A few weeks ago, I received an email from a colleague explaining that Sampdoria has invited us to the stadium for free. They needed some teachers to chaperone, and I said I’d be interested. There are two major football clubs in Genoa: Genoa and Sampdoria. Both play in the same stadium, a 15 minute scooter ride from my apartment. I always felt I’d be a Genoa fan because, well it has the name! And a bunch of my friends and colleagues support Genoa. I guess Genoa is like the Yankees of NY. The others support Sampdoria. (The Mets of Genoa?). I can’t compare to US soccer teams because I don’t follow them, and NY doesn’t have two. Anyways, fans are fiercely supportive of their club and the rivalry, so when Dave announced the tickets were for Sampdoria during a group assembly, some cheered, and about half the crowd booed: Genoa fans. With all my weekend travel, I never made it to a Genoa game, although I gladly accepted this opportunity and rooted for Sampdoria.
I looked up their colors, Blue, White, Black and Red — fusing the colors when they combined two clubs into one team at some point in the past. Since a lot of my friends were Genoa fans, they said they’d root for Fiorentina, so I didn’t wear colors for either team — trying to be neutral. Silly decision, ultimately. So, 170 people total lined up near Gate 7: parents, students, and teachers to enjoy a game on this warm, sunny Sunday. As we walked in to our seats, they handed us some Sampdoria swag, including a flag to wave, a clapper to make some noise, and even a snack! (Good marketing, Sampdoria!). We sat together in our neatly formed groups, a few players jumped over from the warmup to pose for a picture with all of us, then jumped back to complete their warm up.
I love soccer. I really do. Why don’t I ever watch games live or on TV? I say this every time the World Cup rolls around. “This is the year I’ll get into Soccer!” I always declare, after many evenings cheering along side friends (usually during European travels). I watched in Switzerland in 2002; I randomly ended up in Cologne for Day 1 of the 2006 World Cup then later cheered along in the city square of Dubrovnik as Croatia played; and in 2010 I was living in Norway and rooted for Spain along with my Spanish friends in outdoor viewing areas, all the way to victory where fans jumped into a fountain in their underwear! So much fun.
So, as the team ran out onto the field, and my hormones raged a bit — I wonder where they hang out!— I got emotional. Why? I can’t exactly say. Missing Yankee games? Memories of watching live soccer games with friends in high school, in Belgium, and the many years of playing Ultimate Frisbee. For my time in Genoa, sports really aren’t part of my life, and I guess I just missed that — and was happy to be a part of it for a bit.
With a big smile on my face, the club moved our seats to the sunny side, with a brief tour through the backstage / press area. Along the way, they handed the kids pencil cases with rulers, erasers, etc. Adults received plaid baseball caps. There was a bit of chaos as 170 people dispersed and didn’t really know where they were going, but we enjoyed the sunshine and the atmosphere, clapping our noisemakers, waving flags, and getting oh so excited when — is it a goal? no. almost! — By the end, no score. 0-0. Although the crowd did go wild when they announced that Genoa was losing to Verona. Also, my Italian is good enough to recognize there was quite a bit of swearing all around us from all ages. Some of my 9th grade students, in between texting and catching me up with their boy gossip– told me it made them uncomfortable that “everyone was taking their shirts off. Is this the naked sections?” Just the guys, and not with our school group. But still.
Even though I don’t follow soccer, don’t follow Sampdoria, don’t know the players . . . I still had fun and felt connected. I got to spend time in the sunshine with a bunch of my students outside of the classroom. I got to see another side of Genovese culture, and new neighborhoods I hadn’t yet explored, walking through them after the game as fans celebrated outside with beers, and music, and . . . just loving life. With my Sampdoria swag, I felt part of it, one of them just for a little bit. One of those days when I wasn’t “the other.” I’m glad I got to experience this.
Sampdoria Swag. Not pictured, the snack. (Banana, biscuits, peach juice).
