Cinisi, Sicilia, Italia

I booked two nights in the mostly-forgettable-for-me town of Cinisi, to ease into the Italian ways and prepare myself to join an 11-day Rick Steves tour of Sicily. I’m not now able to remember exactly why I chose to take another RS tour (this will be my fifth). For those who like joining tours, I can highly recommend the company; my intro to continental Europe was a wonderful 21-day Best of Europe Tour back in 1993: Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France – it was a terrific way to become comfortable with Europe. But I don’t need a tour guide anymore, so I’m flummoxed as to why I did this. Was it all the great history lessons? Not having to search for and book hotels? The reality of dealing with mysterious Italian ways? Whatever, I meet up with the group tomorrow; I’m trying to prepare myself for the thunderous sound a group of Americans makes in a foreign country. Remember that I relish quietude, and wish me luck.

This morning I set off for a walk to the sea. Found it, and did not need to linger. Got very lost, then risked my life getting back to the B&B in a land of speeding, honking drivers on pedestrian unfriendly roads.

I could not find one open restaurant in this town, so I entered a tiny store and bought picnic supplies, including cheese from the owner’s farm (I was incapable of declining a sample and a purchase) and small batch Sicilian wine in a plastic, screwtop bottle; the entire kit and kaboodle cost about $6.

The vending machine photo, alas, does not reveal the top row: condoms, discreetly available in this very Catholic country.

The sign on the yellow building translates literally to “well confiscated from the Mafia”, reminding me exactly where I am.

The photo of the mural of the crying religious person was discovered inside a trashed old church; he may be weeping at the appearance of the mold.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

And now let’s fly

This morning, in Antibes, I was startled by a loud burst of jet blast and looked up to see colored streaks of the French flag spread across the sky. By the time I got the camera out, the smoked had smudged, but still it was cool to see. It’s funny that I find French displays of nationalism charming, because in general I find nationalism the opposite – but rhyming! – alarming.

As I waited in Nice for the flight to Palerme/Palermo, things didn’t look good. For one, there was no plane at the gate, never good sign. Also, there was only one airline employee behind the counter; how would she process all the passengers by herself? I was sure that at any second we would learn that the flight was late or cancelled. But no, a plane did roll up eventually, and even though the solitary attendant had to check both boarding passes and ID at the gate, things were done quickly and efficiently; we were on the tarmac fast as heck. The flight attendants had to give the safety instructions three times, once in Italian, then in French, then English – ending with, “And now let’s fly!” – but we were up in the air quickly and landed 25 minutes early. And, FYI, at a quarter of the price and oodles more efficiently than my regional airline.

Anyway, now it is time to switch up my brain: time for Italian! Au revoir, ma belle France, à bientôt. Ciao, Italia!

 

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Cap Ferrat

Ooh la la. Here on my last full day in France I have found the Riviera of my imagination. Warm, beautiful, uncrowded, undeveloped . . . I had one of my best travel days ever.

I think Cap Ferrat is where one percent of the one percent of the one percent live. It’s where I’d live too, if I could. I walked it for over eight hours today, mainly exploring its coastal path. As it happens, a previous Bestest Travel Day Ever was also walking along a coastal path of the Mediterranean, on the car-less Greek island of Hydra (a pattern is forming . . . ).

Speaking of the one percent gang, I came upon a scene on Cap Ferrat: a man and a woman were checking out a shiny black Tesla Model X, wing doors up, surrounded by about eight (I say ‘about’ because the menacing guy staring me down effectively caused me to avert my gaze – wow, what a skill), tough bodyguard types, assuming the protective position around the car and couple, eyes hidden behind impenetrable wraparound sunglasses.

I can’t imagine having to require bodyguards.

I also came upon chez David Niven, just as a painting was being delivered. So cool! And I got to see sailing school; the whooping sounds of the kids on the boats was laugh-inducing.

After walking the perimeter of the entire cape – no small feat – I visited the villa of Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild. It is perched at the high point the peninsula, offering 360 degree views of the Côte d’Azure, the Mediterranean, and the mountains. Wow, nice planning, lady.

Here are some photos:

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Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Soft Day in Antibes

Took a walk through the harbor and along the coast beside the star-shaped fort. Had a good vegan lunch at a tiny and inspiring café. Did laundry. Made train reservations. Checked in to upcoming flight. Sat on le petit balcon and read The New Yorker online. Made pasta with roasted vegetables. Drank wine.

The weather is gorgeous. An autumn day in the south of France.

Yup.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Picasso and Cap d’Antibes

The air was sharp and clear this morning, with none of haze that has lately obscured the coastline and mountains, so I could see all the way to Monaco, and maybe Italy. Sweet!

My first adventure of the day was exploring the Picasso Museum, where he lived for a short time and produced lots of joyful postwar art. Along with some of his spectacular pieces, there was also an expansive display of black and white photographs of the artist at work and with family. So cool! (My favorite work of his on display is the black and white triptych.)

Afterwards, I had a good vegan lunch at a café owned by a British expat. She and another Brit discussed their revved up efforts to become French citizens, like, soon, due to Brexit.

Next I hiked for about five hours to and around Cap d’Antibes. It was warm and lovely and the air was saturated with delightful floral scents. This is where the one percent of the one percent live. There are places for sale if anyone’s interested.

At one area along the narrow coastal trail, I was having the edge-issues thing, and two French couples came up behind me. I merely wanted to step aside so that they could pass and I could make my way gingerly, so I said out loud ‘j’ai peur’ (‘I’m afraid’), and goodness if one of the women did not just grab my hand and then clasp my arm tightly under hers and lead me through a gnarly area. It was so awesome!! So kind of her. There are wonderful people everywhere.

Here are some photos.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Not Mon’-a-coh, Mō-na-cō’

Today I learned that it’s best not to form an idea about a place from a James Bond movie. My vision of this principality was shattered by reality, and, say I come into a zillion bucks, hanging out here will not be on the to-do list. But I’m very glad I came.

For one thing, it will increase the number of my visited countries by one, and yes, I’m counting (now at 25; if this trip continues as planned, I’ll be at 27 – only 170-ish to go!). Two, I believe it’s healthy for me to shatter my notions.

Here I saw mega yachts, helicopters, Maseratis and Bentleys, sparkly clothes and jewelry, and lots of really, really thin women. And the fanciest train station yet.

Also, I found a better use (than killing people) for cannon balls, and a solution for those who hate to parallel park.

Here are some photos.

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Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.