Starting a tour of the other end of Sicily...
Trip Start Sep 29, 2005
13Trip End Jun 29, 2006
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Where I stayed
Disembarking at the train station, I must say I found it quite easy readapting my sense of direction. This is my second visit to the city and there could quite easily spend a third - Palermo is one of those cities that the more you go to see it, the more you realise that there is yet more to see and do
After checking in to my now favourite hotel in the centre of Palermo (Albergo Cavour, via Manzoni, just across from the train station its the first turn off from via Lincoln and it has a very big sign on the 4th/5th floor! It is not in most guides in Britain but is a very nice mid-priced hotel), and taking the very same room that me and my brother took just under a year ago, me and Lyz set straight off towards la Kalsa and went for a wonder around Parco Garibaldi and a light and early lunch there before passing through la Vucciria market, decidedly small compared to Catania's markets, on the way to la Zisa. Now, this very famous monument never appealed the last time as it seemed a bit of a non-event and well out of the way, but I have to say that it is well worth the walk and entrance fee if you are at all a fan of seeing simple and ingenious solutions to living in a hot country from around the 11th century that easily outpace any airconditioning unit of today. No energy consumption and yet the arabs managed to help the Christian Normans build something utterly incredible that will leave you in no doubt that the strength of humanity lies in inter-cultural interaction and cooperation rather than bombing each other to bits...Plus the city does seem to have done a really nice job of establishing a modern park roughly based on the Norman design outside of the palace that can provide a much needed patch of green
It was after this point however that the strangeness began to occur - having chosen between us to avoid using the city's bus system, we discreetly consulted our map and picked the simplest and seemingly direct route from la Zisa to the nearby Cappucin catacombs that receive so much attention in the guides for their grisly nature. Everything was going fine and all the streets seemed to run true with respect to what I had in my head as directions until, shortly after buying some oranges from a fruit vendor as a light snack, we came across a dead-end where there should have been a through road...
Now, I am no boaster, but my sense of direction is normally excellent even in urban environments once I have a map-image in my head, and between us we pinpointed the precise junction we had turned off and there is no possibility that we made a mistake - quite simply, the map was wrong, and judging by the vines that were growing over the wall that blocked our path, I would say that it had been wrong for quite some time!
Consulting the map for a second time, we managed to plot an alternative route and were well-prepared to find that maybe this one would not exist either, even if such a situation seemed baffling to us
With no apparent way out from what was left of the piazza in the direction of the monastery (which we thought we could see by this point over some terraced gardens...and again we know it was the right piazza because we did find a faded nameplate), we started to head down what appeared the main exit before the old lady we had seen picking through the piazza's bins sidled up to us and asked if we were looking for the Cappucin monastery
In any case, no attack came and we entered the monastery relieved to rejoin the tourist circuit and, encountering a French school party that looked a little white-faced upon exiting, we went down to what has to be one of the most perturbing sights of my life - rows upon rows of mummified corpses in period dress hung upon walls and laid out in alcoves, it was difficult to digest the fact that these had been human beings and that they were not simply mannequins or the products of special effects teams
Anyway, this evening we went for a fantastic Tunisian meal behind the main post office and Archaeological Museum with delicious starters, cous-cous, wine and water for a very reasonable price, all to celebrate our survival of the city's darker heart and the start of our holiday. We had tried to find another Arabic restaurant next door to a mosque in one of the poorer quarters around the Cathedral, but found it firmly and apparently permanently closed. We have also spent a small fortune in a series of bars this evening steadying ourselves after our eventful day with Cognac and expensive choccies - but you have to treat yourself every once in awhile and I must say I feel relieved to be putting the money away inside me as opposed in my wallet where people can remove it!
All in all a fantastic day - onwards to Trapani early tomorrow morning, and lets hope the good weather holds out for us!
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