Now, filled with sunshine after this beautiful day — off to do some grading. I’m still smiling.
Exactly 24 years after watching the Berlin Wall topple from my tiny bedroom TV in suburban America, I walked along the remnants at the Eastside Gallery. On November 9, 1989, I was mesmerized while watching the media coverage–only 9 years old yet mature enough to understand the importance, moved by the emotions.
The world was changing. Just a child who still played with Barbie dolls within her peach-colored walls, I knew I was experiencing history. I felt the joy. Some time later, I received a map in the mail along with my National Geographic Junior subscription: the new Europe. I unrolled the scroll along with travel dreams, taping it in my bedroom where it still remains today.
4 years later in 8th grade, we read Night and learned about the horrors of the Holocaust. I wanted to know and understand more about this time in history. I wanted to know how it happened. Why? I wondered what Germany was like today, wondering how have they moved on after such a painful past. In college, I studied abroad in England where I read Goodbye to Berlin, a novel by Christopher Isherwood, set in Berlin’s eerie prelude to World War II. The protagonist said, “I am a camera,” wanting to just record the events as they happened, to remain a detached observer. Yet he soon realized that you can’t remain detached because you become involved. You care. This novel turned into a screenplay which eventually led to the hit Broadway musical Cabaret, later a film starring Liza Minnelli.
My interest grew. That semester, I visited Germany for the first time, exploring the Rhineland with a friend, impressed by Germany’s amazing culture and beautiful landscape. I liked Germany. I liked the Germans. History was clearly history in this country that has moved on. Don’t mention the war.
In 2006, I ventured “beyond the Iron Curtain” for the first time. Ok, the former Iron Curtain, but growing up in the 80s, it was hard not to view Eastern Europe without thinking of life before the fall of the U.S.S.R. As I crossed from Austria to Hungary on the train, I felt a chill and a thrill, going somewhere that seemed so forbidden as a child, memories of long lines for food and basic necessities– then the long lines at the first McDonald’s. Here I was now, crossing borders into free countries. On that trip, I explored Budapest, Prague, Cesky Krumlov, and then headed down to Dubrovnik before back to Switzerland and home. I truly enjoyed my time: learning much, spending little, and exploring fueled by a decade of curiosity of life in Eastern Europe. Things were changing. Prague was modern, hip, cosmopolitan. Cesky Krumlov was a little gem along a river — fresh air, a valley, restored and inviting medieval streets with few tourists. It was absolutely lovely. But Budapest. . . Budapest bothered me. The facades were destroyed at street level. Buildings that once looked like Parisian architecture were cemented over, painted uniformly gray. To see the beauty in Budapest, you had to look up. And that just made me even more sad, grieving for what history has ruined. Pockmarks from shells, bullets, and grenades marred the buildings and streets. Tracks from the tanks scarred cobblestones. The stores didn’t offer much. The city was clearly poor, struggling. This was 2006. They just needed a bit more time. Decades later, Budapest is apparently doing much better, and I’d like to visit again. But I’m glad I saw Budapest then — it helped me get a feel for how grim the past was.
Always a travel addict, I devoured armchair travel when I was not on the road, watching episodes of Rick Steves and Samantha Brown, learning about Berlin’s progressive attitude, high quality of life, vibrant art scene, and general good vibes as well as the abundant museums.
Berlin might not have the jaw-dropping scenery of Italy or the quaint charm of Bavarian cities like Munich, yet it had so much to offer from a cultural and historical perspective. I had to go. Once I moved to Italy, it topped my list for a weekend visit. This year, I made plans to meet there with my friend Ashley (who resides in Düsseldorf). We planned for a weekend in November, my first available after much fabulous fall travel.
