Happy New Year!
We have spent the last two and a half weeks in a deliciously delapidated farmhouse 5 Km south of Balestrate. The area is dotted with small holdings producing citrus fruits and vegetables on small plots. Another feature is the number of stray dogs. They are everywhere, baking through the night, presumably sustained from the vast amounts of rubbish everywhere.
Sicily clearly has a rubbish problem. The tightly packed housing seems to result in people not having bins outside their homes for doorstep collection, instead it is dumped at various points around the towns, sometimes into large rubbish containers, but more commonly just on the ground.
Our hosts told us to leave our waste for them to dispose, but leaving bags full of dirty nappies doesn’t seem reasonable. Small bags we disposed of in supermarket or petrol station litter bins, and eventually I found a proper disposal area with large bins – at 2000 feet up a mountain. Presumably too difficult for crooks to steal the bins from there.
Rubbish aside, we had a very pleasant stay. The weather was kind with daytime maximum temperatures between 12 and 19 degrees and a mixture of sunshine, cloud and rain, only two rainy days. The day after we arrived my parents flew out to join us for birthdays and Christmas, leaving before the new year for a party in London.
On Christmas Day we went to the beach in the morning, then returned for a lunch of roast lamb eaten outside on the terrace.
Twice over the period of my parents’ visit we ate out: once on my birthday where we munched through a seemingly endless stream of antipasti, starter, main course and Sicilian cakes; and once the night before mum, dad, Clare and Ben flew to London – this time a seemingly endless pizza made with delicious dough. At the first restaurant – we were the only diners that night, my father asked for the wine list. “Yes, we have wine” relief the waiter producing a bottle of Sicilian red. There was just one wine on the list – it certainly saved much faffing about trying to decide…
Several lunch times we turned the van into a dining room, swivelling the front chairs and putting up the table, my mother displacing Clare from her usual role as quartermaster (the boys know, understand and use that term). There is little more satisfying than being perched on a cliff top, overlooking the white crested deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea, eating lunch protected from the winter wind and chill in our quadruple aspect heated camper van.
One of our more bizarre excursions was to some hot springs. From a Lichtenstein family we met on the beach I learned of hot springs a short distance away in the hills. We went to investigate. After initially overshooting the area, I spotted a cluster of parked cars, parked with them, and we stumbled through reeds and over a brook to find a group of people bathing in rock pools reeking of sulphur. There was a German man, an American man with his son, two Italians and three generations of an English family. Somehow, and for reasons I find it hard to comprehend, we all started chatting about the war.
Hot springs done, we moved onto an archeological site. At the entrance there was a large empty car park with warden – “you cannot park here” said the warden, directing us to the bottom of the hill “park there, it’s free”. We parked in the “free” car park then paid for tickets for the shuttle bus back to the upper car park. There we bought tickets to the archeological site. And then we had to buy tickets for the bus to take us from the upper car park to the ruins. Three ticket offices and two bus drivers to visit one amphitheater- but what a location. An amphitheater on top of a hill, overlooking the rolling countryside with the Mediterranean in the distance.