March 14, 2017: Breakfast with Francesco

Today is our last day in Palermo.  My friend Francesco who lives locally has been out of town on business all weekend so we had not managed to get together, but he got back from northern Italy last night and we got together for breakfast this morning.

So while Dominica and the kids were packing at the apartment, I walked across the city and met Francesco in a nice area downtown and had breakfast – the Italian standard of coffee and croissants (cornetti.)  We had a good time catching up.

Francesco
SAM and Francesco in Palermo

After breakfast I was running late to make it back to get Dominica and the girls and walk them, along with all of our luggage, back to the train station in time to catch our train back to Noto.  A very busy morning.

We figured out that I did not have enough time for the walk, so Francesco threw me on the back of his motorcycle and we took a while ride across the city.  This is actually my first time ever riding as a passenger on a motorcycle. I’ve done it as the driver before, I had my own motorcycle for a time when I was younger – just a small Suzuki one cylinder when I was about twenty three.  This was a much bigger bike and riding frantically, with no helmet as there was no spare, through crazy downtown and waterfront Palermo in traffic was nuts.  I got the real Palermo experience today.

Dominica was surprised when I was back at the apartment and ready to go suddenly.  I grabbed the luggage and we were underway to get to the train station.  It’s an easy walk without luggage, but with the luggage it is pretty exhausting.

We caught our train and did the long journey in reverse.  It was a very long day, but I appreciated some down time on the ride.  Train to another train to the bus and home and the long walk up the hill with luggage.  Very tiring.

After we were back I walked down the hill and got panini take away to bring back to the house.  We will sleep well tonight.

March 13, 2017: San Giuseppe Jato

Monday morning.  We started our day in our apartment in Palermo this morning, but today is our big exciting trip to Dominica’s family’s home village of San Giuseppe Jato to the south of Palermo.  This is the real reason that we are in Palermo in the first place.  The village is thirty one kilometers from the center of Palermo into the mountainous hinterland.

So our morning started off with us walking to the main train station and attempting to get bus tickets.  This went horribly.  We went all over trying to find the right buses and trying to buy tickets.  It was incredibly stressful and reminded us of our issues getting a bus in northern Italy at Asti five years ago.  We spent easily an hour or two trying to figure this out and, of course, there was no official place to buy tickets nor was there anyone, anywhere that spoke English.  Dealing with crazy directions in Italian by people who were really busy was not easy.  And to try to find tickets, we got separated with Dominica and Luciana going to one area to seek tickets and Liesl and I going to another and then finally getting tickets but missing a  bus because we were not all together.

After a long morning, we finally got the bus tickets figured out, we think.  In the end we had to buy tickets from a random guy standing on the street.  Then we had to take a city bus way out into the middle of nowhere to get another bus.  This was not easy to do and everyone was tired and cranky by the time we just had the tickets in hand.

So when we finally got onto the city bus I was distracted and tired and Luciana could not handle walking anywhere on her own so was making me carry her which, in turn, had her one food kicking at my wallet quite and lot and the combination of factors made me not notice when a pretty obvious pickpocket on the bus picked my pocket and got my wallet.  He wasn’t even very good, but I was so busy dealing with Luciana on the busy bus that I did not put two and two together.  Had I not been carrying her, there is no way I would not have had my hand on my wallet nor would I have let the guy push into me like he did.  I was just an idiot.

Thankfully a minute later someone on the bus said “sir, is this your wallet”, but in Italian of course, and we realized what had happened.  Dominica then realized she had even seen the guy walk to the back of the bus and throw the wallet back in, but she had not understood what he was doing until she saw me recovering the wallet.

Nothing was taken except for the cash.  I lost about thirty Euros, nothing else, except my pride, of course.  Palermo is famous for its pick pockets so at least I got the authentic Palermo experience out of it and only lost thirty Euros.  It could have been so much worse.  I had been out looking for an ATM this morning, too, but had not found one so did not have the three hundred Euros in my wallet that I easily might have had.

So really, we were no worse for wear as we rode the city bus to our odd stop out in the middle of nowhere.  I knew the bus route pretty well that we took today as it was all a stretch of the city that I had walked yesterday!

