn’t know any of the soldiers personally, it was a very moving moment.
Moving on we arrived once again in Rome! This time the arrival wasn’t touched with excitement as last time, only 2 weeks earlier. This time there was a sense of sorrow and pending end! The tour was finishing! We were all to fly off in different directions the next morning. Our little travelling family was ending. Emotionally I was wrung out. I loved everything about the tour. It was like a little bit of heaven on earth for me.
So we all celebrated our last meal together and shared many hugs and tears….along with email addresses and Facebook names. Thank God for the World Wide Web!