Saturday, November 9, 2013. Ashley and I strolled around the neighborhood outside our modern hotel until we reached a nearby palace. Next, we headed to the Eastside Gallery as it was a must-see for both of us. Here, we strolled along the remnants of the Berlin Wall, featuring graffitied murals. I walked up to the giant slabs, touching them, touching history, feeling an overwhelming connection to the past, almost dizzied by it. Did that 9-year-old girl ever think she would be here?
touching the Berlin Wall for the first time
As we walked along, posing for pictures, reflecting, we ended up walking in front of some television cameras while someone was announcing things in German. We wondered what it was about but kept walking along, snapping more photos.
Then on the way back, I stopped to pose in front of one mural featuring a car with today’s date on the license plate. November 9, 1989. “Is today the anniversary?” I asked Ashley. A quick search on google confirmed the answer, and then I was really in awe. What a fortuitous travel coincidence.
24 years later
Later that day, we explored an alternative hippie playground that reminded me of the vibe in Christiania in Denmark, as I wrote about here. When we spotted it from the train, a local said, “It’s like a playground for adults.” A giant cat statue peeked above the trees, so we vowed to find “Cat House” later. We followed the cat across the river, although once we arrived, we were clearly not welcome. There was some kind of cool party going on inside, but when we tried to enter, they said they were closed.
After departing, we grabbed a yummy currywurst (I learned all about these from Samantha Brown). We then walked to the Jewish museum, which was a celebration of Jewish history and culture as well as a sobering remembrance of the horrors of the Holocaust. There is an art installation where you enter a pitch-black unheated space, hearing only the echoes of those breathing around you. Quite an impact.
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With Berlin’s cosmopolitan vibe, I was excited to explore multiple food options since in Genoa it’s mostly just Italian food. We had an excellent Greek dinner followed by drinks at the hotel before heading to sleep in our 7th floor room overlooking the train station.
The next morning, we hopped on a bus tour. While some scoff and mock them, I love bus tours because you can learn a lot, easily and efficiently see all the major sites, and be carted around for a nice relaxing break. Travel can be so much go-go-go–especially after yesterday where we walked almost all day, and Ashley blistered her poor feet. After the tour, we visited the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie, two more iconic images from the media during my youth.
Check Point Charlie
At Checkpoint Charlie–the most popular crossing between the American and Soviet sectors–I posed with some Germans in US military uniforms, then we went to the museum, as featured in this episode of Rick Steves.
The museum was filled with information, way more than I could read during our hour there. It was absolutely fascinating to see all the ways people tried to smuggle others from East to West Germany. The museum had cars with hiding spots carved into the floor, metal machinery, and even two suitcases that were held together, used to transport a man’s girlfriend on the train. The museum highlighted the struggles, success and heartbreaking failures of those who were so desperate to escape that they would risk their lives. I just couldn’t fathom that. As I watched Reagan’s Speech, I was moved to tears. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
The next room featured a whole dedication to Reagan’s life.
As we left the museum, I had plenty to reflect upon. I only saw 3 of Berlins 200 museums and barely scratched the surface of this vibrant, artsy, creative city. I had to return. The air was crisp and invigorating as we made our way back to the hotel and eventually to the airport. As Air Berlin whisked me back to Milan, I relished my freedom to easily hop borders.
Originally posted on EUROPEAN ESCAPADES: For the rest of this trip, please see parts #1, #2, and #3! I guess it’s taken me so long to write about Barcelona because a part of me still wishes I was there. It’s…
Barcelona wins me over more and more each time I visit. Actually, this blog could have been centered in Barcelona because the year before I accepted my job offer in Genoa, I had an opportunity to work there. In the end, I wasn’t ready to leave NYC — needed a year to prepare myself mentally, vest my pension, and some other logistical things. Sometimes I regret that decision but realize that my life here in Italy has been absolutely lovely so there is nothing to regret. Yet for much of my third visit to this vibrant, cosmopolitan yet distinctly Catalonian city, I kept wondering: “Why don’t I live here?”
