Sunday, February 28, 2010


I bring a lined exercise book for each trip and I write every night when we get back to the hotel wherever we're staying. I found it easier this way so I still remember everything. I was looking at my stuff and I found the jounral for our first trip to Sicily. It's packed with writing. Wow, I love Sicily, it is such an exciting place. It started at Los Angeles International airport where I was waiting for my AirFrance flight to Paris, from Paris I took Alitalia to Rome and Air One from Rome to Catania, Sicily. They were loading the AirFrance jet and I drew a picture of the preparation. I had a burger at one of the restaurants and I drew the wrapping paper. While there I drew a picture of Sophie's luggage, it's always too full of stuff. Somehow she can't seem to travel light. Being my own travel agent I made this circuitous way of getting to Sicily, 3 different airlines to get there. For some reason Sophie thought she could do better, she went a different way and we almost ended up missing each other in Catania. I arrived at 7pm and I waited for her, she was supposed to arrive at 10pm. She did but I didn't see her. Her luggage didn't come and she waited till all the flights into Catania stopped for the night before she left the airport. At 10.30pm I left the airport to go to our hostel. I went to sleep having no clue if I'll ever see her. At 1.30am, the owner of the hostel opened the door for her and I breathed a sigh of relief. We are to get on with the trip after all. The next day we went to the airport to pick up her luggage, it was stuck in Rome for the night.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Byzantine churches

My first exposure to Byzantine churches was the Cathedral at Monreale, just outside Palermo, Sicily. The cathedral at Monreale is the crown jewel of Byzantine churches in Sicily. It is one of the most gorgeous. I remember arriving in Palermo on the train and after dropping our luggage at the hotel, bought some bus tickets at a tobacco stall outside the hotel, caught the bus to Monreale which is about 45 minutes away. I remember a crowded bus, no place to sit, I was standing and this Sicilian was sticking his finger into my butt crack. I was 'molested' on a Sicilian bus! Monreale was so beautiful, a church filled top to bottom with some of the most beautiful and intricate mosiacs. It was so breathtaking. We were to see a lot more such churches all over Sicily, in Palermo at the palatine chapel of the Norman castle, in Cefalu and also in this church in Palermo. I think it's time to return to Sicily. I just got to find the time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Why I travel, Villa Palagonia

Quirky! That's what Villa Palagonia is. Quirky! I like quirky. We visited Villa Palagonia during our second trip to Sicily, we had already been there that year in March. Before I visit any place I'd read up on it, I'd read everything I can find about the place. We love our visit to Sicily even though it wasn't easy to get there from the west coast of the USA. As usual I'd read up about the place after I come back and realised there's so much more to Sicily that 2 weeks there wasn't at all enough, wasn't enough to do it justice. I read and found out about Villa Palagonia and that it wasn't even difficult to get there. Just a 20 minute train ride from Palermo gets us to Bagheria and a 35 minute walk from the train station takes us to the back fence of Villa Palagonia. I had to return to Sicily, Sophie was game and in Ocotber the same year, we were on our way back to Sicily. Why Sicily, everyone asked us before our first visit. Americans are very fond of saying, 'why Sicily or why anything?' We never say 'why not?' Unless something makes us a lot of money, we seldom do anything and for that matter, most of us don't do anything because we are always asking, 'why'. Why am I talking to you? I've been asked that many times. Why am I writing this blog? I just do, I don't ask, 'why'. I just do it. I write, I take pictures, I travel, never asking why, I just do everything. The moral of the story, don't ask why, just do it! I'm always asked, which is my most favorite place, Sicily is my only answer. I've told people that I'm going to Morocco next, guess what..... why Morocco? I digress. Villa Palagonia is really just a baroque villa except on the wall fence, the original owner has placed stone carvings of all sorts the whole length of the fence. They are the weirdest things, a lot have not survived the over 300 years of existence. Many are still left and what's left is still worth seeing. Villa Palagonia has had many famous visitors over the few hundred of years including Goethe. It belongs to a Sicilian family who has allowed it to be opened to the public for a small fee. The city of Bagheria has grown around the villa and the villa is in danger of disappearing. I'd say, see it now or see it soon.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Why I don't write a food blog

I love berries, if I write a food blog, it'll probably be all about berries. I love all berries, every berry. Mind you I'm a gourmet cook, after all the traveling that I do, I've a huge repertoire of recipes. The reason why I don't write a food blog is I have to end up eating everything by myself! Case in point, I made this berry crumble yesterday and I 'm eating it all by myself.

Why I travel, beautiful churches

This and many others makes traveling so rewarding. In Italy, in every nook there is a church and they are all so beautiful. This one is near the main train station in Rome and since we prefer to stay close to the train station, we are always in close proximity to this church. Sophie likes to visit it, it is like a beautiful museum. I forgot the number of times we've been in here and we never tire of visiting. Leonardo da Vinci had a hand in designing this church while in his 80's. I remember my first visit to Rome, it was in June and even in June the humidity was quite unbearable. After a hard morning visiting, we had to pop into some church for some shade. It was not a church on the tourist circuit but it was the sweetest church ever. It might as well be on the tourist circuit but that's the beauty of Rome, that's the beauty of Italy. I think it was called the church of San Dominico, I don't think I can find it again. There was a service going on, a Filipino priest was preaching in English and Tagalog to a mainly Filipino congregation. It was pretty remarkable. There have countless small churches since than, too many to numerate and they are all so remarkable. That's why I travel.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why I travel, farmers' markets and porchetta

Rome's Campo de fiore in the morning. This was my first time to be in Campo de fiore in the morning, previous visits were made in the afternoon. In the morning, the daily farmers' market is full swing, they clear out in the early afternoon. Who can resist a farmers'market, whether it be in France, Italy or even in my backyard in Santa Monica? I know I can't. In Rome, I look for my favorite 'porchetta' or roast pork. Here she is, carving out her delicate 'porchetta'. I buy a few slices, ask for 'pane', she points to 'il forno' across the square, I buy some freshly baked rolls and I'm eating my porchetta panino. This is heaven and this is why I travel.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why I travel, Vatican museum

For renaissance art, architecture, architectural details and men in funny clothes. We watched a rerun of the cable show, 'International house hunters' one show was of an American girl who relocated to Rome and was looking to rent an apartment. It was a lot of fun to watch as she was given the option of living in the various areas all over Rome. She wanted to be in the thick of things. I don't blame her, if I were her I'd want the same. Viewing it made me nostalgic for Rome. I said aloud, 'I miss Rome.' I was there just 18 months ago but I miss Rome. I've just finished writing about our last trip and have another month to go before we embark on the next one. So these are really fill ins till the next trip.