Once out to the second bus station in the middle of nowhere we just sat for a long while waiting for our bus.  While sitting out there we had little to do but to just wait.  I found a Lyra sitting in the weeds by some concrete steps.  That was pretty cool.  I’ve never seen one in person.

Once the bus came we had a nice ride down the north west side of the mountains going south west from Palermo through Monreale.  The ride was pretty rough for Dominica and both of the girls fell asleep.  I got to enjoy it, though.  It is a gorgeous area.  We really liked getting to discover this tourist-free part of the Palermo metro.

It was a really cool area and took maybe something like an hour to get out to San Giuseppe Jato which is really the first village outside of Palermo that is not directly connected to the city itself.

We got to the village and spent the day walking all over trying to explore.  There was almost nothing open and finding even a place to eat was pretty hard.  We arrived at a pretty tough time so not many places with food were open and, of course, not being a tourist town there was nothing to do but wander around town looking at it.  It is a cute little town and we liked it a lot.  But we saw basically no people.

We spent a few hours in town and got a feel for the place.  Living here would be nice. It’s quiet and quaint but close to the city and bus accessible.  We found a nice place for lunch and ate there being the only people in the place as we were so late for lunch.  It was nice, though.

We walked most of town, it is a long and narrow village on a hill side.  Catching the bus back home was a bit of an adventure as there was no marked bus stop anywhere in town and no one had any idea where it was supposed to be and the bus that dropped us off had not told us anything and we had been dropped off on a one way street so there wasn’t any hope of getting picked up at that same place since that wasn’t possible.

We did as much walking searching for the bus stop as we did all day around town.  We finally decided that we did not have any confidence in where it would get us so we walked up a hill to a grocery store and went in and spoke with them, in Italian, about where it would be.  No one was even completely sure!

We found a monument in the middle of town that seemed to meet their description and we waited there for quite a while and, we got lucky, and caught the bus back!  A bit hectic, but it worked.

It was a nice, but twisty, ride back.  I enjoyed it a lot, the girls slept again and, of course, Dominica was a bit sick.  We got back to the main bus station, took the city bus back to our apartment area and then set out to find dinner, which we did at a nice little local pasta place that was absolutely just the locals eating there.

Dinner was amazing.  This is one of those “real Palermo restaurants” that the locals walk to.  It was so cheap and so amazing.  This is why it might be worth living in Palermo!  We would eat at places like this every day.  I had the best Sambuca, too.

March 12, 2017: Walking Palermo

Sunday and our second full day in Palermo.  Tomorrow is our outing to go to Dominica’s family’s home village.  But today we are just in the city.

Today I went out for a really long walk doing a few miles around Palermo to get a feel for the place.  I walked far enough from our apartment to find the metro stations, to explore different neighbourhoods and went really far south till the city was dropping off.

One of the big things that I found was that there were just no restaurants anywhere.  I went on and on and found almost none.  Loads of betting shops, though.  Gambling is certainly a huge thing in Palermo.

So my discovery today is that Palermo is not that appealing to us.  It’s not terrible, but it is not proving itself to be the city we’d be very likely to pick based on just the city itself.  It seems to lack a lot of what we’d be looking for and so far the lack of Internet is not enticing, either.  It’s a very convenient city, and there is a lot more that we need to see of it.

We got pizza again today.  I know the people over there pretty well (and have a few of the owners on Facebook now) at this point.

This afternoon we walked to the north and explored more of the fancier, older part of the city and made it all the way to the port and the waterfront.  It was mobbed with people trying to get to the beach, however, so we didn’t get to go to the water even though it was right there.  It was a nice walk and we learned a lot more about the city.

We had lunch out on a side street in the semi-tourist area of Palermo.  Luciana got a whole squid that she liked very much.

Calamari in Palermo
Luciana with a Whole Squid

Liesl went for the more pedestrian pasta.  She has been really digging the pasta ever since we were in Rome.

Liesl with Pasta in Palermo
Liesl Ready to Attack the Pasta

While out along the shore line we got ice cream and sat for a while.  Then walked east and returned towards the apartment heading past the city’s botanical gardens which we stopped to walk though, as well.  That was a nice time.

The kids were very tired of walking, after two days of walking around the city, by the time that we got back to the apartment.  Good exercise, though.