* * *
I first visited Barcelona in 2003, a trip booked entirely on my credit card with plans to pay it off later. I don’t know what I was thinking because I was a grad student / lifeguard at that time. That was a bad plan, yet I have always had the travel bug. I met up with friends where I went to school in England, then headed to the Netherlands to meet up with a KLM flight attendant I met while traveling in Australia. Finally, I flew to Spain for the first time, playing the following song over and over on my disc man (I did not have an ipod until early 2005).
Go ahead – play it. It makes a soothing and appropriate background to the post. But not if you don’t want to . . . it would end up too much like the old myspace, then . . .
Spain was absolutely beautiful, but it was in the middle of a continental heat wave, with temperatures reaching 104 degrees each day. I spent most of my time in Internet cafes, blogging about my thoughts while I briefly emerged into the searing heat for a stroll or a sticky, stuffy metro ride. I got heat exhaustion while riding on upstairs an open-topped bus, and when I walked into one of the Gaudi buildings, the air conditioning made me gasp, and I dropped my SLR to the floor, the case popping open, exposing my film. I found time for a refreshing break in Montjuic, the setting of the 1992 Olympics which I remember well, and had some paella on Las Ramblas–but felt that, ultimately, I didn’t really experience Barcelona properly. I had to return.
My second visit, I accompanied four of my high school students from the Bronx on our school’s first trip to Europe, which I had coordinated. It was early spring in 2010, and a magical time in Barcelona, with sunshine and mild temperatures that invited long, wandering walks. We explored the coast, the medieval streets, saw the major sites, were entertained by flamenco dancers, and had a wonderful time. My students expressed their interest to move here one day–maybe for study abroad. We just had a couple of nights, and I knew I still didn’t know Barcelona. I had to return. She always had something to offer. Visiting Barcelona just once would be like visiting NYC just once for a couple of nights.
* * *
With Dad flying back at the end of our trip, I knew I’d have some time left in my vacation. I wanted to see Spain again and looked up airfare deals. The cheapest fare was to Barcelona and I figured that was perfect for just a few days. I made arrangements to meet up with my friend and fellow blogger Jessica at European Escapades, uniting at the hostel just off Las Rambles near Barceloneta and the beautiful beach.
I arrived on Halloween, not sure what to expect. Barcelona had an international crowd, so I figured there might be some parties. Jessica and I each packed our dirndls from Germany in case there were costume parties for the night. We met up, enjoyed some tapas, and wandered the medieval streets. It made me sad to see another seaside medieval city that was better cared for. Barcelona was open, warm, clean, inviting . . . very different from Genoa’s slightly gritty Medieval streets, small international scene, and overall closed perspective. Coming from NYC, provincial Genoa was a very refreshing, challenging, and authentic cultural experience. Yet I always felt like I don’t belong, craving more people my age, more international folks to mingle with, more things to do. Barcelona has that. As we wandered around, I used my high school Spanish here and there, and with all the time studying Italian, it had improved my Spanish listening skills. I was extremely comfortable here.
Exhausted in the evening, Jessica and I knew we wouldn’t make it to the Halloween parties advertised at the clubs, noting the general scene wasn’t that festive, although we did enjoy a couple of bars for tapas, and enjoyed singing along to the Ghostbusters theme song while being served by a Vampire in an Irish Bar here in Barcelona. We fell into a blissful slumber but were awakened way too early by a giant group of manga fans who were here for the convention. They were shouting in Spanish to each other very early. Eventually, I came out to ask the front desk to help silence them, which is something I have never done before. They did attempt, but shortly after the group was shouting and slamming doors again. The hostel was well reviewed but sometimes you can’t avoid these things, especially with thin walls. Jessica was especially disappointed because she was able to get single rooms in hotels for the price we paid here. Sadly, though, it was an expensive city over a holiday weekend (All Saints).