This evening, while we had Internet access, we tried to buy tickets for the ferry going to Tunisia.  We tried for hours but ended up having to give up on it.  Between our Internet, credit cards and being from the US but being in Italy just made it impossible to get our ferry tickets.  Very bummed about that.

The kids showered tonight.  They loved the super cool shower at this apartment.  It’s the coolest we’ve seen this year.

Tonight Luciana and I started playing Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders together.  It looks like a pretty fun game.  We played it a bit and she helped me look for clues and to solve puzzles.  We had a good time.  This is my kind of game, for sure.

Did some reading with the kids before bed.  We are reading The Bobsey Twins together.

March 11, 2017: Palermo

It is Saturday and our first full day in Palermo having arrived by train in the dark last night.  We have just a little Internet access this morning.  There was nothing last night.  But it is very slow and mostly useless, even just for looking up things to do around town.

We tried making coffee this morning, but it turns out that the large and very clearly marked sugar container in the apartment is actually full of salt.  So our coffee was ruined.

We started off the day getting some pizza next door.  Then we set off on a walk around the city to do some exploring.

While we were out exploring, and while we have effectively no Internet access, we found out that the blower on our furnace at the house in New York died and so we had to replace that today.  There was $1,200 that we did not have that we have to spend today.  Argh.  No fun.  We so want to sell that house and not have to think about it anymore.

The longer that we go without living in the house the more that the kids are not emotionally tied to it and the easier time that they will have being able to let it go.  We’ve been watching the market and things are definitely improving up in New York.  Maybe we will be able to sell it someday.

To make things even worse, this happened on a day when our apartment here in Palermo does not have Internet access and dad has been without power for fifty-two hours back home, so he is in no position to help us, either.  It was -5F at the house when this happened. So no way that we could wait to do anything.

We did a nice long walk of downtown Palermo which was decently interesting.  We walked lots of areas that I saw last night and we did the big pedestrian walkways through the middle of the city.    We got to see the big tourist district and got Arancinas which are awesome.

Arancinas in Palermo
Arancinas in Palermo

These is a classic Sicilian food.  It’s like breaded and fried rice balls with fillings.  They are cheap, very filling and delicious.  You can get them with just about anything in them.  This place must have had twenty flavours ready to go.  From meats and cheese to veggies and whatnot.  Very good, a must do when in Sicily.

Arancina store
Scott at ke Palle

It was ke Palle where we stopped to eat our first arancinas.

We also stopped and got desserts while I worked from my phone trying to resolve the furnace issue in Peekskill.  Some good desserts in Palermo.

We walked far enough north to get to the Palermo Opera House.  Then turned around and headed back home.  It was a long day of walking and the kids were tired by the end of it.

Pizza for dinner again.  We really like that place and are getting to know the people there already.

We discovered tonight that Steam finally has all of the Nancy Drew video games available.  Pretty excited as the girls and I are working our way through them.

 

March 10, 2017: Heading to Palermo

Friday.  We spent yesterday in Noto so that I could keep being productive with work so today is our travel day to get up to Palermo – our one real solid sightseeing event during our time on Sicily.  We are pretty excited to get to see the capital.

We were up very early this morning so that we could make the early bus leaving Noto and heading to Siracusa.  We could have taken the train but the bus was faster and more convenient.  We did the train last time, so we are switching it up.

We hit a lot of traffic problems in Avola and were stuck there for a long time.  The bus was stuck in traffic for so long that people started to get off of the bus and start walking!

We got to Siracusa and had very little time before our train from Siracusa to Catania was going to leave.  Dominica worked on getting our train tickets while the girls and I went to look for the train and get ready to get on assuming that Dominica was able to get our tickets.  It is a good thing that we did, because we were waiting by the train doors and clearly waiting for the train and for Dominica a conductor called up to the front and told the train that they needed to wait as Dominica was running from the station to the train which required going to the end of the tracks and around the end and to our train.  It was a near thing.

The ride from Siracusa to Catania was an easy one.  And there we made the transfer to the cross-Sicily train that goes through the middle of the island.  This one our one chance to really get to see the interior.  It was a beautiful trip and quite interesting.  Sicily is so mountainous.