Jessica was open-minded and up for anything, not wanting me to have to see things I already saw on other visits. I mentioned I had always wanted to go out to Montserrat, a monastery in the mountains a short train ride outside of town. We enjoyed the ride, even with the holiday crowds, and emerged in the country for fresh air before boarding a cable car up the mountain and even fresher air in Montserrat.
before the cable car at the base of Montserrat
We posed for pictures, wandered around, hiked a bit further up the mountain, and enjoyed the peaceful, zen vibe in this spiritual center. Raised as a Catholic with many years of Jesuit education at Fordham University, it was extra special for me to be here as the area was founded by Jesuits. I felt connected to my faith and spirituality, at peace.
very unique crucifix
We enjoyed a simple yet delicious meal in the mountain air with splendid wine, played around for jumping sunset photos, and headed back to the city.
When we arrived, we found our way to the museum, following the fountain light show featuring splendid colors and designs coordinated with the music. It was extra special because we hadn’t planned it. We didn’t read about it in a guidebook. We didn’t go out of our way to find it. We had no expectations. As I have noted in previous posts, expectations breed disappointment. It was all a pleasant surprise — one of those magical travel finds.
The fountains leading up to the museum
During the show, I ordered some churros and hot chocolate, dunking them in time to the music and lamenting their passing when they were all gone. Afterwards, a quick peek at La Sagrada Familia at night — a sight I had never seen up close– then back to the hotel where we sang along to “Holiday in Spain.”
The following day, we went up to Montjuic, enjoyed free entry to the museum (another surprise), and made our way down to the beach where we just chillaxed.
A woman approached me asking if I wanted a 5 euro foot massage. Just what I needed!
As the sun sank leaving her pastel trails, I once again found perfect peace. Next, we ate a fabulous meal of steak and black paella along the sea. Back at the hotel, we freshened up for a night out clubbing. As we strolled the winding, medieval streets, we had several offers to come to clubs for free. We went to one, and although it was kind of slow and empty, we had a great time, getting lost in the music. And despite my best efforts, I found myself getting wildly excited when “Blurred Lines” came on. That song just doesn’t leave your head, and I ended up humming or singing it the rest of the trip. Poor Jessica.
The next morning, Jessica and I had breakfast and Starbucks. (There is not a single Starbucks in Italy). We took our luggage with us. I left it at the train station while Jessica departed for her flight home. I opted for the cheaper, later flight which allowed me a bit more time in Barcelona although I risked missing the last train back to Milan.
I used the time to wander the streets, enjoyed mass at the stunning cathedral, and lazily made my way to the port for a meal at the buffet chain Fresco where I just happened to double check my EasyJet itinerary when I noticed I was wrong about my flight time back. The flight was leaving 45 minutes earlier than I thought. I sprinted across the port, into the metro, grabbed my bag and just missed the train to the airport. I had to wait a half hour for the next train and arrived at the airport with just enough time to sprint to the ticket counter. As my lungs burned, I kept reminding myself “Don’t give up now. If you don’t make it, you don’t get home tonight, you don’t get to work tomorrow. You are in major trouble and will lose a lot of money.” I arrived at the check-in desk where they said they just closed a minute ago. Noo! Why did I stop and walk slowly once I arrived? I said I was already checked in, so they let me go ahead, but they charged me extra to check my bag at the gate. Rushing through security with all my belongings, I made it to the plane at the tail end of the boarding line. Whew!
I arrived in MIlan with enough time to catch my train back to Genoa and back to work the next morning. What an amazing, sunny, beautiful vacation. This was the first time I ever had a fall break, and I loved it! It almost kinda made up for having to work on Thanksgiving.
Sicily was such an amazing surprise! It was the last stop on my heritage tour. I’m half Italian, quarter Irish and quarter Spanish, via Puerto Rico. In Italy, I’m from Piacenza and Sicily. This was the only place I hadn’t been. For that reason and because I heard so much about how beautiful it was, I wanted to go. At the end of October, I thought the weather would still be warm, sunny, and with the promise of swimming. Dad, however, was not too thrilled with the idea. He was going just to go, but didn’t really have high expectations.
After our weekend in Genoa, we boarded a very affordable flight (about 20 euros each with Volotea) to Palermo. The bright sunshine remained with us for the duration of the short flight, and then soon I could see a stunning, craggy coastline appear below us. As the sun was in that sublime glow of golden hour, it illuminated the terrain. After all my travels and all the beauty, I was in absolute silent awe as we slowly glided to the runway. I found myself taking photos even from the airport bus, because there it was — a beautiful mountain, right there. And the sky, the sunshine, the temperature…everything was perfetto.
Scenery on the drive from the airport
We picked up our rental car, and as Dad drove, we admired the rugged terrain–more like North Africa than Italy. Sicily was clearly her own place, and that’s exactly how she wants you to feel about her.
As we had just turned the clocks back, we lost daylight swiftly as the sun sank into the horizon casting a brief yet glorious pink glow across the shifting scenery, lingering just long enough for our arrival at the seaside hotel. The resort, perched at the edge of a cliff in Balestrate, overlooked a new marina with panoramic views of mountains and sea. This was paradise.
Sunset view from our room
As it was the end of October, we were in the off-season. Not peak time for tourists, but absolutely peak time for weather. The temperatures had cooled from the boiling summer highs, and as they receded so did the crowds. But for our entire stay, we had bright sunshine, a cobalt blue sky, and weather in the mid-70s, perfect enough for poolside lounging and a quick dip, and just splendid for runs along the beach.
Since it was the off-season, we got a great rate on the room. I remember emailing my father back and forth, deciding whether to stay in Palermo proper or somewhere along the coast. We browsed a few hotels, and then Dad found this. I wasn’t sure if it was ritzy or not, but the price and location seemed wonderful, especially since we had a rental car. We didn’t pay extra for a sea view, but we did get a bit of a view from our wonderful, newly renovated accommodation with ceramic tile floors, a balcony, and cozy amenities. Dad kept saying, “WOW!” as he pulled the car into the parking lot. He repeated the phrase throughout the journey as much as he mentioned the war in Germany.
The hotel was a splendid resort–not faded glory, but an expanding work in progress. We were two of only a few guests, so had space, peace, and felt like it was our own private villa at times, the staff there only for us. We had so many things we wanted to explore, yet the property itself beckoned for relaxation, whether at the pool, beach or spa.
We strolled through the tiny yet quaint town that night looking for dinner, but could not spot a restaurant. I thought it was hard to find somewhere to eat in Genoa . . . but this was a whole new level. Where do folks go? Mamma’s of course. Eventually we stumbled across a pizza parlor, walking inside to discover a spread similar to what we were used to in NYC, big pies with lots of topping choices as well as chicken rolls and calzones. Much of the New York Italian food must be influenced by Sicily as many of her immigrants came from here, including Dad’s maternal grandparents.
Sicilian influences for NYC pizza
I felt like I was in Pugsley’s, a favorite pizza joint by Fordham University and across the street from where I lived for many, many years in the Bronx. Sal was from Sicily before he came to America in the 60s and enjoyed Woodstock among his many adventures he shares with Fordham students and alumni. He always said: “Pizza is good, but love is it.”
I felt at home as we sipped some beers and took a startlit stroll back to the hotel.
The next morning, I stepped out on the balcony to enjoy the sunrise and felt called to run. I hadn’t been able to run in years due to back injuries and problems. I just had to run here, so I laced my sneakers and headed along the coast, eventually finding my way to the super sandy beach below, littered only with wild stray dogs. It was a fantasy run, the beach all to myself, so I stopped for some yoga and stretching, enjoying the pure zen peace as the sun renewed my summer bronze. I made it back to the hotel, feeling invigorated and super excited that my back held up and that I had made room for an extra large breakfast spread. They had everything you could imagine for breakfast, including mini Sicilian pizzas, pastries, and even candy for your yogurt!