We loved the ride, but it was a lot of time on the train.  While we were riding the train, a group of girls sitting near us spilled a bottle of acetone on the train and we all thought that we were going to pass out from it.

It was a long day of travel to get from Noto to Siracusa to Catania to Palermo and then to walk through the city and find our apartment.  It was dark when we finally arrived in the city and we had quite a long way to get to the apartment pulling out luggage.

After our long walk we found the apartment on a back street.  We got in and the owner and his daughter showed us around.  It’s a very small apartment but really nice, we like it a lot.  It’s a small one room downstairs and single upstairs bedroom with multiple beds.  Works great for us.  The bathroom and shower are really cool and the girls love it.  It’s a stone shower built under the stairs with LED lights in it.  A great use of space and the nicest shower we’ve yet seen in Italy.

We had no Internet tonight.  There was enough Internet access for us to get connected, but not enough for us to get email or anything.  So we are working from our mobile phones only. This is a major contributor to me falling behind and beginning months of not being caught up with SGL because I was already a little bit behind and when we got to Palermo I was expecting to have an awesome weekend of fast, big city Internet where I would get to catch up on a lot of things and instead was offline for the weekend.

It was decently late when we got in.  So after settling in, unpacking, checking out the Internet and needing dinner we were pretty much spent.  Our hosts told us that there was good pizza right next door so we went down there and got pizza which turned out to be amazing.

We needed some supplies so I went out for a walk and explored the city and bit.  I eventually found a shop in the Arabic Tunisian district that was open and I was able to get the food and stuff that we needed.  So we are set for the night.  Tomorrow we will get out and see the city all weekend.  Very excited to be exploring Dominica’s family’s home city.

Very comfortable sleeping tonight.  We love this little apartment.  An apartment like this would be perfect for us when living abroad.  No unnecessary extra space.

March 9, 2017: SaltStack Work Day

We had thought about leaving for Palermo today, but I was getting so much work done that we decided that it would make more sense for us to wait until tomorrow so that I could focus on work stuff today.  It is Thursday and overall pretty slow, which was great because it allowed me to focus on my work of converting some stuff from traditional server scripts to SaltStack, which went great.  By the end of the day I was able to get an entire NextCloud 11 deployment on Fedora 25 setup which worked beautifully and was able to build a full production server with zero effort, automatically, by the end.

It was a busy day of work for me, but not much else was going on.  I was upstairs in the office for nearly the entire day.  It felt great having a quite day to do real engineering work.  I had a lot of fun.  It’s been a while since I have been able to get into real engineering work in this way, very hands on.  Feels good to be doing hard core system design work for the team.

I put in a very full day, going from first thing in the morning until pretty late at night.  Late in the evening Dominica came up and we put Star Trek: The Next Generation up on the projector so that it could run while I was still working.  That worked out really well.  I was still quite productive, but we still managed to hang out.

We have been all packed for two days, so really nothing to do to be able to leave tomorrow for Palermo.  We are planning on taking the bus in the morning.  It is about five hours travel time to get to Palermo on public transportation.  A good chunk of that time is because we have to get from Noto to either Siracusa or Catania before going on to Palermo.  Our city is far too small to have direct connections.  If we lived in Siracusa, even though that is not really much closer to Palermo, it would only be about four hours of public transportation to get there.  And from Catania, even less as there would be no transfer at all.  There is a price to be paid for being rural.  That’s a huge vote for living in Catania – it is a decent sized city on its own and it sits directly on the main line to Palermo making it absolutely trivial to go back and forth between the two cities, both being cheap and being fast.

March 8, 2017: Starting the Book of Unwritten Tales Again

Wednesday.  Got up this morning and worked for two hours before anyone else in the house woke up.  We all went to bed at the same time last night.

I went to the stores this morning around the corner and got lucky with the bakery having my favourite bread today.

Our power went out again today because Dominica used two appliances at once and that kills the main breaker every time.  Not the best wiring in this house.

Lego Words finally went to final release so I worked on downloading that today and after a long time was able to let the girls play it which they did this evening.

The girls also started playing The Book of Unwritten Tales again tonight.  They played it before but they were so young when they did that neither of them remember it at all.  So they are getting a full second play out of the game.  It’s one of my favourite.  A classic for them.  This is one of the handful of games that really make Liesl into a gamer.