Breakfast in Eden
After lingering at the breakfast table, we changed into our swim suits to lounge by the pool for a few hours, grabbed lunch in town at another pizza place where the friendly owner kept calling dad “my brother” and me “my sister!” kissing us on the cheeks and exchanging long chitchat. Afterwards, armed with food for later (“you must get this for later, my brother!”) we hopped into the car. We set off to explore the Valley of the Temples, an ancient Greek site right here in Sicily. The drive inland stunned us with more rugged beauty, and we were grateful this road was here–financed by the European Union. Only a few years before, this trip would not have been possible via highway. We’d have to spend many more winding, uncomfortable hours on local, small roads. Instead, we were smoothly gliding along well-maintained roads with unparalleled views: ruins, castles on hilltops, farms, vineyards, hills..simple beauty.
In the Valley of the Temples, we were once again losing daylight, but we made it up to see some of the structures as the sun set.
To our delight, the ruins were spectacularly lit in the evening, creating a different and even more dramatic beauty under the stars.
As we drove home in the inky night, we were starving and found a little roadside pizzeria that was just opening as we arrived at 8pm. They were just firing up the oven, but we waited patiently and both ordered pizza littered with fresh seafood, including prawns in their shells. I was pleasantly shocked that my dad ate them, something he would never try at home.
Upon returning to our hotel, we nestled in for the night.
The next morning, I started the day with another great run. Afterwards we enjoyed a few hours at the hotel.
A perfect setting
and a ride exploring along the coast. We passed many wild dogs, and I stopped to feed some. They barked,and their friends showed up shortly after. Then we found gigantic piles of garbage just outside the city, spotting dozens more wild dogs feeding there. Was there a garbage strike? Is this the way it always is? We explored some hill towns and then had a silly, scenic mountain drive back at night. Silly because although we wanted to follow the coast back home the way we came, the GPS somehow sent us inland and up and down the ridge of a mountain before dropping us off alongside a lake then back to Balestrate. Hours later, we were dizzy and tired, but glad we had a bit of an adventure and just enough time to visit the spa.
For our last day, it was time to finally see Palermo. We drove in. Yes. We had heard all the rumors of chaotic driving, but the two trains a day from Balestrate were sporadic and unpredictable in timing, so we thought this was the best solution. The ride to Palermo was easy, but once we got into the city center, we noticed absolute chaos. There were no traffic lights — it was a free-for-all similar to the way Rick Steves had explained traffic crossings in places such as Egypt. It was a novelty to see, but I wasn’t the one driving. Dad, white-kunckled and red-faced, finally navigated towards what seemed like the center, and we popped the car into a parking lot, finally freeing ourselves.
You can note the chaos we experienced in the above video.
Selecting a bit of everything at the buffet in the Palermo backstreets
more reminders of NYC Italian food
Dad in the homeland
We strolled a bit, found some traditional Sicilian buffet food, explored a few monuments, churches, and stores, pet a few stray cats, then back to the car for a chaotic drive home, hoping to avoid rush-hour traffic. We had just enough time to see the beach were I ran every day, enjoying the golden hour before sunset, a scene straight from a cologne ad.
My favorite picture of Dad!
See what I mean by cologne ad?
I wondered if I would like to teach in Palermo. Would it be too chaotic? Too bureaucratic? When I travel, I often try to imagine living in the place, but while it was interesting, I concluded Palermo was not for me and if I had to live somewhere in Sicily, I’d prefer Balestrate.
The next day, we flew to Milan. We were hoping to see Taormina and perhaps Mt. Etna, but Sicily is too large, too beautiful, and filled with too many treasures for a quick weekend snack. We had to devour more of her another time. I hoped to return soon. With the heritage tour “complete” I realized how incomplete travel always makes me feel. The more I see, the more I want to see. I don’t travel to check items off a list. I travel to make friends with a place or to revisit old friends. I just keep adding to my “want to see” list. Places may get checked, but they are rarely checked off the list.
Next stop: I would head to Barcelona to meet up with my friend Jessica while my father enjoyed a couple of nights in Milan, exploring Lake Como and visiting friends before heading home.